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I Can't Afford to See: The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia is Brian De Palma's first film since 2002, but you wouldn't know because it's set in the late 1940's. It tells the story of a shocking murder and a young Hollywood forced from innocence.

Mia Kirshner, who you may remember from that movie and/or TV show where she's naked, plays the Black Dahlia. I was a bit confused when I heard she'd be playing an African American role, but the blackface actually works without being offensive. Like Billy Crystal doing Sammy Davis, Jr.

Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) is the policeman investigating the murder, but he's also the murderer (spoiler alert!). I know, it's an unsolved case yet in the movie they say he did it. You should be prepared for conclusions of De Palma-esque proportions to be drawn out of thin air every 20 minutes or so.

According to De Palma, the Black Dahlia was the secret lover of Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), Bleichert's partner on the police force. Blanchard was also, unbeknownst to both Bleichert and the Dahlia, Bleichert's lover. This deception leads to the following exchange:

Blanchard: It's easy, Bucky. She's my lover, and I'm yours.
Bleichert: I can't be yours, Lee. I'm sorry.
Blanchard: Please don't say that, can't we make this work somehow?
Bleichert: The way I see it's a love triangle, and one side's missing.
Blanchard: What kind of angle is that?
Bleichert: Let's not protract things.

I should point out that rule 6 of screenwriting says not to give your characters similar-sounding names. I spent half the movie asking the person beside me, "Did they say 'Blanchard' or 'Bleichert'?" Eventually I gave up and just focused on the way Josh Hartnett kept saying, "Hep me mamma, hep me, hep me!" whenever he had to go to the bathroom. That was pretty awesome.

Also, I found the blatant anachronisms very off-putting. I won't get into all of them, but I do have a word for the producers: look, I know you want this movie to look hip and cool, but I'm almost certain that the LAPD of the 1940's did not drive stretch Hummers. Nor was a young Beyoncé friends with Nat King Cole. And I thought the Nick Berg reference less than tasteful.

Overall, the acting and lighting is above-par. Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank, particularly, stand out as the friends of the Dahlia who receive the most screen time. Scarlett has very expressive eyes; she should do more films in which she sees things off to the left. But it's hard not to look at the both of them, especially in close-ups.

One last thing, this is one of those movies where at the end they bring out some big Hollywood star to play some 2-second role, like Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In this case they go one better and have a computer-generated Orson Welles come out as the judge in the murder trial.

It looks cool, but you can tell they pieced his performance together from different stages of his career.

Lawyer: Your honor, I'd like to request a 10 minute recess.
Welles: After a peace for a thousand years, Nostradamus tells us next to nothing.
Lawyer: So...is that a yes?
Welles: A thing which, years ago, had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town, and now it had come at last; George Amberson Mainafer had got his comeuppance.
Lawyer: Look, I'm just going to...
Welles: Muppets!

But De Palma still delivers, like always. If you just accept the heavy Creole accents of Los Angeles, the Vietnamese stick-fighting, and Hartnett's innumerable fourth-wall-breaking smiling winks to the camera, it'll be the best two hours you've had in a long time.

I give the movie 2 1/2 out of 4 stars. Flawed? Yes. A thinly veiled piece of anti-Semitic propaganda? Most definitely (the "Zionist threat" is repeatedly mentioned). One hell of a rollercoaster ride? You better believe it.


The Black Dahlia opens Friday, September 15, 2006.

I Can't Afford to See: The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia is Brian De Palma's first film since 2002, but you wouldn't know because it's set in the late 1940's. It tells the story of a shocking murder and a young Hollywood forced from innocence.

Mia Kirshner, who you may remember from that movie and/or TV show where she's naked, plays the Black Dahlia. I was a bit confused when I heard she'd be playing an African American role, but the blackface actually works without being offensive. Like Billy Crystal doing Sammy Davis, Jr.

Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) is the policeman investigating the murder, but he's also the murderer (spoiler alert!). I know, it's an unsolved case yet in the movie they say he did it. You should be prepared for conclusions of De Palma-esque proportions to be drawn out of thin air every 20 minutes or so.

According to De Palma, the Black Dahlia was the secret lover of Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), Bleichert's partner on the police force. Blanchard was also, unbeknownst to both Bleichert and the Dahlia, Bleichert's lover. This deception leads to the following exchange:

Blanchard: It's easy, Bucky. She's my lover, and I'm yours.
Bleichert: I can't be yours, Lee. I'm sorry.
Blanchard: Please don't say that, can't we make this work somehow?
Bleichert: The way I see it's a love triangle, and one side's missing.
Blanchard: What kind of angle is that?
Bleichert: Let's not protract things.

I should point out that rule 6 of screenwriting says not to give your characters similar-sounding names. I spent half the movie asking the person beside me, "Did they say 'Blanchard' or 'Bleichert'?" Eventually I gave up and just focused on the way Josh Hartnett kept saying, "Hep me mamma, hep me, hep me!" whenever he had to go to the bathroom. That was pretty awesome.

Also, I found the blatant anachronisms very off-putting. I won't get into all of them, but I do have a word for the producers: look, I know you want this movie to look hip and cool, but I'm almost certain that the LAPD of the 1940's did not drive stretch Hummers. Nor was a young Beyoncé friends with Nat King Cole. And I thought the Nick Berg reference less than tasteful.

Overall, the acting and lighting is above-par. Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank, particularly, stand out as the friends of the Dahlia who receive the most screen time. Scarlett has very expressive eyes; she should do more films in which she sees things off to the left. But it's hard not to look at the both of them, especially in close-ups.

One last thing, this is one of those movies where at the end they bring out some big Hollywood star to play some 2-second role, like Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In this case they go one better and have a computer-generated Orson Welles come out as the judge in the murder trial.

It looks cool, but you can tell they pieced his performance together from different stages of his career.

Lawyer: Your honor, I'd like to request a 10 minute recess.
Welles: After a peace for a thousand years, Nostradamus tells us next to nothing.
Lawyer: So...is that a yes?
Welles: A thing which, years ago, had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town, and now it had come at last; George Amberson Mainafer had got his comeuppance.
Lawyer: Look, I'm just going to...
Welles: Muppets!

But De Palma still delivers, like always. If you just accept the heavy Creole accents of Los Angeles, the Vietnamese stick-fighting, and Hartnett's innumerable fourth-wall-breaking smiling winks to the camera, it'll be the best two hours you've had in a long time.

I give the movie 2 1/2 out of 4 stars. Flawed? Yes. A thinly veiled piece of anti-Semitic propaganda? Most definitely (the "Zionist threat" is repeatedly mentioned). One hell of a rollercoaster ride? You better believe it.


The Black Dahlia opens Friday, September 15, 2006.

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