Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: La Venus a la Fourrure
France/Poland, 2013. R.P. Productions, A.S. Films, Monolith Films. Screenplay by Roman Polanski, David Ives, based on the play by David Ives, and the novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Cinematography by Pawel Edelman. Produced by Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Bruno Via. Costume Design by Dinah Collin. Film Editing by Herve de Luze, Margot Meynier. Cannes Film Festival 2013.
It is no small feat to make a film with just two people in one room and have it be this captivating, but Roman Polanski has managed it. Emmanuelle Seigner plays a pushy, perpetually chattering actress who enters a theatre and is devastated that she has arrived well after auditions for a theatrical adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel Venus In Fur have ended. The director (Mathieu Amalric) is just about to close up, telling the rain-soaked woman that she can audition another day, but she pleads with him to let her have a chance considering the trouble she went through to get there, and also because she is prepared: and what preparation! She’s got costumes and props and is practically off book, but what really shocks Amalric is that the moment he asks her to perform, she has as much goddess-like control when in character as she is a slang-talking, gum-chewing mess out of it. The play, which concentrates on the development of a sadomasochist relationship between a submissive man and a dominant woman (von Sacher-Masoch is actually where we get the word “masochist”), is the opposite of the real life situation of the actress begging for acceptance from the director, but as they go through scene after scene of the play this dynamic begins to shift. Watching this skilled cinematic transference (and French langauge translation) of David Ives’ hit Broadway play is an endless pleasure, particularly considering that Seigner tops all her career accomplishments with her wondrous performance. The entertainment value of the story mainly revolves around the skill of the actor playing the female lead, as the distance between her real personality and her acting talent has to be vast for the layers to work, and Seigner fulfills this requirement impeccably.