The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia ★★★★½

The Black Dahlia is not the kind of film that gets made by accident or by noble failure, but with great purpose and alacrity. The Black Dahlia is pure acid satire, the rotten, putrid collapse of a pathetic reality into an even more pathetic fiction, with nothing left in the end. Reality is stage-managed badly in The Black Dahlia, capable of manipulation, of plot and counterplot, for ends venal, trivial, nonsensical. The Black Dahlia has no pretense to realism, not in itself, not as a period piece, not even as it sometimes seems to want to be, a poverty-row 1940's potboiler noir rushed out to capitalize on its true-crime subject. The visual field is shallow, stagy, small in scope, with leads foregrounded, leads whose acting direction is pushed to highlight the limitations of artifice, to act like they are acting their predetermined roles poorly but with as much effort as possible. People break inside of these roles for real, the artifice cannot be maintained. The film looks like a shoddy big-budget 00's effort at making a shoddy budget noir. Inside of The Black Dahlia are laughably bad fake screen tests which unexpectedly leak real tears, stag cheese which bleeds into horror, an entire subplot involving Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, and wanting to inhabit a world as rich, strange, and grotesque as a film like that suggests, but instead finding oneself trapped in tawdry pulp garbage, recycled into daily life. The Black Dahlia is acrid, acerbic, darker than black in its humours, tiresomely convoluted in contrivance and exposition. This is a resurgence of the very earliest efforts of Brian De Palma, when he was skewering square nuclear family life, when he put the sketchiest of laughs and the illest of sepia filters into Sisters, this is THAT Brian De Palma, unleashed onto fake noir rot. This is a brilliant movie, one I don't think I quite understand, or am supposed to understand, but one that bothers me, which feels appropriate, given everything.

Block or Report

nathaxnne <3 liked these reviews