“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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The Philadelphia Museum of Art has struck not gold…but titanium.

The City of Brotherly Love has bragging rights to one of the world’s greatest art museums and its about to undergo a 10-year expansion project–overseen by none other than Frank Gehry himself.  The renovation will vastly expand the museum’s space and features a tremendous underground construction project.

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The famed architect will create a series of exhibition halls lit by natural light but the ultimate question on everyone’s mind is, of course, will the new space feature the architect’s signature curved titanium hallmarks, so brilliantly used in the Guggenheim’s Bilbao outpost or L.A.’s Disney Concert Hall ?  It’s too soon to tell but there is a new exhibition devoted to the project opening 1 July called “Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”

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Rendering © Gehry Partners, LLP

When you have perfected the craft of brewing espresso…

…what do you do for an encore ?  For Italian coffee company Illy, the answer was simple.  Design the cup in which the espresso is served and in the process, also make it great art.  Painstaking research took place to ensure their cup was the right height and the porcelain the proper thickness.  The handle was also redesigned and re-positioned to guarantee comfort and practicality.  And then the company brought in world-renowned artists and young talent to adorn the finished product, and in many cases created limited editions which are signed and numbered.  Michelangelo Pistoletto, for example, whose From One to Many exhibit was featured prominently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was given creative freedom in his designs, as was artist / writer / director Julian Schnabel and Liu Wei.  The sets are not cheap.  But then again, sitting down to a fine cup of espresso with a piece of art, an act of passion in the minds of many, is priceless.

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© 2013 / 14 Illy