Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Movies I love: Obsession

1976 and the key movie of the year is Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER, but for me there was also Brian De Palma's breakout movie OBSESSION (and Lumet's NETWORK too of course) - what an exciting year with the New Hollywood cementing their reputations. What also links the two movies of course is that they both have those final scores by the great Bernard Herrmann - I had both on sountrack albums (video had not yet arrived!) so one had to have those pounding scores.... OBSESSION was such a dazzling movie seeing it for the first time in the cinema.

The story is deceptively simple as New Orleans businessman Cliff Robertson loses his wife and daughter in a kidnapping that goes wrong. The style, the editing, the music, all contribute to the air of delirium and then our grieving hero is left with his memories, the memorial in the business park, and his business partner John Lithgow... Then years later there is that fateful trip to Florence as he retraces his steps with his wife, and that church where the Italian girl is restoring frescoes. He approaches, he sees her and his frozen ..... as the images and the music reach a crescendo. She is of course the reincarnation of his dead wife - he has to get to know her and unbelievably they fall in love. We see her ill mother and after she dies he has to bring her, Sandra, back to New Orleans where she has promised to marry him. She begins to explore the house and another level is reached, as the kidnapping is replayed .... what is happening, how is it all going to end?

Hitchock of course is the obvious influence here, particularly VERTIGO, and one can see De Palma's relishing of the material and the twists and turns of the plot until the final satisfying conclusion. We watch in amazement as Sandra reveals her side of the story (just like Kim in VERTIGO) and the real villain of the piece emerges. There is also that flashing pair of scissors (just like DIAL M FOR MURDER). The photography by Vilmos Zsigmond complements the music perfectly, and both Roberton and Bujold are astounding, one simply falls in love with Genevive's Sandra Portinari.

In the pre-video '70s though VERTIGO was long unavailable, most Hitch fans only had a memory of it (as I had), and it actually ends on a downbeat note as Scottie loses his great love once again - but that does not happen here, in Paul Schrader's very adroit re-telling of the story.

In the cinema though the lights went up and the curtains closed over the final moments as the camera does that 360 degree sweep around our couple so one did not see the final frames. One has to see it to the very end to appreciate what is really happening as they begin to realise who they really are as puzzlement gives way to understanding and joy. It is totally affecting. For me it is De Palma's masterpiece (I hated DRESSED TO KILL but OBSESSION will always be a Movie I Love).

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