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SHATTERED IMAGE(director: Raul Ruiz; screenwriter: Duane Poole; cinematographer: Robby Muller; editor: Michael Duthie; cast: Anne Parillaud (Jessie Markham), William Baldwin (Brian), Lisanne Falk (Paula/Laura), Graham Greene (Conrad/Mike), Billy Wilmott (Lamond), O’Neil Peart (Simon), Leonie Forbes (Isabel), Bulle Ogier (Mrs. Ford); Runtime: 103; Lion’s Gate Films; 1998)
If you ever wanted to know how it might feel for a person who is losing their marbles, this film might be able to shed some light on that.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Raul Ruiz, the Chilean-born France-based director of one hundred films so far, who has been noted for his offbeat features and ambiguous works, has made this American mainstream film in English that has all his pet themes intact. For a Ruiz film, this one is about as accessible as he gets. It is also one of the few he hasn’t scripted himself. It is also one of his poorer efforts.

If you ever wanted to know how it might feel for a person who is losing their marbles, this film might be able to shed some light on that. It is a tantalizing thriller that offers the viewer a chance to see if they can separate fantasy from reality.

Shattered Image begins as an alluring assassin named Jessie (Anne Parillaud) whacks a handsome businessman in the men’s room of a trendy Seattle night-club and then goes to make a call, saying: “It’s done.”

Afterwards she dreams that she is a nervous newlywed in Jamaica with her overly protective husband Brian (William Baldwin) by her side, taking her to a luxurious hotel. She is afraid because she’s been having this recurring dream that she’s a hit lady killing only men in Seattle and also that her attacker is following her to Jamaica. When she picks up a ringing phone in her hotel room and there’s no answer she in a paranoid way says: “It’s him.”

Ruiz’s films always seem to be about the multiple identities of characters who might just be figments of one’s imagination or might be about someone who is leading a parallel life. There are two Jessies here–the “Seattle Jessie” and the “Jamaica Jessie.” Each Jessie has the other Jessie as her alter ego. In her repressed Jamaican dreams she is having anonymous sex in public places, while in the man-hating Seattle Jessie dreams, she is being rescued in tight romantic situations by Brian. He plays an active part in both her dream places.

Shattered Image has its two stars struggle through some very awkward dialogue and plot twists that keep coming unmercifully at the viewer. Ruiz’s experimental film style opts for the most he can get out of his stylized settings, his confusing but beautiful camera shots, and all the kitsch he can muster in every mise-en-scène.

Jessie imagines she has been attacked and the rapist is still at large, and after her. But she can’t determine what he looks like. The dreams themselves get confusing as the Jamaican Jessie begins to suspect her husband is after her money and that the other hotel guest she meets, the chillingly suave blonde, Paula (Lisanne), is involved with her husband. Paula also has an alter ego in Seattle, Laura, who has hired Jessie in her dream to kill Brian, who in the dream is Laura’s husband.

The film’s ending is as blurred as are Jessie’s dreams. But, at least, the climax returns to the beginning of the film to try and clear things up in the usual unhelpful way Ruiz solves his mysteries. By the end who could be sure if she killed a detective in room 214, or if someone was really after her, or if she had attempted suicide before and then was forced to take pills in Jamaica to make it look like another attempt at suicide, or if those newspaper clippings of unsolved murders in the Seattle area she collected can really be attributed to her. Since the movie continually switches back and forth between the two dream locations of Jamaica and Seattle, it is unclear what really did happen. If you enjoy this kind of pseudo-intellectual puzzler then you must be prepared to be kept in suspense, not knowing more about the character than what Ruiz wanted revealed.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”