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  • Dressed to Kill

    Dressed to Kill

    ★★★

    A lot to think about here; the movie's primary aims seem to be to entertain, titillate, provoke, probably in roughly that order. It's a Hitchcock tribute in exploitation film clothing, on its face potentially fun, but the movie really suffers from what I guess I'd call a casual transphobia and casual racism. By which I mean, I don't think the movie is demagogic, and in fact I think it's trying not to be, but I don't think it's trying nearly…

  • Diabolique

    Diabolique

    ★★★★★

    Starts with a classically noir moral dilemma, and then lets nightmare logic race away with the narrative like a loosed wagon team: the ramifications cascade onto these characters, not just inexorably but creepily too. Diabolique is richly atmospheric; indeed, the atmosphere almost seems to dictate the action of the plot. I love it when a movie can do this and get away with it. Part of the film's success in this regard probably has to do with how it never…

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  • Showgirls

    Showgirls

    ★★★★★

    This is the pretty sharp mix of social criticism and exploitation cinema that you might expect from Paul Verhoeven, if you hadn't read the reviews first.

    Looking back at some of the contemporary critics' reviews, a lot of them seem to be grappling with embarrassment: no one seems comfortable with how extremely trashy this movie is.

    Starship Troopers worked as fascist rah-rah cinema and critique. Robocop worked as fascist police procedural and critique. Those are genres that critics, at the…

  • Phantom of the Paradise

    Phantom of the Paradise

    ★★★★★

    Not a lot of movies can be as acerbic as this one is, as acidly critical, and then move this buoyantly and energetically. The Phantom himself seems to embody this as he runs down the halls of this theater-- he's sprightly, and vulnerable, and totally broken, and lashing out.

    For this exact mix of tonal registers, I don't know, Brazil comes to mind? Maybe Get Out or a little bit Sorry to Bother You? Films where the outrage is baked…