Director: Roman Polanski

U.S.A.-France| 1988. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 120 mins.

The first line of Frantic is: ‘Do you know where you are?’ It is a pregnant query in any Polanski film as the director swoops on characters at the precise point when their lives are about to drift awry. In this case the answer is Paris, remembered fondly as the setting for his honeymoon by a doctor (Harrison Ford) attending an international conference. However, he will shortly be plunged into an unknown and incomprehensible Paris when his wife is mysteriously kidnapped. If the film never quite delivers on the suspense premise of its opening (a fine example of Polanski’s declared preference for a dramatic situation where there is ‘an extremely realistic setting in which there is something that does not fit with the real’), this is still immaculate filmmaking, with the compressed time element and ‘satisfyingly unsatisfying’ ending characteristic of the director, and a circular structure that obliquely suggests the narrative as the husband’s subconscious yearning for a return to a life of excitement. In a daring rebuff to his usual macho persona, Harrison Ford is unsteady on his feet, needs the help of a young female (Emmanuelle Seigner, the future Mrs. Polanski) and is a man whose acts of assertion invariably turn into cameos of social embarrassment. Frantic this film is not; fascinating it is.

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