By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
The temptation is always there to avoid a Roman Polanski film, especially when it touches on sexuality whatsoever, so when I learned his latest was a BDSM-tinged French-language two-hander I figured I could safely skip it. Then I watched it anyway, because I don’t even know how my brain works.
Venus in Fur is about an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) who shows up late to an audition for the titular 19th century BDSM classic, but cajoles the director (Mathieu Amalric) into giving her a chance anyway. As the evening goes on and they dig deeper into the play, the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur.
Roman Polanski, for all his alleged/obvious personal faults, is simply a master filmmaker, and right from his spectacular, gothic tracking shot into the theater, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. Throughout the film, the pairing of camerawork making this static setting dynamic and the script twisting viewer expectations at will show his vision and control.
The story is sly, dark, funny, sexy, and shocking in turn, but at its core it’s about power dynamics- sadist/masochist, director/actress, male/female- and how they mix with and influence art, literature, sexuality, and society. It’s a heady brew of ideas, made even more complex by the constantly shifting plotting.
And the results are just as tasty.
This is purely a two actor show, and both Seigner and Amalric play their parts perfectly. Amalric is a tangle of insecurities and repressed desires, and Seigner plays her irreverent actress, 19th century objet du désir, and avenging angel roles with aplomb, unraveling Amalric to the spool as she does so. The third act where this all plays out is simply fucking nuts, and I loved it. Don’t ever let it be said that Polanski has run out of ideas.
The novel/play “within the play” doesn’t really justify its central status. I would undoubtedly be bored to tears if I had to watch it, although someone with more interest in BDSM might think differently.
I’m more of a plus-size sex swing guy myself.
Venus in Fur is a beguiling, darkly funny battle of the sexes and stage all at once. It’s also bonkers, and I love me some bonkers French cinema.
How could you not?
Take a Drink: for the “fur”
Take a Drink: for phallic symbols
Take a Drink: whenever they slip back into the play
Take a Drink: for creepysexy vibes
Do a Shot: for Seigner’s Anchorman moment
Do a Shot: for whatever the hell that ending was