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David Poland

By David Poland

DP/30: Passion, screenwriter/director Brian DePalma

21 Responses to “DP/30: Passion, screenwriter/director Brian DePalma”

  1. djiggs says:

    Out of all the filmmakers that the Oscars have given an honorary Oscar to, why has this man not been one of them? Whether you like, love, or hate his work…Brian DePalma is one of the foremost film pioneers and deserves to be acknowledged as such by the film making community. If Oscar does not do it, Cannes/Berlin/TIFF/Telluride/Venice needs to step up and do it.

  2. berg says:

    best DP/30 ever … of course being a big De Palma fan that’s easy to say … i would’ve liked to hear what he thought of the devil’s candy (the book written about the production of bonfire of the vanities)

  3. Philip Lovecraft says:

    I’ve always liked Brian DePalma’s films, but a couple of years ago I picked up “Blow Out” on DVD and became a fanatic. I went right out and picked up “Dressed to Kill” and that & “Blow Out” are as good a one-two punch as any director has ever unleashed on unsuspecting audiences. I’m with djiggs, this guy is wildly deserving of acknowledgement for his entire body of work. And if you haven’t seen it, his “Phantom of the Paradise” is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. A true master.

  4. arisp says:

    I agree, he’s definitely one of the greats. But what’s the statute of limitations on that kind of rear view window praise? When was the last decent, let alone tolerable, film he made?

  5. berg says:

    When was the last decent, let alone tolerable, film he made?

    gimme a break,there was a set-up in Black D that took a half day to set up, and FemmeFaltale was one o the best movie of the last ten

  6. Sam says:

    Brian de Palma is a hack. An inspired hack who has made some compelling entertainments, I grant you. But even his best movies are trashy; none of them exhibit a shred of nuance or sophistication.

    And the fact that most of his best movies are Hitchcock rip-offs does not speak well to his originality as a filmmaker, either. I’m normally pretty lenient on Hitchcock homages, and I do like Dressed To Kill. But where other directors infuse Hitchcock’s formula with their own sensibilities, de Palma adds a little more sleaze and calls it a day.

    And arisp has a point. For every Scarface there’s a pair of Snake Eyes, and most of the latter have come in the last couple decades. He hasn’t made even a borderline great movie since 1993, instead making nonsense like Mission To Mars, Redacted, and The Black Dahlia. Femme Fatale looks pretty good amongst these, but it’s a shadow of the kind of movie he used to be able to make, which itself is a shadow of what a Hitchcock homage by a talented artist could achieve.

    Even “Blow Out,” which is probably his best thriller, falls apart in the ending. And even the best part (Travolta reconstructing the audio recording) looks hamfisted and amateurish next to the films De Palma stole from, Coppola’s The Conversation and Antonioni’s Blowup.

  7. Proman says:

    He still made movies like The Untouchables and Mission Impossible. Just because he has certain thematic inclinations or is predesposed to making certain kinds of films doesn’t necessarily mean he is a hack. I think it’s possible that he may have made movies like ‘Dressed to Kill’ even if he’d not seen a single Hitchcock film.

  8. StellaPD says:

    Carlito’s Way is a masterpiece. Pacino and Penn at the top of their game. Solid supporting work from John Ortiz, Luis Guzman, John Leguizamo, James Rebhorn, and Viggo Mortensen, among others. Excellent action scenes including the train station chase. Yeah the love story’s kind of lame but that’s easy to ignore. I can watch it over and over and never get sick of it. A great, great flick.

  9. jesse says:

    Agreed. Carlito’s Way is terrific — just rewatched it semi-recently, hadn’t seen it in years, and I’d forgotten just how solid it is. A much better film, to my eyes, than Scarface.

    The way I see it, there are three basic types of De Palma movies, especially in the past few decades.

    There are the sorta-for-hire jobs where De Palma is pretty much putting his own style and spin on a mainstream studio project, like Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, or The Untouchables, which tend to represent his best overall work (I’d still put Carrie in this category, and also at the top of the list of his best movies, though I haven’t seen all of his seventies/eighties Hitchcock-y thrillers).

    There are the PURE DE PALMA type of movies that now seem to happen about once a decade: Raising Cain, Femme Fatale, and now Passion. They’re all highly enjoyable, not really as traditionally satisfying as something like Carlito’s Way, but easy to appreciate if you love pulp, high style, and De Palma’s masterful set pieces. Passion is very much in this tradition.

    Then, finally, there are the weird hybrid movies: the would-be studio for-hire projects that don’t really work, usually because of screenplay or performance or storytelling issues, but have a few knockout PURE DE PALMA sequences. The Black Dahlia, Mission to Mars, Snake Eyes… they all fall apart at one point or another, but I’m not sorry to have seen any of them theatrically. The middle 45 minutes of Mission to Mars, basically from blastoff to the end of the abandon-ship segment, is TERRIFIC. The opening of the movie is pretty hokey and the last stretch is even hokier/stupider. But that middle trumps most space-disaster movies. Snake Eyes has a terrific opening, kinda goes catatonic along with Cage in the final stretch. Black Dahlia has 20 or 30 AWESOME minutes in it. These movies are almost always worth watching if you accept that OK, it’s probably not going to completely work straight through. But I enjoy 20-30 minutes of Black Dahlia more than any number of more traditionally smooth, competently made studio thrillers.

    Granted, I haven’t found a way to explain Redacted.

  10. StellaPD says:

    Yeah I much prefer Carlito’s Way to Scarface. I like it more than The Untouchables too. The scene in The Black Dahlia about halfway through featuring a main character’s demise is stellar filmmaking. And there are definitely 20-30 superb minutes in that movie. Sadly it doesn’t work as a whole. That’s one I was really psyched about. It seemed like the perfect pairing of director and material. Agreed on the midsection of Mission to Mars too. It is pretty great.

  11. actionman says:

    Blow Out = masterpiece.
    Body Double = masterpiece.
    Carlito’s Way = masterpiece.
    Scarface = masterpiece.
    Casualties of War = masterpiece.
    The Untouchables = pretty much a masterpiece.
    Femme Fatale = masterpiece.

    Sure, he’s had a few stinkers, but see the above list if you have any questions as to his abilities as a filmmaker.

  12. actionman says:

    oh, and the opening 20 mins of Snake Eyes are as good as any other movie, maybe ever.

  13. StellaPD says:

    Yeah and Scarface doesn’t have a totally bonkers and awesome Sean Penn. I’ll still take Carlito’s Way.

  14. JKill says:

    DePalma is one of my all time favorite directors. His work is so intensely cinematic, in love with the act of filmmaking itself, that even the movies that don’t totally “work” have moments that make them worthwhile, as Jesse said above. If you go through the classic DePalma set pieces the list is endless, filled with suspenseful, playful, sometimes funny, sometimes kinky acts of pure movie-ness. I mean the museum sequence in DRESSED TO KILL! The opening of SISTERS! The stairs in THE UNTOUCHABLES! Cruise dangling from the ceiling in MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE! I could go on and on. I mean something like the art show sequence in HI, MOM does a better job of playing with reality and the line between fiction and fact than any found footage movie ever. He’s a genius, one of the best ever, and I can’t wait for PASSION.

    (Also, CARLITO’S WAY is equal to SCARFACE but it just didn’t press itself into the culture’s consciousness in the same way the latter film did.)

  15. StellaPD says:

    I totally disagree that Carlito’s Way is maudlin and dreary. But to each their own. You can have your rapper’s movie.

  16. Rashad says:

    Scarface is definitely better, but Carlito is top tier De Palma.

    The Untouchables stinks however. Aside from the first person assassination attempt, the movie is just a bore. Mission:Impossible is De Palma’s second best. Snake Eyes is top tier as well.

  17. Chris says:

    I love THE FURY.

  18. movieman says:

    Actionman- How could you have left out “Carrie” when listing DePalma’s masterpieces?
    Egad, (Action)man!

    P.S.= I’m a little surprised by all the “Carlito’s Way” love. I’ve always considered it more of a minor (e.g., “Snake Eyes”) DePalma film than one of his major works.

  19. Joshua/CaptainZahn says:

    Blow Out is great..until the third act. Why in the hell would Travolta allow Nancy Allen’s character to go alone to meet up with Lithgow after the film has already shown us that he already got somebody killed that way? Stoo-pid. Hitchcock’s films are not flaw free, but he usually was pretty good at papering over potential plot holes.

  20. Rashad says:

    Yeah, because trying to run someone over with a crop duster is foolproof.

  21. Joshua/CaptainZahn says:

    That’s just one scene, though, not the climax of the movie.

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