Deneuve, Polanski, and Repulsion

repulsion-imageRepulsion, Roman Polanski’s first English-speaking film opens with an extreme closeup of Carol’s (Catherine Deneuve) eye and ends with a vintage family photo of Carol as a child. In the photograph, Carol is isolated from the rest of the family as Polanski’s camera slowly moves in on her same vacant looking eye. An absolute masterpiece of psychological horror, Repulsion ushered in, along with Hitchcock’s Psycho and Powell’s Peeping Tom the modern-day horror film. Polanski presents a nightmarish, hallucinogenic world full of dark expressionistic shadows with extreme close-ups and wide angles all edited to perfection.  The film is the first in an unofficial trilogy of “apartment films” with Rosemary’s Baby and The Tennant completing the threesome.  In all three films, Polanski conveys a disturbing unreceptive view of life in city dwellings. Continue reading

Rosemary’s Baby and the Dark Side of Motherhood

rosemary-posterMotherhood can be a joyous thing; the miracle of birth, a child the result of a bond between two people. Watching the child grow and discover life can be heartwarming and reaffirming. Then again, the idea of a live organism, another person growing inside you, just might be a bit unsettling and disturbing as you watch your body change, and who knows what the child will be like. He/she could turn out to be a bright, upstanding member of the community. Then again, your little precious could turn out be another Al Capone or Jeffrey Dahmer or even worse.

Many films have focused on the dark side of motherhood: Psycho, Mildred Pierce, Mommie Dearest and most recently the current movie Tully. There are plenty of other films with motherhood gone wrong. Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate is one of the best bad mothers. On the other side of the fence are mothers who love too much; they are self-sacrificing and end up with a daughter like Veda in Mildred Pierce.

And then there is Rosemary’s Baby. Continue reading

Knife in the Water (1962) Roman Polanski

In 1963, Roman Polanski’s debut feature became the first Polish film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. It lost to Federico Fellini’s brilliant 8 1/2, certainly no disgrace.  The film’s American premiere was at the First New York Film Festival before beginning a regular theatrical run at the Beekman Theater in Manhattan. The film garnered plenty of publicity. In conjunction with an article on the NYFF, Polanski’s film made the cover of the September 20th 1963 issue of TIME Magazine. To say the least, It was an auspicious start for the young Polish filmmaker. The film itself is a three character psychological thriller containing more than enough tension, sexual and otherwise, to fill its 94 minute running time. The plot is incidental to the ironic atmosphere and dialogue between the characters that cuts deep, like the huge knife the young man carries on his person.

Andrezj (Leon Niemczyk) , a middle aged man and his young beautiful wife, Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka) are driving in the countryside heading toward the lake for a Sunday boating trip. You can feel the tension between the couple right at the beginning with Andrezj noticeably irritated with Krsytyna’s driving. Upset herself, she eventually pulls over and lets him take over the driving. Half a mile down the road a young, good looking hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) forces the couple to stop their car by standing in the middle of the road.  “You’re lights are still on,” he monchalantly tells Andrezj.  Annoyed, Andrezj tells him, that if he had performed this stunt a half a mile back, he would have been dead, snidely getting a dig in at his wife’s driving. The tension between the couple remains evident, though the wife has not said a word. The husband continues pushing buttons, getting in another dig at his wife telling her,  “oh sure, you would pick the guy up.” Exasperated by her demeanor, Andrezj practically drags the young hitchhiker into the car. Continue reading