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Composed com­po­sure. (Click to enlarge.)

My father says “Marry some­one you can live with, not one you can’t live with­out.” The quar­tet of char­ac­ters in Roman Polanski’s new film could cer­tain­ly have ben­e­fit­ed from that advice. Over a sin­gle after­noon, the pleas­antries between them rapid­ly erode until each pair of spous­es turn on each oth­er. In the mean­time, their respec­tive sons, about whose alter­ca­tion the meet­ing osten­si­bly was in the first place, seem to oper­ate accord­ing to a sep­a­rate social dynam­ic as they word­less­ly fight then make up in two sim­ple long shots that book­end the film in a man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of Michael Haneke’s more opaque, yet equal­ly vicious, Caché (2005).

Polanski’s pre­vi­ous film blew me away (if you recall that film’s final shot, I apol­o­gize for the pun), and this one is just as impres­sive, though for com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent rea­sons. The film is a vir­tu­oso exer­cise in chore­og­ra­phy and cin­e­mat­ic block­ing, and Polanski makes metic­u­lous use of his frame (both cin­e­mat­ic and archi­tec­tural) and props (a bowl of tulips, cof­fee table books, a cell­phone, a cake — or is it a pie? — and the buck­et of vom­it it ends up as) as they mor­ph from fetish­es to weapons.

Along with his pro­duc­tion design­er Dean Tavoularis (of The Godfather) and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Paweł Edelman, he casts his char­ac­ters in a game of check­ers, as they quite lit­er­al­ly revise their posi­tions on them­selves and each oth­er, mount­ing tac­tics of defense and strate­gies of attack. As mid­day takes a near-realtime jour­ney into evening, we wit­ness the cou­ples’ devo­lu­tion from prim New Yorkers into Darwinian pri­mates, as each char­ac­ter brings out the worst in (but also per­haps the true nature of) the oth­ers.

Polanski mas­sages high­ly man­nered per­for­mances from his cast (who play char­ac­ters des­per­ate­ly per­form­ing ide­al­ized ver­sions of them­selves) as their masks fall to reveal the disin­gen­u­ous­ness that lies under­neath. Ultimately, the most dis­hon­est of the lot seems to be the most gen­uine and hence the least changed in the end. In the process, the room increas­ing­ly con­stricts around the ensem­ble as reflec­tions abound and soft day­light qui­et­ly los­es out to harsh tung­sten, cut­ting sharp edges across their faces.

Polanski wise­ly makes no attempt to expand his source mate­ri­al beyond the con­fines of a res­i­dence and its hall­way, and with the excep­tion of the afore­men­tioned book­ends, we remain as con­fined to the apart­ment as our char­ac­ters. His Buñuelian con­ceit is that none of the char­ac­ters can bring them­selves to leave with­out first achiev­ing clo­sure. Needless to say, the result is that, as in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols, 1966), they sado­masochis­ti­cal­ly rel­ish in the fact that any true con­sen­sus on what con­sti­tutes clo­sure remains tan­ta­liz­ing­ly out of their reach.

However, unlike Mike Nichols’ land­mark cham­ber piece, this film offers no chance at affin­i­ty. Polanski uses his char­ac­ter­is­tic dis­tanc­ing devices to ensure that we feel noth­ing for the­se char­ac­ters but con­tempt. His cam­er­a­work arcs from sta­t­ic and com­posed through steadicam to hand­held, all too faith­ful to his char­ac­ters’ mount­ing des­per­a­tion and fail­ing sobri­ety, and at key moments is punc­tu­at­ed by choice use of dis­tort­ing wide angle to under­score sud­den bursts of slap­stick. As in his much ear­lier (yet I would argue very sim­i­lar) mas­ter­piece Repulsion (1965), Polanski bor­rows heav­i­ly from absurd the­ater, skirt­ing the edges of sym­pa­thy or even empa­thy, and allow­ing us instead to main­tain our crit­i­cal dis­tance secure in the assump­tion that we’re bet­ter than the hay­wire spec­i­mens on dis­play. His mas­ter­stroke is that even­tu­al­ly we real­ize, of course, that those were the exact holier-than-thou delu­sions which brought the char­ac­ters into that room in the first place.

And in the end, we are left with a sticky tan­gle of rela­tion­ships and a lin­ger­ing ques­tion: OK, so now what?

Rating 910

Directed by Roman PolanskiStarring Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz

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Rahayu November 20, 2015 at 7:13 pm

''A grand jury decided to chagre him with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under fourteen, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor.''''In an effort to preserve the child's anonymity, Geimer's attorney was reported to have helped arrange a plea bargain which Polanski accepted, and, under the terms, five of the initial chagres were to be dismissed.''''He pleaded guilty to the lesser chagre of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse, a chagre which is synonymous under Californian law with statutory rape.''η τυφλή κυρία είναι και λίγο περίεργη όταν (τότε) για να κρατήσει ανώνυμο το θύμα μετατρέπει ένα ποινικό αδίκημα άλλου είδους σε ένα σαφέστερα ελαφρύτερο αλλά ''ηθικά'' διαφορετικής φύσης.αν δεν υπήρχε η διασημότητα τώρα δεν θα μιλάγαμε για τον Πολάνσκι, θα είχε διαγραφεί από το χάρτη...


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