01. Murder A La Mod (1967)
02. Sisters (1973)
03. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
04. Get To Know Your Rabbit (1972)
05. The Responsive Eye (1966)
06. Wise Guys (1986)
07. The Wedding Party (1969)
08. Woton’s Wake (1962)
09. Mission To Mars (2000)
10. Snake Eyes (1998)
11. Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
12. Raising Cain (1992)
13. Greetings (1968)
14. Hi, Mom! (1970)
15. Home Movies (1980)
Check out the De Palma Obsession tag on the tumblr for easy navigation or something along those lines.
Trying to watch every single De Palma movie, and dumping screencaps over at tumblr. Learning a lot about De Palma by seeing how he develops ideas visually. I’ve done this with a few directors and it is always super instructive because you just start seeing beyond the stylistic flourishes and regular themes (with De Palma there are a lot more of both than usual), and you start seeing how he likes to use suspense technique to show power shifts in relationships – which is the thing that he brings to the Hitchcock and Welles and Godard touchstones and that greatly influences Tarantino (Hitchcock and Welles are all about toying with the audience like a magician would, with De Palma there is this development of how it stops being about the audience and starts happening to the audience, if that makes sense). Also the film references are largely in-jokes or technical challenges – let’s do Touch of Evil as a split screen, okay now let’s do it in a packed stadium. The voyeurism, the characters that break from their places in the world either intentionally or accidentally and then have to reckon with that simple violation, the violence towards characters (and yeah, women) becoming more nakedly unsentimental as he moves on and eventually he peaks out on and plateaus with it in Raising Cain, and it becomes a thing to mock. The relationship to Argento is really interesting because both of them kind metabolize Hitchcock but without losing their personalities. Argento’s work at it’s best sands away the difference between people and objects and uses one against the other. De Palma’s characters are never less than people but he is rarely sentimental towards his characters. When he is, that’s usually an omen that they are doomed.
Also – he’s been directing for 50 years, worked for the studios and independently. He’s worked in nearly every genre except the western – he’s done thrillers, yes. But gangster epics, cop dramas, broad comedies, Godardian farces, slapstick, NYC underground, live theater on film, scifi, horror, personal heart-renders, crass amusement park rides turned blockbusters, exploitation, franchises, tv show adaptations, spy movies, war movies, musicals, protest films, slashers, there’s even a movie he let the kids in his film class write and co-direct with him. He’s tried pretty much everything, some of them are huge failures on every level, some of them masterpieces. Every one of them has something that makes it worthwhile, even for just a short sequence. I’m intentionally saving the barn-burners for the back half of the list, but several of these movies caught me off-guard. Snake Eyes, until the last 5 minutes of the film, is a pretty great movie I had completely forgotten about, for example. The stuff coming – I may watch Phantom and Sisters again (definitely Sisters), and I still haven’t found a copy of Dionysus or Redacted yet so my project might end up incomplete. But Blow Out is one of the most brilliant films ever made – personal and smart and technical and trashy and elevated all at once, Carrie is what happens when someone is finally let loose with a budget and an idea that can hit the mainstream after a decade of building their skill set, I can and likely will eventually go on about the rest.
I’m just kind of doing this on a whim, and because I was thinking about watching the museum set piece in Dressed to Kill when I was writing something else. But whenever I decide to do something like this I end up learning stuff – like with the slashers and all of the Carpenter (even tv movies), and the failed attempt at watching all the French New Wave films (I think I only made it like 15 movies in? shameful). This one is taking a lot longer because I’m trying not to sit up for days on end like I did the previous times. But when I say “learned a lot” I don’t mean about life, I mean about basic, bone-stupid language of film-making/story shit. Practical, illuminating stuff about scene dynamics that have no use in the everyday world. That’s the kind of practicality I’m looking for, unusable practicality.
- Sean Witzke, April 2013.