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In 1959, affluent businessman Michael Courtland (Cliff Roberston) and his wife (Geneviève Bujold) are celebrating their tenth anniversary when his daughter and wife are kidnapped and held for ransom. The effort to rescue the girl and her mother ends tragically, and Courtland merely exists, his days consumed with guilt. Many years later, still grieving over his loss, he returns to Florence - the city where he first met his wife - where he meets a young woman who bears a remarkable resemblance to her. Set largely in New Orleans, this incredibly atmospheric thriller has a southern gothic feel with its dreamlike photography (by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond) and deliberate pacing. Often compared to Hitchcock’s Vertigo because of its protagonist’s obsessive attempt to recreate his lost love and the score by the incomparable Bernard Herrmann, director Brian De Palma’s (Scarface, The Untouchables) undeniable obsession with cinema results in a thrilling approach to a hauntingly familiar
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Though he had made comedies with Robert De Niro (Hi Mom, Greetings!), a horror movie (Sisters), and a rock musical (Phantom of the Paradise), it wasn't until this 1976 film that Brian De Palma truly announced himself as the heir to Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Paul Schrader, this film is an homage to Vertigo, with its own stylish twists and turns. Cliff Robertson plays a businessman who, while traveling in Italy, meets a young woman (Genevieve Bujold) who is a dead ringer for his late wife, who had been killed in a kidnapping years earlier. As he woos and wins her, the vibes get creepier and creepier because, well, something's not right about this woman. Interestingly, this film came out the same year as De Palma's Carrie, a much more successful movie at the box office. But it was this movie that, for all its flaws, proclaimed De Palma as a stylist with a sure-handed command of visual storytelling. --Marshall Fine
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