Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dark Art

Being a hardcore cinephile, The Leopard has often found himself the victim of what I call “Director crushes.” That’s when, for an unspecified amount of time, I become obsessed with the work of a specific film director, usually an auteur, and I don’t stop until I’ve read every book I can find on the artist and seen every film they’ve made.
Last year, my crushes were on Otto Preminger ("Anatomy Of A Murder”) and Lars Van Trier "Antichrist"). This year so far I’m mad about Warren Beatty (don’t laugh; he’s responsible for some mighty fine films ("Reds", Bonnie And Clyde") and the great Michael Haneke ("Funny Games").

But let’s talk Roman Polanski.
Setting aside his well-publicized legal and personal troubles (the excellent documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired" covers much of that part of his career pretty well). I recently began to familiarize myself with his oeuvre. I started with the clever and innovative "Knife in the Water", a strikingly beautiful psychological thriller set primarily on a small boat; Repulsion, an inventive horror film starring a very young and lovely Catherine Denevue, "Rosemary’s Baby", Polanski’s biggest commercial success, which spawned a carload of imitators; "Death and The Maiden", a terse adaption of the Ariel Dorfman play starring Sigourney Weaver; and for me, a true find: "The Tenant", another horror/thriller starring the director himself in a startlingly complex performance.

The Tenant

It was considered “tedious’ by critics of the day, but I found it to be an intense, frightening, satisfying little film despite the minuscule amount of violence.

Polanski’s Kafka-like style oddly comfortable. Watching his films, one always gets the sense of a sure, steady style. Wherever his self-made universe takes you, you are sure to find yourself smack dab in the middle of Polanski–land. Not a bad place to be on a rainy Sunday afternoon.