Moving Pictures
Mar 22, 2022, 06:28AM

Michael Douglas' V-Neck in Basic Instinct

It's a game that anyone can play.

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He sees her girlfriend across the dance floor, he’s following her to the men’s room. He knows she’ll lead him right to her. He’s getting closer, almost in reach. He’s becoming more like her, too. The object of obsession is fusing with the obsessed. She doesn’t just kill people, she changes them. His sense of self has vanished and he has no understanding of who he is anymore without being tethered to her. But he doesn’t have her yet. He watches Catherine do blow in the stall, she looks back up at him. Michael Douglas, as Detective Nick Curran, might as well be naked, but he’s wearing a V-neck sweater.

In a film made up almost entirely of provocation and mystery, the one image from Basic Instinct that keeps me awake at night is that V-neck. It’s a baffling choice of attire for someone trying to seduce Sharon Stone. But he’s a broken man, and we never really get a sense of who he is outside of his job as a detective for the LAPD. Maybe the V-neck is the only thing he has that isn’t a drab work suit, and maybe 1992 was just different.

People are fluid in Basic Instinct. The film’s about characters who, consciously or not, model themselves after their respective objects of obsession. The brunette becomes the blonde—or maybe it was the other way around. But a film about obsession wouldn’t be complete without the filmmaker sharing in it—like Vertigo’s Scottie echoing Hitchcock’s own obsessive gaze, Detective Nick Curran sometimes dresses a bit like… Paul Verhoeven.


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