music friday: the corin tucker band, "neskowin"
my xmas story

rosemary's baby (roman polanski, 1968)

I’m not sure whether to call this a Request (a friend came over to watch a movie, I handed him several, he picked this one out of the pack), or a What I Watched (I haven’t had many this month, due to a variety of other things going on). So I’ll just give it a post of its own.

I’ve liked Roman Polanski’s movies for so long I can’t be sure Rosemary’s Baby was the first that got my attention. I saw his first feature, Knife in the Water, early on, and Repulsion as well, although I don’t think I liked that one very much when I first saw it (I’ve changed my mind over the years). Macbeth was the first time I was really impressed … I don’t know what I’d think if I saw it today, but in 1971, I thought it was the shit. One thing about Polanski is that while he’s had the usual ups and downs, he has retained the ability to make excellent movies, even as he approaches his 80s. (I’m a fan of at least two of his 21st-century films, The Pianist and The Ghost Writer.) And he has the truly loony The Tenant on his resume, along with his crowning achievement, Chinatown.

I don’t think Rosemary’s Baby fits amongst the top of the Polanski list, good as it is, but that reflects the handful of really good ones at the top. Rosemary’s Baby’s horror sneaks up on you in a very effective way, and I find Ruth Gordon much funnier here than in Harold and Maude, a movie I never much liked. Perhaps it’s that Gordon is ultimately malevolent in this one, which is about how I felt about her Maude (who was supposed to be a great free spirit). It’s appropriate that the movie takes its time, but it feels slow in the beginning, even if that’s the intention. Like Repulsion and The Tenant, Rosemary’s Baby is extremely claustrophobic, and also like those movies, it’s not entirely clear if the lead character is totally sane (even if their paranoia is justified). There’s plenty of ambiguity, which is a good thing.

It was accidental, but I kinda like that we watched this movie about the birth of the devil child so close to Xmas Day. It’s not really a Xmas movie, but I can’t watch Die Hard every year, can I? #209 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.