Stars: 4.1 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Cliff Robertson (THE TWILIGHT ZONE's "The Dummy"), Genevieve Bujold (DEAD RINGERS), John Lithgow. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Screenplay by Paul Schrader. Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond
Tag-line: "The love story that will scare the life out of you!"
Best one-liner: Not really that kind of movie.
I guess I'll just go ahead and make this 'Hitchcock pastiche (and rip-off)' week. We'll continue with De Palma's OBSESSION.
You can call De Palma a third-rate Hitchcock hack who hits his mark maybe 25% of the time. Touché. A little harsh...but, touché. You can call this a masturbatory VERTIGO rip-off. Okay. Thats your prerogative, I guess. But it's a VERTIGO rip-off scripted by Paul Schrader (TAXI DRIVER, MISHIMA), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond (THE DEER HUNTER, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS), featuring a smarmy Southern Fried John Lithgow, and scored by Bernard Herrmann himself, so goddamn- it's gonna be pretty good. And it is. And before I concede that it's a VERTIGO rip-off, there is plenty of DONT LOOK NOW rumbling around in here too, and that's a good thing.
The visuals are immaculate. OBSESSION has that lovingly creepy fetishization of ancient, drearily beautiful European architecture.
The ever-present tracking shots are disorientingly classy- a 450-degree or so pan around a dead womans bedroom is a standout, as is the final, ridiculous perversion of the classic 'entwined lovers' wraparound shot. The music is perfect. Herrmann's had a long time (10 years since his aborted TORN CURTAIN score and the Hitchcock falling out) to reflect on his collaborations with Hitch, and he hammers out a score that pays homage to his older ones, yet develops some of his familiar themes in an even grander context. It's spellbinding, dizzying, and vintage Herrmann.
The script is full of that patented, wild-eyed Schrader intensity: after the 1959 deaths of his wife and daughter, a New Orleans businessman (Cliff Robertson of STAR 80 and CHARLY) just might get the chance to do things over again when, in 1976, he spots a woman (smokin' Genevieve Bujold of DEAD RINGERS and ANNE OF THE 1,000 DAYS) who's the spitting image of his dearly departed missus.
Robertson's eponymous 'obsession,' which at times borders on Travis Bickle-style madness, is really the centerpiece here, and it's so forcefully matter-of-fact that it lends itself to extremely uncomfortable comedy- occasionally the look on Robertson's face is so ludicrously psychotic that you laugh- but you laugh not because it's funny, you laugh because you know he's FOR REAL (like William Devane's badassery in ROLLING THUNDER).
We ultimately get to a point where everything depends on the payoff being 'worth it' or not, and I'm happy to report that it's bold, bizarre, and unexpectedly powerful. Four stars.