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The Palace review – Roman Polanski’s tacky hotel farce is the worst party in town

Venice film festival: Set in a hotel on New Year’s eve in 1999, this dismal comedy finds room for John Cleese, Mickey Rourke and ***** Ardant, but you’ll want to run for the hills

You may need a stiff drink to get through the entirety of Roman Polanski’s new film; you may find you need several – whatever dulls the pain. Playing out of competition at the Venice film festival, the 90-year-old director’s latest (last?) production is a ghastly, flaccid hotel farce that starts with a conversation about armageddon and ends with a dog having *** with a penguin. As grand finales go, The Palace’s closing shot is as memorable as “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”, or the slow swoop from the Dakota at the end of Rosemary’s Baby. But – and I can’t stress this enough – not in a good way.

It’s too easy to say that Polanski’s a spent force, a pale shadow of the prodigiously talented film-maker of the 1960s and 70s. His previous picture, 2019’s An Officer and a Spy, was sturdy and worthwhile, an impressive period procedural that picked at the scabs of the Dreyfus affair. But The Palace is horrible: tacky and joyless, fatally confusing ****** disgust with arousal. It’s clear that Polanski is revolted by the world and the people he shows us here. But tellingly, his film is not a satire; it’s more like the giggling wallflower at the worst party in town.

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