Published on June 24th, 2016 | by Neil Jordan0
Greetings And Salutations Fellow Movie Fanatics!
Scarface, Murder al a Mod, Carrie, Body Double, Casualties Of War, The Untouchables, Black Dahlia, Carlito’s Way, Raising Cain, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Mission:Impossible, Redacted, The Black Dahlia. These films fall into two categories. They are either amongst the most commercially successful films in motion picture history or they are amongst the greatest psychological thrillers in motion picture history. It can be said that a select few fall into both. However, they ALL have one thing in common that cannot be denied. They were all directed by one of the greatest and perhaps controversial director/screenwriters Brian De Palma. The subject of today’s film for your consideration.
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) and Jake Paltrow (NYPD Blue, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Night, Young Ones) ‘De Palma’ is a documentary film about the career of screenwriter/director Brian De Palma. Noted for for being a part of the ‘New Hollywood’ wave of film making (a period from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s where films reflected the director’s personal vision rather than the studio’s), being one of the first people to collaborate with Robert De Niro, and being called a ‘perverse misogynist’ because of the fates of many of the primary female characters on many of his films, ‘De Palma’ follows the life of the director from his early childhood in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire where he was a quote ‘science nerd’ to his teenage and college years at Columbia University studying physics and computer technology where he first became interested in film making after first seeing Orson Welles’s ‘Citizen Kane’ and Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’.
Shortly thereafter, De Palma would enroll in the Sarah Lawrence College as a graduate student in their theater program where would make various small films for the NAACP and the Treasury Department and discover what would become his greatest influences such as Andy Warhol, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, drama teacher Wilford Leach, Michelangelo Antonioni, and the Maysles Brothers. It was also at Sarah Lawrence where De Palma would first meet Robert De Niro while making one of his first films ‘The Wedding Party’. From there De Palma went on to New York, L.A., and later France where he would write screenplays and direct films for that would go on to become amongst most controversial and we’ll know films of our time.
The film also takes us inside the personal life of the director which sometimes could not be separated from his professional life. The film offers us a glimpse into his relationships and friendships with some of the other great directors of our time including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius, and Paul Schrader. We see a similar dynamic between these greats that could be compared to the way musicians in the grunge bands of Seattle’s late 80s/early 90s interacted. How they would cast actors, write scripts, look at screenplays, and then decide that this script or this actor wasn’t right for them or the current film they might be pursuing but that said screenplay or actor might work for one of the projects another one of the directors or screenwriters was working on. We also see the frustrations and difficulties experienced by De Palma in regard to his reputation regarding women in his films and the studios perhaps having too much influence on a film and their unwillingness to commit fully to a project and what might have happened had certain projects gone ahead or had the appropriate support needed to make De Palma’s vision be fully realized. In response to his reputation has a misogynist, De Palma also talks about how it boils down to this in his movies, “I’m always attacked for having an erotic, sexist approach. I’m making suspense films! What else is going to happen to them?!”
‘De Palma’ is a great film if your a fan of the director and his work. It’s like being back in one’s high school or university years and that one day during the week finally arrives where you get to sit down and listen to the lectures and thoughts of that one really cool professor/writer who tells you to call him by his or her first name and hands out assignments that actually make sense and from which one might actually learn something regarding a subject you actually like and are dedicated too. The film is rated R for graphic nudity, language, some sexual content, and violent images. Like De Palma’s films it’s certainly NOT suitable for anyone under 18. Im giving this one 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely one of the cooler documentaries you could choose from. Grab a soda and some snacks, head to the theater, and listen to the brief history of De Palma’s life and career ….. so far.
This is your friendly neighborhood freelance photographer ‘The CameraMan’ and on behalf of my fellows at ‘Skewed & Reviewed’, thanks for reading and we’ll see you at the movies!