Sunday 18 March 2018

Images (1972)

"Altman's REPULSION?"

The extremely welcome UK Blu-ray release of some of director Robert Altman's earlier works continues. I've reviewed Eureka's disc of THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (1969), and his 1973 version of THE LONG GOODBYE on here too. Arrow brought that out and now here they are again with IMAGES (1972), a film Altman has such difficulty raising the financing for that he eventually funded it himself.

Susannah York is Cathryn, a children's writer who spends her days scribbling tales of unicorns, mythical peoples and fantasy lands. Her non-writing life is a bit of a fantasy too, but of a far less pleasant kind, because even when we meet her Cathryn is fairly mad and by the end of the film she seems to be very mad indeed.

With life in town becoming too stressful, Cathryn convinces her husband Hugh (Rene Auberjonois) to take her to their house in the country, where she hopes to finish her latest book. Already bothered  by visions of lovers past, Cathryn begins to see herself from afar. But is Cathryn No.1 the real Cathryn, or Cathryn No.2? Are the men she talks to real or imagined? Alive or dead? And is she actually committing murders, or is it all in her head?

IMAGES is a film that's open to interpretation, which will delight as many as it will infuriate. (Actually I suspect it will infuriate more but they probably won't be getting this disc). Personally I like the idea that Cathryn has somehow 'slipped through time' and is actually experiencing different parts of her life all at once, and that is what ends up driving her insane. 
The act of seeing something 'second hand' is obviously important, as Altman fills his film with cameras, mirrors and other kinds of viewing equipment, presumably to emphasise that nothing we are seeing is necessarily reliable but might be inverted, filtered, or just generally altered from what is actually taking place. 

Arrow's Blu-ray comes with an appreciation by Stephen Thrower where he tells us a bit about the reception of the film when it was shown at Cannes (netting Susannah York the best actress award) and its subsequent fate. We get an archival Altman commentary track, plus a brand new one from Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan. There's also an Altman interview, a new interview with actress Cathryn Harrison, trailer, and that rather gorgeous cover art you can see up there.

The press release tells me the original negative of IMAGES was once rumoured to have been burned by Columbia Pictures. Certainly other 1970s films have suffered worse fates (THE WICKER MAN becoming part of the foundations of the M3 being one), but it's a relief to see that this isn't the case. Arrow's 4k scan is terrific, making this an essential addition to your Altman library. 

Arrow Academy are bringing out Robert Altman's IMAGES on 
Blu-ray on Monday 19th March 2018

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