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Posts tagged “Horror film

Fox Thrillers: “One Hour Photo”

Director Mark Romanek and production designer Tom Foden bring their cool aesthetics to One Hour Photo. At first its backdrops, the empty, well-shelved halls of a fictional department store named SavMart and a whitewashed interrogation room where the movie begins and ends, also looks like matted comic strips instructing me what to do when a plane crashes. But the movie also has its share of warmly lit interiors that cinematographer for which Jeff Cronenweth will later be known, those palettes reserved for more private spaces.

One Hour Photo – Romanek also wrote the script – is about middle-aged loner Sy Parrish (Robin Williams), SavMart’s senior photo booth guy just before digital photography, among other things, threateningly sweeps his job away. He has an irrational infatuation with the Yorkin family, with its young and hip, credit card bourgeois parents and adorable son. Speaking as a customer service employee here, I either have indifference or superficial curiosity towards my patrons, which he narrates in a certain sequence. To be honest, there’s some attraction or ‘these people look really happy’ but I’ve never wanted to include myself as a part of my customer’s lives. In a way this movie is the most contemporary spin towards the upstairs/downstairs scenario, where the master and servant are more separate and their interaction is relegated to certain places within the community although despite this distance the help still knows your secrets. Sy’s latent job description is handling evidence of his customers as either competent parents or kinked up bores. But if I found out that one of my customers is cheating on his wife like Will Yorkin is (Michael Vartan), I wouldn’t be surprised. I’d be disappointed at the most. I understand that Sy might be protective of people he’s known for a long time (Connie Nielsen plays Yorkin’s wife) – he also gives the Yorkins discounts and free cameras like old timey store owners would – but a violent switch from love to contempt? Too much. And that the police takes too long to see Sy’s Yorkin collage – collages being a clichéd sign of a character’s insanity – was also ridiculously paced for melodramatic effect.

I also recently saw parts of Mrs. Doubtfire which, despite being a chilhood staple, is admittedly like an episode of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” where the protagonist (Williams) deliberately creates tension that he can undo so we have something to watch for two hours. Williams has lent his jovial, rambunctious self to both comedy and prestige stuff, but here he tones it down, his thin-lipped smile serving as a mask for what’s inside of Sy. He also adds benevolence to this creepy character. I keep rooting for Sy because first, of this yearning and perception of a purpose in life of someone like him and secondly, because I never bought all the aspects of his character for me to be fully creeped out by him anyway. There’s also this interesting ambivalence of the revelation he makes in the film’s last minutes, talking about people who would take naked, exploitative pictures of their children. The easiest way to read this is that he’s been that child, seeing that Sy has no onscreen contact with his real family and his stunted way of behaving and being. The second is that he’s co-opting other people’s pain and I’m not necessarily saying that in a bad way. As a photograph developer he says that he has to report kiddie porn when he sees it, and assuming that he’s seen his share of it I’d also understand if that eventually has gotten into him. This movie shows a small slice of these character’s lives, giving its audience enough possibilities to ponder where their suffering has begun.


Repulsion‘s first few minutes might be mistaken for a Godard film. A young Belgian woman named Carole (Catherine Deneuve) works as a manicurist. After work, her effortlessly chic self walks the streets of London to softly energetic non-diagetic jazz music, guys both working class and skinny tie-wearers (Jon Fraser) hit on her. She often looks like she’s daydreaming, her voice evinces little excitement. Instead of Carole’s politics, director Roman Polanski‘s more interested in the psychological conflict, which, in Carole’s case, is barely seen by the other characters until it’s too late.

Polanski doesn’t explain Carole’s building insanity in ways others have – relationship complexes, haunted histories, addictions. Instead, she notices a crack on a kitchen wall. Her sister’s (Yvonne Furneax) boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry) calling her ‘the beautiful younger sister,’ a throwaway comment that Carole interprets as a menacing sexual come-on. A night after he stays over for sex, she sees him shirtless and her sister asks her how she slept the morning after. She then takes those little things and associate them with nightmares, as I imagine most people in a state like hers do.

It’s easy to say that instead of being silent, Carole should say how she feels. However, the film’s  shows how words are inadequate since the other characters are reductive towards her. A customer tells Carole she’s in love – all problems are male related. Her boyfriend’s friends call her a tease. Also, her little acts of verbal resistance against her sister aren’t heeded. Her sister’s dismissal won’t help her talk about the terrible things she dreams about. I can’t settle on her real problem –  fear of men, an idle mind, wanting to be alone. In other words, the other characters often think of a quick word or solution for her, and these quick solutions don’t help her slowly progressing dementia.

At first underwhelmed by Deneuve’s deadpan line delivery, easily enough an aspect of her character. She then thrills her audience as she responds to the walls of her apartment, or attacking men as if she’s a sleepwalker, using candlesticks and books like I’ve never imagined anyone doing. It’s hard to understand her in the first scenes of the film, but she perfectly fleshes out a new breed of character in horror film. She’s a monster within the victim in a genre that mostly shows the monster as external and separate from the victim. Deneuve’s Carole is groundbreaking in this and many other aspects, an integral part of Polanski’s vision of the macabre.