Review: Venus in Fur

Roman Polanski might well be about to turn 81 but age hasn’t dampened his kinky, pervy edge, as his latest pic amply demonstrates.

Roman Polanski might well be about to turn 81 but age hasn’t dampened his kinky, pervy edge, as his latest pic amply demonstrates. Based upon a play (like his previous outing Carnage), this is drawn from David Ives’ New York-set hit and adapted for the screen by him and Polanski. It features Roman’s wife and sometime star Emmanuelle Seigner in a performance that’s far less embarrassing than expected. In Paris, an exasperated theatrical director named Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is finishing up after a day of auditions for his latest production, a pretentious-sounding stage version of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. He’s ready to leave when Vanda (Seigner) races in, apologising for her lateness, pleading for the chance to prove her acting worth and revealing some serious cleavage. So the exhausted but admittedly impressed Thomas gives her a chance and she’s brilliant – or is she? At what point does what we see go from being a filmed play called Venus in Fur to being an also-filmed play called Venus In FurS? Is Thomas interested in Vanda’s talent or her body or both? Why is Vanda manipulating him so expertly? Is it the star part she wants – or something more? Seigner and Amalric (who also appeared together in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) are better than Polanski’s straightforward treatment of this minimalist material and they certainly tear strips off each other, but what’s truly at stake here? Perhaps the only thing you can be sure of is that the original novel’s author, von Sacher-Masoch, was the guy who gave us the term ‘masochism’, which is certainly something that Polanski knows a thing or two about – and so do his audiences. Equal parts stagey drama, psychological study, report from the frontlines of the gender war, naughty stuff from Roman’s festering mind and sexy Seigner scariness, this has strong, sometimes unsettling moments, but simply isn’t as profound or shocking as this director so wants it to be. Again, you do have to wonder how Seigner felt as her husband directed her through some of the wilder and ruder scenes here, and whether she entirely approved of having a whole movie basically built on her boobs. Rating: ***

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