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Blu-ray Review: Ugetsu

One of cinema’s mightiest and most bottomless of accomplishments has never looked or sounded better.

5.0

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Ugetsu

Kenji Mizoguchi’s staggering Ugetsu is a film of many riddles and paradoxes that unfolds with the illusory simplicity of a fable. Its initial straightforwardness, as a parable against the pitfalls of human greed, is a misdirection that leads the audience into a void in which objectivity and subjectivity intermingle, hopelessly and invigoratingly clouding rationality.

The narrative begins on the shore of Japan’s Lake Biwa in the 16th century, when the country was engulfed in civil war. Mizoguchi spotlights two neighboring families: Genjurō (Masayuki Mori) and his wife, Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka), and their child, Genichi (Ikio Sawamura); and Tōbei (Eitaro Ozawa) and his wife, Ohama (Mitsuko Mito). The heads of these families are broadly contrasted, as Genjurō is a serious potter while Tōbei is a stumbling ne’er-do-well whose dreams of becoming a samurai are ridiculous in lieu of his humble origins. (Mizoguchi is ruthlessly alert to the classism of the samurai code.) War is coming, and like many people unaccustomed to its savagery, Genjurō and Tōbei see only glory and self-actualization. The men wish to profit from the war so as to bolster their statuses in their wives’ eyes, while the women insist that the men are already enough for them.

It’s in this awareness of miscommunication that Ugetsu should particularly resonate with contemporary Western audiences, as Mizoguchi’s understanding of the tension existing between the sexes hasn’t aged an iota. The men launder their ambition through their women in a process of self-justification that reveals their feelings of inferiority. Patriarchy entraps men too, most clearly those of lower classes, nurturing a perpetual fear of impotency that’s ironically realized through the efforts to assuage said fear. Ugetsu’s early passages unfold with a hushed sense of inevitability, gradually building to a series of crescendos that will burst the men’s respective bubbles. A town elder warns the families to prepare for an incoming invasion, but the men are eaten up with dollar signs. Genjurō and Tōbei forge their wares and make a small killing at a village that’s experiencing an economic boom from the war, returning home with silver in their pockets. Genjurō buys Miyagi an expensive kimono, saying that he’s always wanted to shower her with such luxury. Whether or not Miyagi actually wants the kimono is immaterial.

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Ugetsu is based on two ghost stories from Ueda Akinari’s collection Ugetsu Monogatari, which translates to Tales of Moonlight and Rain, and pivots on morals handed down from Japanese and Chinese cultures. Another significant influence on the film is the writing of Guy de Maupassant, which is evident in Tōbei’s narrative. These sources share with Mizoguchi’s work a heightened awareness of how we devise our own tragedies with our hypocrisies, and of how cruelty begets cruelty in an endless and self-perpetuating cycle. In Ugetsu, war is brilliantly evoked as an extension of the male ego: The Japanese civil war exists on the macro stage of society while the domestic tragedies of Genjurō and Tōbei occupy the micro. The civil war dramatically reconstitutes Genjurō and Tōbei’s families, scarring them in a fashion that parallels the destruction of the house of Lady Wasaka (Machiko Kyō), a spirit who enchants Genjurō while his own home turns to war-torn rubble.

The ironies here are elusively exponential, as a simulacrum of Genjurō’s dream—as the head of a house occupied by a beautiful, glamorous, and subservient woman—paves the way for his nightmare of rootlessness, which resonates with a postwar Japan that was occupied by the United States after losing its own quest for dominion. The film’s obsession with the splintering of families and the decisive castration and evolution of the modern male clearly parallels Japan’s crisis of identity following WWII, which Mizoguchi would explore again in Sansho the Bailiff.

On the film’s surface is the assertion that man shouldn’t be greedy, but Mizoguchi ultimately resists such pat categorization—and it’s this simultaneous explicitness and ambiguity that inform Ugetsu with its roiling power. Mizoguchi’s formalism brings to life the irresolvable thorniness of lust, longing, love, and self-hatred. The scenes between Genjurō and Lady Waska, set among a dream of what her palace once was and clearly modeled on the traditions of Noh Theater, are among the most erotic ever committed to film, expressing sex through heightened classical roleplay.

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Lady Waska moves through the frame with a languorousness that’s true to our perception of her supernatural otherness, or, even more movingly, as a masturbatory illusion of Genjurō’s. They have tea together and Lady Wasaka complements Genjurō’s pottery, understanding that men secretly treasure flattery as much, if not more so, than women. They embrace on the floor in a 69 gesture that follows a long shot of Wasaka crossing a room, her hair down to the back of her knees, suggesting a serpent in a flourish that’s sexy as well as threatening. We believe Genjurō when he famously says that he’s never known such pleasure, as Lady Wasaka convincingly suggests capital-S sex as pure flesh incarnate, complemented by the sensuality of Mizoguchi’s legendary long takes and in-camera editing.

Mizoguchi’s masterful staging conjoins the war narrative and the supernatural symbolism with frightening finesse, sometimes in a single shot, such as when Genjurō returns to his destroyed home searching for Miyagi, strolling out back only to re-enter the front of the residence to see her impossibly manifested, cooking by a fire. Embracing the flow of Japanese scrolls, Mizoguchi perfected an art of fluidity, blending expressionism and heightened neorealism in a manner that heightens each aesthetic via unlikely juxtaposition. When Genjurō and Tōbei’s families flee their invaded village, they sail into a lake of mist that suggests the River Styx, matter-of-factly guiding the audience out of a war film into a horror film and back into a war film yet again.

Later, as Miyagi collapses from a stab wound, we see her die as her killers enjoy their spoils in an elegant and devastating contrast of what war means to men and women, and to multiple variations of the empowered and the powerless. While Miyagi dies, Genjurō has the privilege of retreatment into an ecstasy that is, itself, enabled by male carnage. Ugetsu is a tragic and irreconcilably rapturous poem of violation. In the tradition of many male directors preoccupied with the atrocities suffered by women, Mizoguchi expresses his compassion through a pronounced and cleansing pitilessness.

Image/Sound

Sourced from a new 4K restoration, this disc offers an image that’s substantially better than Criterion’s 2005 DVD edition. Quite a bit of debris, grit, and lines have been removed from this transfer, greatly bolstering an overall sense of richness and clarity. The blacks are much deeper and more stable than in prior editions, while the whites are softer and more varied. There’s also a greater tactility to this image, which is evident in the textures of the landscapes, the water, and the often pained and impassioned faces of the characters. The monaural soundtrack has been similarly refurbished, boasting fewer hisses and a more vibrant and delicate palette of diegetic and non-diegetic effects. The score, a classic in its own right, resounds with an especially diaphanous subtlety.

Extras

Yes, this is the same package that accompanied Criterion’s 2005 DVD edition of Ugetsu, but these supplements would be difficult to improve upon, as they offer an invigoratingly deep dive into Kenji Mizoguchi’s career while shedding light for Western audiences on the Japanese postwar culture that informed the film. The audio commentary by critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns begins on a playful note, with Rayns conceding that many of his observations stem from a Mizoguchi book that he never finished. This drollness permeates a commentary that invaluably elaborates on the evolution of the filmmaker’s aesthetic over the decades, while riffing on the sorts of politics and personal relationships that inform art.

Rayns also discusses at length Ugetsu Monogatari, the story collection that partially inspired Ugetsu. This discussion is complemented by the interview with the film’s first assistant director, Tokuzo Tanaka, who shows us Mizoguchi’s oft-revised working draft of the film’s script. Meanwhile, “Two Worlds Intertwined,” a 2005 appreciation of Ugetsu by Masahiro Shinoda, abounds in beautiful and incisive observations, including the memorable assertion that the film includes “so many realities that they turn into a kind of fantasy.” (Shinoda also elaborates on the intricate, multi-cultured layering of the film’s score.) The 1992 interview with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa is the shortest on the disc, but still affords the legend the opportunity to compare vintage and contemporary methods of visual storytelling.

Tying the room together, so to speak, is a 150-minute documentary, Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director, which ingeniously weaves its own making into its narrative. The filmmakers retrace Japanese landmarks that are significant to Mizoguchi’s life, in the process providing Western audiences with a revelatory spatial sense of locations that were instrumental in the Japanese pre- and postwar film movements. Rounding out this package are trailers, a characteristically superb essay by Phillip Lopate that juggles Western and Eastern philosophies with surgical finesse, as well as the Ugetsu Monogatari stories that informed the script.

Overall

One of cinema’s mightiest and most bottomless of accomplishments has never looked or sounded better, with a vintage supplements package that provides invaluable analysis of Japanese film culture.

Cast: Masayuki Mori, Kinuyo Tanaka, Machiko Kyō, Eitaro Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito, Kikue Mōri, Ikio Sawamura, Ryōsuke Kagawa Director: Kenji Mizoguchi Screenwriter: Matsutarō Kawaguchi, Yoshikata Yoda Distributor: The Criterion Collection Running Time: 97 min Rating: NR Year: 1953 Release Date: June 6, 2017 Buy: Video

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Blu-ray Review: Arrow Video’s Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance receives a significant packaging upgrade from Arrow Video.

4.5

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Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak may be the quintessential Guillermo del Toro film, as it compresses his fetishistic attention to detail into a single looming set where creaking floorboards, scores of dying moths, and the frequent intrusions of mutilated ghosts are just pieces in the giant dollhouse where the director merrily plays. The combination of gothic ghost story and harlequin romance doesn’t break new ground for either genre, but the intensity of Brandt Gordon’s art direction and Kate Hawley’s costume design reinforce the innate connection that period romance and horror share in how these genres so purely express their most profound ideas through ornate style.

Amusingly, the action of the film’s first act, the gamesmanship of high society’s courtship rituals playing out in well-lit parlors, is no less tense than the story’s eventual retreat into the dark confines of Allerdale Hall. The most dominant sound effects in these early scenes are the gasps and mutterings of New York’s nouveau riche as English nobleman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) ignores the pampered bachelorettes trotted out before him. Instead, he homes in on the bookish Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring horror author and the only child of a self-made magnate (Jim Beaver) from whom he seeks financing for mining equipment. Del Toro films a scene of Thomas and Edith waltzing for a gathered crowd of elites, all while trying to keep the flame from the candle they grip in their hands from going out, as if it were a circus stunt, the couple’s willingness to dance in front of a wall of judgment akin to performing acrobatics without a net.

Such flourishes are almost subtle despite their intricate blocking and rich color palettes, but when Crimson Peak finally arrives at the Sharpe family home in remote Cumberland, del Toro indulges his most freewheeling whims. Allerdale Hall itself appears to have been hand-carved out of blatant symbols: the dulled seafoam-green wall paint that points to its overgrown ruin; the dank corridors lined by ominously spiked stone pillars and arches; and the gnarled architecture, with rooms that intersect so erratically with other chambers that they become entangled with one another. Rot has claimed the roof, letting dead leaves and, eventually, snow coat the long-faded grandeur of the foyer. Meanwhile, the blood-red clay that Thomas mines from the property seeps up through the floorboards, occasionally giving the house the impression of bleeding from ripped-open sutures.

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So precisely defined is every aspect of Allerdale Hall’s physical decay that even the people who dwell within it feel more like conduits for the manse’s soul than independent agents. If Wasikowska’s surprisingly fortitudinous naïf is meant to recall Jane Eyre, Hiddleston’s version of Rochester comes not from Charlotte Brontë’s classic tome, but the revisionist version found in Wide Sargasso Sea, a feckless brute who maintains a veneer of respectability just long enough to nab a wife he can exploit to boost his own faded status. Hiddleston’s best performances always hint at a bit of sleaze beneath a show of welcoming charm, and the hunger that fills Thomas’s eyes whenever talk of money arises lays bare the sham of his romance from the start.

Jessica Chastain outdoes him, however, as Thomas’s even more mysterious older sister, Lucille, her face frozen in resentment and given to mirthless, thin-lipped smiles only in moments of extremely rare generosity. Perpetually clutching a set of ornate keys in her hands, Lucille is at once a judging matron, jealous sibling, and pitiless overseer. If Thomas embodies the house’s self-loathing and revulsion, Lucille is its unrepentant pride—neither the hole in the ceiling nor the sinking floor, but the decorated walls and lavish furnishings that stand defiant to the reality of their obsolescence.

Compared to the siblings, Edith lacks a memorable hook, and Wasikowska doesn’t get the chance to pore over her character the way that Hiddleston and Chastain do theirs. Nonetheless, most del Toro films feature a proxy for the director, and Edith’s ghost-seeing bookworm fits the bill here. As in the director’s other films, the supernatural is both real and imagined, clearly having a direct impact on a character’s surroundings while also pitched with sufficient ambiguity that some encounters suggest projections from the mind. Del Toro typically plays that line for maximum fairy-tale effect, but Edith’s tendency to continue to believe in the fundamental romance between herself and Thomas puts her in as much danger as her openness to the paranormal prepares her for the eventual confrontation with the truth of her new family.

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Del Toro’s decision to explicitly underline the weaknesses of his proxy in Crimson Peak belatedly exposes prior stand-ins as equally shortsighted, and in the process the director clarifies a crucial thematic through line of his filmography. In retrospect, his fantasies are the opposite of escapes from harsh reality: It’s the real world, with its war and discrimination, that intrudes on the imagination, which can conjure up impressively detailed creatures and settings, but often struggles to map the complexities of emotion and history. Del Toro’s films tend toward the mythological, which is to say they’re timeless, rooted in a deep, era-nonspecific past. When social and historical context finally breach his microcosm, they expose the rifts of immaturity and sadness of a child who knows it’s time to grow up, but cannot face adulthood.

In that sense, del Toro may have less in common with the masters of horror than he does Wes Anderson, who similarly papers over his characters’ melancholy and displacement from the present with elaborate bricolage and immersion in esoterica. Crimson Peak, then, may be the director’s Life Aquatic, his fussiest, most compartmentalized construction, and therefore the one filled with the most powerful sense of repression and delusion.

Or perhaps, more accurately, it’s his Grand Budapest Hotel, what with its deranged aristocracy fighting a losing battle against time by targeting the new stewards of capitalism, leaching from them in a futile attempt to be restored to the old pomp and wealth. In Anderson’s film, a fading way of life tries to remain relevant by ignoring the atrocities begat of its willful obliviousness. In del Toro’s more explicitly generic terms, however, it’s the old guard that directly commits those atrocities to stem the tide of progress, a strategy so all-consuming that only at the point of self-destruction can one character realize what a waste it was to cling to so rotten a home in the first place.

Image/Sound

This Blu-ray edition’s hardback book indicates that the transfer was “made available by NBC Universal.” Indeed, there are no appreciable differences between this transfer and the one on Universal’s 2016 home-video edition of the film. Only a few instances of noise exist in the darkest shots, but otherwise this remains a crisp transfer. The 7.1 and X lossless audio tracks are likewise pristine, perfectly balancing the film’s exacting sound design—so rich in creaks and ghostly whispers—relative to Fernando Vélasquez’s tense but mournful score.

Extras

Arrow Video has ported over all of the features from Universal’s original release, which contained mostly brief EPK documentaries and one of Guillermo del Toro’s indispensable audio commentaries. Arrow supplements these extras with some new—and meatier—goodies, chief among them “The House Is Alive,” a 50-minute documentary that dives deep into the film’s intricate production design and literary inspirations. Del Toro also contributes a new interview, while two new critical pieces are included. One is an interview with critic Kim Newman, who places the film in the broader context of gothic romance, the other a video essay by Kat Ellinger on del Toro’s entire filmography and Crimson Peak’s place within it. Arrow’s lavish packaging also includes production stills and a booklet with an interview with del Toro and critical essays by David Jenkins, Simon Abrams, and Mar Diestro-Dópido.

Overall

A slew of excellent new features ensures that this is, for now at least, the definitive home-video edition of Guillermo del Toro’s elegant haunted-house film.

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope, Doug Jones, Jonathan Hyde, Bruce Gray, Emily Coutts Director: Guillermo del Toro Screenwriter: Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins Distributor: Arrow Video Running Time: 118 min Rating: R Year: 2015 Release Date: January 15, 2019 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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Blu-ray Review: Julien Duvivier’s Panique

This dynamic and balanced restoration makes a significant case for the film as one of the most moving and beautiful of unjustly neglected noirs.

4.5

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Panique

Julien Duvivier’s Panique informs small-town life with rich menace, suggesting a correlation can exist between vicious gossip and physical violence, as people seek to assert dominion over the reputations of their neighbors out of boredom and resentment. Throughout the film, a doubling motif links classism with atrocity, and rumor-mongering with the tragedy it incites—such as linked images of two funerals, one of the murder victim that drives the film’s plot, the other of a person framed for the murder, essentially for being an eccentric outcast. As in many a film noir, Panique has, at its center, the structural rigidness of a mathematical equation, which it fleshes out with macabre comedy, piercing pathos, and a mad blend of realism and rococo expressionism.

The outcast is Monsieur Hire, played by Michel Simon, in casting that recalls Jean Renoir’s La Chienne. In both films, Simon plays a frumpy, lonely, and artistic man stuck in his own head, who falls for a beautiful woman who exploits his affections with the encouragement of her true lover. Renoir allows us to understand from the outset that Simon’s character is trapped, by his self-loathing as much as by his manipulators, while Duvivier offers a panorama that gradually closes in on Hire. In fact, one of the driving pleasures of Panique’s first act is in attempting to discern where it’s going, as Duvivier studies the respective habits of a baker, a prostitute, a shifty young man, a hypocritical accountant, and so forth. The film’s foreboding emphasis on daily life sometimes suggests The Marseille Trilogy by way of Shirley Jackson.

Hire initially appears confident, accepting his status in this picturesque country as the resident weirdo. After resisting the butcher’s attempts to talk with him, Hire orders a bloody pork loin and proceeds to the cheese shop to search for its “ripest” Camembert. Such details, which are plentiful in Panique, are amusing for their own sake while revealing that Hire fashions himself a ghoulish aesthete who’s somewhat difficult for the sake of being difficult. (The emphases on blood and ripeness also suggest a rechanneling of thwarted sexual hungers.) Unlike the immediately pitiable hero of La Chienne, Hire allows the audience to enjoy his loneliness. Perhaps this is a man who’s figured out how to live apart from society with dignity intact. In other words, Hire, who possesses the gifts of Simon’s own inherently introverted magnetism, flatters similarly-minded people in the audience.

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This narrative misdirection mirrors Hire’s fooling of himself, underscoring how he’s attempted to transcend his human need for companionship—a nuance that renders his fall from grace all the more moving. As Hire becomes intoxicated with Alice (Viviane Romance), Simon’s physicality becomes subtly heavier and more awkward, as the actor understands Hire to be reverting to a vulnerable state that’s been long suppressed. Duvivier’s compositions complement this notion, particularly when Hire is framed in his cluttered apartment, regarding Alice’s residence from below as carnival lights luridly illuminate him. The carnival isn’t only a metaphor for the “show business”—the manipulations, the play-acting—that govern everyday life, but for how society always requires freaks for projection and ostracizing.

A beautiful and merciless film, Panique has been read as an allegory for Vichy France’s complicity with Nazis, which is apparent in the way the conspiring villagers are shown to unify against a diseased cause that’s been engineered by a third party. And such an association is complicated further by the controversy of Duvivier leaving his country for Hollywood during WWII, which is helpfully illuminated in the essays in the booklet included with this disc. But humankind has so often betrayed itself—honoring its irrational base instincts above issues of morality or common sense—that Panique now operates as a free-floating nightmare of persecution, one which offers a vividly haunting victim. As Hire ascends a building to his doom, fleeing his vengeful neighbors, one may think of Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong, only in this case there’s no mythical creature to offer one the distancing assurance of the fantastic.

Image/Sound

The image has a few minor blemishes but is generally quite sharp and rich in tactile detail. Throughout the film, this superb clarity particularly emphasizes the relationship between the various foregrounds and backgrounds of the frames, underscoring the vitality of tracking shots that elaborate on the various connections between the characters, emphasizing how small this troubled community really is. Blacks are rich, and whites are delicately soft, the latter of which is important in rendering characters’ flesh, particularly in the surprisingly erotic images of a woman teasing her male voyeur with glimpses of her body. The monaural soundtrack expertly preserves the film’s intricate soundstage, which often pivots on a contrast between the sounds of everyday work (carpentry and butchery) and those of the carnival, which physicalize the lurid thoughts driving the narrative’s action.

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Extras

“The Art of Subtitling,” a new short documentary by Bruce Goldstein, founder and co-president of Rialto Pictures, offers an unusual and fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day challenges of translating foreign dialogue into English text. Like a lot of things many of us take for granted, subtitling requires an exactitude and discipline that’s invisible at first glance. For instance, a subtitle must disappear before one image segues into another, so as to not jar the audience. And, for the sake of flow, subtitles must also summarize dialogue rather than literally transcribe it, so that an audience doesn’t spend a film’s entire running time reading. Goldstein also examines the process of updating and improving subtitle tracks over the years as films are restored, including the production of the new track of Panique that was commissioned for this release, as modern audiences have grown to crave a precise rendering of the slang and humor that give characters and narratives texture.

A new interview with author Pierre Simenon, the son of legendary Belgian novelist Georges Simenon, offers an inside look at how Julien Duvivier altered one of his father’s novels to arrive at the screenplay for Panique, while providing a short overview of Georges’s life, particularly during WWI and WWII. (Georges wasn’t especially fond of the many films made from his work, though Pierre has high praise for Panique.) Meanwhile, a conversation from 2015 between critics Guillemette Odicino and Eric Libiot succinctly covers a variety of topics, especially the rocky reception that Duvivier received when he returned to France after working in the United States so as to dodge the Nazi occupation. French audiences, somewhat understandably, were resistant to a critique of mob justice from someone who managed to avoid the danger and turmoil of the mob altogether. The essays by film scholar James Quandt and Duvivier expert Lenny Borger also discuss the political context of Panique, while reveling in the film’s brilliant melding of realist and expressionist textures. The theatrical trailer rounds out a slim but informative supplements package.

Overall

With this dynamic and balanced restoration, Criterion makes a significant case for Panique as one of the most moving and beautiful of unjustly neglected noirs.

Cast: Michel Simon, Viviane Romance, Paul Bernard, Charles Dorat, Louis Florencie, Max Dalban, Émile Drain, Guy Favières Director: Julien Duvivier Screenwriter: Charles Spaak, Julien Duvivier Distributor: The Criterion Collection Running Time: 98 min Rating: NR Year: 1946 Buy: Video

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Blu-ray Review: Brian De Palma’s Obsession

Brian De Palma’s showy Vertigo tribute gets a significant A/V upgrade from Shout! Factory.

4

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Obsession

Geneviève Bujold was a little bit like the Björk of late-‘60s, early-‘70s cinema. She worked between predominately pop-minded American films and hermetic, aggressively Euro productions, coasted a long way on adorably pliable looks, and kept you perpetually off-balance with her off-kilter line readings and interpretations. She was a sterile cuckoo with a voice whose grit confirmed the darkness in her eyes. Paul Schrader may have ended up having to capitulate Obsession’s original (ridiculous) scripted ending to the will of Brian De Palma, but the casting of Bujold in what is essentially Kim Novak’s role in Vertigo results in a literary emphasis not seen in De Palma’s work again until the strong-arm showboating of Oliver Stone and David Mamet.

Obsession is, as far as De Palma’s tributes to Hitchcock go, half-baked and far-fetched without even the benefit of being audacious-unto-tasteless. It’s the film in which the only dearth of a metaphoric “double” is the comedy mask that ought to complement the dour visage of tragedy. (Is that the reason that it’s Obsession, and not any other De Palma film up until Femme Fatale, that’s included in the top 1,000 film list of Jonathan Rosenbaum, who sneered at the director for delighting in audience reactions to Dressed to Kill?)

While Bernard Herrmann’s rapturously funereal score (with at least four separate dirge leitmotifs swirling around the opulent, central “Valse Lente”) ratchets up Obsession’s metastasized, polluted doom-gloom, Bujold takes her role in the opposite direction, at least initially. (The character is a screenwriter’s “pitch” if there ever was one—e.g., “What if we took the idea that Kim Novak was practically young enough to be James Stewart’s daughter and just ran with that?”) Within minutes of meeting Cliff Robertson’s sad sack Michael, Bujold’s Elizabeth bites heartily into Schrader’s symbolic dialogue about the ethical implications of discovering an original draft of art and restoring the revision.

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That’s clearly an expression of self-deprecating guilt from a writer who felt a little dirty turning Vertigo into a teary-eyed sick joke. But Bujold’s enthusiasm as a performer redeems the entire picture, especially when she’s asked to perform flashback scenes that shouldn’t work, but, thanks to her, represent another of De Palma’s fearlessly experimental whims.

Image/Sound

Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography has looked too washed-out on previous home-video editions of the film, but it finally looks right on Shout’s Blu-ray. Colors are natural and the exaggerated lighting dazzles when refracted off of mirror surfaces. Even more impressive is the surround-sound remix, which amplifies Bernard Herrmann’s bombastic, swelling score to deafening levels while leaving all dialogue clear in the center channel. The original mono track is also included and sounds every bit as crisp despite the lack of separation.

Extras

On his commentary track, Douglas Keesey offers a drily academic breakdown of the film. The author of Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film sounds too much like he’s reading from a script, but he still provides intriguing observations on the director’s stylistic flourishes. Interviews with producer George Litto and editor Paul Hirsch see both men reminiscing about their careers and work with De Palma, with the former more gregarious about his own life and the latter more specific about the details of his work on Obsession. An archival documentary on the film features interviews with De Palma, Cliff Robertson, and Geneviève Bujold, who all reflect on the film’s production and how well they worked together. The disc also includes a trailer, radio spots, and an image gallery.

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Overall

Brian De Palma’s showy Vertigo tribute gets a significant A/V upgrade, highlighting the dreamy haze of Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography and Bernard Herrmann’s score better than any home-video release of the film to date.

Cast: Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold, John Lithgow, Sylvia Kuumba Williams, Wanda Blackman, J. Patrick McNamara, Stanley J. Reyes, Nick Kreiger, Stocker Fontelieu Director: Brian De Palma Screenwriter: Paul Schrader Distributor: Shout! Factory Running Time: 98 min Rating: PG Year: 1976 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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