Sunday, November 06, 2016
Directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, De Palma is a documentary film about life and career of one of American cinema’s more revered and controversial filmmakers in Brian de Palma. The film explores the many films de Palma is revered for as well as the infamy he’s gained throughout his career as the man himself tells about the films and his views on what it means to be a filmmaker. The result is an engrossing and mesmerizing film about one of American cinema‘s great filmmakers.
One of the figures of the New Hollywood movement in the 1970s who would have a series of successful films from that decade as well as the 80s and 90s. Brian de Palma is a filmmaker that made interesting films that often reveled into the world of suspense as well as be noted for his unique approach to visuals. While he is revered as someone who was a master of suspense, erotic thrillers, and films that were quite controversial, he was also vilified for his approach to violence and sex in his work. In 2010, de Palma tells his own story from his childhood to the many films he made where he would also provide little anecdotes about his own life and what he put into his own films. The filmmaker also talks about the immense influence Alfred Hitchcock had as he often refers to his films as guidelines of what to do and put his own spin into these films.
While much of the footage that directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, with the latter being its cinematographer, shoot is essentially de Palma talking about his own films from his early shorts and the independently-funded films he made such as Murder a la Mod and The Wedding Party as the latter was made in 1963 as it was the first film Robert de Niro was in to the films he was making in the 1970s. While there are several of his films he is fond of, he also talks about the ones he didn’t enjoy making like Get to Know Your Rabbit, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Mission to Mars as he explained for many different reasons why they didn’t work. Though the interview often has de Palma presented in a medium shot with a rare shot of him walking in the street of New York City. Much of the film is told through rare photos of himself when he was young as well as footage from his own films and the works of other films courtesy of editors Lauren Minnerath and Matt Mayer.
The way de Palma references Hitchcock into his own work is really more of an evolution of the Hitchcock style rather than just a homage while de Palma also talks about his approach to long-takes, compositions, as well as creating the element of suspense. There is also a moment where de Palma talks about something that isn’t around much these days in the film industry as it relates to filmmakers supporting each other as he often helps friends such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Paul Schrader and they would do the same for him as the film features a rare clip of Spielberg in the 1970s leaving a message to de Palma via telephone in his car with his then-wife Amy Irving and de Palma’s then-girlfriend Nancy Allen in the background.
With the aid of sound mixer Paul Hsu with Baumbach doing the sound recording, some of the things de Palma says including additional audio he does in 2013 following the release of 2012’s Passion has him talking about the need to continue making films as he knows when it is time to stop. Much of the music in the film is essentially music from not just de Palma’s own films but also some of Hitchcock’s own films as the only original piece created as it’s really a homage to some of the music that some of de Palma’s collaborators had created.
De Palma is a phenomenal film from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. Not only is a great tribute to Brian de Palma as the man himself gets to speak about his entire body of work but it’s also a film that shows one of the great American filmmakers ever. It’s a film that fans of de Palma wouldn’t just enjoy but also allow those who aren’t entirely familiar with the man’s work see why he’s such a big deal to film buffs, film critics, and filmmakers. In the end, De Palma is a sensational film from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow.
Brian De Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) - (Greetings) - (The Wedding Party) - (Dionysus in ‘69) - (Hi, Mom!) - (Get to Know Your Rabbit) - Sisters - (Phantom of the Paradise) - Obsession - Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) - Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface - Body Double - (Wise Guys) - The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Raising Cain - Carlito's Way - Mission: Impossible - Snake Eyes - Mission to Mars - (Femme Fatale) - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) - (Passion (2012 film)) - (Domino (2018 film))
Noah Baumbach Films: Kicking and Screaming - Highball - Mr. Jealousy - The Squid & the Whale - Margot at the Wedding - Greenberg - Frances Ha - While We're Young - Mistress America - The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected) - Marriage Story - (White Noise (2022 film)) - The Auteurs #41: Noah Baumbach
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