Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sordid Projections

Given the current debate in some Hollywood circles over Roman Polanski's arrest for a thirty year old incident involving drugs and unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl, my submission for the Double Bill Blogathon features two of his films (Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown) which incorporate seedy sexual elements into their respective storylines. Twenty-twenty hindsight is always a fun diversion. And in this case, I cringe at art and life seeming to overlap each other.

Polanski dabbled with rape in Repulsion (1965). However, it's unclear if the character actually experiences the event depicted in the film or is dreaming. Likewise, some argue that a similar scene from Rosemary's Baby (1968) leaves open the possibility that it's all an hallucination. I subscribe to the literal interpretation. In Polanski's faithful adaption of Ira Levin's bestselling novel, Rosemary Woodhouse's husband makes a deal with the Devil to advance his acting career in exchange for allowing his wife to to spawn Lucifer's child. But this will be no immaculate conception. Rosemary is drugged and raped (and when I say "rape," I mean "rape-rape").

The significance for me, in light of real life events, is how Rosemary (Mia Farrow) ultimately comes to accept what has happened to her and agrees to raise the child. Am I the only one to see uncomfortable parallels between Rosemary and Polanski's real life victim, Samantha Geimer, who wants to drop the matter and get on with her life?

The idea of a woman accepting horrible events is even more apparent in 1974's Chinatown (which, for the sake of this discussion, could be subtitled "Evelyn's Baby"). Not only does Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) accept the incestuous affair she had with her lecherous demon of a father, Noah Cross (John Houston), like Rosemary she even embraces the result; a child named Katherine ("she's my sister, my daughter, my sister, my daughter"). At one point, J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) asks Mulwray if Cross raped her. Evelyn denies being raped (apparently the sex was consensual) and gives Gittes an exasperated look over the naivety of the question. Given what would transpire later in Polanski’s real life, I find that exchange incredibly ironic (in a BAD way).

My recommendation for the trailer before this double bill would be Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992). Allen’s subsequent high profile divorce from wife Mia Farrow (no less) adds a extra nuance to the depiction of the relationship between Rain (Juliette Lewis) and Professor Roth that never fails to make me squirm a little.

1 comment:

Gautam said...

Matt- an interesting idea for a double bill, life imitating art indeed. Polanski, in my view is a troubled artist- a great filmmaker scarred by real-life implications. I think I might actually like to try out this Double-bill in real life, with the trailer to 'Husbands and Wives' no doubt.

Thanks for participating in the blogathon! Do another one if you can :-)