Thursday, March 27, 2008

Film #20: Repulsion

(The above poster design is an astounding unofficial graphic for Repulsion created by +Pemo+ who, at the time of its making, was a student at FADU-UBA in Buenos Aries. Check out more of his amazing collages: go to and search for +Pemo+. And click on the above image for a clearer view of its perfect copy.)

If I were powerful enough to go poof! and instantly make one movie on this blog valued by film fans as one of the greatest ever made, I would choose 1965's Repulsion. But, despite its being a most mortifying work, it appears as if hardly anyone has seen it. And it’s their loss. It's a harrowing, unmutable dark night of the soul that will scar you with its raw slashings. Director and co-writer Roman Polanski is at the apex of his considerable powers as his camera follows a pretty but sexually repressed manicurist named Carol (Catherine Deneuve) as she slowly dips into a lonely madness.

Using the nauseating device of a steadily rotting skinned rabbit to signify Carol’s worsening condition, Polanski trots her through nervous, sleepless nights listening to her bitchy sister (Yvonne Ferneaux) get schtupped in the next room, then in daylight has her literally being chased down by a horny, oft-rebuffed suitor (John Fraser). But when her sister and her married boyfriend (Ian Hendry) go off on holiday, things get REALLY awful. Isolated and tortured by her lack of intimacy or the desire for it, Carol absently stumbles through a series of wicked hallucinations that’ll have you questioning your own sanity (watch out for those walls, man!). Trust me, a few of these moments will make you jump so high, you'll spill your popcorn like a dang idiot. 'Nuff said.

The gorgeous Deneuve, in an understated outing that remains one of her best, was put through the psychological ringer by Polanski who insisted she abstain from sex or even see her boyfriend while the film was being shot. Often, he harshly insulted her into giving the performance he required (one shot has Deneuve swinging a candlestick holder at someone off-camera; she’s actually trying to bash Polanski, who’d taunted her once too often). With a bizarre score from jazz percussionist Chico Hamilton, chilling photography from Gilbert Taylor (Dr. Strangelove, Star Wars), and one of the most thought-provoking final shots in cinema history, Repulsion is certainly entitled to a reputation as the female Psycho, even if it isn’t nearly as well-known. See it immediately. And prepare yourself.


Anonymous said...

I've seen "Repulsion" twice -- first time was at Georgia State University's Lyceum Theater back in 1988 and, more recently, in 2003 in the wake of "The Pianist" when I went on a Polanski kick. An excellent movie, absolutely.

Like Francis Ford Coppola, Polanski seems to be one of those directors who swings between greatness and epic blunders. While I was on the Polanski bender, I found a used VHS copy of "Pirates" and, um, well...the less said the better.

--Brad Hundt

the Latest Show on Earth said...

I took a class called madness at the movies where we watched Repulsion. And I saw it when I was younger too at some point. Roman Polanski appears playing the spoons in a small band of musicians