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Review Roundup - Roman Polanski's VENUS IN FUR Hits Theaters
Roman Polanskis' film adaptation of VENUS IN FUR, based upon the Tony Award-winning play by David Ives hits theaters today. The film stars Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric and made its world premiere in Competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Set in modern-day Paris, Venus in Fur follows a writer-director (Amalric) and a pushy, foul-mouthed actress named Vanda (Seigner) who bursts into auditions in a whirlwind of erratic energy. Vanda's emotionally charged audition for the gifted but demanding playwright becomes an electrifying game of cat and mouse that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, and ultimately, attraction and obsession.
Venus in Fur won a Tony nomination for Best Play and garnered a Tony Award for Nina Arianda as Best Actress.
Let's see what the critics have to say:
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "Venus in Fur," Roman Polanski's nimble film adaptation of the play by David Ives, might provoke a lively post-viewing argument. Is it about sex or power? Art or life? The nature of theater or the logic of desire? Why choose? And why exclude the possibility that the movie is also about Mr. Polanski himself?
Scott Foundas, Variety: Though one might have expected a "Venus in Fur" movie to continue the trend by adopting a film-within-a-film structure, Polanski (who collaborated with Ives on the screenplay) opts to retain the theatrical setting, in turn evoking such other hybrid theater/cinema works as Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street," Manoel de Oliveira's "The Satin Slipper" and multiple films by Alain Resnaisand Jacques Rivette.
Joe Neumaier, NY Daily News: Director Roman Polanski is taking on the theater again. But unlike his thick-skinned "Carnage" (2011), this French-language adaptation of the Tony-winning play "Venus in Fur" is merely an exercise in moviegoing pain.
Joe McGovern, Entertainment Weekly: It's not surprising that director Roman Polanski, now 80, was drawn to the psychosexual farcicality of the plot. (The script was translated into French from David Ives' two-hander play.) What is surprising is how little Polanski juices the material with his usual devilish touch. Two people becoming consumed by their fictional identities is an idea rich with potential, but the film is relentless in its deconstruction of the concept, prattling on more like a repetitious academic exercise than a drama of any real consequence or danger.
Jake Coyle, Philly.com: Roman Polanski. Sadomasochism. What could possible go wrong? The combination of director and subject material in "Venus in Fur" is wickedly perverse, just as it should be. Polanski and David Ives' award-winning play are a match made if not in heaven, then surely in some demon's dungeon.
Jonathan Romney, The Guardian: For some of the time, Venus in Fur resembles an arch high-culture rewrite ofEducating Rita, with a vital working-class woman giving a boost to a jaded aesthete. But Venus in Fur turns out to be stranger and smarter, running some juicy new riffs on the drama-reality divide.
Inkoo Kang, The Wrap: Sacher-Masoch inadvertently gave the world the term masochism (thanks, Leo!), but there's apparently something the matter with male sexual surrender. The concept is hardly settled in playwright David Ives' new imagining of Sacher-Masoch's novella, and Roman Polanski contributes to his fun-for-a-while French-language adaptation a sense of romp and farce and unease to the procession of power exchanges that make up the film's plot.
Stephen Whittey, NJ Star Ledger: It's not an entirely successful drama. To have these two strangers go through immense dramatic arcs within an hour-and-a-half is asking too much of them, and us; the casting of an actress in her late 40s changes the play in ways that can't and shouldn't be ignored. And yet, as always Polanski's direction of his performers is assured. His camerawork is precise. And the power games - moving, shifting, constantly surprising and inescapably, queasily conflating art and artist - hold us in their thrall.