For his second film in a row, director Roman Polanski has adapted a Tony Award-winning play for the screen. "Venus in Fur" is more successful than his last attempt, the disappointing "Carnage" (a letdown despite a killer cast featuring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly).

For his second film in a row, director Roman Polanski has adapted a Tony Award-winning play for the screen. “Venus in Fur” is more successful than his last attempt, the disappointing “Carnage” (a letdown despite a killer cast featuring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly).

Like “Carnage,” “Venus” is a very simple production with a sharp focus on its actors. Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is a stage director who is alone in a theater lamenting his inability to find a suitable lead for his new play. “She doesn’t exist. I mean, a sexy young woman with classical training and a scrap of brain in her skull?” Yes, Thomas is established as sexist in his first line.

Then Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) enters from the street, as a fast-talking gum-chomping actress eager to prove she’s perfect for the lead role.

The shift of power that plays out over the next 90 minutes makes for fascinating cinema, as Vanda and Thomas interact both through his play and the peripheral bickering over its content.

Almaric — who is not coincidentally a Polanski lookalike — is solid as the sometimes sniveling director, but the film belongs to Seigner, who’s onscreen evolution makes a delightful cat-and-mouse game.

Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects