At around the seventy minute mark, Repulsion finally gives Catherine Deneuve some personality. Sure, she’s gone completely insane at this point, but she sings a little lullaby to herself. And Deneuve is in at least sixty-five of those seventy minutes without any personality (she loses it again soon after). She is the subject of the film, not the protagonist.
The titular Repulsion refers to Deneuve’s repulsion towards sex. She’s this beautiful young woman who doesn’t appreciate the lecherous men of London–and director Polanski’s very clear about it, all the men in London are lecherous. Even Deneuve’s affable though clearly obsessive suitor, played by John Fraser. Even Fraser’s male friends, who exude piggishness towards women while leaving the door open for male company. That last bit is implied, just like when Deneuve freaks out when a girlfriend stops talking about hanging out with her and instead talks to her about men. There’s some brief, but hateful speech about lesbians.
And, even though the hateful opinions come from the piggish guys, it’s not like the script (from Polanski, Gérard Brach and David Stone) is against it. If Deneuve’s been driven insane by her virginity–and unrealized lust for male attention–then all the men in the film get a pass.
Including when Fraser becomes a dangerously unhinged stalker and when Patrick Wymark tries to rape Deneuve. They’re victims of her insane actions.
It’s a creepy movie; it’s calculated and insincere for its entire running time, which I guess is something.
Directed by Roman Polanski; written by Polanski, Gérard Brach and David Stone; director of photography, Gilbert Taylor; edited by Alastair McIntyre; music by Chico Hamilton; produced by Gene Gutowski; released by Compton Films.
Starring Catherine Deneuve (Carol), Ian Hendry (Michael), John Fraser (Colin), Yvonne Furneaux (Helen), Patrick Wymark (Landlord), Renee Houston (Miss Balch) and Valerie Taylor (Madame Denise).