Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Images (Robert Altman, 1972)

This Halloween, it appears I am all about the non-traditional horror film. Robert Altman's Images stars Susannah York (who Netflix mistakenly credits for writing the script; it was Altman who both wrote and directed the film, while York is given credit for writing the children's story that features prominently in the plot) as Cathryn, a woman for whom reality is losing its edge. She and her husband Hugh return to the country home where Cathryn grew up with her grandfather, so that she can regain her composure; instead, Cathryn loses her grip totally and begins seeing ghosts.

But not scary, bloody ghosts; instead, the ghost of a dead lover Rene, who died in a plane crash years ago, but sure seems real to Cathryn. Another former lover, Marcel, and his daughter Susannah, also visit the house to complicate Cathryn's piece of mind. By the end of the film, the line between reality and delusion has become completely obscured: dead bodies are broken cameras, the vermouth is handed to Cathryn by a ghost, and, in the final twist, no one is who they seem to be in Cathryn's mind. Altman's clever juxtaposition of the character names with the actors' names is slight breaking of the fourth wall that he would play with some more in future films like The Player. And surprisingly, this being American independent film from the early 70s, there is no (or very little) insinuation that it's the man that's making Cathryn lose her mind; I was (surprisingly as well) relieved, because as much as I love feminist subtexts to films, it can be awkward where it doesn't really fit. However, the undertone of female doom in Cathryn's relationship with young Susannah, especially when Susannah tells her "When I grow up, I'm going to be just like you," is delicious.

Why this is one of Altman's lesser-known films, I'll never figure out. It is gorgeously directed, particularly the expansive exterior shots of the British countryside. When Cathryn sees her own self watching her from a cliff, it's chilling. Schizophrenia (which we can pretty safely assume Cathryn has, although it's never mentioned in the film) and other serious mental illnesses are truly scary, because you are ultimately defeated by something that is inside of you; how can you stop something that's a part of you? Images is a good predecessor to 3 Women, where a woman extrapolates her inner self onto those around her. When the final twist in Cathryn's story comes, it's tragic and scary, all at once. A fine, underrated gem from one of our all-time best filmmakers.


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