What? (1972)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB

Original title:  Che?

Italy/France/West Germany, 1972, , .  Screenplay by , Roman Polanski.  Cinematography by , .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by

was so certain that this film would be the definitive moment of his career that he kept turning down Robert Evans’ request that he direct Chinatown to focus on completing it.   Evans eventually convinced him to take on the Robert Towne script by promising to pay Polanski a salary equal to whatever this film made on its opening weekend…which ended up being around $70.  It’s one of the least remembered in the director’s oeuvre and it is very easy to see why:  none of its strangeness is rewarding and none of its eroticism plays as much more than peekaboo silliness.   The modern, bawdy take on Alice In Wonderland has a terribly weak  barely escape being gang raped in a car before randomly landing in a quiet Italian villa among an assortment of odd, perpetually aroused characters.  Like Carroll’s heroine, Rome is constantly bringing a sense of practical inquiry to a group of people who are dedicated to a topsy-turvy reality, the most insistent of them a Mad Hatter in the form of lothario Marcello Mastroianni.   Polanski appears himself in this odd affair, one which proves that his superb ability for creating a rarified, tangible atmosphere is little use when in the face of an irritating, rambling plot.  It’s nearly impossible to sit through this one unless you’re waiting to see the lead actress in her various states of undress.

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