Review: White of the Eye / Cert: 18 / Director: Donald Cammell / Screenplay: Donald Cammell, China Cammell / Starring: David Keith, Cathy Moriarty / Release Date: March 31st
Donald Cammell’s reputation hinges on just four movies. It’s slim pickings, for sure, but the work is distinct and infused not just with a brash, paradoxical absurdity, that mirrored Cammell’s own rather bleak view of the world, but also with quirky framing, off-the-wall editing techniques and playful compositions that keep the films’ realities constantly in flux and never settled.
White of the Eye (released in 1987) was the Scottish filmmaker’s penultimate effort and an adaption of the novel, Mrs White (1983) by Margaret Tracy. As with the others, shifting identities and a mass of contradictions abound, this time within the filmic study of an insane man. It isn’t just a serial killer movie, oh no, but a story that wishes to attain transcendence from generic strictures.
Paul White (Keith) is murdering housewives in and around Tuscon, Arizona. His wife, played by Cathy Moriarty, an actress who excels in tough cookie and brassy dame roles, is initially clueless and thinks he’s having an affair. Joan White, however, comes to the realisation that her hubby is hiding something much more insidious than an occasional extra-marital tryst.
Paul’s reason for killing women isn’t just plain old hatred of the female form either – it’s cosmically existential; a philosophy that marries misogyny to the strains of Schopenhauerian musings on art and aesthetics. The ghoulish scene in which Paul drowns a victim in a bathtub, holding a mirror to her face so she can see her dying reflection, outdoes anything dished out by Argento in his sadistic pomp.
Arrow Video’s dedication to re-releasing cult and forgotten gems is exemplary. This might turn out to be one of the best releases of 2014. The restoration, taken from original 35mm materials and scanned in 2k resolution, was headed by James White at Deluxe Digital Cinema and has retained the kooky stylistic bleached-out effects that might look like accidents or uncorrected mistakes, but were very much part of the photographic conception devised by the director, Larry McConkey (cinematographer) and Alan Jones (lighting cameraman).
The extras are meaty and in-depth. There’s the inclusion, too, of the 1998 BBC documentary about Cammell’s career and life. He committed suicide in 1996, at the age of 62, leaving behind at least one highly regarded classic (Performance, 1970) and three cult pictures.
Extras: Deleted Scenes / Audio Commentary / Into The White featurette / Restoration comparison / Booklet / Donald Cammell – The Ultimate Performance feature-length documentary / Alternate Credits / The Argument short