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reviewed by Alex Grant
- filmed in a chillingly compulsive style

A genuinely unsettling amalgam of Franz Kafka and Stanley Kubrick, the uncompromising crime melodrama ONE HOUR PHOTO, by writer-director Mark Romanek, is a portrait of a perfectionistic photo=technician emerging from an antiseptic consumer culture cocoon on a psychopath in full flight and frenzy.

Seymour "Sy" Parrish (Robin Williams) toils obsessively in an authoritarian and unfeelingly bureaucratic big-box superstore. A solitary non-entity Parrish is a devotee of the happy Yorkin family whose snapshots of upper middle class affluence he has tirelessly misappropriated in order to create a shrine to their memories in his arid apartment.
When he has been fired for his thefts of the store’s customer’s photos Sy swiftly loses it, revealing the underlying nature of his assiduously well-maintained preoccupation with the entirely illusory idyll of the Yorkins.

Filmed in a chillingly compulsive style that captures the nuances of society captivated by acquisition, first and foremost, personal fulfillment is sought throughout this constipated saga of soul searching by the acting of buying stuff. Sy and the Yorkins aberrantly pursue contentment by utter material self-indulgence. The motive-force here is envy of the well-heeled by the minions of a ruthless penny-pinching Social Darwinian economy, a truly religious devotion to The Almighty Buck.

Thus in point of fact Romanek’s ONE HOUR PHOTO is a ruthless dissection, in Marxist terms, of the self-defeating soullessness of consumerism. The soul consumed by wanting and getting more, for its own sake. Such lust derailing contentment per se.

Romanek’s exquisitely polished movie also captures remorselessly an obsession with the superficial and superfluous perfection of outward appearance that has rapidly become the lynch-pin or archstone of today’s society. Sy Parrish and his victims are at all times impeccably clad and groomed. Their environments are pure, spotless and devoid of apparent imperfections. As are the law enforcement officers who are obligated to intervene in this bizarre family romance. Everyone and everything in sight is a brand name, overtly or covertly.

Hell does not await us. We are in it already.

© Alex Grant September 2002

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