Obsession (1976)

Obsession (1976)

“I don’t want anybody interfering with my private life.”

A man (Cliff Robertson) devastated by the death of his wife (Genevieve Bujold) and daughter (Wanda Blackman) during a fatally botched attempt to pay ransom after they’ve been kidnapped travels with his business partner (John Lithgow) to Italy 15 years later and is amazed to meet a young woman named Sandra (Genevieve Bujold) who looks remarkably like his wife. He courts Sandra and brings her back to New Orleans with him, but events quickly take a dark turn for Robertson once again.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Brian De Palma Films
  • Cliff Robertson Films
  • Genevieve Bujold Films
  • John Lithgow Films
  • Kidnapping
  • Obsessive Love
  • Paul Schrader Films
  • Widows and Widowers

Critical and personal opinions remain heavily divided on Brian De Palma’s output, with some deriding his overtly realized homages to Hitchcock — in this case, Vertigo (1958) — and others appreciating the unique sensibility he brings to his work. This highly atmospheric thriller — scripted by Paul Schrader — is a mixed bag, offering plenty of tension and suspense but ultimately not quite delivering (IMO) on its promise. With that said, I’ll admit to being surprised at several key moments, and staying relatively invested until the odd but reasonable ending. Of special note are Vilmos Zsigmond’s dreamily diffuse cinematography, Bernard Herrman’s characteristically stylish score (the next-to-last of his career), and Bujold’s performance in dual roles that require much subtlety to pull off.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Genevieve Bujold as Elizabeth/Sandra
  • Beautiful on-location shooting in Florence
  • Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography

  • Bernard Herrmann’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly worth a one time look. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


2 thoughts on “Obsession (1976)

  1. ⭐️⭐️1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Enjoyable but for me, too OTT. On my one viewing of it about a decade ago it struck me as a load of really overheated tosh, even for De Palma. Seeing as I’m fond of most of DP’s thrillers I shall have to give this another view methinks. Incidentally, this is a 1975 film and is copyrighted as such.

    Certainly not a must see.

  2. I would agree this isn’t must-see, though fans of De Palma / Bujold (who is good in this) / Zsigmond / Herrmann will want to check it.

    I’ll admit to not really caring whether I revisit this one or not. Although the film itself doesn’t call out to me for a rewatch, my hesitancy (admittedly) has much to do with Robertson – an actor I’ve never particularly liked. (It seems many share that feeling about him, off-screen and on.) When I saw the doc ‘De Palma’ and the director recounted stories of what a prick Robertson was to Bujold during filming, that sort of cemented a distaste re: watching him. (It happens sometimes; certain things can just put us off watching or rewatching certain actors or certain films. This happens to me less if the particular film-in-question is *so* good that I can overlook the reality of one actor. But that isn’t the case here.)

    Acc. to IMDb, Herrmann thought this was his best score – but I suspect he said that a lot after finishing a score. 😉

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