Eye of the Beholder

Directed by Stephan Elliott

Review of the film and Columbia/TriStar DVD by Gary W. Tooze

I have read, with furrowed brow,  the pundits, pros and armchair reviewers lambaste this visually spectacular foray into a psychoanalytical regression of two deeply troubled, yet fascinating characters. I have watched the film "Eye of the Beholder" on multiple occasions now, garnering more from each viewing. I freely state my own opinion that this is the most unappreciated, misunderstood film of the 90's. So there!


Ewan McGregor plays the "Eye", a British Secret Service surveillance expert working in Washington DC. With a host of high-tech eavesdropping bugs and spy-cams, he voyeuristically watches an icy seductress, named Joanna Eris (sounds to me like "iris", as in colored portion of your eye) and played by Ashley Judd as if the role was tailor-made for her.


She is suspected of blackmailing the son of an American Senator. Instead of the mundane formulaic thriller that most audiences have been exposed to and unfortunately come to expect, director Stephan Elliott has chosen to spin this yarn focusing totally on the chemistry and psychosis of these deeply disturbed individual characters all within the stylistic ambience of an Michelangelo Antonioni or Robert Bresson-like masterpiece. The "Eye" and Joanna are emotionally scarred and tortured individuals who utilize their respective coping mechanism to exist until they inevitably must collide with each other.


Joanna can never overcome the abandonment by her father, and the Eye can never be the father to his missing little girl. Cool and beautiful Joanna uses her survival skills to prey on men like a black widow spider, escalating to the level of serial killer to admonish them, before they too abandon her. The Eye is severely delusional having apparitions of his daughter appear before him, guiding his decision making process. She is obsessed with astrology and  he now is obsessed with her, though only through the viewing lens of a distant camera or on the screen of his trusty spy-issue laptop.


With a father, could she have normalized into society avoiding the disastrous drifting route her maniacal life of a murderess is taking her? His efforts couldn't be more translucent; to save himself he must save Joanna, since it's too late to save his own lost daughter. The cycle of this paternal relationship is revisited constantly throughout the film with the Eye's hovering over-protective nature and his distrust of the revolving-door of men in her complex life. With painful flashbacks to her childhood, we too are drawn to Joanna, regardless of her femme-fatale status.


Keeping with its unexplainable nature, the film does not judge her. The anonymous masses would prefer it, making the film easier for them to understand. Some of the best films leave us in emotional abeyance.

What we have are two of the most intricate, deeply fascinating characters to adorn the silver screen in a long time. Because of their untypical portraits of a serial killer and hunting detective they are shunned as "unbelievable" by the same crowd that adored "Crouching Tiger...". Likeable?, understandable?.. no, perhaps these characters are not. Joanna's survival instincts and the Eye's obsession melded with each of their bonded and firmly rooted physiological anomalies make them totally interesting and therefore totally appealing in my book. All this wrapped up in a very elegant, stone-cold jazz feel.


"Eye of the Beholder" lends itself much more to the artistic level of cinema than the Hollywood cookie-cutter approach. The camera angles, long pans, sharp cuts and panoramic vistas make this visually splendid in its own right. This imagery helps us to avoid the cloying explanation of the events on screen, which are superfluous to our requirements to enjoy the production.

The beauty of visuals, in general, is the interpretive nature which they are expressed. The dynamic chemistry and grace of these two characters onscreen couldn't be more apparent. Two of the most charismatic actors in the film business playing totally flawed personas. The thrill is not in the capture, but the chase, not in the climax but the foreplay, as their impending meeting is on the horizon. 


My own opinion is that the general population had expectations of this as a run-in-the-mill thriller but its only flaw may actually be by the director Elliott lending "Eye of the Beholder" to that comparison with Hitchcockian homage shots that bind it to that genre. I wonder how this film would have been received if Joanna had been a wealthy widow and McGregor, her gardener. Quite different I suspect.


We all have our peculiarities, and I suppose my adoration of "Eye of the Beholder" may be one of my most glaring. If we all had the same opinion there would be no need to have horse races and for me, this pony came in first.. with a big payday.

out of


FILM and DVD Details 


Once again, in case we forget, Columbia Tri-Star is at the top of the heap (along with Criterion) for DVD production. This gem gives us both the Pan and Scan version of the film and a widescreen 2.35:1 anamorphic one. Trailers are included as an extra as is a wonderfully frank commentary by director "Stephan Elliott" who, realizing he didn't appeal enough to the general population with Eye of the Beholder,  unabashedly points out in the end, that he is looking for work as a bartender. Shame, but he is part of a wonderful DVD...out of

Full Cast and Crew for
Eye of the Beholder (1999) 

Directed by 
Stephan Elliott 

Writing credits 
Marc Behm (novel) 

Stephan Elliott (screenplay) 

Cast (in credits order) complete, awaiting verification 
Ewan McGregor .... Eye 
Ashley Judd .... Joanna Eris 
Patrick Bergin .... Alexander 'Alex' Leonard 
Geneviève Bujold .... Dr. Jeanne Brault 
k.d. lang .... Hilary 'Hil' 
Jason Priestley .... Gary 
Anne-Marie Brown .... Lucy Wilson 
Kaitlin Brown .... Lucy Wilson 
David Nerman .... Mike 
Steven McCarthy .... Paul Hugo 
Vlasta Vrana .... Hugo 
Janine Theriault .... Nathy 
Don Jordan (I) .... Toohey 
Maria Revelins .... Miss Keenan 
Lisa Forget .... Nurse 
Gayle Garfinkle .... Head Waitress 
Russell Yuen .... Federal Agent #1 
Stephane Levasseur .... Federal Agent #2 
Al Vandecruys .... Alaskan Federal Agent #1 
Sam Stone .... Alaskan Federal Agent #2 
Mauro Venditelli .... Boss 
Josa Maule .... Receptionist 
Carole Collin .... Secretary 
Stephanie Sbrega .... Sandra 
Philip Le Maistre .... Gas Attendant 
Michel Perron .... Fat Businessman 
Maria Bircher .... Waitress 
Howard Bilerman .... Waiter 
Cara Reynolds .... Young Joanna Eris 
Leonard Farlinger .... Young Joanna's Father 
Jason Baerg .... Gay Man 
Michelle Sweeney .... Salvo 
Donovan Reiter .... Local #1 
Amanda Davis (I) .... Girl 
Carl Crevier .... Chauffeur 
Erwin Goldberg .... Doctor (as Dr. Erwin Goldberg) 
Garth Gilker .... Airport Guard 
James Hieminga .... Wade 
Robert Brewster .... Cop (as Bob Brewster) 
Charles Powell .... Prisoner 
Thomas Karle .... Fat Man 
Louis Negin .... Bartender 
Al Clark (II) .... Redneck 
Una Kay .... Hilary's Mother 
Merlee Shapiro .... Reva (the Desk Clerk) 
Vera Miller .... Tea Trolley Lady #1 
Nadia Rona .... Tea Trolley Lady #2 
Erik Johnson (II) .... Local #2 
rest of cast listed alphabetically 
Jean Teodoro .... Hotel Doorman (scenes deleted) 

Produced by 
Manon Bougie .... line producer 
Al Clark (II) .... co-producer 
Nicolas Clermont .... producer 
Mark Damon .... executive producer 
Charles Gassot .... associate producer 
Grant Lee (III) .... associate producer 
Hilary Shor .... executive producer 
Tony Smith (VI) .... producer 

Original music by 
Marius De Vries 

Cinematography by 
Guy Dufaux 

Film Editing by 
Sue Blainey 

Casting by 
Vera Miller 
Nadia Rona 

Production Design by 
Jean-Baptiste Tard 

Art Direction by 
Réal Proulx 

Set Decoration by 
Guy Blouin 
Sylvie Desmarais 
Martine Giguère-Kazemirchuk 

Costume Design by 
Lizzy Gardiner 

Makeup Department 
Marie-France Cardinal .... key hair stylist 
Claudette B. Casavant .... makeup artist 
Francine Gagnon .... key makeup artist 
Linda Gordon (IV) .... hair stylist 
Richard Hansen (I) .... wig master 
Candace Neal .... wig consultant 
Ashlee Petersen .... makeup consultant 

Production Management 
Gilles Perreault .... unit manager 

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director 
Bobby Blyle .... assistant director: second unit (as Bobbie Blyle) 
Carl DeStardins .... second assistant director 
Trent Hurry .... third assistant director 
Jennifer Jonas .... first assistant director 

Art Department 
Jean-Andre Carriere .... assistant art director 
Emmanuel Frechette .... assistant art director 
Suzanne Labrecque .... art department coordinator 
Étienne Lapointe-Proulx .... property master 
Blaise Lefebvre .... assistant property master 

Sound Department 
Monique Bisson .... assistant dialogue editor 
Jocelyn Caron .... adr recordist (as Jo Caron)
foley recordist (as Jo Caron) 
Martin Cazes .... studio co-ordinator 
Jérôme Décarie .... foley artist 
Dina Eaton .... music editor 
Geoff Foster .... score recordist 
Nicolas Gagnon .... foley assistant 
Bernard Gariépy-Strobl .... sound re-recording mixer 
Scott Jones (II) .... adr recordist 
Claude La Haye .... sound mixer 
Benoit Leduc .... foley recordist 
Dominik Pagacz .... sound effects assistant editor 
Viateur Paiement .... adr supervisor
Guy Pelletier .... dialogue editor 
Martin Pinsonnault .... sound designer
sound effects editor 
Francis Péloquin .... boom operator 
Victoria Rose Sampson .... adr supervisor (as Vicky Sampson) 
Jean Philippe Savard .... sound effects assistant editor 
Tony V. Stevens .... stereo sound consultant: Dolby 
Hans Peter Strobl (I) .... sound re-recording mixer 
Michael Willis (II) .... assistant dialogue editor 

Special Effects by 
Thierry Craig .... special effects technician 
Jacques Langlois .... special effects supervisor 
Philippe Roberge .... special effects technician 

Visual Effects by 
George Jardon .... visual effects supervisor 
Daniel Leduc .... visual effects supervisor 
Sébastien Moreau .... digital compositor 

Andy Bradshaw .... stunts 
Jason Cavalier .... stunts 
Marc Désourdy .... stunts 
Tom Farr .... stunts 
Jean Frenette .... stunts 
Ben Gauthier .... stunts 
Gilbert Larose Jr. .... stunts 
Stéphane Lefebvre .... stunt co-ordinator
David McKeown .... stunts 
Michael Scherer .... stunts 
John Walsh (III) .... stunts 

Other crew 
Paul Barette .... weapons wrangler 
Maggy Belzile .... assistant accountant 
Kamel Benameur .... assistant accountant 
Anita Bensabat .... location manager 
Michel Bernier .... focus puller 
Claudine Blain .... negative cutter 
Yvan Brunet .... second assistant camera 
Rosina Bucci .... additional casting 
Christian Chabot .... best boy electric 
Chris Chrisafis .... production executive 
Lise Dagenais .... title designer: end titles 
François Daignault .... second camera operator
steadicam operator 
Suzanne De Carufel .... location manager 
Raymond Ducasse .... animal wrangler 
Sylvaine Dufaux .... second camera operator 
Sylvie Dufour .... assistant location manager 
Louise Dupré .... assistant accountant 
Ida Durand .... production secretary 
Bram Eisenthal .... unit publicist 
François Fauteux .... location manager 
Mali Finn .... casting: USA 
Jacques Fortier .... gaffer 
Alain Gagnon (II) .... video technician 
Hélène Gallizzi .... production accountant 
Isabelle Gendron .... stand-in: Ms. Judd 
Mike Gentile .... second assistant camera: second unit 
Catherine Giguère .... clapper loader (as Katerine Giguere) 
Joy Gilbert .... post-production accountant 
Serge Grenier (II) .... key grip 
Pierre Guay (I) .... transportation coordinator 
Robert Guertin .... second camera operator 
James Hieminga .... stand-in: Mr. McGregor 
Renée Hébert .... assistant to Mr. Clermont 
George Jardon .... post-production supervisor 
Corinne Joudiou .... second assistant camera 
Marie La Haye .... continuity 
Christian Labrie .... weapons wrangler 
Guy Lepine .... best boy electric 
Pascale Marcotte .... personal assistant: Ashley Judd 
Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky .... camera operator
director of photography: second unit 
Hélène Muller (I) .... production coordinator 
Guylaine O'Reilly .... assistant accountant 
Frederic Pichette .... assistant unit manager 
Jean Poirier (III) .... location scout 
Dany Racine .... second assistant camera 
Brent Radford .... weapons handler 
Emily Schweber .... casting associate 
Jocelyn Simard .... second assistant camera 
Jules Singleton .... orchestra leader 
Sylvie Talbot .... title designer 
Jan Thijs .... still photographer 
André Tisseur .... best boy grip 
David Uloth .... crane operator 
Steven J. Winslow .... camera operator: Wescam 
Vladimir Zabransky .... color timer 
Robert 'Bobby Z' Zajonc .... helicopter pilot
Technical Information

Release Information:
Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Theatrical Release Date: January 28, 2000
DVD Release Date: May 22, 2001
Run Time: 114 minutes
Production Company: Columbia TriStar Home Video
Package Type: Keep Case

Aspect Ratio(s):
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 1
Layers: Single
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
Available subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Edition Details:
• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
• Commentary by director Stephan Elliott
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats