Adapted by Polanski and playwright David Ives from his 2011 Tony Award-winning Broadway play, Venus in Fur tells the story of an actress (Polanski’s real-life wife, Emmanuelle Seigner) determined to land the lead in a new play based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s classic novel of erotic masochism, Venus in Furs, and does so by disrupting and eventually dominating an audition with the play’s director (Mathieu Almaric, a French actor best known to American audiences as the villain in the 2008 James Bond film, Quantum of Solace). Playing out in real time over the course of 95 minutes, the actress and director engage in escalating masochistic games of cat and mouse that become increasingly blurred in fantasy, seduction, and power.
Venus in Fur had its world premiere at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and was picked up for U.S. release by independent film distributor, Sundance Selects. Word of mouth about the film has been good, but without recognizable stars in its cast and adapted from a play largely unfamiliar to those outside of metropolitan cities, the American boxoffice prospects for Venus in Fur lie squarely on Roman Polanski’s name and reputation (a controversial prospect, to say the least). With the help of positive critical response and bookings in big city arthouses, Venus in Fur is the kind of prestige film that could make a good showing for itself if released in the late fall or close to Hollywood’s award season. And then, of course, there’s always the option of cable television, which seems to be were all the risk-taking in film seems to be happening these days.
Venus in Fur is 79-year-old Roman Polanki’s 20th feature film.