Two women, whose upper bodies were daubed with the words “Very Important Pedocriminal” yelled “No honours for rapists” at 84-year-old Polanski, who was presenting his latest film “D’après une Histoire Vraie” (“Based on a True Story”) to launch the retrospective.
They were rapidly ejected from the prestigious Cinematheque Francaise film archive premises and continued their protest with others waiting outside.
“If rape is an art form, give Polanski all the Cesars,” read one banner waved outside the venue.
In January, the director was forced to pull out of presiding over the “French Oscars” — the Cesars — after feminist groups called for the awards to be boycotted.
Dozens of people, including some men, turned up for the protest against Polanski, who is wanted in the United States for statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, when he was 43.
Polanski’s appearance came as the debate over sexual abuse rages worldwide following the allegations that toppled Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In an interview with the France 5 channel to be aired later Monday, Polanski steered clear of questions about the Weinstein affair or his own sexual past but declared that there were too many calls for denunciations in the current climate.
– ‘About a body of work’ –
“What is important for us is that the retrospective be cancelled and that the Cinematheque apologise,” Ozez le Feminisme (“Dare to be Feminist”) spokeswoman Raphaelle Remy-Leleu told AFP.
The group was behind a petition signed by more than 27,000 people to demand the cancellation of the month-long event.
The Cinematheque, which is partly state-funded, ruled out pulling the event, with its president, Greek-French director Costa-Gavras, saying last week it does not intend to “take the place of the justice system”.
Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen argued that the retrospective was planned long before the debate unleashed by the Weinstein scandal.
“It’s about a body of work, not about a man,” she said. “It’s not for me to condemn a body of work.”
Polanski, the director of “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, admitted the statutory rape of the 13-year-old girl after more serious rape charges were dropped, and spent an initial 42 days in jail before being released for good behaviour.
In 1978, convinced a judge was going to scrap his plea deal and send him to prison for decades, Polanski fled for France and has been a fugitive from the US justice system ever since, despite repeated attempts to have him extradited.
Earlier this month Swiss prosecutors confirmed they were investigating new rape allegations against Polanski made by a woman who said he assaulted her in a resort in the Swiss Alps in 1972.
The new claims, which Polanski has denied through his lawyer, bring to at least four the number of women who have publicly accused him of sexual assault.