Murder à la Mod (Brian De Palma / U.S., 1968):

Cinema is an art of pictures and ruptures, says Brian De Palma, the ground-level camera looks up a woman’s dress until a razor is introduced to literalize the "cut" of editing. (Scorsese erects The Big Shave on just such a pun.) The artiste (Jared Martin) has an atelier equipped with plenty of hidden lenses but no illusions: People want "none of that arty junk, just lots of girls with big boobs taking it off," he toils in nudie drivel like I Dreamt I Was Joan of Arc in My Push-Up Bra. The killing of the ingénue (Margo Norton) is the main event, variously rewound and reviewed from the vantage points of her snooping friend (Andra Akers) and a spastic studio prankster (William Finley). It all ends in a projection room, where the culprit is outed in a trompe-l'oeil vision later modulated in Suspiria. Doubles and opposites, voyeur and attacker, blood and ketchup, jokey prop and murder weapon. The apparatus is from Peeping Tom, the timbre is allied to the Corman of A Bucket of Blood. Frantically exploring the lecherous-Gothic-inquisitive possibilities of the camera, De Palma is already the cunning Svengali coaxing half-dressed starlets, as well as the keen visual investigator attuned to modern nightmares. ("It’s everywhere, why can’t you see," Finley sings in a sort of Transylvania-via-Greenwich Village tenor.) An embryonic revue, jumbled but alive to the meta-impudence of a collision between ice-pick and eyeball. With John Quinn, Ken Burrows, and Jennifer Salt. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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