A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Altman shot “Images” (1972) in Ireland during the wet autumn months of 1971, and premiered it the following May at Cannes. It won Susannah York the award for best actress (it’s the role she’s most proud of), but left its Cannes audiences mostly confused. It isn’t the sort of film you feel affectionate about. It’s complex and cold, although not nearly as hard to understand as some of the first reviews suggested.
Columbia picked up the distribution rights (Altman was a hot property in 1971) and entered “Images” in the New York Film Festival. Inexplicably, neither of the two principal film critics for the New York Times (Vincent Canby and Roger Greenspan) chose to review it, and it was dismissed in a blistering and largely unperceptive review by Howard Thompson (“a mishmash”). And that was that. The film never achieved a normal commercial release in America. It had its Chicago-area premiere last February at Northwestern University and its first theatrical 35mm showing last weekend at the Biograph. It undoubtedly will return in one or another repertory series.
It is, first of all, an intelligently constructed and spectacularly well-photographed film. We admire its gifts even though they tend not to involve us. It tells the story of several days in the life of the young wife (Susannah York) of a very wealthy member of the horsy set (played by Rene Auberjonois of the Altman stock company). She’s cracking up and by the film’s end, she will have committed murder.
She hears sounds; she hallucinates; she’s trapped in a web of sexual guilt, and imagines encounters with two men other than her husband. One is a sinister Frenchman with whom she committed adultery. He died in an airplane crash three years earlier, but keeps turning up in doorways and pantries, mocking her. He finally invites her to exorcise his ghost by shooting him, and she does so. She sees him fall dead, but all she’s shot is her husband’s expensive camera.