- Most directors probably owe some debt of gratitude to Alfred Hitchcock. The lineage goes at least to Truffaut and the French New Wave and they influenced most of what would follow after them. But there was no Hitchcock devotee as steadfast as Brian De Palma- and there was no De Palma film as indebted to Hitchcock as Obsession.
- Obsession has a crew to die for. It was written by Paul Schrader (coming out the same year as Taxi Driver) scored by Bernard Herrmann (ditto- scored Taxi Driver in 1976 and composed Vertigo and Psycho amongst others of course) and shot by Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Heaven’s Gate, The Deer Hunter and a bunch of De Palma collaborations including Blow Out).
- This is De Palma’s first film in the wider 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio
- The film opens on a perfectly symmetrical shot of a house in New Orleans during the credits. De Palma’s point of view camera pushes towards the great house.
- The camera reveals a gun tucked into the pants of a waiter – just like Hitchcock would often let the viewers in on a secret that the characters in the film were unaware of- the master of suspense.
- The was a posthumous release from Herrmann (just like Taxi Driver) as he passed in 1975. The score here is transcendent- so voluminous. Herrmann also worked on Sisters (1973) but died before he could score Carrie (De Palma’s second release of 1976). Herrmann would also work with Truffaut after his falling out with Hitchcock.
- There is a 360-degree shot of the memorial as time passes (with a slyly hidden cut) at the 26-minute mark.
- The story is that Michael (a good but not exceptional Robertson- Jimmy Stewart he is not) loses his wife (Bujold) and then years later finds another woman that looks exactly like her when he takes a trip to Italy. This is surely a variation on Vertigo and again it has a giant, audacious Herrmann score. De Palma builds Obsession on Vertigo but riffs on it with twists (and incest). All of this is in 1976- the year of Hitchcock’s final film (Family Plot). De Palma could never quite measure up- but this does feel like the passing of the torch.
- Shot on location- first in New Orleans then in Florence (the magnificent church is Tuscany).
- There is a flawed surrealism sequence that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
- First in a long line of Lithgow villains in De Palma films (Blow Out, Raising Cain).
- Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality film.
I am a huge fan of De Palma (as I’m sure you know by now given my many many posts on his work). I admire the way he is inspired by Hitchcock even if his detractor’s posit that he is a straight up thief on Hitchcock’s ideas and style. I am willing to defend De Palma all day here. But…this is the one film that I do wonder if De Palma takes it a little too far. I mean this film has so many similar scenes from Vertigo to the point where it almost feels like a straight up remake. I still enjoy this film none the less but I am curious as to your thoughts here?
@James Trapp- it certainly would be a greatest achievement if it were a wholly original work