The theatrical cut is a zany trip into the confused headspace of our villain; while the fan recut in 2016 on the Shout Factory disc is the preferred cut by DePalma, and is much closer to a traditional narrative thriller, by creating a logical progression of the scenes, and feels more serious by starting with the drama first. 1992 is experimental, 2016 is Hitchcockian. Both good in different ways. Recut in comments.
"I'm that fucked-up experiment of yours that just won't go away." Between the ludicrous plot and zany acting (De Palma and Lithgow ply on as much absurdism as possible) is the subversive/schlocky idea that love, death and childhood innocence are prime targets for laughs. Burum's cinematography and De Palma's montage in the final scene are brilliant. Plus, fun dialog! "Hickory, dickory, doc. Cain has picked his lock."
The police precinct walk-through single take is the most loving tribute to de Palma's career that is in one of his movies: a multiple minute ode to keeping a woman's story on the "right path" through the most extravagant camera movements possible. The movie starts slow but gets better with every plot contrivance and set piece.
'Cain' is unadulterated De Palma, and at times it can be hard to tell if this is a good thing. It's so slippery, so ephemeral, that 90 mins flew by without me connecting the transgressions. I suspect this experience will vary for De Palma fans; I didn't have that issue with the similarly frenetic 'Femme Fatale'. A treat of psychosexual nightmare, I'll need another viewing to unpack this.
More than any other film you can find all the elements of de Palma's cinema combined. If he pushed further Dress to Kill, deconstructing the personalities until Margo in last incredible shot or the conception of space like in Body Double in the motel scene, you already have in the accident a preparation for Femme Fatale.
A derisive combo of dreamy art-house thriller, psycho-killer schlock & post-modern genre deconstruction that frequently walks a line between intentional & unintentional humor while engaging in a veritable cornucopia of De Palma's favourite themes. The result plays like a warped Hitchcockian soap-opera, where audience manipulation becomes an elaborate game. Each subsequent viewing reveals a wealth of hidden pleasures.
It's a film removed from the world of logical time progression and reality, it exists more in a dreamscape, using Cain's multiple personalities and perspectives as a means to induce the viewer into this state. The montage in the climax scene is one of the most beautifully shot and edited scenes of De Palma's oeuvre.
By this point, De Palma wasn't homaging Hitchcock so much as cannibalizing himself. But what he brings to even the flimsiest material is a string of vivid setpieces and a magnificent way of toying with perception, leaving you wondering if what you're watching is "real". A satire of parenthood for baby boomers, too—the end, where two mothers recount the ludicrous plot during a playground conversation, is a nice touch.