Monday, May 17, 2010

Boys Are So Icky

Aside from James Cameron, most of us mere mortals can easily be named our own worst judges. Need proof? Take the fact that Roman Polanski, if Googling is to be believed, doesn't think much of today's feature, 1965's Repulsion.

Oh, Roman. Chill. You’re a perfectly incredible filmmaker who made at least three masterpieces and your false humility is hardly endearing. You’ve got other problems. We’ll just enjoy your films.
Quick Plot: Famed ice queen Catherine Deneuve plays Carol, a Belgian manicurist living in a London flat with her older, sassier sister. Pretty as a picture and blond to boot, Carol is overwhelmingly apprehensive when it comes to the opposite sex, an inconvenience when you happen to be, by conventional standards, an absolute fox. Even those with more gentle approaches, such as her chief suitor who seems genuinely concerned (and clearly, emotionally masochistic), do nothing to calm her nerves.

For about the first 45 minutes or so, Repulsion is a slow, tenuous journey through Carol’s daily life. Clearly, this is a damaged woman with emotional issues, but this being 1965 and Carol simply being a pretty beauty salon employee, nothing seems especially out of the ordinary. When her sister leaves town for vacation with her married boyfriend, however, Carol is left to her own crippling psychosis.

It doesn’t take long for the world to cave in on our virginal headcase. Between sexually abusive nightmares, a rotting skinned rabbit, and helping hands that occasionally grope through cracking walls, Carol creates her own male-dominated hell in her lonely low-rent apartment. 
Filmed in black and white and scored to insane beats of angry jazz, Repulsion is your signature Criterion feature. Unarguably a classic worthy of impressive vocabulary filled essays, but also genuinely fascinating and an intriguing example of what cinema can do. As Carol loses more and more of her grip on reality, Polanski’s camera becomes a terrifying barometer of her insanity, jerking along with fierce percussion beats. It’s haunting, painful, thoroughly unsettling, and ultimately, a fine example of classic cinema holding up forty years, new colors, and creepy sex crimes later.

High Points
While I would probably never want to turn it on the background, Chico Hamilton’s expressionistic jazz score does incredible things when paired with Carol’s fraught mind

Much like her similar turn in Belle du Jour, Catherine Deneuve delivers a striking performance as a woman that must connect to the audience even though, by her very nature, she comes off as a cold and distant mess

Low Points
A constant pet peeve gets renewed in black and white:
How can you be a ‘special guest star’ in a film? Especially when you have multiple scenes and play an actual character? Why, opening credits, whyyyyyyyyyyy?
Lessons Learned
Never trust a manicurist who bites her nails
There is more than one way to pay your rent, especially if you’re an attractive young woman with mental problems
Not just in Clue: Candlesticks can be effective murder weapons 

Repulsion is a must-see for any genre film fan or cinema snob, a masterfully crafted thriller that draws you into a woman’s head, then shakes it around like an excitable maraca. The DVD includes a few featurettes well worth investigating, so buy at the right price and enjoy with prestige.


  1. Dunno the film. But I love Clue. I now want to go rewatch it. And not just 'cause the maid has great big cleavage...(though that is a LARGE part of it)

  2. I haven't seen this film since Film 101. My recollection sparks the uneasy feeling from such a lonely character offing dudes and having hallucinations.

    She did kill people, right?

    Great review and great film.

  3. How I adore Clue, but more for Tim Curry's buttling skills and the fact that whenever I knock on someone's door and have to wait more than 10 seconds for them to answer, I tend to break out into the Singing Telegram song. I will concede thought that Yvette's cleavage is spectacular in that film.

    Ashlee: Yup, body count=2.