Dead Again (1991) – reviewed by George

In 1949 Los Angeles (in black-and-white) a concert pianist is murdered with a pair of barber scissors. She is Margaret Strauss (Emma Thompson). Her husband, the conductor/composer Roman Strauss (Kenneth Branagh), is arrested and tried for the murder of his wife. During the trial he refuses to testify on his own behalf, and after the jury finds him guilty in only one hour, he refuses to appeal. Throughout his ordeal the major reporter covering all of this, in the most sensational manner possible, is Gray Baker (Andy Garcia). Until this point we have been reading newspapers while the credits rolled. Now live-action takes over. Roman invites Baker to his cell as he is being barbered for the electrocution, and Baker taunts him about never saying anything: “Why don’t you just confess?” As he leaves the cell for the long walk Roman bends over and whispers in Baker’s ear, and he only has time for one word. Then, with his escort, he starts down the corridor, and he has the barber’s shears hidden in his hand and sleeve. Baker runs after them yelling, “Stop him!”, and Roman lifts the shears to stab — Margaret, who is standing at the door to the electric chair. At this point the movie shifts from black-and-white to color, we move to 1991 Los Angeles, and we see Grace (Emma Thompson) screaming as though she is being stabbed. So the live-action section has been Grace’s dream in the middle of the night.
Grace is in a convent where she has sought refuge. She is also an amnesiac, and the priest in charge, Father Tim (Richard Easton), will not let her spend another night there; she must go to the County Hospital in the morning. One sympathetic young nun (Jo Anderson) pleads with him for the woman to be able to stay until helped, but Father Tim is adamant. His only concession is to call (the next day) a P.I. who as an orphan lived in the convent back when it was an orphanage. This is Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh), who takes Grace to his buddy on the newspaper, a photographer called Piccolo Pete (Wayne Knight). Pete takes a picture of her and says he will run it the next day captioned “Do you know this woman?” with Mike’s name and number for replies.
So Mike leaves to take Grace to County. The place is literally Bedlam, and he ends up taking her home with him. As Grace struggles to regain her memory, other characters come into the story: Robin Williams as a psychiatrist who has lost his license, Derek Jacobi as an antiques dealer and amateur hypnotist who helps people learn about their past lives through past-life regression, Campbell Scott as a man who may or may not be Grace’s finance, and Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Tepper, one of Jacobi’s patients (very nice scene there).
There’s a big clue given early on, as learned from Agatha Christie, who gives her readers the most significant clue before the murder, so that it’s fair, but rarely remembered.
This film is 25 years old this year. I think it’s a classic, and I certainly would like to see some notice paid to its 25th Anniversary. Okay, it’s a bit operatic, with big emotions and big music to emphasize that. The music is by Patrick Doyle, whether written or selected, and I found it appropriate throughout. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Scott Frank, who also wrote the screenplays for Minority Report, The Wolverine, Marley and Me, and A Walk Among the Tombstones (among others).
I like (love?) this film to the point of obsession.

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