Keith Gordon is a creative young man who films the oddball doings of his family and peers. "The Maestro" appears frequently to give him pointers on his techniques. It's almost a film about ... See full summary »
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. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
"Obsession" is one of Brian DePalma's most underrated films. It is a thriller of tremendous power and grace. It is also the recipient of some of the most negative reviews in DePalma's very checkered history.
I personally think that Brian DePalma is one of our very best directors. I would even classify him as a great director. His best films are his thrillers, which are inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's work. Most critics think DePalma is nothing more than someone who rips off Hitchcock. But in his defense, he does not rip off Hitch. He is his own artist. He has his own agenda in each and every film he has made.
"Obsession" is often touted as a "rehash of Vertigo". But DePalma takes the basic premise and turns it upside down, creating twists and revelations that Hitchcock only dreamed of. The film stars Cliff Robertson, in his usual fine performance as a man whose wife and daughter are kidnapped and killed in a setup gone bad. The film opens in 1959 and then skips ahead to 1975 with Robertson standing at the graves (really nice camerawork in this sequence as time fades away) Robertson is in Italy for business when he sees a young woman who strongly resembles his late wife (since both are played by Genevieve Bujold, this is no coincidence)You can pretty much guess the rest.
Or can you? What makes "Obsession" really stand out is the final 25 minutes in which DePalma and cowriter Paul Schrader (himself a fine director; his credits include "Hardcore", "Blue Collar", "American Gigolo" and "Mishima")put in so many twists and turns that a second viewing may be necessary to sort out all the details. While most people may dismiss this as a ripoff of "Vertigo", remember that at this time "Vertigo" was currently unavailable period. No TV viewings, no tapes, no theatrical runs, nothing. DePalma may have been trying to make a film to fill the void left behind by that disappearance. But he makes a film that is more satisfying than the Hitchcock film. "Vertigo", brilliant as it was, was a real downer. "Obsession" is shorter at 98 minutes, but it has a delibirate pace that makes it feel longer. In a lesser work, it would be intolerable, but here it is appropriate.
The technical credits are solid as a rock. The Panavision photography by Vilmos Zsigmond is outstanding as is the Bernard Herrmann score (his next to last). Robertson and Bujold give strong performances, but it is DePalma regular John Lithgow who is the most memorable.
See "Obsession" two or three times to get the full effect. It takes some effort to get used to, but it's worth it.
**** out of 4 stars
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