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Monday, April 28, 2014

VENUS IN FUR


By D.E. Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival 2014 Selection

Adapted from the successful play, Roman Polanski, one of the writers, directs his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner in this two character story.

A writer and director named Thomas Novachek (Mathieu Almaric) auditions a latecomer, Vanda Jordan (Emmanuelle Seigner) for the lead in his latest drama.  During the audition he gets drawn into an elaborate role-playing game, during which fiction and reality blur.

Throughout the film the director and the actress flirt with each other, act and talk their way through bits of the director's play, and discuss the original of the source, Venus In Fur, an 1870s novel by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch where the term masochism originated. 

Initially, in the first few scenes, Novachek bosses Jordan around in a very condescending way, establishing himself as a smugly entitled star.  At points it's hard to tell whether Thomas and Vanda are playing themselves or the fictional protagonists of the novel.  Although Vanda denies knowledge of the novel, her ability to "nail" her lines, her leather costume, and her knowledge of both the historical sources and the playwright give the audience pause to believe otherwise.

Certainly, the film is interesting because it is directed by Polanski, and the performances by both actors are good, although Almaric appears to achieve his ends in a subtler manner.  Well worth seeing, and probably a big box office draw, it is somewhat limited in what it explores and why.