Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Perfect Suspense: Body Double and Rear Window

Reminder for the future: Leave two hours before trying to see a movie at the furniture store. Getting there from Cambridge involves at least two of the commuter rail, subway, and bus... And at some point, the T will screw it up, even if you're catching every train really quickly.

So... No Ant Bully in IMAX 3-D last weekend. I wound up not going to the Birds/Jaws double feature because futility is kind of draining, and by the time I finished the ballgame, I knew I wasn't going to make it to eleven o'clock in a darkened theater.

But, nothing keeps me from Rear Window. Matt and I wound up staggering how we hit the double feature - I did Body Double at 4:00, he showed up for Rear Window at 6:30, and then I left him to watch the 9:00 Body Double. Because I just had to watch the ugly ballgame on ESPN.

Great stuff, though - Rear Window is one of Hitchcock's very best, and Body Double is a great example of Brian De Palma stealing all the right things from his idols and adding his own twisted sensibility to it. It's not often you get a four-star double feature, but when you do it's delightful.

More Fantasia is up: Necromancer and Frostbite

Body Double

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2006 at the Brattle (Hitchcock & Friends Thriller Weekend)

Brian De Palma will steal anything that isn't nailed down, and this delightful thriller borrows liberally from its double feature partner, and Vertigo, and probably a ton of others that I couldn't immediately identify. What he comes up with is a tightly constructed thriller that doesn't cheat the audience and reveals all its cards in good time. De Palma has a great pulp-like thing going on with the gleeful sexuality and violence, and isn't afraid to indulge in a little darkly comic winking at the camera when he has the chance to go over the top.

What De Palma does with the camera in this movie reminds us of why his new films are worth looking out for, even when he hasn't had a major success that was really his in around twenty years. No-one does a long, continuous shot like he does; someone really should give him a couple million to use today's digital equipment to make a film that's one continuous shot.

It's also fun to see what's happened with the cast over the years - two of the leads have more or less disappeared, Melanie Griffith probably never had another role as good (and has fallen off the map as women over 35 are sadly wont to do), and Gregg Henry has become a dependable character actor. Probably the most famous now is Dennis Franz, billed low as the director of the movie the main character is acting in.

Rear Window

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2006 at the Brattle (Hitchcock & Friends Thriller Weekend)

When this was restored and rereleased a few years ago, I got to know that trailer by heart. It's one of the best trailers of the past ten years, and the movie itself isn't chopped liver, either. Rear Window truly merits being called multileveled - it's enjoyable as an amateur-sleuth adventure, but it's also a delightful romance as James Stewart and Grace Kelly discover that they're not nearly so mismatched as they initially thought. You can also get all intellectual about what Hitchcock and company are saying about voyeurism and our acceptance of it, or all analytical about how he keeps the camera within Stewart's apartment at almost all times. It's rare to see a film so satisfying in so many ways.

And it's got James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Matt asked afterwards who the modern day Grace Kelly would be, and I really couldn't think of anyone. Scarlet Johansson came to mind as an impeccably constructed blonde beauty, but her flat voice doesn't just drizzle melted class over you the way Kelly's does. Maybe Naomi Watts or Olivia Williams, but, honestly, there probably won't ever be another one like her.

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