Roman Polanski's Venus In Fur was the last film to screen in competition, and although there weren't very high hopes for the controversial director's latest – like Carnage, it is a single-set drama based on a play, this time with even fewer characters – it played very well in the Grand Lumiere Theatre. It may not do as well as Carnage, being based on a play that is based on Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch's scandalous S&M novel of 1870, but this should be a hit with French arthouse audiences in the UK, while continuing to feed the myth of Polanski with its provocative comedy.
Mathieu Amalric stars as Thomas, a Parisian theatre owner who is staging a production of Venus In Fur and complains that he cannot find an actress to play Vanda, the heroine. It is a dark and stormy night, and out of nowhere a woman (Emmanuelle Seigner) appears, claiming to be perfect for the part, even though she seems somewhat stupid and distinctly low class. Nevertheless, she begins to work a strange charm on Thomas, and he soon realises that she knows more about his play than he does, goading him into roleplay that becomes more and more extreme.
With a shaggy haircut that makes him look extraordinarily like the younger Polanski, Amalric is basically a foil for a very entertaining performance by Seigner, the director's real-life wife, his eyes popping in mute outrage at her every faux pas. Soon, though, she reels him in, and in the final moments reveals her true purpose. How this all pertains to his recent inclement fortune we may never know, but it is certainly a bold step for Polanski that he has made a film that deals head on with the subject of men exploiting women in the name of art.