SUMMARIES OF DECADE LISTS COMING THIS WEEK
The first decade of the 2000s have been over for a year now, and while it seems a long delay at this time to discuss Brian De Palma’s cinema of that decade, the truth is that, as film lovers have contemplated and gone over their favorites, decade lists have continued to be posted on the internet all year long. Each of De Palma’s four films from the 2000s has made someone’s decade list, and over the next week, I will be posting summary links to these lists with a post for each film.
After De Palma signed on to direct Disney’s Mission To Mars, he immediately asserted to his team of creators that the mysterious spherical artifact on Mars should be the Face on Mars, as it had become a part of popular culture. He told the design team he wanted it to look like a “sleeping goddess.” As can be seen in the montage of stills above, variations on the sleeping goddess would turn out to be the key visual motif of De Palma’s cinema for the decade.
As the decade began, the figure was an intimidating wonder, inspiring hope amidst its alluring aura of danger. By the end of the decade, she came to represent the tragic soul of the repressed, the redacted—her dead eyes open as if to remind us that our own eyes have been wide shut. In each film, the sleeping goddess silently calls out like a spiritual siren. The astronauts in Mission To Mars are initially and fatefully drawn to her anomalous mystery before learning how to communicate with her, ultimately to find that she has been lying in wait for them to arrive. In Femme Fatale, her sleep becomes a premonition to the dreamer, herself the sleeping goddess of her own dream, taking on the angelic form of the drowned, sleeping Ophelia to help guide the waking femme fatale to a less fateful moral decision. She appears again as Bucky sleeps during a stakeout in The Black Dahlia, the camera making a dreamlike move over the building he and Lee are watching to reveal that off in the distance, the dead, mutilated, posed-in-the-grass figure of Betty Short seems to summon Bucky’s subconscious. The shock of the sleeping Dahlia’s return at the end of that film was turned up to eleven one year later in Redacted, which powerfully concludes with a staged photo of the violated figure, her tortured sleep exacting a furious plea to the conscience of the mind’s eye. The film ends, the music quietly fades away, and De Palma leaves us with the terrible silence of death—a death that had been covered up. With its staged photo representing (imagining?) an image that might only exist in the mind’s eye of someone who was there, Redacted demonstrates that nothing stays buried forever…