De Palma (Noah Baumbach/Jake Paltrow, 2015, USA)

De Palma is a great portrait of the legendary director Brian De Palma. Sparked largely by informal conversations directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow had with De Palma, the film essentially is an extended interview with De Palma himself, narrating the trajectory of his career. There are no additional talking heads, only footage from the films and stills. You rarely get such an honest and open conversation about the craft, let alone one from a certified master. De Palma has had a fascinating career, filled with multiple ups and downs, so his story is an entertaining one.

While initially little attention is given to De Palma's upbringing, his relationship with his father becomes an increasingly larger part of the documentary as the film progresses. Like many of the great directors, De Palma initially had no interest in film - he studied science. This changed when he joined a troupe of creatives at Sarah Lawrence College, which included none other than early collaborator Robert De Niro. De Palma's earliest films all starred De Niro, who would later become most associated with De Palma's contemporary Martin Scorsese.

While De Palma's hits are well-known, it is his colossal flops - such as Bonfire of the Vanities - that are the most interesting. De Palma is brutally honest, making no defense of his films. Where we feel the most for him is in that category of great films, but underperformed critically and commercially. Carlito's Way is a classic example - De Palma recalls watching the film when it came out and exclaiming "I can't make a better film than this." There are many such films in his filmography, including Blow Out, an underrated classic that is often cited as a favorite by many contemporary legends including Quentin Tarantino. De Palma is worth watching for film fans.



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