With the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100 percent of his brain abilities, a struggling writer becomes a financial wizard, but it also puts him in a new world with lots of dangers.
Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.
Robert De Niro,
DePalma's first film in five years is purely for the fans, a throwback to his sensual thrillers of old; Sisters, Obsession, Dressed to Kill. So right off the bat, this probably excludes the majority of casual viewers who will find this too messy and too illogical to be of substance. Younger viewers who simply pick this off a website, will probably see the visual tricks he pulls as weird, lame stabs on ordinary technique.
The problem is that DePalma has not changed as a filmmaker, it's the film norm that has absorbed and extended so much visual language that was considered somewhat radical in his time, so when Tony Scott films are marketed as ordinary action, of course he'll seem far less sophisticated. Same thing happened with Hitchcock near the end, when guys like DePalma where coming out.
But oh what sweet, sweet DePalmaesque inanity this is!
What DePalma is saying is always in the camera. He seems to say: this is a movie, the result of illusory placement of the eye, so why not go wild on placement? Also: the eye, by its very nature, causes narrative dislocation. He is intelligent, not in what the dislocations mean but in the fact they are shown to be at work, which now and then fool as depth in just the same way they fool the characters.
You'll see all sorts of fooling the eye here. The car crash in the company garage, first filmed as dramatic with lachrymose piano cues and the second time as comedy. Scenes filmed with dutch angles and unusual shadows to register as dream but they are real. A split-screen that lies about its timeline. A scene set-up to be viewed as hallucinative dream but it's a flash back. And later we know it was an untrusted narration.
Many others will make a more streamlined, more exciting thriller, but no one is so committed to expose cinematic illusion like DePalma. He doesn't hit deep, because the illusion is not wrapped around character but around plot, that is always the tradeoff with him. A tradeoff I am willing to make, because I can find more introspective filmmakers elsewhere. There is Wong Kar Wai, Shunji Iwai. Lynch, who brings illusion alive.
But then you have an ending like this. It is utterly nonsensical as story, but the narrator has fooled us so much we'll fool ourselves thinking it's more than madness.
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