TOPS SPECIALTY BOX OFFICE IN 3 THEATERS; DE PALMA TO MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: "A MOVIE IS A WORK OF ART"
Brian Brooks, Deadline (June 12, 2016)
De Palma, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s doc about celebrated filmmaker Brian De Palma, edged out the competition in three theaters this weekend. The A24 release grossed $30,856, averaging $10,285, making it one of the best non-fiction debuts of the year. The figure is also the weekend’s second-best per theater average, following Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring 2 at just over $12K. The top doc debut remains Sundance Selects’ Weiner, opening in 5 locations last month, averaging $17,105. Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next is the year’s highest doc grosser at over $3.82 million.
“De Palma got off to a very solid start at the box office this weekend. Critics have responded with some of the best reviews of the year with the film at a whopping 97% on Rotten Tomatoes,” A24 said Sunday when reporting numbers. “De Palma, about one of the most celebrated and enigmatic filmmakers of our time, is being considered ‘one of the greatest films about a filmmaker ever.’” A24 will take De Palma to the top 50 markets and beyond in the coming weeks.
Watch a clip from De Palma at IndieWire
I recently saw “Blow Out” again, on a big screen, at Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, and Nancy Allen was there, and I was struck by the John Lithgow character—not just how sadistic he was, but the really unsettling way that you portray him. He really gets off on terrorizing women. The movie doesn't, though; the movie is appalled by him, I think. You have a lot of men in your movies who are macho, who are very macho, who are very often military, or they’re cops, or they’re a hyper-masculine sort of role model, and you seem really, really disgusted by their conditioning, by their behavior. Is part of your movies kind of a critique of the sorts of masculinity that other movies celebrate?
I don’t know. I don’t know if you can make a sweeping statement about these types of characters. John Lithgow’s character was very much based on G. Gordon Liddy. That was a very specific reference point, and I don’t think I ever had something quite like that again in a movie.
But in “Casualties of War” and some of the characters in “Carlito’s Way” and certainly in “Scarface” you see a kind of a ridiculousness to machismo.
They’re gangster movies; they’re war movies! Movies like that tend to be very masculine.
But you don't glamorize them, even though you sometimes find them funny or horrible. I was just curious about that, because I have read a lot about your work and have seen a lot of critiques of the kinds of stories you tell, and that’s one aspect I’ve always wondered about: your attitude about machismo, which feels like it's related to the way men terrorize women. You seem like somebody who is maybe not a political filmmaker in a way that some filmmakers are, but I wonder, could there be a political aspect to the way that you portray men and women?
It all came from the genre! You know? I don’t think there’s any through line, basically. I’m basically interpreting the material.
...It almost sounds like you’re saying the audience makes its choice, and you’re OK with it?
A movie is a work of art. It either exists and people keep looking at it, or it vanishes. So, I have very little to do with it, and a movie has basically got to find its own way. And many of my movies, people are still looking at 30 or 40 years later, so I guess there’s some value in it, because they’ve existed through the ages.
...Do you think there’s some truth to this idea that part of what a director does is preside over accidents? Or at least manage things that aren’t in their control?
Well you have to be incredibly prepared, because you have to have a plan when you go to shoot. But things happen: the weather, how the actor feels, what somebody ate the night before. You have to be aware and you have to be able to improvise, depending on what is happening in the moment.
There’s nothing like preparation for dealing with situations like that, so that you can shift from one thing to another painlessly.
Can you give me an example from your movies of something not going to plan, that satisfied you? Where you didn’t get to do what you wanted to do, but you still liked the result?
For “The Fury,” there was a very complicated panning shot that Carrie [Snodgrass] didn’t want to do, because she had to hit certain marks for it to work. She just couldn’t get her head around why she had to be at a certain place at a certain time, because it didn’t seem natural to her. So I had to sort of carefully adjust the shot to something that she understood in order to make it work, so that what I wanted to do and what she wanted to do was in harmony. And it all worked out fine. And she didn’t quite understand it until she saw the rushes.
The great disadvantage of directors of my generation, as opposed to directors working in the studio system, is that you don’t get to direct as many movies as they did. They were under contract, they were directing 52 weeks out of the year. So we think about what we’re doing and maybe get our chance out and do it once a year, if we’re lucky. Sometimes many years pass before you are directing [again]. You can learn a tremendous amount by just practicing your craft. And obviously the great directors of the generations before, either Hitchcock, Ford or Hawks, directed a tremendous number of pictures, nowhere near the number that we’ll ever get a chance to do.
A.O. Scott reviews De Palma for The New York Times
Like any good work of criticism, “De Palma” will be catnip for passionate fans while also serving as a primer and a goad for the skeptical and the curious. Mr. De Palma is remarkable company — witty, insightful and neither unduly modest nor overbearingly vain. It’s almost hard to believe that he could have made so many wild, haunting and provocative movies, but by the end of the documentary, you may want nothing more than to see them all.
Todd VanDerWerff reviews De Palma for Vox
De Palma, a new 107-minute documentary about the man, directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, aims to change that fact by putting him squarely in focus. The director discusses his entire body of work, from the short films he made as a student all the way up through his late-career passion projects, and Baumbach and Paltrow edit the film so that it becomes one long monologue.
The documentary’s commitment to being thorough is admirable. But that urge to be comprehensive is also how De Palma shoots itself in the foot.
De Palma covers everything. Everything.
De Palma has directed nearly 30 films over the course of his decades long career. And since Baumbach and Paltrow want to make sure they find time for all of them — including those De Palma is obviously disconnected from or not that interested in, like his mid-’80s comedy Wise Guys — they end up truncating some interesting discussions in the name of checking every last one of the list.
Occasionally, De Palma will start a tangent about how he sees directors, fundamentally, as voyeurs, or how he thinks movie critics are driven more by the tastes of their time and aren’t great arbiters of actual quality, only for Baumbach and Paltrow to force the movie back into dissecting every single one of his films.
Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere
I caught Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow‘s De Palma (A24, 6.10) last night on Rodeo Drive, and pretty much loved every second of it. So much so that I intend to see it a second time at the Aero on Sunday night. It put me into film-maven heaven. It’s basically MCU footage of Brian De Palma sitting and talking about every film he’s ever made (process, personalities, politics, technique) and regaling the viewer with whatever anecdotes come to mind. No personal revelations or intimate details are offered — the film is strictly about nuts and bolts and personalities.
My only gripe is that De Palma moves too briskly and is over way too soon. (I would have preferred a running time of 120 or even 160 minutes rather than 107.) I’ve shared plenty of complaints about De Palma’s films over the years, especially the ones made after Snake Eyes, but they were all magically set aside as I watched the doc. I just sat there and kind of melted. The film is so much fun if you know the terrain.
Jeffrey Wells goes back for seconds
As promised, I saw Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow‘s De Palma (A24, 6.10) for the second time at the Aero on Sunday night. It’s easily the most enjoyable portrait of a director doc I’ve seen in years, and of course your average T-shirted, backwards-baseball-cap-wearing megaplex stooge will avoid it like the plague. As clever as De Palma often was and as memorable as many of his careful choreography sequences are/were, I don’t think he ever topped this death-of-Frank-Lopez scene. One of the reasons it’s my all-time favorite is because it’s not show-offy. It’s plain but with a strong “uh-oh” undertow. You can really feel the hot breath of death on the back of your neck. And the “what about Ernie?” thing is a perfect mood-lightener.