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IMAGES

Ireland, 1972 (MIFF 1973)

Director: Robert Altman

Images proceeds like an Escber drawing, like a dragon reaching out and back into the screen, into the mind, into the fractured visions of Cathryn, beautiful, privileged and fragile as glass.

Her husband, Hugh, impotently rich, is unaware of his wife's discoloured world; he cackles inanely, puffs cigars, game hunts, and plays with his tripod camera.

Theirs is an affluent life of deceptive slippered ease, of an urban apartment, a dream cottage by a lake in the country, of talk that seldom scratches the surface of the food and wine they consume.

When Cathryn, in an opening sequence, is unhinged by a voice over the telephone, her sense of fear and frustration compel a trip to their house in the country. And it is there, that Cathryn's images overwhelm her.

First, she sees a vision of herself driving into her own driveway and unloading her car. Later, she encounters Rene, a Frenchman and a former lover, who died in a plane crash years earlier.

Cathryn's composure is further undermined when Hugh brings a surprise guest to the house, a tall, well-modulated friend of the family, Marcel, accompanied by his 12-year-old daughter, Susannah.

Marcel is all too real for Cathryn. Like the fantasized Rene, Marcel, too, has loved Cathryn, although not for some time, and his vulgar sexual acquisitiveness coils upon Cathryn in waves of disgust.

Cathryn's dread of reality, her absolute fear of intrusion, her desire to be pregnant (and to be pregnant, if possible, by herself), is suggested in the silent shriek of her mind. Her brave struggles to maintain composure, ultimately crash to the floor in shattering peaks of violence, fantasized or otherwise. Rene is returned to the dead once more when Cathryn uses her husband's shotgun to blow him apart. Marcel is also banished from Cathryn's mind, when she stabs him while he is in the act of pulling his sweater over his head.

Cathryn finds occasional respites, working on her children's book, 'In Search of Unicorns', reciting or creating passages while strolling in the woods. But the book itself only counterpoints her desire to escape, and, ultimately and terrifyingly, she does.

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