You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Anamorph

Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called "anamorphosis," the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it.

With:
With: Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Clea Duvall, James Rebhorn, Peter Stormare.

This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective lies nothing — character, relationships, motives all seemingly irrelevant. Even Willem Dafoe as a haunted cop cannot ground these artfully grisly optical illusions, unconnected to any comprehensible storyline. Debuting April 18 at Gotham’s IFC Center, pic’s morbid stylistics may appeal to cable viewers with ADD.

Pic begins promisingly enough. Sophomore helmer/co-scripter H.S. Miller (“Late Watch”), lenser Fred Murphy and production designer Jackson De Govia have fashioned a New York of vast, old, echoing spaces framed in careful compositions: the dilapidated hull of an old freighter, the cavernous vaulted attic of a cathedral-like building, a deserted carnival funhouse — even the counter of a small coffee shop seems to stretch miles into the distance.

Willem Dafoe plays a reclusive, obsessive-compulsive cop (fussily arranging and rearranging purchases on the supermarket conveyor belt). Five years previously, it seems, he killed a suspected serial killer known as “Uncle Eddie,” who painted the word “Dead” on his artfully posed victims. Promoted to detective, he now teaches the aesthetics of crime scenes to rookies.

A new string of murders, these more gruesome and with more far more esoteric artistic references (one corpse is cut open to form a bloody inkwell for a pentagraph drawing), all specifically refer back to Dafoe’s cop, apparently indicating the work of a copycat killer or suggesting that he, in fact, offed the wrong man.

Setups for human interaction between Dafoe, Scott Speedman as a cop rival/sidekick and Clea Duvall as a potential love interest go absolutely nowhere. Miller and tyro co-scripter Tom Phelan have concocted a universe that exists solely in terms of its own aesthetic allusions. Thus, Dafoe’s character’s sole passion, for antique chairs, allows for a relationship with his supplier, played by the ever-inventive Peter Stormare, who can then pontificate (with slides) on the meaning of anamorphosis: “a technique that uses principles of forced perspective to construct an alternate image within the frontal composition.” Or, in the words of Dafoe’s character, “it depends on where you stand.”

Explicating a photograph by Cartier-Bresson, Dafoe’s cop defines art’s “decisive moment” as the instant when composition, form and content conspire to reveal some fundamental truth. Miller and Phelan have apparently forgotten the content.

Anamorph

Production: An IFC Films release of a Bandito Entertainment presentation of a Kamala Films production. Produced by Marissa McMahon. Directed by H.S. Miller. Screenplay, Miller, Tom Phelan.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Fred Murphy; editor, Geraud Brisson; music, Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek; production designer, Jackson De Govia; costume designer, Eric Daman; senior visual effects supervisor, Richard Edlund; sound (Dolby SR/SRD), Noah Timan, Robert Hein; casting, Kerry Barden, Suzanne Crowley, Billy Hopkins, Paul Schnee. Reviewed at IFC Center, New York, April 7, 2008. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: With: Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Clea Duvall, James Rebhorn, Peter Stormare.

More Film

  • Overview of IDFA’s 2017 Forum

    IDFA Forum: ‘Documentary Makers Want To Go Behind The News’

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

  • Serbian Doc 'The Other Side of

    'The Other Side of Everything' Leads Winners From a Politically Charged IDFA Lineup

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

  • Ventana Sur: Blood Window Work In

    Ventana Sur: A Breakdown of This Year's Blood Window Work in Progress Section

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

  • Overview of IDFA’s 2017 Shifting Perspectives

    IDFA’s Shifting Perspectives Program – ‘It’s About Ownership Of Images’

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

  • 'Of Fathers and Sons' Review: A

    IDFA Film Review: 'Of Fathers and Sons'

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

  • Hogar,’‘Tiburones,’ ‘Death’Among Projects At Montevideo's Eave

    ‘Hogar,’ ‘Tiburones,’ ‘Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes’ at Montevideo’s Puentes

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

  • A Profile of Argentina’s Documentary Filmmaker:

    Argentina on the Rise – Manuel Abramovich

    This “Seven”-type serial-killer police procedural gives new meaning to the term “high concept.” Working backward from an abstract visual idea, an esoteric Renaissance painting technique called “anamorphosis,” the filmmakers scramble to build a plot around it. Pic provides the ultimate in subtext with no text: Beyond its cool, reflective surfaces and infinite plays with perspective […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content