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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Dressed To Thrill

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday July 21, 07:40 pm
Brian de Palma is great, this doc’s not

De Palma
Broadway Film Theatre
Opens July 22
2 out of 5

For a documentary about one of the most interesting American directors — made by two renowned indie filmmakers to boot — De Palma is a letdown. Outside of voluminous amounts of trivia (the kind you could find on IMDb), there’s little insight about what makes De Palma tick.

The documentary goes through De Palma’s filmography movie by movie, from his early work (which launched Robert De Niro’s career) to his current anti-studio stance. Undeserving flops (Phantom of the Paradise, Casualties of War) mix with surprise hits (Carrie, Dressed to Kill), not unlike every other director of note.

You would be hard-pressed to find a method to his madness, outside De Palma’s reluctance to put up with others’ input. It should be mentioned his biggest commercial success — Mission: Impossible — was a heavily scrutinized star vehicle that mixed the filmmaker’s peculiar sensibilities with the obligation to cater to the masses. But such correlation would be a touch too negative for the grating tone of this movie.

While it’s undeniably entertaining to find out that Sean Connery had to be begged to do another take of his death scene in The Untouchables, the fact De Palma barely pays lip service to his Hitchcock connection indicates co-directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow didn’t press the director into revealing more substantial information. They also go easy on the accusation of voyeurism and give him a pass on palpably inept efforts like The Black Dahlia. Think Trump interrogated by Fox News.

Without any other testimony but the filmmaker’s, De Palma feels like a glorified DVD extra, with top notch archive footage, but minimal production effort. Heck, even the framing is off. I don’t argue that the director deserves a deep dive, but fanboying over his work doesn’t cut it.

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