Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Last Embrace

Just flicked on Jonathan Demme's early Hitchcock homage, 'Last Embrace', halfway through and had to keep watching. Many directors have tried to ape the great director, most notably De Palma who has tried to make a career out of it, but to my mind Demme's effort is one of the best. Roy Scheider play a secret service man grieving for his wife who suddenly finds himself the target of a deranged killer (or killers). Scheider takes the role that normally would have been Cary Grant's, and excels (sad to see his recent death), but though the movie recognises Hitchcock's earlier romantic thrillers, as it progresses it takes in his later period, the age of 'Psycho', 'Marnie' and 'Frenzy'. We also get some cheeky echoes of the classics (a shot of Princetown mirrors 'Vertigo'; instead of Mount Rushmore the film ends with Niagara Falls). However, much as it pays tribute to Hitchcock both in story and style, this is still a Demme movie. I wouldn't class myself as a huge Demme fan, but I respect him as a distinctive voice and talented auteur. Here he displays a lightness of touch that should undermine the darker elements of the story, but somehow he manages to keep things on an even keel. He also gives it a unique spin. Unlike Hitchcock's WASP-ish tales of white Anglo Saxons, this is resolutely a Jewish tale and that seems to require some humour ("When Jews get killed by a lunatic leaving Hebrew notes, naturally you have to have a committee;" or so says ageing sidekick Sam). What really makes the film though is the wonderful Miklos Rozsa score. In truth, using that soundtrack, Demme could film the phonebook and still come off with a nostalgic piece. But he didn't film the phonebook. Instead he brought a real cinematic sensibility to an intriguing screenplay and created a fine film. I know I am in the minority on this one, but I think it works and wonderfully well too.

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