Mediocre: Tess

Tess (1979)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Thomas Hardy, Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn
Produced by Claude Berri, Timothy Burrill, Jean-Pierre Rassam, Pierre Grunstein
Starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth, Leigh Lawson, John Collin, Rosemary Martin, Carolyn Pickles, Sylvia Coleridge, Suzanna Hamilton, Caroline Embling, Fred Bryant, David Markham, Pascale de Boysson, Josine Comellas, Dicken Ashworth, Arielle Dombasle, John Bett, Tom Chadbon, Richard Pearson, Tony Church

Multiple-choice Tesst

  1. Polanski’s most swank, syrupy, celebrated feature is dedicated “To Sharon.” Who other than his famously slain wife might’ve been a more fitting dedicatee?
    1. Lead Nastassja Kinski (whose boundless conceit and opportunism the director assuaged while boffing her)
    2. Gloria Steinem
    3. Judge Laurence J. Rittenband (LOL)
    4. Any of the above
  2. At the conclusion of the first scene, a local parson (Church) pivotally apprises our peasant protagonist’s alcoholic father (Collin) that the noble, Norman d’Urbervilles were direct ascendants of his lowly Durbeyfields. In how many instances is that datum reiterated during this story?
    1. 10,000
    2. 2
    3. 11
    4. Ugh! Too often
  3. Sweet, simple, saturnine Tess (Kinski) would prefer to moil her years away than exploit her beauty and luxuriate lifelong for high espousal. Ergo, she appeals to:
    1. Careerists
    2. Strivers
    3. Single mothers
    4. All of the above
  4. How does the viewer secern Alec’s (Lawson) rape of Tess from mere seduction?
    1. Her momentary resistance
    2. Her sheer submission
    3. This scene’s orchestral swells, transitioning abruptly from a minor to major key
    4. Her later acceptance of his largess
    5. Who knows?
  5. Those elements compensating for Brach’s, Polanski’s, and Brownjohn’s prosy, often bathetic treatment of Hardy’s dialogue include:
    1. An able cast obliged to navigate their plenitude of leaden lines
    2. Stunning, respectively foggy and effulgent photography courtesy of Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet
    3. Pierre Guffroy’s production design, which further beautifies every embellished interior
    4. Polanski’s painterly vision of landscapes, interiors and his most photogenic players, instanced by lavish long shots out of doors, or slow pans, as of a creamery’s milk dripping from suspended bags
    5. One gushingly romantic (albeit often misapplied) score composed by Philippe Sarde
    6. All of the above
  6. At her most morose, Tess assumes the demeanor of:
    1. Any dour teen
    2. A petty ingrate
    3. A goth
    4. All of the above
  7. Rather than to hypocritically disclaim, then desert Tess on their wedding night sequent to her confession, Angel (Firth) might’ve instead:
    1. Reconsidered her worth after consummating their marital union with a hearty feast and fuck
    2. Compared their respective premarital indiscretions to objectively assess their relationship
    3. Divorced Tess and remarried another of two comely, receptive prospects (Dombasle, Hamilton)
    4. Any of the above
  8. Which course of action would’ve been preferable to Tess’s madcap murder of the peremptory and prickish, yet fervid and freehanded Alec?
    1. To absquatulate with Angel without killing him
    2. To divorce Alec on the grounds of her bigamy without killing him
    3. To finally set aside her picayune moral pretensions and secretly live with both and maximize her romantic, sexual and financial benefit without killing him
    4. To contemplate the potential fate of her mother and siblings, who’ve been generously housed by her victim, so to avert his murder
    5. Anything besides murder
    6. Any of the above
  9. Polanski’s is the ninth among how many adaptations of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles?
    1. Nine
    2. Eleven
    3. Four
    4. Too many
  10. Notwithstanding the novel’s and movie’s commination of antiquated Victorian mores, a prolix blurb of the latter’s theatrical poster enounces it, “As timely today as the day it was written.” Why?
    1. Marketing
    2. Feminism
    3. Polanski sought to rehabilitate his tarnished image
    4. All of the above

Answers: 4, 3 or 4, 4, 5, 6, 4, 4, 6, 2 or 4, 4

Favorites: The Tenant

The Tenant (1976)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roland Topor, Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski
Produced by Andrew Braunsberg, Alain Sarde, Hercules Bellville
Starring Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Shelley Winters, Bernard Fresson, Romain Bouteille, Rufus
Nigh every shot of Polanski’s masterful castigation against ethno-national prejudice and personal paranoia brims with allusive guile and dudgeon, starring Romek as a meek immigrant clerk in oppugnant Paris who procures at some stiff expense a slightly sordid apartment suite of exiguous amenities, whose previous resident mysteriously defenestrated herself. Isolated by and persecuted for his exogenous condition, this chary outsider finds little more camaraderie among his bawdily contumelious colleagues (Fresson, Bouteille, et al.) than with his hostile landlord (Douglas), concierge (Winters) and fellow tenants, who reprehend him for disturbances minor, blameless and seemingly false. His sole cordial connection’s established by romancing a gorgeous, genial friend (Adjani) of the hospitalized anterior lessee, who he visits under friendly pretenses to sate his curiosity…but as his anxieties and rancor swell with the contumely he sustains, the timid immigrant’s adoption of his predecessor’s traits and trappings proves as much a means of relation as the vessel of his nascent madness. Not too many artists have so scathingly anatomized both societal biases and paranoid psychosis in direct correlation as had Romek as one of his continent’s thorniest migrants, and while his third flamboyant address of disquiet in apartmental confines (torn from Panic Movement author Topor’s novel Le locataire chimérique) suffered almost unanimous censure by obtuse critics and an indifferent public, it may be his thematically richest offering, conscientiously cut and composed with an unerringly equivocal eye for intimation and effect. As fine in the lead as his picture’s most surreal flourishes, the auteur’s very nearly upstaged by his fantastic cast, all clownishly dubbed in English to emphasize their characters’ essential shallowness. Almost incalculable in its influence (most famously manifest in certain pictures by Lynch and the Coens), Polanski’s refracted exposure of collective animus and the persecution complex submits in Kafkaesque candor a critical question concerning character: exactly what measure of one’s identity is informed and defined by perceived persecution?
Recommended for a double feature paired with Repulsion, Images, Barton Fink, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive

Sublime: Cul-de-Sac

Cul-de-Sac (1966)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roman Polanski, Gérard Brach
Produced by Sam Waynberg, Gene Gutowski, Michael Klinger, Tony Tenser
Starring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Geoffrey Sumner, Renee Houston, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier
A marital mismatch’s lifestyle of reputed repose is disrupted by twain waves of welter when a jittery, retired industrialist (Pleasence) and his beddable, whimsically wanton trophy wife (Dorléac) residing in an ancient manse of the Northumberland seaboard suffer imposition first by an injured couple of crooks (Stander, MacGowran), then an unheralded party of the retiree’s intolerable friends. Polanski’s jet-black comedy first pits natural nebbish Pleasence against raspy Stander’s buirdly barbarism, but both the characters’ and audience’s sympathies are twisted by actions wholly dictated by fancy and umbrage, relating a common superficiality between perpetrator and bourgeois. Keenly scripted and shot by one of but a few filmmakers to exploit both Dorléac sisters effectively, this hysterical specimen of Polanski’s perfect pacing and inconspicuously painstaking images merely demonstrates that necessaries are more relative and less overt than most might imagine.