by Matt Lynch Film

De Palma | Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow

June 17, 2016
De Palma (2016)

Comprised of almost nothing but movie clips and interview footage, De Palma features none of its subject’s formal innovation, and so it’d be easy to write off as a glorified bonus feature. Very few of those, however, are as wildly entertaining as this one. Directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow have leveraged their long friendship with Brian De Palma into something that could have quite easily been a bunch of bland making-of info but instead is a still-lively filmmaker reflecting on his process and inspirations. How you feel about it may largely depend on your affinity for De Palma’s films, but like them or not he’s a consistently funny and engaging interview subject. He fascinatingly brushes off the many controversies over the often violent (and many would say misogynistic) content in his movies as merely the result of the conventions of the genres he prefers to explore and the natural trajectory of the stories he chooses to tell, which may or may not ping your bullshit meter, but the fact remains that he’s insistent on his position as primarily a visual storyteller. The chief flaw here is mostly a lack of thoroughness, partly as a function of keeping things rolling, partly because it’s obvious that De Palma doesn’t particularly care for some of his own work. If you’re a fan, be prepared to see some of your favorites get short shrift (personally I’d have liked more on Mission to Mars and Passion, neither of which merit nary a mention). But on the other hand we get to see the original deleted ending of Snake Eyes (also under-appreciated in this critic’s opinion). It’s really a shame this film isn’t twice as long—that way we’d get to hear the man’s favorite exclamation (“Holy mackerel!”) a few dozen more times.

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