Saturday, June 24, 2006

Body Double

Director- Brian DePalma (Blow Out)

I sure did think Blow Out was a decent movie alright. Why not give DePalma another shot? After all, Ron says Sisters is great and I do like Carrie, even though that may owe more to Stephen King than the good director.

This film operates as homage to two Hitchcock movies- Rear Window and Vertigo. The protagonist, Jake, is played by Craig Wasson (who is a dead ringer for Bill Maher). He's an out of work actor struggling to make it as a vampire in B movies because scenes in coffins give him claustrophobia. Jake makes a fast friend, Sam (played byGregg Henry) while cruising around LA for a job, and Jake is desperately in need of some friendship because he catches his girlfriend in bed with another man.

Sam has to rush off to a show, but offers to let Jake housesit in his totally swinging bachelor pad. This apartment has quite a perk- a view via telescope of a hot neighbor next door who changes in an open window every night, like clockwork. Jake is spellbound by this woman, observes her evening ritual of undress, and one day follows her across town, saving her from a pursenatching Native American.

When he next looks into her apartment, she is the subject of a grisly murder attempt. Jake watches in horror from far away through the telescope, observing her creep closer and closer to danger. The Native American, armed with an elaborate and ungainly electrical drill, eventually succeeds in his task. When Jake decides to investigate, he is led to a porn queen played by Melanie Griffith. The rest of the plot I should leave to the film to tell you.

DePalma's movies' content is often irrelevant. This movie is in many sense a gesture that is a wink at the audience. Setting it in Hollywood, making the major players actors, characters in outlandish and unbelievable settings, and an over the top story and cinematography combine to indicate that DePalma is just playing around. For example the scene where the Native American murders the young woman with the power drill is effective in how it leaves the violence to our imagination- much as he does with his shot of the chainsaw in Scarface- we see only the blood splatter, but not the actual chainsaw on sinews and bone one might expect in say, a slasher flick.

I also detect a real voyeuristic and perhaps misogynistic streak in this period of DePalma's work. The evidence? In Carrie the scene of sexual awakening in the shower is unnecessary- we know from countless other developments in the film that Carrie is becoming and woman and becoming interested in the opposite sex. In Blow Out we can see it in the way the Nancy Allen character is a dumb hooker with the heart of gold. And in this movie there is so much nudity without point. Yes, Melanie Griffith is very hot as a porn star, as are the women who undress in the window. But is just egregious and over the top. I suppose it could be satire of the B movie tradition- one that DePalma is obviously engrossed with given the jobs his characters have in this film and Blow Out.

Do I recommend this movie? No. Its just not very good. It seems dated, is really cheesy, and while sometimes DePalma's homage works, in this case it does not fly. Do not see, unless very bored.