|La la la laaaa la la la la la....
Let me start at the end, for Rosemary's Baby's is perfect. I love it because I hate it so much, because I should have seen it coming (that Polanski!), because a part of me did see it coming but hoped for the best, because I fell in love with Rosemary.
Certainly if there's a film that puts you completely in the headspace of its protagonist, Rosemary's Baby is it. Farrow is in every scene; I believe the only shots without her are from her P.O.V. We, too, doubt what is real and what is a nightmare; we, too, delude ourselves into thinking that she's going to have it under control. And so that ending, inevitable though it may be, causes the floor to just drop out from under you. I swear I felt my heart sink. It's not just that she's impossibly beautiful, or that hurts to see innocence like that lost, to see a good Catholic girl put through all that. No, it's that Farrow makes Rosemary such a lively, relatable person -- not a character, but a human being. It's probably the best thing I've ever seen from Farrow, and I was already a fan.
Then there's Ruth Gordon, who won the Oscar for her portrayal of loud, nosy, elderly Minnie Castevets, Rosemary's neighbor. I'm reminded of when Goldie Hawn told Taraji P. Henson that a great supporting actress is one that, every time she re-appears, we realize we've missed. That's Gordon here. Every time she appeared on screen, I got excited, and I have to say it's mostly due the wonderful characterization she brings. I lived near and worked in Boca Raton, Florida, for 22 years -- do you know how many Minnies, how many elderly, shrieking, kindly-yet-badgering, nosy, heavily-made-up, New Yarrrrk biddies I've known? ALL OF THEM. While the makeup and costumes certainly help, Gordon's whole physicality is perfect. My absolute favorite shot of the film has Guy bringing the Castevets over to congratulate Rosemary on her pregnancy:
|"Naaaaaaaoooooowwwww, that'th what I kawl gud nyooooth!!!"
Minnie enters first, raising her fists triumphantly before moving in for the embrace, all in one smooth glide. It's a very typical reaction that becomes unsettling when put into full context. It's this same familiar approach throughout the film that makes Minnie such an intriguing character.
Let me not solely credit Farrow and Gordon for this, though. Polanski's kept everything grounded in reality. The cinematography isn't distractingly Spooky, the decor and costumes are not overly-stylized to emphasize Good and Evil, the actors aren't playing wizened or sinister. While the score is the only indication of any eerie-ness, it bookends the film with a tender lullaby. Polanski comforts us with the familiar before invading our space with his witches and demons. It makes the horror more palpable, and worse -- more possible. It can happen here!
Because that's what horror is, isn't it? The familiar becoming strange? John Carpenter's The Thing isn't just horrifying for the effects, but for the idea that the people you're surrounded by twenty-four hours a day are not who you think they are. The Elm Street movies are popular because you can no longer escape in your dreams. The original Black Christmas posits that even at home under police surveillance, you are not safe.
And ahead of the pack is the film that made us believe that it's not the weird neighbors we need to worry about. Spooky, kinky, haunting: Rosemary's Baby is a masterpiece. Five out of five black cats.
|And ten out of ten Castevet Curls