Movies that are slightly off.
Dressed to Kill
The Latest Fashion In Murder
A mysterious, tall, blonde woman, wearing sunglasses murders one of a psychiatrist's patients, and now she's after the prostitute who witnessed it.
The opening of Dressed to Kill, with its soft-core seduction and luscious yet calculated imagery, is Brian De Palma grasping his fundamental characteristics and shrinking them into a singular sequence of delight and horror. A woman, standing naked in the shower, is watching her husband shave behind the foggy glass, and as dreams morph into fantasies and nightmares, we as an audience witness an entire history of a relationship through sensual gestures and primal fixations.
It is this woman, played by Angie Dickinson, who De Palma takes not as his main subject but as a flirtatious prisoner of sorts. Cutting from the opening sequence, we see Kate having sex with her husband in an unromantic and unsatisfying fashion, and…
I like the acknowledgment of how tough it is to be a gal, the sympathetic look into an older woman's desires, the touched-upon-but-not-fully-developed issues of victim blaming, the confusions of masculinity and femininity. That all this is done from such a ~sexy~ male point of view is...questionable, as is, obviously, the implications of the ending. But the gender politics should be dissected by someone smarter and more knowledgeable than me.
Leave all of that out of the equation, and you still have a beautiful thriller that pulls off being campy AND scary AND exciting AND emotional all at once. Elegant exploitation.
De Palma had a Hitchcock marathon, watched a few 70's Argento films, drank a bottle of whiskey, passed out...and this film is us watching his dreams. The "rip off or homage?" debate is valid, but I like to think that he saw the sexuality just begging to be let out in Hitchcock's films, and decided to set it free.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
If you've been following along, you can probably guess what I hated about this. De Palma's style is great. He's got this slick, noirish feel that makes good use to shadow and reflection and odd angles to drive the intensity of any given scene, but almost right away, I predicted his big twist. And, of course, the twist left a sour taste in my mouth. All the Hitchcockian references, all the gloriously bloody murders, all the weird inventions by the hapless kid that could make this a great film seem wasted by the transphobic plotline.
The list of films that commit this sin is a long one. [SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR OTHER FILMS--I CAN'T SAY WHICH ONES WITHOUT SPOILING THINGS ABOUT…
Someday I'll unpack exactly why the creepy campiness, Hitchcock homages/thefts and meticulously drawn-out murder/chase sequences all make for so much fun here in contrast to BODY DOUBLE.
...I might need a shrink to pull it off though.
Man I'd pay good money to see a Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker riff on that opening shower scene – what they could have done with poor, naked, aroused Angie Dickinson struggling mightily to get her husband's attention while he gives himself the most precise shave ever.
Don't make me be a bad girl again!
Brian De Palma is hardly the first or only director to ape Alfred Hitchcock, but I dare say he might be the best at it. The thing is De Palma clearly recognizes what made Hitchcock one of the greatest directors of all time. Whether or not he's emulating him or ripping him off is debatable, he has the talent for whichever it is though.
It could also be argued that the story itself is a different and sleazier take on one of Hitchcock's greatest films. There's several elements that clearly point to a certain film, but to mention them would also be spoiling some key plot points in the film. While…
More epic trash from De Palma. His shot compositions are so ridiculously awesome I could watch any of his films on repeat and never need to watch anything else.
You are what you watch
Neither as sleazy nor as violent as I remembered it (a decade plus of watching giallo will numb a soul to that kind of thing), but somehow even more suspenseful this time around even though I mostly remembered what happens in the plot. Like reliving traumatic memories in a dream?
And because I would feel remiss not to mention it: I…
The De Palma Rosetta Stone.
Personal tragedy (BDP's infamous "first film" capturing his philandering father in real life) reconfigured into pop melodrama that, in the end, traumatizes the fictional characters who inhabit his gauzy, voyeuristic world (the final frames are essentially a rehash of CARRIE's famous "up from the grave" gotcha!). Yet beyond completely realizing the filmic grammar he'd been perfecting over the course of twelve features, DTK amalgamates all of his tendencies into one fluid language that only he seems to speak. Sure, the movie is "in conversation" with Hitchcock's PSYCHO (what with two shower scenes, a cross dressing maniac and the expositional wrap up), but it also integrates the comedic chops he'd been honing (and somewhat abandoned) before…
There is an instinctual reaction to dismiss this as a minor Psycho or for the way sexuality is portrayed yet I can't get over how perfect the first third of the movie is.
De Palma perfected the climax using perspective, slow motion and other hyper-sensory elements to make a moment larger than life. He is most comfortable using score and sounds of a room and it shows throughout Angie Dickinson's time in the film. After her, our consolation prize is getting to listen to Dennis Franz speak cop.
"Hey, there's all kinds of ways to get killed in this city ... if you're lookin' for it."
Had a big long thing written out here wrestling with this movie's (to my inexpert eyes) explicit transphobia that I have decided I'm just not smart enough to write. Short version: It bothers me more and more every time I see it, and I think all post-hoc rationalizations from fans (including me!) are going to feel phony to me at least until transgender characters in movies are allowed to be regular people with healthy sex lives, and not exactly the kind of deranged psycho-killer Bobbi is here - De Palma is probably the secretly most enlightened of the New Hollywood movie bros,…
"It's impolite to stare."
"Because I'm a doctor and..."
"Fucked a lot of doctors."
"...and I'm married."
"Fucked a lot of them, too."
There's no doubt that director Brian De Palma has made an indelible mark on filmmaking as an art-form. His expansive filmography spans six decades and includes some of the most lavish and inspired horror films, the most feverishly opulent crime thrillers and in the case of Scarface (1983) one of the few remakes that is leaps and bounds better than the original. He's become such a legendary figure that esteemed contemporary director Noah Baumbach has released a documentary on De Palma's life's work aptly titled: De Palma (2015). Yet despite some truly inspiring work, De Palma's oeuvre is not without its faults, most of which are very much present in Dressed to Kill.
The story concerns itself with the troubles…
It always amuses me to hear Brian de Palma try to defend and/or justify his frequent uninspired ripoffs from Hitchcock. In some ways it's worse than when tarantino does it because tarantino usually steals from obscure movies that only a handful of dorks have seen whereas de Palma's cribbing is so on the nose and apparent that one can't help but have deja vu of the multitude of films he's "borrowing from"/homaging. Such is the case with Dressed to Kill, which is such a shameless Psycho imitation that it almost makes want to uprate Psycho out of spite. What de Palma attempts to do with flashy cutting and camera movement pales in comparison to what Hitchcock accomplished in his seminal…
Rules: Please only pick ONE movie, and if someone already picked it, you have to pick your second…
Another year, another personal list. These are my favorites, ranked and sorted.