Newest Review: ... about it first time round. Last Embrace is available from Amazon as a Dutch import. The DVD comes with Dutch subtitles and the origina... more
Last Embrace (DVD)
Member Name: spencer_hawken
Last Embrace (DVD)
Advantages: Interesting aspects and visional tricks
Disadvantages: Not really very much to it
Harry Hannan (the recently deceased Roy Schieder) is a government agent, while out one night with his wife he is targeted in an assassination attempt, which fails on him but kills his wife. Harry has a nervous breakdown, and when he leaves hospital and ventures back into the real world he finds that everything is different. His job is gone, his apartment rented to a geologist who also studies the activities of prostitutes. As Harry tries to get to grips with his life again, he soon realises that someone is still trying to kill him, or is it is paranoia? On top of this a strange ancient warning in Hebrew marks the first in a number of deaths.
I both like and am neutral about Last Embrace, because it contains moments of pure brilliance, but these are often padded out with elements that elongate the story more than is needed. There are all these different plot strands, but many of them just sort of fizzle out into a load of old nothing. One of Harry's key suspects for wanting him killed has different motives than you might suspect for killing Harry, and this is a prime example of how the story flits off along a strand that turns out to have little or nothing to do with the plot.
On the plus side there is a lot of dark humour, the way Scheider executes his lines and the sort of things he says are what so often in life we might like to say but never have the guts. There is this relationship that develops between Harry and his so-so roommate (imposed on him due to the fact that his apartment was let to her during Harry's absence); this relationship is the pinnacle source of Harry's anger, with Harry lashing out to her simply for the sake of it. One minute he lashes out at Ellie (Janet Margolin) with the most hostile language, the next he is praising her to the ends of the earth.
The movie is well shot, with lots of wide angles and impressive scenery, bearing in mind that this movie comes from a time that Jonathan Demme was still considered an almost student director; there are a number of big names that would have then and even now be jealous of Demme's style.
While Scheider and Margolin lead the path there are plenty of small cameos that appear for a few minutes, Christopher Walken, Mandy Patinkin, Same Levine and Charles Napier to name just a few. But despite these appearances it's a very much two handed movie between the two leads, the other actors presence being basically irrelevant, regardless of how quirky they may appear. Margolin in particular gives a good performance, one of her last in fact after a reasonable career including leading roles in Serpico, and Annie Hall she took a 10 year break from acting until Ghostbusters 2, shortly after she died of cancer.
Last Embrace looks and feels like a Hitchcock movie, and this could be its flaw, you see you either love Hitchcock or hate him; and to be honest with you I was never that enamoured with the director although I did enjoy Psycho and Frenzy. Some argue that Last Embrace is an attempt to replicate Hitchcock, with Demme having his sights on being the successor. And while Demme succeeds in achieving successful Hitchcock style ground, the discovery of the mastermind behind the movies events seems kind of rushed and tacked on, to that point everything held very good promise.
Last Embrace is a movie that to be honest you can either see or not, and as you can see I'm neutral right to the end. I can't tell you that Last Embrace is a movie you must see, watch it and you might be fairly impressed, but at the same time it's a movie that really goes nowhere, and those with a limited attention span will just find it too much hard work. While I quite enjoyed it 20 years ago, on a recent second viewing I found myself not understanding what I really liked about it first time round.
Last Embrace is available from Amazon as a Dutch import. The DVD comes with Dutch subtitles and the original theatrical trailer.
Summary: Jonathan Demme's Hitchcock tribute