Repulsion

Repulsion is a largely interior movie. It's about a woman who is slowly losing her mind, but who is struggling to hold it together. As a result, she is very rarely expressive - she doesn't want anyone to know how troubled her thoughts are. Catherine Deneuve's face is in almost every frame of the movie, but it's often not doing much more than looking pensive and withdrawn.

Therefore, you get to spend a lot of time looking at her face without necessarily having a lot to think about. So I spent a large chunk of this movie thinking about her face as a face. One of the things that I find really odd about the nature of beauty is that it is so highly flexible. When I saw Deneuve in the Hunger she was a perfect example of the woman who is unattainably beautiful, but she doesn't read as sexy at all in Repulsion (even before she gets a little stabby with several members of the opposite sex.) The vampire Deneuve plays in the Hunger has an icy cool that makes you feel a little desperate to impress her; her character in Repulsion is so sullen that she's someone who wouldn't stand out at all, but if you did notice her you would probably steer clear of her lest her sadness prove contagious. By changing her attitude and her composure she completely changes how attractive she seems, even though her face still looks the same.

We live in a culture where we are constantly being exposed to photos of the most attractive people in the world, but there's a selectivity to those images that isn't always visible. If you walk down any busy street you will probably be near some people who could compete with most celebrities in terms of physical beauty - provided that it was a compare and contrast of still photos. (Charisma is another thing entirely.) Looking at Deneuve in different situations makes this clear: if you give her a part that calls for sex appeal, she can draw your eye to her immediately, but if you give her a part that calls for something less exotic, she can appear like any other pretty-enough-but-still-kind-of-plain woman while not making any drastic changes to her basic look.

In part I'm congratulating Deneuve on her acting chops, because she clearly approaches roles with more integrity than vanity, and because she's obviously capable of completely transforming herself. But I'm also talking about a fallacy promoted by the media, where "the beautiful people" are held up as a standard of beauty that isn't entirely accurate. The line between Katy Perry and a random woman named Kate is a lot thinner than I thought it was when I was younger and more dazzled by marketing.

Oh, and in addition to those two things, I'm also acknowledging that I didn't have much to say about this movie, which was so slow at the start that by the time stuff did start to happen I was nearly completely tuned out. If you're watching a thriller and thinking about the abstract shape of the lead's face chances are that you aren't thrilled.

 

Winner: The Cat

Repulsion on IMDB