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Over There (in the UK)

March 10, 2003 at 2 PM

Two Minute Criticism

Last night I rented One Hour Photo, last year’s film from otherwise music video director Mark Romanek. Robin Williams, knee-deep in his “triptych of evil”, plays the low-rent, no-life photo lab clerk whose obsession with an upper-class, suburban family grows darker with each role of snapshots they develop.

A number of negative reviews and mixed opinions lowered my expectations, but I enjoyed One Hour Photo. The pacing of the film is deliberately slow, yet smooth; this isn’t a suspense thriller, but rather a portrait of human psychology driven by character rather than story. Williams’s performance as “Sy the Photo Guy” is suitably menacing, yet the film is carefully ambivalent about his character; we’re never sure if we should find him simply terrifying or if his pathetic nature should make us feel sorry.

In style and even in theme, the film’s Hitchcock influence is impossible to ignore, from the hyper-real sets and characters to the over-the-top cinematography. There are enough “frames within frames” to write a third-year paper, and the colours in each scene all but jump up and down, yelling “Look at me, I’m a metaphor!” Still, the result, as in Rear Window or North by Northwest (two of my favourites by the Master), is stylish and fun to watch. Moreover, what subtlety is lost through Romanek’s approach is somewhat compensated by the monstrous attention to detail in production, which rivals the obsession portrayed by Williams in the story. You could watch the film a second time just to listen to the background noise or to examine the carefully arranged products on the shelves of the nightmarish SavMart.

There are scarier films and there are cleverer films, but One Hour Photo is just creepy enough to make you want a digital camera. Not that I needed the added incentive.

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Previously: George and Tony K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Subsequently: Newsflash: It’s Cold

March 2003
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