De Palma (2016)

depalmaDon’t care. Black Dahlia still blows.

Brian De Palma has been making movies for nearly 50 years of his long life. Some, obviously, are better than others, but he’s still remained one of the more original voices in cinema who, with each and every flick, sees or tries to do something different than what he may have had to try before. So, through one whole sit-down interview, De Palma talks about his life, his relationships, and most of all, his films. No, literally. Every. One. Of. His. Films.

Love him, hate him, don’t have an opinion on him in the slightest, Brian De Palma has been around long enough to have the right to say that he knows a thing or two about what he’s talking about. Or, at the very least, get his point across in a manner that, sure, doesn’t always make perfect sense or justify the fact that some of the movie he chats about downright blow, but they do help clear some things up and make us realize that, “hey, maybe he just wanted to make a movie and try something. Why not?” Anyway, De Palma, the movie, will most likely change your view on the person and maybe, probably less of his actual movies.

Hey, who's that dude to the left?
Hey, who’s that dude to the left?

Either way, it’s a simple documentary in which we literally sit, watch, and listen as De Palma himself goes throughout the whole history of his life, as well as what each and every movie he’s ever made, means to him, or even, means to his artistic-craft. The movie is so incredibly simple and ordinary, that you’d think co-directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow just used their free time wisely, but it doesn’t appear as that at all; rather than us just listening in on a conversation, as if it were some PowerPoint presentation, Paltrow and Baumbach use so much B-roll and clips to help make these stories and little nuggets literally pop-out at us. It would have been easy for them to just have us sit there and listen to whatever De Palma wanted to say, but the fact that they actually incorporate everything else into it, makes it all the more entertaining to watch.

Which, for most people watching who aren’t familiar with De Palma, his work, or even movies as a whole, probably won’t have.

Sure, to enjoy De Palma, you don’t necessarily have to be a “movie-addict”, but there is a certain feeling of prestige, or general knowledge about the film-business, or even movies as a whole to fully understand just what De Palma is getting at half of the time. So yeah, it may be limited in that respect, but for those many who the movie does work for, it works like gangbusters; it definitely helps that De Palma himself is so off-the-cuff and open about every little thing that comes to his mind, that it almost makes you think he’s going to drop some heavy-duty secrets about the biz that may get him banned for life.

Say "hello" to his little friend. Aka, the budget.
Say “hello” to his little friend. Aka, the budget.

Things don’t quite pan-out that way, but they actually get a little closer. Fights with producers, studio-heads, narcissistic actors/actresses who wanted more spotlight than what they were given, etc. – De Palma calls almost all of them out, but it makes perfect sense. The guy’s been making movies since the mid-60’s and say what you will about what he’s churned-out lately, he’s still a relevant name that people look towards and mention every once and awhile. The movies that he’s directed (such as Scarface, or Blow Out), have all gone on to become something of classics, whereas others of his (Carlito’s Way, Body Double), may seem a tad bit unloved, but still get credit nonetheless.

Either way, watching De Palma makes you realize that the guy’s made some pretty damn good movies.

Of course, they’re not all winners and more often than not, they’re stinkers, but the ones that do stink so bad, have a reason for stinking. We find this out and plenty more in our time with De Palma and it’s hard to ever get bored by it. The only times where the movie begins to lag, honestly, are mostly in the moments where we focus on De Palma’s weakest, perhaps far less interesting movies in the later portion of his career, where he doesn’t say much, or if he does, doesn’t really have much to bring to the table. Of course, can’t blame the film-makers for working with what they’ve literally got, but it’s not hard to realize that the movie loses some muster in the final-act, when it has to stray a bit away from being sad and a little depressing, and more towards hopeful.

Even if, you know, a movie like Redacted is awful and the less said about it, the better.

But the more said about De Palma, the movie, as well as the actual person himself, hey, even more better!

Consensus: With a simple approach, De Palma gives us the certain insight we wouldn’t normally get from a legendary film-maker, that touches on all aspects of his life, as well as, more importantly, the hits and misses.

8.5 / 10

See this? Yeah, get used to it.
See this? Yeah, get used to it.

Photos Courtesy of: The Denver Post, The New York Times, The Movie My Life

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