Wednesday, April 25, 2012

De Palmonths of Brian

I'm starting to learn with these theme months that 30ish days is not a long enough time to fully explore a director's entire filmography, if they've made something like 28 features (as De Palma has). So De Palmarch stretched into De PalmApril, and I had to scrap April Ferrara and VHS tApril (movies only available on, or shot on, VHS).

It's been an extremely rewarding couple of months. I watched every single one of De Palma's films, including those I had seen before, his early shorts (the only two that weren't impossible to find), and his disappointingly ordinary music video for Bruce Springsteen (the music video that shows up in the middle of Body Double, from the same year, is far more impressive), and I watched them all in order. I read The De Palma Cut: The Films of America's Most Controversial Director (which covered his work up to The Untouchables) by Laurent Bouzereau, who also directed the many exhaustive Making-Of documentaries I watched.

De P's progress as a visual storyteller was fascinating, as was the recurrence of his many prevalent themes and techniques. Many are already associated with his work, like peeping/voyeurism, doubles (twins, doppelgangers, multiple personality, etc.), split-screen, long tracking shots, swirling cameras, and split-diopter (a device, wholly unique to De Palma, that keeps both the foreground and background simultaneously in focus). But there were other little things that would pop up, too. Like, he shoots a TV screen (or film screen, or monitor) in almost every single film. Or that three of his films (Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out) open with a shower scene (Body Double was supposed to as well, but the scene (which now plays over the end credits) didn't work at the beginning). Also, he's like really into peeping and voyeurism.

He's a brilliant director, and a fairly weird one, without a single true mis-step (I didn't like Dionysus in '69, but that was more something he filmed and presented than "directed"). His strongest period was in the 70s and 80s (whose wasn't, when it comes to directors of that period who are still around?), but his later stuff is worth exploring as well, and he has definitely cemented himself as one of my favorite directors. Love you, BDP.

Also, RIP to the amazing William Finley, who died last week. Edgar Wright wrote a great tribute here. And my friend Ryan wrote one here.

1. Carrie (1976)
2. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
3. Dressed to Kill (1980)
4. Body Double (1984)
5. Hi, Mom! (1970)
6. Scarface (1983)
7. Blow Out (1981)
8. Home Movies (1980)
9. Mission: Impossible (1996)
10. Sisters (1973)
11. Casualties of War (1989)
12. Raising Cain (1992)
13. Femme Fatale (2002)
14. Carlito’s Way (1993)
15. Mission to Mars (2000)
16. Obsession (1976)
17. The Fury (1978)
18. Snake Eyes (1998)
19. The Untouchables (1987)
20. Murder รก la Mod (1968)
21. Wise Guys (1986)
22. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
23. Greetings (1968)
24. Passion (2012)
25. Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972)
26. Redacted (2007)
26. The Wedding Party (1963/1969)
27. The Responsive Eye (1966)
28. The Black Dahlia (2006)
29. Bruce Springsteen - "Dancing in the Dark" (1984)
30. Woton's Wake (1962)
31. Dionysus in '69 (1970)

View this list on Letterboxd.

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