Wednesday, January 03, 2007

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (JONAS MIDDLETON, 1976)



Through the Looking Glass opens with a close of Catherine Burgess' face, a cosmetic mud mask slowly being peeled off. She stares absently into the mirror, her hairdresser complementing her. We begin to hear the voices of three women, gossiping. Slowly we being to realize that they're talking about Catherine, within plain hearing distance. Catherine remains stoic. The women continue to gossip about how cold and unfriendly, prim and proper Catherine is. Still, no response from Catherine.

As Catherine climbs into her car out on the street, her driver announces that she's late for dinner. We view Catherine, her husband, and her dinner guests sitting a long table, taking up an entire room. None of them are particularly close to one another, and most of the conversation occurs between the two men. Catherine remains distant, her husband not seeming to notice. She continues drinking her brandy, and scolds her daughter Jennifer when she comes down to talk, saying she should be in bed.

After Jennifer goes to bed, Catherine finally smiles--an empty smile--as she comments about how glad she is to be vacationing soon. But she becomes upset with her husband demeanor, and in an uncomfortable moment spills her drink. She excuses herself and goes to bed.

Later that night, while her husband is in bed, Catherine quietly walks into her attic, locking the door behind her. She sits in front of a large looking glass and reclines into a chair. She slowly begins to run her hands over her body. Suddenly, someone appears in the mirror. An invisible force takes over Catherine as she furiously works herself up to sexual excitement. Catherine repeatedly returns to the mirror, being visited by what appears to be the ghost of her father every time. Sometimes she simply gets off, other times she 'visits' a bizarre sexual dreamworld, a cold, disconnected world where sex is constant, but concern for others is absent.

As Catherine slowly comes to the conclusions that she's trapped in a loveless marriage with no friends, her mental state falters. She repeatedly goes to the mirror, and her reveries into the surreal sex world become longer and longer. One night, after a particularly affecting "flashback" between Catherine and her father, her 'father' visits her in the mirror and tells her that she will crossover for good that night. Catherine becomes frightened and refuses. The man in the mirror laughs and disappears.

Catherine runs down to her husband and begs him to take her away that night, instead of the next morning. The husband, showing no concern at all, simply gives Catherine some sleeping pills and leaves the room. But Catherine knows that her journey is inevitable now.

Through the Looking Glass is one of those great arthouse, horror, and porn hybrids that seemed to exist only in the 70s. Featuring a stellar cast including Jamie Gillis at his finest (and not to mention top physical shape)as the father, and Catherine Burgess as the catatonic Catherine, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is truly a great film. The cinematography and direction are great; there's a tense mood throughout the entire film, held up by the subtly surreal dialogue and great musical score.

The film manages to achieve something, in the realm of pornography, that many mainstream films set out to do, yet fail. The atmosphere of the film is truly unsettling, a constant undertone of incest running throughout. Many viewers have commented that the film "makes you need a cold shower afterwards," and while the film is fairly nihilistic (in the same way that the ending of The Devil in Miss Jones is), the high production values eliminate any unneccessary "sleazy" elements that would otherwise be present.

The film manages to exist as a great character study of a woman possibly going mad, possibly on the verge of actually entering a nightmarish dreamscape. The film doesn't provide definite answers for any of the absurd or fantastical elements, rather they're just presented and never ignored. The ending of the film is truly stunning, an absolute fitting conclusion to such a masterpiece of sex and emotional torment.

1 Comments:

Blogger Shannon said...

I dare say, perhap the finest, most exquisite, tour de force, of demon buggery. A heart wrenching, mind-raping masterpeice !

11:23 PM  

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