One of Roman Polanski’s lesser-known films, Che? (also known as What?) stars Sydne Rome as an attractive young hitchhiker who, as the film opens, accepts a ride from three men in a car, who later attempt to rape her. She escapes their clutches and makes her way to a mansion owned by millionaire Joseph Noblart (Hugh Griffith), who is overseeing a decadent party. Among the guests at his home are a pair of table-tennis players, a man with a harpoon (played by Polanski himself). Continue reading
Vanda is an unusually talented young actress determined to land the lead in Thomas’ new play based on the classic erotic novel, Venus in Fur. Vanda’s emotionally charged audition for the gifted but demanding playwright/director becomes an electrifying game of cat and mouse that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex. “As always with Polanski, the narrative’s eccentricities are cloaked in an expert veneer of classicism” (Keith Uhlich: Time Out); “Roman Polanski’s penchant for psychosexual mind games conducted in claustrophobic spaces is deliciously revisited in ‘Venus in Fur’ (…) Emmanuelle Seigner is a fresh revelation” (David Rooney: The Hollywood Reporter); “‘Venus in Fur’ finds Roman Polanski transferring a New York stage hit to the screen with maximum fidelity and facility, and a minimum of fuss.” (Scott Foundas: Variety); “‘Venus In Fur’ is a playful if occasionally heavy-handed jeu d’ésprit on the subject of sexual role-play (…) illusion and reality, and directing as a sexual act. (…) Rating: *** (out of five)” (Peter Bradshaw: The Guardian).
Polanski’s greatly under-rated adaptation of the Dickens classic boasts stunning set design, exemplary, understated acting quite unlike the “Dickensian” grotesques of most TV adaptations, and definitive portraits of Sykes and Fagin by the great actors James Foreman and Sir Ben Kingsley. The latter’s night of terror in the execution cell at the film’s end is one of the most moving scenes in the director’s canon. Polanski is not scared of invoking Lean. In fact, several scenes pay specific homage to the earlier version while offering a totally valid, more naturalistic update. One for the ages, if not the box office. Continue reading
Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is a New York City rare-book dealer motivated solely by financial gain. Wealthy book collector Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) hires Corso to authenticate his recently acquired copy of the seventeenth-century author Aristide Torchia’s book The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, reputedly a version of a book whose author was the devil himself. The book contains nine engravings that, when correctly interpreted and the legends properly spoken, will raise the Devil. Since two other copies exist, Balkan suspects that the book might be a forgery, and asks Corso to travel to Europe determine whether his or any of the other two are genuine and, if so, to acquire them for Balkan, at any cost or by any means. Continue reading
Directed by Roman Polanski, here comes the tale of Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red, one of the most feared pirates on the Spanish main, and his French swashbuckling sidekick, “The Frog” (Cris Campion). Stranded at sea, they are saved by a Spanish galleon. They immediately set their goal to commandeer the ship and steal the aztec golden throne it is carrying back to Spain.
A huge commercial and critical flop at the time of its release, “Pirates”‘s reputation with film critics has not grown other the year. It is still considered a cinematic disgrace on Polanski’s resume, exhibit A along with “Cutthroat Island” anytime a terrible god awful pirate movie needs to be mentioned. This has always puzzled me as this is definitely one of the funnier movies I have ever seen and a personal favorite. Continue reading
A rural clergyman in 19th century England tells Durbeyfield, a simple farmer, that he is descended from the illustrious d’Urberville family — now extinct. Or maybe not. Durbeyfield sends his daughter Tess to check on a family named d’Uberville living in a manor house less than a day’s carriage ride away. Alec d’Urberville is delighted to meet his beautiful “cousin” and seduces her with strawberries and roses. Actually Alec has gotten his illustrious name and coat of arms by purchasing them. Tess too takes up the game of illusion when she finds, loses and finds again her true love Angel. Continue reading
The old bat researcher, professor Abronsius and his assistant, Alfred, go to a remote Transylvanian village looking for vampires. Alfred falls in love with the inn-keeper’s young daughter Sarah. However, she has been spotted by the mysterious count Krolock who lives in a dark and creepy castle outside the village. Continue reading