Roman Polanski shakes Cannes Film Festival

The director's new film, 'Venus in Fur', is one of the raciest on offer

The legendary Polish director Roman Polanski brought the Cannes competition to an end this weekend with a dash of S&M in his new film, Venus in Fur. When the festival ends tonight, Polanski may not win another Palme d'Or to put alongside his prize for his 2002 Holocaust drama The Pianist, but he'll certainly have made one of the best-liked, and raciest, films of this year's competition.

The comedy of sexual manners is adapted by Polanski and the US writer David Ives from the latter's stage play. It concerns a director (Mathieu Amalric) auditioning an actress to play a dominating femme fatale in his adaptation of Venus in Furs, the 1870 novel by Austrian Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from whose name masochism is derived. As the two characters slip in and out of a rehearsed reading, the actress – played by Polanski's wife and muse, Emmanuelle Seigner – gives the director rather more than he bargained for.

In his press conference yesterday, Polanski said of Ives's play, "The satire on sexism was very seductive to me." Asked whether he resembled the film's director character, Thomas, Polanski replied, "There's this macho element in Thomas which is torn to pieces. When people get to know me, they know I'm not really this way." However, asked if he dominated his actors, Polanski smiled. "That's what the play's about – domination," he said. "I slapped them sometimes, but they never complained."

According to Seigner, the film is an attack on male directors who mistreat their actresses. "It can be humiliating, and we've all put up with it. So perhaps I'm avenging all the actresses on earth."

As for the uncanny resemblance between Polanski and Amalric, the French star quipped: "My mother's coming to see the film tonight. She'll have to explain that to me."

Polanski, whose name is still inextricably linked with his sexual abuse case in the US in 1977, admitted to having some traditional ideas about male and female roles. "It's a pity that now offering flowers to a lady becomes indecent, that's how I feel about it," he commented drily. "Trying to level the genders is purely idiotic – the pill has changed women of our times, masculinising them. That chases away romance from our lives."

The assembled press seemed more amused than startled by his unenlightened comments, but gender continues to be a thorny point in Cannes after last year's competition was criticised for not including a single female director. This year's featured only one, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, while France's most prominent female director, the acclaimed Claire Denis, did not make the main competition with her film Bastards.

Polanski has had triumphs and failures in Cannes before, and pointed out that his film The Tenant was given a chilly reception in 1976. This was why, after the screening of The Pianist, he returned immediately to Paris – he didn't expect the Palme. "When my producer asked me to come back for the closing ceremony, I thought, 'What for – a prize for directing? I know I can direct.'"

Festival favourites

Whatever Polanski's chances tonight, both Amalric and Seigner look like front-runners for acting prizes. Other favourites include Michael Douglas for his exuberantly camp turn as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's biopic Behind the Candelabra; Adèle Exarchopoulos as a teenage lesbian in Blue is the Warmest Colour by Abdellatif Kechiche; as well as her co-star Léa Seydoux.

This year's competition was a mixed bag, with many titles polarising critics. The much-awaited film The Past, by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was both hailed and dismissed. And even the roundly booed Only God Forgives by Denmark's Nicolas Winding Refn had its vocal supporters.

But there has been a handful of out-and-out gems. US cinema was strong, with the Coen brothers' 1960s folk comedy Inside Llewyn Davis. Alexander Payne also cheered up critics with his road comedy Nebraska. But the freshest film by a US name was Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch's twist on the vampire genre, starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston – also up for tonight's acting awards.

As for the Palme d'Or, it'll be a tough choice. But there are two much-fancied front-runners: Blue is the Warmest Colour and Paolo Sorrentino's La Grande Bellezza.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rock and role: Jamie Bell's character Benjamin Grimm is transformed into 'Thing' in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Fantastic Four'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins veered between sycophancy and insult in her new chat show
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
In his role as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch will have to learn, and repeat night after night, around 1,480 lines

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens with pupils at Hollins Technology College in Accrington
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The rapper Drake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The gaffer: Prince Philip and the future Queen in 1947
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Style icons: The Beatles on set in Austria
film
Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future