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.

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

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve