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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Obsession has been somewhat overshadowed by some of director Brian De Palma's other Hitchcock-influenced suspense thrillers like Dressed to Kill and Body Double. This is a shame,because Obsession is one of his very best. It's a very slow moving film,and requires total immersion in it's suffocating atmosphere. And it's certainly NOT simply a rip off of Vertigo.

    What De Palma does is take the basic idea of Hitchcock's film-a man losing a woman and than encountering her 'double'and than spin a very different story off it. In fact,De Palma's 1984 film Body Double copies a lot more of Vertigo! Some parts of Obsession seem closer to Rebecca,and there are some obvious references {scissors from Dial M For Murder,for example}. However,Obsession is also entirely it's own film. It has an atmosphere and feel all it's own.

    Although there are suspenseful bits in the film,and despite a very emphatic but appropriate score by Bernard Herrmann which in it's own way also tells the story,Obsession is a film of restraint,it's characters seeming to move in a dream,making Cliff Robertson's undoubtedly bland portrayal of the hero almost appropriate. There is a slow,balletic grace to the film. De Palma's signature show off moments are often less flashy but amongst his most brilliant,check out the scene with Robertson as he watches the creation of a mausoleum for his dead wife,and see if you notice the beautifully subtle transition to 18 years later. Some of the scenes of the heroine {a simply delightful Genevieve Bujold}in Robertson's house are extremely eerie and contain a very slow but effective 360 degree camera spin,while the flashback scenes near the end are very cleverly done-notice the way Bujold's character as an adult is put into the flashbacks when she was actually a child.

    More than any other De Palma film,this has moments of pure beauty,often when film and score combine {one could write a whole review of the score itself}. One example is the scene when Robertson enters the church where he first met his wife. Vilmos Zsigmond's gorgeous photography and the quiet organ and string piece of music used create such a strong,almost ghostly atmosphere,and than Robertson sees Bujold,and she turns round in slow motion while the score's often used wordless choir plays. Beautiful.

    The film's Big Twist is probably guessable,and any potentially questionable {you might consider the 'twist' in poor taste} elements are not really answered at the end. However,Obsession is a much more compassionate film than Vertigo and indeed most of De Palma's other films,which,while often brilliant pieces of cinema tend to treat it's characters like pawns to move to the next great set piece. Obsession is a very rewarding and satisfying experience it you relax and let it take over you.
  • We all suffer from those deja vu moments in life when we feel we recognise a place we've never been before or a person we find has an uncanny resemblance to someone we once knew, a loved one, friend or relative. I know of only two film directors who have taken this phenomenon and weaved it into movies worthy of watching. The pioneer in this case is, Hitchcock, and the film ,Vertigo. But in Brian De Palma's(Fury, Carrie, The Untouchables etc) Obsession, we come up with a truly well crafted, flawless tribute to Hitchcock and Vertigo. I'd have to agree with another reviewer that this movie vastly surpasses Vertigo in many respects. I'm equally surprised that its not that well known or reviewed.

    The film sets the scene in Louisana state where there is a 10th wedding anniversary going on for Michael and Elizabeth Courtland. Michael played by Cliff Robertson, is a real estate businessman in partner with John Lithgow as Lasalle. Genieve Bujold( Anne of a Thousand Days) plays Courtland's wife, Elizabeth. There is a kidnapping that night in which Courtland's wife and daughter are seized and a ransom demanded for their safe return. The intented rescue goes wrong and both victims are killed in a high speed chase when the car they're occupying collides with an oil tanker, however the bodies are not recovered. Sorry that's as far as I'll tell you about what happens next. Please see the movie, its pure brilliance and the unusual feature about this gem is its connections with Vertigo. For one thing we have the same musical scorer, Bernard Hermann, who gives an excellent off beat musical theme here. Elements common to both films include both Genieve Bujold and Kim Novak(Vertigo) studying a portrait hung on a wall, Bujold in Courtland's house, Novak in an art gallery. We have male pursuers of female interests. Jimmy Stewart observes Novak during her daily excursions around San Fransisco (Vertigo), Robertson follows a woman who resemblances his former wife, around Florence, Italy (Obsession). We have mysteries to be solved in each film. At one point in Obsession, Bujold composes a letter only to crumple it up as it inadequately expresses her feelings. Novak does the exact same thing in Vertigo. Watch the piece with a gold plated pair of scissors that glints at the camera (Obsession), this technique was used very effectively with a knife in De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL movie. And I ask, is that Tom Skerritt I see towards the end of the movie dressed as a security guard who approaches a TWA check-in clerk? It wouldn't surprise me if it was, why? Because as any film fan knows, Skerritt was the captain of the Nostromo in the Sci-fi horror film ALIEN. What's the connection you ask? Well interestingly, One of the other members of that ill fated space crew just happened to be Veronica Cartwright who, God bless her little lungs, lets out some of the best screams in Hitchcock's THE BIRDS!! Apart from these connections what impressed me most about OBSESSION was the story by Paul Schrader, the acting, especially Bujold, who exudes a captivating sensuality in the film and John Lithgow as the upbeat business partner to Robertson. Robertson's character was difficult to play as he was constantly in a state of what seemed like eternal remorse, difficult to portray that kind of a mood on celluloid. But the most impressive feature by far was the masterful film editing done by Paul Hirsch. With only 6 years experience under his belt he produced such simple and fluid dynamics that lended some memorable moments to this film. One such piece of magic is John Lithgow's face morphing into someone else's in an airport scene and then morphing back again to show the compression of memory and time. Another time compression feature is where Robertson stands on a memorial site to his departed wife and daughter. The camera gives us a slow 360 degree panorama and when we return to Robertson's face we have miraculously advanced 16 years into the future. This is pure artistic work and it reminds me of the 'hands covering the face' scene in Cinema Paradiso, magic. Did you know that when Courtland's wife and daughter are kidnapped , the year is 1959 one year after the release of Vertigo and that a reference to pyschiatrists links both movies. Well there I go again. Better yet rent it on video you will be doubly surprised, I give it a definite 10.
  • "Obsession" is truly the best movie Hitchcock never made.

    It came out the same year as the great master of suspense made his last movie, the disappointing "Family Plot", it has a classy, brilliant soundtrack by the legendary Bernard Herrmann that fits nicely in with the work he did for Hitchcock, it has a wonderful script by Paul Schrader that will keep you guessing till the last frame, and last but not least: it's directed by Brian De Palma, who despite being slammed by some (stupid) critics for ripping off Hitchcock should in stead be praised for being able to copy the master better than any other living filmmaker.

    Hitchcock is my favorite director of all times, and "Obsession" is so much like one of his films that it's difficult to accept that it was put together by another man. But De Palma doesn't deserve criticism for honoring his idol, he deserves praise for delivering a movie that, had it been made by Hitchcock, would rank among his finest films.

    That's quite a feat! If you are a fan of De Palma or Hithcock you are almost guaranteed to love "Obsession", a highly underrated thriller that left me an even greater fan of Robertson, Bujold, Lithgow, De Palma, Schrader, Herrmann and every one else involved. Sit back, enjoy it and watch out for those wonderful last 20 minutes!
  • lee953go30 October 2005
    No previews of this movie should be read if there is any chance that it gives away the plot of the movie. The ending is quite unbelievable and heart-stopping. You think all through this movie that you know what is going on--but you won't. I know people who saw this movie and still did not know what actually happened. I was fortunate enough to see this movie in a theater in 1976. There was hardly anyone else in the theater. In one week I saw the movie five times and would have seen it more but the theater ended the showing of it. In my city it was not shown at any other theater. The reason "Obsession" did not do well in ticket sales was that the title made people think of demon possession movies(which many were tired of at that time). It was not marketed correctly. The movie opens in 1959 as a rich business man in New Orleans, Courtland,(Cliff Robertson) is married to a wonderful wife and has a daughter who is about five years old. The wife and daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom. Courtland, thinking that he is doing the safest thing that he can do, contacts the police. The police find the kidnappers and the wife and daughter. The kidnappers escape with the hostages in a car and the police chase them. The kidnapper's car slams into a fuel truck on a bridge and all is lost. Courtland blames himself for the tragedy. Courtland spends the next sixteen years buried in guilt and remorse. Psychotherapy does not do much good. In 1975, Court(as he is known as) is finally persuaded to take a vacation in Italy where his firm conducts business. His partner(John Lithgow, who does a great job speaking Italian with a New Orleans drawl)goes with him. Court goes to a huge,beautiful, cathedral where he makes a heart-rendering, earth-shaking, discovery. All through the movie, care must be taken to carefully observe the paintings, whether they are in the cathedral or in a house. They all have meaning. There are art students in the cathedral who are restoring paintings that have been damaged during a flood(A second chance for the works of art). One of the students,a young woman, bears an uncanny resemblance to Court's dead wife. Court returns later with his business partner who is shocked by the resemblance of the woman. The musical score during these scenes are hauntingly beautiful and tell the story of a man who has awakened from a nightmare of self-reproach. Court meets the student, Sandra(Geniveve Bujold,one of the most beautiful actresses in the world) and takes her to lunch. Lunch turns into dinner and a relationship develops. Court falls madly in love with her. He is alive for the first time since 1959. Court returns with her to New Orleans and announces that he is going to marry her. His friends try to talk him out of this whirlwind romance and give himself time to think about it. Court dismisses their advice and decides to marry Sandra the next day without his friends. Sandra reluctantly agrees. The next morning, Court finds that Sandra has been kidnapped. The ransom note is a copy of the 1959 ransom note. This nearly drives Court info insanity and he decides that this time he will do the ransom right--but will he succeed? The rest of the movie is a frenzy. The last two minutes of the movie should not be viewed by anyone with a heart condition. It is that intense. I cannot explain further because the movie is not only a love story and thriller, but also a mystery. Brian DePalma was a genius for directing this movie. There are several scenes in this movie where the camera rotates around a character, painting a picture of an unsteady state of mind. You can see the same cinematography and effect in the 2005 movie, "Flightplan", with Jodie Foster. Both movies have the same portrayal of one who is desperately cares for a loved one and is dealing with intense guilt from the past. Both movies end in an airport with the main characters doing exactly the same thing, which I cannot reveal without ruining the ending of the movies. You must find a copy of "Obsession" and view it because it is like no other movie--even though some have compared it to Hitchcock's movie, "Vertigo".
  • dbdumonteil18 September 2002
    ...or rather nightmarish,this is probably De Palma"s finest achievement.Here his obsession with Alfred Hitchcock is subdued or thoroughly mastered.Of course we cannot help but thinking of "Vertigo" but De Palma's work is made with taste :two good leads -Cliff Robertson,whose eyes seem to reflect fatality,and Genevieve Bujold whose beauty seems to plunge the audience into a dream(the sequence in the church makes her look like a madonna)-.Besides,Bernard Herrman's score is absolutely mind-boggling,enhancing the strangest sequences in an almost religious incantation.The cinematography is up to scratch,and the directing remains sober.The Hitchcock quotations take a back seat to De Palma's talent:compare this work with the grand guignol of "Carrie" the follow-up,the sensationalism tinged with melodrama of "fury" (no,it's not a remake of the Fritz Lang classic),the plagiarism of "dressed to kill" or "Body double".

    One may regret the last pictures in slow motion.But that's minor quibble.This is De Palma's magnum opus,and it will be "blow out" before he puts out a genuinely personal movie.Do not miss it.
  • "Obsession" is one of Brian DePalma's most underrated films. It is a thriller of tremendous power and grace. It is also the recipient of some of the most negative reviews in DePalma's very checkered history.

    I personally think that Brian DePalma is one of our very best directors. I would even classify him as a great director. His best films are his thrillers, which are inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's work. Most critics think DePalma is nothing more than someone who rips off Hitchcock. But in his defense, he does not rip off Hitch. He is his own artist. He has his own agenda in each and every film he has made.

    "Obsession" is often touted as a "rehash of Vertigo". But DePalma takes the basic premise and turns it upside down, creating twists and revelations that Hitchcock only dreamed of. The film stars Cliff Robertson, in his usual fine performance as a man whose wife and daughter are kidnapped and killed in a setup gone bad. The film opens in 1959 and then skips ahead to 1975 with Robertson standing at the graves (really nice camerawork in this sequence as time fades away) Robertson is in Italy for business when he sees a young woman who strongly resembles his late wife (since both are played by Genevieve Bujold, this is no coincidence)You can pretty much guess the rest.

    Or can you? What makes "Obsession" really stand out is the final 25 minutes in which DePalma and cowriter Paul Schrader (himself a fine director; his credits include "Hardcore", "Blue Collar", "American Gigolo" and "Mishima")put in so many twists and turns that a second viewing may be necessary to sort out all the details. While most people may dismiss this as a ripoff of "Vertigo", remember that at this time "Vertigo" was currently unavailable period. No TV viewings, no tapes, no theatrical runs, nothing. DePalma may have been trying to make a film to fill the void left behind by that disappearance. But he makes a film that is more satisfying than the Hitchcock film. "Vertigo", brilliant as it was, was a real downer. "Obsession" is shorter at 98 minutes, but it has a delibirate pace that makes it feel longer. In a lesser work, it would be intolerable, but here it is appropriate.

    The technical credits are solid as a rock. The Panavision photography by Vilmos Zsigmond is outstanding as is the Bernard Herrmann score (his next to last). Robertson and Bujold give strong performances, but it is DePalma regular John Lithgow who is the most memorable.

    See "Obsession" two or three times to get the full effect. It takes some effort to get used to, but it's worth it.

    **** out of 4 stars
  • kyle_c17 November 2002
    Underrated masterpiece by De Palma was basically disregarded due comparisons to "Vertigo". Sure, the basic premise is the same, but De Palma takes it in a totally different direction. Technically, this is among his best works, with the beautiful camerawork complimenting a haunting, disturbing story. The story takes it's time, and while the slow pace may bother some viewers, patient viewers will realize that it works to draw them in. By the time it is over, it feels like you have just come out of a trance.
  • Obsession is directed by Brian De Palma and written by Paul Schrader. It stars Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold and John Lithgow. Music is by Bernard Herrmann and cinematography by Vismos Zsigmond.

    You either love him or hate him, it seems. Brian De Palma that is. He's an amazing stylist who made some piercingly great thrillers in the tradition of Maestro Hitchcock, or he's a knock off artist using style to hide his inadequacies as a story teller? One thing for sure, for a good portion of the 70s and 80s his films would not be ignored, for better or worse depending on your own proclivities of course.

    Obsession, as has been noted numerous times, is De Palma's homage to Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo. It's not a straight out copy as some reviewers have somehow managed to convince themselves, but narrative drive is similar. Robertson in grief for a passed on wife (Bujold) and daughter meets a doppelganger (also Bujold) of his dead wife 16 years down the line and becomes obsessed with her. As the new woman reciprocates the attraction, the relationship becomes wrought and borderline unhealthy, reaching a crescendo when muddy waters are stirred and revelations force the can to open and worms to spill everywhere.

    When remembering that for a long time Vertigo was out of circulation in the 70s, Obsession was sure as hell a good second option for anyone hankering for a superbly stylish thriller boiling over with psychological smarts. Even if you buy into the style over substance argument, what style there is here though. Roving camera work, up tilts, haze surrounds, canted frames, pan arounds, dream shimmers and personalised focus. Add in the splendid use of New Orleans and Tuscany locations and Herrmann's sensually dangerous score (lifted in part and re-worked from Vertigo) and it has style to burn. While the big reveals at pic's culmination are in turn intriguing and daring; even if the original ending planned would have really put the cat among the pigeons and made for a more potent piece ripe for heated discussion.

    Lead cast are on fine form, Robertson plays it superbly as a wistful and damaged wastrel, guilt and obsession seeping from every pore. Bujold is just darling, a telling twin performance that actually doesn't demand to be noticed until late in the play. While Lithgow stomps around the edges of the frame like some shyster lawyer whose tie is on too tight. Ultimately Obsession is a film crafted in the mode of Hitchcock, but not in anyway disgracefully so. This is no illegitimate relation to Vertigo, it's more like a reliable brother-in-law. Pulpy, Trashy but also Classy. Great. 8/10
  • Brian dePalma really accomplished quite a feat by paying homage to Hitchcock with a strong variation on VERTIGO's theme--a man who loses the woman he loves sees her reincarnated in another woman and then loses her too.

    He takes this premise and does some fancy camera-work that swirls around the lovers with an intensity only matched by the whirling colors of Bernard Herrmann's magical score. He sets up the tale by having a convincing kidnapping take place in which his wife and daughter are taken by the criminals and has him mourning their loss until he encounters another woman in Italy, years later, who strongly resembles his presumably dead wife.

    The rest of the plot must remain undisclosed for "spoiler" purposes, but I'm sure there are those who will at least have a suspicion as to the real purpose of all the foregoing events.

    CLIFF ROBERTSON has the difficult chore of appearing downtrodden and depressed most of the time, so GENEVIEVE BUJOLD has the task of brightening up the tale with her unconventional good looks and upbeat manner. JOHN LITHGOW makes his screen debut as Robertson's close friend and business acquaintance.

    If it's a stylish dePalma movie you're in the mood for, this one will fill the bill nicely. And that Bernard Herrmann score alone makes watching the movie completely worthwhile. It's dazzling.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    At the turn of the seventies and eighties of the 20th century De Palma had a fertile period of making thriller/horror genre films; during which period he directed some 10 of these. Thriller drama Obsession is among them. Although the film did not succeed in reaching a cult status such as Blow out, Dressed To Kill, Carrie, Sisters... it features a lot of interesting characteristics present in all De Palma's films from that period; continuous uninterrupted shots, 360 degree rotation camera, unusual angles of view that emphasize psychedelic atmosphere (Dutch angle), a subtle way of revealing details... Besides the director's recognizable signature, the film abounds in a series of clumsy solutions and archaisms and this is the reason why it fell into shadows and oblivion giving way to more accomplished films of that period. Today's anonymity of the film does not, however, mean that at the time of its release it did not arouse considerable interest among the public and yield profits.

    His attitude of admiration towards and references to Hitchcock are much accentuated. This work could be described in a summary as a hybrid between Rebecca and Vertigo. The story is about a wealthy businessman, Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) whose wife and daughter were killed during a kidnapping attempt. The fact that he did not follow kidnappers' instructions, but those given by the police causes him to feel deeply guilty. From that tragic event on the time stopped for him. He spends his years in mourning his family until the day he meets a young woman Sandra (Geneviève Bujold) strikingly resembling his dead wife. He becomes obsessed with her. He enters quickly into relationship with her and wants to marry her. But we later discover that she is his daughter driven by the desire for revenge. She is acting in conspiracy with Michael's partner Robert (John Lithgow) who actually planned the first kidnapping, spared little Sandra, brought her up and made her hate her father. His motive is anger towards his partner whom he blames for business inefficiency and wish to take possession of his fortune. Michael kills Robert and realizes with his daughter how they were manipulated and forgive each other.

    A premise as such contains some inconsistencies and arguably elaborated thematic of incest. An excellent acting could have given more strength to the film, but the opposite is what has happened - poor and unconvincing performance finished it completely. Cliff Robertson was an unlucky choice for the protagonist. He's lacking the necessary intensity and his gestures are packed with mannerisms. He gives impression of a wooden doll that expresses to experience strong emotions by starting to stare and blink. Romantic scenes are presented without any passion or obsession. It is interesting that there are no signs of aging, although the story covers 20 years. His co-protagonist, Geneviève Bujold showed greater acting capabilities, however she gave an uneven performance. She brought her character as an unfortunate person, not showing an obsessive need for revenge – that was supposed to be her main driving force and characteristic. Incest based approach applied through the whole film – in an unusually easy and romantic way. The question stays hanging in the air- What kind of a woman would accept to inflict vengeance upon her father through an incestuous relationship? And how is that possible that this dark, ill side of her character is not a theme treated in this film? John Lithgow (Michael's business partner) as far as he's concerned hasn't much to offer to this work, except for the evidence from the very beginning that he is the main villain. Through that the tension and culmination of final conflict are lost for the film.

    The attempt to accentuate dramatic moments through long shots resulted in extremely boring sequences. As the acting is shallow, continuous shot just gave more emphasis to it. Neither the music was of great help, although made by one of top-level composers, Bernard Herrmann (Battle of Neretva, Psycho, Taxi Driver). The main theme is well elaborated – accentuates tension, however, playful symphonic scores in certain parts entirely ruin the course of film's plot. It is interesting, as well, to note that the first third of the film happens in the last decade of the 50s, nevertheless many style characteristics (footwear, hair styles, fashion...) belong unequivocally to the 70s. The film abounds in such inconsistencies which make it look antiquated and naive. This mediocre thriller seems to call for remake which would be able to explore the theme more deeply, put more emphasis on macabre ambiance, illnesses of obsessive impulses and incest of main characters. Such a story does not tolerate superficiality and glamorization, so eagerly adopted by De Palma for no reason.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of De Palma's more respected Hitchcock rip-off endeavors. Utterly predictable and supremely idiotic in its conclusion. From the very start it was obvious that Lithgow was involved in the kidnapping. But this doesn't make any sense: if he was in on it then surely he would have warned the kidnappers that Robertson called the police and they would have left the cottage on time. And what's with that whole police chase/cottage business? The police surrounds the cottage, a car with Robertson's family goes aflame and into the river - and yet his daughter lives?! How?? The police had that cottage surrounded, so how the hell could the man and the girl stay in it unnoticed?? What's even worse: a flashback of Bujold's shows that it was her mother - the original Bujold, if you like - who stayed in the cottage. So if anything, it should be Robertson's wife who is alive and well, not their daughter. What about the French police inspector in New Orleans?! What's that all about? All of this is too dumb and there are no excuses for this kind of blatantly mongoloid scripting.

    So much for the illogicalities. Now for the far-fatchedness. Lithgow takes Bujold, Jr. to Italy where he keeps her there for 16 years in what has to be one of the most intricate, complex, far-fetched, ridiculous and longest conspiracy plots in the history of both fiction, non-fiction, semi-fiction, and the entire history of the universe. The CIA, KGB and FBI all combined couldn't pull off this sort of conspiracy plot in practice, in the world of international espionage where the stakes are incomparably higher, yet Lithgow, who is merely extorting money and land-ownership rights (minor stuff, by comparison), is the mastermind behind an operation that would require that he be both God and therefore soothsayer in order to plan and carry out this kind of mind-numbingly silly charade that made my hair stand on my hand and even around my penis. (It's rare that both the penis and the brain, total opposites, got upset by the illogic of this dumbfest.) Then there is that ridiculous scene in which Lithgow confesses his crimes to Robertson: why??? Why would he do that?? He plans this thing for years and it works out, and then he tells Robertson he's been had! Then they proceed to wrestle, followed by a stabbing, and yet more nonsense follows. And more. And more.

    So much for the illogic and the far-fetched aspects. Now for the coincidences. What a coincidence that Bujold Jr. should realize that Lithgow is the baddie after 16 years just as she has double-crossed her daddy. And what a coincidence that Bujold Jr. is a replica, a virtual clone of her mother - a very convenient plot-device used without a second of hesitation by the kind of idiots of the Schrader and De Palma caliber.

    The movie rips off "Vertigo" shamelessly (an anyway overrated film), and has small elements of "Rebecca" as well. De Palma was never known for originality; he is merely a devoted fan whose sole goal in his "artistic" life is to copy those he admires or - rather - worships. Even the music is obviously Hitchcockian, written by Herrmann - who did the music for some of Hitch's movies. This movie falls neatly in line with the absolute worst of De Palma's thrillers: "Sisters", "Body Double", and "Dressed To Kill". Can anyone make dumber thrillers than De Palma?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As a fan, big fan, of the majority of De Palma's work, I was looking forward to seeing this. I'd never seen it before , somehow it had slipped past me. Now, having watched it, I can only say that maybe I had a kind of 6th sense when I was younger that warned me away from it. Sadly, that sense seems to be fading. This tale of triple obsession (yes, triple) should've been a huge turkey. Difficult to believe it ever broke even, never mind made a profit, as I see it has from this website, though I reckon it must've taken a while. Visually it's interesting, the only real strong point from De Palma that I'd note, though given the Italian locations especially it's still surprising he doesn't do more with the visuals. The performances he gets are barely satisfactory and rarely convincing, not helped by a ridiculously bewigged and mustachioed John Lithgow. Cliff Robertson, a fine actor, is suitable for the romantic side of the story but never at any time convinces as someone tortured by guilt for some 15/16 years.

    That may not have been entirely his fault since the Paul Schrader script gives him, and everyone else, so little to work with. Full of anomalies and plot holes, while the viewer will likely have every plot twist worked out in the first 25 minutes, the script itself doesn't seem to know where it's going for the first hour with it's snail's pace development and reliance on atmospheric score to keep the audience warm.

    I've seen this called a psychological thriller but what thrills it has, and there aren't many and they aren't that thrilling , mostly come in the first and last ten minutes. Having sat through most of the movie waiting for something to happen, when it does, it only highlights the worst shortcomings of script and direction with unbelievable character u-turns, revelations, coincidences and just plain stupidity, such as Robertson going to the airport to book a flight , finding out there's one about to leave at that moment and just running for it without getting a ticket. The script actually makes a comic moment of it just to emphasise how stupid it is. (Even stupider than the 1959 New Orleans police as represented here also.) The film ends, more or less, with a priceless look of bewilderment on Robertson's face as, even with all the previous revelations, he finally starts to understand what has happened to him. He can't do tortured guilt, but by goodness he can do bewilderment. Funnily enough that exact look was visible on the faces of quite a few others in the cinema as the lights went up, though most likely for other reasons, that they'd sat through it all, that it had ever got made in the first place, that this stylish piece of trash could come from De Palma, etc..
  • I revisited "Obsession" recently because I've always been a fan of the late, great Bernard Herrmann. In the late 1970's, I bought the "Obsession" soundtrack on LP because, as one critic so aptly wrote, "Herrmann's score would make even blank film compelling." As for what happens on the celluloid, it's obvious that this movie was a lower-budgeted rush job (example: mid-70's automobiles in scenes of 1959 New Orleans). It's also quite a feat to make Florence look so drab and gray, while the middle third of the film bogs down tremendously. And the excessive use of filters by Vilmos Zsigmond makes the film look less ethereal than out-of-focus.

    In my opinion, the only other positive for the film is Genevieve Bujold's performance. It stands in marked contrast to the one given by Cliff Robertson, who is leaden throughout and provides no shades or nuances of a conflicted man. And a young John Lithgow fares no better, with his outrageously syrupy Southern accent.

    Five stars out of ten. For Benny and Genevieve.
  • A rich businessman (Clift Robertson) meets an enigmatic young girl ( Genevieve Bujold) in Florencia . She is the dead ringer image of his late spouse who was murdered by kidnappers during a car accident at a backfired rescue . It leads to a mesmerizing cycle of traps and lies.

    A classic in suspense from De Palma , pitching us right into the action from the beginning and baffling most of us to the ending. There is much for De Palma buffs to savour in this thrilling and atmospheric handling of a complex story with deliberately old-fashioned treatment . Robertson is assured as ever as the obsessed millionaire battling against his obsessions and Bujold in a difficult double role as the girls who looks exactly like the wife, she strangely adds depth to her acting. There are tense key images that that are brilliantly staged. This romantic flick is plenty of mystery, intrigue, and suspenseful. Adding special characteristics techniques as ominous camera movements .

    Brian De Palma's homage to Hitchcock and the amusement turn out to be inquire what scenes taken from suspense Master. For that reason takes parts especially from ¨Vertigo¨. All this said, the mechanics of suspense are worked quite well and may frighten the easily scared quite badly, but De Palma has made a habit of dwelling on their more sordid side-shoots. The film displays a great and haunting musical score by Bernard Herrmann, Hitchock's favorite composer and imitating his former hits. Furthermore appropriate cinematography by cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond, though is urgent a necessary remastering because of the colors are faded. The picture is brilliantly directed by Brian De Palma. This one along with ¨ Sisters,Dresssed to Kill, Blow out¨ are outwardly another ode to Hitchcock, but the Master might well shift uneasily in his grave at the long-drawn-out tension, the flash scenes and the shock effects with the accent on gas-provoking , but on most occasion is thrilling. Rating : Above average but gets some riveting basic ideas and fascinating images.
  • Cliff Robertson is the wrong actor to play a man mourning the death of his wife, obsessed over a new woman who strikingly resembles her. James Stewart pulled it off in "Vertigo", and believably conveyed a range of emotions of a man being pulled into an emotional quagmire kicking and fighting. Robertson is alert, but that's about all you can say for him. Director Brian De Palma swirls his camera around him and Genevieve Bujold, but gets nothing visceral going, no emotional involvement. The plot is fairly transparent, the cinematography and color processing are poor, and the supporting cast fails to add much to the low-keyed melodrama. De Palma wanted his own flair and showiness to be the star attraction here, but his languid, surreal mood seems merely plodding, and his obvious regard to the style of Hitchcock isn't made appealing to us. ** from ****
  • ...and so I started depalma's "Obsession" and noticed the screenplay by Paul Schrader and did a double take and saw the score by Bernard Hermann and thought to myself "Taxi Driver"?? This is the fifth film i've seen in a cycle started with "Wedding Party" of early depalma works. It is I believe with this film that depalma finally seems to settle into a consistent film making style... I mean it's really difficult to figure out a directors vision when he jumps between making significant socio-political films like "Hi Mom" to cheezy schlock like "Phantom of the Paradise". Anyways, whether it be Hermann's bi-polar score (see. Taxi Driver) or Paul Hirch's magnificent editing, depalma finally makes a film worthy of a second viewing. If "Sisters" and "Phantom of the Paradise" showed depalma's clever camera play with split screen editing, "Obsession" shows depalma's delicate use of filtering to enhance a feeling of dreaminess and actually stay with a single theme till the end. Finally it's interesting to note the final sequence of the film and it's similarity to what in my opinion is his greatest triumph "Carlito's Way". Check this one out...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In 1959, in New Orleans, the businessman Michael "Mike" Courtland (Cliff Robertson) celebrates the tenth wedding anniversary with his beloved wife Elizabeth (Geneviève Bujold) with a party in his manor. Late night, Elizabeth and their daughter Amy are abducted and the kidnappers leave a note asking the ransom of US$ 500,000.00. However Mike calls the police but the rescue operation is a mess. When the criminals are pursued, there is a car crash and it explodes. Mike blames himself for the death of Elizabeth and Amy and builds a memorial in the location of the accident.

    In 1975, Mike travels with his partner Robert Lasalle (John Lithgow) to Florence in a business trip and when he goes to the church where he first met Elizabeth, he sees the worker Sandra Portinari (Geneviève Bujold) that is working in the restoration of a painting of Madonna and is a dead ringer of Elizabeth. Mike becomes obsessed in Sandra and dates her. When Mike travels back to NOLA, he brings Sandra planning to marry her. However, Sandra is also kidnapped and Mike finds a ransom note identical to the one he received when Elizabeth was abducted. Now Mike believes that destiny has given a second chance to him and he does not want to blow it.

    "Obsession" is an average thriller by Brian De Palma with a messy and chaotic screenplay. The greatest problem is the lead actor Cliff Robertson that keeps a wooden face with the same expression and never convinces. The plot is also silly and weak since Bob has waited fifteen years to lure Mike and take his real state. The incestuous romance between Mike and Sandra is also lame since she could be a "good catholic girl", but she certainly has had intimacies with her father in the name of revenge. Last but not the least, this is the first feature of John Lithgow, who has always been doomed to be the villain. My vote is six.

    Title (Brazil): "Trágica Obsessão" ("Tragic Obsession")
  • I have waited for years to see this movie offered for home viewing. When I saw it in the 70's I was so amazed at the story and most of all the music. I found the soundtrack album in a store in NYC and played the death out of it. The story really keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the twists and turns keep you dazed and confused, but totally interested. John Lithgow is really excellent in this early role of his career. Geneviève Bujold is wonderful and should have gotten some award, Golden Globe or Oscar, she is that excellent in this film, and will leave you breathless. I am so thrilled that it is now available in DVD and plan to buy several as Christmas gifts for the many friends that I have raved too all these years. This movie is better then most Hitchcock films, and twice as haunting!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This had one of the baddest plots ever and you could see it coming from miles of. At a certain point about 40 minutes in you all ready know what the conclusion will be because it all obvious points to that. There is simply no set up for anything else so the story basically unfolds without any surprises and a very predictable ending.

    The characters make illogical decisions and there is a real lack of chemistry between them and some explanations are ludicrous like the nine year old girl that seems to forget her former life because its convenient to the script.

    Movie has a lot of these examples and most of the time just drags one for that "shocking moment" at the end which it does not deliver because you all ready know that.

    A later movie from De Palma "raising Cain" which has some of the same subject matter is a far better movie than this both visually and plot wise so your better of watching that.

    This was compared to Hitchcock but while his movies will stand the test of time this one from De Palma shows he still had a lot to learn about story telling.

    He got it eventually but he can write this one of as a fail.
  • Oggz14 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    And so in 1976 did Brian De Palma his own "Vertigo" make, pulling all the stops in the process, including hiring Herrmann to outdo his own 1958 score - which the latter did, and very resourcefully so, recycling all the heavy chromatics and chord progressions of the earlier movie, borrowing from 'Marnie' and 'Cape Fear' here and there, adding a Debussy/Holst-like choir and organ for effect, and coming up with a loud, indulgent and heavy score which nevertheless lifts the movie immeasurably (in parts literally saving it from disaster). Elsewhere, in an interesting bit of casting, Cliff Robertson's mid-seventies candy floss hairdo is too close to Liberace for comfort as he seriously underplays his sombre tragedy-ridden leading character - yet he curiously manages to look like someone who would indeed sleep with their own daughter. Bujold is always reliable to do well and her unusual face is what we tend to remember long after the film is over. In one of the best scenes, Lithgow relishes his chance to be sick, mean and twisted at the airport as Bujold is wrestled into the plane - long before he lets the blood flow freely as the psycho killer in "Blow Out" - although spoiling the effect somewhat with his conspicuous southern drawl (come to think of it, why wasn't he cast instead of Caine in 'Dressed To Kill'? We'd have had a better film).

    De Palma is on his knees in front of Hitchcock in this consistent, almost fetishist exercise in film idolatry, and was to continue his submission to Hitch occasionally throughout his career to varying degrees of success. In that sense, "Obsession" fares pretty well, doing certainly better than "Body Double" or "Raising Cain" but not cutting it as sharply as "Carrie" or "Blow Out" do. Uneven but with good moments at best, namby-pamby and redundant at worst - make your own mind up. A good film to watch in winter when you're slightly under the weather, you'll be just in the right mood for the film's distinctive, feverish, dense atmosphere.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw the last 2/3ds of this in the early 80s on TV one night. I was captivated. When the end came I was impressed and stunned. For the last three decades I have wondered if my impressions were wrong because since then, I've grown up, learned much about DePalma's betters, and unfortunately seen at least nine or ten horrid pieces of inept, clumsy, derivative DePalma crap. Now through the miracle of DVD technology, after three decades, I'm able to re-visit this.

    And... it's a painfully stupid, clumsy, artless film. The standard DePalma film travesty.

    DePalma never minds sacrificing internal logic, taste or common sense in favor of his shallow, out-of-place, ripped-off technique. It took about half an hour to reject this movie. Here's the first 30 minutes of stupidity in a nut-shell: * Gauze over the longest, episodic flashback ever filmed * There's a flashback before the current story even starts * Endless waltz with wife in place of dialog or character development * Takes less than one minute to reach a Hitchcock rip-off * Theme waltz becomes a nuisance after 5 minutes * John Lithgow's accent is ridiculous * Minute-long waltz with daughter so unsubtle that it telegraphs entire premise & twist of the movie * Regional 'flavor' supplied in place of character * Best friend as villain revealed at 8 minute mark removing all tension * Lithgow miscast as a villain; he's about as threatening as a banana * Lithgow or his character is a closet case, causing distraction * Ransom delivered from tacky 1970s tourist paddlewheeler * Tourists will pay to take a paddlewheeler ride ten feet from the shore * Crappy "spooky wind" sound effect playing under windless cemetery * Resemblance of church to tomb, supposed to surprise viewers, but DePalma couldn't resist putting it under the credits.

    A movie can overcome any five small annoyances, but in just under half an hour DePalma has accumulated so many crimes against film construction and human intelligence (with assistance form Paul Schrader!) that Obsession was clearly not going to recover. Is he up to the challenge of reversing the incestuous plot and unturn my stomach? Of course not. Script schmipt... there are Hitchcock movies that DePalma needs to rip off. As I've noted before he seems to watch classic thrillers by talented directors, then think "I'd like to make the crappy version of this!"

    This isn't the worst DePalma movie. Nothing could suck more than the start-to-finish idiocy of 'Sisters.' But it can share the "2nd worst DePalma movie" slot with everything else he's made*.

    (*except somehow, miraculously... Carrie)
  • OBSESSION, Brian de Palma's answer to Hitchcock's VERTIGO, is the most disappointing film I've seen from the director yet. Despite his steadfast direction and some not-bad performances from the central actors, this is a huge letdown of a film, purely due to the film-flam nature of the storyline. The truth is that it just doesn't hold together under close scrutiny. The whole plot hinges on a conspiracy of sorts which is so ridiculous, so unbelievable, that it could only appear in a movie.

    The story opens with ageing Hollywood heartthrob Cliff Robertson losing his wife and daughter during a kidnapping attempt. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the story then cuts to twenty years later and loses any of the focus or interest it had previously generated. It becomes a cheesy, '70s-era romance that goes nowhere, taking an age to build to that aforementioned ridiculous climax that asks the audience to swallow a wholly unbelievable plot. It's impossible.

    Robertson is passable as the lead actor, but he never lights up the screen in the way a Stewart, Grant or Peck would have done. He's definitely second-rate material. Genevieve Bujold, as the subject of his affection, is better, but not as good as Margot Kidder in de Palma's previous SISTERS. John Lithgow is a disappointment in the acting stakes, especially given his performance in the much better BLOW OUT. All in all, this is the most disappointing de Palma film I've watched yet, at least up until his work in the mid-'90s.
  • I have yet to see a film that Cliff Robertson , John Lithgow and/or Genevieve Bujold do not shine. And this is yet another example. Stellar actors. From start to finish this extraordinary film takes the audience on a mesmerizing journey. I vividly remember seeing this film with a family member in the 1980's , just the ending of the film, and without a doubt this would have to be one of the most moving scenes I've ever encountered. I dare anyone to watch this film and not be moved at the finale. Many modern movies have over-the-top special effects and minimal acting , where the audience is left deflated since they weren't able to connect with the characters. Here we have minimal special effects and stellar acting all around , as well as high quality musical composer Bernard Herrman.

    A lot of Brian da Palma's other films are overly laden with violence and gratuitous scenes, and yet somehow this film, Obsession, is an example of how you can make a highly engaging film that mesmerizes an audience WITHOUT any explicit material. I highly recommend this film as de Palma's best.
  • We all suffer from those deja vu moments in life when we feel we recognise a place we've never been before or a person we find has an uncanny resemblance to someone we once knew, a loved one, friend or relative. I know of only two film directors who have taken this phenomenon and weaved it into movies worthy of watching. The pioneer in this case is, Hitchcock, and the film ,Vertigo. But in Brian De Palma's(Fury, Carrie, The Untouchables etc) Obsession, we come up with a truly well crafted, flawless tribute to Hitchcock and Vertigo. I'd have to agree with another reviewer that this movie vastly surpasses Vertigo in many respects. I'm equally surprised that its not that well known or reviewed.

    The film sets the scene in Louisana state where there is a 10th wedding anniversary going on for Michael and

    Elizabeth Courtland. Michael played by Cliff Robertson, is a real estate businessman in partner with John Lithgow as Lasalle. Genieve Bujold( Anne of a Thousand Days) plays Courtland's wife, Elizabeth. There is a kidnapping that night in which Courtland's wife and daughter are seized and a ransom demanded for their safe return. The intented rescue goes wrong and both victims are killed in a high speed chase when the car they're occupying collides with an oil tanker, however the bodies are not

    recovered. Sorry that's as far as I'll tell you about what happens next. Please see the movie, its pure brilliance and the unusual feature about this gem is its connections with Vertigo. For one thing we have the same musical scorer, Bernard Hermann, who gives an excellent off beat musical theme here. Elements common to both films include both Genieve Bujold and Kim Novak(Vertigo) studying a portrait hung on a wall, Bujold in Courtland's house, Novak in an art gallery. We have male pursuers of female interests. Jimmy Stewart observes Novak during her daily excursions around San Fransisco (Vertigo), Robertson follows a woman who resemblances his former wife, around Florence, Italy (Obsession). We have mysteries to be solved in each film. At one point in Obsession, Bujold composes a letter only to crumple it up as it inadequately expresses her feelings. Novak does the exact same thing in Vertigo. Watch the piece with a gold plated pair of scissors that glints at the camera (Obsession), this technique was used very effectively with a knife in De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL movie. And I ask, is that Tom Skerritt I see towards the end of the movie dressed as a security guard who approaches a TWA check-in clerk? It wouldn't surprise me if it was, why? Because as any film fan knows, Skerritt was the captain of the Nostromo in the Sci-fi horror film ALIEN. What's the connection you ask? Well interestingly, One of the other members of that ill fated space crew just happened to be Veronica Cartwright who, God bless her little lungs, lets out some of the best screams in

    Hitchcock's THE BIRDS!! Apart from these connections what impressed me most about OBSESSION was the story by Paul Schrader, the acting, especially Bujold, who exudes a captivating sensuality in the film and John Lithgow as the upbeat business partner to Robertson. Robertson's character was difficult to play as he was constantly in a state of what seemed like eternal remorse, difficult to portray that kind of a mood on celluloid. But the most impressive feature by far was the masterful film editing done by Paul Hirsch. With only 6 years experience under his belt he produced such simple and fluid dynamics that lended some memorable moments to this film. One such piece of magic is John Lithgow's face

    morphing into someone else's in an airport scene and then morphing back again to show the compression of memory and time. Another time compression feature is where Robertson stands on a memorial site to his departed wife and daughter. The camera gives us a slow 360 degree panorama and when we return to Robertson's face we have miraculously advanced 16 years into the future. This is pure artistic work and it reminds me of

    the 'hands covering the face' scene in Cinema Paradiso, magic. Did you know that when Courtland's wife and daughter are

    kidnapped , the year is 1959 one year after the release of

    Vertigo and that a reference to pyschiatrists links both movies. Well there I go again. Better yet rent it on video you will be

    doubly surprised, I give it a definite 10.
  • Obsession(1976) ****/****

    "Obsession" is a prime thriller from the 70's that more than effectively captures the Hitchcock style. Not surprizingly, the director of the film was Brian "I Want to Be Hitchcock" De Palma. Although some of his attempts at Hitchcock can be argued to be unsuccessful, this one certianly wasn't. The title "Obsession" is a minor problem because many people, including myself, figured it to possibly be a soft core porn flick. I can't tell you what the title refers to without giving some of the movie away, but it is the opposite of a sex flick. The film begins in 1959 New Orleans, where we see wealthy buisnessman Michael Courtland(Cliff Robertson) and his wife, Elizabeth, at a party. Longtime friend and right hand man Robert Lasalle(John Lithgow) is proposing a toast to Michael. Later that evening, Mike and Elizabeth go home and proceed to start a romantic evening when suddenly Elizabeth hears screams and discvers her daughter has a gun to her head. Soon, another kidnapper holds a gun to Elizabeth's head and the two are kidnapped. The kidnappers leave a note for Michael, telling him to bring 500,000 dollars to save his wife and daughter. Mike proceeds to bring a suitcase, but instead of money, it's filled with a transmitter and thousands of sheets of paper. The kidnappers take the wife and daughter in a chase with police that tragically ends with the car running over a gas tank and exploding, killing the wife and daughter. The film flashes foreward to present day, when Mike and Bob travel to Italy. Mike encounters the church that he and his wife first met in. Suddenly, he meets a woman named Sandra(Genevive Bujold) who looks just like his wife. I will disclose no more from that point on because the second half of the film contains several brilliant twists and turns(even tho I somehow guesses the big one) Occasionally, the story seems to finally run out of steam and start to get messy but to DePalma's credit, he holds it all together and never lets it get messy. There's no question that De Palma imitated several of the camrera styles, settings, and music that made Hitchcok a legend. However, several things can be identified with some of De Palma's later films. A spinning camera shot towards the end of the film closely resembles his legendary prom shot of Carrie(1976). Also, the hiding of a gun during one scene was similary used in De Palma's greatest film, Carlito's Way(1993) The movie was solid all around. Bernard Hermann's score was one of the powering forces of the film.(Hermann also scored Vertigo, which is the Hitchcock film most people compare this too) The acting, while not great, seemed to fit the roles well. Robertson captured the classic widower in terror and Lithgow scored as well. Somehow, most movie stores have abandoned carrying this film, which is a shame because it's one of De Palma's best(Many critics would disagree but I found it much better than his other 1976 film, Carrie.) Obsession does exactly what it strives to do: give a seventies Hitchcok piece. It's not one of the best thriller's ever, but it's one of the better made. Obsession gives a reminder of when thrillers could be good without miles of shootouts and explosions.

    Rated PG for adult themes, some violence, and mild language 1 hr 40 min. A Columbia Pictures release.
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