Stimulation, Manipulation

Body Double is the platonic ideal of Brian De Palma.

Which is to say, it’s a Hitchcockian pitch-black comedy porno.

Bitchcock, if you will.

Like Alf, BDP chooses stories that are somewhat about the sort of manipulation they’re both famous for.

Take the chase scene on the beach in Body Double. The sequence’s first half is rife with their brand of cinematic artistry; we cut, cut, cut, cut, cut between viscerally-framed close-ups that immerse us in the thrill of their cat-and-mousing. But then the second half switches to a long shot — in both duration and distance away from our runners — which gives us a more natural vantage point to watch the proceedings.

And guess what: one awkward dude running after another cumbersome bro looks laughable without a director to cinematically pimp their ride; trust me, if two Average Joes found themselves in an actual chase in real life, an onlooker’s alarm would be mixed with a healthy dose of amusement. BDP reinforces this point by ending with the damsel-in-distress sprinting down a tunnel to catch up with them; the camera stays at one end, and we sit there for seconds-feeling-like-hours, without any cuts, watching her scramble towards us.

It’s comedy, bordering on camp. Movie stars might appear dope on the silver screen, but without cinematic manipulation, even the best and brightest seem as layman as the rest of us.

An amusing mis-en-scene gag, to be sure, but also one that’s thematically on point in a movie about the filtered-manipulation of illusion and reality between the observer and the observed (let’s remember: the main character is an actor).

This meta-narrative adds substance to BDP’s in-your-face style, and, ideally, an appreciation for the mastery of his manipulation. For instance, the mall-elevator sequence is a masterclass in how to clearly establish the parameters of a space, including the space between the pursuer and the pursued, and then mining every angle within that now-established relational space to ramp up the suspense.

Did someone say Hitchcock?

A sociopolitically-resonant body doubling: a white guy blames an “Indian” for violence that he himself commits. Puppeteering an illusion to distort reality, the nature of that distortion, and the agenda of the puppeteer’s manipulation.

And I haven’t even dug into the movie’s handling of sexual and gender politics in media.

What a picture!

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