Obsession review (Blu-ray)

Before the success of horror classic Carrie and after the box office and initial critical failure of Phantom of the Paradise, the now-legendary Brian De Palma had set his sights on making a film in the same vein as one that had proved profoundly inspiring to him: Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.

Devising a story with Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader, who also greatly appreciated Vertigo, the two came up with 1976's Obsession, originally shot as Deja Vu, a film about Michael Courtland (Robertson), a New Orleans businessman who loses his wife and young daughter in a botched kidnapping. After spending the next 15 years racked with guilt, Courtland takes a trip with his business partner to Florence, Italy where, in the same church as he first met his wife, he meets a local woman (Bujold) who is the spitting image of his deceased spouse. As they begin to fall in love, Courtland takes measures to make her more and more like his dead wife.

Although Obsession takes a calmer direction following its rather dark opening, the tone of the film remains unsettling throughout. At times it feels like a classic Hollywood love story from the '40s, complete with a wonderfully grandiose score by Bernard Herrmann, while at others it has a disturbing and really quite sinister quality to it that is jarringly juxtaposed with the romanticism of the two principle characters.

Beautifully shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, whose work looks exceptional on Blu-ray, Obsession is an extremely interesting effort by De Palma and one is definitely worth looking into for anyone who is perhaps more familiar with the auteur's work in the crime genre. I think Roger Ebert said it best when writing about the film (in one of the few times that I've found myself agreeing with him) that it “is an overwrought melodrama, and that's what I like best about it.”

EXTRAS ???? Double-sided international sleeve artwork; double-sided A4 poster; Obsession Revisited: a near-40-minute documentary on the film; the trailer; and two early De Palma short films: 1962's Woton's Wake (27:59) and 1966's The Responsive Eye (26:42).

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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