Thursday, October 15, 2015

Raising Cain

Written and directed by Brian De Palma, Raising Cain is the story of a child psychiatrist who starts to unravel by his wife’s affair with another man as well as her concerns over the way he is raising their daughter. The film is an exploration into the world of duality where a man’s obsession in how to raise his daughter forces him to confront his own demons. Starring John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich, Steven Bauer, Frances Sternhagen, Gregg Henry, Gabrielle Carteris, Tom Bower, and Mel Harris. Raising Cain is a gripping yet stylish film from Brian De Palma.

The film revolves around a respected child psychologist whose demons relating to his father has come back to haunt him as he’s being asked by his father and twin brother to kidnap children for an experiment as he becomes more undone by his wife’s affair with another man. It’s a film that plays into a man being forced to take part in these killings of young mothers for his father as he deals with not just his twin brother but also other aspects of his personality as he becomes very attached to his own daughter. Brian De Palma’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the world of multiple personalities but also what drives a man to be undone by the fact that his marriage isn’t great as well as his own need to be too attentive towards his own daughter.

Adding to this chaos are the people Dr. Carter Nix (John Lithgow) is surrounded by including his own father and twin brother called Cain. Once Nix suspects his wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich) is having an affair, Cain would take matter into his own hands where it’s second half plays into not just the investigation of these murders and kidnapping. It also plays into Nix’s own background and the experiments that his father did.

De Palma’s direction is engaging for the way he plays into a man coming undone by his family and their traits as De Palma doesn’t just go for stylish compositions but also play with the rhythms of suspense. Notably as De Palma goes for slanted angles and intricate tracking shots to play with some of the investigation and chaotic moments in the film. Among these sequences include one where Jenny is trying to bring a gift for her former lover Jack Dante (Steven Bauer) as it plays into these moments into where it blurs the idea of reality and fantasy. It plays to De Palma not only messing around with the schematics but also spend some of the second half where it’s about the world of duality and identity. Most notably a scene where police detectives talk to a former associate of Nix’s father in Dr. Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen) as it is told in this intricate tracking shot from a steadicam where Waldheim talks about what Nix’s father was doing and why there should be concern for Carter.

The film’s third act doesn’t just become about Carter but also plays into the experiments of his father where a lot is revealed but in a slow burn where it doesn’t rely on exposition but also a lot of guessing. At the same time, De Palma doesn’t go for anything that is conventional in terms of presenting the smaller characters as detectives prove to be quite competent as well as smart though they’re also flawed. Yet, the climax would prove to be inventive where De Palma wouldn’t just use some amazing compositions in the way he puts actors in the foreground and others in the background. It’s also in the way he would foreshadow something as well as create something that is lavish in something that could be very simple. Even in the way De Palma plays with twists and turns while creating moments that serves as a homage to classic horror/suspense films. Overall, De Palma creates a very lurid yet exciting film about a child psychologist falling apart over his marriage and dark family traits.

Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography for may of its intricate lighting schemes for the scenes set at night as well as in its interior settings as it helps sets a mood for the film. Editors Paul Hirsch, Robert Dalva, and Bonnie Koehler do amazing work in the editing as it has some very offbeat rhythms to play with its suspenseful moments while creating some inventive montages that subvert the expectations in the concept of suspense. Production designer Doug Kraner, with set decorator Barbara Munch and art director Mark Billerman, does fantastic work with the look of Dr. Nix‘s home as well as the hotels and other places the characters go to including the police base.

Costume designer Bobbie Read does nice work with the costumes from the stylish clothes of Cain to some of the more casual yet clean clothes of the many other characters in the film. Sound editors John Morris and Jerry Ross do terrific work with the sound in the way some of the little moments in the locations sound as well as some of the mixing to help build up the suspense. The film’s music by Pino Donaggio does brilliant work with the film‘s score with its soaring orchestral score to play into the suspense and drama that is filled with lush strings as it’s a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Pam Dixon is superb as there’s some notable small roles from Gabriele Carteris as a babysitter, Teri Austin as a friend of Jenny’s, Mel Harris as a mother Dr. Nix meets with early in the film, Amanda Pombo as Dr. Nix and Jenny’s daughter Amy, and Barton Heyman as a retired detective who investigated a case involving Nix’s father. Gregg Henry and Tom Bower are excellent as two detectives who investigate the case of the murders and disappearing children where they’re initially dismissive about Dr. Nix and his claims until they realize that something isn’t right. Frances Sternhagen is fantastic as Dr. Weldheim as a former associate of Dr. Nix’s father who always suspected something about the studies that Dr. Nix’s father had done as she believes that these kidnappings have something to do with it.

Steven Bauer is terrific as Jack Dante as a widower of one of Jenny’s patients who is deeply in love with Jenny as he wants to rekindle a love affair only to be targeted by Cain. Lolita Davidovich is amazing as Jenny as a doctor who becomes concerned about her husband’s behavior and attentiveness towards their daughter as she finds solace in Jack which prompts her to confront Jack. Finally, there’s John Lithgow in an incredible performance in a series of roles from the very caring yet cowardice Carter where Lithgow is full of fright to the dark charm that is Cain where Lithgow is always cool and isn’t afraid to mock Carter. Lithgow also plays their father in a Scandinavian accent who orders Carter and Cain to do the job as it’s a performance where Lithgow is enjoying himself as he puts on a show that is fun to watch.

Raising Cain is a marvelous film from Brian De Palma that features a tour-de-force performance from Brian De Palma. Along with a strong supporting cast, dazzling visuals, and a sumptuous score by Pino Donnagio, the film is definitely one of De Palma’s more bawdy and entertaining films. In the end, Raising Cain is a thrilling and exhilarating film from Brian De Palma.

Brian De Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) - (Greetings) - (The Wedding Party) - (Dionysus in ‘69) - (Hi, Mom!) - (Get to Know Your Rabbit) - Sisters - Phantom of the Paradise - Obsession - Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) - Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface - Body Double - (Wise Guys) - The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Carlito’s Way - Mission: Impossible - Snake Eyes - Mission to Mars - Femme Fatale - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) - Passion (2012 film) - (Domino (2018 film))

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