Possession - 35mm Re-release Movie Review (Cinefamily, L.A.)

Possession - 35mm Re-release Movie Review (Cinefamily, L.A.)
Updated: 03-02-2012


Cinefamily (aka Silent Movie Theater), a revival house in Los Angeles is celebrating one of the most audacious, underrated, and extreme art-house filmmakers of our time, Andrjez Zulawski. The Polish auteur has an amazing body of work, and much of it will be shown for the first time in the U.S. at Cinefamily all month long — including a one-week engagement and immersion of his only pure horror film, POSSESSION (1981) on a beautifully restored 35 mm print.
On the surface, the story is as follows: Mark (Sam Neill) returns from some sort of espionage escapade abroad, gives a report about "the man in pink socks" to his superiors, then goes home to his wife and child, only to find that the missus has not exactly been lonesome without him. Anna (Isabelle Adjani) wants a divorce and although she will not initially reveal why, super spy Mark hires a private detective who quickly tracks the usurping provocateur down. Mark goes to the flat forthwith has it out with him, but lover Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) doesn't go down without a fight and in fact makes short work of Mark, who slinks out and goes back to alternately confront his wife and plead with her to stay. She will not. In fact, she will do anything — even kill — to be free of her oppressive domesticity.
That's the basic upshot, but it means nothing, really. Possession is an out-there, surreal, overwrought, hysterical and Kafkaesque, bizarre exercise in obsession and insanity. To try and explain those aspects of it (especially Anna's aborted, squid-like man/child with whom she commits murder and creates yet other new and strange life-forms) would be an exercise in futility. Possession is truly a "you had to be there" kind of movie. See it for yourself  and I guarantee, love it or loathe it, you'll never forget it.
When it comes to the sheer artistry of filmmaking, it's an astounding, jaw-dropping feat of furious beauty. In one early scene, where Mark is giving his report his bosses, the camera weaves, bobs, swoops and dances like a gliding ballerina (mirroring Anna's own profession in the film). The characters are in constant motion, like caged animals in some moments; like escapees running free for the first time in years, in others. DP Bruno Nuytten follows their every move. In one scene, in which Mark and Anna are having a discussion, he rocks back and forth in a chair, with attention shifting from her face to his, surely making the focus-puller sweat bullets on that day. What's more, there are amazing long shots in tunnels, through corridors, up and down stairways, and plummeting over metaphorical cliffs.
When it comes to the horror aspects, open-minded genre fans will not be disappointed. Practical effects include "the creature" (by artist Carlo Rambaldi, who'd worked on Ridley Scott's Alien prior) — much improved on 35mm, having seen it before only on VHS and degenerated DVD copies. And blood. Goo, too. Lots of both. Murder, mayhem. Diabolical doppelgangers. The 'yikes' factor is all there, in addition to the raw, scary emotion and unusual, suspenseful plot twists.
Here're the showtimes at Cinefamily this month. I understand the new print is making the rounds 'round the country, so even if you're not in L.A., you should be able to see it in some big cities soon.
Friday, March 2nd: 4:40pm
Saturday, March 3rd: 4:45pm
Sunday, March 4th: 1:50pm, 7:00pm
Monday, March 5th: 10:15pm
Tuesday, March 6th: 4:40pm, 9:50pm
Wednesday, March 7th: 4:40pm, 10:20pm
THE THIRD PART OF THE NIGHT – Friday, March 9: 7:30pm
THE DEVIL – Saturday, March 10: 7:00pm
ON THE SILVER GLOBE – Sunday, March 11: 6:30pm
LA FEMME PUBLIQUE – Friday, March 16: 7:30pm
THE BLUE NOTE – Sunday, March 18: 5:00pm
LA FIDELITE – Sunday, March 25: 6:30pm
L’AMOUR BRAQUE – Thursday. March 29: 7:30pm
THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO LOVE – Friday, March 30: 7:45pm
SZAMANKA – Saturday. March 31: 9:15pm
BORIS GODOUNOV – Sunday, April 1: 5:00pm
If you like Possession, be sure and watch:
Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1964)
Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Mario Bava's Shock (1977)
David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979)
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1981)
Jean-Jacques Beineix's Betty Blue (1986)
Jean Becker's One Deadly Summer (1986)
Dario Argento's Trauma (1993)
Lars Von Trier's Antichrist (2009)
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
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