Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Repulsion

[For those curious, this is a regular feature over at The Film Experience. Previous entries can be found here.]

Repulsion is one of those films that's easily required viewing when Halloween rolls around. (Perhaps that's why Nathaniel picked it for the HMWYBS season finale.) It was responsible for making Roman Polanski an in-demand name throughout the film industry. Indeed, certain elements of this film (as well as Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown) appear harsher in light of later events in Polanski's life (the murder of his wife Sharon Tate, and the aftermath of his rape trial) but does it hinder the quality of the film? Not particularly.

Back to the film itself. There's Gilbert Taylor claustrophobic cinematography, Chico Hamilton's frenzied score, and of course Catherine Deneuve's high-strung performance. None of the stringy hair and smeared makeup nonsense we normally see nowadays when it comes to fictional women going insane. As proven by the first and final shots, it's all about the eyes. (Seriously, filmmakers. Take a page from Polanski and Deneuve.)

The best shot of Repulsion

Some context is required for this particular shot. In this moment, Carol is listening to her sister having sex with her lover...loudly. (How the hell Polanski managed to get away with that twice in the same movie back in the mid-sixties is anyone's guess.) For a brief flickering moment, Carol is intently listening to what's happening in the other room. And though many scenes throughout Repulsion depict her as having a crippling fear of both men and intimacy, Carol may also have a faint curiosity in regards with both matters.


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