Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Obsession (1976)

ObsessionAfter 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".

A clever, well constructed romantic thriller "Obsession" remains one of De Palma's most fascinating films and while some of the plot twists and themes were borrowed from "Vertigo", De Palma takes them a step further here.

Recently released in the UK on a no region 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

The special features are quite nice as well. 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 he recognized it as 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. De Palma was wise in cutting the last section of the original script because it would have stretched the credability of the story even further.

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.

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.

I'd order it via amazon's UK site as it is less expensive.

Arrow has done an outstanding job of putting together the Blu-ray.

DiPalma's riff on Vertigo? No! Obsession stems from the passion of a true devotee, not an imitator. As in Vertigo, there is so much more than meets the eye with repeated screenings. DiPalma has suffered the slings and arrows of critics and sketch comedians for his Hitchcock obsession; Obsession is sometimes put-down as little more than a spin on Vertigo. Look again! DiPalma's mastery of the medium is evident in every sequence. Though Carrie, The Untouchables, Blow-Out and Scarface garner more praise in his body of work, this may be my favorite DiPalma; it holds one of Bernard Herrmann's most intense, evocative scores. High marks to Arrow Video for making this available.

Buy Obsession (1976) Now

Some great Blu-Ray discs have been premiering overseas, and many of them don't require region-free players to enjoy, either. At the top of the recent list is Arrow Video's tremendous Blu-Ray package of Brian DePalma's 1976 "Vertigo" homage OBSESSION.

"Obsession" stars Cliff Robertson as a New Orleans real estate developer whose wife and daughter are killed in a kidnapping plot; decades later, he runs into Genevieve Bujold in Paris, who's the splitting image of his late wife. Is he going mad? Seeing double? Or is there a conspiracy plot at the center of DePalma and Paul Schrader's screenplay?

Despite its obvious, and intentional, similarities to "Vertigo," "Obsession" isn't a great movie, with a somewhat icky story by Schrader and DePalma making for one of those films they could've only made in the `70s (and still netted a PG rating, no less!). Though Bujold is appealing, and John Lithgow serves up sufficiently slimy "good o'l boy" charm, Robertson's character often registers blankly at the events going on around him he's certainly no Jimmy Stewart-everyman, at least and the film's outcome strains credibility.

That said, there's still much to savor in DePalma's low-budget film, which was independently produced and later picked up by Columbia Pictures (who insisted that filters be used to suggest the movie's love sequence was a dream and with good reason given the film's ending). Bernard Hermann's score is simply breathtaking a flowing, mysterious, gorgeous work that ranks with his best and Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography is likewise memorable, utilizing the full Panavision frame as so many of DePalma's early works do. As a result of their efforts, the picture feels like a much more polished, elaborate production than it really was.

Arrow's UK Blu-Ray offering of "Obsession" is region-free and comes highly recommended for any fan of the film. Though the disc defaults to its original mono track upon playback, you'll want to access the full-bodied, remixed 5.1 DTS Master Audio soundtrack that spectacularly reproduces Herrmann's brilliant score. The 1080p transfer boasts a natural (DNR-free) image, though with so much of the film's cinematography being soft and/or filtered, there's little surprise that the print still looks a bit dirty at times. Supplements, meanwhile, include Laurent Bouzereau's documentary produced for Sony's old DVD release (which include some moving anecdotes about Herrmann's work on the film), the trailer, and a pair of early DePalma shorts, "Woton's Wake" and "The Responsive Eye." A reversible cover sleeve, meanwhile, houses international artwork for the film, while an extensive booklet features Schrader's entire first draft screenplay (under the original title "Deja Vu") with commentary from critic Brad Stevens that seems to completely misinterpret the meaning of the film's ending.

Read Best Reviews of Obsession (1976) Here

After years of enduring the unimpressive DVD transfer for OBSESSION, one of De Palma's most impressive films, Arrow has finally released this spectacular Blu-Ray release. This transfer finally does justice to Zsigmond's hazy cinematography, which was too washed-out and dull on previous releases.

Want Obsession (1976) Discount?

This is not a new film. For its time it was done satisfactorily. I enjoyed it more when I watched it several years ago. Today, I see there was room for improvement in the script. The cast was good and the background music is similar to that in Vertigo, which I liked very much.

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