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This film is incredible. Polanski's best film behind Knife in the Water and
The plot revolves around a gangster (Lionel Stander) and his partner that seek refuge in a castle on a small island in England. The couple that inhabit the castle are played by the sublime Donald Pleasance and the beautiful Françoise Dorléac. The movie plays out like a three way triangle of hatred; we have the contempt between the couple and the gangster, who is invading their home; the gangster's mean streak is inflicted on the couple and the lady obviously holds her husband in low regard when he takes on the role of a wimp in front of the gun toting criminal. However, it is not as simple as that as in several points in the movie, the characters let their guard down and start to communicate with each other in an almost friendly way. This is the real beauty of this film; it is a character study, studying the relationship between a couple and a third party in their home. Three is a crowd, and the effects of that true to life phrase are felt by each of the three characters.
The three main players in Cul-De-Sac are fantastic, Lional Stander in particular who was surely born to play his role in this movie. He has the voice and the persona of a not very bright gangster spot on; his comic timing for some of his more obviously funny lines is also noteworthy. Donald Pleasance has never been better than he was here either; his portrayal as the 'lord of the manor' is both believable and intriguing. Last but not least, Françoise Dorléac, in undoubtedly the most overlooked role in the piece, although no less important than the other two, is also on time and believable in her role; making up a perfect cast.
From a relatively simple plot line and few characters, through excellent dialogue, restrained plotting and interesting scenarios, Roman Polanksi has managed to weave a story that is interesting and entertaining. Roman Polanski has a great flair for human relationships in his movies, the best example of this was in his best movie, Knife in the Water, and that element is abundant here too. The scenes in which all three characters are on screen interacting with each other are this movie's finest moments.
Cul-De-Sac is an excellent black comedy thriller that fans of the genre and fans of the excellent Roman Polanski will not want to miss. Recommended viewing
Two gangsters on the run hide out in a isolated castle that is occupied by
Plesance and Dorleac. The two share a rather bizarre passive, aggressive
relationship that quickly disintegrates when interrupted by the strangers.
Eventually a even more bizarre bonding develops between the couple and
Stander, one of the gangsters. Very, very intriguing psychological drama
with wonderfully subversive elements lurking just beneath the
Polanski makes full use of the castle showing it's dark, shadowy interior as a sort of symbolic equation to the dark recesses of the human mind. The characters all have their odd traits yet are still believable and compelling to watch. Wonderfully photographed with a strong visual style that really gives this film a distinct look and personality.
Stander, who is probably best known as Max on the old HART TO HART series, has one of his finest roles. He plays a brute that mixes both savage and human traits all at the same time. Plesance though is astounding, playing a truly pathetic character that is simply unforgettable
Cul-de-sac is a very beautiful black and white movie. It belongs to the
lightweight category. The story is weird in an entertaining way, often
amusing and sad at once. If the director tried to be willingly shallow, he
was very successful. And I do not mean that ironically but say it with
The place is Holy Island, on the east coast of Northern England. It actually gets cut off with the tide. Polanski makes very good use of the location and was very lucky with the casting. All characters are rather detestable in a detached sort of way. Donald Pleasance gives the performance of his life as the emasculated, utterly humiliated owner of the castle on the island. The other two main characters are the brisk yet elf like Françoise Dorléac and Lionel Stander as a gruff, brutal gangster. There is a very strange, truly unique chemistry between Dorléac and Stander. Dorléac does something to Stander. «We call dees a bicycle», she says gleefully with her funny accent, and it nearly knocks me off my chair every time I see that well filmed, suspenseful scene. I wont tell you what «de bicycle» is it may need parental guidance to watch it but does not belong to the restrictable area. Cul-de-sac has a very memorable musical score.
A wounded criminal, Dickie and his dying partner Albie find an old seaside castle.That castle is full of chickens and it is owned by the meek and a bit neurotic George and his sensual young wife Teresa.Now these two are the hostages of Dickie, who's waiting for his boss to come.Cul-de-sac (1966) was the second film of Roman Polanski in English.It's a fascinating movie, and a bit bizarre, perhaps.You have to like Donald Pleasence's work as George.His character is comical but also tragic, shy and sensitive, someone who's easy to be manipulated.The way George is ridiculed by his woman, who dresses him as a woman and puts on some make-up on him tells a lot about what kind of a man George is.Francoise Dorléac is perfect in the role of his Mrs.Lionel Stander is somewhat sympathetic as Dickie.Jack MacGowran, who's also remembered from Polanski's Dance of the Vampires from the next year, plays Albie brilliantly.Ian Quarrier plays Christopher.Jacqueline Bisset makes her second film appearance in a small role.This movie has a lot of memorable stuff.It's great to watch when they have unexpected guests of George's friends and Dickie has to portray a butler.Or the moments on the beach with Teresa swimming nude in the background.This movie has some comedy.It has some psychological thriller.It has some drama.It has everything to keep you captivated.
A wounded criminal and his dying partner take up refuge at a beachfront
villa, which (not surprisingly) makes the owners less than thrilled.
I watched this as part of my quest to see all of Polanski's films in order. After two psychological films, he has switched to comedy... and I am not entirely sure I get it. Visually, this film is quite stunning and it has some good camera work (including one of the longest continuous sequences in cinematic history at the time of release at 7 minutes and 28 seconds).
Jack Nicholson claimed in an interview in 2007 that this is his favorite film. Not sure what to make of that. I loved Donald Pleasance as the cross-dressing wimp, but beyond that, I just do not think I really got it... the humor was not so strong and the darkness was not all that dark.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the less popular Polanski films, made between his sleeper
"Repulsion" (Catherine Deneuve's star-turn) and the hilarious horror
comedy "The Fearless Vampire Killer" (starring Polanski himself
alongside his ill-fated wife, Sharon Tate), "Cul-de-sac" is a bizarre
film indeed. In his autobiography, Polanski stated that this was his
favorite film of all, and, if he had the choice, he'd only do movies
"Cul-de-sac" is hard to classify. It is an odd kind of comedy, but not really funny, it has some thriller elements, but it's not suspenseful, there are traces of a mystery slash horror thing, but they're never obviously visible, and, finally, it is the story of a marriage. There isn't much happening, really, and if you're not into weird movies, you'll most certainly find "Cul-de-sac" boring, but if you are, it will give you lots of pleasure.
The movie has a lot of charm, and it's craziness brings it quite close to Lester's "The Knack". Donald Pleasance's performance might be the best of his entire career. This alone makes Polanski's little masterpiece worth watching. Lionel Stander and the unforgettable Jack MacGowran are equally remarkable, and Ian Quarrier (who later played a gay vampire in "The Fearless Vampire Killers") can be seen in a supporting part. The setting (an old castle), though, is the real star of this film, and the entire thing is beautifully captured: the black-and-white-photography is timelessly elegant and Oscar-worthy. A pity "Cul-de-sac" was not a success when it was released. It came out on DVD a couple of years back and is a must for Polanski fans and film fans alike.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Released at a time when the likes of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and THE SOUND OF MUSIC were tearing up the box-office and winning oodles of Oscars, CUL-DE-SAC has more going on than both of those bloated epics combined. Assembling one of the most sublime casts imaginable, Roman Polanski apes his earlier KNIFE IN THE WATER by having a couple's seemingly idyllic relationship interrupted ---this time by two interlopers...a hooligan and his infirm sidekick. The couple's already precarious relationship begins to crack and ultimately shatters in a climax of distrust and panic. But not before giving their guests an unexpected run for their money. Donald Pleasence and Francoise Dorleac make a truly odd couple and, as the hoods, Lionel Stander and Jack MacGowran, are alternately menacing and pathetic. It's great to see the always interesting Stander land such a plum role. CUL-DE-SAC is probably the most cutting movie Polanski has ever made. Never too successful with comedy, Polanski infused this movie with a good deal of humor, albeit always very black. One of the films highlights has Dorleac putting a match to some paper she's stuffed between Stander's toes!
As 'Cul-de-sac' was Polanski's first movie after his brilliant psychological thriller 'Repulsion' it can't help but be a slight disappointment. Even so, I thought it was an interesting movie and I found it to be much more enjoyable than his next one the totally unfunny spoof 'The Fearless Vampire Killers'. 'Cul-de-sac' is quite difficult to catergorise. In some ways it reminded me of Pinter's 'The Birthday Party' (filmed much later than this but originally staged in the late 1950s), in others of Jack Hill's cult favourite 'Spider Baby' (made earlier but not really released until afterwards), and you could almost see it as prefiguring 'Performance' (old school gangsters meet the new world of the swinging 1960s). But really it quite an odd and unique black comedy. It may not be 100% successful, and it does have a few dull spots, but overall it's worth tracking down if you want to see something different. The main reason it succeeds for me is the unusual location of Lindisfarne, England (which I have visited), and the performances of Donald Pleasence, Francoise Dorleac and Lionel Stander. Pleasence was one of Britain's most underrated character actors, the beautiful and doomed Dorleac had appeared alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo in the entertaining thriller 'That Man From Rio', and Standish, who later appeared in movies by Leone and Spielberg, is best remembered as Max, the craggy manservant on the popular 1980s TV show 'Hart To Hart'. All three are excellent in this movie, and their interaction make it fascinating viewing. The supporting cast also includes Jack MacGowran ('The Exorcist') and an early appearance by 1970s sex symbol Jacqueline Bisset. 'Cul-de-sac' is without a doubt Polanski's most underrated movie, and fans of the unusual and the off beat will enjoy it very much. A DVD with a commentary from Polanski would would be wonderful. Any chance?
Samuel Beckett refused to give Polanski the rights to film Waiting for Godot and so the director created with Gerard Brach a script with strong echoes of the famous play (and some by Harold Pinter). A mixture of Gothic horror picture, black comedy, and classic gangsters American pictures, Cul-de-Sac is a parody of all these genres and also a tragedy. Hopelessness, humiliation, perversion - constant motifs of his films -, are presented here below a thick veil of grotesque. The arrival to the castle of a wounded gangster who tries to be rescued by his boss, and his immediate physical and mental domain of the hostages, untie openly the woman's despise of her husband, the cowardice and vulnerability of him and both dependence on the intruder. The couple breeds chicken and the chicken seem fulfill the function that had the chorus in the Greek tragedy, Polanski is mocking in this way the solemnity of the serious genre that notwithstanding has adopted. Like in others of his films, the director remits to scenes of his former works and make also homage to some admired creators - Hitchcock's The Birds, for instance (when some birds descend on the courtyard of the castle in the manner of the mentioned picture, but without the expected consequences (another game of Polanski). The Godot of this story, Katelbach, like that of Beckett, will never appear and, in this case, shall leave a message exempting himself of any responsibility. Nobody expected shall come to rescue, the woman will escape with a new lover, the gangster is murdered by the landlord and the landlord will lament, sitting on a rock in the sea, his infinite misery. Counting with a suggestive photography by Gil Taylor, who plays smartly with shadows and lights, Polanski likes to pursue the spectators with sudden movements of the camera that show the characters withdrawing from or running over the spectators, who sometimes serve as the supposed mirror where the fictional creatures are looking at themselves. The formal perfection of many scenes could not dissimulate some serious downfall of rhythm and excessive stereotype of characters and not few dialogs. The film is perhaps too much long and repetitive, but this apparent fault contributes to intensify the atmosphere of obsession and dismay, which are considered principal marks of the director's pessimist vision of world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cul-de-sac, like Polanski's first movie, is a movie about human
relationships. In fact one could find many similarities between this
movie and Knife In The Water. Dickie, a wounded criminal takes his
dying partner, Albie, to a nearby castle and makes the two occupants
hostages. Albie dies and Dickie has to wait for his boss, the
mysterious Kateblbach, to come and rescue him. The tide has come up and
the castle is currently unaccessible. So he has to spend the night with
the couple, George and Teresa, waiting for rescue.
In an ordinary movie, this could lead to a tense, suspenseful situation. But in Polanski's hands it becomes a study about human existence and the unpredictability of human behavior. For starters, there's no hero in this movie - George is a coward unable to take a stand; Teresa, disgusted by him, starts to get closer to Dickie. Dickie is a brute but he's hardly a monster: so long as people do as he says, he's alright with everyone. Many humorous and absurd situations arise from this relationship, as George and Dickie engage in conversations by the beach while Teresa bathes; or when Teresa, instead of running away, goes to Dickie to have a drink of vodka with him. People who expect their movie characters to behave in certain ways may be surprised, baffled or infuriated by this trio.
My favorite part of the movie is when guests unexpected arrive at the castle and the couple and Dickie have to pretend he's their gardener. With the tables inverted, Teresa proceeds to abuse Dickie as much as possible. One can easily see the hatred and tension boiling inside Dickie as he struggles to keep up appearances.
The tree main actors are quite good in this movie - Françoise Dorléac, Lion Stander, and especially Donald Pleasance as George. For me he had the most difficult and courageous role in the movie, that of playing a weak-willed, cowardly man who tolerates abuse after abuse. Such frailty is rare in cinema since it's not very appealing, but unusual as it may be it strikes a chord for how familiar it is.
Once again I'm marveled at how Polanski manages to create a movie out of so little resources: a castle, three actors, and what else? Just clever writing, good camera work and imagination. Although Polanski has done better movies, Cul-de-sac has an undefinable quality that grips the viewer's mind and doesn't let go.
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