De Palma (2015)

De Palma (2015) movie poster

directors Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
viewed: 01/05/2017

This De Palma documentary is the kind of artifact that fans would wish for of any of their revered directors. It’s just Brian De Palma himself talking at length about his life, career, and specific films, as interviewed and filmed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow offscreen. Copious shots of his films highlight his commentary.

At best, it’s insight to the career and workings of a significant filmmaker, one who has made a number of significant films (that number probably depends on the intensity of your De Palma fandom.) It certainly gave voice to a very different person than I had perceived De Palma from his work, humble, easy-going, friendly.

As I said, you’d love to have one of these made about any number of directors. De Palma is deserving, but the film sort of underscores a criticism thrown his way: that he’s not the sort of highest tier of auteur, but a strong stylist, whose best work makes the most of said style. Hitchcock is his god and eternal cinematic touchstone, homage after homage after homage. He’s a maestro with the split screen.

The greater auteurs typically bring more to the table, whether it’s innovation, invention, social or cultural commentary, a consistent world view, greater works of art. This documentary which offers consideration and study doesn’t necessarily make a case beyond De Palma’s strengths and shortcomings. Still, very worthwhile.

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