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Cul-de-sac More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Film-emblem of Polanski absurd universe

Author: bateauivre11
14 October 2002

This film is one of the finest of Roman Polanski.From the theater of the absurd,a subject Polanski knows very well.I enjoyed the plot as well as the characters,we can see the great Donald Pleasence and wonderful supporting actors(something usual in a Polanski movie) I don't have too much info about the actress Françoise Dorléac (she plays Pleasence WIFE) She was a famous stage actress in Paris,and she was Catherine Deneuve older sister(both siblings appear together in a Jacques Demy film ). I think Françoise was more famous in that time (mid-sixties) than Deneuve .Dorléac also appears in Truffaut's underestimated `Peau douce,' sadly she dies very young at the short age of 25.Cul de sac is a MUST SEE film.we don't know what will happen in the next scene,is a odd ride,sadly this film is difficult to find(on video,dvd,cable).

Here's a brief analysis:

Film-emblem of Polanski absurd universe , Cul-of-sac is the film that better represents the supposed identification of the artist with the kafkanian and certain taste for black humor, even though this characteristic does not reach to become a true constant in his filmography. Cul-of-sac retakes the tone of Two men and a wardrobe, a POLANSKI shortfilm made during his times of student in Lodz. Both leaves from a premise according to which the probability of the facts leans in a particular logic of the characters. In the short one, both personages leave the sea, cross the city carrying a wardrobe, facing diverse situations finally to go into the ocean again. In Cul-of-sac, we see a car beached in a coast starts to be invaded by the water, even in this situation, the man does not leave his car facing the risk of suffocating, perhaps he thinks that nothing bad can happen to him or not to conceive the possibility on the matter of doing something without the aid of his companion who, being kilometers away of the place, obvious he cannot listen to his cry for help . That logic we can find in other personages: while Dickie,the maling, in vain waits for the arrival of the boss Katelbach , we know that never going to happen - making reference to the original one Waiting for Godot, the couple that lives in the taken castle accepts the interference of the new guest as something inexorable that simply must be assimilated. With the code maintained in the absurd one, Polanski installs the possibility of any situation that, NO MATTER its degree of absurdity, will not be questioned by the protagonists. This attitude is opposite of Rosemary in Rosemary's baby(1968) and Richard Walker in Frantic(1988), both fight against the adversities that alter their normal course of their lives. Cul-of-sac also shows the virtuosity of Polanski, that almost constantly uses internal montage in depth giving as result from the narration, an interesting and effective image. The music composed by Krystoff Komeda is also remarkable, the only collaborator who the director `took with him '" from Poland and a constant composer in Polanski entire filmography till komeda premature death in 1968.In Cul de sac we can see too, a cameo of Jacqueline Bisset(then an unknown actress).

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful film noir - a classic

Author: andy-520
7 December 2001

Polanski at his best is like literature on celluloid. This film is inspirationally cast, incredibly well directed and has some real gems like Francoise Dorleac, at the critical moment in the whole film when her wimpy husband actually kills the gangster who has invaded their castle home, saying in her thick French accent "but you 'ave keeled 'eem!" with the accent not on 'killed' but on 'him'. Now that's black comedy.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Polanski's overlooked gem

Author: iF.... ( from U.S.A.
19 March 2000

Roman Polanski hit the peak of his filmmaking in the 60s and 70s. One of his most overlooked films from this period is Cul-de-sac. The film opens with quite possibly one of the most memorable sequences in film history. Two gangsters get stuck in the tide, since one of them is wounded, the other gangster goes out to look for help. The gangster tries to contact his boss from a couple's home. However, the gangster is unable to get a hold of his boss to pick him up. So for the meantime, the gangster and his partner reside at the couple's home. The gangsters begin to terrorize the couple, making them prisoners within their own home. Of course the couple tries to think of was on how to throw these gangsters out of their home. Along the way events start to take unexpected turns.

Cul-de-sac is an excellent example of Polanski's macabre mentality. He takes a serious situation and converts it into something hilarious. The most memorable character in my opinion is the wounded gangster. His presence (even though it's for a small amount) is what grabs your attention to the film. The irony of the couple is well constructed for it portrays a manly wife, and a womanly gentle husband. As for the predominant gangster of the film, his stupidity and wits makes the film a well worth experience. The film certainly hits its ironic punch during the last half-hour of the film. For any Polanski connoisseurs I highly recommend this film that is well worth watching.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Raw Eggs & Lots of Chickens Do Not a Movie Make

Author: LemonLadyR from United States
19 September 2015

I am a big Polanski fan and finally got around to watching this early movie of his. It appears to be low budget, but nicely shot, nonetheless. I love the environments he creates, and this wonderful castle used for the location is the most alive thing in the movie (if it hadn't been used for some slapstick comedy and thus falling apart). Some of the acting is reasonable (Jacqueline Bisset in an early, but non-speaking role, alas, is the most interesting thing, really; wish there was more of her or she had lines). Even with the few good things I listed, the movie misses on almost all cylinders, even though Polanski attempts, and almost succeeds, in making an old plot into something new, and into a black comedy as well (although it really is a rather 'gray' black comedy). It is a character study but they are all so distasteful that that fails. A very irritating movie, overall, due to the characters. I guess Polanski is a human director, after all! It could not be further from his other movies. The tragic murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, plus his later legal problems, have not happened by this release, so no obvious excuse for this self-indulgent film.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

An interesting approach, but the characters weren't so much.

Author: Rockwell_Cronenberg from United States
25 February 2012

Roman Polanski's third feature Cul-De-Sac is a more comedic take on an age-old premise: a couple (Donald Pleasance and Francoise Dorleac) are put upon by a criminal on the run (Lionel Stander) and the film becomes a power game of their interactions. It doesn't have much in the way of narrative, but instead builds itself around the ups and downs of their power struggles and the way they confront one another, as a whole or in individual pairings. It starts off well enough with a solid opening act that had quite a few laughs, mostly thanks to Pleasance, but after a while it began to wear thin.

The entire thing relies on your interest in the characters and their games of power and sexual undertones with one another, but I couldn't have cared less about any of them so I found myself dreadfully bored for most of it. The final act raised my interest a little bit as everything goes wildly out of control, but it took too long for me to get there. Lionel Stander is a solid presence, creating a very uneasy feeling whenever he walks in the room, but Dorleac and Pleasence began to grate on my nerves rather quickly. I've always been a big Polanski fan and he still shows here his ability to create a complete atmosphere that is fully in tune with his vision, along with his fetish for isolating his characters in secluded locations, but I unfortunately didn't care about the characters in a film that is all about them.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"You've got to be out of your skull to live in a hole like that"

Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
3 November 2007

Roman Polanski's third full-length feature is perhaps his strangest and hardest to define. Supposedly it was a personal project that Polanski and his collaborators had to fight to get on the screen, although perhaps by the time they finally got to make it they had lost some of their enthusiasm, as Cul-de-sac has a somewhat weary feel to it.

Polanski returns here to similar themes as those explored in his previous pictures, and ones he would often return to again, in particular isolation, regret and the breakdown of a fragile social set-up. The central idea appears to be a man's private paradise turning into his personal hell. It's the first of a number of Polanski's films to be set inside a castle (Polanski was massively influenced by Laurence Olivier's Hamlet), but unfortunately his trademark use of claustrophobic space – that feeling that the walls are pressing in – isn't quite up to scratch here. Cul-de-sac is more about the idea of isolation than actually conveying a physical sense of it, like he does fairly well in Repulsion, and expertly in Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant.

What makes Cul-de-sac stand out though is that it also happens to be a kind of comedy. While it isn't quite laugh-a-minute, there are plenty of little gags here and there that are bound to raise the odd chuckle. There is the fact that the gangsters are escaping from the bungled heist in a car stolen from a driving school, some witty dialogue and overall an air of silliness that actually works very well. The comedy actually turns out to be Cul-de-sac's saving grace. The jokes, not to mention the over the top performances by Donald Pleasance, Lionel Stander and Jack MacGowran (the biggest names Polanski had worked with thus far) are really what makes this watchable. It's also worth noting that, while it's a completely different film Polanski's next feature, Fearless Vampire Killers, was also his only out-and-out comedy.

Not only is Cul-de-sac Polanski's last feature in black and white, it is also his last avant-garde film. After this he would concentrate on more accessible (and incidentally, more finely crafted) pictures. Nevertheless a picture like Cul-de-sac, much like the films of Werner Herzog contains enough quirkiness and inventiveness to keep it entertaining in spite of its art-house roots.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Interesting if a bit meandering

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
19 May 2002

When a pair of criminals on the run become stranded by a broken down car they go to a remote house where they meet a couple seeking refuge from society. When one of them dies of his wounds it creates a spiral of events between the three people left.

Taking the bleak humour of Polanski's short films this was an interesting journey if not a totally satisfying one. It had plenty of humour but I felt the story was going nowhere fast. It did start to get interesting late in the day – and had a few sub-plots to read things into, but mostly it was a bit episodic and lacked a sense of direction at times.

The cast were good and worked well together. They provided much of the humour – but their natural, meandering performances also gave the feeling of the film drifting. However overall it held my interest for 2 hours and wasn't a let down – it just wasn't quite what I was expecting.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Emotional dead end

Author: goldgreen from United Kingdom
26 June 2011

The opening scene is beautifully shot, the acting is of a high standard and Polanski overall is showing himself to be a promising director here. This is all very well, but the film works the audience far too hard. There is not a single soul or thing in the film we get to like. At first we root a little for the couple in the castle against the gangsters who interrupt their idyll. Then we find the inhabitants are either weak, flighty or deranged. Every time someone new enters we find they are despicable too. Even the island and castle is constantly derided by the gangsters with little comeback from the inhabitants. The music on the stereo is excruciating, as is the art painted by the Donald Pleasance character and the vodka made by his French wife. Films should be either uplifting, scary, educational, funny or should say something deep about the human soul, this film does none of that. It all just feels clever-clever and pointless.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Boring and Pointless

Author: kenjha
22 March 2011

A pair of criminals takes refuge at a beach-front castle owned by an Englishman and his French wife. Perhaps Polanski's worst film, this works neither as a comedy, nor as a thriller. The script is boring and pointless. The humor is forced and unfunny. The cinematography is so poor that it looks like a low-budget home movie. The acting is mostly bad. Pleasence is such a dweeb that it's hard to believe that he would manage to nab a hot wife like Dorleac. Stander turns in the most interesting performance, although that's not saying much. Pleasence overacts. Dorleac, who died at age 25 a few months after this film was released, is attractive but her English is incomprehensible.

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5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Weird and Bizarre

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
29 March 2008

The wounded criminal Richard "Dicky" (Lionel Stander) and his dying partner Albie (Jack MacGowran) seek for shelter in an old seaside castle full of chickens and owned by the eccentric and coward American George (Donald Pleasence) and his slut French wife Teresa (Françoise Dorléac). While waiting for the rescue of his boss, Albie dies and Dicky develops a strange relationship with the odd couple.

The cult and awarded black comedy "Cul-de-sac" is a weird and bizarre movie. I do not know whether this sort of non-sense humor is dated or works for European, but in my concept most of the jokes are not funny. Nevertheless it is worthwhile watching this film, first because it is one of the first works of the great director Roman Polanski, and also because it is one of the last works of Catherine Deneuve's sister Francoise Dorleac, who prematurely died in 1967 when her sports car crashed and burned in Nice, France. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Armadilha do Destino" ("Trap from the Destiny")

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