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"Obsession" (Region free UK) {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Arrow Films
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
7/5/11
Special Features:

Documentary, trailer, bound copy of the screenplay, two Brian De Palma vintage shorts Rated: PG

Review:

The original title of "Obsession" ("Deja Vu") could have referred both to the fact that director Brian De Palma and writer Paul Schrader were tackling a film that reflected Hitchcock's, the three part story where each section mirrored the first with slightly different outcomes AND, ironically, the critical reaction the film received from some reflecting what was also seen with Hitchcock's "Vertigo". After attending a showing of Hitchcock's classic "Vertigo" director Brian De Palma and writer Paul Schrader were inspired to come up with a film of their own mirroring Hitchcock's classic film but taking it one step further. Schrader wrote a script that had three parallel stories running simultaneously; one set in the past, one set in the present and one set in the future. Forced to trim the film, De Palma cut the future sequence at the suggestions of composer Bernard Herrmann and retitled "Deja Vu" to "Obsession". ***

Produced for a paltry $1.5 million with location shooting in Italy, Brian De Palma's "Obsession" becomes much more than just a homage to Hitchcock's masterpiece; De Palma and writer Schrader too the convoluted script for "Vertigo" and some of its structure creating their own classic film that examines some themes that overlap and diverge from Hitchcock's film giving "Obsession" it's own unique identity. ***

It's 1959. Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) is a wealthy businessman who seems to have it all only to have it all crash and burn around him when his wife (Geneviene Bujold) and daughter are kidnapped and killed. sixteen years later Courtland spots a young woman (also Bujold) while in Italy who resembles his deceased wife, he becomes obsessed with courting and winning her. Courtland ends up reliving the tragedy of his past and can rely only on his business partner (John Lithgow) to help him prevent tragedy from occurring all over again. ***

Keep in mind that "Obsession" is a ROMANTIC thriller and De Palma's deliberate pacing (which is naturally out of touch with todays rapid fire cutting technique) is designed to increase the suspense factor much like Ridley Scott's "Alien" uses slow, deliberately shots and claustrophobic compositions to generate anxiety and suspense. "Obsession" is unlike any other film in De Palma's body of work and, in a sense, that's a good thing as it defies expectations although it also could set up the film for failure for those expecting "Dressed to Kill" or "Scarface". Given a chance on its own terms "Obsession" works very well as a romantic thriller and is a unique film from De Palma. ---

Image & Sound:

Recently released in the UK on Blu-ray the film looks much improved by comparison although this is never going to be a demo quality Blu-ray; De Palma and Vilmos Zsigmond chose to shoot the film in soft focus with lots of difusion filters as part of the lighting scheme. As a result while the film does, indeed, look lovely, it's not going to feature the strong deteail that you might seen with a more contemporary film. De Palma and Zsigmond were going for creating a layered textured look and they largely succed with the film. "Obsession" has received a nice restoration at the hands of Arrow Films (or, perhaps, it's Sony who did the work for them--I'm not quite sure). Either way, the film looks exceptionally good for its age. ***

Arrow films has done a terrific job with the film using a high bit rate transfer on a dual layered disc to try and capture as much of the natural look of the film as possible; "Obsession" has always been somewhat grainy to begin with and Arrow films stays true to the original look of the film. ***

The audio sounds quite nice with a new 5.1 mix ---

Special Features:

We get a 35 minute documentary on the making of the film featuring De Palma, Zsigmond, Cliff Robertson, Geneviene Bujold and editor Paul Hirsch discussing the making of the film. Paul Hirsch relates a story about a very frail Bernard Herrmann weeping after seeing a screening of the finished film. He was weeping because he couldn't recall writing the main theme for the film although recognized it for his own. MIA is writer Paul Schrader presumely because he is still unhappy about the changes that De Palma made to his screenplay by dropping the last third of the story set in the future. ***

Producer George Litto also shares with us a story about Herrmann being hired; Litto wanted composer John Williams to score the film but De Palma would not budge on hiring Herrmann. To convince Litto to hire Herrmann editor Hirsch rate a sequence of the film with a piece of one of Herrmann's scores. Litto who though the piece was overly romantic complained "what is this 'Romeo and Juliet'"? to which Hirsch responded "no, it's Bernard Herrmann". Herrmann was hired. ***

We also get the original trailer and two De Palma shorts from De Palma's personal collection--"Woton's Wake" made in 1962 and the documentary short "The Responsive Eye" from 1966. Both are fascinating glimpses into De Palma's early technique. Both look a bit worse for the wear and there was no attempt to restore them for this edition (probably due to the budget for preparing this film for release) but it is nice to have both neither one of which has ever received a home video release. ***

We also get a replica of Paul Schrader's original script (which differs from the finished shooting script)AND a critical essay on the film itself. It is housed ina slip case with the Blu-ray and there are replicas of the original posters as well as a new (ugly)commissioned fold out poster included as well. ---

Final Words:

An under estimated classic from De Palma that works as much more than just a homage to the Master of Suspense, "Obsession" is filled with stunning camera work and innovative shots that reflect De Palma at his best. John Lithgow is terrific in one of his early roles. Arrow has done an outstanding job of putting together the Blu-ray. ***

The fact that De Palma tackled many of the same themes as Hitchcock and, indeed, was a disciple of the Master of Suspense, means that his films are often underappreciated. De Palma's films although they have many similarities to Hitchcock's have their own unique elements that make them worthwhile. ***

Recommended.

 

 
 
 
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