Blu-ray slight return: Sparse dialogue edition
You can’t keep a good film down. One sign of cinematic greatness involves directors using pure imagery with little or no dialogue to propel the narrative.
More than once in Dressed to Kill (9/8, Criterion Collection) writer/director Brian De Palma uses visual storytelling with no dialogue. One sequence involves the film’s heroine Angie Dickinson as she goes from gallery to gallery of a huge museum. The camera sees what she sees, as she flirts and then stalks a male stranger. Dickinson looks at paintings. She observes other patrons of the museum as they hug or search for their children. The entire time the camera glides effortlessly as if it too is stalking someone.
Dressed to Kill also stars Michael Caine as a big city psychiatrist, Dennis Franz as a cop investigating a murder that may have been committed by one of Caine’s patients, Keith Gordon as a science wiz kid (also Dickinson’s son) and Nancy Allen as a lady of the night who also gets involved in searching for the killer. Longtime De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio composed the lush score.
When there is dialogue it ranges from provocative sex talk to clinical diagnosis. One of my favorite lines is Franz repeating to Caine they phrase “Emotional dysfunctions and problems of maladaptation.” The sense of constant tension is achieved to a large part by the tracking and moving camera. People are never really safe in the part-dreamlike and part-delusional world created by De Palma. Extras include new interviews with Allen, Donaggio and others, as well as a conversation between De Palma and Noah Baumbach (who has a new documentary on De Palma currently making the film festival rounds).
Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Bear (9/29, Shout! Factory) also features total reels with no dialogue but that’s no surprise since the stars of this amazing film are two bears. One is a bear cub and the other none other than Bart the Bear, an Alaskan Kodiak. Bart is known for his roles in over 15 movies including Legend of the Fall and The Edge. Bart was the go-to bear for films in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Bart passed away at age 23 in 2000.
Douce as well as a couple of alternate bear cubs played the bear cub. There are animatronic bears used in some scenes, as well as honey bees, dogs, a puma, horses and a couple of three human actors (including Tchéky Karyo and Jack Wallace).
The painstaking production follows the ordeals of a young orphan bear cub and the big brother bear that takes him under his paw. Breathtaking scenery was shot in the Alps region known as the Dolomites (the same region that double for the Himalayas in the current Everest.)
When The Bear came out in 1990 there had never been anything like it, and to this day it remains the best non-Disney narrative film about animals ever made. This Blu-ray release is the 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition and includes a great featurette that shows how some of the amazing animal performances were achieved.
— Michael Bergeron