Director and star Kenneth Branagh brings the same zest and bravura style to this actors’ romp of a mystery-thriller as he did to Henry V. Supernatural tale of murder, hypnosis and reincarnation involves a woman (Emma Thompson) wandering around in an amnesiac daze, tormented by memories of someone else’s life.
Taken into the care of a cavalier private detective (Branagh) who finds himself mysteriously drawn to her, she reveals to a hypnotist (Derek Jacobi) her shockingly vivid memories of a glamorous life as a 1940s concert pianist married to a celebrated composer who was sentenced to death after he allegedly murdered her with a pair of scissors. Mystery is Thompson’s true identity. Is the detective really her ex-husband, come back to life to kill her again?
Branagh illustrates the 1940s segs in giddily stylized black & white, with a tongue-in-cheek Wellesian theatricality, while the present-day action takes place in a pungently humanistic LA rife with bizarre characters.
Engaging film style is buoyed by an infectious sense of fun and punctuated by wild and woolly character turns. Robin Williams plays a psychiatrist who’s gone off the deep end, and Andy Garcia is a seedy journalist with an accent seemingly wafting in from various ports.
Branagh and real-life spouse Thompson – each of whom plays dual roles in past and present – are excellent thesps, but they don’t make a very seductive screen couple. Jacobi is a pure delight as the eccentric antiques dealer and hypnotist.