Polanski's return to female psycho-drama divides Cannes critics

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Roman Polanski, whose 1960s films “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby” focused on women in mental torment, returns to the same theme in a film that screened at Cannes on Saturday to mixed reviews.

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“Based on a True Story” stars Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner as Delphine, a successful author who makes friends with an overly-keen fan Elle, played by Eva Green, in a relationship that quickly takes on elements of “Single White Female”.

The French-Polish Polanski is still unable to make films in the United States since fleeing the country in 1978 due to fears that a plea bargain with prosecutors over his sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl would be overruled.

But he has continued to have a successful career and remains active at 83, securing a premiere for “Based on a True Story” in an out-of-competition slot at Cannes.

“I have never made a film where there are two principal female characters – it’s always a man and a woman, or two men,” Polanski told a news conference of his French-language movie.

“Here two women oppose each other. It’s fascinating. There are elements that I dealt with in my first films and I was interested to come back to that type of cinema.”

Polanski cast Eva Green - who is French but made her career in English-speaking movies, including in the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royal” - as a character who switches from best friend to violent stalker and back and could ultimately be a figment of Delphine’s imagination.

“You are always asking, does she exist? Doesn’t she exist? And that is a real challenge for an actor - to try to put some flesh on that character,” Green said.

“Is she a ghost? That’s the question.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young praised “Based on a True Story” as “a masterfully made psychological thriller in the traditional mode”, but Nathalie Simon in Le Figaro called it “grotesque, predictable and funny - not a good sign for a thriller”.

Editing by Gareth Jones