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Stan is a quiet, solitary detective in New York City. A few months ago, he solved a gruesome case of serial murders, although an undercover police officer lost her life. A new set of similar murders begins: the bodies are elaborately displayed and the killer uses equipment from art and early movie making in the tableau, or he leaves a clue as to where the investigators are to stand to get the full artistic effect. Stan is paired with a younger detective, Carl, whom he brushes off when Carl wants to get to know him. As pieces fall in place, it's a race to prevent the next killing, quite possibly someone close to Stan. Written by
When it comes to cinema there's nothing I like more than stumbling across an independently made film with an intellectual story, an interesting cast and a fresh director. Anamorph is a psychological thriller that ticks all these boxes and combines them with a great premise, the only problem here is that the premise has been poorly executed. Directed by the up and coming Henry S Miller and starring William Defoe (an often underrated, but favoured actor of mine), Anamorph tells of a weathered Detective called Stan Aubrey, Defoe, who is assigned a homicide case that bears incredible similarities to a case he undertook five years previous. The film is based on, and gets its name from, the concept of Anamorphosis. For those that are unaware this is a technique of painting, employed during the Renaissance period, in which the artist manipulates the laws of perspective to create separate images on a single canvas.
The psychological thriller is one of the most difficult genres to pull off as in order to live up to itself the film will require an immense amount of concentration in both writing and direction to keep the viewer intact whilst simultaneously not boring them. Anamorph does itself no favours by utlising cliché storytelling techniques so often associated with this type of film. Examples are the ageing detective, a sombre piano score, stark lighting, mysterious strangers and the elaborate death scenes. Instead the film merely regurgitates past offerings, the obvious being Seven, Kiss The Girls, and the more recent Zodiac and combines them with yet another take on what makes a serial killer tick. Unfortunately the only thing that kept me compelled during this film was Defoe. His rendition of a troubled and obsessive detective ridden by guilt and heartache was very good, and would have been better if had not had been for the poor script. There are many problems that lie in the writing of this film, one of which is that the audience is deprived of any real character development and another is that it has poor dialogue (certain scenes had me cringing - they could have been penned by a child), the banter between some characters was clearly there to further the narrative which usually isn't a problem providing it is unnoticeable.
The direction and cinematography of the film were good, and the manner in which the flashback scenes of the previous case were arranged were both artful and creative as they alluded to dripping, the very process of either dripping blood or paint onto a canvas. The minimalism of Aubrey's apartment and the discussions on art that took place in the bar were very well directed and filmed. These scenes are probably the best of the film as they complement his character's bleakness with a muted aptness of style. The director's ability at portraying the concept of Anamorphosis was also good, although the fact he had to use a metallic coffee mug to further the plot and employ pretentious final visuals did taint a somewhat overall good effort. Furthermore, the elaborateness of the death scenes harks to the film Saw, but Anamorph is nothing in comparison - yes it is more intellectual and challenging but in this instance that doesn't make it a better film.
Finally, I feel that Anamorph should have been a much better film. Its basic idea, of a serial killer utilising a largely forgotten painting technique as his means of disposing his victims, is both fresh and original. However upon viewing it, the overall feeling is that the film was rushed and that it was hastened to release. There is no doubt that the film has been poorly written and, regrettably, when a film is poorly written it is much better to have a good and experienced director at the helm as only then will it at least stand a chance of being salvaged. Anamorph has failed to better itself from the indolent script it began with. Usually I feel that too many writers can ruin a film but here I feel that more were needed to treat the initial idea with the respect it deserved.
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