Sunday, August 11, 2013


TCM's star in Summer Under the Stars for tomorrow, August 12, is Catherine Deneuve. We're going to get quite a few French-langauge movies, but there is an Englihs-language movie or two along the way, including Repulsion at 7:45 AM.

Deneuve plays Carol, a young woman from Belgium who is working in an upscale beauty salon in London, while living with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Carol has a boyfriend pursuing her in the form of Colin (John Fraser), Carol keeps pushing him away: as we see in quasi-flashbacks involving photographs, Carol has a hang-up when it comes to men, or more specifically when it comes to male sexuality. This is a problem, because Helen also has a boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), who is at the apartment enough to leave some of his things in their bathroom. It doesn't make Carol feel any better that Michael is married, too. But, things are about to get better for Carol. Helen and Michael are going to go away together for the weekend, so Carol will have the place all to herself, without having to deal with any of those men who bother her if she doesn't want to.

Yeah, right. Michael's wife calls, thinks Carol is Helen, and gives her the business, which naturally unnerves Carol. And she starts to imagine the worse. Did I see something moving under the door? Are the walls closing in on me? Colin is at the door. Is he here to hurt me? It's fairly quickly becomes clear that there's something very wrong with Carol, although we the viewers have been given some foreshadowing of this by the way she's been acting at work. Will Carol wind up like Julie Harris' character in The Haunting? Or will the people who love her be able to save her in time? Sadly for Carol, the visions continue to get worse. Suffice it to say that the things she sees are very disturbing, and that it would give a bit too much away to go into further detail.

Most reviewers consider Repulsion to be a masterpiece from director Roman Polanski. Unfortunately, the movie left me feeling not so much disturbed as just emotionally cold. This isn't to say that it's a bad movie, or even that I disliked it. It's easy enough to understand why somebody like Carol might be uncomfortable with men, even if no reason is explicitly given. It's also clear the effect that Polanski is trying to go for as Carol begins her slow downward spiral into madness that picks up in speed as the movie goes along. It's just that I didn't really feel the desired effect. Something about Carol's descent doesn't seem as natural as, say, what happened in The Haunting or to Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit. It's not as laughable as Polly Bergen's nervous breakdown in The Caretakers, however; in fact, I wouldn't even use the term laughable at all. That would be unfair to Repulsion. I'm clearly in the minority, so watch Repulsion yourself. You'll probably feel what Polanski wanted the audience to feel.

Repulsion has received a DVD release courtesy of the Criterion Collection, which means that while you can buy it on DVD, it is rather pricier.

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