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Roman Polanski followed up his international breakthrough Knife in the Water with this controversial, chilling tale of psychosis, starring Catherine Deneuve as Carol, a fragile, frigid young beauty cracking up over the course of a terrifying weekend. Left alone by her vacationing sister in their London flat, Carol is haunted by specters real and imagined, and her insanity grows to a violent pitch. Thanks to its unforgettable attention to disturbing detail and Polanski’s unparalleled adeptness at turning claustrophobic space into an emotional minefield, Repulsion remains one of cinema’s most shocking psychological thrillers.
For more about Repulsion and the Repulsion Blu-ray release, see Repulsion Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Patrick Wymark, Yvonne Furneaux, Renee Houston
Director: Roman Polanski
» See full cast & crew
Repulsion Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 10, 2009
Roman Polanski's atmospheric "Repulsion" (1965) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The disc contains a new, restored high-definition transfer, approved by the director, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are an audio commentary featuring director Polanski and Catherine Deneuve, a documentary on the making of the film, a French television documentary and more. Region-A "locked".
In one of the supplemental features offered on this Blu-ray disc, director Polanski states: "Don't ever ask me to explain any of my pictures." I think I understand why he would say something like that. Typically, his films are difficult to deconstruct, misleading, at times openly manipulative. They almost never offer clear-cut answers to the questions they ask. Repulsion, the Polish director's second feature film, is not an exception.
The story of Repulsion revolves around a young Belgian girl, Carol (Catherine Deneuve, Belle de Jour), who works as a manicurist at a fashionable beauty salon in London. She shares an apartment with her sister Helene (Yvonne Furneaux, Le scandale), who is in a relationship with an older and married man (Ian Hendry, The McKenzie Break). Carol also has a boyfriend, John (James Villiers), but the two rarely spend time together.
As the story progresses, we see that Carol becomes increasingly frustrated with Helene's lover. She does not like it when he visits her sister and the two make love. She does not like it when he leaves his toothbrush next to hers. She also does not like it when he talks to her as if she is a little girl.
Helene and Michael decide to go on a trip to Italy. Before they leave, Helene tells Carol to pay the rent. She mustn't forget because the landlord (Patrick Wymark, The Man from the Other Side) has already phoned a few times asking for his money. Carol promises her sister that she will pay the rent on time.
Helene and Michael leave. Alone in the big apartment, Carol starts having nightmares. In her dreams, a man repeatedly attempts to rape her. During the day, she begins feeling sick. Instead of seeking medical help, however, Carol quits her job at the beauty salon and locks herself in the apartment. She also refuses to speak with John on the phone. When he finally comes knocking on her door, all hell breaks loose.
Many people regard Repulsion as one of director Polanski's best films. I don't think I agree with them. The film certainly has a style and look of its own - its heavy erotic overtones separate it from everything else the director has filmed - but it is not as effective as Knife in the Water (1962), Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974). To me, Repulsion feels too chaotic, lacking the thematic linearity witnessed in the three films mentioned above.
Still, I must admit that Repulsion is a surprisingly witty, smartly written film. It blends elements of suspense and mystery along with drama, horror and erotica in a very unique way. It is also a carefully photographed film, encouraging the viewer to pay close attention to even the tiniest of details. Add to the mix the endless close-ups of the gorgeous 22-year old Deneuve, and you immediately have something special.
What I find fascinating about Repulsion, however, is its ability to manipulate. Aside from the obvious - the main protagonist getting progressively worse - the rest of the film is like a giant Freudian puzzle; you do not necessarily like and certainly do not understand everything that you see, but you definitely want to figure it out.
Repulsion was director Polanski's first English-language film. It became a reality only because the owners of Compton Films, a small production company dealing with exploitation and soft porn films, decided that they needed to add to their roster a director who would dramatically improve their image. Prior to that, Repulsion was rejected by practically every major studio.
Repulsion Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Roman Polanski's Repulsion arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
Approved by Roman Polanski, this new high-definition transfer has been created on a Spirit 2K Datacine, in 2K restoration, from the original 35mm negative, a 35mm composite fine-grain master positive, and a 35mm duplicate negative. Film scanning and photochemical compositing was done at Soho Images, London. Grover Crisp was the telecine supervisor while Scott Ostrowsky was the telecine colorist. Both are from Sony Pictures.
Simply put, Criterion's Blu-ray release outperforms every other release of Repulsion that I have seen. Even the old Anchor Bay UK SDVD, which was held in high regard by many, looks notably weak next to this new Criterion release. Contrast is excellent, clarity very impressive and detail simply fantastic. The color-scheme is also superb - blacks are deep and lush while whites are gentle and natural looking. Additionally, this is a pure, unfiltered print with plenty of healthy grain. Those of you with digital projectors will also be pleased to know that Repulsion looks notably stable. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing debris, specs, or debris to report in this review. To sum it all up, Criterion's Blu-ray release is nothing short of a revelation. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" disc. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-A or Region-Free player, you will not be able to access the disc's content).
Repulsion Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English HOH subtitles for the main feature.
The English mono track has been remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. As a result, the dialog is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. The manner in which silence is treated throughout the film is also impressive. Furthermore, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report on this review. There are no balance issues either. Simply put, there is absolutely nothing to criticize here.
Repulsion Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A British Horror Film - this documentary of the making of Repulsion was produced by Blue Underground UK in 2003 and features interviews with director Roman Polanski, cinematographer Gil Taylor, production designer Seamus Flanerry, producer Gene Gutowski, and executive producer Tony Tenser. The gentlemen discuss the production history of the film, what its message was and how it was perceived by the public. (25 min, 1080i/60).
Grand ecran - a documentary, directed by Claude Chabound, which originally appeared as a segment on the French television program Grand ecran on October 24, 1964. Filmed on the set of Repulsion, it features rare footage of Roman Polanski and Catherine Deneuve at work. With optional English subtitles. (22 min, 1080i/60).
Audio commentary - a commentary with director Roman Polanski and actress Catherine Deneuve, which was recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 1994. In English.
Trailers - original trailers presented in 1080p.
Booklet - a 16-page booklet containing Bill Horrigan's essay " Eye of the Storm". The author is a director of media arts at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, for which he has written on numerous visual artists, including Chris Marker, Luc Tuymans, Johan van der Keuken, Phil Collins, Sadie Benning, Mark Dion, Shirin Neshat, Kutlug Ataman, Neil Jordan, and Adi Nes.
Repulsion Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If the rest of the distributors treated their releases like Criterion do, our job would have been so easy. Once again, I have nothing but praise for what Criterion have done with Roman Polanski's Repulsion. With the arrival of their Blu-ray disc, you could effectively discard every other commercial release of this film. It really is that simple, folks! Very Highly Recommended.
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Amazon has lowered the price on a number of previously released Criterion Collection Blu-ray titles by $5! Originally priced at $24.99, these titles - which include 'The Third Man', 'Chungking Express', 'The 400 Blows', 'The Last Emperor', 'The Wages of Fear', ...
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