One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo

After playing the sweetly fearsome film tech in One Hour Photo, Robin Williams talked about his character in both humane and expansive terms, explaining that “the things [Sy] says are painfully true–like, my favorite line is… ‘photographs are your own personal stand against time. That someone cared enough about me to take my picture means that I existed.’ I was at an old flea market the other day and looked at this box of old photographs, and you realize that most of these people are dead. There’s a moment in time that you really get to see someone.” Sy the Photo Guy is also rummaging through old pictures when he says those words, and shortly afterward he daydreams about being a welcomed fixture in the home of the family whose blissful images he’s become attached to. It’s a deeply intimate yet one-sided relationship that exposes a simple, desperate need for connection. For someone to think he’s worth enough to make temporarily immortal. Sy is a paparazzo who doesn’t need to take his own pictures; the neighborhood celebrities he worships freely give their personal moments over to him to manipulate. Williams’ portrayal and the understanding he displayed in that quote are what gave breath to a character who could have otherwise been labeled a flat villain, a shifty-eyed presence meant solely to unsettle. Instead, he played an insecure stalker with a touch of childlike frailty. This is the same man who squeezed into tights as a middle aged Peter Pan doing his best rooster impression, the […]



Sy is a photo technician at a SavMart development center who has a fierce, almost reverent passion for what cameras can do. They can provide a window into someone else’s life. They can preserve everything we hold dear in two dimensions. They can capture a person. Played in One Hour Photo as a quiet force of nature by Robin Williams, Sy worships photography almost as fervently as he does the blissful life of the textbook suburban family that he plans on getting closer to. With a filmmaker as visually florid as Mark Romanek, you’d expect a more bombastic debut, but the acclaimed director approached his first feature with a simple, colorful elegance that suited its precise protagonist. Sy the photo guy would approve. A little over a decade later, the film is now available on Blu-ray — giving us a new opportunity to hold it up to the light box and try to find some sympathy for the devil on the other side of the camera. I spoke with Romanek to discuss that power, his education under Brian De Palma, and the rarest thing that happens when making a movie.

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published: 12.23.2014
published: 12.22.2014
published: 12.19.2014

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