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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Out-of-Control Imagery
by Betty Jo Tucker

When style overpowers substance in a movie, major disaster need not be the result. Memento and The Hudsucker Proxy come to mind. Despite some pretentious filmmaking approaches, both movies retain a continuity that viewers can follow if they pay close attention. The same cannot be said for After Image, an incoherent crime thriller in which overuse of unusual images gets in the way of good storytelling. In all fairness, a couple of these shots emerge as poetically stunning -- but more about that later.

Touted as an ďintense psychological thriller in the tradition of Insomnia and One Hour Photothis jumbled movie is about Joe McCormack (John Mellencamp), a crime photographer who canít stand taking pictures of mangled bodies any more. He quits his job or takes a leave of absence (Iím not sure which -- but then, much is unclear in After Image). Joe returns to his childhood home and finds that the Aunt (Louise Fletcher) who raised him is sick. Laura (Terrylene), a clairvoyant deaf woman, is taking care of her.

When Laura has visions about future murders, Joe works with her to find the pathological killer (Michael Zelniker), a man who apparently doesnít want Joe to stop taking pictures of murder victims. Admittedly, Iím not too sure about all this because tricky camera work often interfered with my understanding of what was happening on screen. However, perhaps writer/director Robert Manganelli wanted viewers to feel confused, especially since his film raises questions about what is real and what isnít.

Because Manganelli earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photographic Illustration, itís no wonder his first feature film concentrates on visual impact. With the help of cinematographer Kurt Brabbee (Wilbur Falls), he achieves maximum success in a scene showing Laura inside a huge church organ where she can feel the music vibrations. Itís beautifully photographed -- but a bit too short. Another visual highlight takes us through an aisle banked by more chickens than weíll probably ever see on screen at one time again. How does his shot fit into the story? I dunno, but itís a very impressive one.          

The actors in After Image cannot be faulted. Singer Mellencamp projects a brooding melancholy thatís appropriate for the character he portrays; Terryleneís soulful eyes and lovely sign language gestures make her quite appealing; Zelniker is suitably creepy: and, althought Oscar winner Fletcher (One Flew over the Cuckooís Nest) has limited screen time, she steals her few scenes. Too bad these troupers had such sparse dialogue to deliver.      

Normally, watching DVD bonus features before playing the movie enhances my viewing pleasure. With After Image, this didnít help. Everything focuses on the production process, and if youíre interested in becoming a producer, the trials and tribulations of Chris Nakis as chronicled in "The Making of After Image" might change your mind. Filmmaker Manganelliís production notes are also included as is an item titled "Portraying Death: The Art of Special Effects Make-Up.Ē

(Released by Miramax Home Entertainment and rated ďRĒ for violent images, nudity and some language. Bonus materials are not rated and are subject to change.)   

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