Friday, June 24, 2016

DE PALMA lovers, rejoice! Get your fill of the guy in Baumbach and Paltrow's new doc

TrustMovies loves the work of Brian De Palma. And he's never found the man's films to be misogynist, either. They're too clever and artful for that. I have found Hitchcock to be misogynist, however, and De Palma thinks of himself as Hitch's true disciple. So go figure. Anyone who enjoys this particular movie-maker's oeuvre is a sitting duck for DE PALMA, the new documentary about the filmmaker (from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow) that combines a kind of history of the man and his movies with enough footage from the various films to make you want (if you're a fan, of course) to go back and view them all over again. (If you're too young to know this director's work, the documentary ought to least whet your appetite for a further look.)

Baumbach (at right) and Paltrow (left) flank the famous filmmaker (shown above and on poster, top), and their movie evidently came out of one very long lunch (or maybe several), during which the director spills the beans about one after another of his films, starting from his very first short (a still from his early Greetings is shown below) and continuing right through his latest, visually stunning (but only middling otherwise) French movie remake, Passion. Along the way we get bits and pieces of De Palma's life, loves and desires -- which may not definitively explain the psychology behind his movies but which do provide some zesty food-for-thought -- and enough well-chosen moments from his many movies (40 of 'em, all told) to absolutely delight us fans.

There's plenty of gossip, too -- tales that can now, evidently, be told. Did you know, for instance, that actor Cliff Robertson was pretty much forced upon the director for his movie Obsession, and what De Palma tells about the work habits of Mister Cliff quite nicely explains the movie's half-assedness and why it so thoroughly belonged to its lovely newcomer co-star, Geneviève Bujold.

Scarface (above), though one of the filmmaker's more successful box-office draws, has never been among the movies I love. (It seem less like "a De Palma film" than do most of his others.) Hearing the director talk about the film makes me better understand why I feel this way. Ditto, his most successful box-office outing, the initial Mission Impossible movie, below.  (How he feels about movie "car chases" is one of the things you'll learn from the doc.)

De Palma, more than anyone, I think, was responsible for the resurgence of the career of movie composer Bernard Herrmann, and we learn some fascinating tidbits about this fellow, along with that of another composer used often by the master: Pino Donaggio.

Keepers like Dressed to Kill (above), Blow Out and Body Double (god, this guy loves watching!) are all on the agenda, too, as are some movies you may have forgotten. Was Snake Eyes the last good film that Nicolas Cage starred in?  And it is certainly time for a re-think of Femme Fatale. (below). What fun that one was, and its cunning use of the Cannes Film Fest was about as savvy as movies get.

How much better Fatal Attraction might have been had De Palma directed it, as was initially expected. But then we might not have gotten his best (along with Carlito'sWay) mainstream movie, The Untouchables (below). This doc will have you believing in karma, maybe.

The director has something vital and interesting to say about every last one of his films (his comments on Mission to Mars are smart and poignant). My biggest problem with De Palma -- the doc, not the director -- is that, even at almost two hours, it ought to have been a lot longer. Surely what we see here is but a fraction of the footage Jake and Noah shot. Maybe, even now, the film's distributor A24 (or some special movie "angel") is bankrolling the eight-hour version, which we will someday be able to view in segments on IFC or Turner Classic Movies. We live in hope.

Meanwhile, De Palma, after opening in New York and Los Angeles, hits cities around the country. Here in South Florida, you can see it at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and  theaters, click here.  (The still above is from Redacted, in which the director did for our Iraq War what his Casualties of War had done for Vietnam.)

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