“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.

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Through the Looking Glass…Smartly.

The Whitney, the formal name of which is The Whitney Museum of American Art, has transformed itself, not just in terms of its new location, between New York City’s High Line and the Hudson River, but also because of its new home, designed by none other than Renzo Piano, an architect who recently designed the headquarters for the New York Times.

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© The Whitney

Rather than taking his usual minimal approach and giving the museum sleek lines and wrapped in glass, the renowned architect went in a different direction altogether.  It has received a lukewarm reception as the exterior appears like a hodgepodge of partially completed ideas which never are fulfilled.  Missing is what many expected to be a grand statement, like Hearst Tower, for example, which rises in dramatic and modern fashion from it’s historically protected, street level entrance.

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© commons.wikimedia.org

Herein lies Piano’s genius, however.  What he has achieved is only appreciated once you enter the building.  Missing are narrow and jumbled corridors and galleries separating people from one another.  Instead, huge spaces and generous amounts of natural light flood greet you.  In other words, don’t stand outside and simply admire the great architecture.  Come in and experience the great art.  Brilliant.

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© The Whitney

No longer is The Whitney the adopted little step sister to the city’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s greatest art institutions, or The Guggenheim.  Now, she sits at the dinner table on equal footing with the others.