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She’s Just Sensitive, That’s All

August 25th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve pic 1

Roman Polanski was born August 18, 1933 in Paris. The sordid details of his flight from the United States in 1978 have often overshadowed discussion of the director’s work, which at the age of 77, includes one of the best films of 2010. Is he a world class filmmaker? In the month of August, I take a look at ten directed by Roman Polanski.

Repulsion 1965 French poster Repulsion 1965 dvd

Repulsion (1965)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roman Polanski & Gérard Brach and David Stone
Produced by Gene Gutowski
105 minutes

In the waking moments between Alfred Hitchcock and Michelangelo Antonioni, between Psycho and Blowup, there’s Repulsion, a stark and stunning British film that’s almost certainly a thriller, though it seems to be missing a murderer. Taking place in the psyche, the picture drifts away from art and provides intense audience appreciation by piling up a couple of bodies, as well as jolts of terror so virulent you might fly out of your seat. The English language debut of Roman Polanski and star Catherine Deneuve was initiated when producer Gene Gutowski introduced the filmmaker to Compton Group, a London based exploitation picture maker. Polanski & Gérard Brach whipped up a draft for a female psychodrama in 17 days, which Michael Klinger and Tony Tenser agreed to finance for £40,000. Polanski would ultimately bring Repulsion in for £95,000.

Despite the low budget, Polanski insisted on hiring Gilbert Taylor, who’d shot Dr. Strangelove and A Hard Day’s Night. The British director of photography amazed Polanski with his ability to calculate the amount of light needed for a given shot without using a light meter. It’s the self-assured precision of the film that holds our attention while nothing much happens for 45 minutes. Polanski dramatizes the tedium of a woman’s everyday routine and the heightened sense of her dreams so fluidly that we’re unsure what’s real and what isn’t. Praised as an accurate depiction of schizophrenia, the film is far from a clinical study and succeeds by being wet and wild with imagination. Polanski had help on his sophomore feature, with an eye catching credit sequence designed by Maurice Binder and a tumultuous jazz score composed by Chico Hamilton.

Repulsion 1965 title card

A Belgian living in London named Carole (Catherine Deneuve) ends another day at the salon where she works as a manicurist. On her walk home, the quiet girl is waylaid by Colin (John Fraser), an overeager cad who pressures Carole for a date, seemingly oblivious of her complete aversion to him. She returns to the shabby flat in South Kensington she shares with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) and is distressed to find a straight razor belonging to Helen’s lover in the bathroom. A married man who cancels the home cooked dinner Helen was preparing when he insists the couple dine out, Michael (Ian Hendry) finds his limited charms lost on Carole and suggests to her sister that she needs to see a doctor. Later that evening, sounds of Helen’s lovemaking awaken Carole and upset her.

Helen and Michael take off to Italy for a holiday, leaving Carole with cash to pay the late rent. Occupying the flat alone, her gradual descent into schizophrenia begins when she hears bells from the convent across the street tolling at midnight. So distracted at work that she cuts a client’s finger, she’s sent home. Running out of food, Carole’s delusions intensify. From the window, she sees a strange woman watching her flat. She begins to imagine cracks forming in the walls. A construction worker Carole has noticed on the walk home shoves his way into her room and rapes her. Men start visiting the flat at a very bad time for Carole, beginning with Colin breaking down the door for a chat and later, her landlord (Patrick Wymark), who suggests a way Carole could lower her rent. Both men leave the flat feet first.

Repulsion 1965 John Fraser Catherine Deneuve pic 2

Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve Yvonne Furneaux pic 3

Repulsion 1965 Yvonne Furneaux Ian Hendry pic 4

Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve Yvonne Furneaux pic 5

Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve Helen Fraser pic 6

Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve pic 7

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Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve pic 9

Repulsion 1965 John Fraser Catherine Deneuve pic 10

Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve pic 11

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average 3,844 users: 87% for Repulsion

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available

What do you say?

Tags: Ambiguous ending · Bathtub scene · Dreams and visions · Paranoia · Psychoanalysis · Woman in jeopardy

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sheila // Aug 25, 2010 at 6:10 am

    An amazing film – one of my favorites of his, with a brilliant shattering performance by Deneuve.

  • 2 Joe Valdez // Aug 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Sheila: One of my new favorites as well. I love the way this film is composed visually, supplemented by a terrific jazz score by Chico Hamilton. Catherine Deneuve is an artist because she makes sulking around London look easy. Maybe now I’ll get around to watching Belle du Jour. Thanks for commenting!

  • 3 sheila // Aug 28, 2010 at 4:10 am

    The score is great! I love the unspoken fact of her anorexia – her relationship to food, in general – mixed with her nightly fantasies of being raped. It’s just so spot on. Her resistance to sex, being freaked out by hearing the sounds of lovemaking – is somehow directly connected to her pushing her food around on the plate in the restaurant. But then she fantasizes about the ultimate loss of control. Fascinating psychological portrait. I’ve known a woman or two like that. Deneuve nails it.

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