Traumatic Rendition: A Roman Polanski Retrospective

Roman Polanski as The TenantTitles: KNIFE IN THE WATER, MACBETH, CHINATOWN, THE TENANT, REPULSION, ROSEMARY’S BABY

Location: The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA

Description: The American Cinematheque presents a four-day tribute to the great writer-director, who amongst many diverse credits has crafted some of cinema’s most memorable horror films and surreal thrillers. Not all of the films screened are genre, but at least one title in each double bill is essential viewing for genuine horror fans. MACBETH may be based on Shakespeare’s play, but Polanski’s handling is sheer splatter film in its nihilistic excess. THE TENANT is a great demented deconstruction of a man losing his identity, becoming the previous tenant who lived in his apartment (never a good thing but especially bad when said tenant committed suicide by jumping out of the room’s window). REPULSION is an early example of Polanski delving into madness and paranoia with horrific results. And ROSEMARY’S BABY is, by common agreement, one of the classics of the horror genre.

SCHEDULE

Thursday, January 27 – 7:30 PM

KNIFE IN THE WATER, 1962, Janus/Criterion, 94 min. Director Roman Polanski’s debut feature, co-written by Jerzy Skolimowski (DEEP END), is one of the most claustrophobic, tension-building psychodramas of the 1960s, whittled to three characters – a husband and wife (Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka) and the hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) they pick up on their way to a remote lake to go sailing. Once aboard the yacht, sexual tension rears its ugly head and grows gradually from aggressive rough-housing to outright violence. Not released until late 1963 in the U.S., the film was nominated for a 1964 Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar. “…a slow-burning exploration of jealousy, spite and middle-age…creeping tensions and Oedipal undertow…a film whose scenes and themes stick with you.” – Andy Jacobs, BBC. In Polish with English subtitles. [35mm]

MACBETH, 1971, Sony Repertory, 140 min. After several months of deep depression and grieving over the murder of wife Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski stunned audiences with his dread-inducing cinematic rendition of the Shakespeare play. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis star as the ill-fated Macbeths in this vividly atmospheric, hyperbolically violent classic. With Martin Shaw as Banquo. 40th Anniversary! [35mm]

Friday, January 28 – 7:30 PM

CHINATOWN, 1974, Paramount, 131 min. Dir. Roman Polanski. Jack Nicholson gives his greatest performance as 1930s private eye J.J. Gittes, maneuvering through a nightmarish L.A. netherworld of cheating husbands, stolen water rights, incest and murder, as he desperately tries to save beautiful Faye Dunaway from her raptor-like father John Huston. Writer Robert Towne’s magnificent, labyrinthine portrait of Los Angeles has been widely hailed as the best script of its era. [35mm]

THE TENANT, 1976, Paramount, 125 min. Polanski at his best, and strangest. Here, the director stars in his own film as a mild-mannered tenant, Trelkovsky, who moves into an apartment where the last inhabitant committed suicide. He soon comes to suspect that his neighbors – including Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas and Jo Van Fleet – have a similar end in mind for him. [DVD]

Saturday, January 29 – 7:30 PM

REPULSION, 1965, Sony Repertory, 104 min. Director Roman Polanski’s second film was his first shot in English and certifiable proof that he was the new wunderkind of the psychological suspense thriller, favoring a warped psychology and metaphysical anguish, as well as dark Bunuelian humor. Here, beautician Catherine Deneuve, pathologically revolted by men, goes off the deep end when her loving but worldly sister (Yvonne Furneaux) leaves for the weekend with her boyfriend (Ian Hendry). The men that interact with Deneuve over the ensuing hours – smitten young John Fraser and lecherous landlord Patrick Wymark – don’t have any idea what they’re in for. Still retains an astonishing wallop and remains one of Polanski’s most intense portraits of irrational fears triumphing in a climax of abject terror. [35mm]

ROSEMARY’S BABY, 1968, Paramount, 136 min. Dir. Roman Polanski. A young New York couple (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment building, where they’re quickly befriended by lovable Ruth Gordon and husband Sidney Blackmer. All is not as it seems, though, and Farrow soon comes to suspect that her neighbors have truly sinister plans in store for her and her unborn baby. This eerie supernatural thriller builds shivery atmosphere through each successive scene, right up until the shattering climax. New 35mm Print!

Sunday, January 30 – 7:30 PM

CUL-DE-SAC, 1966, MGM Repertory, 111 min. One of director Roman Polanski’s most fascinating and criminally underrated films of the 1960s, CUL-DE-SAC is by turns a surreal black comedy, existential arthouse drama and twisted thriller set in an isolated mansion cut off from the mainland, where a hen-pecked husband (Donald Pleasence) and his domineering French wife (the lovely Francoise Dorleac) are surprised by two fleeing criminals (Lionel Stander and Jack MacGowran). [35mm – Long Version Archival Print!]

THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, 1967, Warner Bros., 108 min. Roman Polanski’s expertly balanced blend of humor and horror looks even better today than when it was released nearly 40 years ago. Phenomenal character actor Jack McGowran is perfectly cast as the ancient, screw-loose Professor Abronsius who, with his harebrained sidekick, Alfred (Polanski, doing double duty) is on the hunt for vampires in the snowy Carpathian mountains. Their pursuit shifts into high gear once Alfred’s admired-from-afar love interest, the inn-keeper’s daughter (Sharon Tate), is kidnapped by the undead Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne). With the beautiful, deeply rich color cinematography of Douglas Slocombe and a memorable score by brilliant Krzysztof Komeda. [35mm]

Dates: January 27-30, 2011

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