VENUS IN FUR (LA VENUS A LA FOURRURE) (director/writer: Roman Polanski; screenwriter: play by David Ives/David Ives; cinematographer: Pawel Edelman; editors: Margot Meynier/ Hervé de Luze; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Emmanuelle Seigner (Vanda), Mathieu Amalric (Thomas); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Benmussa/Alain Sarde; IFC Filmsundance Selects; 2013-France-in French with English subtitles)

"It's an actor's pic, and they both come through with grand performances."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roman Polanski ("Chinatown"/"Knife in the Water"/"Repulsion") faithfully adapts American playwright David Ives' Tony Award-winning 2010 Broadway play. Ives co-writes the script with Polanski. The play was based on Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 "Venus in Furs."

The stage director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is alone in a Paris theater after an unsuccessful afternoon of auditioning actresses for the lead part for his set in 1870 play Venus in Fur. It's about a woman who makes an agreement with her male lead to dominate him as a slave. Before Thomas leaves, the actress Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner, the director's wife) bursts in and insists on auditioning despite being late, not being sophisticated and not on the invited audition list. Vanda is pushy, crude and seemingly unprepared for such a choice part. But when she forces her way to read for the part, with Thomas reading the male part, she seems to be a good fit. In fact, she seems to be exactly like the character she's playing. Thomas is attracted to Vanda, and the balance of power completely changes during the reading.

It's a psycho-sexual mind game drama conducted in a claustrophobic space, whose teasing poses titillate rather than shock and entertain rather than enlighten. It's an actor's pic, and they both come through with grand performances. Unfortunately the dialogue became repetitive and the pic failed to sustain my interest throughout.

REVIEWED ON 12/8/2014       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"