Movies about/starring women. I originally started this list just as a reference for myself, but hopefully others will find it…
As timely today as the day it was written.
This multiple-Oscar-winning film by Roman Polanski is an exquisite, richly layered adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. A strong-willed peasant girl (Nastassja Kinski, in a gorgeous breakthrough) is sent by her father to the estate of some local aristocrats to capitalize on a rumor that their families are from the same line. This fateful visit commences an epic narrative of sex, class, betrayal, and revenge, which Polanski unfolds with deliberation and finesse. With its earthy visual textures, achieved by two world-class cinematographers—Geoffrey Unsworth (Cabaret) and Ghislain Cloquet (Au hasard Balthazar)—Tess is a work of great pastoral beauty as well as vivid storytelling.
Among the many films that Roman Polanski has made as a director which include classics like Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, the one I would consider my favourite is a particularly lesser-known effort from him, and that film is none other than his period piece Tess. Whereas it is not the same style that we may already know Polanski to follow within his body of work, the very reason I find that it stands out among all his others is how much heart it has for anything directed by him, as it is indeed a project that meant so much to him personally. And those are only small factors in defining why I see it as my favourite of Polanski's.
Review In A Nutshell:
When one hears the name Roman Polanski, most would recall titles like Chinatown, The Pianist, The Ghost Writer, Rosemary's Baby, The Knife in the Water, or The Tenant. For me, the titles that appear in my mind are Tess, Frantic, Macbeth, and Rosemary's Baby (because this one is damn impressive); even if they are lesser than the previously mentioned. I recall these films because they contain either a set of cinematographic beauty or a compelling leading character that stays with you long after they end; it does not matter if their screenplays are inferior to Polanski's other works.
Tess is an adaptation of…
It was around the point when Nastassja Kinski reclined on the ancient polystyrene rocks of Stonehenge that I thought, "This should be a mess, surely?" An adaptation of an English novel set in a fictional county shot in France, directed by a Pole and starring a German, Tess has all the ingredients of an incoherent, flavourless Europudding. What emerges is one of Roman Polanski's most serious, deeply felt works, and a truly powerful, faithful rendition of Thomas Hardy's novel and ideas.
Polanski goes for a retro-epic flavour right from the very start, opening with the full credits in the style of a 1940s movie. This isn't just an affectation, though. Polanski puts them there so the viewer can't walk out…
"Rest at last." - Tess
"Tess" is a captivating story of the tragic life that combines beautiful cinematography with Roman Polanski cynicism. This film is deeply personal to Roman Polanski for two reasons. First, the film is dedicated to Sharon Tate, his first wife who was brutally murdered by the Manson Family, who suggested that he make a film on the book. The grace of the film is a testament to his love of his deceased wife. Second, Polanski was inspired by the peasant society he witnessed in the countryside as a Polish-Jewish child on the run during the Holocaust.
The cinematography is breathtaking, especially considering that the original cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth died three weeks into the shoot having only…
Roman Polanski's epic period piece earns every minute of its 3 hour run-time with delicate pacing, beautiful 'magic hour' cinematography and fine performances across the board, particularly from a young Nastassja Kinski (even if her accent was a bit iffy at times). Whilst the film's narrative is dense and dour, Polanski ensures that he never betrays the tone of Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' in his screen adaptation, and causes one to reflect on the plight of the female in an era where it was very difficult to maintain agency over their own body in an unjust society. A visually poetic and enchanting piece that grapples with some weighty themes and deserves a place amongst his finest works.
Roman Polanski's Tess is, without a doubt, the greatest costume drama I have ever seen. Ghislain Cloquet and Geoffrey Unsworth's Academy Award-winning Cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. I find that a lot of the costume dramas are in your face with the beauty that is being displayed. Some even feel like they are more focused on the look of the film instead of the film itself. Tess is not one of those films. Tess manages to capture the Victorian Period that we are in with beautiful imagery and keep a tight, focused narrative. Unlike most costume dramas, Tess is never boring, even though it has a three-hour runtime. Nastassja Kinski is absolutely fantastic in the title role. Many have compared her performance to Ingrid Bergman, and I could not agree more. Tess is Roman Polanski's masterpiece.
beautiful and complete. all done so well. though the music was distracting, should have been understated at all times. does run long, but so did hardy.
Roman "lock up your underage daughters" Polanski shows his class recreating the countryside of pre-pre-Brexit England and populating it with a cad, an idiot, and the ravishing Nastassja Kinski, hopefully of age and capable of defending herself against the director's many suggestions to "work on the script some more tonight in my combi van". Beautifully shot, with a couple stockings over the lens for good measure.
Roman Polanski's Tess, an adaptation of Hardy's tragic story of the life of Tess, is dedicated to Sharon Tate and staring Klaus Kinski's daughter, Nastassja, who Polanski allegedly became involved with while she was just 15.
Absolutely magnificent. As much as it represents a change for Polanski, I think it is propelled by the same neuroses that informed films like Cul-de-sac or Chinatown or the Apartment Trilogy - Feelings of entrapment, paranoia, sexual and emotional frustration, sexual and emotional abuse, broken familial bonds. Tess is more about grand, graceful sorrow than it is the sorts of messy, claustrophobic terror that characterized Polanski's earlier masterpieces, but ultimately just as haunting. Despite being an adaptation of a classic novel, it is still highly personal, fraught with echoes of Polanski's tumultuous past, of Sharon Tate (to whom the film is dedicated) and of Samantha Gailey. For this reason as much as for the impeccable filmmaking on display, Tess is a rich and complex work, a pristine period drama brimming with delicate imagery, the golden glow of the magic hour a fitting match for the fragility on display.
Had a conversation after a recent screening of Old Joy regarding films adapted from short stories versus novels, and how the former often lend themselves more easily to adaptation. That may be an incorrectly skewed view of things, but it's a perception that likely has a lot to do with the number of stuffy literary adaptations that fail to translate much, if any of the qualities that make the original work so singular. Haven't read Hardy's novel, but it's difficult to imagine a more well-realized vision than Polanski's. It's lush and expansive in all the right places, and yet impressively terse and restrained as needed. (The elisions of the screenwriters are fascinating to me. In particular, the fact that…
holy fuck......... I literally hate all men
The film reflected much of the novel with some trivial and bad parts removed. The loss of innocence and gain of revenge as the main character's development on her way to her impending doom was unfortunate yet expected.
Tess, I must confess... I could care less.
Polanski is hitting the beats of a romance story, and knows the mechanics of a film like this, but it all feels forced and awfully phony.
The definitive film adaptation of Hardy's feminist masterwork.
[after his parents have left, thinking he is ill] "They bought it. Incredible! One of the worst performances of my…
UPDATED: June 23, 2016
The Criterion Collection is a video distribution company that sells "important classic and contemporary films" in…