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Review: Repulsion

The film is a master-class mosaic of aural detail and visual sleights of hand.

Photo: Sony Pictures/Photofest

Roman Polanski’s still-thrilling Repulsion is an experiment in sang-Freud: Its two-way prism of audio-visual embellishments intuits a woman’s fractured psyche and catches super-cool flashes of the audience’s perverse cine-desires. The interior and exterior environs of the film are locked in heady combat, a commentary perhaps on the push-pull effect of the movies. Outside the apartment Catherine Deneuve’s Faberge blonde shares with her older sister, Polanski reveals a smooth and jazzy world simmering with casual but richly observed behavioral and dramatic incident. Detail is no less meticulous inside, but the space is fleshier and ever-shifting, with Polanski kneading his audience and main character like lumps of Play-Doh. The feeling the film elicits is tense, totalitarian, and allusive: Polanski’s warping aesthetic is pure obstruction, and the audience’s search for significance in it becomes a means of deciphering Carole’s repulsion for men. But the rationale for Carole’s sickness comes to matter less than the evocation and evolution of the sickness itself—from the woman’s “abandonment” by her sister to the most memorable rotting corpse the movies have ever seen (sorry Bernie!). (Abel Ferrara’s unofficial remake Driller Killer is a cruder but similarly intense vision of the world and the individual in symbiotic crisis.) A searing, clockwork synergy, the lucid sights and sounds of Carole’s world are conduits and conspirators of madness and pleasure. Polanski’s triumph is a weird, tense depolarization of space, a chipping away at psychological walls so that fear and desire become synonymous: Carole fantasizes about the construction worker that cat-called her days earlier (a crack on the sidewalk seemingly radiates from her vagina) and, later, puts on makeup to welcome a fantasy rapist. The film is like a slyly misanthropic theme-park ride for the sane—a satiric, disturbing approximation of insanity by way of a master-class mosaic of aural detail and visual sleights of hand.

Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark, Renée Houston, Valerie Taylor, James Villiers, Helen Fraser, Monica Merlin, Imogen Graham, Mike Pratt Director: Roman Polanski Screenwriter: Roman Polanski, Gérard Brach Distributor: Sony Pictures Repertory Running Time: 105 min Rating: NR Year: 1965 Buy: Video

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