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Venus in Fur (4/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 95 minutes.

Not for children.

Roman Polanski is an accused child molester who can’t return to the United States because of a pending criminal case against him that he ran away from. Having spent the rest of his career in Europe, he’s won two Oscars as Best Director (Chinatown, 1974 and The Pianist, 2002).

So here, apparently without much money, he basically films David Ives’ Tony Award-winning Broadway play based on Leopod von Sacher-Masoch’s (from whom the word “masochism” is derived) novella of the same name. The two person film stars Mathieu Amalric as writer-director Thomas who has spent an exhausting day interviewing actresses, and Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s wife, as an actress, Vanda, auditioning for the lead role in the play as a woman who enters into an agreement with a man to dominate him as her slave.

The film is mostly Vanda and Thomas acting out the script, with reality constantly colliding with fiction. In order to distinguish between what’s the script and what’s not, the subtitles for the lines from the script are italicized and the real dialogue between them are not in italics. If you speak French, however, and don’t need the subtitles, it might be a little confusing.

One of the main points of the film seems to be to display Seigner’s voluptuous 48 year old body because her breasts constantly upstage both actors. Even though some may argue that they are the best part of the film, her décolletage is a constant detraction from her fine performance as someone who is clearly not what she seemed when she walked into the theater late after everyone else had left.

The problem is that it’s all talk and the subject might be off-putting to those who consider that the idea that pain and humiliation are a normal part of love-making is simply perversion, which is probably the vast majority of normal people. In French.