Plot: Brian De Palma has a rich, extensive filmography loaded with classics, hits, and even misses, but his work is always controversial and always gets attention, from both critics and cinephiles. In De Palma, the director sits down to discuss his career in depth and reveal all the highs, lows, and inside scoops about his illustrious and remarkable run as a filmmaker. The premise is a simple, stripped down, as De Palma just talks about his movies and his life, with clips from movies that help enhance his comments, but it is just the man and his memories. This kind of in depth, first hand insight from the director himself is almost unheard of and is a riveting watch.
Entertainment Value: This retrospective of Brian De Palma’s career has an unusual approach, as it is just an extended interview with the man himself, with no one else brought in. The piece has a minimalist design, as it is just De Palma on camera in a casual setting as he talks in depth about his movies and his life, but that lets the focus rest where it should, on his words. He starts at his inspirations for going into film and talks about his youth, touches on his problematic relationships with big studios, the trials of the creative process, and his eventual departure from American cinema, with ample time spent on each phase of his career. He is quite candid, talking about his triumphs and his misfires, going into his personal take on why some worked and others failed, most of which seems genuine. He is obviously a big fan of his work, but that is to be expected and De Palma does take himself to task at times, especially in how he dealt with the studio system limitations.
The approach of De Palma alone as both the subject and the storyteller is interesting and has both benefits and drawbacks. As I said, being able to hear these stories from the man who lived them is invaluable, but as he is the lone narrator here, we have only his view and memories. De Palma seems candid and mostly open, but I would have appreciated some other perspectives, especially of the people he was talking about, his cast, crew, and fellow filmmakers. At the same time, that would have diluted the movie and cut down on the depth of the content, as this approach allows De Palma to take time with each of his movies and never feels rushed. In any event, De Palma as the lone voice here has both positive and negative impacts, but I think the good outweighs the bad. I also liked the use of key film clips, both from his own movies and those that influenced him, as well as a few snippets of deleted footage, used to help visualize his perspective. These film clips add a lot to the experience, such as being able to see his split screen visuals at the same time he details his thoughts on the process. In the end, I think De Palma fans and anyone interested in cinema should find a lot to like here.