Catherine Deneuve has been one of the most recognisable female faces in European cinema for decades now. However, her three best performances came in a short period between 1964 and 1967. The first is the colourful and charming musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Then there’s possibly her most famous role in Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour. Last, but not least, and to my mind her greatest role, is in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion.
Carol (Catherine Deneuve) lives with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) in a ramshackle flat in Kensington. The young Belgium is shy and withdrawn, almost sleepwalking through life working as a manicurist. On the other hand, Helen is more confident and having an affair with a married man (Ian Hendry). Carol rebuffs the attentions of men, including the besotted Colin (John Fraser), spending her free time closeted away in the flat trying to drown out the sounds of couple’s love-making.
Repulsion is a masterclass in film making. Shot is black and white, Polanski uses every possible angle and shot to portray Carol’s descent into madness. Deneueve transfixes with her dead-eyed stare. A woman constantly harassed by men who withdraws into an almost catatonic state. As her mania grows, her ability to differentiate between reality and imagination diminishes. Repulsion is a masterpiece of cinema, a powerful work of feminism and a chilling psychological horror.
Repulsion is released on Blu-ray today by Screenbound Pictures.