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by Jay Seaver

"A good little mindbender."
4 stars

"Images" is an unreliable-narrator movie, even though the narration is for another story entirely. It's a pretty good one, compelling the audience to watch in an attempt to figure out what's real and what's in the character's head. I suspect that unlike the jigsaw puzzle that features prominently in the story, there are more pieces than needed to get the full picture, but I'll take that over too few.

In real life, a stay in the country is probably just the thing for someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown more often than not, although it tends to have just the opposite effect on film (to be fair, someone who is hanging on by a thread is going to snap wherever a movie puts them, or else there's no movie). Cathryn (Susannah York) is probably already slightly over the edge when she convinces her husband Hugh (Rene Auberjonois) to take her out to the manse where she grew up, and it doesn't help - she finds herself visited by the ghost of Rene, a former lover dead a year in a plane crash (Marcel Bozzuffi); Marcel, a handsome friend of the couple (Hugh Millais); and his daughter Susannah, who has a disquieting similarity to Cathryn in both appearance and temperament (Cathryn Harrison). Fortunately, there are knives and rifles in the house that can be used to fight off these apparitions, although Cathryn's judgment probably shouldn't be trusted vis-a-vis which are actually hallucinations.

I just realized, upon looking up the actors' names, that each character has the name of one of the other cast members. Cute, considering one of the ways Cathryn exhibits being crazy is by actually seeing one character as another. Further blurring the line between madness and fiction and reality, Susannah York wrote the children's book attributed to her character.

So it's Susannah York's show in more ways than one, and while I haven't read In Search of Unicorns, she seldom lets the film down on the acting side. Cathryn's palpably afraid of losing her grip on reality and York displays that fear so effectively that one begins to question the rest of the characters - they do realize that Cathryn is losing her mind, right? She's capable of great warmth and charm in her more lucid moments, though, and York's scenes with Cathryn Harrison are almost always quite enjoyable. It makes the scenes where she either flies off the deep end or lets loose the sexuality that the audience didn't realize she'd been keeping bottled up all the more arresting.

The rest of the cast does good work as well. Their performances are not as fleshed-out as York's, but we are meant to see them as Cathryn does. Rene Auberjonois is slightly ridiculous as Hugh, inattentive except when he's being patronizing, far more concerned with doing a little hunting than paying attention to his wife. Cathryn Harrison, aside from having an eerie resemblance to Susannah York, shows us what the film's Cathryn might have been like in the past - intelligent, kind of sad, a little introverted, maybe in need of someone to draw her out. Marcel Bozzuffi makes a good ghost, projecting bald middle-aged sex appeal the way only the French can while taunting the one imagining him. Hugh Millais is the closest thing to a weak link - better looking than Auberjonois, but with less personality outside of dreams and hallucinations.

Robert Altman is mainly known for sprawling pieces with dozens of characters, so the tight focus on a literal handful is a change of pace and not always one he handles well. There are some slow spots as the film follows Cathryn around while she doesn't do much of anything. He also implies a tumultuous past for her, but opts not to tip his hand on specifics, lest it provide too many straightforward explanations. He and his crew do do an excellent job of using the setting to creep us out - the house feels small and crowded with remnants of the past while simultaneously being located in a large bit of country that nevertheless feels as isolating as a wasteland. John Williams's score is a fine, restrained piece of work, helping to build tension even when others would be releasing it.

"Images" is as self-referential as film gets without actually breaking the fourth wall, and it's not a bad puzzle at that.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7684&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/08/07 17:12:00
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User Comments

2/07/14 adam warlock great film, York is excellent 4 stars
10/09/07 mr.mike not bad at all 4 stars
8/25/07 M Martin John A dazzling piece of filmmaking from the master Robert Altman. 5 stars
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  18-Dec-1972 (R)


  02-Feb-1972 (M)

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