HIGHLIGHTS TITLES CURRENTLY STREAMING - SISTERS, CARRIE, SCARFACE, PASSION
Adam Nayman at The Ringer yesterday posted "What’s Streaming: The Wild World of Brian De Palma," highlighting four De Palma features that are currently streaming at various websites: the "weirdly profound" Sisters (on Filmstruck), Carrie (on Amazon Prime), Scarface (on Netflix), and Passion (Amazon Prime).
Writing about Carrie, Nayman writes that "while it’s reasonably faithful to the source novel, it’s also 100 percent a De Palma film, piling enough perverse eroticism, winking Alfred Hitchcock allusions, tricky compositions, and athletic camera moves to be remembered first and foremost as an auteur work."
Regarding Scarface, Nayman contrasts it with and favors it over The Untouchables, which is the movie ranked by the EMPIRE podcast the other day as De Palma's best:
In the 1980s, De Palma switched genres from stylized, Westernized giallos to muscular riffs on gangster pictures. The unofficial trilogy of Scarface, Wise Guys, and The Untouchables reached back to the classic crime films of the 1930s. Scarface was literally a remake of Howard Hawks’s veiled 1932 Al Capone biopic of the same name; working with screenwriter Oliver Stone, De Palma updated Hawks’s template for the vicious, me-first mentality of the Reagan era, reimagining the main character as a Cuban immigrant who begins the film by denouncing his country’s embrace of communism before turning into a ruthless, bloated, coked-out avatar of capitalistic excess. As usual with De Palma, it’s hard to tell how seriously we’re supposed to take this extravagantly violent film, its moralistic crime-pays-until-it-doesn’t messaging, or Al Pacino’s borderline-minstrel-show acting and accent. I’ve always felt that while the Stone(d) script meant every profane, Quaalude-driven word about the hypocritical futility of Captain Ron’s War on Drugs (as well as the revelation that the true holy trinity underneath the American Dream was not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but money, power, and women), De Palma was flat-out spoofing his antihero’s materialistic mentality—not to mention the idea of studio blockbusters, to the point that he actually got his old friend/industry overlord Steven Spielberg to direct part of the film’s cranked-up action climax. Reviled upon its release, Scarface has become one of the true cult-movie monoliths of its era, casting a long shadow over hip-hop culture and also its director’s subsequent work; a few years later, The Untouchables made more money and won Sean Connery an Oscar, but it can’t compare to its predecessor’s ugly, incandescent spectacle.
Nayman closes with a nice bit about Passion:
To the untrained eye, De Palma’s most recent effort—a remake of the disposable French trifle Love Crime starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as coworkers turned rivals—is a strained, ridiculous mess. And that’s what it looks like to the trained eye, too: At times, it’s as if Passion is a parody of a modestly sleazy direct-to-video thriller rather than a late work by a great stylist. But no less than Sisters (which is referenced in a mid-film revelation about identical twins), the film’s ripe cheesiness has a whiff of satire to it. From the appearance of the credit “written and directed by Brian De Palma” overlaid on the sleek outer casing of an Apple MacBook Pro to a shot of a car driving into and destroying a parking-lot Coca-Cola machine, there’s a through line of anticorporate humor that juxtaposes the ideas of “art” and “product”—never more so than in an amazing, extended split-screen scene in which footage of a ballet performance competes for our attention with a knowingly clichéd, Halloween-style slasher-on-the-loose set piece. In the end, Passion might not be much more than a glib, embittered bit of gamesmanship by somebody who’s pretty much been on the sidelines since the mid-’90s, but there’s something sort of sweet about seeing its maker continuing to play by his own rules.
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