#271 Cul-De-Sac

Watched: June 29 2020

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 52min

For our thoughts on Polanski in general, read this.

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Two injured gangsters, Dickie (Stander) and Albie (MacGowran), come upon a castle on a tidal island where they are stranded due to the tide. The castle’s inhabitants, George (Pleasence) and Teresa (Dorléac) are taken hostage and pulled into a powerplay with Dickie.

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“We may be in a hostage situation, but it’s important to make time for bathing and bonding in between the threats of violence.”

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We were very excited about the concept of this, and it was definitely beautifully shot. We loved parts of it and other parts were a bit meh. For instance, we loved the opening credits, George’s bad paintings (they were supposed to be bad, right..?), the horrible Horace who came to visit, that one clearly fake seagull, Donald Pleasence, and the setting.

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“I sure hope no hardened criminals decide to invade us while we’re playing dress up. Like my wife, they will never take me seriously as a man.”

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However, we didn’t quite get the humour in this comedy… Which probably says more about us than the film itself, but there it is. The dinner party and the grave digging were fun scenes, and Pleasence was a joy to watch, but otherwise we weren’t that into it.

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Alas, poor Albie. We didn’t know him well.

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We also found Teresa a bit confusing as a character. First off, what woman who’s a victim of a home invasion will proceed to sleep naked when the (male) invaders are still in the house? In addition, we’re very much over women in movies/books/etc. who cry rape the minute a prank or seduction goes wrong. Considering the director as well, it left a bad taste.

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Pictured: perfectly normal behaviour for a woman captured in a bad marriage and an ACTUAL HOSTAGE SITUATION! Not gratuitous at all.

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It’s a great concept and beautifully shot in black and white. There are also good performances by all the principal players. But we don’t think this one will stay with us the way many other movies have done. To us, it became a bit forgettable. Perhaps we’re just too biased against Polanski to really enjoy his work..?

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It’s pretty to look at though. So we guess that’s something.

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What we learned: Dames! Also, if you want to come visit, have the courtesy to telephone in advance. Especially if you’re bringing your brat…

Next time: Daisies (1966)

#254 Repulsion

Watched: February 9 2020

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 45min

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So, here’s the thing. We enjoyed the movie. We loved Catherine Deneuve. The story is intriguing, and the men are sleazy and disgusting. However, watching Polanski-movies is difficult in light of, well, him… (And yes, we know this might seem a bit hypocritical seeing as we actually did review Knife in the Water. We have just given it a bit more thought since then. And sure, there are probably lots of other problematic directors as well, but in this case there is so little doubt and it is so well publicized that it cannot be ignored.)

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Also, he’s clearly just ripping off Beauty and the Beast

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It’s the continuous debate of whether one can truly separate the artist from the art. Considering that he still goes free and is even rewarded (and awarded) despite being a rapist piece of shit, viewing and reviewing his movies is conflicting. Especially when they involve sleazy men trying to take advantage of mentally ill women. But, like, sexy mentally ill women. So that makes it ok, apparently…

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Cause as we all know, nothing is sexier than a spiralling woman. She probably just needs a penis to set her straight.

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We’re not going to tell you whether to watch this or not. It’s entirely up to you. The film itself is intriguing and beautifully shot, but it is also problematic in oh so many ways.

What we learned: Watching (old) Polanski movies is difficult…

Next time: Simon of the Desert (1965)

#214 Knife in the Water

Watched: January 05 2019

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 34min

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After almost hitting a young man with their car, a couple angrily invite him to hitch a ride with them. They drive down to a lake, and the hitchhiker (Malanowicz) is invited to go sailing with the couple, Andrzej (Niemczyk) and Krystyna (Umecka), an offer he accepts for some reason.

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Clearly, none of these people had ever heard of a serial killer.

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Once out on the water, both men take turns being suddenly angry and/or insulted and aggressive towards each other while Krystyna lounges about, makes food and does a great job hiding anything which could be deemed a personality.

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There is really no trace of personality there until she gets wet… Which might be somewhat symbolic.

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Tension builds as the trio are exposed to harsh weather and alpha male competitions, and it culminates with the loss of the young man’s pocket knife in the water and his subsequent presumed drowning.

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“I just love a good game of hide and seek!”

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Now, the Norwegian translator for the DVD we watched apparently decided only half the lines were worth subtitling, so we may have missed a few things. Like major plot points. But the tension between the characters was clear even if the reason was not always so.

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We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that some of that tension might be because of the half naked woman whose attention the two men vie for.

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The entire movie is set in just two locations (albeit moving ones), a car and a boat, which we really enjoyed. We loved the crocodile, the tense start and the ambiguous ending. We also found the couple strangely adorable when they were in the water, despite their chilly relationship in the rest of the film.

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See? They look like a perfectly harmonious couple once they’ve been out swimming.

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Roman Polanski’s debut feature film is beautifully and interestingly shot, and the filming plays a huge part in building the tension. Especially for those of us who do not speak Polish and who are at the mercy of a translator who’s a really slow typist and who doesn’t have time to go back and fill in the blanks… We’re pretty sure we understood about two thirds of the dialogue though, so we’ll call that a win.

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No fun caption here. Just wanted to show you this cool shot.

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What we learned: It is a bit weird to invite a random hitchhiker to go sailing, right..? Also, don’t introduce a knife in the first act unless you’re going to use it by the third. And don’t introduce a woman in the first act unless you’re going to give her a personality by the third.

Next time: The Exterminating Angel (1962)