Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 30th, 2011
BluRay released: July 11th, 2011
Approximate running times: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £19.99
Synopsis: A New Orleans businessman’s life is turned upside down when his wife and daughter are kidnapped. What should have been a simple ransom for hostage exchange, quickly turns deadly when his wife and child are killed, when the kidnappers tried to escape and their car crashes and bursts into flames. Years later while on a business trip in Florence, the businessman encounters a woman working in a church, who is a dead ringer for his deceased wife. Not fully over the tragic deaths of his wife and child, he embarks on a romance with this look alike woman that threatens to destroy his sanity once and for all.
Brian De Palma is a filmmaker, who has never shied away from his influences. And while many of filmmakers have been hailed for appropriating from those who had inspired them. None have been as vilified as Brian De Palma has. With the main argument against him as a filmmaker being that he has borrowed to often from the film’s of Alfred Hitchcock, but then what filmmaker has not been influenced by Alfred Hitchcock.
This brings us to Obsession, a film that liberally borrows from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. And yet to merely write off Obsession as a Vertigo clone, would be a great disservice to what is arguably one of the best reimagining’s of a bonafide cinema classic.
And while a lot of the credit for what ultimately makes Obsession work lies within Paul Schrader’s (Taxi Driver) exemplarily screenplay. One must understate Brian De Palma’s near flawless direction, Bernard Herrmann’s (Vertigo, Psycho) superb score and the pitch perfect performances of the film’s two leads, Cliff Robertson (Charly) in the role of Michael Courtland a businessman, whose wife and child are tragically killed and Geneviève Bujold (Dead Ringers) in the dual role of Courtland’s wife and her doppelganger. Another performance of note is John Lithgow (‘3rd Rock from the Sun’) in the role of Courtland’s business partner. Obsession would also mark the first of John Lithgow three collaborations with Brian De Palma, the other two being Blow Out and Raising Cain.
Very early on the film establishes an eerie atmosphere via its use of soft focus cinematography, that also helps reinforce the dream like / nightmarish quality to the story at hand. And later on in the film there is a dream sequence that is introduced in such a way that its meaning is full of ambiguity.
Narrative wise the flow of information while deliberate, it also does a very good not tipping its hat to where things are ultimately going. The opening set up is laid out is such a meticulous way that the protagonists character’s motivations are easy to emphasize with.
Since its release, Obsession has struggled to find the audience its so deserves. And while this is not that surprising, since the year that it was released, Brian De Palma also released his break out film as a filmmaker Carrie. One film was a clever homage to one of cinema’s most revered filmmakers, while the other one was adapted from the bestselling novel of the successful author in the history of horror literature. Thankfully in recent years the film’s of Brian De Palma has been garnering a reappraisal amongst film critics and film aficionados, which has lead to some of his lesser known films like Obsession to getting the spotlight that had always alluded it. Ultimately Obsession is a well made romantic thriller that has all cinematic bravado and visual flare that has become synonymous with the film’s of Brian De Palma.
Note: This review is based on a test disc and may not be representative of the final product.
Obsession comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Though grain looks more pronounced in some scenes then others and there are some mild instances of DNR. The overall quality of this transfer is very good, there are no problems with compression, colors and flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels are consistent throughout and details generally look crisp.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD Mono mix English. Both audio mix sound clear and balanced throughout. There are no problems with background noise or distortion. Also included with this release are removable SDH English subtitles.
Extras for this release include (1 minute 35 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and a ‘making of’ featurette titled ‘Obsession Revisited’ (37 minutes 31 seconds – 4:3 full frame / letterboxed widescreen), that includes interviews with director Brian De Palma, screenwriter Paul Schrader, producer George Litto, actor Cliff Robertson, actress Geneviève Bujold, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and editor Paul Hirsch. Topics discussed the origins of this project, the script, the cast, the look of the film and the score.
Other extras include two short films also directed by Brian De Palma, Wonton’s Wake and The Responsive Eye.
The Responsive Eye is a straight forward documentary in which we are introduced to works of perceptual and optical art. There is a narrator who leads us through this tour of the museum and we also get to hear audience members react to the art. This documentary is kind of prophetic since most of De Palma’s films deal with deception through trick photography. Overall The Responsive Eye is more informative then entertaining.
Wonton’s Wake is more of a collage of ideas then a straight forward story. Wonton is a misfit who attacks women and collects souvenirs from their corpses. This short is filled with amazing iconic images like broken glass and black gloves both which would become fixtures in Italian thrillers. The dialog in this short is brief and shows up in the form of subtitles. The Soundtrack consists of only music and sounds. During the last third of the film Wonton appears in scenes that resemble moments from The Seventh Seal, The Phantom of The Opera and King Kong.
All the extra content is presented in a 1080 progressive.
Also included with this release is Paul Schrader’s original screenplay of the film in a perfect bound booklet, a collector’s booklet featuring an essay on the film by critic and author Brad Stevens, a four panel reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork and a two sided fold out poster. Overall Obsession gets a first rate release from Arrow Video.