De Palma’s career is marked by distinct streaks of good and bad luck, but he
could never complain about his score composers. He worked with John Williams,
Ennio Morricone, Pino Dinaggio, Mark Isham (on The Black Dahlia), and most notably Bernard Hermann. Probably no
other director so self-consciously tried to process and build on Hitchcock’s
visual kitbag for building suspense, so it is fitting two of Hermann’s final
scores were for De Palma’s psychological thrillers. The brand name director
surveys his filmography, film by film, in Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow’s De Palma, which screens during the 53rd New York Film Festival.
Palma sits in a comfortable chair and basically tells us how it all went down.
It is a straight forward approach to documentary filmmaking, but his stories have
a lot of zing to them, so it largely works. Reportedly, De Palma has been
regaling his young colleagues for years, but now they have finally convinced
him to do it on camera.
an extent, your enjoyment of De Palma the
film will depend on how much you appreciate his movies. Still, there are
lessons learned here that would apply to any aspiring filmmaker. De Palma does
not reminisce about each film’s production dramas. He dishes on their messy
development processes too. He seems to remember exactly how much each and every
film was budgeted for, which is a lesson in itself.
is also a good deal of time devoted to his student work and early independent
films, most of which will be entirely new material for a lot of his casual fans,
who may not know De Palma gave Robert De Niro his first featured role in his
very independent Greetings. Frankly,
you can largely judge what De Palma thinks of a film by the amount of time allotted
to it. For instance, he probably talks at greater length about Bruce
Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” video than Passion, his unnecessary remake of Alain Courneau’s Love Crime. He is even reasonably
forthright revisiting the notorious disaster that was Bonfire of the Vanities.
in a glaringly conspicuous (yet convenient) omission, there is no
acknowledgement of the controversy surrounding his graphic anti-American
anti-war film Redacted. Although it
is now generally accepted Arid Uka was motivated by the 2007 film’s violent
rape scene, taken out of context and represented on youtube as actual video
footage, when he shot and killed U.S. Airmen Nicholas Alden and Zachary
Cuddeback in the Frankfurt Airport. Let’s not mince words. Ducking a
controversy of that magnitude is just gutless.
Of course, acknowledging De Palma’s polemics
evidently played a significance role in such a senseless tragedy would also be
a real downer. Baumbach & Paltrow clearly prefer to keep things light. As a
result, De Palma the movie is
breezily entertaining. It does indeed make you want to revisit some of his
classics (like The Untouchables) or
catch up with intriguing early films. Recommended for fans of De Palma and
1970s and 1980s genre filmmaking, De
Palma screens this Wednesday (9/30) at Alice Tully Hall, as a special
presentation of the 2015 NYFF.
Labels: Brian De Palma, Documentary, NYFF '15