Venus in Fur – reviews of Polanski's 'playful' new film

May 30, 2014

Polanski turns drama of sexual role-play into a witty, elegant romp with juicy performances, say critics

What you need to know
Roman Polanski's new drama Venus in Fur opens in UK cinemas today. This French-language film is based on a David Ives Broadway play, which is in turn based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel about masochism. 

The film stars Mathieu Amalric as Thomas, the writer-director of a new play based on Sacher-Masoch's novel, who struggles to find the right performer for the lead role. When chaotic actress Vanda (Polanski's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner) arrives, she convinces a sceptical Thomas to let her read the part, and gradually seduces him with her performance.

What the critics like
Polanski's screen version of this engaging two-hander is "wittily adapted and tempestuously performed by Amalric and Seigner", says David Hughes in Empire. This is an enjoyable romp, with much to say about gender roles in the world beyond the stage.

Polanski's film is a "playful and literate rumination on the fine line between passion and perversity, pleasure and pain, life and art" for discerning highbrow audiences, says Scott Foundas in Variety. Seigner engulfs the screen with a juicy comic performance that does full justice to a demanding role.

The film is a "playful" jeu d'esprit on sexual role-play, illusion and reality, and directing as a sexual act, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Polanski brings "a certain elegance and wit" to this entertaining spectacle, topped off by a rousing Dionysian finale.

What they don't like
"This is a fun piece of play-acting for as long as it lasts, but it never quite feels like much more," says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. The film's sexual politics already feel dated and you can sense Polanski lurking behind the lens, always ready with his safe-word - cut!              

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