Broadway drama sizzles on screen

The “golden years” of age seem no barrier to quality filmmaking. The number of directors working well past most people’s retirement is steadily growing.

Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigneur) and Thomas (Mattieu Amalric), in a scene from the movie Venus in Fur.

Just in the past month, there has been an adaptation by Clint Eastwood (84) of Jersey Boys, while French director Jean Luc Godard (83) contributed Goodbye to Language in 3D to the international film festival.
Eastwood has already completed another film, American Sniper, about US Navy SEALs.
While not quite 80 — he’s only 78 — Woody Allen is having a late bloom with Midnight in
Paris, To Rome With Love and Magic in the Moonlight.
Going back a few years, Hollywood directors Robert Altman, John Huston, Sidney Lumet and Billy Wilder were all over 80 when they made their last films.
In Europe, the tradition is also strong. In France, Alain Resnais completed Life of Riley
just before his death in March at 91, while Eric Rohmer made The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007) at 87 and died three years later. Italy’s Michelangelo Antonioni lived to 94 and finished his last feature film at 82.
Latest to enter his 80s is Polish-born Roman Polanski, once considered an enfant terrible in world cinema after an early film, (1962), became an international sensation.
That film’s influence was most recently seen in another Polish film, Ida, shot in black-and-white on the classic screen size.
In the West, Polanski quickly built on his reputation with a series of horror-tinged thrillers: Repulsion, Cul-de-Sac, Dance of the Vampires and Rosemary’s Baby, all made inthe 1960s.
More hits followed — Chinatown, The Tenant and Tess— before his personal life intervened. He decided to live outside the United States to avoid a sex charge and his output declined until The Pianist (2002) and The Ghost Writer (2010) restored him to the mainstream of top directors.
Polanski has found a new niche adapting highly-charged Broadway dramas. Carnage (2011) was the first and is followed by Venus in Fur (Rialto), filmed in French and based on the play by
David Ives.
Rather than “open up” the play — as most films do — Polanski maintains the claustrophobic style
of Knife in the Water, which is largely set on a yacht.
With just two leads, Venus in Fur is a rollercoaster of shifting identities and brinkmanship
as the protagonists — a stage director (Mathieu Amalric) and an auditioning actress (Emanuelle
Seigneur, Polanski’s wife) — spar with one another.
It becomes a battle of the sexes as the play-within-a- film explores Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s obsessions and what they mean to contemporary men and women.
The actress transforms herself a couple of times — conjuring up costumes and lurid use of lipstick from earlier Polanki films — while the director (who looks like the younger Polanski) goes from tormentor to victim.
Polanski is a master of style and here he uses a single camera and one set, the inside of a
New York theatre.
Rating: Restricted to audiences over 16; 105 minutes.

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Michael Otto

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