The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, June 22-28

The Black Dahlia-Mia Kershner

The Black Dahlia (2006)
Directed by Brian De Palma
“I don’t get modern art.” “I doubt modern art gets you, either.” Working around Josh Harnett’s lead turn the way a May Day celebration works around the pole, De Palma’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s deep-end dive into the mother of all true-crime speculations is slick and twisty rather than turgid and tormented, both obsessive and digressive. In a very backlot recreation of 40s Los Angeles, all mirrored surfaces and venetian blind-filtered sepia sunlight (the cinematograper is Vilmos Zsigmond), Hartnett’s Bucky Bleichert investigates the gruesome murder of an aspiring starlet (Mia Kershner, shakily lucid in screen-test flashbacks), becoming deeper enmeshed in the worlds of white-clad good woman Scarlett Johansson, black-clad rich bitch Hilary Swank (purring, hilariously camp femme who never takes off her pearls), and fisheye-lensed caricatures of California’s new old money, brutal police, and sexual subcultures. The audience is fed a steady diet of shock-cuts, cranes and slo-mo, as the murder plot draws Bucky deeper into the mythology of Hollywood Babylon. De Palma’s great theme is spectatorship; in The Black Dahlia, even more than Body Double, he toys with the idea that there’s something evil about the people who mount spectacles to delight and deceive. He means it, the way that he means anything. Mark Asch (June 24, 7pm at the Metrograph’s De Palma retrospective)


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