For an admirer of his greatest work, writing a couple of new film by Roman Polanski is like going through a minefield of unsolvable questions: Can this movie be judged just like the others given the director’s felony report and tarnished popularity? Is it doable to reward a murals if sure components of an artist’s life are reprehensible, or ought to the 2 be separated? Ought to Polanski nonetheless be allowed to make films? Ought to this film even be written about?
These questions can be more durable to reply if Polanski, who’s now 90, made one thing on the extent of say, Chinatown or Rosemary’s Child. And even one thing like The Tenant or Frantic or Repulsion or his debut function, Knife within the Water, which got here out over 60 years in the past and earned him his first Oscar nomination.
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However the director’s newest, The Palace, leaves little room for ambiguity. It’s the worst factor he’s ever made — or in any case the worst movie this critic has ever seen by him. (I’ve solely missed a few titles in his filmography, which now counts 23 options.)
Set in a Swiss Alps resort on New 12 months’s Eve, 1999, this complete misfire of an ensemble comedy encompasses a troupe of hideous wealthy folks welcoming within the new millennium with champagne, fireworks and a cart stuffed with all-you-can eat caviar. Polanski then serves them up vomit, piss, canine shit, a male porn star’s busted nostril, a lifeless Texas billionaire with an eternal erection, and a lot cosmetic surgery that he could must open his personal clinic to deal with the forged — together with Mickey Rourke, who performs the most important a-hole of all of them.
Maybe dumping on the 1% is a approach for the director to absolve himself within the public eye, specializing in characters who’re approach worse than many individuals understand him to be. It’s most likely the one excuse to be made for this grotesque and forgettable movie, which premiered in Venice solely 4 years after the director received an enormous prize right here with An Officer and a Spy — a sturdy historic thriller that doubled as a veiled critique of Polanski’s quite a few detractors.
There’s no such subtext in The Palace, which as a comedy isn’t humorous, though it tries very onerous to be — going as far as to insert a computer-generated penguin for laughs. (As a result of penguins are humorous, proper?) The director wrote the script with Ewa Piaskowska and former co-scribe Jerzy Skolimowski (EO), who penned Knife within the Water, however the three of them are completely tone-deaf in relation to jokes.
Is a scene of French actress Fanny Ardant passing out after her chihuahua drops a load on her mattress meant to be hilarious? What concerning the one the place the canine discovers her vibrator in entrance of the resort plumber? Or when John Cleese’s character asks his a lot youthful spouse (Bronwyn James) for oral intercourse after giving her a priceless Chopard necklace? Or when the illegitimate Czech son (Danny Exnar) of Rourke’s fraudulent cash grubber, Invoice Crush, reveals up on the resort along with his total household and is humiliated within the foyer? Or how concerning the band of Russian oligarch gangsters celebrating Putin’s sudden rise to energy (introduced by Boris Yeltsin on dwell tv) whereas their blond girlfriends wrestle within the subsequent room?
There are heaps extra such comedian gems in The Palace — that’s if you happen to choose your jokes served up like poop on a platter (one more gag involving Ardant’s devoted little companion.) Not that Polanski has been completely allergic to laughs: Lots of his movies, together with a few of his greatest, have showcased a darkish and surreal model of humor — suppose, for instance, of all of the depraved stuff that occurs to Nicholson’s Jake Gittes in Chinatown. However the director has by no means tried to make a straight comedy apart from the seldom seen What? and the cheeky horror spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers, which, in comparison with this film, is like Ernst Lubitsch meets Billy Wilder meets Charlie Chaplin, all of them on their greatest days.
The Palace can be meant to be an upstairs-downstairs social satire, and it’s true that the resort employees, lead by the hardworking and considerate Hansueli (Oliver Masucci, who appears like Mads Mikkelsen with much less of a chin), are all redeemable characters in comparison with the terrible folks they serve. However they’re neither humorous nor fascinating, they usually spend the complete film getting yelled at by their rich company.
Shot by loyal DP Pawel Edelman and playfully scored by Alexandre Desplat, the story takes place within the elite Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, the place Polanski has been holed up at numerous factors in his life since fleeing the USA in 1978. He definitely has a low opinion of the individuals who frequent that place, and it might have made extra sense if The Palace closed with them being burned alive in a Y2K-induced hearth.
As an alternative, we get a somewhat haunting set of photographs towards the tip, when everybody goes as much as the roof to look at the New 12 months’s Eve fireworks explode over the Alps, ringing within the new century with a blast. Polanski cuts forwards and backwards between the pyrotechnics and his depressing set of moneybags as they watch the present in awe, their botoxed faces illuminated by numerous pink and blue flashes.
It’s like watching a portray by Hieronymus Bosch, and it’s a despairing imaginative and prescient to go away us with. (Although — SPOILER ALERT — the movie’s closing shot is of the chihuahua having rear intercourse with the penguin. No joke.) If this winds up being Polanski’s final effort, then it’s too unhealthy to finish a profession that features a few of recent cinema’s biggest works with one thing so outright dismal. The director has by no means had an uplifting imaginative and prescient of life, however The Palace not solely reveals a wealthy man’s world turned to crap — it’s principally a crap film.