I think this
was Roman
first movie in English. I’d say it’s a good one to
start with if you like arty European movies and don’t want to
bother with subtitles. And if you don’t mind movies about mental illness.

The most artful aspect of the movie is the urban sounds. The
beginning of the movie is largely the interaction of Carol, the
main character, played by Catherine deNeuve, who is going mad, and her sister and a
coworker, who have their problems but are dealing with them. The
sister is clearly irritated by the trolley bell which is very loud
in the apartment she and Carol share, but after it passes, she
forgets about it. Carol tenses when it stops, and remains tense,
and then tenses more when the next irritation comes.

Another aspect that’s well done is the way the apartment
looks. One of Carol’s hallucinations is that giant cracks are
opening up in the walls. Of course, there are cracks that should
be fixed; there are ornate plaster ceiling medallions that might well come

Another very well done piece of acting is the smells. Of
course, even people like me who’ve just installed the latest in
home theater equipment don’t have smell-o-vision yet, but one of
the things that happens in this movie is that after her sister
leaves, Carol isn’t coping with anything at all. So she takes a
rabbit out of the refrigerator, and puts it down to answer the
phone, and never gets the ability to put it away. So of course it
attracts flies, which adds to the jangle of annoying sounds. But
after a while, everyone who comes into the apartment wrinkles
their nose in increasing horror, so you really do know how it smells.

If you don’t think too hard about the plot, this is a
remarkably good movie. Of course, someone who can’t put the
rabbit back in the refrigerator couldn’t really murder two
ordinarily fit men on the first try. So of course one of the
things to wonder about is whether that really happened, but if
not, why did the sister scream like that when she got home?

What version to watch

I put this on my Netflix list when the New York Times reviewed
the recent release of the Criterion edition. I have linked to the
blu-ray version, because that’s the one I watched, but I doubt
that this is a movie that particularly needs blu-ray. The extra
dots were probably good for watching plaster cracking, but the
sound (apparently originally in mono), was only mixed to stereo. So if you
don’t bother with director’s commentary (I didn’t), you may well be just as
well off with the $10
older transfer.

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