"SEVERAL GENERATIONS...HAVE RECEIVED A THRILLING, FORMATIVE SENSE OF WHAT CINEMA CAN BE"
Adrian Martin has written a "World Wide Angle" piece for Film Krant that takes off from the blind spots that are inevitable in "Greatest Films" lists. "Whenever my eye falls upon yet another 'Greatest Films of All Time' list," Martin begins, "I think about the filmmakers — undoubtedly fine and significant filmmakers — who, on most occasions, do not come within a million miles of being deified by such exercises in canon-making. They get chopped off the list very early in the cull. Brian De Palma, Mario Bava, John Carpenter, Dario Argento, William Friedkin, even Sergio Leone: just a few of the directors (all of us can name many more) who have given us works that we enjoy, teach, analyse, write about and cherish."
After briefly going through some of the regulars that usually show up on such lists, Martin brings it back to De Palma:
What really matters is your encounter, at some key moment of your developmental biography, with the work of a particular director. So there is a De Palma Age (for example) in the autobiographies of many of us — just as there is, for instance, a David Bowie Age or a Sylvia Plath Age or a Philip K. Dick Age.
Several generations of cinephiles and aspiring filmmakers have received a thrilling, formative sense of what cinema can be from the bracing experience of seeing, for the first time, Carrie (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), Carlito's Way (1993) and Femme Fatale (2002). It does not matter whether you were 15 years old in 1976 or 20 years old today, whether it's a Cinémathèque screen or a laptop: that formative thrill is the same.
Discovering a De Palma movie for the first time, soaking up its elaborate formal conceits, is to have one's eyes opened by boundlessly inventive tricks with time, space, narrative and perspective. Cinema is more than De Palma, but anyone can start to discover cinema through De Palma, as many of us have. And that is no bad thing.
It also does not matter if, later in life, we convince ourselves that we may have grown beyond what could be described, in retrospect, as an adolescent passion: it has lodged in there, inside of us, helped to form our sensibilities. And De Palma is one of the great sensibility-shapers of modern cinema.
(Thanks to Yusef!)