Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Breakdown - Body Double

(Miriam always does an execptional job with her movie breakdowns, but this one's a doozy. Outstanding job, Miriam. -MM)

Welcome to the film break-downs of "great" directors. I put "great" in quotes because identifying directors as "great" is kind of a subjective thing. We can all agree that certain directors leave an identifiable mark on their films, or that certain directors have amassed a body of work that is both commercially and critically successful. We label them as "great," but really it comes down to popularity. Most of these directors have a fairly large and very dedicated fan base.

I'm starting with Brian DePalma. I really like his movies. He has an interesting way of paying tribute to Alfred Hitchcock while retaining a completely unique and personal voice. He definitely encompasses the definition of the term "auteur." Those are all valid reasons for studying him. And they are all valid reasons for studying Body Double, which is a particular tribute to Rear Window. But I chose this film because I wanted to talk about female masturbation and porn films.

I'm doing something different with this film because of the composition. Some of the scenes break down into sections that stand on their own. There are 77 separate sections, but only 58 scenes.

1. 2:32 – Opens on the set of a B-horror vampire movie. 02:32

a. 1:26 – Opening shot. The moon is full. A wolf howls. The camera cranes down through a cemetery as smoke rises and creepy music plays. The names of the main actors appear in white, shaky letters through which blood drips. The crane shot continues down beneath the earth and into a grave, where a vampire lies. He has white hair and shiny make-up. He is a new-wave vampire. As the camera reaches him, he whips his head around, hisses, and bares his fangs. Off-screen, the director says, "Action." But he's frozen. Slowly a look of fear replaces the aggression in his eyes and that's when we realize we're not watching a vampire movie. We're on a movie set.

b. 1:06 – Jake Scully is the actor playing the vampire and the protagonist. As they get him out, we see the camera on the crane that filmed the first shot. Titles continue. The director, Rubin (played by Dennis Franz in an early role), gives Jake a pep talk. He tells Jake to take the rest of the day off and rest. In the background, fire breaks out. Jake insists he can get the shot. Rubin says that's fine, but now he doesn't have a set. Jake leaves and Rubin goes to see how badly the fire damaged the set. 02:32

2. 0:32 – The title shot, again in letters dripping blood, appears over a lovely view of the Southern California desert. So the movie will take place in the desert. But it's another fake-out. The whole screen turns to the side and becomes a back-drop, wheeled away by two technicians. It's not a vampire movie, and it isn't set in the desert. We're still at the studio. This is DePalma's way of letting us know that nothing in this movie will be what it seems. Jake comes out of the stage, sans make-up, his blonde hair brushed back and his handsome features composed in a smile. He is the picture of a rising star. He has a moment of indecision when he hesitates, turns back toward the sound stage, and then continues to his car: a blue convertible parked next to the studio. He jumps into it instead of opening the door. He's so cool. 03:04

3. 0:34 – More titles and more establishing shots of Jake. He buys lunch at Tail o' the Pup, the hot-dog stand in Hollywood that's shaped like a giant hot-dog. Once again he leaps into his convertible. The scene ends with a beauty shot: a tribute to the beach movies of the sixties. POV from the hood of the car on Jake with the road slipping away behind him. It's obviously shot on a sound stage. He smiles as the wind blows back his perfect hair. 03:38

4. 0:37 – Last of the titles as Jake pulls into his apartment building and goes inside. The camera cranes up from the street and we end on a shot through the window of Jake laying out the lunch he just bought. Behind him a neon decoration proclaims Jake "heart" Carol. 04:15

5. 1:14 – This is really where the story starts. We've met Jake. There's a hint that he's not a real aggressive guy and that he's trying to be cooler than he really feels. This is where he takes a big shot to his fragile ego. He hears a woman laughing and sighing, as if in sexual ecstasy. He looks through the apartment, which gives us a glimpse of his life and the woman he lives with. The camera both follows him and takes his POV during his search, so we see the apartment and his reaction to what he hears. He's intrigued and concerned. His smile is fraught with anxiety. When he finally finds Carol (remember he came home early because the set caught fire), she is on top of another man, and she is loving it. 05:29

6. 1:29 – This is the only scene I don't like. Jake goes to a bar and has a drink. The bartender says, "I thought you quit drinking." Jake says, "Are you a bartender or a priest?" It's a textbook case of expository dialogue. But it does reveal something we've only suspected about Jake: he's kind of a wimp. The bartender, Doug, snaps at him and he immediately apologizes. Then Doug offers him a place to stay. 06:58

7. 0:52 – On the too-short love-seat, Jake tries to get comfortable and gives up. He gets up and goes to the window to watch morning come to the city in a cold, blue light. The apartment has a view of the Capitol Records building. 07:50

8. 0:38 – In this movie, Brian DePalma hits every landmark in Los Angeles. This scene takes place at the Farmer's Market. Jake looks at casting calls in an industry publication while the camera revolves around him so we can see the background. 08:28

9. 0:32 – Outside the casting call, Jake runs into a buddy. He asks about sub-lets. Sam Bouchard greets the buddy, who introduces him to Jake. 09:00

10. 0:30 – Jake goes inside and gives his references. He mentions the vampire film he's working on and the director says, "You are working now. That's good." 09:30

11. 0:39 – At another casting call, Sam Bouchard greets Jake as he waits in line. When he goes inside, he finds he has to audition in front of about 25 people. 10:09

12. 4:09 – Jake goes to his acting class. Sam is there again. The drama coach gets Jake to relive a traumatic moment. His older brothers allowed him to play Sardine and he got stuck behind the freezer, but was afraid to call for help because he knew his brothers would make fun of him. This is the first hint of his claustrophobia. Sam watches the drama coach carefully, then drags Jake out. He accuses the coach of playing mind-fuck games and humiliating Jake. "This is called an exit," he says. 14:18

13. 3:09 – Another bar scene: this one with excellent dialogue. Sam gets Jake to open up about Carol. Jake says, "Her face was glowing." The subtext is that it never glowed for him. Sam does the male-bonding thing. "I never got a glimmer, let alone a fucking glow." Sam invites Jake to stay at the house where he's been house-sitting while he goes to Seattle for a play. 17:27

14. 6:21 – Sam shows Jake the house and the neighbor. 23:48

a. 2:23 – It's a house-in-the-round on stilts: total Hollywood ostentatious. It's even got a circular, revolving bed. Sam pours Jake a drink. Jake is very ill-at-ease, but he tries to be cool. He's completely out of his element. Then Sam brings Jake to a telescope and shows him the best thing about the house: the neighbor across the way.

b. 3:12 – This is the seminal moment of the movie. Jake sees a woman wearing panties and a chiffon night-blouse. This is where we see that a lot of the story is a tribute to Rear Window, but the content is pure DePalma. She gets a diamond anklet out of a wall-safe and moves the mirrored door in front of it. Then she stands in front of the window and circles her breasts, teasing her nipples. She sways to some music only she (and we) can hear. It's like a lullaby, but one for adults. It's like a rainy Sunday morning in bed with your sweetie, or like a bearskin rug in front of a fire. It's like a lot of things, but it's always like the promise of sex. She runs her hands through the dark mane of her hair and rolls onto the bed. She hugs it like a lover and rolls onto her back. She strokes the inside of her thighs, her breasts, and finally gets down to business. Meanwhile Jake watches. Every so often he brings his head up like a drowning man. He can't believe what he's seeing. He can't believe what he's doing.

c. 0:46 – Sam interrupts the show to grunt like a caveman. Jake tries to mirror his tone, but he's been mesmerized by this woman. Sam says good-bye and Jake rushes around making sure Sam can trust him to take care of this amazing house. 23:48

15. 2:28 – Later that night, Jake watches a music show on T.V. The featured band is The Cars. He looks toward the telescope and the lullaby music starts again, fading up as the jarring tempo of New Wave fades out. He drifts to the telescope, but the scene he sees this time is violent and sordid. The woman sleeps in bed. A man comes in and goes to the safe. She wakes up and says something. She looks angry. He shakes her, pushes her down on the bed, and walks away. She jumps up and argues. He slaps her. Jake is shocked. He feels sorry that this vibrant woman would be treated so badly. As he watches, the man comes out, gets into a car, and drives off. 26:16

16. 0:38 – The next morning Jake calls his agent, Frank, who tells him that Rubin (the director of the vampire flick) has fired him. Jake asks if he should talk to Rubin, but Frank says another guy has already been hired. "How do you know?" Jake asks. "Because he's another client of mine," Frank says. 26:54

17. 1:01 – Jake goes to see Rubin anyway, who of course yells at him and has him thrown off the set. In the background, another actor in Jake's make-up films a scene in a shower with a naked actress. 27:55

18. 1:57 – Depressed, Jake watches his neighbor again. The same adult lullaby music with its promise of something more than mere sex punctuates the scene. But the solace of her private moment is interrupted by a strobe-like light. Jake swivels the telescope to see that an Indian is also watching. He's been working on a roof with a welder. The Indian has long hair, a ragged face, and metal-rimmed teeth. He looks evil. 29:52

19. 0:20 – Cut to a shot of Jake coming out of Farmer's Market with a bag of groceries. When he reaches his convertible, he opens the door, no longer the hot young stud he was a few days ago. 30:12

20. 1:39 – As he nears the house, Jake stops to wait for some Mexicans to clear branches out of the road. As he's parked there, he sees HER come out of her gated driveway. She wears oversized sunglasses and her long, dark hair is perfect, but she looks sad: introspective. Jake watches her drive around the Mexicans, and then notices a truck down the street. The man standing next to the truck is the Indian. As the Woman passes, the Indian jumps into his truck and takes off. Jake guns his car and darts around the Mexicans. 31:51

21. 0:25 – On a street in Beverly Hills, the Indian pulls ahead of her car and darts left across traffic into a parking lot. She turns left into the same lot. Jake follows. 32:16

22. 1:00 – In the valet parking area of the underground lot, she makes a call on a pay phone. Jake grabs another phone and pretends to use it so he can eavesdrop. She asks her friend to meet her at the Beach Terrace Hotel and says she'll wear something special. When she hangs up, so does Jake. As he follows her, the camera reveals that the Indian has also been eavesdropping. 33:16

23. 2:08 – A steady-cam follows Jake as he follows her up an escalator into the mall. At the top, it opens into a long shot of the multi-leveled mall. This entire sequence at the mall makes good use of moving camera techniques and the excellent cinematography really increases the dramatic tension. A steady-cam follows them around the level at different angles. Jake follows her. The Indian follows them. She window-shops at a few stores, then goes into one. 35:24

24. 1:34 – The store is Bellini's. Jake lingers in front of the window as if he is window-shopping, but this is a high-end lingerie store. She talks to the sales clerk, who gets a pair of panties on display in the window. She goes into a changing booth and the clerk pulls the curtain across, but Jake can see her reflection in the mirror through the gap. As he watches, she takes her panties off from under her skirt and shimmies into the new ones. Jake is so fascinated that he doesn't notice the clerk calling Security. 36:58

25. 0:38 – The Security Guard walks around the level to Jake. Meanwhile Jake watches her pay for the panties. She places the used ones in a little bag. As the Security Guard approaches Jake, he watches the clerk cross the store. The camera moves with her on his POV... 37:36

26. 1:19 – …which reveals the Indian, who watches through the window on the opposite side of the store: the street side. The camera follows Jake as he races around the store and in the background she comes out with her little bag. He looks around, but the Indian is gone. The camera follows him back into the mall and opens into the long shot that takes in several levels. The glass elevator comes up and the Indian runs down the escalator on the other side. A shot through the glass of the elevator as the doors open reveal that she was waiting for it. She moves forward, toward Jake (his POV) and turns around. As the doors close, she seems to disappear. He watches the Indian, then her, then the Indian. Finally he breaks and runs. 38:55

27. 0:27 – Jake races around the level to catch the elevator and get on with her. 39:22

28. 1:32 – Craig Wasson did a wonderful acting job in this scene as Jake convinces himself to talk to her. His face went through a whole range of emotions. He finally puts a cheerful smile on and turns to her, but at the same instant the doors open and a crowd of people fill the small space, pushing Jake to the back. He is now shoulder to shoulder with her, but can't appreciate it because his claustrophobia kicks in. On the next level, the doors open and the Indian peers in. He sees Jake stuck in the back and grins. He does not get on. The doors close and all the other people joke about how weird he looked. 40:54

29. 0:59 – Down in the car park, She throws away the Bellini's bag with her used panties inside. Jake sidles over and, checking for observers, fishes out the panties and stuffs them in his pocket. As he's considering his theft and looking at the panties curled at the bottom of the bag, the lullaby plays. 41:53

30. 4:06 – Jake follows her to the Beach Terrace Hotel and eavesdrops. 45:59

a. 0:51 – One shot on the street as he follows her to the stairs.

b. 0:58 – One long crane shot from the beach as she descends the stairs and he follows. The Beach Terrace Hotel is set up like steps in the side of the cliff overlooking the beach. At each level, the stairs turn onto a terrace that leads to the rooms. She turns in at level two. Jake lingers, and then continues to the beach. It's a beautiful shot.

c. 1:05 – There are changing tents on the beach: yellow and white, and blue and white striped ones. When she glances down and notices him, Jake ducks among them, then peeks out. The couple on the level above her pack up and leave.

d. 0:34 – Another crane shot from the beach to a medium shot as she gets a phone call.

e. 0:38 – On the vacated level above her, Jake watches and listens to her side of the conversation. Her friend isn't coming. She grabs her purse. 45:59

31. 1:04 – On another set of stairs, the Indian hurries down to the beach as she steps onto the sand. Jack follows. The camera tracks him as he follows her down one side of the tents and the shot is intercut with another tracking shot down the rows to the other side as the Indian creeps after them. Jake tells her, "Someone is following you." She says, "I know." He says, "It's not me." 47:03

32. 0:44 – This starts off with a shot from her side that tilts down to her purse as the Indian runs toward the camera and snatches the purse. Jake chases him down the beach. They come to a cement wall with a colorful painting and a tunnel in the middle. The Indian runs into the tunnel. 47:47

33. 6:25 – Jake gets her purse back and kisses Her. 54:12

a. 2:40 - Just inside the tunnel, Jake is struck with claustrophobia. His distress is punctuated by weird, tilting camera angles and jangly music with lots of horns. He clings to the wall and watches helplessly as the Indian dumps out the purse and takes something. He celebrates with a war whoop and jogs away. Jake creeps over to the purse, eases down the wall and starts to put everything back. The driver's license tells him that she is Gloria Revelle.

b. 2:03 - Gloria shows up and leads him out of the tunnel. He tells her that the Indian took something. She asks if her husband hired him and why he's following her. Unable to explain about having watched her, he kisses her.

c. 1:15 – The camera angle flips 180 degrees and circles them as they kiss, then practically make love standing up. A new tune plays on the soundtrack. It must be the music of sexual conquest. The camera circles them three times, taking in the beach and the dark maw of the tunnel behind them. By the time it's completed its third rotation, most of her blouse is unbuttoned and falling off.

d. 0:27 – Abruptly she pushes him away and the camera stops. "No," she says. "I can't do this. Not here." She runs away down the tunnel, leaving him to take a mental cold shower. 54:12

34. 5:39 – Jake practices calling Gloria, but gives up and spies on her instead. He sees her come home with a security guy, greet the dog, and talk to the security guy about the pad outside the front door. While Jake watches, Sam Bouchard calls for his messages and asks how their favorite neighbor is. Jake sees the upstairs blinds open and the lights come up. Gloria is still downstairs, but somebody is upstairs. Sam says good-bye and hangs up. Jake gasps when the Indian appears from behind a wall carrying a drill with a HUGE bit. It's at least a foot long and nearly an inch thick. The security guy leaves and Gloria comes upstairs. The Indian creeps around behind her and stays at her back. Jake can't dial her number fast enough. Just as she answers, the Indian darts up behind her and all Jake can get out is, "Look out! He's right behind you." 59:51

35. 4:45 – The Indian kills Gloria. 1:04:36

a. 1:35 - The Indian wraps the phone cord around her neck and strangles her. Jake runs out of the house. This scene is full of Hitchcock-like close-ups. We see her terrified eyes, his gleeful eyes, and his metal-rimmed teeth. We see his hands pulling the cord tighter and her feet kicking helplessly a few inches above the floor. We see her hands clutching at the cord. And then we see it all again. Finally she kicks back and trips the Indian up. He falls back onto his drill and knocks himself out.

b. 1:38 – Jake tears at top speed through the neighborhood. He encounters two joggers and tells them a woman is being killed, then runs ahead of them. Gloria unwraps the cord and dials 911, but her throat is torn up and all she can do is cough. The Indian comes to and points his drill to the small of her back. Just as it touches her, he turns it on. She jerks around and leaves a smear of blood on the mirror. He comes at her and we get to see all down the HUGE bit from the front as it spins towards us. He backs her against the wall and we get to look down the bit again, but this time we see behind him that the plug is about to come out of the wall. She is terrified. Then it comes out and the drill stops. Gloria and the Indian stare at each other.

c. 1:32 – Downstairs Jake breaks a window to get in and the dog goes crazy. It is a white dog and the house is white, so the blood shows up stark red against all that white. The dog attacks Jake and gnaws on his neck. Gloria leaps over the bed and knocks herself out. The Indian plugs the drill back in and turns it on. Then we get a great shot of him from behind, with his legs spread, bringing the drill down between his legs. It's so phallic. This is a HUGE drill. Gloria is behind the bed, so we don't see her, but we can tell when the drill hits her because it trembles and the Indian has to clutch it to keep it from spinning out of control. Down-stairs, Jake is on his back fending off the dog. Over the dog he sees the drill come through the ceiling with blood dripping off of it. There is blood coming out of the ceiling. There is blood on Jake. He throws the dog off and runs upstairs. The Indian hides and slips out behind him. Jake sees that he has left the drill in Gloria. 1:04:36

36. 1:15 – This is very clearly the midpoint of the story. Not only does the scene fade completely to black before coming up again on this next one, the tone of the story takes a very dramatic shift from this point. Up to now, it has been romantic and soft. After Gloria's murder it becomes jarring and more directly sexual. It starts off with Detective McLean explaining to Jake that he's a problem because he saw the Indian kill Gloria. This lifts suspicion from the husband, plus Jake is a peeper, which makes him a pervert and a sex offender in McLean's book. 1:05:51

37. 0:38 – There are four separate scenes to the interrogation of Jake. Since they all take place in the Revelle house and in approximately the same location, you could argue that it's really one scene with four separate sections. But DePalma clearly intended these to be separate scenes. They jump forward in time to show that the interrogation is much longer; he's just showing us the high points. In this short one McLean establishes that the Indian took a key card, not a credit card, from Gloria's purse, so he could get into the house. 1:06:29

38. 2:12 – In the climax of the interrogation, McLean sees Gloria's panties peeking out of Jake's pocket and snags them out. He holds them up in front of Jake and calls him a panty-sniffer. Jake yells, "I tried to save her." Unfortunately the pathologists choose that moment to carry the black body-bag through the room. McLean and Jake watch, then McLean says, "Yeah, some save, Scully." 1:08:41

39. 1:39 – McLean asks about the husband. He really wanted to pin this on the husband, but Jake saw the Indian. He says, "If you hadn't been so busy getting off by peeping on her, if you had called the police about your blood brother, the Indian, she'd still be alive. You're the real reason Gloria Revelle is dead." 1:10:20

40. 2:53 – Depressed, Jake stops cleaning up, drinks an entire bottle of Jack Daniels, and watches porn on TV. A clip comes on of a porn star named Holly Body doing a special routine for which she's famous. Her hair is different, but the body is the same, and the routine is the same. She circles her breasts, teasing her nipples. She sways to some music only she can hear. She runs her hands through her hair and rolls onto the bed. She hugs it like a lover and rolls onto her back. She strokes the inside of her thighs, her breasts, and finally gets down to business. And just in case we don't recognize that this is the body we saw before, not Gloria's, the same lullaby music plays. Jake was watching a body double. 1:13:13

41. 0:24 – From the dark bedroom, Jake goes to a bright video store, where he rents the video in question: Holly Does Hollywood. 1:13:37

42. 0:52 – Jake fast forwards through the film (porn in fast forward is just funny) until he gets to the scene where Holly masturbates. The lullaby plays as he watches the whole thing. Unfortunately, we don't get to see the whole thing. It's shot to imply it. The only time we got to see the whole act was the first time. 1:14:29

43. 0:47 – Jake's on the phone and his right arm is moving rapidly back and forth without breaking rhythm. The camera is too close to see exactly what he's doing, but for a moment it looks as if he's masturbating. Then the camera pulls back and we see he's drying his hair. He talks to a receptionist in a porn company and finds out that auditions are today. There is a funny bit with another actor – a real porn actor – who is waiting. This guy gets mad and says, "Hey, I'm not just another stunt dick." 1:15:16

44. 0:54 – Jake auditions with a bored director who reads the woman's lines in a monotone. "Does it get you hot?" "Yeah, it gets me hot too. Come over here and I'll show you how hot it makes me." It's enough to put anybody off sex forever. Then he tells Jake to drop his pants. 1:16:10

45. 1:41 – At the porn movie shoot, DePalma goes back to moving camera shots and using reflections in mirrors to both hide and illuminate the action. Jake's character wears an argyle vest and nerd-glasses. Holly Johnson, the lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, plays the host of a club. He also performs his own song, Relax (Don't Do It). The club is pure 80's: a mirrored disco ball, a couple in matching multi-colored, spiked Mohawks, an Asian chick in a leather mini-skirt walking on men, and guys in chaps with perfect, tight asses. Jake plays the wide-eyed virgin who sneaks into a room labeled "SLUTS." 1:17:51

46. 3:07 – Jake hooks up with Holly. 1:20:58

a. 0:36 – There is a mirror on the wall. Jake pretends to look at himself, but watches the door behind him as the "sluts" walk out of the bathroom. In the mirror, through the swinging door, he can see another mirror on the back wall of the bathroom and both Holly and her reflection as she moves around inside.

b. 0:41 – There is a mirror on the back of the door. Jake sticks his head in and looks around the door as he talks to Holly. We see her reflection. She's wearing black leather and she caresses herself as she talks. Melanie Griffith played Holly Body in this film and her little-girl voice and sassy attitude were perfect for this part. They do the scene Jake read with the bored producer, but Holly doesn't speak in a monotone. When she says, "Come over here and I'll show you how hot it makes me," you're ready to re-commit to sex. He comes inside and, as the door swings shut, the mirror on the back reveals the film crew shooting the scene. Holly backs him up against a pole, gets his glasses and pants off, and kisses him.

c. 1:50 – The camera does a 180 degree flip in perspective and starts to rotate around them, just like on the beach when Jake kissed Gloria. The same music plays while he kisses Holly. He even handles her with the same moves, turning her so her back is to him and he can caress the front of her body. She leans her head back in ecstasy. 1:20:58

47. 0:35 – The Assistant Director's voice washes over them like a bucket of cold water. "Where's the cum-shot? I thought we were doing Body Talk, not Last Tango." Jake and Holly nuzzle each other one last time. 1:21:33

48. 0:57 – Jake bursts into Holly's dressing room. He wears a creepy leather jacket and his hair is slicked back. He invites her out for drinks and tells her he's really a producer (he LOOKS like a porn producer) and he just got into this because he wants her in his film. 1:22:30

49. 2:03 – In the bar, over drinks, Holly tells Jake her requirements. Here is part of her list. "I don't do animal acts…no water sports…no fist-fucking. I don't shave my pussy, and no cumming on my face." And I thought she was going to specify what color M&M's she wanted in her trailer. They talk about specialty acts and she says, "I have a routine that's a sure ten on the Peter-meter." He tells her, "You've got a terrific smile," and she laughs. 1:24:33

50. 1:41 – This might take place as they leave the bar, but it's hard to tell because it's shot so close. It could be a party. They run into an actress friend of Jakes: a main-stream actress. She asks Jake if he knows of any parts she might be right for. He's trying to brush her off, but Holly butts in. She asks the actress if she knows Simon LaFarge. When the actress says she doesn't, Holly asks her if she's from outer space. Everybody knows everybody in this business. She gives the actress a card with information and asks, "Do you mind working with ladies?" Confused, the actress says no. She has no idea what "working with ladies" means. 1:26:14

51. 6:30 – Jake reveals the scam to Holly and she flips out 1:32:44

a. 5:35 – Jake pours a drink to begin softening her up so he can tell her the real reason he wanted to meet her, but she takes part of her clothes off and jumps onto the bed. I could see it was a real struggle for Jake to forestall her attempts to fuck him, but he proved what a hero he is and told her what was going on. Sam calls during their discussion, which gets increasingly heated as Holly realizes that she was duped. When Sam interrupts, Jake asks Holly to listen and see if she can identify the voice of the man who hired her to do her special routine in Gloria Revelle's bedroom. Then Jake shows her the telescope and the house. She is really pissed now, but not at Sam. She's pissed at Jake.

b. 0:55 - In the dark house across the way, a man watches through a pair of huge binoculars. Although only his mouth and chin can be seen, it's clearly Sam Bouchard, not the Indian. So he's not in Seattle. Back with Jake, Holly leaves. Jake calls the police while Holly stomps down the stairs to the street. She mutters to herself, "I should have known when he said I have a nice smile. It was a give-away." 1:32:44

52. 3:42 – Jake tells McLean that he was set up. Sam Bouchard is Alexander Revelle, the husband. He hired the Indian to follow Gloria and got Jake to watch so he would follow her too. He tells McLean about how Alexander picked him: a lovesick fool out on his ass. A series of flashbacks to previous scenes show us the meeting in a different light. Sam was not concerned about Jake in the acting class. He was fascinated. Meanwhile Holly walks down the road and tries to thumb a ride. She yells out loud about "freaky actors" and "masochistic directors" and says, "I should have known when he didn't even know what a cum-shot is." Two cars pass her and she sticks out her thumb, but they are dragging: weaving all over the road and speeding. Holly stops to watch and off-screen we hear the crash. In true Hitchcock style, DePalma reveals more with what he doesn't show than with what he does. Just as in the scene when Gloria died and we didn't see the drill enter her body, just its bloody bit come through the ceiling, neither do we see the car crash that Holly witnesses. We just hear it off-screen. As she's trotting back to see the crash, the Indian pulls up in his jeep and opens the door. "Get in," he growls. Meanwhile, McLean tells Jake to come downtown and make a statement. 1:36:26

53. 1:34 – Jake drives down the road and runs into the roadblock for the accident. A few cars up, he sees the silhouettes of Holly and the Indian. As he watches, the Indian knocks her out with a tire iron. Jake gets out of his car and starts to run to the Indian's jeep, but a cop stops him. Because Jake won't calm down and tries to get to the car, the cop doesn't listen to his pleas of, "A woman is being killed in that car." When he sees the Indian break out of line and drive into the hills, he breaks free of the cop and runs away. He climbs a fence with a sign. In the last shot the camera closes in on the sign, which reads: DANGER RESEVOIR NO TRESPASSING. 1:38:00

54. 3:50 – Jake sees the Indian digging a grave for Holly and tries to save her. 1:41:50

a. 1:38 – Another crane shot. This one starts on the water rushing down a long, cement aqueduct built into a hill and pulls out to show the Indian digging a grave right next to the cement wall, and Holly lying on the ground, out cold. Then it continues up over the scene to a long pipe, about six feet in diameter, and down to show Jake peeking up over the top.

b. 2:12 – Jake sneaks over the pipe and a steady-cam follows him as he creeps up behind the Jeep. He sees the Indian finish the hole and reach out of it to pull Holly inside. Then he hauls himself out. Jake hears a dog growling and looks around. Suddenly, the white dog leaps up and throws itself at the window. This is the same dog that attacked Jake in the Revelle house when Gloria died. Jake ducks down. When he peeks up again, he can't see the Indian, so he creeps over to the grave. The camera moves with his POV over the dark hole until blackness fills the screen. 1:41:50

55. 2:46 – The Indian sets a trap for Jake and mocks him. 1:44:36

a. 1:32 – cut on black and POV from inside the grave as Jake looms over the edge and calls for Holly. Back to Jake's POV, but it's a shot over his shoulder as the Indian jumps out of the grave, grabs him, and pulls him in. He shoves him down next to Holly and Jake's claustrophobia kicks in. The Indian jumps out and tears off his face. It's Sam! And Sam is Alexander Revelle! That's why the dog was there! Jake is numb with terror as Alexander yells, "Look what you did. You ruined my surprise ending."

b. 1:14 – The dark night above Alexander brightens into pure white as the sides of the grave grow taller and narrower. Jake is seriously panicked. Alexander yells, "I gave you your part. You were the witness. Then you had to improvise all this crap about finding the body double and unmasking the Indian." He tells Jake that sometimes heroes come to tragic ends. Then he offers Jake another chance. He crouches down at the edge and says, "Action." Jake squeezes his eyes shut. 1:44:36

56. 2:24 – Jake psychs himself up for his scene. 1:47:00

a. 1:54 - "Action." Only now it's Rubin (the director of the vampire flick) who whispers it. It's the same shot as 1b with the camera looking inside the side of the fake grave. Jake's back in his shiny vampire make-up. The whole scene plays out nearly the same, until Rubin tells Jake to take the rest of the week off. At that point Jake gets angry and refuses. He doesn't want to get fired. Then he gets back inside the grave.

b. 0:33 – Another 180 degree flip. Now we're inside the grave with Jake, looking out. Jake yells, "Let's do it!" Rubin whispers, "You better get it right." Jake knows it's his last chance. 1:47:00

57. 1:58 – "Action." Jake goes nuts. With a wild yell, he launches himself out of the grave and grabs Alexander, knocking him off-balance. Inside the jeep, the dog goes crazy as Jake attacks his master. He breaks the glass and jumps through the window. Jake sees him coming and ducks back inside the grave just as the dog leaps. The dog's leap carries him into Alexander and both of them into the reservoir. They disappear under the rushing water. Holly pops out of the grave and accuses Jake of being a corpse-fucker. She thinks he knocked her out and dragged her here. The scene ends with Holly crouched in the grave and Jake trying to coax her out. 1:48:58

58. 3:44 – This scene bookends the movie. We're back on the set of the B-horror vampire flick. A beautiful blonde lathers herself in the shower as a cheesy fake bat bounces on a string outside the window. Excuse me, flies in through the window. Yeah, that's what I meant to say. The bat disappears and Jake, in his shiny make-up, looms up behind the girl. They engage in some semi-violent sexual play and then he poises his fangs over her neck. "Cut," Rubin yells. "Bring in the body double." Jake has to hold perfectly still while they bring in a bar to gauge the level of his fingers and the body double slips in. She's not so pretty and chews her gum like a cud. But she has great boobs. The original actress watches from the side in a robe. Behind her, Holly says, "When this movie comes out, you'll get lots of dates." The titles start over the rest of the scene as it cuts back and forth between the head of the blonde actress as Jake bites her neck, and the boobs of the body double as thick, fake blood runs over them. The titles are white, shaky letters with blood dripping through them. 1:52:42

There are 58 major scenes that average 1 minute and 57 seconds in length. 22 of them are less than a minute and 12 of them are over 3 minutes. The total length of the movie is almost two hours.

DePalma brought a lot of elements into this story. There were the moving camera shots which were used to great effect, and the many mirrors and the things they reflected. The tagline for Body Double is, "You can't believe everything you see," which tells us the mirrors were not used to show off the cinematographer's skills, but were symbolic of Jake's problem. He created his persona as a reflection of what he thought he should be, and it wasn't until he stopped looking into mirrors and finally looked inside himself that he was able to overcome his claustrophobia and timidity with women, and was able to save not only Holly, but himself as well.

Masks are used as symbols for the same purpose as the mirrors. The first time we see Jake, he is wearing make-up that obscures his features. The Indian turns out to be wearing a mask. And Holly's body is a mask to hide the true nature of Gloria Revelle and make her look like something she is not. Between the masks and mirrors, we don't know what's really going on until DePalma chooses to reveal it to us. We really "can't believe everything (we) see."

DePalma has used yet another method to show us that we "can't believe everything (we) see." The film starts off as a vampire film, which turns out to be a movie-within-a-movie and not the real story at all. Then the desert backdrop makes us think the story will be set out in the desert, but that's fake too. The story is set right in the heart of Los Angeles.

But Los Angeles is the ultimate fake town, built on sets and back lots. Jake is an actor and his job is to create a persona and put on an act. All the characters have something to do with the movie industry and use terms like "improvise" and "exit." DePalma sets us up from the beginning to know that what we are watching is not the real story, but a choreographed play with props and masks. And it is almost exactly halfway through that he drops the curtain and reveals the man behind it. All the trickery and fakery was to set up a murder: a very vicious and gruesome murder.

The cinematographer was Stephen H. Burum, who worked with DePalma on The Untouchables, Mission Impossible, Casualties of War, Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars, and Carlito's Way. Body Double was their first collaboration and it's when you watch movies like this that you see how important the camera is in telling the story. The cinematographer chooses what to show you and when. And when he and the director work so closely that they almost seem to share a mind, that's when you get great shots that help tell the story, reveal the characters, and underline the dialogue.


Mystery Man said...

I have a question for all of your scribes out there...

This comment from #2: "a lovely view of the Southern California desert. So the movie will take place in the desert. But it's another fake-out. The whole screen turns to the side and becomes a back-drop, wheeled away by two technicians. It's not a vampire movie, and it isn't set in the desert. We're still at the studio. This is DePalma's way of letting us know that nothing in this movie will be what it seems."

How would you write that?

Carl S said...

You wrote a novel here. Amazing dedication, Miriam. It's an inspiration to your fellow struggling writers to know that there are other people as obsessed with movie making as we are.

I just saw this movie a couple of weeks ago after not seeing it for many years. I'll have to settle in with a cup of coffee and dig into your break-down this afternoon.

Mim said...


A lovely view of the California desert stretches as far as the eye can see, and then turns to the side as two techs wheel it away. It's a back-drop.

I don't know what the original script called for.

Carl, this movie is a classic. I love how the entire tone and mood radically shift exactly half-way through, just after the murder occurs.

Carl S said...

You're right, Miriam. It's like Vertigo. You go through the whole stalker-like phase of the movie and then after the purse-snatching scene, the whole momentum of the film just snowballs.

What a great break-down.

Anonymous said...

It's beyond me why a movie studio or major agency doesn't snap Miriam up for a story editor role. Oh wait, she's MY company's story editor... nevermind... carry on.