So after my lengthy ass kissing of Mr. De Palma last night, I figured it was only right that we actually focus in on one of his films. Initially I was going to talk about the last film I saw, which would be Sisters. But I decided instead to talk about Dressed to Kill, which is, to date, his only film I’ve seen in a cinema. I feel that, particularly with a visual director like De Palma, seeing it in a cinema helps add so much to the experience. It also helps if it’s part of a double bill with Hitchcock’s Frenzy. God that was a great night, thanks again to Mr. Edgar Wright for hosting his season at the New Beverly Cinema. Anywhoo, I’ve wasted enough of your time with the intro, so let’s dive into it.
If I were in some ridiculous situation where I had a person who could only watch one De Palma film for the rest of his life, and I had to choose it, certainly, there’s be a lot to consider. Obviously, one of them would have to be Carrie, another would have to be Blowout. I mean, those are just great, great films. But I think in the end, it would have to be Dressed to Kill.
Well I mean, I don’t think there is a better example of all the De Palma storytelling techniques and visual flair than there is here. With this, we have the beautiful, long uninterrupted takes. We have the great scenes of tension which have absolutely no dialogue. We have Pino Donaggio’s hypnotic score. We have De Palma working in his element of the Thriller/Horror/Nearly trashy flick, and we have some of the most amazing split screen work ever. I mean that, this isn’t some fan boy exaggeration, Dressed To Kill has some of the best split screen work in the history of cinema.
De Palma is often accused of putting story second to the technique, and while sometimes this may be true, that would not be the case here. What we get is this sort of Psycho/Vertigo fusion, but to simply call it that would be a disservice. The flick is it’s own thing entirely.
One thing you will notice in these little things I write is that I will usually spend very little to no time at all talking about the actual plot of the movie. I mean, you can get that anywhere, and I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything for you. The purpose of these bits is not so much to review the film, but to discuss them in a general manner. So you can read these and take them as a recommendation, or watch them and come back and maybe notice something new. Also, see how I totally stopped talking about the movie to do this blurb? Don’t expect much structure here either.
Anyway, aside from my obvious love of the technique of the story, why else is this the ultimate De Palma flick in my opinion? Well, one thing I’ve started paying more and more attention to in certain movies, is the hypnotic approach director’s take to present the material. Certainly we still see it today from filmmakers like Darren Aaronofsky, but it has to be said that the visual nature of cinema has taken a back seat to story. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not saying story is bad or anything, but I mean, is it too much to ask that we get filmmakers who know what the fuck they’re doing behind the camera? It’s like Ridley Scott says, “…for God’s sake, I’m not producing a Radio 4 Play… I’m making a movie that people are going to look at.” I’m starting to realize why Independent Cinema can’t win Best Picture, cause, and I’m speaking on a very big generalization here, but while they excel at story and character, technique and visuals seem to completely disappear. Instead we get the same damn over the shoulder shot, again and again.
Sorry, I’ve completely swayed from the point once again. What I’m saying is, this film, Dressed To Kill, has the great story and characters, and infuses it with absolutely beautiful, hypnotic sequences. Not to mention some of the greatest moments of intensity I’ve seen in a while. Without spoiling anything for you, I will say, that a shot with nothing but empty shoes has never been so damn scary.
So there we have some quick thoughts on Dressed to Kill, as the site stays around longer there will be fewer distracting asides, and perhaps more focus on the actual topics. For now though, consider all the extra stuff special features. If anybody has any thoughts please post in the comments and we can further discuss the flick.