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In 1946, the former boxers Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert and Lee Blanchard are policemen in Los Angeles. Lee has a good relationship with his chief and uses a box fight between them to promote the department and get a raise to the police force. They succeed and are promoted to homicide detectives, working together. Bucky becomes a close friend of Lee and his girlfriend Kay Lake, forming a triangle of love. When the corpse of the aspirant actress 'Elizabeth Short (I)' is found mutilated, Lee becomes obsessed to solve the case called by the press Black Dahlia. Meanwhile, Bucky's investigation leads him to a Madeleine Linscott, the daughter of a powerful and wealthy constructor that resembles the Black Dahlia. In an environment of corruption and lies, Bucky discloses hidden truths. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Ramona Linscott thrusts her utensils into her food, a small potato rolls onto the table and stops beside a glass. In later shots, the food has changed position and the wayward potato has disappeared. See more »
Ofcr. Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert:
Mr. Fire versus Mr. Ice. For everything people were making it out to be, you'd think it was our first fight. It wasn't. And it wouldn't be our last.
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De Palma's staged, theatrical style has always felt like an in-joke: an expressive homage (or sometimes a slap in the face) to the conventions of cinema. And in the case of his high- energy thrillers, the joke is funny and damned entertaining. But in the case of his dramas, De Palma constantly walks a thin line between evocative melodrama and camp (The wonderful "Carlito's Way," in my opinion, is the exception). And "The Black Dahlia" often steps over that line.
With a steady build-up of noir conventions, the film hearkens to the expressionistic film and acting styles of the 40's -- a style which can induce giggles in audiences raised on irony. And I can count a few musical swells, flamboyant acting choices and dramatic fade-outs which caused unwanted comic relief. Or did it? If there's one thing De Palma loves more than entertaining his audience, it's confounding them. How else do you explain the two-hour joke that was "Raising Cain"? (Although I, for one, found that particular joke damned funny).
You watch "Dahlia" with the distinct impression that De Palma is enjoying every minute of it. He's copying Wilder, Welles and, you guessed it, Hitchcock -- and he's having a blast doing it. So when Josh Hartnett's character pulls a full dinner setting (including the turkey) off a table and throws Scarlett Johansson down lustfully upon it, should we also smile and remember "Double Indemnity"? I guess it would help if you've seen "Double Indemnity."
That said, the film's biggest flaw is that it smiles at itself for so long that it leaves little time to wrap up the plot. The onslaught of last-reel revelations seems to exist only to give the actors more opportunity to relish in the delicious mood De Palma has created. We never really cared about the plot in the first place because De Palma didn't care about it either. He's more interested in the shadows, the thrills, the drama, the lurking killers, swelling music, lusty confrontations and blood splatters. And the plot points get lost somewhere in the mix. So who can blame us for glazing over when Hartnett finally starts to care about the mysteries rather than just being mystified by them? De Palma has painted such an odd, exciting picture (even when it turns to camp) that the audience would rather keep watching the elaborate set-ups than sit through the convoluted solutions.
But then again, what good is a joke without a satisfying punch line?
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