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Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” Goes Over Well in Venice

Roman Polanski's "Carnage" Goes Over Well in Venice

Roman Polanski’s latest film “Carnage,” adapted from playwright Yasmina Reza’s masterwork, made its premiere in Venice this morning. The response was mostly positive and has so far focused on the performances of its four stars (with Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz earning the most praise) and Polanski’s claustrophobic direction.

Some critics noted that the film marks a footnote in Polanski’s career and lacks many of Polanski’s cinematic trademarks.

It opens the New York Film Festival on September 30 and opens in limited release on December 16 through Sony Picture Classics.

The Playlist – MIXED
But it’s also a film of very little ambition, a minor entry in the director’s canon. Perhaps it was just the desire to shoot something fast and quick after his brush with justice, which is certainly understandable, but he has essentially taken a pre-existing script, cast four A-listers, locked them in a room, and shot it. There are few directorial flourishes beyond a firmly Polanski-esque opening shot, and almost nothing to enable the identification of the movie as a Polanski picture; for once in his career, it feels like almost anyone could have directed it.

David Gritten (Thompson on Hollywood) – POSITIVE
Initially courteous, their meeting lapses into prejudiced attacks and furious rows. As discussed, there’s vomiting and also drunkenness – a vase of tulips, a mobile phone and glossy art books are among the casualties. Waltz, a phenomenally rude and insensitive character, gets most of the best lines. It’s well-acted and giddily enjoyable, if slightly less so once the characters start to analyse their descent into barbarism.

The Hollywood Reporter – POSITIVE
The basic dramatic format of bright, seemingly well-adjusted people eventually baring their teeth, claws and souls in the course of an alcohol-fueled encounter is familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with modern theater; call it the “Virginia Woolf” syndrome.

The Guardian – POSITIVE
That aside, the film barely puts a foot wrong. The acting comes at full throttle while the pacing cranks up the tension in agonising, incremental degrees. At one point this is all too much for Nancy, who proceeds to vomit copiously over the coffee table, coating Penelope’s cherished Oskar Kokoschka book. It is an astonishing scene, an icebreaker like no other. And at the Venice screening, the viewers greeted it with a wild abandon, howling with delight and applauding like thunder, perhaps relieved that someone had cracked before they did themselves.

Variety – POSITIVE
Couple turns against couple, husbands against wives, and the tulips, handbags and bodily fluids begin to fly, in a payoff that has as much zing here as it did in the play. Yet while “Carnage” is still largely a hoot, it never divorces itself from the talky trappings of the stage; the considerable effort expended to let the piece breathe onscreen merely exposes its underlying artifice, making it fairly easy to reject Reza’s thesis that individuals live in a natural state of opposition according to gender, class and personal philosophy.

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