While "Shattered Image" marks the U.S. debut of prolific Euro-based helmer Raul Ruiz, the psychological suspenser is thoroughly consistent with his previous work and with other movies showing the influence of the master of transatlantic thrills, Alfred Hitchcock. An intricately plotted tale of a hit woman trying to get a grip on reality, stylishly mounted pic, in fact, belongs more to the realm of art movies than to any national cinema.

While “Shattered Image” marks the U.S. debut of prolific Euro-based helmer Raul Ruiz, the psychological suspenser is thoroughly consistent with his previous work and with other movies showing the influence of the master of transatlantic thrills, Alfred Hitchcock. An intricately plotted tale of a hit woman trying to get a grip on reality, stylishly mounted pic, in fact, belongs more to the realm of art movies than to any national cinema. Given the lack of any startling virtues to set it apart from the generic pack, it’s more likely to score in situations, primarily European, where Ruiz is already a fave than to break new ground elsewhere.

Since Ruiz, a native of Chile, has always dealt in displacement and imaginary identities, it’s little surprise that this nominally American movie could take place anywhere. Its Seattle might as well be Paris, just as its hit-woman heroine, Jessie, in being played by Anne Parillaud, inevitably recalls “La Femme Nikita.”

As the story opens, she follows a businessman into the men’s room at a chic restaurant and blows him to kingdom come. But her precision clearly masks some heavy problems. When she goes home and falls asleep, a different version of herself emerges.

The second Jessie, softer and not as harshly made up as her counterpart, wakes up remembering the previous scene as a nightmare. She’s aboard a plane bound for a Jamaican honeymoon, accompanied by her new husband, Brian (William Baldwin). When they arrive, the reasonsfor his extreme solicitude and her paranoid skittishness become apparent. She was the victim of a brutal rape and bears the wrist scars of a would-be suicide. In marrying her and whisking her off on a holiday, Brian, it appears, also wants to save her sanity.

But that’s no simple task. When Jessie drifts off again, she’s back in Seattle, with no scars on her wrist as she plans another murder. Casing an antiques store, she meets a man she recognizes from her dream and immediately has the hots for him. It’s Brian.

The interlocking of contradictory realities continues from there, as a fractured personality tries to come to terms with its two extremes and struggles to tell friend from foe.

Filled with Hitckcockian doublings, mirror images, spiraling suspicions and guilt transference, Duane Poole’s script is an able exercise in an intrinsically tantalizing genre. Yet it’s also not much more than that. The sum recalls less the best of Hitch than certain serviceable homages by Truffaut, De Palma, et al.

Ruiz’s handling, it must be said, doesn’t add anything in the way of specialness or originality. While polished, witty and at times visually arresting, it keeps the already highly subjective story locked up in its own hothouse of stylish unreality, when a more fruitful approach might have been to let in the fresh air of real geographic, cultural and character specificity.

In the end, pic is intellectually intriguing rather than viscerally exciting, largely because of its self-satisfied cleverness and genre-restricted characters.

All the same, it boasts various subsidiary lures, including Robby Muller’s luxuriant lensing. Perfs by Parillaud, Baldwin and others prove solid, if unexceptional, while other tech matters are pro across the board.

Shattered Image

Production

A Seven Arts Pictures/Schroeder Hoffman production in association with Fireworks Entertainment. (International sales: Behaviour Worldwide, L.A.) Produced by Barbet Schroeder, Susan Hoffman, Lloyd A. Silverman. Executive producers, Jack Baran, Jay Firestone, Bastiaan Gleben, James Michael Vernon. Co-producer, Lisanne Falk. Directed by Raul Ruiz. Screenplay, Duane Poole.

Crew

Camera (color), Robbie Muller; editor, Michael Duthie; music, Jorge Arriagada; production designer, Robert DeVico; costume designer, Francine LeCoultre. Reviewed at World Film Festival Montreal (Cinema of Tomorrow), Aug. 28, 1998. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Jessie - Anne Parillaud
Brian - William Baldwin
Paula/Laura - Lisanne Falk
Conrad/Mike - Graham Greene
Lamond - Billy Wilmott
Simon - O'Neil Peart
Isabel - Leonie Forbes
Mrs. Ford - Bulle Ogier

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