06 February 2009

Someone Behind the Door

France - 1971
Director – Nicolas Gessner
Gemstone Entertainment, 1988, VHS

Despite Bronson's decent performance in Rider on the Rain, it was a French film, as is Someone Behind the Door and that in itself is a tiny tragedy in a bottle. I bought this film, which is based on a French novel, strictly because of the Bronson name. I am above all loyal.

Mr. Bronson is dropped of in a daze at an English hospital where a brain doctor, Anthony Perkins takes him to a room and does cursory diagnosis and injects him with a tranquilizer before suggesting they return to his house where Perkins can “observe” him, something he does with his patients “occasionally.” OK, crude insinuation noted.

At his mansion, Perkins makes a lot of blunt suggestions, postulating explanatory possibilities for Bronson's loss of memory. While Bronson is out of the room Perkins plants a gun in his jacket pocket and drops several more tranquilizers in his orange juice. Really? When Bronson passes out Perkins dictates his sinister plot-like diagnosis onto a reel-to-reel tape. His wife, Jill Ireland wakes up and the two of them exchange bitter, hateful insults through a veil of coy and practiced friendliness. She leaves for a trip to visit her brother and Perkins goes through some kind of stiff awkward attempt at estranged husbandyness.

Bronson awakens and wanders the empty house inspecting fruit and searching for some purpose to his employment in this film. The waxen Perkins returns with a suitcase that contains a bunch of conveniently suggestive evidence, and a letter detailing infidelity and a sordid love triangle. Perkins further insinuates hypothetical explanations in order to rile Bronson, speculating all kinds heavy adulterous situations. Finding himself playing across from a disinterested two-dimensional wet blanket, Bronson decides he really ought to flip his wig if he’s going to make this film interesting.

Perkins shame unravels when Ireland's brother shows up looking for her, and its revealed that the whole thing is an elaborate harebrained scheme to frame Bronson for the murders Perkins intends to commit using the very justifications he’s been feeding to Bronson.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, it works, Ireland and her lover show up, and Bronson plays his role with glee, shooting the lover repeatedly, and tearing Ireland's clothes off in what amounts to a near-rape. (Keep in mind Bronson and Ireland were actually married at this point)

The many faces of emoting Bronson in Someone Behind the Door.

The whole thing takes on a depressing dimension because it’s quite clear that it is all an elaborate and subtle vilification of Perkins own sexuality and homosexuality in general, whether or not he realizes it or the film ever suggests anything overt is beside the point. In fact, that’s the real catch, it can’t be mentioned. Perhaps too it’s an accusation of a society that forces gays to hide themselves away and live double lives. That’s the second tragedy of this movie, I can’t tell who it’s pointing the finger at and if I keep it up I could dissect this thing for hours and that would be more boring than the film.

Perkins shuffles in pale and sweaty, withered by shame and the monstrous relief of being released from living his own double life. He breaks the news about the whole fake wife brainwashing thing and Ireland slips comfortably back into her sex object role, coolly mocking him with dripping disappointment and accusations, even slutty women (the deplorable/desirable patriarchal trope) it would seem are superior to the gays.

Bronson meanwhile has exited very quickly and is wandering the beach wondering what the hell happened.

Some alternate covers for the film, all of which vilify Bronsons character. The last one from Unicorn Video is my favorite but sadly does not improve the film.

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