REPULSION (Roman Polanski, 1965)
209 West Houston St.
If you think Lower Manhattan was scary this last week while the power was out, just wait till you see Roman Polanski’s first English-language film, the 1965 psychological masterpiece Repulsion. Catherine Deneuve gives a mesmerizing performance as Carol Ledoux, a deeply troubled, beautiful young woman who shies away from the world, hiding something that has turned her into a frightened childlike creature who barely speaks. A manicurist who lives in London with her sister, Hélène (Yvonne Furneaux), Carol becomes entranced by cracks in the sidewalk, suddenly going nearly catatonic at their sight; in bed at night, she is terrified of the walls, which seem to break apart as she grips tight to the covers. A proper gentleman (John Fraser) is trying to start a relationship with her, but she ignores him or forgets about their meetings, unable to make any genuine connections. Deneuve’s every movement, from the blink of an eye to a wave of her hand, reveals Carol’s submerged inner turmoil and desperation, leading to an ending that is both shocking and not surprising. Shot in a creepy black-and-white by Gilbert Taylor (A Hard Day’s Night, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) and featuring a pulsating score by jazz legend Chico Hamilton, Repulsion is a brilliant journey into the limitations and possibilities of the human mind, with Polanski expertly navigating through a complex terrain. Winner of a pair of awards at the fifteenth Berlin International Film Festival, Repulsion, the first of Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy (followed by 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and 1976’s The Tenant), will be screening in a new 35mm print November 3-8 at Film Forum, which is reopening this afternoon after having lost power because of Hurricane Sandy.