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Black Dahlia

a film by Brian De Palma

Fluctuating between tedium, audacious bravura, near-massive ridiculousness, incomprehension and De Palma's own perverse obsession with Hitchcock, The Black Dahlia, a retooling of the already retooled James Ellroy novel of the actual, still unsolved, case of the murder of Hollywood starlet-to-be Elizabeth Short, is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. With that being said, let me also say that upon rethinking the film (and eventually reseeing it), my opinion of The Black Dahlia has done the most miraculous 360. The strangest thing being that all those reasons I had for initially hating the film are the very same reasons I now quite enjoy it. Much like the original case (splashed about in pretty much any book or TV special that specializes in those Hollywood Babylon-type tabloid fodder!) and much like De Palma's own quirky career, the idea of this latest version of The Black Dahlia just gets curiouser and curiouser.

The most curious part though is the audacity De Palma has in giving this movie - this real-life, unsolved murder case - his own ending. I suppose when it comes to audacious cinematic moves, one should never be surprised at what De Palma does. Having balls enough to think he can "solve" a real-life murder that has never been solved, De Palma ends up with the most inanely preposterous finale he has ever exorcised out of celluloid - and that is saying a hell of a lot considering his stylized-yet-slaphappy oeuvre. Yet, this ridiculous finale is what makes this movie a De Palma movie and that same said ridiculous ending is also what makes this already balls-out fucked-up movie work as well as it does.

Slap this all up with over-the-top theatrics from both Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett (and Hilary Swank, although she probably hands in the finest performance of all) and the typically hebetudinous performance of Scarlett Johansson and you have what could very well be De Palma's most preposterous film yet. And I mean that in the most balls-out, fucked-up complimentary manner thinkable. In the past, De Palma has been hare-brained, half-witted, foolish, inane and loony, but until now, he has never been quite this crazy. [10/04/06]

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