May 30, 2013

Sisters (2006)

Directed by Douglas Buck. Starring Chloë Sevigny ("Grace Collier"), Stephen Rea ("Dr. Phillip Lacan"), Lou Doillon ("Angelique Tristiana"), and Dallas Roberts (" Dylan Wallace"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Image Entertainment)
Running time: 01:31:48
Country: USA, Canada, UK

Douglas Buck's remake of Brian De Palma's 1973 film of the same name stars Chloë Sevigny as a reporter named Grace, who's trying to make a name for herself by exposing a supposedly fraudulent doctor named Phillip Lacan. In the process, she witnesses a murder involving Lacan and one of his closest patients - a mysterious French woman named Angelique - which leads Grace down a dark path of perversion and disturbing secrets.

If you've seen the original De Palma-directed film, this version pretty much follows its plot and doesn't do anything significantly different in terms of the narrative. Whereas De Palma's version was a Hitchcockean exercise in style and suspense, Buck takes his fascination with exposing the dark underbelly of society and applies it to the characters and narrative here in this film, putting an emphasis on the perverse and psychological connections of the characters. That said, how you react to this film will vary on your preferences. If you love De Palma's original because of its flamboyant style, chances are that this will be a step down in many ways. If your preference lies with the dark, oppressive films that Douglas Buck is known for, you may find this remake to be worthwhile.

On the other hand, if you haven't seen the original, SISTERS is an interestingly-paced film that essentially starts following a Hitchcockean swerve in the narrative when most movies would already be transitioning into the second act. From that point, Grace fully comes into the picture and becomes a significant character after she's initially introduced crashing a party being thrown by Dr. Lacan for children with special needs. It's during the first thirty minutes or so that the character of Angelique is essentially the primary focus. She's clearly a troubled young woman with a terrible secret that's gradually brought to light, and, even when we have an idea of what's going on with her, it becomes very evident that not all is what it seems.

If the name Douglas Buck isn't familiar to you for whatever reason, he's mostly known for a trilogy of films he directed called FAMILY PORTRAITS: A TRILOGY OF AMERICA. Within that trilogy is an infamous short film called CUTTING MOMENTS. I was late to the game as far as Douglas Buck and decided to finally seek out his work after being impressed with his segment in the THEATRE BIZARRE anthology, which then led me to watch the extremely disturbing CUTTING MOMENTS as a standalone short film before diving into the trilogy as a whole. I don't know much about him personally, but Buck seems to be a director who has a specific vision of what he wants to do with his films, which would be to not necessarily disturb people for the sake of it, but to really slice into the dark side of humanity in a way that inherently comes off as jarring. He also has a distinct but subtle style - muted colors, gloomy visuals, and music that borders on ambient noise. That being said, his fingerprints are all over this film. He takes what was originally conceived by Brian De Palma as a stylish thriller and molds it to fit his cinematic and thematic interests.

It seems, based on the little amount of reviews I've come across, that people aren't fans of this film. Perhaps the biggest flaw of SISTERS is that it doesn't really offer anything new in comparison to the original, and I'm guessing a lot of the people who unfavorably reviewed this have seen De Palma's film and didn't get much out of this remake. From a neutral perspective, I would definitely agree that it's a bit too similar in many ways. Douglas Buck essentially paints over the original piece of art and adds a few splotches of blacks and grays to make it his own. Personally, I prefer this version. I love De Palma's style and appreciate the effort he put into the original SISTERS in terms of making a flashy piece of cinema, but I find it to be quite boring. While I like it, I don't think I'd necessarily recommend this remake, though. It appeals to me because of my interest in the director's work and the themes that he deals with, but I can understand other peoples' complaints about it, despite how harsh some of the criticisms are. To be fair, SISTERS is a mess, but I think it's an interesting mess.

Score: 7

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