For Reel

Sisters (1973)
June 29, 2016, 4:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Brian De Palma
4 Stars
SistersIn the opening moments of Sisters, a blind woman enters a locker room and is about to strip down while a man watches. Cut to the same scene, now played in the context of a game show—contestants are asked to guess what the man will do, and inevitably they guess wrong because he does the gentlemanly thing and walks away. Everything about the opening sequence is ludicrous, but its brilliance is that it conditions the viewer of the film how they should be watching. In these earliest moments, director Brian De Palma incorporates much of what follows—the trope of voyeurism, the eroticism of the image, and the standoff between victim and the potential culprit. Then, when the scene is revealed to be a game show, De Palma takes an equal interest in showing that his film will not only be a perceptual exercise (it’s ironic that a film about questioning what you see involves a stubborn, Nancy Drew-like figure who can’t shake what she’s seen), but that it is constructed to be a experience that is both pleasurable and shameful, fixating on the audience’s fascination with the grotesque. Sisters is among De Palma’s purest and most deliberate Hitchcock homages, but while he does ape on certain images and scenarios from Hitchcock’s films, the most constructive homage is in transferring the sense of oppression. In the eyes of both Hitchcock and De Palma, oppression is synonymous with modernity, and both filmmakers become similarly obsessed with characters who push the boundaries regarding what is expected of a citizen—not just the murderers and crooks, but the protagonists who alienate themselves from others and use shady tactics as a means of uncovering the truth.

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