Jake, a struggling actor, is staying in his pal’s place after his girlfriend has walked out on him. The apartment happens to be equipped with a picture window and telescope, enabling him to spy on his beautiful neighbor Gloria, which leads to a baffling series of events with drastic consequences.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
A deliciously tawdry burlesque B-side to Dressed to Kill; a composite of all manner of borrowings, nods & derivations - before they are skewered and exposed for what they are not (quite). The hilarious lacerations of filmmaking & indeed film-watching make for an outrageously effective double-take on filmic convention & artificiality, screwing genre construction & expectation with gleeful cheek. More fun than the A.
It took a while, but I'm finally onboard with De Palma's delightfully perverse position on life vs. cinema. BODY DOUBLE is undoubtedly the trashiest film he has made. Now, why do we really watch movies? To comprehend life or its great mysteries? Nope. We watch to dream with our eyes open. Pure cinema is pleasure. And unlike real life, in cinema you can have it all—including Melanie Griffith. Because why the hell not.
De Palma manages to create a film that's both gauche B-Movie & profound commentary on society & the medium. As the title suggests, the whole film works on a notion of trickery - we are constantly battling to distinguish dream, reality & the surreal. De Palma effortlessly lampoons the fakery of filmmaking & the allure of voyeurism on the foundations of Vertigo/Rear Window. A seedy thriller loaded with possibility.
Dreamlike, belonging to the realm of pure cinema. De Palma is so good he even hides the key to the mystery in the title, and yet we overlook it. Like Jake, we're absorbed by all the mesmerizing information presented, always conditioned by his limited perspective. For some time nothing but pure tension seems to exist as we figure out the convoluted plot along with him; the film's style unravelling it organically.
Everything brilliant and frustrating about De Palma: the staging is outstanding, the camera hypnotic, the humor cheeky, and the story rich with contrasting ideas about identity, reality, fantasy, gender, and whether you can trust your own eyes (or your own TV screen). But then it arrives at a place that feels oddly slight, like a Vertigo rip that replaces Hitchcock's soulfulness with sarcasm and calls it a day.
The infamous voyeur scene is among the most complex things I've experienced in cinema, We are emotionally conflicted: narratively, we should be disgusted, yet the oneiric score and expressive cinematography elevate the scene towards the ethereal, or at least create a binary which doesn't gridlock the 2 emotions but forces an opening for even further complexity: aesthetics/ethics, distance/nearness, subject/object...
De Palma brilliantly takes the centerpiece moment of Vertigo - the camera spinning around Scotty during the kiss as he connects the two women - and places it in a porno/movie-within-a-movie, itself an 80's-inspired music video of relax, this time with the pair having sex instead of just an impassioned kiss. Its nuts, awesome, and I can't get enough of it.