starring Ben Kingsley, Barney Clark, Leanne Rowe, Mark Strong
screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the novel by Charles Dickens
directed by Roman Polanski
Rois et reine
starring Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Deneuve, Maurice Garrel
screenplay by Roger Bohbot, Arnaud Desplechin
directed by Arnaud Desplechin
by Walter Chaw Roman Polanski is an architectural director. By that I mean he moves his camera in careful, constructed motions, and the characters he places within these movements are best when they seem restrained by them, oppressed by the presence of the director in a way similar to Hitchcock's protagonists. Indeed, Polanski at his best (Repulsion, Knife in the Water, The Tenant, Rosemary's Baby, Macbeth, Chinatown) makes films that Hitchcock might have made: alight with social revulsion, weighted by claustrophobic set-pieces, and thick with subtext. But Polanski at his worst (Bitter Moon, The Ninth Gate, Frantic, Pirates, Tess) betrays a tendency towards the frenetic--an unbecoming manic energy that leans towards the childish instead of what I think is the intended demoniacal. Polanski close to the vest is Polanski at his best, and when midway through something tending towards mediocre like The Pianist, he erected a literal wall within which to restrain his antihero (tellingly, the best Polanski protagonists are acted-upon)--that architectural boundary allowing the director to regain his footing, if only for the last part of the film.