Few films have depicted the descent into madness with as much sheer nightmarish brio as Roman Polanski’s 1965 Repulsion, in which the young Catherine Deneuve spends a long weekend trapped in a London apartment with a decaying rabbit (originally intended for dinner), a straight-edge razor (her sister’s boyfriend’s) and umpteen sexual neuroses (her own). Replete with surreal set pieces—giant cracks suddenly appearing in walls; Deneuve being groped by a gauntlet of disembodied hands—this superlative psychological horror movie does a jittery tap-dance on your nervous system, building to an ambiguously revelatory final shot that’s never yet failed to make every hair on my body stand on end.
Criterion released Repulsion on laserdisc in 1994, and their belated DVD includes the same commentary track featuring Polanski and Deneuve; the former is surprisingly self-critical, repeatedly pointing out errors he wouldn’t make today (or 15 years ago, anyway). But the real treasure among the extras is a 21-minute contemporaneous documentary made for French television, which includes copious footage of Polanski actually shooting key scenes on the London set. Watching him demonstrate to Yvonne Furneaux (playing Deneuve’s sister) precisely how she should walk through a doorway reveals more about the director’s hands-on working method than hours of commentary or interviews possibly could.