VENUS IN FUR (2014) Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric Directed by Roman Polanski
One man, one woman, an empty theater in Paris, a play about sadomasochism, and a rather large phallic looking cactus, welcome to the new film by Roman Polanski.
Adapted from the Broadway hit by David Ives and based on the 1870 S&M novel Venus In Furs by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who gave us the term masochism, the story centers on two characters, writer-director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) and actress Vanda, played by Emmanuelle Seigner. The film feels autobiographical since Amalric looks so much like Polanski whose real wife Seigner is playing the role of Vanda.
The film opens in a small empty theatre in Paris where writer and first-time director Thomas just spent a grueling day auditioning horrible actresses for his new play. He's getting ready to lock up and head home when Vanda, dressed like a prostitute, heavy on the makeup, wearing a bondage neck collar and smacking gum, comes stumbling through the doors. She apologizes for being late and asks Thomas if she can read for the part but looking at her, he figures this is going to be another bad audition and he says no. Vanda pleads and begs and when tears start to roll he reluctantly agrees to give her a quick audition.
Thomas, who refers to the play as "a great love story" gets agitated when Vanda refers to it as S&M porn, which explains her garters, leather skirt, and bustier, and after some arguing back and forth when Vanda remains adamant about her viewpoint, the audition begins. She reaches in her bag, changes into a costume she brought along, spits out the gum, sets the lighting on the stage, and she is transformed.
Amalric and Seigner who starred together in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" are delightful as they tempt, tease, and domineer over one another while constantly slipping in and out of the play into real life, in fact the lines become blurred on several occasions. It's a cat and mouse situation that becomes very entertaining to watch.
Casting your wife in the lead role is usually a red flag, but there's nothing wrong with pulling a nepotistic move when the performance turns out to be so good, Polanski and Seigner previously worked together on the film "Frantic". Venus In Fur is sensual, charming, and quite satisfying.
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