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Roman Polanski and Lessons in Character Study

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Roman Polanski’sChinatown” has pulled me out of hibernation.  I was finally able to watch Polanski’s onion-layered masterpiece this past weekend and I have to admit that once again, he did not disappoint.  Here was a movie, made in 1974, where it was difficult for the viewer to decide what moved them more – the story, the characters, the setting, the mood…or that wonderfully ironic climax. (For you avid movie buffs, “Chinatown” was also an inspiration for “Manorama – Six Feet Under“, the critically acclaimed and equally brilliant Bollywood political thriller.)

But I write today not to talk about the merits of “Chinatown” but to share my perception of Polanski and a penchant for deep character study in all his films.  I have not seen all his films…”Bitter Moon” and “Frantic” being two that stand out…but all of Roman Polanski joints that I have seen were a sheer joy to watch, especially when one sees the amount of time he spends on developing his central protagonists.

Polanski has always picked strong subjects…and even stronger actors to brinng his vision to the screen, be it Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby“, Jack Nicholson in “Chinatown” or Sigourney Weaver in “Death and the Maiden“.  Under his astute direction, Adrien Brody picked up an Oscar for his moving portrayal of Walter Szpilman in “The Pianist“..and Polanski the Best Director nod. 

Roman Polanski’s last outing “The Ghost Writer” happens to be amongst my all-time favorite films…a pure and simple gem of a thriller with a stellar cast and a story clever and atmospheric enough to leave you gasping for more.  And yet, beneath that thriller, is a depiction of characters so rich and intriguing (played by actors like Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams and Tom Wilkinson) that one cannot help wonder how Polanski actually does it and with such minimal effort.

Polanski’s life has been one hell of a journey, and he is still barred from entering the United States. But as a director, he has not lost that touch which made audience root for Farrow’s character in “Rosemary’s Baby“….despite a preposterous storyline. Or sympathise with Faye Dunaway’s Mrs. Mulwray in “Chinatown“. 

And even though his new outing “Carnage” was not well-received at the recently concluded Venice Film Festival, I will still be there to see when it comes out in theatres later this year.  How often does one get to witness the likes of Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet dancing…or rather, fighting…to the tune of the inimitable Roman Polanski!!

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Categories: Hollywood