BY CRISTINA ALVAREZ LOPEZ & ADRIAN MARTIN, NOW ON MUBI
MUBI Notebook has published the latest audiovisual essay from Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin, "[De Palma’s] Vision." In the written introduction to the audiovisual essay, the authors explain, "There is a story of how Brian De Palma works with his film editors: he looks at what they have already done in assembling a scene, and then instructs them on how to improve it, to his precise specifications, by tapping out a particular beat: ‘1 … 2 … 3 … cut there!’ His work on cinematic form is rhythmic, musical—and always keyed to emotional, physical patterns of tension and relaxation. So he counts out the beats to draw all the elements of image and sound, gesture and architecture together, in a masterful choreography/orchestration of elements.
"In approaching an audiovisual analysis of De Palma’s films (which we dearly love, and find inexhaustible as objects of study), we too faced the task of not merely enumerating the abundant motifs and structures in his work, but also bringing them together and drawing out their unfolding logic—unfolding both within each film, and across his whole career."
Álvarez López and Martin then describe how various accounts of De Palma's cinema build from lists of recurring themes and motifs in his work. They note that in his essay for the Criterion edition of Sisters, Bruce Kawin "sought a logic to cohere and unify the various motifs in De Palma’s films, as do we. If we take a cluster of these motifs relating to the idea of vision, then we quickly realise that they allow De Palma to create compositional effects and narrative extravagances of every kind. But this director’s obsession for the visual does not cover only the style and narratives of his films; it is also, frequently, the true, deep theme of his cinema. The very act of looking and its consequences; the relationship between the subject who looks and the object of their gaze; the way of processing, decoding and interpreting what we see; the value of absolute truth that we tend to give the information that reaches us through the organ of sight ... All these issues are central to his films."
The essay, then, explores the question of "how, according to what concrete forms, does vision become such a central concern for De Palma?"