Friday, October 23, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Repulsion (1965)

Roman Polanski’s date rapist past has come back to haunt him big time recently, but that isn’t going to stop us from commenting on his first English-language film. While Repulsion is certainly dated by today’s standards, it remains an effective look at a young woman’s descent into madness. At first glance, Carol LeDoux is an attractive young lady that any guy would be lucky to have. But a closer look reveals a woman with some deep-seated psychological issues. She treads lightly through life with an expressionless stare, and drifts off into space at her job as a beautician. Sharing an apartment with her sister Helen, the two barely have any semblance of a relationship outside of the standard pleasantries. Helen appears to be well adjusted and engages in an affair with a married man. Carol is the opposite. She doesn’t like men at all, and is in fact repulsed by the very idea of interacting with them. Hearing the sounds of her sister and the boyfriend having passionate (and quick) sex only compounds Carol’s resentment towards men, and her own sexual repression. These days, they call a refusal to have sex with men an admirable lifestyle choice. But Andrea Dworkin wasn’t around in 1965, so they called it repression (or frigidity) instead. A couple years later, you’d simply be encouraged to drop a ton of acid and get over your hang-ups. Whatever. Anyway, when Helen and her beau leave for vacation, one would think that Carol would enjoy a break from their loud late-night fuck sessions. But left to her own devices, Carol sinks deeper and deeper into her own paranoia until it suffocates her. The walls begin to crumble in her imagination, leading to multiple hallucinations of a shadowy rapist breaking into her room. Fantasy and reality bleeds together, and woe be unto the sorry sons of bitches that choose to invade her space. Repulsion is another movie that I’ve owned for a few years, but never got around to watching until I’d decided to include it for this year’s edition of Horror Epics. After finally seeing it, I wondered why I hadn’t watched it sooner. This isn’t a film that you watch casually with your drunken friends. Repulsion demands your undivided attention so those odd little things that go on in the story make total sense. Some of those things are obvious. Others, not so much. Most movies that attempt to blend European “new wave” cinema with the more conventional Hollywood approach usually come off as pretentious and artsy, in which the only people who get it are those pompous assholes who blather on about “the language of film.” Rest assured that this is not the case with Repulsion. It’s easy to follow the story and wrap yourself up in Carol’s mental decay. By the time it’s over, you’ve felt the same claustrophobia as poor Carol did. Whatever expectations I had were certainly exceeded. The cast includes Yvonne Furneaux (La Dolce Vita), Patrick Wymark (Where Eagles Dare, The Conqueror Worm), and Ian Hendry (Children of the Damned, “The Avengers”). But the film belongs to onetime Chanel No. 5 model Catherine Deneuve as the doomed Carol LeDoux. We go through the ordeal with her and understand why she’s bludgeoned a would-be suitor to death with a candleholder. But most importantly, Deneuve appears to understand something that a lot of loudmouths often forget: that silence can often be the most frightening sound imaginable.



2 comments:

SEAN ÄABERG said...

This looks great & that poster is one of the coolest images i have EVER seen.

The Evil Eye said...

I like Rosemary's Baby better, but Repulsion was definitely a great movie. My VHS cover wasn't nearly as cool as the poster, unfortunately. But after reading your "Cretin Greetin's" post on Brain Storm, keep in mind that this is not a movie you'd "watch" while drawing.