“Every nightmare has a beginning. This one never ends.”

And thus begins the hall of mirrors that is Dressed to Kill, a motion picture described by noted critic, David Denby, in New York Magazine as the “first great film of the eighties.”  After 35 years, it has been restored beautifully and issued in Blu-ray by Criterion Collection, along with an impressive list of disk extras.  Suspense director Brian DePalma should be quite proud of the results as his brilliant and terrifying film holds up quite well in the new century.

Starring Nancy Allen as a witness to a crime; Michael Caine as a psychiatrist with a dangerous patient; Angie Dickinson as a bored Manhattan housewife; Dennis Franz as a detective trying to catch a killer; and Keith Gordon, as Dickinson’s son, with some inventive tricks up his sleeve in order to untwist a Rubrik’s Cube of clues, “Dressed to Kill” was shocking when it was released in 1980.  Graphic in terms of language, nudity and violence, it was nonetheless praised for its visual style and soundtrack.

With nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, DePalma kills off his star, Dickinson, within its first half-hour.  Those 30 minutes, however, are characterized by two of the most talked-about scenes ever in modern American film-making.  The first is a virtually silent, 7-minute sequence in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (substituting for New York City’s Metropolitan.)  Dickinson pursues a stranger throughout the museum’s galleries, only to find herself being pursued.  It quickly became known as the “cat-and-mouse” sequence in film circles and it stands up beautifully even by today’s standards.  The second is the murder sequence itself, taking place in the confines of elevator.  With an ominous sense of foreboding delivered initially through the stares of a child who enters on a lower floor, multiple camera shots, and the glint of a straight-edge razor, DePalma solidified his reputation as director of bravura style, staging and editing.  What ensues thereafter is nothing short of dazzling.  Multiple images focused in the same frame, split screens and an abundance of mirrors throughout all help propel the notion of dual personality and mistaken identities.  DePalma’s longtime composer Pino Donaggio never scored a film more beautifully and cinematographer Ralph Bode, who has since passed since the film’s release, should be proud that his work has easily stood the test of time.

Blurred Lines…

The Guggenheim, already a world-renowned institution, was propelled in the stratosphere with the opening of its Frank Gehry-designed Bilbao institution.

© commons.wikimedia.org

© commons.wikimedia.org

The architect took his talent for sensuous and curved titanium materials and applied it in ways we had never seen.  Along the way, it also put Bilbao, Spain on the map in the world of cultural institutions.  And even though Gehry adapted his trademark look for Walt Disney’s Concert Hall in Los Angeles, nothing could approach the groundbreaking look of his Guggenheim original.  Imagine then the skipped heartbeats that took place when the famed museum launched a search for someone to design its latest location–in Helsinki, Finland.

NYT2010100714540814C

Gehry’s Spruce Street building in New York City.
© commons.wikimedia.org

Kudos belong to the winner Moreau Kusonoki Architects which managed the same feat Gehry did but only by going in a completely different direction–that of understated, minimal elegance.  Taking local materials and the Scandinavian art of simple, minimalist lines, Kusonoki’s winning design becomes part of the Finnish landscape, blending harmoniously in her surroundings.  I’m counting the days to its opening so I can visit and experience first-hand this achievement.

© cnn.com

© cnn.com

© guggenheim.org

© guggenheim.org