Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Criterion Collection - DRESSED TO KILL on Blu-ray ""

Monday, September 7, 2015

Criterion Collection - DRESSED TO KILL on Blu-ray

DRESSED TO KILL (1980; Brian De Palma)
If you are on the hunt for an example of why De Palma is recognized as a stylish fella, you need look no further than the museum sequence near the beginning of DRESSED TO KILL. It's a pretty great showcase for the kind of thing he does really well and the kind of thing that filmmakers don't do anymore. The sequence is nearly 10 mins in length and contains no dialogue. It's all basically Angie Dickinson's point of view as she sits and stares at artwork and the goings on with the other people around her at the museum. Then there's something of a pursuit, but again it's all done with voyeristic camerawork. It's all very balletic in a certain way, especially with Pino Donaggio's lush romantic score as a sonic backdrop. There's this incredible confidence and assured craftsmanship to that setpiece, but also to the movie as a whole as far as just how visual it all is. De Palma is at near his apex here as a filmmaker and it's is a remarkable sight to behold. There are lots of obvious comparisons to Hitchcock made when the topic of De Palma comes up, and rightly so, but DRESSED TO KILL is even slightly more visually sumptuous than your average Hitch outing. The film takes it's time so much with its artful illustration of narrative that you completely lose track if time whilst you become transfixed on what's happening. When I finally looked down at the counter on my Blu-ray player it already read forty-five minutes and the story was really just getting started. No contemporary movie would even remotely attempt this kind of pacing. Pretty much no present day filmmaker would have the guts nor the ability to pull this off. It's an unfortunate thing that modern cinema has shifted a away from being as purely cinematic as movies like DRESSED TO KILL.
That's not completely fair I suppose as there are few films that are as purely cinematic as DRESSED TO KILL was, even at the time it came out. We live in a pretty dialogue and action heavy world of movies at the moment. Action can certainly be cinematic of course, but there is something so glorious about telling a story visually like this with out a lot of traditional action. De Palma loves lots of techniques from tracking shots to split screens to depict what's happening with his characters. In rewatching the movie I was reminded just how sexual it is on the whole. De Palma has never been a director that shyed away from sexuality, especially around this period (see also BODY DOUBLE and others). I mean the film starts with a rather lengthy scene of female masturbation and that just doesn't get portrayed in mainstream cinema very much. It's also a got a decent amount of violence in it and I'm sure that the combination of those two elements lead to a lot of the controversy that surround DRESSED TO KILL around the time of its release. It doesn't feel tame by any means even today and that is saying something. The biggest takeaway though and the most rewarding thing about it is that it really exemplifies what a director can bring to a film. Directors like Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam or Sergio Leone are all in the same stylish camp with De Palma. These are directors that really like to grab you by the eyeballs and drag you right into their respective universes. All of them are inspiring in the movies they make. They really have this remarkable energy about them that is certainly part of the reason their films will always be remembered in one way or another.

Special Features:
This Director-Approved Special Edition has a number of cool supplements:
-A New, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma’s preferred unrated version, supervised by the director, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. The corrected version seems to have none of the transfer issues of the initial release that went out to reviewers. Looks good.
-A New conversation between Brian De Palma and filmmaker Noah Baumbach.
-New interviews with actor Nancy Allen, producer George Litto, composer Pino Donaggio, shower-scene body double Victoria Lynn Johnson, and poster photographic art director Stephen Sayadian.
-The Making of “Dressed to Kill,” a 2001 documentary.
-A New profile of cinematographer Ralf Bode, featuring filmmaker Michael Apted.
-An Interview with actor-director Keith Gordon from 2001.
-Pieces from 2001 about the different versions of the film and the cuts made to avoid an X rating.
-A Gallery of storyboards by De Palma.

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