Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Repulsion (1965)

As my regular readers know, I am an old movie geek. I pepper my conversation with lines from old movies. I inspect old movies like old maps, old gems, old still-photographs...I wait for great moments, great scenes and great facial expressions. I know I have written about these hundreds of times on this blog.

I also look for mistakes; I find boom-mikes in the margins of the frame, I find hippies in movies supposedly set in the 40s (The Godfather has a hippie in one frame, if you are fast enough to catch him). Movies are like songs and records to me, I watch them over and over. I know them by heart, I know the climax and the resolution. I wait for the Jack Rabbit Slim's commercial to play on the car radio as Bruce Willis is running by in PULP FICTION. I wait to hear Luke Skywalker say, "Prisoner transfer from cell block 1138." (I love THX 1138 with a passion.) I eat that stuff up.

And I've watched Roman Polanski's movies over and over, too.

Years ago, I decided that REPULSION could be the subject of a feminist dissertation. The story of a woman's sexual disintegration and pathological fear of men (driving her to kill them), is simply a stunning, amazing film. The scene in which the incredibly beautiful Catherine Deneuve picks up her roommate's boyfriend's t-shirt off the bathroom floor, recognizes it as... a MAN'S shirt... and involuntarily gags... that is a great moment and a great scene, one of those I wait for. (There is also a moment of fun inside-trivia, wherein Deneuve receives a postcard from the roommate and her boyfriend in Italy, announcing that they are enjoying "La Dolce Vita"--the title of the Fellini film Deneuve's former partner, Marcello Mastroianni, made in 1960.)

The scene in which Deneuve thinks she sees a man behind her in the mirror is utterly terrifying, and has been used by every horror-movie director in the world... but as far as I know, Polanski was the first. When the church bells wake her up and she hallucinates a man in her bed, who overpowers her? Jesus H. Christ, people. And then, her famous nightmare, the hands descending from the walls. The maze of hands, groping, grabbing, seeking to hold onto her, to harm her.

Deneuve is being hounded, to say the least. MEN will not leave her alone. And don't lots of us feel that way, at certain times in our lives? That we are being forever hounded by men?

Which females in our culture are most likely to feel this way? Well, I know that when I did, I was about 13 or 14 and just becoming accustomed to being one of the hunted.

Put another way, I was the age of Roman Polanski's victim.

The last scene shows us a photograph of Deneuve as a scary-looking child, as if to say, the kid's always been strange, but even in this photo we see her jarring, uncanny beauty. By choosing a woman of such world-renowned beauty, Polanski is telling us that she deserves to feel hunted, because she IS hunted. Men throughout the movie, poor saps, want to party with her. She has been called one of the most beautiful women in the world. In a postmodern sense, we know who she is, she is Catherine Deneuve; and this pushes the film into a dreamlike realm. One can't help but think that she HAS been stalked and followed all of her life; of course she has. She is a famous beautiful woman. She has good reason to be afraid. Men all over the world have wanted her. Imagine, we are thinking, how that feels?

Doesn't feel good.

Deneuve stands in for all of us; her coveted beauty is suddenly frightening, a notable weakness. We realize there is no escape for her, because she is too beautiful. The "princess" fantasy is that every man will worship us, and Polanski flips this adolescent daydream on its head: Yes, every man will want you. See what it's done to poor Catherine? Her sanity is gone, gone, gone.

Now that Polanski has been busted in Switzerland, and both Hollywood and Blogdonia are ablaze with defenses and counter-defenses, let me make it clear that I believe Polanski is scum. Yes, a great artist, but total and complete scum. And this movie is how I know. Yes, right here in this stunning WORK OF ART, I see what a horrible man he is.

I see a rapist.

I've always seen him, the reflection in the movie-mirror.

It's like Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, wherein Woody is unabashedly involved with high-school girl Mariel Hemingway: How can you miss it? Certain film-directors let us know, in ways large and small, exactly who they are. And Roman Polanski projects his consciousness onto Deneuve in REPULSION. Polanski is the man who has created this character, after all. And it is his incessant interest and desire that has caused Catherine to flip out, to imagine men are everywhere. Polanski's arms are the arms that emerge from the walls; Polanski is the man who appears when the church bells ring.

Roman Polanski is the man Deneuve is afraid of.


Please read these threads for further Polanski discussion: Polanski Defend-a-Thon Part 1 and Part 2, and Getting Over It (by Lauren at Feministe, a must-read).

EDITED TO ADD: Her reasons are not yours (Shakesville)


Repulsion trailer (may trigger, etc)


Weer'd Beard said...

I too love Roman's films, but I also am a moral man and cannot forgive such a violent and horrible act simply because he makes beautiful art.

Bryce said...

great post, d!

Blue Heron said...

Not an excuse, but Sharon Tate's sister said today that the sex between the two was a consensual decision. Seems a bit odd to be revisiting this one at this point in time. With California's jails overflowing - lets incarcerate a 78 year old man - against the wishes of the actual victim herself.

Weer'd Beard said...

Too bad Polanski was NOT convicted in a civil trial but a criminal one.

He was convicted by the State of California, which has NOT forgiven him.

Also a 13 year old girl is not capable in the eyes of the law to have consensual sex (her testimony further supports this was forcible rape at any age) and certainly not a 13 year old girl heavily altered by illegal substances.

Ann oDyne said...

Ditto from me on all your movie appreciation. The movies!

I saw Repulsion in 66 and the one scene I recall (not seen it again since) is where deneuve opens her handbag at the grocery store to get her coin purse and the bag has a dead skun rabbit in it. I saw Cul De Sac in 65, and The Fearless Vampire Killers about 5 times when it opened back then - and the punchline of that film is that Polanskis character is Living-Deaded by the very pale gentle beautiful girl he has gone to so much risk to SAVE.

you are so right that it has all been there in the films for all to see, and well before that Hollywood Mother, Mrs Geimer, sent her child TWICE to those unchaperoned photo-shoots.
YET everybody accepted the 12 year old hooker in Taxi Driver.


BwcaBrownie said...

as a result of following your links, I have read the transcript of the interview before the grand jury.
The mother was Gailey not Geimer so Ann ODyne stands corrected on that.
It is evident from the transcript that the girl had two earlier experiences of intercourse before she met RP, and she had taken a quaalude 'she found' before she met him as well.
I am not excusing RP in any way, we know he is a pervert, and we know why he is a pervert.
My issue is with The Mother.
The transcript shows that the lawyer leading Miss Gailey in the questions, clearly allows some indistinctions to pass re the answers to some of the very pertinent questions.
When he asks about her underpants and how they came off after the camera was put away, the transcript says "Took them off"
and he moves straight on to the next question.

Not "I took them off"
"He took them off".
I am not excusing RP, just saying there's lots of stuff about the legal art of the whole crime that is suspect, and I am looking at the mother whose child had a quaalude aged 10.

CrackerLilo said...

You know, sometimes I think I really need to broaden my cinematic horizons and educate myself. (Your blog brings that out in me.) This time, I'm perfectly fine with never (knowingly) having seen one of Polanski's films and leaving a gap in my education!

mamoplastia de aumento said...

I will have to watch Polanskis movies again and think about what you say that it reflect him in real life. Interesting.

petpluto said...

I haven't ever heard of this movie, but it is going on my Netflix list right now. It sounds right cool and scary.

Sharon Tate's sister said today that the sex between the two was a consensual decision.

How would Sharon Tate's sister know? That's like Michelle Phillips telling the world John Phillips never touched Mackenzie. She couldn't possibly know that.

white rabbit said...

Apparently the evidence was that Polanski drugged a 13 year old and then had vaginal and anal sex with her against her will. Then did a plea bargain which drew the worst of the sting of these allegations. Then realised that he was in considerable danger of going to prison anyway and absented himself.

I can't say I'm sympathetic to him...

DaisyDeadhead said...

Required reading also:

Glenn Greenwald: Post editors should read their own columnists

Once again, many thanks to the Tweetmeister, Matttbastard!

JoJo said...

I'm not a huge fan of Polanski's work; Rosemary's Baby was OK.

I know I'm going to take heat for this, but it happened over 30 years ago and the victim just wants to move on w/ her life. She has come out time and time again, telling people to leave Polanski alone and move on. I can only support the victim's position on this.

Because I have always been gaga over celebrities, esp. from a young age, I can understand how a young girl would consent to sex w/ a famous person, in the home of 2 other famous people (Jack Nicholson & Anjelica Huston), but then really regret it later. I can tell you that I would have gladly stripped down to nothing at the age of 13 if I was about to be bedded by one of my celebrity crushes at that time (which was the entire Electric Light Orchestra); and I can also tell you that I would have regretted it after the fact.

And where were the girl's parents?

Was it wrong of him to do that to a 13 y/o? Yes. It makes him a statutory rapist & a scum bag. But I do believe that the girl did consent at the time.

Petpluto-I think Sharon's sister kept in touch w/ her brother-in- law after Sharon's murder.

Joan Kelly said...

Um, JoJo and whoever else said it was consensual? Polanski admitted he drugged and raped this girl. Her wanting to be left alone is not the same thing as her excusing Polanski or asking others to do the same. But thanks for imposing your I-would-gladly-have-let-a-grown-man-anally-rape-me-at-13-so-she-must-have-been-okay-with-it personal whims on this case.

P.S. This isn't "heat," this is me wanting to know where the fuck you or anyone else gets off deciding that a 13 year old girl was a slut who had regrets. Fuck everybody who says that, with Polanski's 78 year old dick.

JoJo said...

Wow Joan, you don't have to be such a BITCH to me about MY opinion. Where in my comment did I call the victim a "slut"? Nowhere. Excuse me for voicing a divergent opinion from the others. A thousand pardons. I just don't happen to think that a 32 year old Hollywood crime is worth pursuing, especially when there are other more pressing world issues out there. ESPECIALLY WHEN THE VICTIM HERSELF WISHES IT WOULD DROP!!! Who are we to say otherwise? If she wanted Polanski caught and prosecuted then fine, I'd be supportive, BUT SHE DOESN'T.

I also NEVER said "I-would-gladly-have-let-a-grown-man-anally-rape-me-at-13-so-she-must-have-been-okay-with-it personal whims" so why don't you just shut the hell up and quit putting words into my mouth. My god what the hell is wrong with you? Daisy's blog is to open up a dialogue on issues, to allow people to express their opinions, and your personal attack on me was completely unwarranted.

DaisyDeadhead said...


Jojo and Joan, play nice. I love you both. But I gotta go to work now! (that's usually the kiss of death to any thread around here: chaos the minute mom leaves! :P )

JoJo said...

Sorry mom. ;p

Joan Kelly said...

I would classify my comment as more cunty than mere "bitchy" but to each his own.

Sorry, Daisy, I don't know how to play nice with [insert word that doesn't exist, here, that's equivalent for males as bitch is to females] who think it's their place to let the rest of us know whether child rape matters anymore if it happened enough years ago.

You voiced your opinion, I voiced mine. Somehow your opinion that a child rapist should be left alone is opinion, while my opinion that that's a fucked up thing to say is...a personal attack.

Also, really?, you never projected your own celebrity worship onto this case?

"Because I have always been gaga over celebrities, esp. from a young age, I can understand how a young girl would consent to sex w/ a famous person, in the home of 2 other famous people (Jack Nicholson & Anjelica Huston), but then really regret it later. I can tell you that I would have gladly stripped down to nothing at the age of 13 if I was about to be bedded by one of my celebrity crushes at that time (which was the entire Electric Light Orchestra); and I can also tell you that I would have regretted it after the fact."

FYI, capitalizing the word "bitch" doesn't make it pack more of a punch. It does, however, dovetail nicely with your self-important maleness and presumptuousness about which child rapes do or don't matter.

Finally, pout all you want. It's still not your call to proclaim that rape a consensual sex act, a "Hollywood crime," or anything other than what it was - child rape. It is unconscionable that you feel entitled to do that.

Daisy's blog is also a place for people to say the truth out loud, in case you hadn't noticed.

Mama Moretti said...

"with your self-important maleness"

I think Jojo is Joanne?

Vanessa said...

I too share your feelings about Polanski's movies, hell, I've even argued that Rosemary's Baby is one of the more accurate portrayals of what it's like to be a pregnant woman in our patriarchal medical system ("Oh, you're in terrible pain and depressed and feel like everyone it trying to kill you? That's perfectly normal, now sit down and stop talking and don't worry your sweet little head about it...") but yeah, uh, rapist.

We're talking about a man who, at the age of 32, and upon being presented with a 13 year old girl (whom he testified he felt an "erotic charge" towards when they were alone together)who was high on a Quaalude, kissed her after she said to stop, put his tongue in her vagina after she said to stop, put his penis in her vagina after she said to stop, and then put his penis in her anus after she said to stop.

Then, after pleading guilty and setting up a sweet plea bargain where he would get probation and time served, there was a vague, non-specific threat of real jail time (which, you realize, would have been like five years or so, he still would have been out in time to pick up his Oscar for the Pianist!) he fled to hobnob around Europe, where he began "dating" 15 year-old Nastassja Kinski.

This is nothing but the same old "she totally wanted it" crap we always hear whenever there is a famous rape case, nothing more. Sorry to leave such an explict and ranty post on your blog, Daisy, but this bullshit really pisses me off and I think it should be clear just exactly what kind of actions we're talking about.

I mean, come on. If one of my 32-year old male friends admitted to feeling an erotic charge between himself and a 13 year old girl, I'd make sure he was never around any children and probably kick him in the balls just for good measure.

petpluto said...

Petpluto-I think Sharon's sister kept in touch w/ her brother-in- law after Sharon's murder.

JoJo, exactly. All we've learned from this is that Roman Polanski told his former sister-in-law the sex with the 13 year old girl was consensual - and that Sharon Tate's sister privileged that opinion over the opinion of the 13 year old girl.

That's about as far away from proof that it was consensual as I think anyone can muster. After all, how many people are going to tell their deceased wife's sister, "Yeah, I raped her, a couple of times". Especially if you would like to remain on good terms with her.

Joan Kelly said...

sorry for getting JoJo's sex wrong - I didn't recognize the profile photo (I think now that it's the guy from Law and Order: Criminal Intent?) and just saw "dude," and heard rape apologism, and thought, ah, jackass male.

Jackass female, I stand corrected.

Mama Moretti said...

Hollywood will always protect its own first. Facts are secondary. I think this is true of all of them - Robert Blake, Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, they *never* condemn each others behavior no matter how bad it is. Boys club!

JoJo said...

Pot calling the kettle black, aren't we, Joan?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jojo and Joan, go to your respective corners and no more interaction, please! Mom has spoken.

Mama Moretti, I agree. And for Woody, of all people, to sign that petition? OMG.

But...Isabelle Adjani, Mike Nichols, Neil Jordan, Salman Rushdie, Taylor Hackford, William Shawcross? Damn, that is some list.

And of course, Martin Scorsese. How could he? :(

Really depressing.

JoJo said...

Actually I did go to my respective corner but SHE kept attacking ME.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Well, w/re. to the petition - it pretty much tells us who and what is valued. It's not really a surprise that a girl's right to her own body isn't taken very seriously in Hollywood.

BTW, thanks for making the point about Woody Allen. Incestuous fathers shouldn't get to make movies about it.

Just for the record, I thought Rosemary's Baby was perhaps the most sexist and offensive film I've ever seen. It's equally horrifying that Frank Sinatra left Mia Farrow because she did the movie (spending time away from him - not because he was protesting the movie!).

Phone Sex said...

Sure, any film lover who has seen "Rosemary's Baby" will roll his/her eyes more than once, sine "Blessed" is so shamelessly copying it. Putting these factors aside, "Blessed" is actually more than entertaining to watch. While it is never really scary it has a certain uncanny atmosphere. The settings are also great, and the cinematography is nicely done. The films greatest quality, however, is the stunningly beautiful Heather Graham, who is sexy as hell and, as far as I am concerned, a great enrichment to any film she is in. Not only is Miss Graham a ravishing beauty, she is a good actress too, and she once again delivers a good performance.

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