Sunday, September 23, 2012

'Raising Cain' After Dark

Jack (Steven Bauer) and Jenny (Lolita Davidovitch) in bed in Raising Cain
I fell in love with Brian De Palma's Raising Cain (1992) in a fractured way earlier this month. It was on television on Encore and 25 minutes had passed, but I wanted to see it then, so I watched it despite missing a half hour of it. The frame I saw in Cain was Jenny talking in the park to her girlfriend and then seeing tall glass of water Jack (Steven Bauer) appear because he needed to get his car keys from Jenny. I later found out how they came about meeting at the park. The two walk through the park launching into a soft porn-on-Cinemax scenario. They make love in a leafy ditch and it all turns out to be a dream...or is it?

Ever since Dressed to Kill, the erotic scenes in De Palma films have reminded me of those softcore movies that used to air on Cinemax after dark when I was 12 and 13 from 1998 to 2000. It was the reason I sometimes watched "Sex and the City" because I knew it featured nudity and sex. The Cinemax series like "Passion Cove" always featured everyday scenarios and the sex scenes were as explicit as in any R-rated movie, but they were also comedic like De Palma's films. The scenery was always beautiful on "Passion Cove" and more importantly the show was dreamy. The images had a fuzz to them just as De Palma's films do, or as Pauline Kael described it, "the gliding, glazed-fruit cinematography is intoxicating." Maybe that's how I feel in a nutshell: I wanted to eat the images in Raising Cain.

One thing those Cinemax shows couldn't do was bring tears to my eyes, but De Palma's films could. Pino Donaggio's operatic score helped to get that reaction from me. The scene, which was a flashback, of doctor Jenny in the hospital room of the comatose wife of the man she never got over, Jack. It's one of De Palma's moment in time sequences where the characters move in slow motion in a moment of happiness that you know is short-lived that will be abruptly interrupted by something terrible. It's funny because Jack's wearing a nice suit and Jenny wears her hair in a fancy bun, dangling earrings and a white coat: they look like they're going to a party or a dinner date, but then I realize the white coat is Jenny's doctor coat. I think this was De Palma's intention to make Jenny look like she was Jack's date, especially since the New Years Eve ball dropped on the hospital room's television. Those slow motion moments in De Palma films are what happiness looks and feels like: it feels like glazed fruit.

Throughout the rest of the film I wondered if what I thought were just dreams were really flashbacks within dreams, since most dreams contain elements of reality. The fact that the beautiful Jenny was married to the homely Carter (John Lithgow), a child psychologist, brought to mind the mildly handsome Jake Scully in Body Double who also was dating a hot blonde out of his league. Body Double turned out to be all a dream, and that's how Cain seems: like Carter is imagining life with his dream wife. Even the California location and arched doorways recall Double. It's a world I wanted to live in, despite the murders because De Palma thrillers aren't never about the murders, but instead about the beauty that surrounds the murders. I wanted to live in the New York City of Dressed to Kill and the sunny Los Angeles of Body Double.

After dvr'ing Raising Cain at a later date, I saw what I had missed in the first 30 minutes. I had finished a movie that was like the many dreams I have every night that reminded me of my early erotic feelings and a simpler time. Thank you Brian De Palma.

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