REVIEW : "Cul-De-Sac" (1966) - Movie by Roman Polanski
Sometimes the output of a director is most interesting before he or she becomes mainstream. One of those cases could easily be Roman Polanski. At least his creativity was at a high point around his three english "art house" movies in the sixties and sort of leading into his mainstream success with Rosemary´s Baby.
I am not saying that I necessarily consider his early work any kind of masterpieces, but they do have a certain flavor to them that is particularly Polanskian. As far as I know, the 1966 movie "Cul-De-Sac" (=Dead end street) is a personal favorite of his own. This may come as a bit of surprise as it is possibly his most weird and anarchic one.
First of the plot, if there really is one, is quite unbelievable. A gangster and his weird companion, runs out of gas at a low tide coastline hear Lindisfarne castle in England (apparently the real location. Here lives lives an effiminate man and his hot young, but rather bipolar wife. As one of the gangsters choose to go for "help", he sort of ends up staying in the place and things "evolve" from there.
I had a hard time staying focused with this movie. It is literally all over the place and nothing really seems to make any deeper sense. That would not automatically tick it of as forgettable, but I do like to feel some sense of emotional attachment of some cinemotographical pleasing of the eye of some sort, to make it a worthwhile experience. I never really got that with this one.
If it is labelled as a sort of comment on "the chaos of modern world" something like that, I find it a bit too "obvious". I think that Polanski just wanted to create certain scenes in a semi gothic and claustrophobic environment, with a few sexual undertones added here and there. Polanski is no stranger to, lets say kinkier stuff. We do get the feminine man in a dress and lipstick plus the sexy wife getting an ass spanking by the rough gangster dude.
From a basic point of view there are some scenes that feel fresh in a sort of french new wave style (read "Jim & Jules" possibly), but it has this overall surrealist feel to it that I would love to experience on the paper, but which does not materialize in a way that engages me. At times there are spectacular and quite surprising compositions and effects and a clear sense of artistry and composition. But in the end I am left like --- meeh.
I will admit as much, that I might have had a slight "off day" while watching this. I am convinced that I will watch it some time again to get a "second opinion", but I am pretty sure I will never call this any kind of cinematic milestone. If you are really into Polanski it could probably be listed as a must watch but as an overall cinematic experience I would not call it a necessary viewing.