Review: ‘Dead Again’

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.

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.

Dead Again

Production

Paramount/Mirage. Director Kenneth Branagh; Producer Lindsay Doran, Charles H. Maguire; Screenplay Scott Frank; Camera Matthew F. Leonetti; Editor Peter E. Berger; Music Patrick Doyle; Art Director Tim Harvey

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1991. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Kenneth Branagh Emma Thompson Andy Garcia Derek Jacobi Robin Williams Hanna Schygulla

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