REVIEW: “Repulsion” (1965)
TAGLINE: “The nightmare world of a virgin’s dreams becomes the screen’s shocking reality!”
A beautiful girl. Luminously, transcendently beautiful. Men are poleaxed, distracted, challenged; women are both envious and intrigued. But the more time you spend with her, talk to her, observe her, the more it becomes clear there is something… off. I knew a girl something like her in college. And for more than a year, I worked side by side with a woman who was drop-dead gorgeous – but not quite right. The situation grew ever more unsettling, as the depth of disturbance slowly revealed itself.
And that is the type of damaged creature director Roman Polanski explores to devastating effect, in his first English-language film. It’s a sensitive, probing, gut-wrenching journey he takes us on. That journey begins innocuously enough, with Carol seeming merely eccentric – perhaps charmingly so – but then veers sharply toward the horrific. It then never deviates from that path, all the way through the film’s shocking conclusion.
SYNOPSIS: Carol and her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), both Belgian, share a cheap flat in Kensington, in swingin’ mid-1960′s London. Carol works as a manicurist in a beauty salon, and is a bit of a daydreamer. Helen has a married boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), who frequently spends the night at the sisters’ flat. Their noisy lovemaking disturbs Carol’s sleep – and a little more than that. For Carol is apparently a virgin, uncomfortable with physical intimacy, and in fact oddly uncomfortable with most of the trappings of social discourse. A determined suitor, Colin (John Fraser), tries to persuade her to come out of her shell, have some fun, show him some affection. No dice.
Carol ain’t quite right. Michael senses it, and even urges Helen to have her seek professional help. Helen tells him, in no uncertain terms, to butt the hell out. Bad call, Helen.
And then Helen and Michael decide to leave town on an extended holiday. Leaving Carol to fend for herself, alone, in the seedy flat. Things do not go well from there.
EFFECTS (1-5): 4
SCORE (1-5): 4
OVERALL (1-5): 5
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1965
STUDIO: Compton Films
MPAA RATING: UR
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
PRODUCERS: Gene Gutowski (producer), Robert Sterne (associate producer), Sam Waynberg (associate producer), Michael Klinger (executive producer), Tony Tenser (executive producer)
SCREENPLAY: Roman Polanski, Gérard Brach
MUSIC: Chico Hamilton
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gilbert Taylor
Catherine Deneuve: Carol
Ian Hendry: Michael
John Fraser: Colin
Yvonne Furneaux: Helen
Patrick Wymark: Landlord
Full listing at IMDB
BEST SCENE: When Helen and Colin return from vacation in a driving rainstorm, they take the old-fashioned cage elevator up to the flat, and gradually discover the madness that occurred while they were away. It is deeply disturbing – and completely awesome.
BLUNDERS/GAFFS: Some of the slow zooms are a little on the wobbly side, especially when you’re used to the glassy-smooth camera work of modern film. But it all works, beautifully. Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor (he shot Dr. Strangelove for Stanley Kubrick, among many others) really knows how to light and shoot a scene. The shadows are exquisite.
EVALUATION: This marks the first Five Knives rating for Gourmet Horror – and it is an unexpected one. I honestly didn’t think I’d be bowled over by a low-budget, black & white psychodrama from the mid-60′s. But Polanski’s direction is completely confident, exacting, and devastatingly effective. Deneuve and the rest of the cast are spot-on, never going too big, too broad. They feel human-scale and believable, and that makes the events of the film that much more chilling. It is a horror film without supernatural or gothic elements, rooted in reality. This could actually happen. Similar events have happened. And exploring what makes this possible is a journey into true horror. This is a must see film, for anyone with an interest in horror, psychology, or simply bravura filmmaking.
Posted on December 30, 2012, in Film, Reviews and tagged 1965, black and white, Catherine Deneuve, film, Gene Gutowski, Gilbert Taylor, horror, horror film, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, London, Patrick Wymark, psychodrama, Repulsion, Roman Polanski, Tony Tenser, Yvonne Furneaux. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.