Saw four extraordinary movies today. Tomorrow more about those.
In the meantime I just wanted to signal that Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, the fifth movie I saw today, is outright one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever watched from a director with such a reputation. I stand corrected: it is one of the most ridiculous movies ever, period.
Each and everyone of the actors is either miscast (Hillary Swank! Josh Hartnett!!) or not up to his task (most of the others). Some of them have on top of that fallen prey to some of the worst overacting in cinematic history (Aaron Eckhart! Fiona Shaw!!!). Scarlet Johansson may be considered the most sexy woman gracing the screen today, but her part is virtually nonexistent, unless you define a part as holding a cigarette and a succession of outrageously cliché sexy looks. De Palma even succeeds in making her look like a pastiche of a sex doll, with those hellishly red lips, that hair so platinum blonde that it seems to radiate and a face make-up that is more suited for a death mask. And, lest I forget, the dialogues were positively ludicrous. Add to that the part of KD Lang as a lesbian singer and a lesbian ballet dance number (if you have to believe this movie half the population of Los Angeles in the fourties consisted of lesbians) and you do not know whether to laugh or to cry.
The greatest disaster of all was the plot. I dare not even coin the term 'screenplay' here. When you adapt a novel by James Ellroy, famous for his protracted and intricate plots that span years and years of interwoven personal histories, either you rein in the plotting, dropping along the way a few subsidiary storylines, or you make a three hour movie so you can do all those storylines justice. Instead the movie compresses everything into ninety minutes. The consequence: At the end of the movie so much enigmas need to be resolved that the last fifteen minutes constitute the most contrived piece of cinema I've ever had the occasion to view.
Obviously a disaster of a movie calls for a disaster of an ending too. Of course Hartnett and Johansson get together after all they've been through. Which is rather pathetic, considering the dark and perverse atmosphere that De Palma has, in vein, tried to convey during the movie with the help of horned dildo's, lesbian sex scenes and his usual explicit horror that is boring rather than shocking.
This director needs a) a retirement b) a shrink c) a ban from directing. Teeth-grindingly bad.