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I Weep For Cinema

De Palma (2016)

De Palma is a documentary unlike most. Featuring only the director himself, and various pictures and footage from his movies, you get a singular vision of who Brian De Palma is. 

Going through his early life and his movies, you get what most would barely classify as a documentary, somewhat more of an extended behind the scenes recap on the work of the famous director. It almost plays out like a YouTube best of clip show at some points, but with more focus and a single one on one interview that must have lasted a good 5 hours.. Starting off with his film school movies he did with his buddy Bobby De Niro and hanging out with some friends with weird last names like Scorsese, Lucas, and Spielberg.

The documentary flows in chronological order and gives you a better understanding of how his movies got made. There are a few stories and anecdotes about pretty much every movie he’s ever directed and learning how this director works and thinks is captivating enough to hold your attention for a solid almost two hours. 

I learned a lot of good little tidbits of information and also picked up a few movies that I was not aware of before. I look forward to diving deeper into the back catalogue of De Palma’s work that scratches below the more popular of his titles. Ones like, Home Movies or Blow Out are movies I’ve never seen or even heard of before, but seem like something right up my alley.

Some would say De Palma comes off as a bit of an egotist. He himself completely agrees, but that isn’t a bad thing. He talks about his upbringing as the son of a surgeon, and surrounded by larger than life egotists in his family. Which gave him the confidence to start telling people what to do for a living, as a director. And to be honest, you have to have that type of self confidence to be a director in Hollywood. There are several times where De Palma tells stories of getting in the faces of executives or others, and it wasn’t about egos, it was about the singular vision of the movie itself, and actors can’t have several people telling them what to do, only one voice should be heard, the directors.

It’s a refreshing take on the documentary formula. One that feels more intimate than almost any other that I have seen. And that is solely because De Palma himself is the only one who talks. No other person is talking to the camera. It can be a bit contrived and feel a bit one sided, but hey, he’s the subject, and who better to get the information about all these movies than the subject himself? 

At the end, he talks about trying to take ideas of Hitchcock and bring it into a different format, as he feels that so many say Hitchcock is the inspiration of many directors, but he doesn’t believe they do justice to him. And even though I might not agree with that part, I do think that there is some truth to it, and that he really does seem like a director who puts all of himself into every single project. With the last line being “People can be threatened by your intense concentration. My true wife is my movie, not you”.