Sunday, September 17, 2006

Review: Black Dahlia.

As I said before, I was looking forward to this movie very much. It's complicated, perhaps overly so, and the one thing that I didn't like for sure was the score. The music was overblown and melodramatic, with too big an orchestra. With a couple of exceptions, everything about noir should be understated. That music was not.

Performances were good, including Josh Hartnett, who I'm starting to like. Scarlett Johansson with the cigarette holder is a hoot. She suffers by comparison with Hilary Swank, who turns it a terrific performance. The delightful Mia Kershner plays the victim in compelling flashback-type movie sequences, and she's wonderful. I keep editing this post to add more comments about the actors' performances, so there's a recommendation for you.

Generally speaking, director Brian de Palma behaves himself, with the exception of a silly POV scene when Bucky meets the rich girl's family. Reportedly, de Palma has a Hitchcock-like fascination with blondes, which may have made Johansson's job particularly difficult.

I imagine that the novel is far too complex and lengthy to make a good film (which leaves me now more anxious to read the book than ever). Like other Ellroy stories, character development is powerful and deep, and the film is more a story of the two detectives on the case than the victim and the crime. As a fan of character-driven stories, I like how that turned out.

It's true that the wrap-up seems hurried and contrived, almost comical, which is a pitfall of many noir crime movies. They spend two hours creating mood and wrangling dialogue only to find time has run out to solve the murder. Of course, this is the completely fictional part of the story, since the real crime is unsolved. Otherwise, the film stays to the known facts of the case, although its Elizabeth Short is more of a whore than the real one.

A good film, I enjoyed it despite its flaws, but maybe that's just because I really like this kind of thing. Not quite Top 100 for me, but I recommend it.


TheGirard said...

Is that a spelling error?

Shocho said...

A worse use of relative pronouns I have seldom seen. Is what a spelling error?

Shocho said...

Fixed. Jesus Christ.

TheGirard said...

phew...I had lost all belief in...well, whatever it is the cool kids believe these days. Thanks for the fix chuck, I can sleep now.