Global Discoveries on DVD: Women, Men, Progressive and “Progressive” Thinking
My Winter 2019 column for Cinema Scope. — J.R.
Some of Roman Polanski’s early features — Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Tess (1979) — are centred on vulnerable women, but as Bitter Moon (1992) makes abundantly clear, these are all films predicated on the male gaze, as are the more recent and more impersonal films of his that come closest to qualifying as Oscar bait (The Pianist , arguably The Ghost Writer , and, I would presume, An Officer and a Spy). Bitter Moon even problematizes this fact by assigning that gaze to two mainly unsympathetic males (Peter Coyote and Hugh Grant), and defining it mostly as poisonous, and Venus in Fur (2013) carries this tendency further by explicitly labelling it sexist, meanwhile making the male figure (Mathieu Almaric) almost a dead ringer for Polanski as a young man. Based on a True Story (2017), by focusing almost exclusively on two women (Emmanuelle Seigner and Eva Green), seeks to minimize the male gaze even more, not so much by problematizing it as by making it closer to irrelevant. Polanski himself comments on this fact in the interview included on the Spanish DVD of this film (apparently the only way it can be seen with English subtitles translating its French dialogue, which is how I finally managed to catch up with it). Read more