24 September 2006

By the way, the De Palma retrospective mentioned below is worth a look, if only to demonstrate the flights of fancy to which this director's fans are often driven in defending their favorite auteur. It's especially heartening to read a spirited defense of Mission to Mars, a movie for which I have an inexplicable fondness. (Leave it to the Internet Archive to furnish incriminating proof of this.) Of course, I still think that De Palma's best movies are Scarface, The Untouchables, and Mission: Impossible, which, to rabid De Palma fans like these guys, is sort of like saying that Velveeta is your favorite cheese.

And then there's The Black Dahlia. It offers the richest material that De Palma has had in twenty years, and it's clearly the work of a master, albeit a master serenely indifferent to exposition, and addicted to moments of high looniness. Unfortunately, Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson come across as kids in a costume shop, and Aaron Eckhart feels like an indulgent dad in someone's student film. Hilary Swank is great, though, and the movie has one moment (Hartnett's delayed reaction to a pillow-talk confession) that ranks among the best of De Palma's long career. I caught it at a Thursday afternoon matinee, which is probably the best way of seeing it. You get your money's worth, as long as you aren't paying full price. Which, honestly, makes it a quintessential De Palma movie. After all, I saw Mission to Mars for free.

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