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Polanski faces calls for boycott of new film after fresh rape claim

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Paris (AFP)

Roman Polanski was facing calls for a boycott of his new film which opened in France on Wednesday, in the wake of the latest rape accusation against the controversial director.

An online campaign to boycott his historical drama "An Officer and a Spy", was backed by former French women's minister Laurence Rossignol.

"I will not go to see it," she told France 2 television, urging others also to give it the cold shoulder.

"We cannot allow him to wipe this away, and going to see this film is that," she added after a preview screening in Paris was cancelled on Tuesday night when demonstrators blocked people entering.

France's equality minister Marlene Schiappa added: "I will not see Polanski's film."

"I don't want to go and buy a movie ticket in this context," she told French broadcaster RTL, while rejecting the idea of a boycott.

The legendary film-maker has been under mounting pressure since a French woman claimed on Friday that he raped her in 1975 when she was 18 after beating her "into submission" at his Swiss chalet.

Valentine Monnier, a former model and actress who now works as a photographer, said she felt compelled to speak out after Polanski compared himself to the hero of his new film, Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish officer wrongly persecuted as a spy by the French army at the turn of the 20th century.

The 86-year-old French-Polish director has been a fugitive from US justice since admitting to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 in a plea bargain to avoid a trial on more serious charges.

Polanski was accused of drugging and raping the girl, and fled to France when it appeared a judge was reconsidering his release.

Promotional interviews on French television and radio for "An Officer and a Spy" were either pulled or cancelled after the latest accusations -- which Polanski fiercely denies.

The French directors guild, ARP, will decided next week whether to suspend him.

Despite the bad press and disruption of the promotional campaign, the film did good business in Paris, becoming the 12th best opening in the French capital this year.

- Anti-Semitism warning -

The maker of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" was expelled from the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year for sexual misconduct, although Polanski has gone to court to get his membership back.

With calls for a boycott growing on social media under the hashtag #BoycottPolanski, memes are also being shared of the film's poster changing its French title from "J'accuse" to "J'abuse" (I abuse).

But Polanski won support Wednesday from veteran French director Nadine Trintignant, whose daughter Marie was killed by her pop star boyfriend, Bertrand Cantat, in 2003.

"I find it very worrying that he is being attacked at this moment, with anti-Semitism rising in Europe," she told French television news channel BFMTV.

She was "more inclined to believe him than a woman who has taken 44 years to think about denouncing him," she added, referring to Monnier.

Trintignant, 85, described Polanski as an "immense director", and claimed other were "jealous of the talent of this little Polish guy who came out of the ghetto".

"He did something terrible 44 years ago... in those 44 years thousands of women have been raped and we don't know the names of the men responsible."

At a preview screening on the Champs-Elysees avenue in the French capital on Tuesday, many cinemagoers said they "separate the man from the director".

"I don't know if what he is accused of is true or not," Seny Carette told AFP after watching the film.

But she said she was against a boycott. "We shouldn't penalise the actors for doing their work."

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