"RELAX" SEQUENCE IS "DE PALMA'S 'BROADWAY CITY BALLET,' IF YOU WILL"
Body Double was screened at Chicago's Doc Films Brian De Palma Retrospective last night. In preparation, last Friday's Cine-File posted a recommendation of interest by Jamie Stroble. "No points for catching the Hitchcock nods," Stroble figures. "De Palma's allusions to (or outright theft of) works like Rear Window and Vertigo are so overt as to signal jumping off points rather than ends in themselves. In a surreal segue toward the end of the film, a lip-synching Holly Johnson of the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood leads Scully, suddenly decked out in thick-rimmed glasses and argyle, onto a porno set to the tune of 'Relax.' The sequence functions as a movie-within-a-movie; it's De Palma's 'Broadway Melody Ballet,' if you will, except Gene Kelly didn't find Cyd Charisse behind a door labeled 'SLUTS.' The 'Relax' scene marks a tonal crossroads in Body Double. Soon after, the proceedings begin to accelerate at an almost nightmarish rate and the tightly plotted thriller De Palma fashioned in the film's first half starts to unravel as the limits of internal plausibility are pushed to the extreme. If you're on De Palma's wavelength though it's a worthy tradeoff, as tension gives way to near mania. When the film was released, Roger Ebert characterized Body Double as having De Palma's 'most airtight plot' yet--an assertion it's hard to imagine Ebert leveling without cracking a slight smile. The virtue and, dare I say, greatness of Body Double come not from bulletproof narrative or even rudimentary character development, but instead from a messier place. De Palma synthesizes a multitude of disparate references into a scathing critique of nice-guy chauvinism, critical Puritanism, and countless other -isms, all under the guise mindless genre fare."
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