Deja Vu (1985)

Olive Films:

DEJA VU (1985)
Rated:  R
Subtitles:  English (optional)
Video:  1.85:1 aspect ratio; color
Runtime:  95 minutes
Year:  1985


Olive Films resurrects another interestingly obscure title with DEJA VU.  As great as the transfer is, the problem is that this slog from 1985 has a plot that unfortunately has to compete with two of my favorite films, CHANCES ARE and DEAD AGAIN.  One is a charming romantic comedy and the latter is a Hitchcockian thriller, both involving reincarnation.  Obviously, all movies should stand on their own regardless of a recycled narrative, but DEJA VU just can't hold a candle to the others.  The plot is simple:  A writer becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a ballerina in the 1930s, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his fiancee. As he researches the case further, he becomes convinced she is the reincarnation of the dancer. Based on the Trevor Meldal-Johnsen novel Always, DEJA VU features Jaclyn Smith and Nigel Terry in the dual roles of Maggie / Brooke and Greg / Michael, as well as the great Shelley Winters as a vodka-guzzling psychic.  As the story progresses, we either believe or don't that reincarnation is a reality, as well as how obsession can consume one's sanity.  The problem is that DEJA VU needs more of a pulse and an engaging connection between the two leads to really win over the viewer, and although there's no doubt that this title could have a following, it did very little to win me over.

The technical elements are, however, astonishing when you have a composer like Pino Donaggio on board as well as cinematographer Anthony Richmond, who has worked on several films by the great Nicholas Roeg.  On a thematic level, DEJA VU rarely rises above the concept of "history repeating itself," for better or worse.  Terry and Smith have little chemistry to where there's little to no emotional investment, which is a huge issue when that's the driving force of the story.  I almost wonder if this lost Cannon adaptation was in fact seen by Kenneth Branagh, and he decided to take it upon himself to loosely remake this into the far superior DEAD AGAIN.  Certainly casting real-life wife Emma Thompson helped to create on-screen plausibility with that particular growing attraction, but also managed to add an air of mystery.  DEJA VU simply didn't work for me but it may not be the filmmakers' fault necessarily.  It's just that there are better versions of this story out there.  If you're a completist for the work of the composer or cinematographer, this is definitely worth a look in that regard, but in terms of all the elements coming together successfully, it's a miss.   C-

James Laczkowski