Friday, March 1, 2013

Sisters (1973)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

Aw dang you guys, I am totally riding the De Palma train, like all the way to DePalmaville, which is I assume some sort of gritty utopia where Bill Finley is enjoying the afterlife and every major moment plays out in split screen. After Phantom of the Paradise and Carrie, I wanted more 70s De Palma, and Sisters pretty much met all of my wants, no... needs. Margot Kidder stars as Danielle, a French-Canadian model whose date with the handsome Philip turns sour when her deranged twin sister arrives and murders him. The event is witnessed by Grace (Jennifer Salt), a journalist neighbor who dedicates herself to finding out the truth behind the strange situation after Danielle and her creepy ex-husband Emil (William Finley) cover it up sufficiently to fool the police.

Aw man, AW MAN. I'm such a sucker for weird pulpy mysteries involving secret pasts and/or personalities, I don't know what it is. I like stories that go in unexpected directions, that dwell within the seedier edge of things. Sisters is exactly that type of film, but elevates itself from that sort of low-brow foundation through its strong cast, emotional score, and dynamic visual techniques. I loved watching this strange tale unfold through a series of half-ambiguous, half-expository conversations and tightly-controlled interior shots. Margot Kidder is great in this confused dual role, with a beautifully innocent face that made me completely unsure of her motivations or capabilities. Jennifer Salt's Grace Collier was of course my favorite character, as her outspoken journalist blatantly accuses Staten Island's racist, unthinking cops and fearlessly snoops around herself, ultimately stumbling upon a wholly unexpected situation. Bill Finley was nigh-unrecognizable to me (having only seen him in Phantom) as the super intense and skeevy Emil, but he's sooooo good once you realize his importance to the story. He's somehow both sinister and kind of sympathetic, and his climactic scene is brilliant.

I know it's kind of exploitative in its subject matter but I can't say that bothered me too much, because everything felt so removed from reality. I loved the almost extreme presence of the camera, punching up the grungy aesthetic. I am completely enamored of De Palma's split screen, and here it's used to great effect as both the discovery and the cleaning up of a murder take place simultaneously. It's gorgeous stuff, really. Honestly this is the kind of movie I've wanted when I've tried out Dario Argento- all hyper-stylization and bright red blood and 70s fashion and eeriness. Sisters is slick and dark and weird and I LOVED IT OK.


Pair This Movie With: I feel like this movie is a spiritual prequel to Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, which would be a great double feature. There are also some parallels to A Tale of Two Sisters, if you want a more straight-up horror pairing.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this in all its pulpy glory too! Was one of my first sleepover rentals in yes, grade school. I may be permanently scarred, but whatevs, De Palma!