The Black Dahlia (R)

Drama 119 September 15, 2006
By J. Hoberman
Directed by Brian De Palma from the novel by neo-noirist James Ellroy, The Black Dahlia is a true-crime policier unfolding in late-’40s Los Angeles somewhere between the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Mulholland Drive. The premise involves one of L.A.'s most notorious unsolved homicides. In early 1947, the naked corpse of a 22-year-old aspiring actress was found dumped in a South Central lot. She had been cut in half at the waist and surgically disemboweled; her blood was drained, her legs were splayed, and her face was carved into a jack o' lantern grin. Hewing closely to the first half of Ellroy's novel, The Black Dahlia is less the tale of the eponymous victim or even the investigation into her death, than that of the posthumous spell the dead woman cast on two cops, Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). The movies have everything to do with the Dahlia's desire and the mania this imaginary creature inspires. De Palma is not, however, remaking Vertigo; although he casts himself as the unseen director in the Dahlia's screen tests, that obsession seems no longer his. There are moments when The Black Dahlia projects a spectral world, but its ghosts in broad daylight are elusive at best.
Brian De Palma Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Mia Kirshner, Noel Arthur, Judith Benezra, Richard Brake, Kevin Dunn, Troy Evans James Ellroy, Josh Friedman Rudy Cohen, Moshe Diamant, Art Linson Universal Pictures

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