Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Plonked in front of an unassuming fireplace in one of the least De Palma-esque shots it's possible to compose, the 76-year-old director opens up about the highs and lows of his career over 110 minutes of delicious tittle-tattle and self-deprecation, while his interrogators regularly intersperse the chatter with clips from his remarkable 50-year filmography. It's as prosaic a format for a talking head as you could get, but it doesn't matter a hoot: firstly, BDP is so comfortably avuncular you just want to bathe in the glow of his chubby cheeks and tales of Hollywood madness, and secondly, most of the clips are so exhaustingly kinetic that anything more exciting than a septuagenarian in front of a fireplace would wear you out by the halfway mark.
It's not all scandal and scuttlebutt though: De Palma talks at length about the difficulty of swimming against the Hollywood tide, particularly in the context of his movie brat friends Marty, George, Francis and Steven. "What we did in our generation will never be duplicated," he proudly boasts, but fully admits that his path was not necessarily as successfully navigated as those of his contemporaries. "I'm driven by unrealistic ideas [...] my movies tend to upset people a lot," he understates while musing on some of his frankly numerous critical and commercial failures. But his sheer energy and ambition shine through, emanating from the same well of indomitability that makes all his films fascinating to watch even when they spectacularly fail.
Baumbach and Paltrow bookend their film with clips from Vertigo, and not without good cause: De Palma's well-documented love of Alfred Hitchcock not only set him on his way but has also been the source of some of his fiercest criticism. He ends the interview with a rousing defence of his decision to frequently homage the master of suspense so blatantly, and it's hard to counter the argument without coming across as the dullest of sticks. Ultimately though, his work speaks for itself and for him, and the carefully curated clips within this loving tribute illustrate this. As a document of its subject's fury, obsession and passion, De Palma is untouchable.