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August 11, 2016

Observance

observance.jpg

Joseph Sims-Dennett - 2015
Artsploitation Films BD

A man is hired to observe a woman, photographing her and listening to her phone conversations, in a run down townhouse directly across from her apartment. Nothing seems to happen. The woman doesn't leave her apartment. From the phone conversations, there seems to be some kind of relationship with a man, and a possible connection to a murder that took place a couple decades ago.

Cinephiles will not be surprised to see echoes of Rear Window and The Conversation. What is unexpected is the turn towards body horror. Not quite Cronenberg territory, but close enough as the investigator, Parker, wakes up to unexplained bruises and abrasions. There is also a nod to Polanski when work and dreams collide into a nocturnal nightmare.

There is also the influence of the so-called "experimental films", Impressionistic close-ups of water dripping from a faucet, a jar collecting some kind of black liquid, rust stains (or is that blood?) on the wall.
The film open with shots of a shoreline on a rocky coast. There are several overhead shots of the ocean. What are eventually understood to be flashbacks are rendered subjective with surreal touches, when Parker remembers his recently deceased young son.

As several critics have noted, Observance is notable for the feeling of dread. As in The Conversation questions are raised as to what exactly is being seen and heard, for what purpose, and to whose benefit. One scene that initially begs credibility is when Parker sneaks into the apartment of Tenneal, the woman being observed. At first glance it might seem that Tenneal is oblivious to Parker's attempts to hiding from her, walking right past him as he crouches in a corner. The film hints that Parker's subterfuge may not have been a secret.

Especially at a time when studio productions hit budgets that are nearly impossible to recoup, Observance shows that you can make an effective, professional film for the cost of a Honda Civic.

Posted by peter at August 11, 2016 06:38 PM