James Ellroy's Feast of Death-Movie Review

James Ellroy's Feast of Death Film Review

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James Ellroy's Feast of Death

Dir. Vikram Jayanti
USA/UK 2001
Digi-Beta 90 min.

" I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them. Working backward, seeking only facts, I reconstructed her as a sad little girl and a whore, at best a could-have-been, a tag that might equally apply to me." - James Ellroy, "The Black Dahlia" (1987)

Those familiar the hard-boiled crime novels of 'Demon Dog' James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential)know that his dark, obsessive histories mirror the tragedy that has colored his own life, beginning with the brutal murder of his mother when Ellroy was ten years old.

The mixed love and hatred Ellroy felt for his mother fuelled his interest in crime fiction and found a fantasy counterpart in the most celebrated crime in the annals of Hollywood, the 1947 murder and dismemberment of would-be actress Elizabeth Short, AKA The Black Dahlia.

While portions of the film detail familiar terrain for Ellroy fans, the final third sees the ghost of Elizabeth Short preside over a revealing feast at Raymond Chandler's old hangout, The Pacific Dining Car, with Ellroy, a handful of lifer-homicide detectives from the LAPD and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and a guest appearance by Nick Nolte (who is supposedly spearheading a film adaptation of Ellroy's White Jazz).

In a moment of reflection, one of the feast's guests proposes a new theory on the unsolved Dahlia case that sends a chilling hush over the entire room. Shot on 16mm and digital video for British television, Ellroy allowed director Vikram Jayanti full access on this death trip that weaves in and out of unsolved crimes and provides a haunting meditation on human savagery and grief.

Kier-La Janisse