Repulsion (1965)



Some people you should never leave alone.

Poor, beautiful Carole is one of those people.  When Carole peers into the hallway of the apartment building where she lives with her sister, she sees one example of the sort of life she herself might one day live:  her elderly neighbor, a pudgy battleaxe who likes to walk her dog – and spy on fellow apartment dwellers.  When Carole instead looks out her bedroom window and across the street, she sees another possible future:  the cloistered, celibate nuns at a nearby convent.  When she is older, Carole will likely become an eccentric dog-walker or a nun.  This much is certain:  Carole will not live a typical life, because Carole is batshit crazy.

She is sexually repressed, lord knows why, and painfully shy.  She is repulsed by men, which is easier to explain:  the construction workers who ogle her as she walks to her job as a manicurist; her sister’s boorish boyfriend, whose takeover of Carole’s bathroom space she finds unforgivable.  And then there are the horror stories older women at the beauty parlor relate about the beastly behavior of males.




Carole is stunningly good-looking, but she is also quite insane.  When her sister and the boyfriend go on holiday, leaving her alone for ten days, what on earth will she do?

Roman Polanski, at his obsessive and stylish best, pulls the audience along as Carole descends deeper and deeper into madness, utilizing a master storyteller’s grab-bag of tricks:  distorted lenses, a ticking clock, the girl’s obsession with cracks, the distracted way in which she keeps brushing at her face.

Catherine Deneuve, the ravishing French actress, is a revelation in Repulsion.  Her Carole is mousy most of the time, but when she gets a certain gleam in her eye ….

Some of this 1965 film’s shocks are no longer very shocking.  Others hold up quite well.  But it’s Deneuve’s performance and Polanski’s direction that make Repulsion such a superb psychological thriller.       Grade:  A-




Director:  Roman Polanski  Cast:  Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark, Renee Houston, Valerie Taylor, James Villiers, Helen Fraser  Release:  1965


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1 comment

  1. Nathanael Hood June 2, 2011 4:38 pm  Reply

    I’m not too fond of early Polanski, but this film was very well made. The skinned rabbit was a deliciously uncomfortable image!

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