Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod


De Palma Discussion


Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


« July 2016 »
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema


Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor


Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod

Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Casualties Of War
Catch And Kill
Cinema Studies
Clarksville 1861
Columbia University
Columbo - Shooting Script
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dick Vorisek
Dionysus In '69
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
George Litto
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Ghost & The Darkness
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Hi, Mom!
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Newton 1861
Noah Baumbach
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parties & Premieres
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Peet Gelderblom
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Responsive Eye
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Rotwang muß weg!
Sean Penn
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Sweet Vengeance
Taxi Driver
The Tale
To Bridge This Gap
Toronto Film Fest
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Corey Craft, Arts Bham

"Earlier this week I saw the documentary De Palma, a feature length interview with the great director Brian De Palma, whose many films [include] Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables. It’s a terrific watch for film fans, but most notably, one is struck by De Palma’s detail-oriented craft and complete control. Every shot, camera movement and actor’s blocking is motivated by a larger artistic purpose, even as his films delve into some outright sleazy subject matter from time to time.

"Now readers are probably wondering what this all has to do with the latest provocation from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. I saw The Neon Demon right after De Palma. They seemed to be appropriate bedfellows: a movie about a filmmaker who walks the fine line between art and trash, and then a movie that hopefully does that itself. Instead, the deficiencies of The Neon Demon were thrown into stark relief. Nicolas Winding Refn, it turns out, is no Brian De Palma."

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

"I’ll be the first to admit that I am drawn to filmmakers who use cinema as a way of pushing buttons, and I am a fan of the outrageous and the extreme. When I saw De Palma, the new documentary about Brian De Palma and his filmography, it sent me scrambling to watch a number of his older films again. They are so familiar at this point, so well-worn, that it surprised me to see how new they still feel when I took a step back. The next day, I went to a screening of the latest film from Nicolas Winding Refn, and the back-to-back timing of the two films made me laugh. More than anything, this feels like Refn working in the genre that De Palma had largely to himself in the late ’70s and early ’80s before getting relegated to mere late-night Cinemax fodder."

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

"Any number of movies have been made about the depravity of Los Angeles and the moral vacuum of the illusion industries at that city’s heart. It’s virtually a genre of self-loathing all to itself, from Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard to Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. Nicolas Winding Refn’s fashionista horror film The Neon Demon, which is something like the bastard offspring of Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg, with a dollop of David Lynch on the down-low, definitely belongs to that tradition. But The Neon Demon is a striking and unusual L.A. story in several respects, not least because most of it occurs indoors."

Stephen Silver, Splice Today

"The Neon Demon is a tale of jealousy and bitterness set in L.A.’s fashion world, and has more than a little bit in common, thematically and stylistically, with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. There are continuing motifs involving blood, large panthers, stylized violence and skinny models with visible ribcages. I could see Brian De Palma watching The Neon Demon and thinking the director should’ve taken it down a notch."

Edward Douglas, New York Daily News

"Over the past few years, Refn has been given a lot of free reign as a cinematic craftsman in the vein of David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick and Brian De Palma. But viewers will quickly realize that the real stars of Refn's film are his cinematographer Natasha Braier and composer Cliff Martinez, whose beautiful shots and ambient score are often the saving graces of The Neon Demon. (Even Martinez's synth noodlings start to get tiring once you realize the movie isn't going anywhere you may have any interest in going.) As with many supermodels, The Neon Demon is gorgeous to the eye but ultimately quite vacant and shallow."

Beth Accomando, KPBS

"I love Refn’s work and seeing The Neon Demon right after seeing the documentary De Palma was perfect. Brian De Palma was a filmmaker dedicated to a particular vision and he crafted his film with great care. Refn has that same obsession with that sense of cinematic craft. Both directors make films that at their core also seem to be about the act of making a film."

Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press

"While the film has components of sex and violence, do not expect some kind of Brian De Palma-esque thriller. Refn is one for long, lingering takes and slow buildups, steeping the audience in the existential horror of it all. But as unsavoury as the material is — be warned there is a necrophilia scene that makes the pervy 1996 Canadian movie Kissed look like a Disney film — one can’t deny the sheer potency of Refn’s painstakingly composed images, even if the cumulative impact of it all leaves one feeling as empty as the glamourous amazons populating the screen."

Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, July 4, 2016
Den Of Geek's Ryan Lambie discusses how Brian De Palma's Blow Out shows why we need movies that challenge us...
It was through thinking about my initial, knee-jerk reaction to Blow Out that I realized how carefully crafted and outright brilliant De Palma’s film is. I’d seen the movie before as a teenager, but I’d failed to understand the true gravity of that ending I’ve been talking about for two or three paragraphs already. Watching it again about 20 years later, I finally felt the weight and heft of Blow Out’s downbeat climax, its political cynicism, and the totality of Jack’s failure in achieving the goals laid out for him as the film’s protagonist.

De Palma didn’t make matters easy for himself by giving Blow Out such a bleak conclusion (he wrote the screenplay as well as directed). When the film came out in 1981, audiences appeared to vote with their wallets, with the warm recommendations from critics falling largely on deaf ears. Yet De Palma remained true to the movie he wanted to make; in the final analysis, Blow Out’s conclusion is as vital to its construction as the desolate resolution of David Fincher’s Seven.

In fact, there’s another potential reading of Blow Out that its director may or may not have consciously placed there for us: the movie is a master class in how to craft the perfect shock ending.

Meanwhile, Justin Chang at The Los Angeles Times includes Blow Out on today's list of "Five American movies to see on Independence Day"--
A tribute to the mechanics of filmmaking, yes, but Brian De Palma’s 1981 thriller also achieves a powerfully cynical evocation of America at the dawn of the Reagan era. Heavily influenced by the Watergate scandal, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and other national tragedies, the movie builds to a Liberty Day celebration where patriotism is subsumed in madness, violence and inexorable tragedy.

Posted by Geoff at 4:39 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, July 2, 2016
R.I.P. MICHAEL CIMINO, 1939-2016
Michael Cimino passed away on Saturday. He was 77.

The following was originally posted here on December 13, 2011:

Thanks to Romain at the Virtuoso of the 7th Art for sending along an interesting paragraph from the October 2011 issue of Cahiers du Cinéma, which featured a cover story on Michael Cimino. For the issue, writer Jean-Baptiste Thoret journeyed with Cimino for three days between Los Angeles and Colorado, to see the landscapes of Cimino's cinema. On the trip, Thoret met Michael Stevenson, who was an assistant director on Cimino's Heaven's Gate. Stevenson told Thoret an interesting story, which Romain has kindly sent along to us:

I worked on Mission: Impossible with Brian De Palma. We came back from Roma, from a James Bond-like set, and we were going to shoot that scene on the train with Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames and Vanessa Redgrave. During a break, Brian sat on a chair and talked about cinema in general with his crew. Suddenly, Cimino's name came up. They knew I'd worked with him, so they invited me to join the conversation. Everybody was wondering why Cimino doesn't make movies anymore. Then, one of them said: "But is he really such a good film director?" De Palma shot daggers at him and told him, straight in the eye, with an icy calm: "The guy who made The Deer Hunter is a great filmmaker." That was the end of the conversation."

(Thanks to Romain!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:26 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, July 1, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 7:55 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, June 30, 2016
At the Film Comment Blog, Margaret Barton-Fumo provides a critical overview of Ryuichi Sakamoto's career in film. Here's an excerpt covering Sakamoto's work with Brian De Palma:
A representative sampling of Sakamoto deep in the groove of his career comes with two films he scored for Brian De Palma, Snake Eyes (98) and Femme Fatale (02), both featured at Metrograph in a retrospective occasioned by the new documentary by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. Poignant and neo-classical, Sakamoto’s scores for these two films stage a fine counterpoint to the director’s unrelenting cynicism.

De Palma’s noted cinephilia is evident in every detail of his work and his soundtracks are no exception. In Snake Eyes, Sakamoto’s leering, paranoid strings conjure some of Bernard Herrmann’s best-known scores for Hitchcock, while other cues sound more contemporary, with doses of reverb that add to the film’s oppressive claustrophobia. With a hurricane of near-Biblical proportions howling outside the labyrinthine casino setting, Sakamoto’s tasteful score affirms the film’s moral framework with ominous, weighted orchestral music underscoring the ham-fisted recurring image of a bloody $100 bill.

The score for Femme Fatale is also classically inclined with dashes of electronica in the secondary cues. Sakamoto’s creative re-working of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” (which at the time was not in the public domain), unsubtly titled “Bolerish,” is a delicately patchworked composition that accompanies the film’s opening jewel heist and closing slo-mo sequence in Paris. Not unlike the film itself, Sakamoto’s piece is an immaculate collage of clever rip-offs and deferential references. “Bolerish” softens the march of the Ravel piece into a graceful saunter that crosses the classical standard with other familiar melodies: Gato Barbieri’s Oscar-winning title theme for Last Tango in Paris makes a passing appearance, while Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédies” echo throughout. Sakamoto and De Palma have both described Femme Fatale as a “visual symphony,” and the prominence of “Bolerish” throughout the extended opening helps stage the heist sequence as the film’s grand overture. The essential pomp and plodding drive of the original “Bolero” remains in Sakamoto’s more serene version, controlling the pace (and supporting the refined atmosphere) of the Cannes-set jewelry heist.

Posted by Geoff at 12:21 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 11:11 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Shout! Factory today announced that it will release a 40th Anniversary two-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray of Brian De Palma's Carrie on October 11th, just one month following Scream's Collector's Edition of De Palma's Raising Cain on September 13th. A Deluxe Limited Edition of Carrie will also be available (details below), and when preordered, it will arrive three weeks early. Here are all the details so far:

This Deluxe Limited Edition contains:

The collector's edition Blu-Ray with slipcover
A limited edition 18" x 24" poster of the newly-designed art from artist Nat Marsh
A second slipcover — made exclusively for this promotion — featuring newly-designed art from artist Joel Robinson
A limited edition 18" x 24" poster of the newly-designed art from artist Joel Robinson
Early shipping to arrive three weeks before the national street date

Bonus Features

NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Negative
NEW Interviews With Writer Lawrence D. Cohen, Editor Paul Hirsch, Actors Piper Laurie, P.J. Soles, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Edie McClurg, Casting Director Harriet B. Helberg And Director Of Photography Mario Tosi
NEW Horror's Hallowed Grounds – Revisiting The Film's Original Locations
Acting Carrie – Interviews With Actors Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer and P.J. Soles And Art Director Jack Fisk And Director Brian De Palma
Visualizing Carrie – Interviews With Brian De Palma, Jack Fisk, Lawrence D. Cohen, Paul Hirsch
A Look At "Carrie: The Musical"
Original Theatrical Trailer
Carrie Franchise Trailer Gallery
TV Spots
Radio Spots
Still Gallery – Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos
Stephen King And The Evolution Of Carrie Text Gallery

Posted by Geoff at 7:46 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Yesterday, Den Of Geek's Ryan Lambie posted an article about why Brian De Palma's The Fury "deserves a revisit"...
Sissy Spacek’s blood-soaked rampage at the end of Carrie is so effective because it takes on the tone of a blackly comic fireworks display. Like the build up to a great, very grim joke, De Palma makes us anticipate Carrie White’s prom humiliation for several stomach-churning minutes: Amy Irving’s fellow pupil at the prom, spotting the rope that leads to the bucket of pig’s blood at the school prom. Nancy Allen licking her lips in expectation as she prepares to send the bucket of blood pouring all over poor Carrie’s head. The girl’s response, of course, is one of pure rage, and De Palma captures every moment of it in slow-motion, split-screen and intense red filters. It’s horrific, for sure, but there’s also a suggestion of slapstick in the electrocutions and fiery deaths. It's the friction between horror and black comedy, I'd suggest, that makes De Palma's work in Carrie and his other great films so effective - just as it did in Hitchcock's thrillers (the 2013 remake, by contrast, makes Carrie’s prom melt-down into a more straightforward horror sequence).

The same fascination with the aesthetic power of comically outré violence is there in abundance in The Fury. A car chase in thick fog ends with a car flying off a jetty on fire. Robin uses his psychic powers to send a fairground ride spinning out of control, with distinctly messy results (for unexplained reasons, the ride is populated almost entirely by what appear to be princes from somewhere in the Middle East).

It’s in these scenes that De Palma’s baroque camera movements, which are largely low-key and understated during the scenes of exposition, suddenly come to the fore. A scene where Gillian demonstrates her supernatural powers on a train set could have been shot with a conventional series of cuts. Instead, De Palma uses a clever split-screen effect, which shows the train whistling by the camera in the lower half of the shot and Gillian’s staring, ice-blue eyes at the top. It’s an instance of De Palma producing a visual set-piece out of almost nowhere.

He pulls a similar feat near the film’s midpoint, where Gillian learns that the Paragon Institute she volunteered to join, and where Robin was also sent for a time, isn’t quite as idyllic as it first appears. While chatting to the seemingly benign Dr Cheever (Charles Durning), Gillian accidentally slips and grabs his hand to steady herself. As in Stephen King’s later The Dead Zone (adapted by David Cronenberg to memorable effect), this physical connection creates a psychic image of the future in Gillian’s mind. She sees Robin running from Dr. Cheever and falling from a window.

Again, De Palma uses a visual effect to put two pieces of action in one image: Amy Irving’s shot in front of a blue screen with the action projected behind her, thus allowing both foreground and background action to appear in focus. It’s only a brief moment, but it’s also a critical moment in the story, and De Palma’s filmmaking cleverly highlights it and underlines it twice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 12:09 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, June 27, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 11:16 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Earlier this year, Owen Gleiberman published a book called Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies, in which he passionately describes being struck by cinephilia as a young man during a screening of Brian De Palma's Carrie in 1976. Yesterday, after seeing the new documentary, De Palma, Gleiberman posted an essay at Variety with the headline, "Why I Can’t Love Brian De Palma (Though I’ve Always Wished I Could)." In the essay, Gleiberman again describes seeing Carrie, and how he nevertheless feels that De Palma's "'50s science nerd" background has led to a cinema that is usually too Brechtian to sweep him up the way Carrie does. Here's an excerpt:
In 1976, the first time I saw “Carrie,” it was the most dramatic film experience of my life. The movie had the kind of impact on me that other people experienced with “The Exorcist” or “Jaws” — it made my head swivel around with fear and excitement, with the sheer cinematic fairy-tale pleasure of what I was seeing, and I lived inside the experience for months. It took over my very being. I, of course, went back and read the Stephen King novel on which “Carrie” was based, and saw that the film followed the book reasonably closely. Yet in no way did that detract, for me, from De Palma’s achievement. The movie as he directed it was a dream, a vision, a hallucination made real, from the poetic horror of that opening slow-motion sequence in the girls’ locker room (which seemed, at first, to be nakedly voyeuristic, though it was really quite the opposite, since the film invited such a powerful identification with Sissy Spacek’s Carrie that it effectively put you in the locker room right along with her) to the scenes between Carrie and her ragingly sensual evangelical mother that were like a fire-and-brimstone version of “The Glass Menagerie,” to the spangly pop rapture of the Cinderella-goes-to-the-prom plot to the drenching bloodbath that submerges the party in hell to the telekinetic nerd’s homicidal revenge that all added up to make “Carrie” the most primal movie ever made about American teenage life. My attitude toward De Palma became, in its way, quite simple: You are God! Now, please, give me more movies like that one!

I didn’t realize that De Palma was not only not God, but that he was, in fact, a kind of genius tinkerer, a director with scruffy counterculture roots who was basically a recovering ’50s science nerd. He envisioned filmmaking as a series of technical challenges to be solved. This was still the mid-’70s, when no one quite realized that the New Hollywood was over. De Palma had been washed ashore amid the same wave of young guns that brought Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, and Spielberg, and all five of them were famously friends with each other, and the other four certainly had a vision (Coppola the dark poet of the America dream-turned-nightmare, Scorsese the vérité rock & roller of street crime, Lucas the inventor/bard of pop-nostalgia culture, and Spielberg the wizard of the everyday fantastic who literally seemed to think with the camera). So it seemed only right to assume that De Palma had a vision, too.

One thing he definitely had — because it ran through so many of his films — was a series of interlocking obsessions: with Hitchcock, with the freedom and sleaze of the counterculture, with the voyeurism of image-making, with the JFK assassination and the whole secretive flavor of conspiracy. (“Carrie,” in its way, was a conspiracy movie.) It certainly felt like all that stuff added up to a vision, and when “The Fury,” De Palma’s first movie after “Carrie,” also featured a plot that spun around the stop-motion drama of the freak ailment/gift of telekinesis, that now seemed to be part of his vision too. Who was Brian De Palma? He was a scruffy voyeuristic Hitchcockian conspiracy buff who drenched love stories in blood and believed in the power of the id to move things! That seemed about as good a definition of a movie director as one needed.

It certainly was for Pauline Kael, the critic whose fervent obsession with De Palma became the lens through which a lot of people viewed him. After “Carrie,” I never really agreed with Kael about De Palma, yet his movies put her into such a responsive trance — and she wrote so entrancingly about them — that I always wished I could see a De Palma movie just the way Kael did: as a more “heightened” version of a Hitchcock thriller. But when I watched a film like “Dressed to Kill,” I experienced it as a Hitchcock pastiche. The luscious tracking-shot fulsomeness of the opening Museum of Modern Art pickup scene was like “Vertigo” on some very powerful downer drugs, and it was (for what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes) ravishing cinema…but it was the high point of the movie! The slasher in limp blonde hair and sunglasses made the film seem like a replay of “Psycho” starring Sandy Duncan, and what De Palma really seemed to be clueless about is that the cathartic shock effect of a killer brandishing a straight razor against a backdrop of staccato violins was no longer the stuff of artful suspense. It was the stuff of interchangeable mediocre slasher films that were feeding, parasitically, off the same “Psycho” aesthetic that he was.

In the opening moments of “De Palma,” De Palma talks about how Hitchcock first seized him, an anecdote that may reveal more about him than he knows. He recalls going to see “Vertigo” when it opened at Radio City Music Hall in 1958. He was 18 years old, and it hit him the same way that “Carrie” hit me: as a movie that blew away everything he had seen before. What spun his head around about “Vertigo,” in which James Stewart tries to turn a shop girl played by Kim Novak into the literal image of the woman he loved and lost (also played by Kim Novak), is that in De Palma’s eyes, it was a metaphor for what filmmakers do. They mold and shape what’s right in front of them until it matches the fantasy in their heads. This comparison, between the plot of “Vertigo” and what Hitchcock himself was up to as a filmmaker, has been noted before, but what’s striking is how front-and-center the Stewart/filmmaker parallel is in De Palma’s own experience of “Vertigo.” He says that this lends the movie a “Brechtian” dimension.

But I don’t think that’s how most people experience “Vertigo” — as a Brechtian metaphor for filmmaking. And while there’s nothing invalid about De Palma’s reading of the film, I think it accounts for the overwhelming difference between the kind of director Hitchcock was and the kind that De Palma turned out to be. Hitchcock, for all the macabre comedy of his public persona, was a dizzyingly romantic artist who, beneath his virtuosity, was often swooning; his films were fire-and-ice. De Palma, on the other hand, wasn’t heightening Hitchcock so much as adding a layer of ironic detachment to him, using cool camera movement to impersonate fire. I think that accounts for why the thrillers in which he recycles “Vertigo” (“Dressed to Kill,” “Body Double,” “Obsession”) never find an emotional grip — they’re larks of Brechtian menace. There’s a place for that in cinema, but “Carrie” is a Hitchcock film, and that’s because it’s the one De Palma film that really does swoon.


Richard Brody's June 2nd post at The New Yorker ("The Brian De Palma Conundrum") similarly considers that De Palma's scientific and Brechtian impulses have a tendency to distance the films from the viewer. "That’s why," Brody writes, "despite my often stunned admiration for many of De Palma’s creations, I think that he’s a director who’s more often fascinating than great." Brody states at the start, "I think that movies are a medium—in the spiritual or metaphysical sense of putting the souls of viewers into connection with the souls of filmmakers." Hence for De Palma to create works that inherently seem to distance the viewer from the filmmaker, is to work against the way Brody thinks movies should work. But even if De Palma deliberately creates works that go for a Brechtian distance (and perhaps Brody also thinks De Palma does not go deeply enough in that direction), can he not create a great work of art in that mode? At one point, Brody confusingly states that there is no reflexivity in De Palma's films, even though we see reflexivity all over the place in De Palma's cinema. Here's an excerpt from Brody:

That’s the enduring paradox of De Palma’s films. Coming of age in the nineteen-sixties, he reveals himself, in his films, to be enduringly skeptical of authority. He distrusts the official word and the official version, whether that officialdom is the government’s or the corporate media’s. Yet De Palma films from a position of authority derived from the authority of the filmmakers he studied and the styles he inherited. There’s no reflexivity in his films, no sense that the fictional schema that he creates is itself in need of puncturing, no attempt to look behind the camera or see off-screen, no prism and no mirror that breaks his own frame. Even his most original trope, the split-screen, in which he creates an audacious counterpoint of images, veers from a thrilling representation of modern-day information overload to the visual equivalent of academic composition, in which contrasts and clashes are downplayed in favor of coherence and consistency.

There’s an incipient and unfulfilled Brechtianism in De Palma’s work—a sense that the most efficient way to reveal the truth is to display the artifice that goes into the telling. That’s why many of his movies, whether “Sisters” or “Obsession,” “The Fury” or “Dressed to Kill,” “Blow Out” or “Casualties of War” or “The Untouchables,” have, as their stories, the creation of stories, the development of elaborately fabricated false-narrative fronts to conceal misdeeds. Yet the extreme artifice of De Palma’s amazingly intricate visual confections and virtuosic creations calls attention to what he does, not to how he does it.

Posted by Geoff at 2:21 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 27, 2016 7:22 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post