March 29, 2005
Images (1972)
Grade: 39/100

Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Susannah York, Rene Auberjonois, Hugh Millais

What it's about. Cathryn (York) lives with her husband in a picturesque English countryside villa. Bored with her peaceful but often lonely existence, her vivid imagination takes over, and blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality.

How others will see it. Male viewers of any age will think Susannah York is hot, but will nonetheless probably find the film tedious. Select female viewers will be entranced by York's predicament, and may actually care whether her character is sane or deluded.

How I felt about it. York is pretty to look at, and her charming English accent is easy on the ears. The movie is well made, has attractive sets, and lovely scenery of hill and dale.

Still, I had trouble getting through the film. York is a basket case. She is aroused by the beastly Marcel (Hugh Millais), yet repelled by him. She is haunted by her late husband Rene (Marcel Bozzuffi), yet enjoys the verbal spats she has with him. Is she coming or going? The truth is, I didn't care, one way or the other.

Cathryn is alternately pleased and horrified by her fantasy life. But for the most part, she seems to know where it begins and ends. We know this, because she does a good job of covering up the results of her heated imagination. What was that gunshot? Oh, just an accidental discharge, how careless. Are you talking to someone? Oh no, just talking to myself.

Part of Cathryn's madness, or imagination, if you prefer to call it that, is the sinister aspects she gives to her neighbor. He's an older man, good-natured and harmless. Yet from a distance, he and his dog become a threatening presence, at least to her.

I suppose that she would like it if the retiree played his part, and actually did things that were intimidating or strange. But for his sake it is just as well he doesn't, given Cathryn's fondness for large, sharp knives and loaded rifles at the ready. He might end up as one of the people that she is, or isn't, killing.

Images can be compared with Repulsion, the 1965 Roman Polanski film featuring Catherine Deneuve. The latter loses her fragile mind one weekend alone, and murders everyone that comes to her apartment. The difference between the characters of York and Deneuve is that York is more cagey and complicated. She runs hot and cold, and is usually lucid whenever a real person is present. But they are equally murderous, since she knows no other way to firmly say no to her pestering admirers.