This is one of the year’s best films.
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An attempted "Chinatown" shot from "The Black Dahlia."
I've been holding back my thoughts about Brian De Palma's "The Black Dahlia" since I saw it at the end of July, and now (especially after ten days at the Toronto Film Festival) those thoughts are more distant and disorganized than ever. I had intended to review the movie for RogerEbert.com, but that proved to be nigh impossible -- I've just been too busy with Toronto and other stuff, and I found the movie rather flat and ininspiring, so I didn't feel passionately motivated to write about it. (I'm still in Toronto as I write this.)
So, I'm going to offer just a few general comments (including some mild spoilers about particular shots and sequences), and then I'd very much like to hear your comments about the movie.
As I think back on the film, I'm surprised to find that the predominant color I associate with it is a rosy pink. Not black. Not blood red. But a mild color that Vilmos Zsigmond has used in his peculiar pastel palette for the film. That's not what I expected of a De Palma film of James Ellroy's "The Black Dahlia," but there it is. And somehow that characterizes what I think is wrong with the movie: After the first hour or so, which seems like a good set-up for a De Palma extravaganza, it grows pale and indistinct. From the start it's too controlled, rarely risky or dangerous. By the end, lots of people are getting shot (in pretty unimaginative ways for De Palma), just so it seems the filmmaker can hurry up and get the movie over with. Things fall apart. I didn't feel like De Palma cared about the picture anymore at this point, and so neither did I. You can feel the filmmaker losing interest in his own movie.