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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > Sexuality > British > Repulsion (1965/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)

Repulsion (1965/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B+



After so much off-screen controversy over Roman Polanski, many wonder why he still matters as an artist, director and key figure in cinema.  His later output since the 1980s has only produced a few great films (The Pianist, Death & The Maiden), but in the beginning, he was a filmmaker of exceptional talent and actions speak louder than words when viewing one of his early masterworks like Repulsion, the 1965 sexual thriller that we previously looked at on a basic DVD release:





At the time, he was considered the equal of Stanley Kubrick, Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais when it came to cutting-edge cinema.  He took beautiful up and coming actress Catherine Deneuve, known best for her work in Jacques Demy’s colorful operetta The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and centered her into a black and white thriller like nothing anyone had seen before entitled Repulsion.   After so many bad and substandard DVD releases, Criterion issued the film on DVD.  Now, they have undone themselves with the fine new Blu-ray edition.


Carole Ledoux (Deneuve) is beautiful and the kind of woman any man would love to meet and get to know.  Living in London, she can enjoy the big city, but seems alienated by it.  This extends to dealing with the opposite sex.  Working at a beauty salon and turning to her sister as her best friend, she is left alone one weekend and all of her problems and deepest feelings fine absolute manifest once and for all.


When so-called filmmakers attempt this kind of thing today, it is always as shallow as it is dishonest and phony.  While most directors are lazy and don’t even try, especially in the Horror genre, Polanski was working above genre and more.  He was exploring ground that no one had covered before and there is a certain sense of adventure in that.  He beat other filmmakers to it (this arrived a year before John Frankenheimer’s also-brilliant Seconds, their title sequences homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo) and this film never misses an opportunity to be effective.  It shows what a brilliant, essential filmmaker Polanski was.


Of course, the cast is also very effective, with Deneuve proving she was more than just a pretty face.  This was a British production and she is joined by James Villers, Ian Hendry, Patrick Wymark, John Frazer, Renee Houston, Valerie Taylor and Yvonne Furneaux as her sister.  Polanski has a uniquely subtle way of working with actors and this is one of the best examples of how he does that.


It is easy to forget how good a film Repulsion really is as it is not discussed as often as it should be and all the bad copies have not helped, but Criterion has finally (even over their own DVD version) a Blu-ray edition that will help reestablish the film as one of the best thrillers of the 1960s (up there with Hitchcock’s Psycho) and show us that, for a while, why Polanski was one of the world’s most important filmmakers.



The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image is from a three key sources of the film, its original 35mm negative, a 35mm duplicate negative and 35mm composite fine grain master positive.  The result is that Director of Photography Gilbert Taylor’s work here looks incredibly good.  The only minor issue is that for all the improvements in detail, depth and overall cleaner appearance, there is more grain than expected, though it is the way post-Noir black and white looks.  This concluded a trilogy of groundbreaking monochromatic work Taylor delivered following The Beatles in Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove making this film a must-see just on a visual level!


The PCM 2.0 Mono is a bit better than any previous DVD track, usually offered in more compress Dolby Digital.  The rating given is barely earned since this is a film concentrating on silences as well as sounds.  Chico Hamilton’s music (orchestrated by Gabor Szabo) is added in very smart, even strategic ways, then there is the use of sound effects.  In an era of 5.1 mixes by people who seem to have no sense of film sound whatsoever, this soundtrack is smarter and far more complex.  The original optical soundmaster was used for this Blu-ray and it shows in the improved quality we get.


Extras include another fine booklet with technical credits and essay by Bill Corrigan about the film titled “Eye Of The Storm”, while the Blu-ray itself includes a feature length commentary by Polanski & Deneuve (!), original theatrical trailers, 1964 TV documentary on the film with rare footage from the set and 2003 documentary amusingly entitled A British Horror Film that includes many of the participants being interviewed.  Polanski, Taylor and Producer Gene Gutowski are among them.


This is a serious must-own Blu-ray for all serious film fans no serious collection can do without.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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