Roman Polanski made his international name with this genuinely frightening black-and-white nightmare.Catherine Deneuve is Carol, a repressed Belgian manicurist whose more outgoing sister (Yvonne Furneaux) makes very audible love in the next room of the London flat they share. When Sis goes off to Paris with her new boyfriend, Carol is plagued by hallucinations of rape, arms reaching out from the cracking walls, ominous shadows.
Polanski doesn’t push the reason for Carol’s madness — we’re meant to argue about the meaning of the old photo of her, shown at the end — nor does he take us outside her head, except for a few scenes involving a would-be suitor (John Fraser) and his oinker friends. Transfixed by her quiet beauty, the man keeps pursuing her (and gets violently indignant when his pals make crude remarks about her), but Carol is in no state to see men as anything but threats.The last half hour, set in the dark flat as food decays and Carol crosses the line from paranoid to murderous, is as intense as anything you’ll see. Deneuve is riveting in a near-wordless role.