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This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Aren’t You Glad I Didn’t Say De Palma?

December 9, 2010

No such thing as an 'arty' psychosexual thriller. the default setting is always 'hot mess'

Why are reviewers so dismissive of this simple fact: Black Swan is the best Brian De Palma film in years? Why is the even more schlocky Argento suddenly somehow seen as a more favorable comparison than De Palma, when Suspriria is kind of a red herring. I mean how desperate to avoid being compared to De Palma to you have to be to find comparisons to Argento a compliment? Or worse that there’s some threshold filmmakers should be aware of in order to avoid having their psycho-sexual thrillers teeter off into the realm of hot messery, as though the default setting for psycho-sexual thrillers wasn’t in fact hot mess. In Dann Gire’s review of Black Swan, Gire states, “Aronofsky dabbles in the sort of hallucinatory sleight-of-narrative perfected by Brian De Palma, but never crosses into the realm of exploitation or cheap shock value.”

Oh really?

Gire never specifies which of the many De Palma films he cites as an example of the above mentioned “exploitation or cheap shock value” and seems to be laboring under the delusion that Aronofsky doesn’t also traffic in all that exploits or marinates itself in cheap shock value, which, of course, Aronofsky does.

And Xena love him for it! Anytime a film seeks to explore our sexual psyches, lusts, fantasies and fetishes in an attempt to “say something” there’s rarely a way to do so – particularly as it relates to those desires in the context of female sexuality without conjuring up Angie Dickinson, Margot Kidder, Jessica Harper (no not that movie) and, Xena, help me, Sissy Spacek! And that’s cool. And more importantly, that’s De Palma. Don’t be fooled. Black Swan is all about trafficking in De Palmacious ideas about women, sex and violence. Wave your twisted De Palma flag proudly, Black Swan. Don’t be ashamed! De Palma is the man responsible for introducing us to one of the finest actors of all time and there’s nothing schlocky about that!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2010 11:18 am

    The last 30 minutes of Requiem for a Dream are nothing BUT cheap shock value.

    I want to see this bad, and I hardly go to movies anymore. I can’t wait to loudly chomp my popcorn and revel in the delicious psycho-sexual thrillery-ness of it all. Maybe I’ll even sneak a flask into the show….

  2. December 9, 2010 11:20 am

    I can’t believe they’re not passing out flasks instead of 3D glasses.

  3. December 9, 2010 11:57 am

    but never crosses into the realm of exploitation or cheap shock value.

    um, did he step out to take a leak during the scene where Natalie Portman and the girl from That 70s Show get it on? hello, I loved this movie BECAUSE it took us to that place! and it was clearly referential to De Palma, not just Carrie, which I mentioned, but also Body Double, which I forgot, and probably ten other ones you’ll spot when you finally see it.

    I like Aronofsky because he seems like a smart film nerd who makes movies inspired/based on filmmakers he loves, gladly standing on their shoulders and understanding that perfect craft is not about chasing the supposed Original Idea but more about learning all the tools in the box, doing them well, and if you’re lucky, stumbling upon some new combination. I also avoid reading or hearing too many interviews with Aronofsky himself, lest he say something dumb and ruin it.

  4. December 9, 2010 12:03 pm

    Firstly, the picture I used is all about De Palma. I look at Portman and think this shot could easily appear in any of BDeP’s 80s era films. And the way that Portman rolls round the city looking dazed and confused reminds me of Tom Cruise slowing piecing together what happen to his IMF team while sitting in that Prague restaurant in Mission Impossible.

    Aronofsky is a brilliant taste maker and director, but like many before him he will be felled by his attempts to make an non shlocky psycho-sexual thriller. There are few and mostly an acceptance of the limits of the genre rather than pretending the don’t exist is the only way to get there.


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