Twenty-One year old Catherine Deneuve is Carole Ledoux, our beautiful, yet prudish, manicurist dreadfully unprepared for cosmopolitan life in London and hopelessly dependent upon her sister and roommate, Hélène (Yvonne Furneaux). Sadly, while Carole is quiet, pensive and shy, Hélène is an outgoing socialite with a boyfriend and a much more worldly manner. Even sadder, Carole is far more desirable than she would apparently like to be, and men are following her around and (quite literally) breaking down her door to be with her.
All this, coupled with a grueling, classicist job and a world she simply cannot get used to, combine to loosen her grip on sanity and she slowly starts to see her solace cracking and breaking around her. When her sister leaves for a holiday with her boyfriend, Carole finally loses it. What follows is alternately shocking and sympathetic, and always, always disturbing.
Shot in cold black and white and dripping with atmosphere that only Polanski can offer, Repulsion has been called one of the most frightening films of all time. Is it? Well, by definition Repulsion is not all that "Frightening". There is no Hitchcockian building of terror before the fear comes to life. Instead, we see the world as Carole sees it, and, while we are disturbed by what we see, the audience is only really frightened when Carole is.
And there's the rub... that's what makes this movie so effective. We never know what is Fantasy and what is Reality in Carole's multi-part delusions. Is she having night terrors or are horrible things really happening to her during her insomnia-ridden small hours? Polanski and co-writer Gérard Brach make it clear to us that our sexually repressed virgin from Belgium is delusional at least some of the time, a fact that calls into question almost everything else she does. Folks, we just don't know!
What's more, the first half of the movie is a snail-paced setup, practically boring by most standards. Many viewers might be turned off by this feel, at least at first. However, if you can make it to the final act, you'll see just how vital the Normalcy-Rife opening really is, and by comparison, the insanity is drastically more insane! The first half is not for the easily bored... the second half is not for the easily repulsed.
Either way, this is one well-directed, well acted film with some great shocks and special effects for the day. Stay till the end and see what's waiting for you... just beware. Three and One Half Stars out of five for Repulsion, the dark creep fest with the long road leading to it. It's no traditional horror film (much less even than Rosemary's Baby), and not for all tastes. However, for those who can balance a vapid opening with a rapid final act, this art film might be up your decaying alley! So, folks, if you're looking for me, I'll be in the Conservatory with the Candlestick slapping Colonel Mustard around. That'll teach you to say that the World's Greatest Critic hasn't got a Clue!
Hallucinations... Seven Francs.
Wallowing in Filth... One Franc.
Carrying rotting pets in your purse... twelve Francs.
Taking a page from Jame Gumb's Housekeeping Manual... twenty-two Francs.
Giving Ed Gein a run for his Koo-Koo money... Thirty-Five Francs.
Clicking here for more reviews... Priceless!
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