Murder à la Mod (1968)

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*. For the longest time this was known as the “unseen” Murder à la Mod. On the cover of the Something Weird DVD release it’s even referred to as a “lost” film. Then it came out as a supplement to the Criterion release of Blow Out and finally reached a wider audience.
*. I’m glad it’s back. It’s certainly not a great movie (the acting, for one thing, is dreadful) but it’s a very clever puzzle piece and a lot of fun.
*. What was the “mode” at the time? Exploitation meets art house, Europe comes to America. It was all the rage, and it resulted in a tremendous burst of creativity.
*. Of course it’s natural to see a movie like this, even if for the first time, in a rear-view mirror. You see it as apprentice work from Brian De Palma. You judge it in light of what came after. And what came after was a more polished cover of Hitchock, a direction clearly signalled here.
*. We begin with the mixture of voyeurism and violence, sadism and sex that De Palma adopted wholesale from Hitch. Another source, almost as important, being invoked is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. That blurring of the line between real and fake violence is central, and in the character of Chris I think we’re getting a clear nod to Powell’s film. Time and again perspective seems to get flipped, asking us which side of the camera we’re on.

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*. It’s terror as striptease: when is that bra coming off? when is the girl going to get killed? when do we get to experience a climax?
*. What I like most about the film is its look. There are so many interestingly composed/lit/photographed shots. That walk through the cemetery, alternating through several different points of view, would have told you that this was a filmmaker who was going places.

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*. Were garter belts really that common in the 1960s, or is De Palma indulging himself?
*. I began by mentioning how this movie only came back into wider circulation through being included as a bonus feature in the Criterion release of Blow Out. While recognizing its limitations, I actually enjoy it more. This raises the question of how much De Palma ever developed as a filmmaker. With more resources he was able to work with better talent, but I think he had a hard ceiling that he hit quickly and which he spent his most productive years pressed up against. In a way, this movie was a tease, leading us to believe that there might have been something more on the way.

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