Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Bedroom Window (1987)

Somewhere I accumulated a DVD of this movie which I had not watched again in over twenty years, since from memory there was nothing particularly amazing about it.  Viewing it again was not an unpleasant experience in any way -- in fact it was moderately enjoyable, but it did get me thinking about the transient path of so many acting careers.  It is the story of a love-struck executive having an affair with his hot-shot employer's wife.  On the night the relationship begins, she witnesses a brutal attack in the park opposite his bedroom window and her screams and the sight of her naked body cause the culprit to flee, saving his immediate victim but priming him for another murderous attack soon thereafter.  The mistress has had a good view of the assailant, but is too concerned with her marriage and infidelity to contact the police, so our feckless hero pretends that it was he who had witnessed the outrage and who could identify the perp.  Of course nothing goes as intended and he soon finds himself the main suspect in several related murders.  It is a kind of sub-Hitchcock farrago with its themes of voyeurism and an innocent man on the run, desperate to clear his name as the evidence against him mounts.  The film was the first mainstream feature from writer-director Curtis Hanson, whose career has continued an upward trend, although possibly it peaked with "L.A. Confidential".

The three leads are Steve Guttenberg, Isabelle Huppert as the adulteress, and Elizabeth McGovern as the attackee in the park.  How very different the courses of their respective careers have been. Guttenberg first came to one's attention as part of the ensemble in "Diner" (1982), and went on to headline the first four "Police Academy" movies, the reasonably entertaining "Four Men and a Baby", and the geriatric fantasy "Cocoon".  However his career since the late eighties has gone rapidly downhill and while still in evidence in disposable TV movies, he has done nothing to write home about since.  In the above film, however, while no Cary Grant, he plays a likeable enough romantic leading man trying to become an action hero in fraught circumstances just beyond his control.  It is quite possibly the only role that has stretched his acting chops in his long 'career' and it might even be his best.

French actress Huppert, on the other hand, has had an increasingly illustrious career both in film and on stage, and is the most-nominated actress for France's Cesar award.  She has occasionally dabbled in American movies since her appearance in 1980's "Heaven's Gate".  She had an interesting role in Hal Hartley's "Amateur" (1994) and an incomprehenisble one in "I Heart Huckabees" (2004).  Why she agrees to these overseas roles when she is such a venerated art-house darling in her native country is a very good question, which probably has little to do with financial rewards given the movies in which she has featured.  Oddly enough her role in the film under consideration here was really nothing special and could just as well have been played by a number of American actresses of the day, but nowadays she seems to go from strength to strength.

As for McGovern, she was a fine young leading lady throughout the 1980s, starting with her debut in "Ordinary People" and giving memorable performances in "Ragtime" and "Once Upon a Time in America".  However she is rarely seen on the big screen nowadays, although she is still working, having married a British television producer/director in 1992 and relocated to London, where she has appeared in numberous TV offerings.  She does take an occasional small part in mainstream movies (most recently "Kick-Ass"), but the superstar potential seen in her earliest features has been shelved for the possibly more fulfilling role of wife and mother. In this film her feisty and brave performance complements Guttenberg's, making him look all the better. 

This movie is far from one of the world's greatest contributions to cinema, but it holds up reasonably well these twenty-odd years on.  So why, I ask you, is it being remade for 2012 by Kevin Williamson?  I can't begin to imagine how he plans to revamp this relatively pedestrian thriller or how in the world he thinks he can improve upon it.  Answers on a postcard, please.
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