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on 8 April 2014
"Venus In Fur" (2013 release from France; 96 min.) is the latest film from Roman Polanski. The film is an adaptation of the award-winning play Venus in Fur by David Ives, itself an adaptation of the infamous 1870 's&m' novel Venus in Furs by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. As the movie opens, we see Thomas (played by Mathieu Amalric) alone in a theatre in Paris and lamenting to his wife on the phone how badly the auditions have gone that day for the female lead role of his play. Then a woman arrives at the theatre, intending to audition of the play but too late. She tries to nevertheless convince Thomas to give her a shot and reluctantly he agrees. We learn that her name is Vanda (played by Emmanuelle Seigner, a/k/a Mrs. Polanski in real life), and by chance the play's lead female is also named Vanda. As she starts her audition, Vanda hits it out of the park and completely impresses Thomas. To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: when the film started, I was somewhat skeptical about it as I realized that this was a very literal adoption of a theatre play: the entire film plays out (in real time it seems) at the audition in the theatre, and there are only 2 performers in the entire film. Then a funny thing happened: once we have come to know the two lead characters, they start moving in and out of their respective character, at certain points playing their real selves, at others points their stage character, and yet at other times eqch other's stage character, so that what starts out as a seeming potentially dull stage adoption film, now becomes a fascinating study of multiples characters. As to the 's&m' aspects of the original 1870 book from which the stage play takes inspiration, they are actually kept to a minimum and are not a major element in the film from a sexual perspective (the domineering takes place at the mind level). Kudos to the two performers, in particular Mathieu Amalric as Thomas, he simply blew me away.

In all, this film turned out to be quite the unexpected surprise for me. I saw this movie during a family visit to Belgium back in November, 2013, and given that this is directed by Polanski and the good buzz this picked up at its premiere earlier this year at the Cannes film festival, one would hope it is only a matter of time before this is released at art-house theatres. "Venus In Fur" is not the greatest film ever, but still worth checking out, be it in the theatre or on DVD/Blu-ray.
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This is from veteran director Roman Polanski and is rather a simple story. We meet Thomas (Mathieu Amalric - `The Grand Budapest Hotel' and `Quantum of Solace') who is putting on an adaptation of a play about sado masochism in its highest arty form. He can't cast the main character and has given up for the day as all the wannabe's are useless.

Then in walks Vanda played by the superb Emmanuelle Seigner; she at first comes across as a bit inept and unprepared. But slowly she reveals more and more depth to herself and the character she is to play.

She convinces him to read for her and they start going through the play analysing all of the nuances - especially the sexual connotations. Then fiction starts to blur with reality as they both immerse themselves in their characters.

This is like a stage play and indeed has been adapted from one - there are only the two characters and the whole thing takes place inside the theatre. However, it is absolutely engrossing both actors put in mesmerising performances and the sexual tension is palpable throughout as is the intrigue. In French with very good subtitles this is an absolute gem which I can wholeheartedly recommend.
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on 14 February 2016
Way back in the mists of antiquity I went to a play entitled Venus in Furs at The Place, which was in the 1970s or early 1980s a small fringe theatre in central London, with a reputation for staging risqué and avant garde works. I cannot find on the web any references to this, nor can I find now the review penned in The Times by my estimable friend and colleague the late and much lamented Bernard Levin, who hated it so much that he walked out at the interval. My reaction was entirely different: that adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s seminal novel from 1870 left a marked impression on me and so did the novel itself VENUS IN FURS (Highlights of World Literature), to which I turned subsequently.

Levin always expressed his views forthrightly: in this particular instance he was, to my way of thinking, entirely wrong. The drama on stage penetrated all my defences.

I have on video, though I no longer have the equipment to rewatch it, an Italian erotic drama film of the same name Devil in the Flesh ( Venere in Pelliccia ) ( Venus in Furs ) (although it was also known as Devil in the Flesh and had various foreign titles too) by Massimo Dallamano with one Laura Antonelli as the heroine Wanda, the Venus in furs. I have to say that it cannot have left much of an impression! But I see that it dates from 1969 and had a lot of trouble with the censors.

And so to Roman Polanski’s 2013 reworking of Sacher-Masoch’s psychological trauma, this a two-hander set in a ramshackle and abandoned theatre in Paris, going curiously by the slightly different name of Venus in Fur, and starring as the actress Vanda his own wife Emmanuelle Seigner, who had featured to great effect 21 years previously in Polanski’s outstanding Bitter Moon Bitter Moon [1992] [DVD], another of his films to explore sexual perversion.

Polanski’s Venus in Fur is based on a play by the American David Ives, who was himself inspired by Sacher-Masoch’s novel. The only two characters are Thomas Novacheck (Mathieu Amalric) and Vanda Jourdain. Thomas has been auditioning without success for an actress to play Wanda von Dunayev, the lead character in his new play based on the novel. As he’s packing up to leave a disheveled Vanda arrives, hours late for the auditions, asking to be heard. She seems to know much of Thomas’s script by heart and in what follows director and actress seem to mirror Sacher-Masoch’s stereotypes and the boundaries between reality and fantasy become progressively further blurred.

Polanski and fetish go hand in glove - or fur – and he is a masterly director of such material. Seigner and Amalric produce performances out of the top drawer and Ives’s twisted reinvention adds layers of fascination. But Sacher-Masoch’s theme is as much about power exchange as it is about what we now know as masochism. Indeed, the novel is sometimes seen as anti-feminist because, while Wanda notionally takes control and subjects the hero/victim Severin von Kusiemski to the ultimate humiliation, she herself can alternatively be seen as the true victim of Severin’s manipulation: he is (arguably) ‘topping from the bottom’, with Wanda, his less than eager fantasy in furs, manipulated into playing the role, for his own perverted sexual gratification.

I suspect Levin was, at best, indifferent to the novel and Polanski’s film would no doubt have appalled him. But, for all that there are only two actors to hold the screen for 96 minutes, I found this a riveting reimagining of the thoughts and sensations underlying the original novel.
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on 12 September 2014
This is a fascinating film which shows the interchanging power relationships between the two actors. However, the dialogue is very fast in parts, and it is subtitled, which makes the film very difficult to follow and to be able to appreciate fully!
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on 1 June 2014
This movie is a real gem. Based on the stage adaptation of Venus in Fur by David Ives, this movie is adapted for the silver screen by Ives himself and Polanski. Mathieu Amalric is 'Thomas', the big shot theatre director, who, after a hard day of bad auditions agrees to see the last minute applicant and apparently unsuitable actress (Seigner) for the role of Sacher-Masoch's Vanda. At first glance, she (Seigner) falls woefully short of Thomas' vision of the part, but it's not long before the tables are turned as she devours both the part and also Thomas himself. Emmanuelle Seigner plays her role to perfection. Shameless, immodest.....Vanda brings humour to the film and despite what you may have read elsewhere is perfectly cast. Does anybody else think that Mathieu Amalric, from some angles, looks a little like a younger Polanski??

I saw this movie at the cinema only last night, and the audience were VERY appreciative. So was I.

You guessed it - its 5 stars from me for this highly recommended film.
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on 25 August 2014
Interesting, partly because of the ambiguity of Polanski's relationships with women - or particular representations of relations with women. Some people will find that backstory, as well as the gender types in the play, will require work to deconstruct. But this is funny and entertaining: a very well-scripted; a taut, flab-free production. Seigner and Amalric work together flawlessly.
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on 15 August 2014
Brilliant! Just keeps the attention and the 'fun' of wondering exactly who may be fibbing or who is telling the story or who has 'cracked'! The continuity is incredible! Hardly any breaks of scenes. A real treat xx
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 November 2015
The play's the thing. I've had this on the shelf for a long, long time. Tonight I watched part 12 of Ascent of Man. The sex part. The human female is the only female animal to have an orgasm part. The only love maker face to face part.

I scanned my shelves for a leg show, something horny. Then that title drew me in. 120" screen. As the credits rolled I saw an old friend. Roman Polanski. Chinatown.

Hypnotic opening shot of a French boulevard. The story unfurls like a woman undressing before a man. Her man. Control is everything here. Even in the delicious humour. En francais the dialogue swings from point to point, intellectual tennis. And those heaving breasts.

I thought she was Joanna Lumley at first. And thought he was Roman Polanski (Mathieu Almeric). My projected DVD felt just like theatre. Trapped in their skins. Reversing the role reversals; reversed.

It pulls apart the bolitics. There never is something when nothing happens. Women think opposite. Ascent of Man said we meet intellectual equals. But in a consumer society throwaway men are just as useful. Tied and left. Faustian oppression. To catch the conscience of the king. When an actor calls.
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on 25 March 2016
This movie must have been a challenging one to make. The strength of the book is in the its portrayal of masochism... Deleuze wrote a great essay on it. This movie captures it well and does not fall into the cheap type or pornography usually associated to the subject matter! Excellent theatrical-minimalist atmosphere. A great film indeed but not for everyone...
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on 26 August 2014
Excellent portrayal of a manipulative character snaring a weaker one! Very enjoyable and thoroughly absorbing
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