Repulsion (1965/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)
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
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