Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day Twenty: Repulsion (1965) - Rank 3.5/5


This film is considered to be the first in Roman Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy" (often referred to as his "Paranoia Trilogy" as well). "Rosemary's Baby" (the second) has always been a favorite of mine for a delightful slice of dark humor. "The Tenant" (the third and final installment) does have its share of humorous elements as well, but I find it more unsettling than funny. In fact, I consider "The Tenant" to be one of the most terrifying films ever made. As a result, I became very curious as to whether "Repulsion" would stand up to its followers or not. While it never lived up to the frightful elegance of "The Tenant" or "Rosemary's Baby," "Repulsion" did have its fair share of eerie moments leading to an unnerving ending.

Catherine Deneuve is Carol, a young manicurist whose allure to any sort of sexual relationship is overpowered by an irrational fear of sex or men (it's never explained why she experiences these sensations, but it's alluded to that she may have been abused as a child). When her sister leaves her alone in their apartment whilst she vacations in Italy, Carol shuts herself in and succumbs to her own paranoid delusion. Voices whisper to her at night (reminiscent of a scene from "The Haunting"), the walls crack open intermittently, groping hands reach out of the walls at her and night after night she is raped by mysterious assailants. Any who come to the door, be it would-be suitors or landlords, meet with cruel fates until her madness and paranoia strip her of any shred of sanity.

The film is a slow, eerie and effective descent into mental degradation. Shot in high contrast black and white, the look of the film has a nightmarish quality to it as well. In the end, I think Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy" could very well be compared with Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy." The second film of each I consider to be the most outlandish, yet best known ("Oldboy" vs. "Rosemary's Baby"), the third I consider to be the best overall and most mature ("Lady Vengeance" vs. "The Tenant"). The first installment, then, sets the tone of the others and is an excellent film in its own right ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" vs. "Repulsion") but when compared with the others in its trilogy, it pales in comparison.

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