Monday, February 5, 2007

De Palma's Chicago

To borrow a term from Thom Andersen, Brian DePalma (like Alfred Hitchcock) is a ”low tourist”: a filmmaker who, when describing the city where his film is set, chooses obvious landmarks or characteristics already imprinted on the national or cinematic consciousness. The Fury, which is mostly set (as a title card informs us) in “CHICAGO 1978,” shows a city of crowded Tom Palazzolo beaches, industrious elevated trains and a South Loop resembling the cinematic view of New York (and big cities in general): newly free to mention the existence of sleaze, 1970s Americans film reveled in sex shop storefronts, sleazy hustlers and porno theatres. There had always been red light districts, but for a good fifteen years, American filmmakers were giddy to mention this newly accepted facet of urban culture. It’s odd to see the South Loop’s El train support columns, something tourists lean up against when posing for pictures instead propping up movie pimps and drug dealers—it’s hard to believe that something as bland as the columns is our closest architectural connection to that fairly recent (but, thanks to development and urban planning, completely gone) past.

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