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Snake Eyes (1998)
Believe everything except your eyes.
Filmmaker(s): Brian De Palma

All bets are off when shady homicide cop Rick Santoro witnesses a murder during a boxing match. It's up to him and lifelong friend, Naval intelligence agent Kevin Dunne to uncover the conspiracy behind the killing. At every turn, Santoro makes increasingly shocking discoveries that even he can't turn a blind eye to.

Snake Eyes (1998)

The Eye That Lies

This is a wonderful experience. Never mind that the acting is poor and the story weak — that was never the point. This film was made because DePalma knows how to make his camera dance and wanted to make a film based on that notion.

A central question in most art concerns the role of the viewer. This dominated easel painting, then was the centre of evolution of the novel and now sits at the core of thought about film. Is the viewer an omniscient God, or can the viewer be fooled like a person? Is the viewer a passive observer, or does she ‘walk’ with the participants as an invisible character? So many clever questions.

DePalma thinks the camera is a whole new thing, The camera is a type of character, part narrator, part actor, part god. It can lie, be fooled, search curiously, document, play jokes. So this is a film about the camera’s eyes. ‘Snake’ both because the camera can snake around following Cage, going places that Cage cannot, but also ‘snake’ because the camera sees with forked tongue.

So we have one seemingly continuous shot of the key scene, which is played first from Cage’s perspective, then the fighter’s, the Navy guy, the Girl, then the cop again, and finally the ‘flying eye’. Along the way, every eye trick DePalma can think of is woven in:

  • The girl’s glasses are crushed so she sees less than the audience
  • The whole mess is about what a satellite sees
  • The casino has 1000 cameras which our own eyes coopt
  • The thing is framed by the TV eye
  • God-like, we scan over several hotel rooms while Cage and Sinese are stuck in the hallway maze
  • Splitscreen simultaneity
  • The whole thing is in real time, as if you were living in the action

This is masterfully intellectual. See it. Forget the story.

Posted in 2000

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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