Venus in Fur (Kegawa no Venus)
Director Roman Polanski
Language French, German (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens Dec. 20

Roman Polanski, not content with having cast his actress wife Emmanuelle Seigner as a cruel and sultry dominatrix in “Bitter Moon” (1994), repeats the trick with “Venus in Fur.” But if the first film was tragedy, this time it’s farce. Rather like he did in the excellent “Carnage” (2011), Polanski is again adapting a play (by David Ives) and working within the confined environment of an empty theater.

Seigner plays a mysterious, fetishistic actress named Vanda who shows up late for an audition with a director (Mathieu Amalric) who is casting for a stage adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s seminal work of S&M literature, “Venus in Furs.” The controlling, slightly arrogant director is finally convinced to let Vanda read for the lead role of cruel mistress, but soon finds that it’s him who’s being played, as he winds up kissing those shiny boots of leather. Repressed desires, the intersection of art and the id, willing subjugation as escape, male creation of female fantasy figures — Polanski crams a lot into this uncomfortable comedy of mind games. And the fact that he casts Amalric — who is often mistaken for Polanski in real life — opposite his wife is just one more shot in an already loaded cocktail.

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