Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
ANAMORPH MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: H.S. Miller
Writers: H.S. Miller & Tom Phelan
Running time: 103 minutes
Release date: April 18, 2008 (Limited NY) & May 2, 2008 (LA)
Genre: Drama, Suspense and Horror
Distributor: IFC Films
MPAA Rating: R
American films of the 1970s were known for bending the rules in filmmaking. The potpourri of the genres of drama, suspense and horror makes Anamorph a rare breed of cinema for cinephiles.
New York City Detective Stan Aubray (Willem Dafoe) is a decorated officer who is called in on a series of copycat murders that resembles a case his solved several years before known as "Uncle Eddy Murders." That prior case revolved around a serial killer who Aubray hunted down and killed. It was the closing of this major case that earned him a promotion and decorations. This present case has the same pattern as the old resolved case and it bothers Aubray. Assigned to this case with Aubray is an eager young detective named Carl Uffner (Scott Speedman) who has his own ideas about the murders. He seems to be competing with Aubray, but Aubray tries to avoid working with him. Aubray now doubts his results on the old case, because these murders are planting clues to excite him in ways only the real killer would know. Meanwhile, Sandy Strickland (Clea Duvall), a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, reappears in his life. She was a close friend of a girl killed in the old case. Sandy turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with the loss of her dearest friend and now she is on the road to recovery, but opening old wounds won't help her. Aubray ends up constantly questioning her about the past, because the present case is so much like the new case. As the plot of the new case evolves, flashback scenes of his old case are exposed to the audience. Merging the back story with the main plot reveals hidden meanings and clues to both (old and new) crimes of torture and murder.
The title of this movie is not really a word. It comes from the word anamorphic, meaning distorted optical image. In art technique, anamorphysis means forcing another angle for interpretation of a picture or sculpture. In this film, each murder is a picture of a horrific crime shown in a different angle that gives Aubray different views on his old and new case while causing him a sense of obsessive guilt and doubt of whether he captured the right man.
Though Willem Dafoe's character is reclusive, his direct presentation is dynamic. His portrayal of Aubray is generally consistent in behavior. The only change is in his demeanor which is in the time sequences of flashbacks when he was a cocky cop. This is a throwback to the melodrama genre. In melodramas the plot consist of a sequence of events such as a person against himself with conflicting elements in his nature, usually emotionally. What adds the necessary elements to this narrative is the suggestive difference between the appearance of clues and the reality seen through different angles of the crime scenes. While on the other hand, the horror images in this film project supernatural eerie events, a metonymy of gloom and strange settings to build up trepidation and fear.
It would not be fair to expose to much of this plot because the story is set up purposely not to give enough details to the viewer and never enough clues to the audience in each scenario. The panoramic scenes give an illustrated look at the crime locations and intentionally sets the mood for the audience to become part of the investigation. The stellar supporting cast members gave fine performances, but the crafty filmwork is the real jewel in this movie.
This is a film that demands your undivided attention, because the answers are available in every viewing angle of the film. Try it - You'll like it.
FILM RATING (B)
View trailer of Anamorph here