Monday, September 18, 2006

Flowers among the Weeds

For long stretches of Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, virtually nothing blooms. Dante Ferretti's art direction and Jenny Beavan's costumes are never less than consummate, but there's no heart beating inside the film, or rather, it beats in such odd, narrow, unexpected places that you wonder whether the director is even interested in the central content of his film. Ultimately, he is enormously interested, but only if you concede that the four major protagonists and the dented, convoluted adaptation of James Ellroy's plot are not the focal points they appear to be.

Instead, focus your attention on Mia Kirshner as Elizabeth Short, the "Black Dahlia" herself, and on Fiona Shaw in the third-tier role of Ramona Linscott. Trust me, it won't be hard. In fact, you won't be able to look away. Days later, you may find yourself revisiting this stunted and often foolish film with an almost haunted interest—exactly the sort of gravitational pull on both memory and conscience that the film means to describe, and which, despite being something of a mangled corpse itself, the movie powerfully recreates. Click here for my full review, and by all means, post your comments. This movie exists to be argued about.

(Image © 2006 Universal Pictures)



Blogger StinkyLulu said...

I just posted on Fiona Shaw...
Great minds.

12:37 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

Initially, I was going to pass on this, but strangely enough, the mixed word has heightened my anticipation. I read your whole review, and I want to see it now just to discuss its shortcomings. Weird how my mind works sometimes.

Oh, am also thrilled that you liked Half-Nelson that much!

1:58 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger ANN said...

F***! Why did I move to Korea during such an interesting season of movies?

6:48 PM, September 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellroy's novel is indeed complex and convoluted, simultaneously off-putting and compelling up until it veers far too far off the rails in the closing pages (after a barely digestible resolution, he piles on another ten that are thoroughly pukeworthy). Which is why I was devastated to witness the mission of its cine-adaptation forwarded to Brian de freaking Palma. As if the book wasn't over-the-top enough, a very clever bunch of producers decided that the director of Scarface: The Remake and Femme Fatale would be the man with tact enough to handle the tricky balancing of borderline-gratuitous gore and a gradual, deadly serious descent into necrophilia.

Also, the casting choices - I don't get them. Josh Hartnett is wooden, not sullen, and Scarlett Johansson is pubescent, not world-weary.

6:55 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

beautiful review. but i think your grade is too low given the film's startling moments

there's certainly nothing else out there like it.

I was approached by a guy outside the theater when I left and he totally discombobulated me with the usually harmless question:

"Did you like it?"


he didn't wait for me to answer but his follow up questions showed the nature of the interest: 'why was it rated R? sex? violence? was it actionpacked?


I mean, Fiona's performance is certainly an action sequence unto itself, but I don't think that's what he meant.

oh and agree with Goran on the novel. I did try to read it earlier this year and was absolutely turned off by the amount of detail it wanted me to remember in the very first chapter (much like the film just throwing plotlines at you willynilly)

10:22 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Javier Aldabalde said...

Although I haven't seen this movie (I want to, though!) I have to say you've basically captured the essence of Mia Kirshner beautifully. I am almost perpetually fascinated by this strange, elusive performer and I can't wait to see her Dahlia on screen.

2:38 PM, September 20, 2006  
Blogger Emma said...

I saw it. Didn't love it, didn't hate it. Just... somewhere in between.

7:56 AM, September 25, 2006  
Blogger RC said...

interesting thoughts...i guess, i've just really had no interest in seeing thsi film...who know's maybe i'll change my mind.

--RC of

12:38 AM, September 30, 2006  

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