It is the first film made by The Pianist director Polanski, who is wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl, since 2019’s An Officer and a Spy.
On Saturday (2 September), The Palace premiered at Venice, where it was universally panned by critics.
At the time of writing, the 90-year-old film maker’s comedy has a rare zero per cent score on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes based on 10 reviews.
In a savage zero-star review forThe Times, critic Kevin Maher branded the film Polanski’s “latest and worst opus, an eye-scorching atrocity that is instantly one of the most egregious film-making failures of the year, possibly even the decade”.
“It’s so conspicuously bad, and so wilfully anti-cinematic – there’s not a single shot that looks like it was filmed with intent or meaning – that it only makes sense as an act of vengeance on behalf of a veteran director lashing out at a mainstream industry from which he has been essentially ostracised,” he wrote.
“To see it as a genuine attempt at coherent comedy film-making is almost unthinkable.”
The Palace received a one-star review fromThe Guardian’s Xan Brooks, who wrote: “The Palace is horrible: tacky and joyless, fatally confusing sexual disgust with arousal.”
An equally damning one-star review came from Jo-Ann Titmarsh, who wrote inEvening Standard that The Palace is “a film so dire that the filmmaker can no longer be defended because of his genius”.
“That the man who brought us The Pianist and Chinatown… could come to this is genuinely upsetting,” she wrote. “Critics were leaving the screening traumatised by what they had just seen. Reader, I sat through this film until the bitter end because it’s my job. You are under no obligation to do so.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin echoed this, writing that The Palace is “easily the worst film in [Polanski’s] career”.
Owen Gleiberman wrote in Variety: “As any critic will tell you, when you’re watching a comedy with an audience, it doesn’t matter how bad the movie is – even the jokes that are making you groan are going to provoke laughter.
“But at the Venice Film Festival, when I saw The Palace… it was literally coming from about six people. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a giant theatre this deadly silent for a movie that’s working this strenuously to amuse you.”
The Independent has contacted Polanski’s representatives and production company Eliseo Entertainment for comment.
In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor”, but fled the US to avoid sentencing.
In November 2019, he was accused of rape by actor Valentine Monnier, who claimed that Polanski assaulted her in 1975 when she was 18 years old. Polanski “absolutely denied” the allegations by Monnier.
In 2020, Polanski said that “activists are threatening me with a public lynching” after protests were made at the César Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars). Polanski’s film An Officer and a Spy was nominated for 12 awards.
His win for Best Director prompted walkouts from Portrait of a Ladyon Fire director Celine Sciamma and star Adele Haenel, the latter of whom shouted “shame” as she left the room.
Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.
If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673)