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a la Mod:
"A CLEVERLY CONTRASTING DOUBLE BILL THAT BOTH VENERATES THE GENRE AND PUNKS IT"
The Artery's Sean Burns previews the double feature with fine insight:
Things kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 6, with the dynamic duo of “Body Heat” and “Body Double,” a cleverly contrasting double bill that both venerates the genre and punks it. A case can be made that “Body Heat,” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 directorial debut, kick-started this entire noir revival, updating old-timey 1940s tropes for Ronald Reagan’s America by adding a healthy hunk of R-rated eroticism. Riffing on Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” Kasdan’s picture stars William Hurt as a dim-bulb, ambulance-chasing lawyer who finds himself head-over-heels and in way over his head with Kathleen Turner’s man-eating Matty Walker. “You aren’t too smart, are you?” she notes upon their first meeting, “I like that in a man.”
Turner, then just 27, commands the screen with the brassy presence you’d expect from a Stanwyck or Bacall or any of the bygone icons in whose period fashions Kasdan has Matty rather anachronistically dressed (during the rare scenes when she’s wearing clothes). The hilarious Hurt has an awful mustache and the self-satisfied smirk of a man not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. She’s constantly touching him, keeping the schmuck in a slack-jawed state of arousal while he stumbles through her nefarious plan. Check out where Turner’s hands are just beneath the frame-line during a crucial scene and you can see she’s literally leading him around by the you-know-what.
Amusing as this may be, there’s something a bit studious about “Body Heat.” Kasdan’s ceiling fans and, yes, Venetian blinds often come across as film school affectations. Much of the film’s second half is the inelegant dispensing of information crucial to the plot. It’s rescued by loosey-goosey performances from the supporting cast, most famously a brief, star-making turn from Mickey Rourke as a gentle-hearted arsonist lip-syncing to Bob Seger. But watching the film again I was even more taken with Ted Danson’s ballroom-dancing prosecutor. His job is basically to stand next to Hurt and provide exposition, and yet the future Boston bartender is tirelessly toying with props and putting unexpected spins on unexciting lines. These original side characters break through Kasdan’s hermetic homages and references. They keep the movie from feeling too much like a museum.
You’ll see no such reverence in Brian De Palma’s “Body Double,” a spectacularly sleazy send-up that finds the puckish, thin-skinned director confronting his critics and, if you’ll forgive the term, doubling down on everything that upstanding, respectable people hate about Brian De Palma films. In his New York Times review, Vincent Canby described the director as “someone at an otherwise friendly dinner party who can’t keep himself from saying the one thing that will infuriate everybody. It’s as if he were daring the host to ask him back.”
Chafing at the then-widespread complaints that he was just a misogynistic Hitchcock knock-off obsessed with graphic violence and nudity, De Palma concocted this hilarious mash-up of “Rear Window” and “Vertigo” that just so happens to be chock full of graphic violence and nudity. Middle finger aloft, he cast the daughter (Melanie Griffith) of one of Hitch’s iconic blondes (Tippi Hedren) as a porn star and has the villain penetrating helpless women with a massive power drill held at crotch-level as the most unsubtle phallic symbol in the history of cinema.
If you can get on its perverse wavelength the film is screamingly funny — one of the more playful entries in De Palma’s filmography, boasting one of his rare happy endings. “Body Double” teases and explodes those old noir conventions that Kasdan and “Body Heat” hold so dear, simultaneously coating every sinuous camera movement with a slick sheen of totally ’80s gloss. The notorious centerpiece sequence is a dialogue-free porno movie shoot scored with Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” that doesn’t look anything remotely like any porno movie ever made, but it’s a pretty good excuse for some cheeky virtuosity and dirty jokes.
As you might imagine, “Body Double” was not warmly embraced by audiences upon its theatrical release in 1984. (It opened the same day as “The Terminator” and was gone in three weeks.) But the film found a second life on late night cable, where Melanie Griffith became an object of considerable fascination for a generation of pubescent boys. Indeed, one of the nice chances afforded by the Brattle series is to finally see these films in an actual theater, instead of sneaking around the house watching with the volume turned down low after your parents or the babysitter have gone to sleep.
Atanasov writes, "This is a film with endless twists, but the majority of them are actually irrelevant. The bulk of the lines that are exchanged in it are also irrelevant. That's right. What matters here is the style that blends everything together and the mood that emerges from it.
"The events that ensue after Jake moves into the luxurious house send the film into two drastically different realities. In the first hordes of mainstream actors try hard to become stars while the wealthy enjoy the very best Los Angeles has to offer. This is the clean and healthy reality most people want to spend their time in. In the second a different group of actors are making the type of films the other reality does not recognize. It is here that Jake meets Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), a bubbly beauty and prolific adult actress, who agrees to help him get the mysterious man.
"The film's charm comes from De Palma's ability to effectively target various cliches that characterize the two realities. (See the incredibly funny sequence where Holly Body humiliates the mainstream actress). And while he does it, he also plays with the many genre rules Hitchcock's films established. The end result is truly remarkable. Despite the intended overstylization, or perhaps because of it, the film offers a strikingly accurate summation of Los Angeles from the 1980s and its people. This is a place of remarkable contrasts, wealth and power, beauty and cruelty, and people with admirable ambitions and dangerous desires.
"Pino Donaggio collaborated with De Palma on a number of different projects during the years, but his contribution to this film remains his best work. There are various sequences where the light electronic music -- not the visuals, the camera movement, or the actors -- actually changes the rhythm of the film. Also, there is a fantastic sequence that uses Frankie Goes To Hollywood's monster hit Relax."
And in his conclusion, Atanasov states, "I think that Brian De Palma's Body Double is similar to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive -- it offers a very unusual but strikingly accurate summation of Los Angeles, its culture, and its people during a particular moment in time. Like most of De Palma's best films, Body Double is full of fascinating contrasts and over-the-top visuals which together with Pino Donaggio's stunning soundtrack create a truly unforgettable experience. French label Carlotta Films' technical presentation of the film is excellent. I must also say that this new deluxe set is the most elegant Blu-ray release to reach my desk this year. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (In addition to the deluxe set, Carlotta Films will have available for sale a standard Blu-ray edition of Body Double. However, we have not tested it yet and at the moment cannot confirm its region code status)."
FRENCH TRANSLATION OF DWORKIN'S 'DOUBLE DE PALMA' IS THE BOOK; NEW NAPOLITANO SUPPLEMENT
According to the listing at Amazon.fr, the book part of Carlotta's upcoming Body Double Ultra Collector's Box is the first-ever French translation of Susan Dworkin's terrific Double De Palma, which is all about the making of the film. In addition, the collection will carry each of the four supplements that were included on the limited Twilight Time Blu-ray edition of Body Double, as well as the film's trailer.
Not on the Twilight Edition: There will also be an introduction from Samuel Blumenfeld, co-author (with Laurent Vachaud) of Conversations With Brian De Palma, as well as a 38-minute featurette called "Pure Cinema: Joe Napolitano Talks About Body Double." According to the Amazon description, "Joe Napolitano, first assistant and right-hand man to Brian De Palma on the set of five of his films in the 1980s, revisits Body Double shooting locations by analyzing not only the 'De Palma method,' but also the contributions of other collaborators, such as Stephen H. Burum (director of photography) and Ida Random (artictic director)."
Carlotta's Body Double collectors set will be released on December 2nd.
Body Double will be the very first release in Carlotta's "Ultra Collector" series, of which it plans four titles per year.
"It is difficult to label any one film industry, from its conception to its present day stature, as the greatest of all time. Many, however, would argue that Hollywood has maintained its status as the most extravagant. From the silent spectacles of the roaring twenties to the technicolor marvels of the 1950's, American cinema has always possessed a distinct opulence, a resounding declaration of stature and celebrity. The formula is most commonly associated with Alfred Hitchcock: a leading man, a beautiful woman by his side, and an gaudily enigmatic conflict designed to bewilder audiences far and wide. Thirty years after what most believe to be Hitchcock's golden age, bravura filmmaker Brian De Palma decided to deconstruct this image of Hollywood, and he used the master of suspense himself as the focal point of his refracted image.
"The narrative presented in Body Double is an intentionally and loudly obvious resurrection of Hitchcock's diagram, albeit a resurrection that has been carefully exaggerated and over-sexualized to deliberately twist a knife in the heart of mainstream cinema's blatant exploitations. Jake Scully is an actor who suffers from a severe case of claustrophobia. He is the symbol of the young American discontent to exist in an ordinary aesthetic where his entrance is lethargically greeted with inaudible applause. He is caustically frustrated by the world's inability to accommodate him and continuously distracted by a pumping libido that facilitates a penchant for peeping. Jake Scully, whose tallest ambition is to achieve Hollywood stardom, is De Palm's leading man, his Carey Grant, so to speak...
"So in the end, once the audience has been captivated and subverted, what does De Palma's steamy, self-reflexive thriller amount to? Is it anti-Hollywood? Post Hollywood? I don't think so. Because despite De Palma's stentorian rancor in his illumination of mainstream cinema's implicit misogyny, much of the material in Body Double exhibits a strong, faithful love of both old and new Hollywood. De Palma adores the chicanery and exorbitance of Hitchcock's narrative. He worships the movement and utilization of the camera. He, like many of us, is a lover of cinema. But he does not idealize it either. He sees Hollywood's faults, cinema's imperfections and absurdities. He wraps them all together, the positives and negatives, and meticulously winds them through the world of this film. Body Double is an American movie about American movies and the Americans who enjoy them. It is a shamelessly ostentatious, visually immaculate, textually capacious masterpiece."
"Imagine a world where people’s worst impulses and darkest desires are stimulated by a landscape of synth-pop and bright neon lights," reads the website/Facebook description of the Neon Dreams Cinema Club. "Nothing is quite as it seems as you surrender yourself to the dazzling sights and soothing sounds of the Neon Dreams Cinema Club, a monthly film series exclusive to The Royal Cinema bringing you the best in delightfully surreal neo-noir cinema from the 70's, 80's, and beyond. So come on down, grab a beverage, get comfortable, and let us usher you into a state of adrenaline-fuelled excess."
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