FILM: De Palma Bounces Back ; the Director's Latest Film, 'The Black Dahlia', Is a Huge Improvement on His Recent Showings. He Talks to JAMES MOTTRAM
Mottram, James, The Independent (London, England)
The last time Brian De Palma had a film at a festival, he didn't even bother to turn up. The occasion was Cannes in 2002' the movie his last effort, Femme Fatale, a wretched thriller correctly described by one critic as "a uniquely De Palma kind of effluence". Given that this followed the disastrous sci-fi effort Mission to Mars (2000), the knives were out for the director who made his name alongside the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola with such classics as Scarfdce (1983) and The Untouchables (1987).
But at this year's Venice Film Festival, De Palma was all present and correct - perhaps because his new work, an adaptation of James Ellroy's best-selling murder-mystery The Black Dahlia, is his best in years. But that's not saying much. Even the most hardened of De Palma fans must secretly admit he hasn't made a great film since 1993's gangster tale Carlito's Way. The high-style efforts Mission: Impossible (1996) and Snake Eyes (1998) were impressive only in isolated moments.
Curiously, De Palma's recent dip in form coincided with his departure from Hollywood. In 2000, some three years after he divorced from his third wife, Darnell, he relocated to France and lived in Paris for two years, where he wrote Femme Fatale. "I just had to get out of America," he shrugs. "I just wanted to know what it was like on the other side of the Atlantic. I just went over there to live in a hotel and see what happened."
What happened was a whole host of savage reviews and a paltry US box-office haul of just $6m (then pounds 4m).
The 65-year-old De Palma looks a shadow of his former self. He looks battered by Hollywood. "I've been in and out of the system for quite a while," he admits. "They're not making very interesting movies in the big Hollywood studios. The interesting movies are usually being made by independents, or they're financed by European investors."
Fully funded out of Europe to the tune of $45m (pounds 24m), The Black Dahlia may be one of the most expensive "independent" pictures made. "It's the kind of movie they don't like to make," grunts De Palma, referring to the US studios. "It's tough to make a period movie." So it's no surprise that, despite featuring Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson, the film has taken more than three years to complete.
De Palma initially came on to the film after Fight Club's David Finch-er left the project, taking on a script by Josh Friedman, who penned Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds. But it was anything but a dream come true. "More like a nightmare come true," De Palma counters.
Nevertheless, the end result is an elegant affair by a director who appears to have rediscovered his touch - as well as the phone number of the legendary …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: FILM: De Palma Bounces Back ; the Director's Latest Film, 'The Black Dahlia', Is a Huge Improvement on His Recent Showings. He Talks to JAMES MOTTRAM. Contributors: Mottram, James - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 8, 2006. Page number: 9. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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