VENUS IN FUR
Alone in a Parisian theatre after a day of auditioning actresses for the play he is preparing to direct, Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is complaining over the phone about the low standard of the actors and is ready to leave when Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) appears. Vanda embodies everything Thomas hates. She is crude, idiotic, and will stop at nothing to get the part. But when Thomas finds himself backed into a corner and lets her try her luck, he is amazed to see Vanda transformed. Not only has she found the right props and costumes, but she understands the character (whose name she shares) intimately, and knows all her lines by heart. The "audition" lengthens and intensifies, and Thomas's attraction starts to develop into an obsession...
Review by Louise Keller:
Like his 2011 film Carnage, Roman Polanski's film adaptation of the stage show Venus in Fur is both a powerful depiction of emotions and a performance showcase. While Carnage excelled as a foursome ensemble piece headed by Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet, Venus in Fur is essentially a platform for his beautiful actress wife, Emmanuelle Seignier, whose versatile talents and sensual persona carry the piece beautifully. The fact that Mathieu Amalric who shares the screen with Seignier has an almost Polanski-esque presence, gives the drama of the novel within a novel even more grit. The two-hander plays like a crackling fire in which the fine line between the characters and the parts they portray meld together in an unnerving battle of wits and emotions as the realities shift.
The film begins as the camera pans down an avenue of trees during a thunderstorm; the flashing lightning illuminating the winter-bare trees before the camera enters the doors of an old, dark theatre. After the establishment of Amalric as Thomas, a first time theatre director who is expressing his frustration after a long day unsuccessfully auditioning actresses for the lead role in his play, Seignier's makes her theatrical entrance. She plays Vanda (whose name is the same as the character for which she is auditioning); the play's themes from Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel canvass sado-masochism, degradation, domination, seduction and humiliation. Drenched from the rain, Vanda is striking in a black low cut dress, black stockings, suspenders and dog collar.
The transformation of the outspoken, tattooed actress to the 19th century character of the play is nothing short of sensational as she impresses Thomas, who reads the role of Severin, and an intimate and combative relationship quickly develops between them. Seignier effortlessly glides between her two Vanda personalities, allowing the actress's commentary on feminist issues to bring an added bite. The film may not have the commercial appeal of Carnage, but it's a fascinating depiction of sheer manipulation and the performances are flawless.
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VENUS IN FUR (M)
La Vénus à la fourrure
CAST: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
PRODUCER: Alain Sarde, Robert Benmussa
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
SCRIPT: Roman Polanski, David Ives (novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, play by David Ives)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pawel edelman
EDITOR: Herve de Luze, Margot Meynier
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bruno Via
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 17, 2014