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Author Topic: Directors Spotlight-Brian De Palma  (Read 796 times)
fulci420
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« on: August 02, 2012, 11:32:25 AM »

Hey everybody I was going to post this in recent viewings because I just saw Body Double for the first time but instead decided to start a discussion of the director's work. Over the past few months I have been making my way through De Palma's filmography and have been greatly entertained by most of his work. So what makes him unique?:
-His visual sense-He is a master at making the camera tell the story. Think of the museum scene in Dressed to Kill or the stalking scene's in Body Double. Large parts of many of his films have no dialogue whatsoever and stand out as among his finest work. He enjoys long takes obviously influenced by "Touch of Evil's" opening, both Bonfire of the Vanities and Snake Eyes start off with 5 plus minute single take shots that display incredible camera movement. Architecture is often shot in interesting ways with a keen sense of utilizing unique locations.
-Influences-You don't have to be a detective to see Hitchcock all over many of his features. He has admitted this influence and it is obvious in Dressed to Kill's multiple shower sequences as well as Body Doubles Rear Window meets Vertigo plot. Less obvious is De Palma ripping off himself! The ridiculous Raising Cain is full of De Palma ripping off the plots, key images and camera movements from his earlier more successful thrillers.
-Genres-De Palma seems most comfortable in the thriller genre but occasionally steps out sometimes successfully (Casualties of War) and other times not so much (Bonfire of the Vanities). Has had great success in his violent rags to riches films with Al Pacino Scarface and ten years later with Carlito's Way. These are great films but thematically they feel separated from the rest of his work. I think this is due to the screenplays. He generally writes or at least co writes his thrillers which is not the case for his crime pictures. Visually they are still very much De Palma but bear the stamp of the writers involved, "The Untouchables" has probably the best dialogue of any of his films largely due to the contribution of David Mamet, and all of the great lines in Scarface are clearly Oliver Stones. Has also dabbled in comedy (Bonfire, Wise Guys) horror (Carrie, The Fury) war (Causalties, Redacted) and blockbuster action (Mission Impossible).
-Actors-Has worked multiple times with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow and Dennis Franz.
-Music-Has used the popular music of the time to great effect in Scarface and Body Double. In terms of composers he prefers Italians with Pino Donaggio and Ennio Morricone. Ennio's work on the Untouchables is breathtaking and may be among his finest scores.
-Upcoming Projects-De Palma's next project returns him to the thriller genre with the now completed "Passion". Should be interesting to see if he can create a thriller that lives up to his repuation. Am definitely excited to see this one.
I will add to this as I watch more of his films and cover his themes, dialogue and influence on others.
-What I've seen so far and ratings-
Causalties of War-9-
Carlito's Way-8.5
Scarface-8
Dressed to Kill-8
Body Double-7.5
Bonfire of the Vanities-4
Snake Eyes-7
Carrie-It's been a while but i remember liking it quite a bit so 8
Raising Cain- Don't know how to rate this one, on one hand its dreadfully stupid with a horrible John Lithgow performance and ludicrous plot. But on the other hand its so bats**t insane and visually ambitious that I cant really hate it.
Sisters-8
The Wedding Party-2 but its basically like a student film so who cares.
Mission Impossible-Cant remember will have to rewatch.
The Fury-Same as above
What I still need to watch
Mission To Mars-Grabbed this for 99 cents so how bad could it be...
Blow Out-I know its kind of ridiculous to not have seen De Palma's most highly regarded thriller but I will do soon.
Redacted
Femme Fatale
Home Movies
Wise Guys
Obsession
The Black Dahlia

So what are the boards thoughts on De Palma? Favorite film? Least Favorite? Hack? Genius? Would love to hear it and as I'm probably going to watch it soon is Mission to Mars really that bad?
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fulci420
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2012, 11:49:33 AM »

Sorry guys that last post is annoying to read without spaces so here's it with spaces.

Hey everybody I was going to post this in recent viewings because I just saw Body Double for the first time but instead decided to start a discussion of the director's work. Over the past few months I have been making my way through De Palma's filmography and have been greatly entertained by most of his work. So what makes him unique?:

-His visual sense-He is a master at making the camera tell the story. Think of the museum scene in Dressed to Kill or the stalking scene's in Body Double. Large parts of many of his films have no dialogue whatsoever and stand out as among his finest work. He enjoys long takes obviously influenced by "Touch of Evil's" opening, both Bonfire of the Vanities and Snake Eyes start off with 5 plus minute single take shots that display incredible camera movement. Architecture is often shot in interesting ways with a keen sense of utilizing unique locations.

-Influences-You don't have to be a detective to see Hitchcock all over many of his features. He has admitted this influence and it is obvious in Dressed to Kill's multiple shower sequences as well as Body Doubles Rear Window meets Vertigo plot. Less obvious is De Palma ripping off himself! The ridiculous Raising Cain is full of De Palma ripping off the plots, key images and camera movements from his earlier more successful thrillers.

-Genres-De Palma seems most comfortable in the thriller genre but occasionally steps out sometimes successfully (Casualties of War) and other times not so much (Bonfire of the Vanities). Has had great success in his violent rags to riches films with Al Pacino Scarface and ten years later with Carlito's Way. These are great films but thematically they feel separated from the rest of his work. I think this is due to the screenplays. He generally writes or at least co writes his thrillers which is not the case for his crime pictures. Visually they are still very much De Palma but bear the stamp of the writers involved, "The Untouchables" has probably the best dialogue of any of his films largely due to the contribution of David Mamet, and all of the great lines in Scarface are clearly Oliver Stones. Has also dabbled in comedy (Bonfire, Wise Guys) horror (Carrie, The Fury) war (Causalties, Redacted) and blockbuster action (Mission Impossible).

-Actors-Has worked multiple times with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow and Dennis Franz.

-Music-Has used the popular music of the time to great effect in Scarface and Body Double. In terms of composers he prefers Italians with Pino Donaggio and Ennio Morricone. Ennio's work on the Untouchables is breathtaking and may be among his finest scores.

-Upcoming Projects-De Palma's next project returns him to the thriller genre with the now completed "Passion". Should be interesting to see if he can create a thriller that lives up to his repuation. Am definitely excited to see this one.

-What I've seen so far and ratings-
Causalties of War-9-
Carlito's Way-8.5
Scarface-8
Dressed to Kill-8
Body Double-7.5
Bonfire of the Vanities-4
Snake Eyes-7
Carrie-It's been a while but i remember liking it quite a bit so 8
Raising Cain- Don't know how to rate this one, on one hand its dreadfully stupid with a horrible John Lithgow performance and ludicrous plot. But on the other hand its so bats**t insane and visually ambitious that I cant really hate it.
Sisters-8
The Wedding Party-2 but its basically like a student film so who cares.
Mission Impossible-Cant remember will have to rewatch.
The Fury-Same as above

What I still need to watch
Mission To Mars-Grabbed this for 99 cents so how bad could it be...
Blow Out-I know its kind of ridiculous to not have seen De Palma's most highly regarded thriller but I will do soon.
Redacted
Femme Fatale
Home Movies
Wise Guys
Obsession
The Black Dahlia


So what are the boards thoughts on De Palma? Favorite film? Least Favorite? Hack? Genius? Would love to hear it and as I'm probably going to watch it soon is Mission to Mars really that bad?
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zombie #1
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2012, 04:01:04 PM »

- just a tip,you can click "modify" (i.e. edit) instead of reposting stuff.


As for De Palma, I am not well versed in his films. in fact looking on imdb I think the only ones I've actually seen are Scarface, Carrie, and Carlito's Way. I might have seen Snake Eyes as well, but can't remember. out of those I'd choose Scarface probably.
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2012, 04:39:35 PM »

Been a while since I've seen some of the movies on that list. Will have to rewatch some for sure.

I do count at least a couple of De Palma's movies among my favourites. Wise Guys is a great comedy - funny, quotable, and Captain Lou Albano is hilarious.

And I would consider Phantom of the Paradise to be my favourite musical, although it's really much more than that, blending 70s rock music with comic elements ranging from slapstick to satire, and a bit of gothic horror in a contemporary setting. It's a clever movie with a bit of an edge to it, there are some dramatic moments, but it never loses that sense of silly fun.
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fulci420
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2012, 05:25:24 PM »

Been a while since I've seen some of the movies on that list. Will have to rewatch some for sure.

I do count at least a couple of De Palma's movies among my favourites. Wise Guys is a great comedy - funny, quotable, and Captain Lou Albano is hilarious.

And I would consider Phantom of the Paradise to be my favourite musical, although it's really much more than that, blending 70s rock music with comic elements ranging from slapstick to satire, and a bit of gothic horror in a contemporary setting. It's a clever movie with a bit of an edge to it, there are some dramatic moments, but it never loses that sense of silly fun.
I think I saw phantom in the paradise on tv years ago, will have to pick it up on dvd one of these days. I've never heard anything about wise guys though glad to hear it is funny, look forward to watching it.
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2012, 08:47:00 PM »

I've enjoyed most of the stuff I've seen from him including:

Phantom of the Paradise
Obsession
Carrie
The Fury
Dressed To Kill
Scarface
Body Double
Wise Guys
Snake Eyes
Femme Fatale

I also liked Mission Impossible although it is pretty forgettable.
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2012, 10:02:17 PM »

Out of everything he directed I've only seen Scarface, Carlito's Way and Mission: Impossible. Scarface is a classic. I enjoy Carlito's Way and Mission: Impossible as well.
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2012, 01:23:58 PM »

I like De Palma; he's certainly got his own style.  Definitely bump BLOW OUT to the top of your to-see list; it's excellent.  That and CARLITO'S WAY are my favorites of his.  I enjoyed CARRIE, PHANTOM  and SISTERS a lot too.
MISSION TO MARS is kind of weak but it does have a nice Morricone soundtrack.  My least favorite, of the ones I've seen, is BLACK DAHLIA.  A lot of the actors seem miscast and it doesn't feel like a true de Palma flick, more like he was trying to mimic the great LA CONFIDENTIAL (both are based on James Ellroy novels too).
I don't think I've ever seen WISE GUYS, if I did it was a long time ago & I don't remember it.  Will have to try to track it down.

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« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2012, 12:50:47 PM »

I think of all his I've seen "Carrie" and "Snake Eyes" are my favorites.
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fulci420
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2012, 04:35:11 PM »

So I'm watching Mission to Mars, and wow this is horrendous. Firstly the dialogue written by no less than four people is among the worst I have ever heard. When Tim Robbins said "some couples dance, and others go to mars" I had a sudden urge to turn the movie off right then and in hindsight I should have. Firstly everyone in this movie is annoying without exception. Jerry O Connell is usually annoying but here you really want to send him to space for real just to be rid of him.

Visually its fine I guess up until the ludicrous finale in which (SPOILER ALERT) we see a CGI alien that looks worse than something you would see in a video game of that time. Honestly look no further for the superiority of practical effects at how great and believable the creature designs are in "Alien" which was made in 79 for 11 million and the completely stupid and fake looking crap we see here which cost around 90 million and was made over twenty years later.

This is not only De Palma's worst film I have seen so far it is actually one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It was remarkably similar in plot to Prometheus which surprised me, but haters of that film (which I liked) should revisit this to get some perspective on what a real disaster looks like. Some complained about the crew of Prometheus but nowhere in that film does anyone reach the level of douche chills of saying "some couples dance and others go to mars!" and for that I applaud it. This is a shamefully bad movie and a terrible way to start of the 00's for De Palma.
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fulci420
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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2012, 02:44:40 PM »

Tarantino discusses his love of Depalma in this great clip. He makes some especially interesting points about Raising Cain and Bonfire of the Vanities.
Small | Large
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