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The Black Dahlia - Preview

The Black Dahlia

Preview by Jack Foley

THE Black Dahlia, the new film from Brian De Palma that’s been adapted from the novel of the same name by James Ellroy, is to open the Venice Film Festival in suitably lavish style.

In book form, The Black Dahlia was the first of a quadrilogy on Los Angeles that revealed the talents of Ellroy as a crime writer (he also penned LA Confidential, among others). In film form, it has attracted a legendary director and a first-rate cast, including Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart and Mia Krishner.

As well as opening the presitigious festival – one of the year’s showpiece events on the film calendar – it will be playing in competition, where it’s already among the favourites to take the top prize. The Venice screening will also mark the world premiere of the film.

Set in 1947, The Black Dahlia follows two policemen – namely, friends and former boxers, Bucky Bleichert (Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Eckhart) who are in love with the same woman, the mysterious Kay Lake (Johansson), the former friend of a gangster.

However, when the two are called to investigate a terrible crime their lives are changed for ever. The crime in question involves the murder of Elizabeth Short (Kirshner), a girl with ambitions to be an actress, known as the Black Dahlia, who’s found brutally slain on the hillsides of Hollywood.

During the course of the investigation, Bucky meets Madeleine Sprague (double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank) and begins a passionate relationship with her, fully realising that she’s indirectly involved and that corruption is rife within his police department. When Lee suddenly disappears as well, the investigation becomes a morbid obsession.

Commenting on the Venice Film Festival website, president Davide Croff and director Marco Muller said: “We’re honoured that Brian De Palma has chosen to open the 63rd Venice Film Festival with his new and long-awaited thriller, thus confirming his strong links with Venice.”

De Palma was first invited to Venice in 1975 with one of his first films, Sisters, and in September, De Palma will appear on the parade in front of the Palazzo del Cinema for the fifth time. During that time, he has presented Blow Out, Raising Cain and The Untouchables.

Two of the film’s stars, Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank, will also be in attendance at the premiere, as will Dante Ferretti, who has produced the period sets for The Black Dahlia”.

As with any De Palma movie, expectations are high – although its position as the opening film of the Venice fortnight has only heightened them more. It could thrust it firmly into Oscar contention.