A young couple moves in to an apartment only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.
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
Polanski wields a surprisingly dull blade with "Repulsion"
Recently, I viewed Roman Polanski's feature-film debut, "Knife in the Water," and found it to be a well-done effort that would foreshadow his later, better works. "Repulsion" came 3 years later, and while a fine film on a purely technical level, its psycho-mindf*ck ambitions are shredded to pulp by the time the film reaches its close, leaving the viewer cold and unfulfilled. While containing some incisive, veiled sentiments on how the male and female gender perceive each other, from aggression and fear, to promiscuity and perversion, "Repulsion" ultimately becomes overshadowed by artistic pretension and symbolism.
The surreal plot follows a remote young hairstylist (Catherine Deneuve) who doesn't say much, and finds herself in perpetual fear of the opposite sex (solidified in the presence of an inexplicable stranger who 'rapes' her in the middle of the night); her paranoia and insecurity only worsens when her sister takes a vacation with her lover, and things quite literally begin to fall apart.
What's unfortunate about "Repulsion" is that Polanski doesn't stick the knife in far enough...a few years later, he would do a superior study of patriarchal politics (with demonic overtones) in "Rosemary's Baby," and even later still, an impressive meditation on claustrophobic madness with "The Tenant". Both of these films combine the best elements of "Repulsion" into more satisfying wholes that one would be better off seeking them out instead.
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