Perfect Murder, A (1998)

A Perfect Murder (1998), directed by Andrew Davis.

This loose remake of Dial M For Murder (1954), is darker, more cynical than the original, in that the two men in the love triangle (Michael Douglas and Viggo Mortensen) are both villains and the wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is not exactly admirable either.

And yet my wife really likes this one; I haven't figured out why yet.

This time I noticed camera work that is lovely and well-composed without being self-consciously arty. Great set design, both in the working art loft (a real location) and the luxury apartment, a constructed set that looks like several million dollars:


(looking at a sculpture)

Artist: Is that...?

Husband: Yes.

Artist: Rich people. They always go for the same thing.

Husband: And what would that be?

Artist: Anything, everything, as long as it's recognizable.

Previously I thought it was terrible cliche to have Paltrow in the tub when the phone rings for the big attack scene. But later in the film Douglas is in the shower during his moment of maximum vulnerability (when his villainy is discovered just as he is about to get away with it), so there is a symmetry to their scenes.

As in the original, confusion of the house keys is the key to solving the crime.

David Suchet is the police detective who immediately detects something is wrong with the husband. I wish they had given him more to do, as the audience is cheering him on. As it is he just provides a few clues and Gwyneth has to solve the mystery. In a good bit, he is an Arab-American who bonds with her because she speaks Arabic and has a good heart.

She only has a couple of scenes, but I'm always on the look-out for Sarita Choudhury (Mississippi Masala (1991), Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996)). Here she is Gwyneth's gal-pal, representing the audience as a non-rich, non-murderous normal person.

Menacing score by James Newton Howard.

Available on Blu-ray with two gang commentary tracks. I learned that Viggo is very "method": he wanted to live in the studio loft set and he painted his own artwork.