Movie Review: De Palma

imageCinephiles will delight in Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s documentary De Palma (A-) which is essentially a two-hour retrospective of director/screenwriter Brian De Palma’s film oeuvre told by the filmmaker himself. The auteur is lively and perceptive about his own works, with standouts and gorgeous sequences from all of his films including Sisters, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible. He also shares observations about his famous flops such as Bonfire of the Vanities (he suggests the film is good if you don’t read the book). As an heir to the filmmaking style of Hitchcock, De Palma provides insights into his greatest magic tricks including continuous shots, forced perspectives, 360 captures, split screen drama and Steadicam action sequences. He addresses his controversies including accusations of misogyny and illuminates an independent filmmaking spirit from a group of iconoclasts who got their professional start in the ’70s in a way that may not ever happen again (his contemporaries are Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg). He also tells some fascinating stories about Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Robert De Niro, Orson Welles, Al Pacino, Nancy Travis and a bunch of actors in his repertory. Although one might yearn for the documentary to have colored outside the lines of its rather straightforward format, it’s hard to argue with a solid story well told and with such stunning imagery and insights from a master filmmaker.

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