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Much like many of you film-goers and aspiring filmmakers out there BRIAN DE PALMA (who just had his B-Day yesterday on September 11 BTW) is an artist who’s creations have impacted me over the years. Even a sub-par De Palma film (like PASSION for example aka The Ending Ruined Me) usually has more meat/panache to offer than your average flick. The dude has an novel storytelling style (we find out where he got his split-screen fetish here) that he perfected over the years and I consider him to be somewhat of a Hollywood rebel (respect). With that stamped in the grey matter, it was a delight to sit down with the lad by way of this fascinating doc DE PALMA (WATCH IT HERE), as it not only acted as a retrospective of the man’s work, but also as an insider’s look at the warped Hollywood system and how it has evolved (or degenerated, depends how you look at it) over the years.
In Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s well put together documentary, the infamous director proved to be quite the affable story teller as he commented on what got him into filmmaking (seeing VERTIGO and the arrival of French New Wave cinema) the war that was the making of his many movies, behind the scenes woes and how some of his pictures were received upon their release and over time. Lots of revelations came as a surprise for me and being that I am fairly knowledgable when it comes to all things De Palma, it was a trip to learn new stuff! I didn’t know that Cliff Robertson acted like a dick on the set of OBSESSION (which explains his wooden showcase) and that he was obsssessed with wearing “tan” makeup (lol) much to the DP's dismay! The tug of war De Palma had with Sydney Lumet when it came to SCARFACE and PRINCE OF THE CITY also made for a compelling listen! Moreover, the tale of Oliver Stone (the writer) butting in to direct actors on the SCARFACE set and then being thrown out was amusing. And hearing that Sean Penn went a-hole overdrive “method” on the CASUALTIES OF WAR set, punching Michael J Fox in the face for real or whispering “TV Actor” to him before a take, had me in stitches! Gotta love this crazy business!
I was actually astonished as to how honest and funny De Palma was in his chit-chat session! The man didn’t pull any punches and I respected that! I guess when you’re in your 70’s, with a stand-out career behind you, you simply don’t give a flying f*ck. He had all kinds of keepers to share! For example, the Studio at some point wanted to re-release SCARFACE with a hip hop soundtrack tagged to it (cause the flick picked up in that scene), the original “act of God” ending of SNAKEYES (I was actually an extra on that one) looked way better (they showed some footage) than what we got and the screenwriter craziness on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (with De Palma having David Koepp on his side and Tom Cruise bringing in Robert Towne) baffled me on just how much f-ing wasted time egos can cost you in Hollywood. Whilst the 411 on RAISING CAIN (how the whole film was changed in the edit when compared to the script) made me want to see that bad boy again (Must get Scream Factory Collector's Edition)!
Tag to that all kinds of cool behind the scenes footage (even auditions for Star Wars as they did them along with the reads for Carrie), countless slick scenes from De Palma's flicks, a slew of quotes that filmmakers should relate to (my fav being the one having to do with how all of your mistakes on a film live forever once released), deets in terms of some of his most ambitious shots (like that long steady cam take in CARLITO’S WAY), a hilarious SEAN CONNERY story (no doc is complete without one) and so much more, and you get a hell of a full watch! One that acted as a retrospective, a revealing look at Hollywood's BS charged tendencies and a quasi directing MasterClass!
If I had any qualms, I guess I wished they had spent more time dissecting his later babies like FEMME FATALE, THE BLACK DAHLIA and PASSION. They deserved more love! Finally, I’m still waiting for somebody to bring up early DARIO ARGENTO to him, cause from my inconsequential perspective, he owes as much to the Italian maestro as he does to Hitchcock. It’s IMPOSSIBLE that he was not influenced by him. Then again, the f*ck I know! All in all, LOVED THIS ONE! I now YEARN to re-watch THE FURY, BODY DOUBLE, CARLITO’S WAY, RAISING CAIN and THE UNTOUCHABLES… they don’t make em like that any more that’s for sure! Thanks for the reminder!