I find this REPULSION-esque Robert Altman ppsychodrama pretty silly
overall, yet it does have a haunting and intriguing aura. Just donít
expect too much.
IMAGES (1972) is notable as the only true horror movie
directed by the late Robert Altman (although he approached the genre in
THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK, 3 WOMEN and THE GINGERBREAD MAN). Filmed on
location in Ireland, it was apparently the third time Altman had tried
to film the material (following failed attempts in Vancouver and Milan).
Sandwiched between McCABE AND MRS. MILLER and THE LONG
GOODBYE, two of Altmanís most revered efforts, IMAGES was not a
financial success, and remains one of his least-seen films: it was never
released on VHS, and rumors persist that the original negative was
burned. IMAGES did, however, net a Best Actress award at Cannes for its
leading lady, the acclaimed British actress Susanna York (best known on
these shores as Supermanís ma).
Cathryn is an attractive but hopelessly schizophrenic
woman living with her husband Hugh...or so it seems. Things are clearly
not as they might appear, as becomes evident when Cathryn chats with
Hugh one night and he suddenly transforms into someone else--and
then back to himself. This terrifies her, and she flashes back (or
possibly forward) to a trip the two took to a scenic Irish cottage.
At the cottage Cathrynís psyche splits, experiencing
reality from two separate vantage points. In one she meets the ghost of
Rene, a long-dead lover who taunts her repeatedly, while in the other
she finds herself adrift in the woods surrounding the cottage,
constantly on the run and terrified for some reason by a benign-looking
The cottage-bound Cathryn finds the ghostly intrusions
unbearable, and is further irritated by the flesh-and-blood presence of
another former flame: Marcel, a beefy guy with a little girl who closely
resembles Cathryn. Marcel canít keep his hands off her, and Cathryn for
her part doesnít seem all that put off by his advances. But Rene
continues his taunts, and a fed-up Cathryn takes him out with a shotgun.
Luckily he isnít real.
Not so lucky is Hugh, who Cathryn stabs to death,
believing that he too is a hallucination--and indeed maybe he is. By
this point sheís totally lost contact with anything resembling reality,
and further inflames her insanity by running down her second self with a
car, knocking the body over a waterfall. But did she really do
so? Who the hell knows?
In an interview contained on the IMAGES DVD Robert
Altman inveighs against derivative filmmaking, yet the primary factor
that makes IMAGES a lesser film in the Altman cannon is the fact that
itís quite derivative, of Roman Polanskiís
REPULSION and Ingmar Bergmanís
HOUR OF THE
WOLF. Not that those comparisons do IMAGES any favors, as its
depiction of the delusions of a schizophrenic mind seems trite and
unconvincing. Worse, it lacks a compelling central character; an
admirably committed Susanna York does what she can with the lead role,
but sheís given very little in the way of characterization.
The technical credits, from Vilmos Zsigmondís evocative
photography to the jarring avant-garde score by John Williams (yes,
that John Williams), are all top notch, while the lush Irish scenery
makes for a startling contrast to the claustrophobic bleakness of the
narrative. Plus the script, credited to Altman (who admits the film was
largely made up as he went along), is intriguing in the way the
narrative exists on several different timelines, gradually parceling out
select clues to both past and future events. The end result is
often laughable and more often exasperating, but does nonetheless seem
worthy of the effort required to figure it out.
Equator Films Limited
Director: Robert Altman
Producer: Tommy Thompson
Screenplay: Robert Altman
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond
Editing: Graeme Clifford
Cast: Susanna York, Rene Auberjonois, Marcel Bozzuffi, Hugh Millais,