Monday, April 02, 2018

A Dream Of Myself

When I think of Robert Altman I think of overlapping conversations - of fifteen characters in the same room all talking at once and the dialogue drifting freely between one and the other and the next. It's a way to submerge us in a foreign atmosphere - vocal verité. It can, at times, be confusing - maddening, even. So what if he turned that style inside out, and against itself? What if all the voices were inside one character's head? 

It turns out he did just that one time! In 1972 Altman made Images, a slow-burn psychological thriller starring Susannah York which he said was inspired by Bergman's Persona (although it feels slightly more indebted to Polanski's Repulsion to me... although who am I to argue with Robert Altman about his influences). Arrow Films have just put out a gorgeous 4K restoration of the film on blu-ray and so I finally caught up with a movie that's eluded me for too long - I recommend you do too! It's an incredible - and judging by the vacuum of talk surrounding the film still under-seen - gem of interiorized tension.

York plays Cathryn, a fantasy writer who's taken to the country with her doting jokey husband (played by Rene Auberjonois) to do just that - fantasize, write. We're never told what country it is - the film was shot in Ireland but Altman refuses mapping any sense of location or coherent space - waterfalls straight out of Tolkien appear as Cathryn opines about unicorns on the soundtrack; we're meant to be lost, and lost we are from frame one. Altman disintegrates reality, swapping out Cathryn's scene partners from second to second - five years before Luis Buñuel had two actresses play the same role in That Obscure Object of Desire here Altman was playing some of the same tricks, undermining selves with a flick of his wrist.

And it's utterly unnerving. You're at sea with Cathryn every moment - top-notch editing from editor Graeme Clifford (who would send us spiraling into further existential despair with Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now just a year later) yanks any sense of floor out from under you; cuts undo everything established minutes, seconds, earlier.

But it's all so dreamy at the same time - York's unicorn poetry (which was really the actress' own writing!) floats over the truly stunning and over-saturated (in more than one sense) cinematography from legend Vilmos Zsigmond, who shoots the Irish countryside as if every lens he put on the camera was wet with dew and moss. You can feel your hands planted on the cool, damp earth watching this movie. And it seems to be opening up. And somehow you want it to swallow you whole.


Unclemike said...

I saw this in film school back in 1985. Blew me away.

FoxVerde said...

Love it too!