The Black Dahlia (2006)
Brian De Palma
121 min., United States, Germany, France
“The basic rule of homicide applied: nothing stays buried forever. Corpses. Ghosts. Nothing stays buried forever. Nothing.”
Set in 1940s, two former boxers Dwight (Josh Hartnett) and Lee (Aaron Eckhart) work as policemen in Los Angeles. Lee’s good relationship with the chief leads to both getting promoted to be homicide investigators. They are assigned the Black Dahlia case – the murder of a Hollywood starlet. Lee puts his marriage in jeopardy by obsessing over the crime, while the younger Dwight becomes involved with a woman, who just happens to have an unsavory tie to the victim.
The Black Dahlia is a French-American neo-noir crime thriller and is one of the most ambitious and complex films by Brian De Palma. It’s drawn from the novel of the same name written by James Ellroy, the basis of it being a tragedy of the unsolved murder-mutilation of Hollywood actress Elizabeth Short. De Palma translates Ellroy’s dialectics into his own, creating a more sensitive aesthetic with omniscient camerawork and attraction-repulsion to brutality, as well as simultaneous indulgence and criticism of the male gaze.
Despite its failure critically and financially, the film was nominated for an Academy Award ‘Best Cinematography’ for it captured the bluesy-jazzy atmosphere of its era with its downtown locations, decorative apartments and constant cigarette smoke.