Briefly On Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain.

Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain is in the limelight at the moment, thanks to a pair of releases that aim to raise the profile of the film from De Palma oddity to integral part of his oeuvre.

The movie itself is in many ways a male retread of Sisters, the director’s early picture which saw a young woman caught up in the investigation of several crimes, purportedly carried out by her evil sibling. While Sisters is largely a success, and important within the De Palma filmography as a proto for all that followed, Raising Cain is a more convoluted, schlockier affair, and feels as much like a pastiche of the director as it does prime De Palma. The central hook is a disturbing one, which sees the police hunting for missing babies and toddlers, a niche subgenre of the thriller if ever there was one (Fritz Lang’s M also comes to mind), while the usual De Palmaian elements are present and correct; Hitchcock homage, erotica, the charting of the psyche et al, while some may say that it’s low concept production values hint at things to, re-the director’s post-millenial place as one of the displaced auteurs of the New Hollywood resigned to producing DTV fare (see also, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Schrader), but the resulting film leaves a fair bit to be desired.

These new editions of Raising Cain (one from Shout! Factory, the other from Arrow Video) feature Brian De Palma’s crippled studio cut of the film alongside a new version, edited by filmmaker and De Palma fan Peet Gelderblom, based on the director’s notes from the time of the production. De Palma has approved this new cut, but it’s not technically a director’s cut in the traditional sense of the term. The consensus seems to be that the new cut of the film is the better of the two, though I would have to disagree. De Palma’s version flows better, and plays more cinematically, while Gelderblom’s cut feels much looser and is less satisfying as a piece of dramatic entertainment. Both are definitely worth seeking out though, for while it may remain a lesser part of the De Palma canon, it makes for a fascinating insight in to where, creatively, one of the great American filmmaker’s was in the early 1990s.

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