Saturday, February 3, 2007

Black Dahlia Movie (aka The Devil's Muse) (2007)

January 15th, 2007 marked the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s (The Black Dahlia) horrific murder that, to this day, continues to captivate the world. Recently, there has been a slew of Black Dahlia movies, the most prominent being Brian De Palma’s film as well as Ulli Lommel’s Black Dahlia. I was uninterested in seeing either, but then I received a screener from Ramzi Abed for his film entitled Black Dahlia Movie. Much to my surprise, it was filmed way before either of the above mentioned movies. Ramzi Abed's Black Dahlia Movie is a genuine, gorgeous and surreal film that must be seen to be believed.

A serial killer is on the loose, reenacting the Black Dahlia murder over and over with victims who look like Elizabeth Short. Meanwhile, a movie is being filmed about the famous case. The director (Ramzi Abed) is in the process of casting for the lead role, the role of Elizabeth Short. Lisa Small (Kristen Kerr) auditions for the part and soon becomes immersed in Elizabeth Short’s life. Her descent into the seedy Hollywood underbelly leaves her feeling like she is reliving Short’s own tragically short life. These three different threads in the film are woven together to form a surreal, nightmare world.

This film was completely different than I expected it to be. Instead of another story of gumshoes trying to track down the murderer, this film is set in present day and really examines how women are still exploited in Hollywood, just as they were in Elizabeth Short’s day. I was impressed that Abed showed the seedier side of “making it” in Hollywood and what many women have to go through just to get their foot in the door.

Stylistically, Black Dahlia Movie plays like an art house film. Abed has a knack for contrasting the beautiful and the ugly, the new and the old. He creates a surreal, disjointed and uneasy atmosphere throughout the film, making it really feel like a waking nightmare. Macabre images are dispersed throughout the film and red and blue are used to portray strong emotions. Within a scene, the colors will suddenly go from natural to a blue or red tone. When shifting to the blue tone, it makes it feel like the film has gone back in time. These subtle changes give Black Dahlia Movie a style all its own, a style that works perfectly for the mysterious tale it portrays.

The acting in the film is superb, featuring many familiar faces of the Hollywood scene. The beautiful Kristen Kerr does an amazing job as the reincarnation of Elizabeth Short, effortlessly capturing how it feels to be a struggling actress in Hollywood. The rest of the cast includes Lizzy Strain, Masuimi Max, Gidget Gein, Trent Haaga, Sarah Scott, Julie Strain, Dame Darcy, Amie Decker, Robert Williams, Cinque Lee, Abby Travis, Courtney Cruz, Mark Borchardt, Lenora Claire, Caveh Zahedi, Charles Schneider, Bianca Abel, Lloyd Kaufman, Miss Santanica, Paul Bunnell, Will Keenan, Khris Kaneff, Eric Fleming, Casey Wickson, Michael Medaglia, Douglas Dunning and director Ramzi Abed, who all do a spectacular job of portraying Hollyweird.

This film is not, however, for everyone. Though it does feature some disturbing scenes of torture (disturbing in the sense that they are erotisized), it focuses more on the surreal atmosphere surrounding the killings, the film and Lisa herself. Patience is needed to view Black Dahlia Movie, but for me, it was well worth it. Abed creates a new experience for viewers, one that reminded me slightly of David Lynch's Blue Velvet.

A gorgeous and captivating film that captures the heart and soul, Black Dahlia Movie will leave you affected several days after watching it. It draws many parallels to the Hollywood of yesteryear and how it hasn't changed much today. A woman's sexuality is still exploited, and while some women embrace this and make it their own (like famous fetish pin-up/actress Masuimi Max) many others just become tragic victims like Elizabeth Short.

Visit Black Dahlia Movie's website!

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