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Seeing what the voyeur spies

February 23, 2007|Lael Loewenstein | Special to The Times

Voyeurism has long proved a fitting topic for the movies, most memorably in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom." "Alone With Her," a new twist on that theme, utilizes the latest technology to tell its tale.

Immediately, the audience is thrust into the point of view of a video camera (lodged in a duffle bag), carried around to film attractive young women. Finally the voyeur, Doug (Colin Hanks), settles on a lovely lonely-heart we later learn is an aspiring artist named Amy (Mexican actress Ana Claudia Talancon, in a nicely unaffected performance).

After prolonged public observation, the stalker breaks into Amy's apartment and installs tiny cameras with microphones. Collecting information about her taste in movies and music, he stages the first of several "coincidental" encounters at a coffee shop. Though amazed by how much they have in common, Amy thinks Doug is "a little off" and confides to her friend Jen (Jordana Spiro), that she can't see it going beyond a friendship.

What Amy thinks is said in confidence, however, is picked up by Doug's ubiquitous cameras through a high-tech setup on his home computer. Doug, whom we don't see until well into the film when he enters her apartment, becomes ever more determined: He offers to design her website in exchange for dinner and later makes himself conveniently available when she has an "accidental" fall. Other accidents and illnesses ensue when she begins seeing another guy. Eventually, Doug's jealousy leads to a disturbing denouement.

Making his feature debut, writer-director Eric Nicholas effectively ratchets up the tension, as Amy and Doug become closer and his ruse is nearly discovered.

Beyond being a fairly gripping psychological thriller, though, "Alone With Her" is also an intriguing formal experiment: The entire film is shot from the perspective of the stalker's cameras. Nicholas adheres to that restriction with remarkable fidelity, resulting in a series of extended master shots at sometimes slightly askew angles.

One of the downsides, though, is that the viewer becomes implicated as primary voyeur, yet because we know nothing about Doug, we are identifying with a camera, not a person.

Not surprisingly, that role generates less empathy for the victim -- and a weaker link to the story -- than when we are forced to identify with a key character like Jimmy Stewart's wheelchair-addled photographer in "Rear Window." Still, "Alone With Her" is a pretty engaging tale, and it's refreshing to see a well-acted, suspenseful drama made without a bloated budget or a lot of bloodletting.

"Alone With Her." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. (213) 617-0268.

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