La Vénus à la fourrure
starring Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
screenplay by David Ives, based on his play
directed by Roman Polanski
by Walter Chaw If it's stagebound, Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur, an adaptation of David Ives's play that is itself an adaptation in part of the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch novel, is at least not stagebound without a purpose. It reminds of Adaptation. in its awareness of itself as an object open to deconstruction (and Derrida is mentioned in the text to make it metacritical in that sense as well); the fact that it's a play captured on film only underscores its conceit. Venus in Fur is also a career summary for the octogenarian director at a point where his contemporaries are declining steeply in their dotage. Spry and clever, surprisingly funny at times, and at all times indisputably alive, it finds Polanski's themes of gender subversion in high dunder, opening with a quote from the Apocryphal Book of Judith where the titular heroine seduces enemy general Holofrenes and decapitates (read: emasculates/castrates) him as he reclines in post-coital bliss. Polanski casts an actor who could be his younger doppelgänger, Mathieu Amalric, and opposite him in this two-person drama Polanski's own wife, Emmanuelle Seigner--transparent, vulnerable, courageous casting that reminds very much of Hitchcock in his late masterpiece period. Venus in Fur is Polanski's Marnie: a grand survey of all of his sexual peccadilloes that works as apologia, confession, and explication, eventually conveying Polanski's acceptance of himself as deeply flawed, but better for the wisdom.