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THE BLACK DAHLIA

Director: BRIAN DE PALMA

U.S.A.-GERMANY| 2006. COLOUR. ANAMORPHIC. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 120 MIN.


Set in a post-war Los Angeles where historical reality bleeds into Hollywood myth, Brian de Palma’s sleek adaptation of James Ellroy’s sleazy pulp noir novel reveals the political corruption, seedy sex and shocking violence lurking beneath the movie capital’s glamorous surface.

As in ‘L.A. Confidential’, this is a world driven by greed, obsession and twisted desires, where the brutalised body of an aspiring 22-year-old actress, Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner)—later dubbed The Black Dahlia after the Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake movie ‘The Blue Dahlia’—can turn up on a vacant lot, drained of blood and sawn in two. A world where dreams of fame turn into sick, depraved nightmares.

For ‘Bucky’ Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), ex-boxers who have become poster boys for the city’s homicide squad, the Black Dahlia investigation becomes an obsession. Haunted by the murder of his 15-year-old sister, the Benzedrine-crazed Lee is driven to the edge of sanity by the case, alienating his beautiful girlfriend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). Meanwhile, Bucky falls hard for sexy femme fatale Madeline Linscott (Hilary Swank), a slumming, bi-sexual socialite who resembles the murdered woman.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond bathes designer Dante Ferretti’s lovingly recreated Hollywood in glowing light and black velvet shadows; director Brian De Palma and scriptwriter Josh Friedman (‘War of the Worlds’) wrestle with the complicated plot. The storytelling works best when De Palma’s obsessions with doppelgangers, femmes fatales and violent, operatic choreography meld with Ellroy’s vision of a neon-lit urban sewer, where innocence is besmirched, honour is tarnished and beauty is crushed like a fragile flower.—Nigel Floyd.

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