Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Quick “Obsession”

Obsession (1976)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Screenplay by Paul Schrader
From a story by Schrader and De Palma
Produced by George Litto
Cinematographer: Vilmos Zsigmond
Editor: Paul Hirsch
Music by Bernard Herrmann
With: Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold, John Lithgow
98 minutes, released by Columbia

As I recall, director Brian De Palma got slammed by many when this came out for being a “remake” of Hitchcock’s Vertigo—but I actually like Obsession more: I prefer De Palma’s sick sense of humor and maxed out cinematic trickery.

Stylish and technically perfect,
Obsession, like so many of his films (like Dressed to Kill or Raising Cain) is much better when seeing it for the second time around—and the “ick” factor increases exponentially when you know what’s the story behind “obsessed” Cliff Robertson and the always beautiful Geneviève Bujold—
Although I would’ve preferred that the movie went all the way with its wrongness (Oldboy, I’m looking at you).

I’m sure De Palma and screenwriter Paul Schrader (another sick fuck if ever there was one) chortled with merry twistedness at some point in Obsession’s production.
[As it turned out, De Palma heavily rewrote and toned down what was in Schrader’s original script, much to Schrader’s chagrin and anger.]

And don’t let me forget to mention Bernard Herrmann’s magnificent score—I’ve got the LP of it, and it’s a wonderful, overwrought, over-the-top doozy, lots of horns and brass and mournful, but bombastic sounds. Genius!

Released in August 1976, Obsession reportedly did well at the box office despite being trashed by some critics, but it was De Palma’s film that was released in November of ’76 that put him on the map: Carrie.


  1. I completely forgot about this movie. Time to check it out again. You're probably right that it's better than Vertigo, which seems stuffed into an old man's girdle! For all its 'classic' status, it really drags the viewer into Hitch's indulgent self-examination, ultimately leaving us with nothing.

    I was hot for Genevieve in Earthquake, for her unglamorous hotness... or maybe cuteness... anyway you just want to hold her. And Cliff? Well, i don't want to hold him, but he was a good actor. Probably under-appreciated these days. I remember seeing him in "Charley" and once again being beat down by a sad seventies ending. God those seventies movies just refused to have anything resembling a happy ending!!! (but, i know it was from a book of another title)

    But what was with De Palma's Hitchcock fetish? I guess he needed to work that out. He did a few Hitch remakes, no?

  2. Haute 2 Manx!
    Grumps complain that several of De Palma's flicks are too much like Hatchplot's flicks (Body Double/Rear Window; Dressed to Kill/Psycho & Frenzy; Obsession/Vertigo), and maybe so, but I've still enjoyed them, especially when De Palma's not boring--which he was with Black Dahlia and Redacted, and that's a drag because I'd really like to see another good De Palma flick.

    And yes, Genevieve... Mmmmmmm....
    Ironically, the flicks that gave her the most pop culture exposure (how I discovered her) were Earthquake and Swashbuckler, and those movies were contractually obligated! Ha-ha! She's great in Clint Eastwood's Tightrope and Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, as well.

    Obsession had been available on N-flix instant, but has since been pulled.

  3. And some folks have accused De Palma of ripping off/"excessively tributing" Antonioni's Blow Up with his Blow Out, but fuck that noise. Blow Up is a snooze, now very dated, and even the Yardbirds' cameo is a downer. Blow Out gets better and better every year.

  4. His 'obsession' with Hitch is not a problem for me, but i always wonder why people borrow too extensively from others. As you know, it's a real problem for me with Tarenturdo, the guy SUCKS! But De Palma has made some good ones.

    In '78, my friend John Brubaker and i got really high and went up to the local multiplex, bought two tix to a shitty PG film, watched a couple trailers, and then jumped over to the next theater where the R-rated THE FURY was playing. (i didn't know De Palma from Da Vinci in those days) Anyway, the movie started getting me weed-paranoid for a few minutes, but then i loved it! Especially the indoor amusement park scene, and the finale with Cassavetes!

    I've never seen Blow Out, but I love THE CONVERSATION, which is also 're-imagining' of Blow Up. I've never been able to stand Antonioni, but i kinda like Blow Up.