AMMI offers first retrospective of ‘Dressed to Kill’ director

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A collision of perceived and objective reality. Paranoia in American politics. Teen alienation in high school.

These are some of the subtle, yet hard-hitting themes that run through the films of director Brian De Palma, who is perhaps best known for "Carrie," "Dressed to Kill," "Blow Out," and others. His work is now being screened at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, with remaining showings the next three weekends (May 12-13; May 19-20; and May 26-27).

"I wanted to do this for a long time," David Schwartz, AMMI's chief curator of film, told Qguide. "He's obviously a brilliant director, but he's not seen in the same category of Spielberg or Scorsese, and he should be."

Schwartz described De Palma's work as "visually stunning films ideally suited to the big screen." The curator has tried to get De Palma to present his work in person at the museum, but "he doesn't like talking about his films." Schwartz added that as far as he knows, no museum or theater has before presented a retrospective on De Palma.

De Palma's 1980 erotic thriller, "Dressed to Kill," which will be shown at AMMI at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 20, embodies the theme of watching and being watch, the element of voyeurism which, when it come down to it, is the essential element of any film, Schwartz said. Near the beginning of the film, Angie Dickinson's character - a beautiful, restless woman - is walking through the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when she is followed by a man who will ultimately seduce her and becomes a threat to her. The vantage point shifts between the watcher and the watched.

The AMMI describes De Palma's films as often weaving social satire into the plots. Behind the depiction of teen alienation in "Carrie" is, the AMMI says in its promotion of the series,"an emotionally accurate depiction of the social caste system found in most high schools."

"De Palma's movies," says the AMMI, "are about what it means to see and be seen."

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Saturday, May 12

2 p.m.: "Sisters" (1973) The cliched excuse, "My twin did it" is taken to the extreme in this tale of murder and satire.

4 p.m.: "Raising Cain" (1992) This psychological thriller with John Lithgow and Lolita Davidovitch revolves around twin brothers, kidnapping, and murder.

Sunday, May 13

2 p.m.: "Carrie" (1976) the film with Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, and Amy Irving set the standard for the teen comedy/horror genre.

4 p.m. : "Hi Mom!" (1970) The satire stars Robert De Niro as a Vietnam veteran "mentored" by a porn-film director in Greenwich Village.

Saturday, May 19

2 p.m.: "Obsession" (1976) Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold, and John Lithgow star in this story of a New Orleans man obsessed with the memory of his lost wife.

4 p.m. "Body Double" (1984) Craig Wasson and Melanie Griffith are in this sleaze-filled story set in the hills of Hollywood.

Sunday, May 20

2 p.m.: "Phantom of the Paradise" (1974). De Palma grafts elements of "Phantom of the Opera" and "Faust" into this story of a songwriter seeking revenge on a music mogul.

4 p.m.: "Dressed to Kill" (1980) Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, and Nancy Allen star in the thriller about an affluent, bored housewife.

Saturday, May 26

2 p.m.: "The Fury" (1978) De Palma blends horror and science fiction in this tale of a psychic high school girl (Amy Irving) getting mixed up with geopolitical terrorism. Also starring Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes.

4:15 p.m.: "Mission to Mars" (2000) The AMMI says this film was "unjustly maligned" by critics, and that it really evokes "the elegant poetic style of '2001: A Space Odyssey.'"

Sunday, May 27

2 p.m.: "Scarface" (1983) The film stars Al Pacino as cocaine godfather Tony Montana.

5:30 p.m.: "Carlito's Way" (1993) Again playing a gangster, Al Pacino portrays a drug boss trying to go straight after his release from prison.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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