'Venus in Fur' is alluringly creepy but wears thin

'Venus' stars Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner.

By , Film critic

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    'Venus in Fur' stars Emmanuelle Seigner (l.) and Mathieu Amalric (r.)
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Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur,” based on the inexplicably acclaimed play by David Ives, is right up the director’s perfervid alley. Set in an empty Paris theater, it’s about an unplanned audition for a stage adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel “Venus in Furs.” 

Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), the director, is about to head home to his girlfriend when an actress, the hyperactive Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), barges in from the rainy streets, apologizing for being late. She proceeds to wangle, browbeat, and seduce Thomas into an extended audition that morphs into a reality-fantasy game of sexual politics past and present. 

Polanski, who co-wrote the film with Ives, has put his personal stamp on it: Seigner, who is excellent as the temptress, is his real-life wife, and Amalric has been made up to resemble Polanski to a truly eerie degree. The film has a creepy allure but, as movies featuring full-bore sexual gamesmanship often do, it wears thin. Grade: C+ (Unrated.)

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