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New on Video: ‘Tess’

Tess

Written by Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, and John Brownjohn

Directed by Roman Polanski

France/UK, 1979

Roman Polanski revealed an exceptional eye for gripping visual design in his earliest films. In those works, like Knife in the Water, Cul-de-sac, Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and, somewhat later, The Tenant, most of this pictorial construction was derivative of themes, and subsequent depictions of, confinement, claustrophobic paranoia, and severely taut antagonism. In terms of visual and narrative scope, Chinatown opened things up somewhat, but it was with Tess, his 1979 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” that Polanski significantly broadened his canvas to encompass the sweeping tale of the Victorian era loves and conflicts of this eponymous peasant girl.

Polanski speaks to this distinction during an interview in the newly released Criterion Collection Blu-ray/DVD of Tess. In discussing the film for the French TV program Cine regards, the director

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