Tag Archives: Catherine Deneuve

Repulsion : Polanski’s Best In B/W

Moving on, lets talk about a movie which has a schizophrenic woman who irons her clothes with the power chord not plugged-in; who cuts off the telephone wires of the apartment, who cleans the blood spots on the floors while humming a song; who looks into the door’s peep-hole and refuses to open the door out of fear. Much as this sounds like RGV’s Kaun, it was a movie that came 30 years before Kaun. The movie I am talking about is Repulsion which was made in 1965 and was definitely one of the many inspirations for Kaun.

Repulsion came at a time when soft romantic movies ruled the BO and nobody would have thought of such paranoid movie theme of a woman who is a misandrist and at the same time she has fantasies of rape and sexual assault. Catherine Deneuve who played the character of Carol who tries her hardest to refuse a handsome guy for a date so she can join her sister for dinner. Carol lives in an apartment with her sister and boyfriend of her sister. She is repulsed by men and her sister’s boyfriend falls into the same category. Although she fears the company of men, she gets turned on by seeing her sister’s undone bed. Although she abhors the orgasmic noises coming from her sister’s room, she hallucinates sexual assaults.

She works in a parlour and is extremely beautiful and desirable. Men want to date her, but she is always lost in her own world of paranoia. She has weird imaginations about the cracks in the walls widening. And all hell breaks loose when her sister goes off on a trip with her boyfriend and she is left alone in the apartment.

Too many noises in her head and too much fantasy thoughts keep her occupied. So much so that she ends up cutting off her client’s skin along with the nails and gets fired from the job. She returns to her apartment and suddenly the cracks on the wall start seeming huge, hands start creeping out the sidewalls and she gets chased down in her dreams. Carol’s mental disintegration is symbolically shown by the rotting of rabbit meat which lies near the kitchen sink. Her sister was supposed to prepare the meat for a fine dinner, but that never happened. Instead, the meat decays and attracts flies just as Carol sinks into her own mental putrification.

Carol turns totally silent and stops emoting. When the landlord comes home to collect the rent, he is charmed by her beauty and tries to take advantage of her loneliness and vulnerability. She gives him the treatment he deserved and something more, a death certificate. The movie is filled with scenes which seem way ahead of times, a character which may seem tame now [in the light of Hostel, Irreversible etc] but back then in 1965 it must have evoked a lot of shock. The bleakness behind the beauty of Catherine was superbly done. The fear factor and the anxiety of the unknown, the lethal actions of an innocent looking face was incredible.

So, what actually happens of Carol? How does her sister react when she returns home? Does she be greeted home at all? Watch the movie to know it. Although its shot in b&w, blood never ever looked so red! Even with all the technology and special effects, we cannot scare the audience the way this movie does. Reason being that, the movie plays in your mind and not on the screen. It does not merely scare you, but horrifies you.

This movie was the first English movie that Polanski directed. Language was never a barrier to him, his camera did the talking. Be it KITW in Polish or Repulsion in English, his touch is evident in every frame. His attention to detail and the innovative characterisation still remains as a reference for every director. Be it the emotional strain between the 3 people in the boat or a single woman in an apartment, the camera captures it all very well. His direction was top-notch and even his black and white movies have a lot of grey. One of the best directors, ever, Polanski is extraordinary in story telling and distinctive behind the camera. A true master of the art.

This is part of a post that was first published on PFC

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Posted by on June 9, 2010 in movies, world cinema


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