Peeping Tom

Time Out New York Project: Issue #734, October 22-28, 2009

The movie that pretty much ended the career of its director, Michael Powell, still has the power to shock. The subject matter is lurid—introverted Brit Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) murders women with a tricked-out movie camera that allows him to film them as they die—but Powell’s artistry is at its empathetic peak. This highly saturated Technicolor production seems to be oozing life, as if it too were an organism that, like each of the killer’s victims, is made suddenly aware of its own mortality. Every aspect of moviemaking (and obsession with same) is interrogated, especially in the way different genres like the comedy and the musical collide with the gory murder plot. It’s understandable why audiences of the time rebelled. Yet Powell is finely attuned to the tactile properties of this objet du cinema, so much so that he plays Mark’s father in black-and-white home movie inserts—the creator cannot absolve himself of his creation.—Keith Uhlich