Directed by Roman Polanski
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 105 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 English
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: July 28, 2009
Review Date: July 5, 2009
If Alfred Hitchcock sewed the seeds of the modern psychological horror film with his 1960 masterpiece Psycho, then surely Roman Polanski fertilized and watered them with his 1965 masterwork Repulsion. These two brilliant black and white films: odd, unsettling, and shockingly violent without the stomach churning graphic qualities that distinguish today’s fright flicks, can almost certainly be called the cornerstones of a new era in horror movies, and they both play brilliantly today more than forty years after their initial releases. Repulsion certainly proved that Polish director Roman Polanski could work just as effectively in English as he could in his own native language.
Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve) is a young manicurist with very pent up anxieties about sex. She resents her sister’s (Yvonne Furneaux) married lover (Ian Hendry), and she feels revulsion for the very attractive Colin (John Fraser) who shows a genuine interest in her. Carol is already preoccupied and moody when the film begins, and after being left alone while her sister and her lover enjoy a fortnight's holiday in Italy, we little by little begin to note her steady descent into a kind of hallucinatory madness that drives her to commit murder.
Director/co-writer Roman Polanski is in no hurry to get to the grisly events of his drama. We watch in rapt fascination as Carol slips little by little from the rational world to that of a nightmarish prison for her where she’s raped every time she tries to sleep, the walls reach out to grab and grope her, and the entire apartment takes on a shadowy, otherworldly elongation that makes her feel trapped and lost. Even before her mind snaps, her world is filled with objects which take on threatening lives of their own: kitchen paring knives, a man’s straight razor, cuticle clippers. Polanski focuses on cracks in the pavement and later cracks in the plaster of her apartment (real and imagined) to symbolize her sanity breaking apart. Ordinary sounds take on an unimaginable gravitas as Carol’s sanity slips away; one can never hear dripping water, piano scales, convent bells, and buzzing flies in quite the same way again after listening to the way Polanski uses the noises in this movie. And the fantastic use of distorted camera shots and bizarre angles (sometimes at floor level) keeps the viewer off kilter, attuned to Carol’s deteriorating mental state and understanding that she’s capable of literally anything and with no one, least of all her friends and family, who had paid enough attention to her to see that she was slipping away long before she began the steady stream of violence that punctuates the film's second half.
Though she had made only a few films before she embarked on the harrowingly difficult role of Carol in Repulsion, Catherine Deneuve handles the part with surprising expertise creating one of the great studies of the deteriorating mental state ever captured on film. John Fraser seizes the earnestness and veiled desire of Colin wonderfully well making his fate one of the more horrifying images in the movie. Yvonne Furneaux does just fine with the flighty, self-absorbed older sister while Valerie Taylor has a couple of really great scenes as the stentorian owner of the beauty shop where Carol works. Ian Hendry as the cheating husband and Patrick Wymark as the landlord with more on his mind than the monthly rent also make notable impressions.
The film’s 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a beautifully rendered transfer that’s anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The grayscale has been captured to perfection in this striking encode with only a couple of noisy backgrounds and one slight moment of aliasing the only negatives in a simply superb transfer. Sharpness is outstanding, and blacks are inky with great contrast levels delivering excellent details in the shadows, very important in this moody thriller. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track is more than adequate considering the low budget nature of the original recording. ADR moments are very noticeable, and the sound doesn’t have a wide range of fidelity with highs a trifle thin. Still, there are no instances of hiss, pops, crackle, or flutter to mar the wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack which was a must to make the very specific sounds on the track work in the film’s best interest.
An audio commentary has been compiled editing together comments from director Roman Polanski and actress Catherine Deneuve. Though there are a few quiet moments, the track as a whole is very interesting with lots of behind-the-scene tales of the making of the movie.
Two theatrical trailers are presented in succession. The first, in anamorphic widescreen, runs 3 ¼ minutes. The second, in nonanamorphic letterbox, lasts 2 ¾ minutes.
“A British Horror Film” is a 2003 documentary on the making of the movie featuring Roman Polanski, producer Gene Gutowski, cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, and art director Seamus Flannery all discussing the problems with financing, producing, and filming this now legendary production. It runs 24 minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
An excerpt from the French television series Grand Écran shows Roman Polanski rehearsing his actors and then directing them in a couple of very important scenes including the second murder sequence. Interviews (in French) with Polanski and Catherine Deneuve are particularly notable. This 4:3 black and white program lasts 21 ½ minutes.
The enclosed 15-page booklet features some alluring close-up stills of Deneuve, a cast and crew list, and an adulatory essay on the work by film professor Bill Horrigan.
4.5/5 (not an average)
One of the great films (not just great thrillers) of the 1960s, Repulsion comes to the Criterion Collection in a beautiful and exciting new transfer featuring some splendid extras and a great transfer. Highly recommended!
Edited by MattH. - 7/6/2009 at 01:07 pm GMT