Venus in Fur | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Venus in Fur

A nesting doll of tales about man-woman sexual power dynamics

Roman Polanski adapts David Ives' award-winning stage play, a two-hander that mines and explores Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's eponymous novel — you know, from the guy who lent his name to the term "sadomasochism."

Unfolding in real time, a director (Mathieu Amalric) is packing up after unsuccessful auditions for his stage adaptation of Venus in Fur, when in strolls a disheveled actress (Emmanuelle Seigner). She begs to audition — she has even brought a fancy dress and other props. Soon the two are reading lines, re-working the script and shifting nimbly between play and life — because these individuals and this audition neatly mirror the sexual dynamics and power shifts of the source material.

It is stagey, but if you like this sort of thing — two actors circling, parrying, while expertly transitioning from text to meta-text — it's a fairly engrossing funhouse of words and ideas. It helps, of course, that the material is mildly provocative (though not as naughty as it once was, alas), and that there is a fair amount of humor. Amalric is good as the increasingly submissive director, and Seigner is sublime as several iterations of the titular Venus in fur.