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In London, Belgian immigrant Carol Ledoux shares an apartment with her older sister Helen, and works as a manicurist at a beauty salon. Helen uses the word "sensitive" to describe Carol's overall demeanor, which is almost like she walks around in a daze, rarely speaking up about anything. When she does speak up, it generally is about something against one of those few issues on which she obsesses, such as Helen's boyfriend Michael's invasion of her space at the apartment. That specific issue may be more about men in general than just Michael's actions, as witnessed by Carol being agitated by hearing Helen and Michael's lovemaking, and she not being able to rebuff the advances effectively of a male suitor, Colin, who is infatuated with her. One of those other obsessive issues is noticing cracks and always wanting to fix them. While Helen and Michael leave on a vacation to Pisa, Italy, Carol chooses largely to lock herself in the apartment, ditching work. There, she is almost hypnotized... Written by
This film, the first Polanski made in English, works so well, and for so many different reasons, that I felt like I had to watch it again as soon as it ended.
From the first moments of the movie, Polanski sets up the key conflict, cutting between shots of Catherine Denuve's gorgeous face and of the things she is seeing, all of which are almost frighteningly ugly by comparison. After fifteen minutes of this, it becomes clear why Denuve's Carol is unable to cope with anything in the world around her, and why she is so dependent on her sister and her attractive female co-worker, who provide the film's only beauty other than Denuve. When her sister leaves her alone, her surroundings decay further into ugliness, sending her deeper into her madness. I loved the way that despite Carol's growing insanity, Polanski keeps going back to closeups of her face, which remains beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that no one can seem to notice that she is clearly very deranged.
The only question the film left me with is this: How could Carol possibly survived for an entire lifetime up till the point where the film began?
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