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FRANTIC(director/writer: Roman Polansky; screenwriter: Gérard Brach; cinematographer: Witold Sobocinski; editor: Sam O’Steen; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: Harrison Ford (Dr. Richard Walker), Betty Buckley (Sondra Walker), Emmanuelle Seigner (Michelle), John Mahoney Gaillard (Gerard Klein); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tim Hampton/Thom Mount; Warner Brothers; 1988)
“Lives up to its title.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roman Polansky’s (“Chinatown”/”Rosemary’s Baby”) dreamy thriller, co-written with Gérard Brach, lives up to its title, though it is better in parts than as a whole. Dr. Richard Walker (Ford), a San Francisco heart surgeon, arrives in Paris with his wife Sondra (Betty Buckley). He aims to kill two birds with one stone–revitalizing his marriage of 20 years by returning to the same Paris honeymoon spot and taking care of business by delivering a paper to a medical convention. At the airport there’s a snafu over luggage, as Sondra accidentally picks up the wrong suitcase. Back at the ritzy Le Grand Hotel, Walker takes a shower while the phone rings. His wife answers it, but he can’t hear her because the water is running. When he steps out of the shower, she has vanished.

Richard, who speaks no French, gives chase into a dark foreign world (the world of film noir) by himself, after he receives no help from officials at the American Embassy who doubt the veracity of his story. This leads him to the dangerous underworld of European drug smuggling and international terrorist arms dealers. Along the way he comes across a corpse which leads him to Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner, the director’s real life wife), a sexy swinger dressed in punk style black leather, who is the owner of the mysterious suitcase and agrees to accompany him on his quest for a price.

The film generates Hitchcock kind of suspense and black humor, as it shrewdly feeds on an American innocent abroad and his worst fears about Europe’s decadent society coming true. It gets to the heart of things with disturbing emotions raised, ranging from paranoia to frenzy. It only missteps when a few set pieces don’t work with the same power as others–especially the Statue of Liberty seen through a porthole. But a shoeless dignified Ford tiptoeing along with his outrageous bubblegum floozy in hand, is a sight for sore eyes.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”