Wednesday, June 1, 2016

100 Best Horror Movies Ever: Repulsion

I’ve seen Repulsion several times before – it’s one of my favorite classic horror movies; I even have the poster hanging in my house. But it was while watching the film with the intent of writing this post that I became plagued with the question: Am I doing something wrong?

Immoral, I mean. Because although I knew basically nothing about Roman Polanski the first time I saw one of his movies, it’s impossible for me to plead ignorance today. It’s impossible to stick your head in the sand and pretend you don’t know he is a rapist, a coward who fled the U.S. to avoid paying for his crime, and basically just an asshole living what is surely a beautiful life abroad that he absolutely does not deserve.

And yet.

I happen to think he’s an incredible artist.

I’m generally a believer in separating the art from the artist. Frankly, I don’t think we would have a lot of the amazing art we do if we boycotted all the artists who also happen to be bad people in some measure. As Jay Parini wrote in the New York Times article, “The Polanski Uproar”:

There are many examples in history — too many — of great artists who were terribly flawed human beings, behaving very badly and hurting those around them. If anything, audiences easily make this distinction. Nobody looks at a Picasso painting in a museum and says, “I should not take this work seriously because Picasso cheated on his many wives and was abusive to his son.”

I think some great artistic geniuses are also dramatically cruel people. I think there are probably even more artists we all enjoy who are hiding horrific secrets that may or may not ever come out (that's the cynic in me, and it is strong). But selfishly, I suppose, I still want to be able to consume their art. I still think their art adds something rich and vital to the world, even if the artist himself takes away from it in other ways.

Of course, I respect anyone who doesn’t share this view with me (although I can’t say I respect those who wish to censor art or stop others from consuming it for any reason… but that’s a different conversation). And I recognize that in today’s world, where the art and artist are more publicly entwined than ever before, it’s getting harder and harder to make that separation. It’s why I don’t own any copies of Polanski’s films, much as I’d like to – because I want to contribute as little as possible to the inoculated life he’s currently allowed to lead.

Anyway, that’s just my little rumination on the subject, though there’s so much more to be said. Horror is all about confronting the ugliest facets of life, about not shying away from what’s unsightly and difficult. I think we should all endeavor to do that when necessary. Regardless of your opinion, you should have the backbone to face the issue.

As always, you can follow my 100 Best Horror Movies Ever Challenge by clicking this tag.

Next up will be Don't Look Now.

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