the Bond-like skiing adventure

Film Day four. I might be going to Coventry today or Warwick. I haven't decided yet.

I’m aware that sometimes when I’m criticising the master’s work, I can sound like Oliver Peyton picking over some inedible lump of goop cooked to perfection by a chef with a Michelin asterisk on the Great British Menu and probably just as wrong sometimes, but to my eyes and ears, Spellbound is a disappointingly uneven and often dull film, the most attractive reason to watch being the central dream sequence created by Salvador Dali, in which the artist relishes the opportunity to transfer the elements of his painting into a moving picture format. To save you the time, here it is:

Unlike his paintings (and to some extent his earlier film collaborations), Dali’s work is being pressed into service to help explain Gregory Peck’s character’s psychological quagmire and all of these exciting elements are explained at the climax, the theory being that all unconscious elements of the human psyche, especially dreams can examined and interpreted.

Though there’s undoubtedly some excellent performances and the usual quota of surprises, my main problem with the film is that Hitch is repeating himself – the wrongly accused is on the run again. I’m guessing that the director is keeping these elements formulaic because the overall subject, psychiatry, is somewhat outside of the mainstream and he’s attempting to keep his audience on side. Except the execution is weirdly anticeptic and there’s a lack of chemistry between Peck and his leading lady Ingrid Bergman, who also seems uncomfortable with her part as his doctor and lover.

The director himself lists many of these problems to Truffaut in their interviews together and notes that he wanted to use a realistic approach because of the psychoanalysis. He was reluctant to fantasize and wanted to use a logic for once. Odd, then that best sequence is clearly the Bond-like skiing adventure and you can’t help but wonder if a much more interesting film might have come from setting the whole thing within the Daliscape, with Peck’s character trying to escape his dreams metaphorically instead of literally, in other words, an early version of the old Amiga game Weird Dreams or Richard Linklater’s animation Waking Life with Bernard Hermann writing the soundtrack.

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