Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet take parental guidance from Roman Polanski in the merrily nasty Carnage 

Donner Party PTA

Donner Party PTA

Sprung from Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play God of Carnage, Roman Polanski's latest film is a lean slice of raw meat. Briskly paced and with a lot on its mind, Carnage finds two sets of Brooklyn parents working through the circumstances under which one child beat up the other. 

Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz is a corporate tool who uses scotch and the most disrespectful cell phone in the history of art to not give a shit. Kate Winslet, put upon by everything and so damned annoyed at your concerns about her offspring, finds infinite ways to make being conciliatory seem like slashing throats. John C. Reilly finds the blunt force he usually reins in beneath his lanky geniality and gets scary, channeling his own fears into violent reprisal. And Jodie Foster, the Britta of this community, is the shrill but goodhearted voice of decency whose disdain can't help but corrode everything around her. It's Harold Pinter's Mortal Kombat, and you'll laugh out loud as civilization implodes around you.

Polanski directs this film like he's conducting a symphony, each cut masterfully shaking up the psychological scoreboard (think Clouzot's Diabolique) as these four pros rip each other to shreds. Set within the claustrophobic majesty of a gorgeous apartment — as always in Polanski, welcoming space provides its own kind of imprisonment — Carnage is a master class in the verbal bloodletting that has served as catharsis since Euripides, and the director's framing is as precise as cinemascopic surgery, letting loose a fine spray of bile. The result is a delicious feast of the dark side of human behavior, luxury-padded-parental-solipsism division. Think of it as the next best thing to a PTA meeting with cannibals, or back-to-school shopping at Cool Springs. 

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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