Body Double (1984)

“Body Double” (1984)

IMDb

blind eye

There are only a few themes which are more suited to cinema than to any other medium, or form of art. Of those themes, voyeurism is certainly the one that has been more explored, and thus has more solutions and experiences. That’s probably because it is seductive, and allows for so many different approaches (unlike for example space exploration). Also, voyeurism is marketable and can be made into quite different genres. And it is a terribly effective way to fold an audience onto a screen, because no matter who, or what is the voyeur in the film, we as spectators become voyeurs. So i suppose the fact that voyeurism suits cinema better than any other art form is a purely technical thing, related to very characteristics of the medium; but the fact that we are so fond of voyeurism is because we ourselves are voyeuristic by nature.

Because of all this, making something about being voyeur that is interesting and original can be something quite difficult. But de Palma tries. He tries hard, is clever enough to learn from every previous experience, and is bold enough to try new things once he achieves something with what he made. Unfairly, to me, he has the fame of copying masters, tackling their thing and making something close. I don’t think he does that, or ever did. He picks up concepts others (usually great directors) used, and performs those concepts with a totally renewed (and new!) vision (many times literally a new eye). Sometimes he outdoes the originals. This strategy produced one of the best films ever made on story construction and eye: Blow out, a transformation of Antonioni. Because that film was so successful in achieving what was intended, he moved on.

Here he tries Hitchcock. Not the guy from Rear Window, more the one who made Vertigo. There is a world, unknown to us, unknown to our surrogate in the film, the watcher. He builds a story, he understands the world, by looking at it. Just by looking at it, his involvement in the development of that world comes very late in the game, and is not that important. He has the detective’s eye. And the world he is supposed to find is placed so he can find it, even though neither him or us know that at the beginning. So here we get into the territory of noir, the placing of the elements of the world in such ways that we/him necessarily have to find them. Here the trigger to the interest of the character is sex, as it often is in straight voyeuristic stories.

So de Palma knows where he is going, he is experimenting on solid grounds. But he doesn’t pull this off, not here. Apart from the basic structure of what he intends to do, almost everything else plays against the idea. His camera is not fluid, sensitive, snaky like it had been in Blow out or how it would become throughout the 90′. There are some cleverly conceived shots and sequences, but they are only worth on their own, without integration in a larger structure. Melanie Griffith won’t do it for me. I much rather prefer Karen Allen, specially when Brian was in love with her, that transpires into the movie. Griffith is wobbly, insecure. She is just adolescent, not with the Lolita fascination, just plain naive, and that sets her aside from the story. The soundtrack is terribly, one of the worst i’ve heard, worse than in many of the b movies that this one is stylistically close to.

My opinion: 2/5 if you know de Palma well enough you will appreciate the general concept here. But there are better places to go to see the ideas here flourish.

This comment on IMDb

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