"IF I'D HAD SPACE IN THE BOOK, I'D HAVE DONE A VERY CLOSE EXAMINATION SIMPLY OF MOVEMENT PATTERNS IN THE PRAGUE SEQUENCE OF 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE'"
"This is not a book about Hitchcock." That is the first sentence of a new book by Bruce Isaacs titled The Art of Pure Cinema: Hitchcock and His Imitators. The book, which leads up to a concluding chapter on Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale, examines "the historical foundations and stylistic mechanics of pure cinema," according to the publisher's description.
In a podcast interview with Joel Tscherne at New Books Network, Isaacs explains that the basis of the argument he makes in the book is that Hitchcock "comes up with this notion of pure cinema, which he appropriates himself from the avant garde in Europe. De Palma appropriates that mode of pure cinema, but my argument is that he takes it further than Hitchcock, in more successfully intensified visual form. Visual form in De Palma, in my opinion, is more intricate than it is in Hitchcock, montage is more intricate, and I absolutely believe that if you look at the way that De Palma works with sound, there are very few filmmakers that are that attuned to the capacity of the score."
Regarding De Palma's cinematic relationship with Hitchcock, Isaacs stresses, "Of course it's a relationship, but we need to understand the relationship from a critical point of view, and not simply take the stand that so many critics have taken, which is, 'He's just replicating what has come before.' And that's been so unfortunate, I think, in the reception of De Palma."
In the podcast interview, Isaacs mentions that in the book, he examines the mall scene in Body Double. When the discussion turns to Mission: Impossible, Isaacs enthuses, "If I'd had space in the book, I would have done a very close examination simply of movement patterns in the Prague sequence of Mission: Impossible. Because it's just so masterful."
When asked why Femme Fatale is such a key film for his book, Isaacs tells Tscherne, "I actually think [De Palma]'s making a philosophical argument about pure cinema through Femme Fatale itself. So, motifs of photography, and visual form, underpin the entire story. The lead character is a photographer. And he's going to photograph several things that are going to explain the intersection of all the plot lines, all the character lines, and the way these worlds connect with each other in the story. But to be honest, why I think Femme Fatale is so important is it's simply the most elaborate, complex, and intricate of these pure cinema works."
It's a terrific hour-long discussion. Check it out.