Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Remembering Dead Again

Dead Again is a unique and indefinable little movie. based on a screenplay by Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Minority Report) and skillfully directed by Kenneth Branagh. The story involves a detective (Branagh) entrusted with the care of an amnesiac woman (Emma Thompson) who discovers through hypnosis that she may have been the victim of a famous murder in a past life. Thompson and Branagh are brilliant playing dual roles as the present day couple and their glamorous Hollywood predecessors. The vintage sequences are lit and photographed exactly like the high gloss black and white melodramas of the 40's. The present day sequences have a haunting, unreal quality. Never has a film succeeded in cohesively interweaving two different storylines from two different periods like this one. Past lives and reincarnation are usually the fodder of b-films or cheap exploitation films. Here the subject is given a class-A treatment.

Branagh's customarily baroque storytelling style is ideally matched to the material. The camera moves at just the right pace. The cuts have impact. The chills are doled out methodically, leading to a revelation that has to qualify as one of the most brilliant red-herrings in the history of cinema. Franks' snappy dialogue and macabre sense of humor punctuates the suspense and keep us on edge of our seats. Derek Jacobi and an unbilled Robin Williams only add to the fun.