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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday, April 20, 2014 - Edition No 893 

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EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

SYNOPSIS:
When British Secret Service surveillance agent The Eye (Ewan McGregor) is assigned to monitor a suspected blackmailer, Joanna Eris (Ashley Judd), his professional decisions are clouded by a growing obsession with his target, fuelled by recurring images of his lost daughter somehow linked to this beautiful woman. As he follows Joanna across America and through some chilling encounters, he starts to detach himself from his control (k.d. lang) at headquarters as he descends into an abyss of tormented feelings he can't fathom, ending up with Joanna at a place that seems like the end of the world.

"The many strengths of Eye of the Beholder include the edgy mood and unpredictability of the action, and the internalisation of the psychological and emotional terrain through the effective soundtrack. The star performances are riveting and Ewan McGregor's externally flat character is a challenge he meets rather well, building up a picture of this driven, sad and finally disturbed man. (All the same, an actor like Ray Liotta, or indeed, Russell Crowe, might have been more arresting…) His deep seated grief is echoed in Ashley Judd's equally driven and almost demented Joanna, the woman with whom he becomes obsessed. Judd manages the complexity of a psychologically disturbed woman with flashes of brilliance. For a love story it's pretty bleak, and for a thriller it's pretty weird - and that's not to be taken as negative. The visual style also defies categorisation, taking fresh angles and unexpected framing as a tool for keeping us guessing. If there's a weak spot it's in the story structure, which tackles the novel's time span with a few jumps that may be hard to catch; the time span in the final third takes a while to put in perspective, for example. Eye of the Beholder has lots of style and that key ingredient - individuality. If the ending leaves you in limbo, at least it avoids predictability. It's not a film for those who expect the expected."
Andrew L. Urban

"A potent mix of the supernatural, intrigue and breathtaking suspense, Eye of the Beholder is a mesmerizing cinematic experience. Compelling and gripping from the beginning of its dazzling opening credits, Steph Elliott's psycho-thriller is as far removed from Welcome to Woop Woop as you could possibly imagine. While it's stylish and sophisticated, it is tinged with an undercurrent of the bizarre, and Elliott pushes this story of obsession to its limit. What a fascinating list of ingredients is twirled together claustrophobically for our consumption. This is life at its most complex, its characters flawed yet appealing – we barely have time to take a breath to find out what's around the corner. Ashley Judd is superb as the sorceress, temptress and little girl lost, combining a slick superficial image with one of mental instability and vulnerability. She makes this complex femme fatale not only believable, but cogently memorable. Stunning in designer Valentino, it is Judd's expressive, beautiful face that unlocks our hearts. Cast against type, Ewan McGregor excels in being ordinary. He is the passive observer who becomes obsessed, and is propelled into action by his loneliness and haunted by his past. We, as fascinated observers, are drawn into his obsession. Elliott continues his surprises with Jason Priestley in an unexpected role, while k.d. lang adds quality X to the project. The script gets into trouble towards the end, losing impact and focus in the final act, but throughout, tension is maintained by a powerful, unrelenting soundtrack. Eye of the Beholder is a story about fascination, obsession and possession. It's a dense, explosive work that explores the complexity of the mind, its brittle frailties, its subtleties and its contradictions. See it through your eyes."
Louise Keller

"Did somebody make a voodoo doll from off-cuts of this film and cast a spell on its critical reception. 'Ugly is in The Eye Of The Beholder (Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald), 'impenetrable mess' (Stephen Holden, New York Times) and 'The single worst film David Lynch never made' (Wesley Long, San Francisco Examiner) are just pebbles in a landslide of venom which has smothered Stephan Elliot's film since its mixed reception at Venice last year. Most of the slagging has been aimed at Ashley Judd's wardrobe and sexy killer demeanour, confused plotting and Elliot's borrowing of ideas from Vertigo, Blow Up, Blow Out and most other Brian De Palma films. Considering that De Palma is the most blatant (and only occasionally effective) 'borrower' from Hitchcock this suggests that it's 'homage' when approved and 'rip-off' when not. Eye Of The Beholder may not be in the same league as Vertigo but don't forget that Hitch's masterpiece didn't do spectacular box-office or garner weighty critical support until years later. If you want a straight up and down thriller with readily identifiable everything then look elsewhere because Elliot's stylishly made mood piece is not that film. This game of hide and seek operates on deep dark levels of psychological complexity in which the film noir staple of cop/secret agent/gumshoe falling for killer is upped by an elusive and (dare I say) metaphysical connection between the two. The Eye's imaginary conversations with his missing daughter pack an emotional punch which makes his double-edged journey an intriguing one. As for Judd's wardrobe and general styling, I say well done. A mentally scarred female monster with a knife should always look her best when out on the job. Judd has the chops for this kind of work so why not let her loose. Where this film disappoints slightly is in the miscasting of Ewan McGregor who manages well enough but never seems quite comfortable in such an introspective role. Elliot's classy visuals and a knockout finale in Alaska are further plusses in the most maligned film of the year I dare you to enjoy. And I haven't even mentioned Jason Priestley..."
Richard Kuipers



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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the film in Real Audio.

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Andrew L. Urban talks to Steph Elliott in
VISIONSTREAM

TRAILER

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER (MA)
(US)

CAST: Ashley Judd, Ewan McGregor, Patrick Bergin, k.d. lang, Jason Priestley, Geneviéve Bujold

PRODUCERS: Nicolas Clermont, Tony Smith

DIRECTOR: Stephan Elliott

SCRIPT: Stephan Elliot based on the novel by Marc Behm

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Guy Dufaux

EDITOR: Sue Blainey

MUSIC: Marius De Vries

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Baptiste Tard

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 10, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: March 14, 2001

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