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Somewhere in Time (1980)

Somewhere in Time (1980)
June 4, 2012 - 7:30 pm
Isidore Mankofsky, A.S.C.

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

How do you follow up portraying Superman on the big screen? If you’re Christopher Reeve you slip naturally into the role of playwright Richard Collier, “the sort of man each woman dreams of in the deepest and most secret reaches of her heart.” That’s how stage actress Elise McKenna (played by Jane Seymour with far-away eyes) describes Collier in a rhapsodic improvisation mid-performance at the truly grand Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The year is 1912 and Collier and McKenna have just met and fallen in love—decades before he was born.

Based on a novel by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay, Somewhere in Time tells a tale of time travel and long lost love. One is tempted to call it science fiction, but Matheson’s elegant conception of the means for journeying across the years is so evocative, itself, of the tenuous dream-like quality of a love affair that science can have nothing to do with it. Plagued by writer’s block, a young Collier escapes Chicago for the Grand Hotel circa 1980 where he becomes enthralled by a photo of McKenna hanging in the venerable establishment’s “Hall of History.” Further research not only convinces Collier that he and McKenna were lovers over 60 years earlier but that self-hypnosis could reunite them in the past. Literally willing himself back in time, Collier finds McKenna on the eve of that fateful performance and the two fall headlong into a romance for the ages, even as it’s doomed from the start.

Around his star-crossed couple, director Jeannot Szwarc conjures a soft-focus fantasy of post-Gilded Age America. Collier and McKenna’s first romantic turn around the hotel grounds rapturously unfolds like a live staging of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.” John Barry’s swooning score and recurring passages of Rachmaninoff complete the film’s heady, intoxicating atmosphere. Though Somewhere in Time was released to withering reviews and tepid box office, it has since become one of Hollywood’s most beloved romances with a devoted international fan base.

—Paul Malcolm

Rastar Films. Producer: Stephen Deutsch. Based on a novel by Richard Matheson. Screenwriter: Richard Matheson. Cinematographer: Isidore Mankofsky. Editor: Jeff Gourson. Cast: Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, Teresa Wright, Bill Erwin.

35mm, color, 103 min.