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Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
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Wednesday, October 21, 2020
IN SPIRIT OF 'REBECCA', AV CLUB CHECKS 'BODY DOUBLE'
DE PALMA'S "BALLS-TO-THE-WALL RESPONSE" TO CRITICS, WRITES CRAIG D. LINDSEY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bdbar4small.jpg

AV Club's "Watch This" column today focuses on Brian De Palma's Body Double, as Ben Wheatley's version of Rebecca premieres on Netflix. With a focus on directly Hitchcockian films this week, the headline to today's column reads: "With Body Double, Brian De Palma trolled everyone who called him a Hitchcock wannabe."

The article by Craig D. Lindsey looks at Body Double as De Palma's "balls-to-the-wall response" to critics of his then-recent works.

Double has to be the most I’m-doing-this-for-shits-and-giggles movie De Palma ever directed. (His little-seen Home Movies, which he made with his Sarah Lawrence College film class, comes a close second.) It’s surprising how many people took this trolling so seriously. The movie was a flop at the box office and mostly trashed in the press, though a few critics got the joke. (Vincent Canby called it “[De Palma’s] most blatant variation to date on a Hitchcock film,” while Paul Attanasio said it is “carefully calculated to offend almost everyone”). Audiences hated it, too: In a 2002 salute to De Palma in Vanity Fair, critic James Wolcott recalled the “catastrophic public screening” of Double he attended “where the audience hissed the notorious low-angle shot of a power drill pointed at a supine woman’s body like a steel penis.”

Right from the jump, De Palma revels in Double’s Hollywood artifice. Every time we see Jake at a studio, fake backdrops and boulders are being wheeled away. But the fakery doesn’t stop when he leaves the lot. It extends to scenes of Jake driving his drop-top convertible around town, for which De Palma deploys an old-fashioned rear-projection shot. Without question, the movie’s most over-the-top moment, when Wasson and Shelton share a passionate kiss on the beach, is also its most deliberately inauthentic. It’s obviously meant to resemble the revolving make-out session between Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo. But De Palma goes way the hell out for his version, cutting abruptly from footage of the actors smooching outdoors to them clearly on a soundstage, on some revolving platform, against a projected backdrop of a beach, just ravaging each other as the camera does multiple, accelerated swirls around them.

By the end, De Palma has given both his fans and his haters what they crave. He ends his movie with a sequence in which a De Palma-like director (played by Dennis Franz, a one-time De Palma regular) shoots Jake, playing a vampire, biting a naked girl in the shower. A gum-smacking body double steps in for the actress, cementing the whole scene as a nod to Angie Dickinson’s shower scene in Dressed, where she used a double. Even after all these years, Body Double is still tawdry, twisted, and smart-assed, right down to the final frame.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2020 12:49 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink | Share This Post

Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 3:33 PM CDT

Name: "JJ"

I'm probably alone in this, but I was mildly disappointed in "Body Double," despite Griffith's hilarious performance. It just didn't seem like De Palma's heart was in it. Also, I'm kind of doubting that he spent years of his life working on it for a mere bah-fungoo to his critics, which other writers have claimed before. 

Still, it was better than most of the mass-market Hollywood movies that came out in 1984 (with the exception of "Gremlins"). And I enjoyed that it made Coke nervous! 

Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 5:29 PM CDT

Name: "Geoff"
Home Page: https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blog

I agree that Body Double is much more than a mere razz on all of his critics, but it is true that as De Palma set out to work on it, after the battles of Scarface and DTK, he indicated those kinds of sentiments (I think it was in Esquire?) -- as De Palma later told Tarantino, "I said, ‘OK, you want to see violence? You want to see sex? Then I’ll show it to you." (Sounds like William Finley in Sisters, doesn't it?)

But I like Body Double very much-- Melanie Griffith is hilarious, as you mention, but there is also something very genuine about her performance. The scene with Craig Wasson in the bar feels very natural, and she seems sincerely surprised and touched when he tells her she has a nice smile.

The article talks about the ultra-artificiality displayed as Jake and Gloria embrace on the beach, yet for each of these characters, who are virtual strangers to each other (each only thinks they have an idea who they really are), the emotions are very real. When the moment is revisited with Holly during "Relax", it's a sort of spin on Vertigo, sure, but it highlights just how real the earlier scene was for Jake.

Monday, October 26, 2020 - 11:30 AM CDT

Name: "JJ"

I agree, Griffith was very genuine in her performance; she brought the movie a sense of grounded reality it might otherwise have lacked. 

But really, the best, most De Palma moment for me was when Wasson stole Deborah Shelton's panties. I saw the movie opening night and the gasps and giggles at this moment could not be contained. Only De Palma can distill lust, mystery, danger and satire in a single moment. 

Monday, October 26, 2020 - 5:45 PM CDT

Name: "Geoff"
Home Page: https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blog

Haha, yes, and I love how that was an intuitive moment on De Palma's part, on set-- I think something that wasn't really in the shooting script but he wanted Craig Wasson to take them and stuff them in his pocket. When someone asked him why, or where are we gonna go with that, De Palma said, "We'll figure it out later."

Saturday, October 31, 2020 - 9:06 PM CDT

Name: "JJ"

Ha! That makes that moment even better for me. 

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