John Cassavetes

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"In a body of work in which gender roles always matter, Sarah is, in more ways than one, the ultimate Cassavetes woman, and Robert the ultimate Cassavetes man. Sarah, an emotional live wire, is kin to Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Myrtle Gordon in Opening Night (1977), women who struggle valiantly with their capacity and need for love, with “how to love” and “where to put it.” A boozy charmer in a rumpled tux, with a knack for turning all interactions into transactions, Robert is a more cultured brother to the suave strip-club owner Cosmo Vitelli in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), or an alternate-world variant of the suburbanites in Husbands (1970), more successful and even more hollow.” — Dennis Lim (A Fitful Flow)

Beau travail

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Beau travail concludes with the frenzied dance of Galoup on the disco floor that we have seen, intermittently, throughout the film. The dance seems both regimented and wild at the same time. If, in the previous scene, we are led to believe that Galoup is about to commit suicide, this concluding dance suggests another way to imagine the male body. There is, after all, a connection between the last two scenes. The last image we see of Galoup’s body before the dance shows Galoup’s arm in close-up, a vein throbbing. In the final scene, the vitality, the pulsating energy, of that detail explodes. If the film suggests, however briefly, that there are ways to imagine the breakdown of the whore/Madonna stereotype in relationship to women, no such possibility exists in relationship to Galoup. His pulsating body, whether throbbing slightly in contemplation of suicide or performing frenetically on the dance floor, cannot escape the dualities of regimentation and desire, duty and passion. – Judith Mayne

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoAN_of5204

Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

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"Have you ever heard the expression ‘let sleeping dogs lie’? Sometimes you’re better off not knowing" – Jack Gittes

Chinatown tells the story of Jack Gittes, a private detective who specialises in matrimonial cases. Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray, who suspects that her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply systems, is having an affair. After revelations about the identity of Mrs. Mulwry arise, Gittes finds himself embroiled in a web of scandal, deceit, incest, murder and municipal corruption.

Polanski’s use of wide, panoramic shots throughout create the emphasis on not just focusing on the character, but looking at the big picture. The camerawork and cinematography is simply enticing and sets the 1920s mood subtly.

 

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“Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter.
[Gittes slaps Evelyn]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister…
[slap]
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter…
[slap]
Evelyn Mulwray: My sister, my daughter.
[More slaps]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister AND my daughter!”

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‘Rosemary’s Baby’ – 1968

 

"Awful things happen in every apartment house."

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The movie "Rosemary’s Baby", written for the screen and directed by Roman Polanski, from the novel by Ira Levin. John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow play a young couple who move into a new apartment, where they discover their neighbors are peculiarly friendly.  Once Mia’s character becomes pregnant, she becomes paranoid over the safety of her unborn child. In true Polanski fashion, "Rosemary’s Baby" shows that even our loved ones could be working against us because human selfishness knows no boundaries.

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In the mid 1960’s there was the  “God is Dead” faction, a theological movement that surfaced in some academic circles and became a national controversy after a cover story in Time magazine.

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Film Director Roman Polanski suffered the art inspiring real-life tragedy as his wife Sharon Tate was stabbed to death by the Manson Family while she was pregnant. The film’s composer died of a brain clot, similar to a character in the film’s predicament, just as soon as the film was done.

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I don’t know about you, but I think it is included as one of the cursed movies of the century.

Tess (1979)

Tess is an adaptation of Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a story given too many adaptations that are often extremely similar.

Roman Polanski’s arguably only romance film, Tess, is one his critically best accepted works, and the performance of 18-year-old Nastassja Kinski, along with Paris, Texas, is probably the high point of her career. “Without Mr. Polanski’s name in the credits,” wittily stated the New York Times, “this lush and scenic Tess could even be mistaken for the work of David Lean.” This great compliment is wholeheartedly justified–Polanski created one of the best literary adaptations to date. His inspiring vision was greatly empowered by the terrific screenplay he was helped to write by Gerard Brach and John Brownjohn. Interested to see what makes for a truly great adaptation of a 19th century classic? Take a look at this scarce screenplay we were lucky enough to stumble upon.

Roman Polanski’s Tess is a work of great pastoral beauty as well as vivid storytelling

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Polanski’s roots as a genre filmmaker clearly ground him with an interest in every visual aspect that produces a period drama and pays far more attention to auteur like detail than most period feature film directors.  Instead of merely obeying period accuracies and avoiding anachronisms (the main key to many lesser quality period dramas) Tess uses Hardy’s narrative as an excuse to film a very season based film, exploring all of the potential colours and light that is produced in the countryside.

 

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“Tess of the D’Urbervilles” is what you might call a feminist story – it deals with issues like sexism, rape, victim blaming, sexuality, social class,and religion. Published in 1891, Thomas Hardy writes with a subtly that is pure art form as he criticizes many Victorian ideals, including direct judgement of the church and its skewed principles. But what’s really great about this book is that it directly parallels issues that still haven’t been resolved today. Hardy was so ahead of his time when he wrote “Tess” that aside from being borderline scandalous, it was almost completely dismissed during his lifetime.

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Screencap from the final scene of Roman Polanski’s film Tess which was dedicated to his late wife Sharon Tate. In 1969 when she departed England for her final trip back to the USA, Sharon left him a copy of Thomas Hardy’s book along with a note telling him that the book would make a good film. It would end up being the last note Roman would ever receive from Sharon.