THE BLACK DAHLIA turned on Harry!!!
I love Brian De Palma films.
Because Brian De Palma makes movies that speak to my penis. They make me hard. They always have. I know that’s not the typical intellectual analysis of a film critic, but it is true. His films turn me on. I’d love to see Bertolucci and De Palma in a show down to prove who could make the most sensual film ever made. And then, for the rest of their careers – they just compete – both having a new film ready for the showdown in Cannes, each year for the rest of their lives.
De Palma understands the insanity that a beautiful woman can place in a man. The obsessive compulsive disorder to possess that woman. To taste her and call her your own. With this film, Brian De Palma sets out to explore the great film noir sub-genre of “I can’t get that Dead Woman Out Of My Head.”
The film, this most bears a resemblance to, in theme, is Otto Preminger’s LAURA. Gene Tierney played the titular obsession for Dana Andrews’ Detective. However, every other character in the film is obsessive and distressed about Laura. And it is easy to see why. Gene Tierney is one of the yummiest ladies to ever grace the shadow and light of Noir.
Then there’s Hitchcock’s brilliant VERTIGO – where James Stewart becomes obsessed with Kim Novak. I like this film less than LAURA, only because Gene Tierney is infinitely hotter than Kim Novak – although for score, cinema and performances – this is the definitive dead girl obsession flick.
Hitch put the most amazing twist on the genre with PSYCHO – where a boy obsesses over his own dead mother, who then compels him to kill any one that causes his peter to twitch. Mother, as she appears in the film, not so hot.
Then – twice before Brian De Palma has visited the Dead Girl well. First with OBSESSION, his take on VERTIGO, but with a very very wonderfully fucked up twist. And then again with BODY DOUBLE, where he added a REAR WINDOW twist – which technically is an obsession with a dead girl head film, not a whole dead girl.
So – how’d I like DePalma’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s BLACK DAHLIA?
Well – I wanted to love it so much. I had all the above in my head prior to the film. I’m familiar with the case, Ellroy’s fictional account novel – and I was ready and rearing to write a love letter to DePalma tonight.
But then I saw the film.
Brian makes 3 types of movies.
Films that I unabashedly love: SISTERS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, OBSESSION, CARRIE, THE FURY, DRESSED TO KILL, BLOW OUT, SCARFACE, BODY DOUBLE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, CASUALTIES OF WAR, CARLITO’S WAY, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and FEMME FATALE.
Films that just absolutely don’t work for me and I hate as a result: WISE GUYS and THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.
And the last category, Watchable messes that I appreciate, that have their moments and mostly work, but that just end up like a beached whale that you want to blow up, but you saw that video where they did that and you realize… just leave it be… These are: RAISING CAIN, SNAKE EYES, MISSION TO MARS… and sadly… THE BLACK DAHLIA.
All four of these De Palma films have long sequences that work. There’s moments that make you love being a De Palma fan, but then there’s points where you just put your head in your hand and you just shake your head, because your girlfriend misspelled GIRAFFE in front of a large audience during a magic trick. It just becomes Embarrassing.
In BLACK DAHLIA – the film consulted my penis with Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Rachel Miner, Rose McGowan and a whole legion of lesbian chorales. The film delighted me with De Palma alums like Gregg Henry and William Finley. With the second most badass Mary Philbin film ever. I loved the pugilist detectives named Mr Fire and Mr Ice. I loved their boxing match, I loved the flying teeth, I loved the set up…
Then when Hartnett ends up at a rich dinner and Eckhart starts hopping on the Benzedrine buzzing b’s… well it starts heading over the edge towards a crash and burn. Then – when Hartnett is in the midst of two lengthy exposition scenes where the bad guys and gals feel it necessary to explain why they did what they did and how they did it, and that they would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that pesky kid with the badge… I just found myself going… THIS IS FUCKING CLUMSY BULLSHIT.
I just really came away like someone punched me between the shoulder blades. It was a mess. In the end, it was just a clumsy shoddy clusterfuck. But – there was so much to like, but that just makes the corn kernels you pick out of your mouth after the film shits in it… that much more annoying. WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!
Sigh. I’ll hold on to Kirshner’s corpse and sad lesbian scary dildo film, to THE FIGHT, to Eckhart’s magnificent form on his dive, to the Lesbian club of my dreams, to Scarlett with a robe open at the top of the stairs. To a crazy German father’s delighted face at his wooden plane model, to the opening shoot-out that leads to the Dahlia. And lastly – to the lecherous look of William Finley pawing Kirshner and the smile she gives him.
I’ll next catch this on DVD – and with the passage of time… maybe the disappointment will fade – but for now, I’m sad. I so wanted to love this. I really really did. Oh well.