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Friday, September 15, 2006

The Black Dahlia 

Late one morning in Los Angeles, 1947, a gruesome discovery was made. It was a young woman’s body, nude, savagely beaten, mutilated, and bisected. She was later identified as Elizabeth Short, and though her horrific death caused a sensation, no one was ever convicted of the crime. Even now, the Black Dahlia’s murder—so named for Short’s resemblance to an actress in The Blue Dahlia, and her propensity for wearing black—remains perhaps the most sensational unsolved murder in California history.

But Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia isn’t really about Elizabeth Short at all. Like the James Ellroy novel it’s based on, it’s far more interested in the constellation of people and desires around her. In many ways it is the classic murder mystery: Unknowing character steps into something straightforward, only to have his illusions and assumptions stripped away as the complexity of the world around him becomes apparent. The crime is merely the catalyst for the true journey.

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