Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!
New Orleans businessman Michael Courtland’s life is shattered when his wife and daughter are tragically killed in a botched kidnap rescue attempt. Many years later whilst visiting Italy he meets and falls in in love with Sandra Portinari, who bears a striking resemblance to his wife.
I was enjoying this as an essay about itself/about remaking VERTIGO (and probably some other stuff I missed while in the bathroom), then that masterful final sequence hit and the needle went from 3 1/2 to four stars, because I realized I kind of cared about these tragic characters too.
If the critics and nerdlingers who decried this for being "nothing but a Hitchcock knock-off" only knew what the popular cinema landscape was like now, they would probably kill their own wife and daughter for something even remotely as technically well executed and idiosyncratic as this.
DePalma's Hitchcock films >>> DePalma's Gangster films.
It's played for pure sensationalism, but wow, just take the opening for example: the cuts come hard and fast, the shots are incisive close-ups. This is De Palma working much more abstractly than Hitchcock, his focus is on creating poignant and indelible images that seem to have the singular purpose of driving towards striking horror (perhaps more purely achieved in his next film, The Fury). Of course, the structure is complex and plot perhaps overwrought, but that's what defines this as a De Palma fim complete with self-aware irony and smiling nods to its influences. A stylish and bold piece of thriller.
What's good film criticism anyway if not love distorted by memory and private fears?
A: Why did Brian De Palma cross the road?
A: Because he saw Hitchcock do it first.
I like when De Palma hits a lurid showboat stride and drags Hitchcockian thriller psychoses screaming into the gauzy light. So, I was a little disappointed Obsession plays mostly straight and understated (by De Palma standards at least). But that helluva twist! And slow motion airport running and forced perspective shrinking and camera circling like a hysteric who uncovered a deep dark secret. The movie feels like a baby step toward more outre and heightened psychodramas like Dressed to Kill and Body Double. But we all gotta start somewhere, right?
Also, I loved John Lithgow as a Cajun fine art lover! Him and his 15-years-later salt'n'pepper stache got me through the bumpy patches.
I've got a problem with John Lithgow.
The thing is that whenever he's in a film where he starts off as a good guy, I just spend the whole film waiting for the moment where he does something despicable. Because it WILL come. It has to. Because he's John Lithgow and he's ALWAYS a bad guy.
Now I'm not saying whether he undergoes that transformation in Obsession. That isn't even the point. The point is that I've seen him play so many villains that I thought I was going to sit watching Obsession thinking to myself, "Yeah yeah, John, you're a lovely guy, now just stab Cliff Robertson in the face and get it over and done with,…
a recreation of VERTIGO like our lead’s attempt to recreate his late wife: De Palma recognizes the underlying sleaze of Hitchock’s oeuvre and extracts it, foregrounding it in its finale that follows an hour of mystifying homage; the adoring twinkles in our lead’s eyes were likely present for much of De Palma’s exposure to Hitchock, and De Palma’s slight skeevy subversion of Hitchcock’s style would likely, for Hitchcock, bring about the concern we see in our lead’s eyes when all the core beliefs of his trauma are revealed as false. dreamlike in its confounding repetition of images and actors, implanting married patterns of materialism and emotional yearning that is fulfilled by a challenging and contentious compromise.
De Palma and Schrader had a good look at Vertigo and asked themselves how they could make it more Freudian.
Alfred Hitchock's OLDBOY.
Brian DePalma is one of those directors who's work has benefitted from re-appraisal, indeed he clearly takes inspiration from Hitchcock, but the stories are updated and are a little more mature.
Obsession is a bit different from his other Hitchcockian thrillers, it's got a bit more of a serious tone and the acting is a lot more different from the sleaziness you see in "Body Double" or "Dressed to Kill." And by sleaziness, you probably know what I mean, the quality of the acting in those two movies I believe are intentionally directed that way to add to the film's atmosphere and tone.
Genevieve Bujold is so convincing in her roles, I honestly spent the entire movie wondering how she…
There's a really laboured metaphor about a painting that Genevieve Bujold's character (well, one of them) is restoring here which comes down to like, they found evidence of another work underneath the painting but should they restore the original painting and never find out exactly what's underneath (which could be amazing) or destroy the original and maybe find nothing? Which I guess is an interesting thing to include in a movie like this. It reminded me of a tiny moment that always struck me as interesting at the beginning of Roland Emmerich's fever dream 2012, I forget the context exactly but it's about the paintings they've saved for the apocalypse? I think they say something like they've already packed away…
A popular criticism of Obsession and a majority of De Palma’s objectively derivative Hitchcock homages/ripoffs (WHICH/ONE) is that his plots are plucked directly from the filmography of the Master of Suspense. Sisters begins as Psycho, then bounces over to Rear Window, concluding as a Spellbound replica. The same tri-structure tribute or copycat affair (depending on your perspective) is embedded into the layers of Obsession. The first third is a kidnapping plot reminiscent of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Then it transitions into artistic thievery, taking directly from Vertigo’s plot progression. Then it tries out Rebecca’s story of a woman whose lover is obsessed with his deceased wife. In short, if you look at cinema strictly from a narrative point…
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Not the ending I would have directed, but Vertigo with equal parts heist and a one-sided, but unwitting attempt at ligitimized incest
Do you like Alfred Hitchcock? Did you see Vertigo? Brian De Palma sure did, and here's his take on the material! Fortunately, it's so stylized and well-made that it will easily appeal to any fan of good thrillers and mystery stories. I found the mystery itself to be a little predictable. There's some great cinematography of 1970s Italy and New Orleans. If you're just acquainting yourself with the director, reach for "Blow Out," "Dressed to Kill" or "Body Double" first, but "Obsession" is by no means a dud.
For all the bare-faced (but deliciously enjoyable) faux-Hitchcockery going on here, it's a shame De Palma chickens out at the very end. The Master would never have let his audience off like that.
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