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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
MORE RANKINGS OF DE PALMA FILMS
FILM.COM RANKS 'BLACK DAHLIA' IN TOP 5; 'SNAKE EYES' GETS MORE LOVE
It seems as though everybody is posting lists of their favorite Brian De Palma films these days. Film.com yesterday posted Jake Cole's ranking of every De Palma film from worst to best (the site has been doing such rankings regularly for various directors). De Palma's newest film, Passion, just misses the top ten for Cole, ranking at number 11. At the very bottom of the list is the "soulless" gangster comedy Wise Guys. Other De Palma comedies, such as Home Movies and The Bonfire Of The Vanities, also rank near the bottom for Cole, although Hi, Mom! takes the number three spot. (Cole seems to have missed the irony in De Palma's adaptation of Bonfire, arguing that the film "turns a satire of corrupted social values into a celebration of them." He also seems to have missed the irony in the final line of The Untouchables, which he seems to think is spoken near the beginning of the film. This latter slip-up makes his entire weird dismissal of that film seem wrong all over the place. The train station sequence is hardly a "beat-for-beat duplication" of the "Odessa Steps" sequence from Battleship Potemkin, De Palma's direction is excellent, and David Mamet's script is top drawer material.)

Cole's number one choice is Carlito's Way ("De Palma’s swooning movements and intense close-ups have never been more gracefully used to draw out the human from the generic and stereotypical," Cole states, "and no other De Palma film offers so great a fusion of form and content.")

One of the more surprising choices is Cole's ranking of The Black Dahlia at number five. "Unfairly maligned upon its release," Cole explains, “The Black Dahlia represents the best fusion of the director’s classical eye and postmodern deconstruction since Carlito’s Way. Body Double shows ‘80s cinema inexorably linked to pornography, but this postwar vision of Hollywood finds sets from silent masterpieces reused to film porn, cast with a never-ending supply of exploited small-town dreamers. L.A. Confidential remains the standard for James Ellroy adaptations for its tediously safe aesthetic and narrative structures, but it is The Black Dahlia that truly sinks into Ellroy’s noxious world, the swirling torrents of chauvinist supremacy, xenophobia and capitalist opportunism that powers the film industry as much as the city around it."

Two other films from the 2000s made Cole's top ten: Femme Fatale (#7) and Mission To Mars (#8).

Cole's dismissal of The Untouchables (#21) seems wrong all over the place.

Meanwhile, Alex Withrow at And So It Begins... posted his top 5 De Palma films, placing Snake Eyes at number 5. "I am fully aware that this is not a sentiment shared by many people," writes Withrow, "but I fucking love Snake Eyes. I love how Nicolas Cage just barely keeps it together (which is to say, barely keeping zany Cage at bay), I love the insanely long tracking shots (which is to say, I appreciate De Palma doing his best to hide them via digital technology), I love Gary Sinise stepping as far away from Lt. Dan as he can, the double-back narrative, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s perfect music – everything. 'You got snake eyes. The house wins.'" Blow Out tops Withrow's list, with Body Double in second place.

And finally, The Artifice's Vic Millar serves up "A Beginner’s Guide to Brian De Palma." Millar explains, "With an impressively daunting body of work consisting of almost 30 films dating as far back as the 1960′s, Brian De Palma is a director than can be a bit difficult to dive into. De Palma’s new film Passion hits theaters on August 30th and is already available on VOD platforms, and it really is a return to form for the director who has stumbled with his last few outings. In Passion, De Palma not only has a chance to deploy many of his favorite visual signatures, but it also provides him with the opportunity to return to some of the subject matter he frequently enjoys exploring. Because of this, it’s worth looking back at De Palma’s most important films to identify how he’s used these themes and tricks throughout his lengthy career. If you’re a novice when it comes to Brian De Palma’s work, these six films are the perfect place to start."

Millar suggests: 1) Blow Out, 2) Carlito's Way, 3) Body Double, 4) Carrie, 5) Mission: Impossible, and 6) Phantom Of The Paradise. "A joyously weird musical-horror hybrid," says Millar of the latter, "Phantom of the Paradise finds De Palma at his most wacky and experimental. With a mash-up plot drawing from The Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and Dorian Grey, this movie follows a scarred and deformed masked man who haunts the Paradise Theater to get revenge on the musician who stole his work. As if the popping music and tragic characters weren’t enough, De Palma loads the film with startling amounts of violence and cultural satire. This movie shows off how gleefully excessive De Palma can be. Look at one key scene halfway through the movie: De Palma uses one of his favorite techniques, splitting the screen down the middle to show us two images at once. On one side, we follow a car with a ticking bomb in it being pushed onto the stage during a performance. On the other side, we see a band called the Juicy Fruits rocking out to the applause of the crowd. Partly a Touch of EvilThe Beach Boys, this scene sums up everything there is to love about Brian De Palma. Who else could give us film references, mounting tension and violence, and ironic musical numbers not only in the same scene – but in the same frame?"


Posted by Geoff at 1:14 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:15 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (6) | Permalink | Share This Post

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 9:33 AM CDT

Name: "Trevor V"

It's great to see The Black Dahlia, Snake Eyes, Mission To Mars and Femme Fatale gain some recognition in these lists. De Palma's latter files are all worthy of re-evaluation, and all have hidden depths beneath his high style which merit more than one viewing. It seems only now with all the Passion reviews that Femme Fatale is rightly being seen by many critics as being one of the best films in De Palma's ouvre.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 6:47 PM CDT

Name: "Matt"

I loved The Black Dahlia, glad to see someone had the good sense to give this very underrated film the credit it deserves. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 3:31 AM CDT

Name: "Paul"

Completely agree with Wise Guys' bottom-ranked place on the Cole list. 

At the other end of the list, it is good to see The Black Dahlia getting some overdue re-evaluation, and Mission to Mars also placing highly.  Their awful reputations are undeserved and somewhat hysterical.  I am getting a bit tired of the "Black Dahlia good, L.A. Confidential bad" approach that shows up in the scant few postive critics' reviews of The Black Dahlia, though.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 7:23 AM CDT

Name: "Geoff"
Home Page: http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma

I agree-- LA CONFIDENTIAL is a great film, as is THE BLACK DAHLIA.

Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 6:00 AM CDT

Name: "Trevor V"

Definitely agree with that Geoff - both films are great movies in their own right, but are also very different. I don't understand why they're always compared against each other - Ellroy's books were not compared in this way ;o)

Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 2:48 PM CDT

Name: "rado"
Home Page: http://rado.bg

Very insightful notes by Cole, as well as the corrections by Geoff. The glamorous L. A. Confidential did nothing for me and while The Black Dahlia wasn't perfect, it had a defiant voice that wouldn't put up with the rampart corruption and hypocrisy.

 

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