The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 6-12

05/06/2015 9:00 AM |


Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Directed by Roman Polanski
When Rosemary’s Baby first came out, Roger Ebert found it a “brooding, macabre film.” Today, the macabre sheen of this story about a young couple, Rosemary and Guy (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes), who are taken under the spell of an Upper West Side Satanic cult, may have worn off a bit. Still, DP William A. Fraker films the Dakota Building, where the elderly, nosey, witchy neighbors manipulate the young parents-to-be, as a spooky Edgar Allan Poe playhouse: splendor easily gives way to decay, a closet doubles as a door, and nothing or no one is what you expect. For a horror film, Polanski’s storytelling is exceedingly delicate, as is the sparingly used sublime music by Krzysztof Komeda. There are hints of Satanic madness, but the film can also be read as a parable of what’s most sinister about motherhood and marriage. Rosemary’s Baby is steeped in the social mores of the 1950s and 60s, with Farrow as a submissive, waifish wife and Cassavetes as a wholesome brute, who ruthlessly trades his wife’s suffering for his success in show biz. The potion-induced rape is so real we can’t forget that Polanski also gave us Repulsion (1965) with Catherine Deneuve, another film that trades heavily on a woman’s annihilation of the self. In Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski’s playing off of Farrow’s virginal dresses against the Dakota’s murky closets and musty hallways, with just enough hints at Rosemary’s psychic torment to translate domestic bliss into otherworldly terror, is the real scare. Ela Bittencourt (May 10, 4pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Horror Mother’s Day”)