Murder Ã la Mod (1968)
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Critic Reviews for Murder Ã la Mod
Audience Reviews for Murder Ã la Mod
This very early De Palma film is an interesting and entertaining but embryonic and ultra-low budget homage to Hitchcock, Godard, and, yes ... Buster Keaton!!?!?! There is a limit to how far this sort of meta-playfulness can be carried, and De Palma, at this stage in his career, was still exploring and discovering those limits.
3 stars is generous for what is obviously a very early work showing De Palma when he was still a diamond in the rough perfecting his skills and greatly hampered by a miniscule budget. Didn't want it to be a "negative" review though. The concept and plot are reasonably decent. The real value of this film, if the viewer can look past the elements driven by severe budget constraints, is watching De Palma exhibit some of his techniques seen later. A (partially) non-linear storyline shows the same significant events from several different characters' perspectives (a la Tarantino's Jackie Brown). Camera is frequently 1st person point-of-view and hand held. Jump cuts are used in several scenes as alternative methods and/or the special effects needed were not possible within his budget. Several long tracking shots are used as well. The underlying theme used to carry the plot is about film making, one that's reused later in "Blow Out." Like Kubrick's, Polanski's, and Scorsese's initial feature films, this one also shows rough edges. Look past them and see some of the De Palma that would shine in his later films.
If you found "Hi, Mom!" and "Greetings" unexpectedly delightful, don't expect to draw similar joys from this even-earlier Brian DePalma film. This tale of a psychotic killer has a decent script, but terrible acting and a tiny budget are too much to overcome. Pretty Karen (Margo Norton) is a dim free spirit whose filmmaker boyfriend Christopher (Jared Martin) is completing a sleazy movie for the paycheck. He needs money to get a divorce from his wife. Karen steals to help him, but obviously has forgotten what happened to thief Marion Crane in "Psycho." Other central players are Karen's rich friend Tracy (Andra Akers), producer Wiley (Ken Burrows, who also produced this movie -- we can tell he has money because he stereotypically chomps a cigar) and the freakish Otto (William Finley, later the star of "Phantom of the Paradise"). Finley's ridiculous mugging -- he doesn't speak, and only communicates through internal ravings presented as narration -- makes "Murder a la Mod" seem a lot more amateurish than it is. Though even Finley isn't the worst actor -- a scene with a bitter bank clerk brings the film to a screeching halt. "Murder a la Mod" is most interesting for its experimental New Wave touches. It opens with the auditions of two other actresses (one is Jennifer Salt) seeking the lead part -- an ironic inclusion, considering that Norton is one of the cast's weak links. Further tricks include aggressive use of fast motion (rather tacky), jump cuts, silly captioning and, most importantly, an extended stretch of reverse-time storytelling that might as well have inspired Christopher Nolan's "Following" and "Memento." To be frank, the action is deadly dull until this backward structure emerges in the second half. At least the music is entertaining -- the score is full of playful, honking woodwinds and Finley adds a hilariously campy title song. The voice of the Firesign Theatre's Phil Proctor cameos during a briefly heard radio broadcast.
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