Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) appears out of nowhere, born from thunder and lighting in the stormy opening moments of Venus in Fur . She arrives thanks to a long tracking shot that strolls through a rainy Parisian park before entering a desolate theater. Therein resides a smarmy stage director named Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) who's in the middle of casting the lead role in his version of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's 19th-century novel about sadomasochistic urges.
If Roman Polanski's adaptation of David Ives' famous play teaches us anything, it's how quickly we can embrace our basest desires. At first, Thomas looks down on Vanda, thinking her a brainless actor who knows nothing of the context surrounding his work. But as they begin reading scenes, he realizes that she's so much more than a voluptuous brunette seeking a part. Their interactions slyly begin to mirror those of the characters on the page, eventually merging reality and fiction to the point where one is indiscernible from the other.
This creates a delirious space for artistic battle, where creator (or adapter) and performer tangle over discrepancies in motivation and meaning. Themes such as power, control, rage and sensuality come into play, all rendered through the precise pacing of, and reading of, sensual dialogue.
"Conversation itself was erotic," says Thomas of the words spoken in the original 1870s piece, insinuating that every phrase carries with it a logistical weight and sexual explosiveness.
Unlike the self-serious Carnage , Polanski's previous foray into theatrical revisionism, Venus in Fur —which runs for one week starting Friday, July 11, at the Ken Cinema—feels unrestricted from the confines of most stage-to-screen adaptations. This openness acts as a distracting agent, masking a diabolical gender critique that reveals the sinister nature of passive-aggressiveness. Through her cagey ability to subvert the male gaze, Vanda serves a helping of comeuppance that Thomas won't soon forget.
Begin Again : When a forlorn singer / songwriter (Keira Knightley) breaks from her cheating superstar boyfriend (Adam Levine), she finds newfound success with a disgraced record executive (Mark Ruffalo) willing to take a chance on an unknown talent.
Le Chef : An aspiring chef faces off against a celebrity food star in this French comedy by director Daniel Cohen.
Coherence : A group of old friends gets together for a dinner party, only to see the night descend into chaos after a comet creates a disturbing celestial phenomenon.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes : Ten years after a virus outbreak pitted apes against men, the two factions forge a fragile peace that's tested by fear and aggression. It's directed by Matt Reeves ( Cloverfield ) and stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis.
Hellion : A delinquent teenager and his haggard father (Aaron Paul) must get their act together in order to convince social workers to reunite their family. Screens through July 16 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Hidden Universe : Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Venus in Fur : Roman Polanski adapts David Ives' sultry play about an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) trying to convince a director (Mathieu Amalric) that she's perfect for a role. Screens through July 17 at the Ken Cinema.
One time only
And So it Goes : Michael Douglas stars as a egomaniac Realtor who's suddenly tasked with taking care of his estranged grandchildren. Directed by Rob Reiner and co-starring Diane Keaton, it's presented by the New York Film Critics Circle with a taped Q&A to be projected after the movie. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
A Hard Day's Night : The Beatles play rambunctious versions of themselves in Richard Lester's iconic 1964 movie musical. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10, and 11 a.m. Sunday, July 13, at Reading Gaslamp and Grossmont Center cinemas.
Sharknado : The Rifftrax team skewers the ridiculously awful horror film about a shark invasion that terrorizes Los Angeles during a hurricane. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at various theaters. Visit fathomevents.com for details.
Niagara : Tempers come to a boil when two couples visit Niagara Falls and the tension between one husband and his wife spins out of control. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 10 and 11, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Cartas de Sorolla : A portrait of Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla, who constantly sent letters to his wife while completing a commission for the Hispanic Society of America. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, July 11, at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Rebecca : Alfred Hitchcock's first American film delves into the psyche of a fragile new bride who's tormented by the memory of her husband's deceased ex-wife. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Room : Imagine you spent millions of dollars on equipment to make the worst movie ever. Screens at midnight on Saturday, July 12, at the Ken Cinema.
Her : In the future, you might fall in love with an operating system. Who needs flesh and bone? Screens at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 13, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
The Pretty One : Laurel idolizes her twin sister, and when tragedy strikes, she gets a chance to change her life forever. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 14, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Blood and Sand : Tyrone Power plays a bullfighter who rises to fame from poverty, only to fall equally hard from grace. Screens at 8 p.m. Monday, July 14, in the May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Robot & Frank : An ex-jewel thief living in the near future receives a robot butler as a gift, only to find an unlikely cohort and companion. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, at Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
48 Hour Film Festival screenings: Watch the latest crop of mini-masterpieces produced from the rigorous two-day filmmaking competition. Screens at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, through Thursday, July 17, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Daughters of Dolma : Documentary about the lives and religious pursuits of Buddhist nuns living in Tibet. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Jaws : Every summer, this film reminds people why swimming is a potentially deadly activity. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, at Wavehouse in Pacific Beach.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy : Stay classy, San Diego. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Point Loma's Liberty Station.
Grand Piano : The worst malady for a concert pianist has to be stage fright, and Elijah Wood's impresario suffers from it mightily. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Pete Seeger: A Song and a Stone : A portrait of legendary folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger, who spent decades fighting against the Vietnam War, pollution and inequality. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
America : From the mastermind behind 2016: Obama's America comes another hyperbolic documentary that imagines a scenario where the United States lost the Revolutionary War and America did not come to exist.
Deliver Us From Evil : A New York City police officer (Eric Bana) and an unconventional Catholic priest (Edgar Ramirez) team up to solve a series of supernatural crimes terrorizing the city.
Earth to Echo : The found-footage film has finally found its way to the children's-sci-fi genre in this adventure about an alien who recruits a group of friends to help it return home. I'm sure E.T. is suing for copyright infringement.
Los Insolitos Peces Gatos ( The Amazing Catfish ): A young woman meets a sickly matriarch in the hospital, only to become close with her family after embarking on a road trip together. Ends July 10 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Life Itself : A documentary portrait of Roger Ebert, legendary film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times who revolutionized television with his popular review show with Gene Siskel.
Snowpiercer : In a frozen post-apocalyptic future, the only human survivors live aboard a high-speed train with distinct class boundaries and brutal restrictions. A revolt by the impoverished tail section threatens to shift the balance of power.
Born to be Wild : Morgan Freeman narrates this IMAX adventure that follows the lives of elephants and orangutans from birth to their time in the wild. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Tammy : Melissa McCarthy stars as a fast-food employee who hits the road with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) after losing her job and leaving her husband.
Yves Saint Laurent : Biopic about the famed French fashion designer who battled addiction during his rise to fame in the late 1950s.
Citizen Koch : Documents the trail of campaign funding behind the Tea Party's rise to power. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Korengal : Taking unused footage from his previous film, Restrepo , Sebastian Junger looks even deeper at the fighting men waging war in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Ends July 10 at the Ken Cinema.
Third Person : A successful writer (Liam Neeson) going through a mid-life crisis begins writing his next book only to find his novel splitting off in different directions.
Transformers: Age of Extinction : Boom!
Under the Electric Sky : Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz take viewers behind the scenes of the Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest dance-music event in North America. Screens at AMC Mission Valley.
Violette : Emmanuelle Devos stars as a woman who befriends Simone de Beauvoir, inciting an intense relationship based on the quest for freedom. Ends July 10 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Jersey Boys : Clint Eastwood adapts the popular Broadway play about the rise of musical group The Four Seasons.
Obvious Child : A sassy stand-up comedienne gets dumped by her loser boyfriend and then has a one-night stand with a stranger, which results in an unwanted pregnancy.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon : Directed by actor Mike Myers and Beth Aala, this documentary goes inside the crazy life of Hollywood insider Shep Gordon.
Think Like a Man Too : Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy once again star in a mosaic of couples behaving badly, this time set in Las Vegas. It's a sequel to the 2012 comedy Think Like a Man .
22 Jump Street : Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return for more violent shenanigans as undercover cops trying to expose a drug ring at a local college.
The Grand Seduction : Residents of a small harbor town try to woo a hot-shot young doctor with hopes of convincing him to relocate to their rural haven.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 : Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless encounter new challenges while trying to bring their species together in harmony.
Edge of Tomorrow : Tom Cruise dies a thousand times in order to find the right info about an alien attack that will destroy Earth. It co-stars a very buff Emily Blunt.
The Fault in Our Stars : In a dramedy starring Shailene Woodley ( Divergent ), from the writers of (500) Days of Summer , young love is tested when a cancer-stricken teenager falls for her witty foil despite her serious illness.
Words and Pictures : Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star as rival teachers who spark a competition between their students involving the importance of photography and prose.
Ida : Anna, 18, is about to become a nun in 1960s Poland. But a family secret dating back to the days of Nazi occupation threatens her faith. It's directed by acclaimed filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski.
Maleficent : Angelina Jolie stars as the infamous sorceress who sets her sights on the nubile young Princess Aurora in this big-budget reboot of Sleeping Beauty .
Blended : Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore try to rekindle their box-office magic with this fish-out-of-water comedy about dumb Americans causing havoc while on vacation in Africa.
X-Men: Days of Future Past : The latest installment of the popular Marvel franchise finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going back in time to recruit his colleagues' younger selves in order to save mankind from the evil Sentinels.
Belle : An illegitimate, mixed-race daughter (of a Navy admiral) being raised by aristocrats finds herself in a precarious social position in Victorian England.
Chef : Jon Favreau returns to comedy filmmaking with this story of a well-respected chef who opens a food truck after being fired by a posh restaurateur.
Million Dollar Arm : On a mission to find the next baseball phenom in the unlikeliest of places, a sports agent (Jon Hamm) travels to India in hopes of convincing talented cricket players to play American baseball.
Neighbors : A newly relocated couple can't enjoy their beautiful new residence after a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Every homeowner's worst nightmare comes true .
The Grand Budapest Hotel : Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson's latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters. Ends July 10 at the Ken Cinema.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Mysteries of the Unseen World : This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.