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Images and the Uneasy Landscape: Audio Visual Transmission Guide #43/52a

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Images is a Robert Altman film from 1974…

…and it is a strange, unsettling viewing experience.

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The plot involves a children’s author Cathryn, played by Susannah York, who receives a series of disturbing phone calls at her home in London, which leave her in a state of confused disarray. When her husband comes home they decide to take a vacation at their isolated country cottage in Ireland, hoping that it will ease and calm her.

Once there Cathryn’s mental state deteriorates, she begins to witness hallucinations or apparitions of people who aren’t there – past lovers, dopplegangers of herself and reality seems to crumble.

As a viewer it becomes difficult to decide and decipher what is real and what is not, with all such things seamlessly linking into one another and being presented in a largely realist manner rather than possible hallucinations being signposted by overt visual effects.

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It put me in mind of José Ramón Larraz’s long lost and relatively recently restored 1974 film Symptoms in that it is a study of the fracturing of a mind in an isolated rural setting, amongst a landscape that should contain bucolic ease, escape and rest but that subtly seems to represent and capture a 1970s psychic malaise.

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In part that may be because despite the the rural setting, both films have an understated murky, subdued colour palette that seems to have been prevalent around the time of their making.

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Within both films the interior scenes of the country houses are claustrophobic, confined, dark spaces, seemingly worlds unto themselves, decorated in what seems to be a kind of gothic, bohemian, Hammer Horror mansion bric-a-brac style.

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Symptoms is possibly more overtly claustrophobic, with its exterior scenes seeming to consist largely of overhung, sunblocking trees and vegetation, whereas in Images there are views of rolling moors and open hillsides but still within such shots there is little sense of ease and these landscapes and skies seem to contain a foreboding, brooding sense of menace.

Both films also seem to straddle some kind of line between arthouse, enquiring cinema and exploitational shock and violence; unsettling, possibly a little distasteful in parts but intriguing nonetheless.

Neither are films for a quiet, relaxing Sunday afternoon. Nor are they films that send you off to a calm nights sleep…

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(File Post Under: Cathode Ray & Cinematic Explorations, Radiowave Resonations & Audiological Investigations)

Audio Visual Transmission Guide #1:
Images at Filmbar70

Local Broadcasts:
Week #28/52: Symptoms and gothic bucolia


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