BADASS DIGEST: "ONE OF THE MOST REWARDING FILMS OF DE PALMA'S CAREER"
If you're in Kansas City on Oscar night tomorrow, you can catch Brian De Palma's Body Double at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at 6pm. In preparation for screenings at multiple Drafthouse locations across the country, Badass Digest's Jacob Knight has written rather lovingly about the film. "The choice to make Scully as vanilla pudding as possible is deliberate," Knight states of the main character played by Craig Wasson, "and it’d feel like an insult to Wasson if the actor weren’t so knowingly game for the entirety of the movie’s near two-hour runtime. Yet there’s an almost impish glee Wasson conveys as he goes from helpless Peeping Tom to gullible murder suspect to undercover porn hustler in a mere matter of Acts. To criticize Scully for being a schmuck is missing the point entirely, for we are all dopey, doe-eyed adventurers in this cum-stained playground just looking for something to get off on.
"But even if a viewer can’t get over Wasson’s jokingly willful naïveté, it’s hard to imagine anyone who truly loves cinema dismissing the virtuoso display of craftsmanship De Palma yet again employs in service of creating this sticky jungle. As Scully stalks, De Palma yet again unleashes his love of the Steadicam, transforming a California shrine to consumerism (The Rodeo Collection at 421 Rodeo Drive) into a veritable maze through which his camera can cruise. Later, De Palma stops the entire film dead in its tracks in order to stage an elaborately choreographed song and dance number set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s 'Relax,' all of which ends in a round of softcore pawing. Had De Palma been allowed by the studio to execute his original concept (he wanted Body Double to be the first big budget picture to sport unsimulated sex scenes), it would’ve resulted in the most cinematically daring act of onscreen sex ever created. All the while, Pino Donaggio’s twinkling pianos, shimmering synths and soft drums add a playful sheen of eroticism, as the composer (and longtime BDP collaborator) seems most at home in this den of misdeeds.
"None of this would matter if it weren’t for Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), the gyrating soul living in the movie’s black heart. De Palma initially cast Annette Haven, but Columbia Pictures made the director rethink the role once they discovered that she was an actual porn queen, having starred in numerous classic fuck films since 1973. But Columbia’s pearl-clutching became a blessing in disguise for the director, as Griffith ends up giving the greatest performance of her entire career. Holly Body is a marvel of a character, completely sexy while never once relinquishing control to her male counterparts. When propositioned to star in the fake movie Scully’s producing, she rattles off a litany of lewd acts that decimates the impotent actor’s confidence. The woman is a professional, direct and to the point, and no man is going to dictate what she does with her body just because he’s offering a paycheck. Griffith straddles the line between pixie dream girl and art rock ass-kicker with such command that it’s impossible to look away from her whenever she’s on screen. Casting a real life porn star in the role would’ve been a great gimmick, but we would’ve never been graced with such a scene-stealing performance."
Near the beginning of the article, Knight writes about one of the movies De Palma had picked for his "Guilty Pleasures" article in a 1987 issue of Film Comment. "Amongst the apologetics," Knight writes, "was a 1981 slice of smut titled Nightdreams, directed by FX Pope. In reality, FX Pope doesn’t exist. The name was a nom de skin, belonging to commercial photographer and artist Francis Delia who, along with partner Stephen Sayadian, designed ads for everything from Hustler magazine to key art for major motion pictures. Included in their portfolio of immaculately designed one sheets (which also boasts John Carpenter’s The Fog and Escape From New York) was the iconic image for De Palma’s own Dressed to Kill. The admiration wasn’t one sided; in Nightdreams, Delia and Sayadian recreated the image from the piece of art they invented to help sell De Palma’s infamous murder mystery, repurposing it into one of the most harrowing scenes in the history of hardcore."
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