Country: UK, USA
Language: English, French
Director: Robert Altman
Music: John Williams
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond
Shot in Ireland with only two major locations and a micro cast of six, Robert Altman’s IMAGES is a visually innovative, narratively intriguing and thematically cohesive probe into a woman’s slow descending into schizophrenia, with a phenomenal leading performance from Susannah York (crowned BEST ACTRESS in Cannes), which also revealingly exhibits Altman’s protean sleight of hand.
York plays a minted woman Cathryn, a children’s author who is currently writing a new book named IN SEARCH OF UNICORNS, which is in fact written by York and Altman applies its text extensively in the diegesis, notably in paralleled with reality, to emphasize on Cathryn’s aberrant mind composed with her own imagination. After disturbed by a ostensible series of prank calls and the startling illusions of her dead French lover Rene (Bozzuffi), Cathryn and her husband Hugh (Auberjonois) retreat to her country house where she grew up, a bucolic haven with mountains, cascades and a herd of sheep. There they also reunite with their common friend Marcel (Millais), who is also Cathryn’s old-flame, and his teenage daughter Susannah (Harrison), yes, the first names of the five main characters are coined according to the real names of their co-stars. But illusions are tailing her, she sees a double of herself and soon will be embroiled into the complicated sex entanglement with all three men, obviously Rene is dead, Hugh is real, and Marcel seems to be real too, but what about his aggressive intention to get intimate with her, is that also real?
Determined to get rid of the bedeviling hallucinations, Cathryn executes “corrective killings” to regain the grasp of her senses and secure her marriage, after two apparently successful clearance, it seems that she is back on the right track to normality, but a fatal third action will prove everything has gone awry, a chilling ending reveals that schizophrenia has completely seized her psyche.
Shot by the late maestro Vilmos Zsigmond, IMAGES exhibits his nimbleness of lurking his camera within a confined space, and the surreal segments are fantastically otherworldly, namely, the sex scenes rotates among Cathryn with her three different mates are aesthetically uncanny, and strategizes crystal chimes as an indelible cue to provoke Cathryn’s delusional condition. John William’s eerie score portentously captures Cathryn’s emotional upheaval and the mysterious atmosphere, and earned him an Oscar nomination (after all, the movie is not entirely snubbed by the Academy).
Susannah York, occupies almost every single scene of the movie, stoutly calls forth the most daring performance of her lifetime, perpetually tormented by apparitions and descending into her own segregated universe with no one to turn to, she feistily fights a losing battle all by herself, it is a helluva display of bravura to behold, where the final revelation in her shower scene is so powerful that it is evocative of her terrific Oscar-nominated turn in Sydney Pollack’s THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? (1969).
Overall, IMAGES can be read as a think piece against the overlooked symptoms of mental illness, and a trendsetting thriller as a sound testament that Robert Altman is a virtuoso all-rounder, and left us so many cinematic legacies to hold in esteem!