johnlink ranks DEAD AGAIN (1991)

I have always known that Kenneth Branagh had starred in and directed a suspense flick in the early 90s called DEAD AGAIN. What I did not know was that the movie costarred Andy Garcia, Emma Thompson, Robin Williams, Derek Jacobi, and Wayne Knight. Or that it was about people being reincarnated as other people. Or that it was batshit crazy. Go figure.

I watched DEAD AGAIN (1991) on 2.29.12 (Leap Day!). It was my first viewing of the film (and brought my two month total for 2012 up to 32 movies!)

This is a hard movie to rank. On the one hand, I could easily put this on my list of least favorites. On the other hand, I could absolutely see how someone has loved this movie since they first saw it two decades ago, argue that it appreciates in value with multiple viewings, and that it is actually a masterpiece. I’m not sure I’m ever going to watch it again, let alone enough times to make that call.

Ironically, Robin Williams asked to be left out of the opening credits so people (not used to Williams in a drama back in 1991) would not think this was a comedy. Ironically, this movie is filled with comedy, a little of it intentional, and much of it wholly unintentional.

I just tried to find the spinkick featured in this movie. Alas, I could not. But anyone who wants to accuse Kenneth Branagh of having an overly inflated ego need only to see the spin-kick he receives which causes him to lose a fight in this movie. It might be the worst kick in the history of film. It, alone, should give this movie a negative bonus point for choreography. But somehow, it is almost endearing. Liz and I rewound and watched the kick two or three times, and it got funnier and funnier.

That is sort of this movie in a nutshell. The story goes that back in the 40s a famous musician may have killed his wife. Zoom to present day, and someone who looks an awful lot like the musician ends up taking care of an amnesiac who looks an awful lot like the wife. Derek Jacobi comes around and offers to put the wife under hypnosis as to find out the problem. Turns out that the past lives of the 40s are the problem. There are some legit twists and turns in this movie, but they are realized so ham-handedly as to often be laughable.

Here’s the thing. Most of the acting is stellar. But of course it is, right? Branagh and Jacobi and Thompson are all Shaksperian actors who chew right through their scenery. Branagh is channeling an almost Woody Allen type guy in this, and his performance is awesome. But the writing is horrid. It’s overwritten and, as directed by a young Branagh back in ’91, no subtlety is allowed. We must see a hundred and fifty pairs of scissors (the original murder weapon) throughout the course of this movie.

I wish I could just say it sucks and be done with it. But there is so much talent, some wasted and some not, and the actors are really running around like they are doing LEAR or HAMLET. I’m not convinced that the stupid bits of this movie aren’t supposed to be for the groundlings, that Branagh didn’t approach this modern movie the exact same way you’d approach a Shakespearian tragedy or history: Play it straight, but know that a few moments are going to become stupid and/or silly to keep the poor dumb folks interested. But then, I’m probably just giving this way too much credit.

As a way of pointout out how odd this entire process was, Branagh intended for the entire thing to be in color. After it was done, they realized that audiences might be confused by the shift in eras because the actors were the same. So, they just turned everything that was from the 40s into black-and-white. What? If I was a designer isnt’t the first question I ask going to be ‘color or black-and-white?’ That effects every decision I make. It’s why Frank Darabont was so pissed about his movie THE MIST being colorized that he went ahead and realeased it in it’s intended black-and-white version for DVD and Blu. (As an homage to all of this, the picture at the top of this article is a black-and-white photo from a part of the movie which was in color. So, ha!)

Some movies I want to fight for because I love a particular part of them, or the idea of them. I have no such predisposed attachment to this film. I can’t explain what it did to me. It was bad. But I enjoyed it. I guess I’m going to have to see this again in a year or so to see if I can figure out what the heck just happened.





~ by johnlink00 on March 1, 2012.

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