Monday, November 18, 2013

POSSESSION (1981) movie review

Possession (1981) d. Andrzej Zulawski (France)

Deliberately abrasive and queasy, idiosyncratic Polish director Andrzej Zulawski’s best known film assails its audience from the opening scenes and never lets up for a second, leaving the viewer exhausted, exasperated and exhilarated. Returning home from a vaguely defined military mission, Sam Neill is alarmed to find that his relationship with wife Isabelle Adjani has disintegrated into complete hostility and disgust. He soon discovers that she has taken up with several lovers, one of which might not be entirely...human.

A technically astounding film, with Bruno Nyutten’s cinematography swirling about the locations and characters with orgiastic glee and Neill and Adjani unleashing extraordinary high-wire performances that rival anything these admittedly fine artists have done before or since.

Adjani would win Best Actress Awards from both Cannes and the Cesars, and after witnessing her wrenching, utterly selfless showstopping aria of suffering in the train tunnel, who could deny her?

Brutally trimmed by 50 minutes (!) and with entire sequences reshuffled, the original U.S. release was as notorious a bit of butchery as they come – the already challenging movie floundered and disappeared. Thankfully, it later reappeared on laserdisc and DVD in its complete form, though it has long since gone out of print and is awaiting further resuscitation and rediscovery by fans worldwide. F/x wizard Carlo Rambaldi designed the memorable creature effects.

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