Coinciding with the release of his newest film, Carnage – screening this month at the New York Film Festival (an adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award winning play) MoMa is holding a retrospective of Roman Polanski’s work to date. Possibly the most contentious of living filmmakers – I will steer clear of the great Polanski debate – instead, consider one of his best – Repulsion (1965).
Opening with a claustrophobic, close-up of a glassy retina, displaying all the frenzied paranoia that’s come to be Polanski’s most persistent concern – this heavy lashed, rapid blinking eyeball belongs to Catherine Deneuve, playing the perennially glum ingénue Carole, incongruously transplanted from France into the hubbub of 1960s, swinging London.
Meandering through the film, in a constant state of crestfallen bewilderment – Carole works by day as a manicurist, attending to an assemblage of wealthy, cranky women. Living with her long-suffering sister, she displays all the qualities of the persnickety roommate from hell – and is otherwise consumed by averting the attention of an abundance of male admirers.