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USA, 1979 (MIFF 1980)

Director: Jonathan Demme

Last Embrace is another young director's homage to Alfred Hitchcock and it contains along its way, some quite explicit references to Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest, as well as one of the most original and erotic murders on film (perhaps a scene which playfully tries to combine Truffaut's idea that Hitch filmed his love scenes like murders and his murders like love scenes).

Its central character is Harry, an intelligence operative of some sort who witnesses his wife's murder and then becomes involved with an escalating series of murders and strange happenings which incorporate the unlikely elements of white slavery at the turn of the century, Jewish secret societies, and obsessive Princeton academics.

The improbability level is, of course, appropriately high and the test of the director is to see how much he can persuade us to suspend our disbelief and identify with poor Harry on his journey from the candle-lit cafe to Niagara Falls.

Jonathan Demme tackles the film with plenty of energy and skill and he has great assistance from the laconic Roy Scheider, Janet Margolin (returning to the Melbourne Film Festival eighteen years after her debut in David and Lisa and as lovely as ever), and a big score from Miklos Rozsa that is superb in its own right, but also pays heartfelt homage to Hitch's master composer, Bernard Herrmann.

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