“Venus in Fur” Review

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Photo Credit: IFC Films

Photo Credit: IFC Films

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Mike Mike has a degree in Film from The University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in the entertainment industry for the past 25 years and sees two to four new movies in the theatre a week. Mike has a weekly movie blog where he reviews films both present and past at:

lastonetoleavethetheatre.blogspot.com

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Venus in Fur

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

“Venus in Fur”  (2013)

“Venus in Fur” starts out with the camera moving down a Paris street during a lightning storm. The camera then makes a right turn toward a rundown theatre. The doors open and as the camera proceeds inside the theatre, we see Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) at the end of a very long day auditioning actresses for his new play. In walks Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), a gum smacking actress who doesn’t seem to stop talking for a second as she explains why she is so late to the audition. When Vanda throws a crying fit, Thomas reluctantly agrees to read with her. They read the first three pages of the script, and Thomas realizes that he just might have his actress. Thomas decides to keep reading going as they soon develop a pattern of doing the play, and then stopping as they take time out to learn about each other or discuss the finer points of the play.

Venus In Fur

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Roman Polanski directs this two-person play within a film. Polanski’s wife in real-life Emmanuelle Seigner plays Vanda, seemingly changing skins as her character gets more and more involved with the play and the ongoing discussion with Thomas. Seigner is perfect in the role, beautiful and playful one moment, downright scary in another. Thomas, played by Mathieu Amalric, looks so much like Polanski, it’s almost uncanny. His character at first is full of bluster and ego. As the film moves along, Amalric lets his character’s cracks show, allowing us to see more than just the surface. There is great chemistry between the two actors and their dialogue, especially when they are just talking about their lives, flows easily between them. It’s fun watching these two actors spar, almost as if they are boxers looking for weaknesses in each other.

Venus In Fur

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

This movie is a cat and mouse game; with both characters on the offense in one scene and in the very next scene, they are fighting for their lives. The film explores many topics such as sadomasochism, never getting too graphic, as both actors explore their feelings, especially ones that they have kept hidden. As the film progresses, the line between what they are reciting from the play and what they are discussing becomes blurred. Most of the film takes place up on stage, with the actors changing the lighting via a lighting board. Cinematographer Pawel Edelman uses this to set the mood for the various scenes between the two characters. It’s an interesting visual experience where at times the camera is placed where the audience would be in the theatre and other times we are in far more intimate circumstances up on the stage with the actors. Just like the actors in the film, we are sometimes experiencing a stage play and at other times, we are part of a more in-depth conversation between the two characters.

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Polanski shows his skill in keeping the film moving at a brisk pace, and though it is just the two actors alone on the screen, the film never gets boring or predictable. It’s a steamy film that questions the relationship between a man and a woman. It’s a movie that explores the boundaries that we set for ourselves and for the people with whom we have relationships. It’s an interesting take on the man/woman relationship dynamic, making something that seems to be for the stage fit perfectly on the screen.

My Rating: Full Price 

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“Venus in Fur” is playing exclusively at Midtown Art Cinema “Venus in Fur” Website

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