At Cannes, Polański raised controversy. Critics have praised the director's formal mastery whilst asking where to draw the line between autobiography and irony.
Venus in Fur's protagonist is a playwright-director frustrated in his search for the right actress for his play based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 book Venus in Furs. Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) complains about the untalented candidates he has auditioned - none seems right for the role of a woman making a deal with a man to be her slave.
The film didn't win the Palme d'Or, but it did engage the interest of critics. Reviews range from poor to excellent, however the general consensus is that Polański himself is as charismatic and scandalous as ever.
American reporters have given scarce but positive reviews to the infamous maker of Venus in Fur. Scott Foundas of Variety magazine calls the film a ''playful and literate rumination on the fine line between passion and perversity, pleasure and pain, life and art''. On the other side of the Atlantic, Robbie Collin refers to Polański' s film in The Telegraph as "a lively comedy of sex and power," and adds: "Essentially, this is a simple S&M story and so the line between truth and performance is where its most electric drama takes place. Polanski muddles that boundary with aplomb" .
French critics have given mixed reviews. Olivier Delcroix writes in Le Figaro that ''Venus's furs are fake and will not fool anyone in the jury'', while Jacques Mandelbaum writes in Le Monde that Venus in Fur is ''an admirable movie, inventive, sparkling with intelligence, insolence, and courage''. Meanwhile, Polish critics are more enthusiastic. Marcin Pietrzyk of Filmweb writes: ''One room. Two actors. It's enough to make a masterpiece. Roman Polański is back on top of Mount Olympus, where he hasn't been for many, many years.'' Tadeusz Sobolewski of Gazeta Wyborcza calls Polański 's film one of the best of this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Polański is known for scouting Broadway for cinematic inspiration. He adapted Yasmin Reza's play The God of Carnage into the film Carnage in 2011. Venus in Fur is an adaptation of David Ives' play that was co-written by the playwright and Polański. The play was inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in Furs (the writer's name gave rise to the term "masochist"), which ran as a two-person play set in contemporary times. It premiered Off-Broadway at the Classic Stage Company in 2010, and transfered to Broadway in 2011. Nina Arianda and Wes Bentley played the original roles, directed by Walter Bobbie, with Hugh Dancy taking over the male lead for the transfer to Broadway. The play received a Tony Best Play nomination in 2011, Nina Arianda won the 2011-12 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, and Hugh Dancy was nominated for the Best Actor Tony for his performance as the playwright-director.
"I’ve been looking for a chance to make a film in French with Emmanuelle for a long time", Polański said in a statement picked up by the Hollywood Reporter. "Reading Venus in Fur, I realized the moment had arrived." Steven Zeitchik writes for the L.A. Times that "The Venus movie will bring a certain meta quality: a well-known director will direct his actress-wife in a movie about a director in a complicated relationship with an actress."
The Franco-Polish co-production features stars of French cinema. Vanda is played by Emmanuelle Seigner, Roman Polański 's wife, known for films such as Frantic, Bitter Moon and The Ninth Gate. The director is cast as Mathieu Amalric, one of the greatest French actors of the day. Amalric has won three Cesar Awards for his roles in the films My Sex Life...or How I Got Into an Argument and Kings and Queen by Arnaud Desplechin, as well as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Julian Schnabel. He became known to a wider audience with his roles in Marc Foster's Quantum of Solace and Steven Spielberg's Munich.
Pawel Edelman, who worked on set with Polański during The Pianist, Oliver Twist, Ghost Writer and Carnage, was behind the cameras. The film will be co-produced by the Polish company Monolith, which will also be the distributor.
Source: press releases, Variety, The Telegraph, Le Figaro, Le Monde, IMDb, Filmweb, Gazeta Wyborcza
Editor: MJ, LB