Blu-ray Review: De Palma

depalmabluSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTORS: Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
RELEASE DATE: 9/13/16 | PRICE: Blu-ray $24.99
SPECS: R | 107 min. | Documentary | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall

With a record that boasts many dazzling critical and commercial highs (Carrie, The Untouchables), major misfires (The Bonfire of the Vanities, Mission to Mars) and controversial audience dividers (Scarface, Dressed to Kill), filmmaker Brian De Palma’s career  seems well worth exploring. But while his fellow  “Movie Brat” contemporaries like Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese seem to be in and out of the news with regularity, De Palma’s name and rep appear to have faded into the background. Directors Noah Baumbach (Mistress America) and Jake Paltrow (The Good Night) aim to change all that with this doc in which the 76-year-old helmer speaks frankly about his ups and downs,  supplemented primarily by movie clips.

Brian De Palma directs Al Pacino and his little friend in Scarface

Brian De Palma directs Al Pacino and his little friend in Scarface

The result is a smorgasbord for movie fanatics that is awkwardly missing a few items from the menu. Likably low-key and self-effacing, De Palma spins some fascinating behind-the-scenes tales, name-drops pals like Steven (Spielberg), Marty (Scorsese) and” Benny” (composer Bernard Herrman), speaks freely about people he didn’t get along with (Tom Smothers and Cliff Robertson among others) and relays regrets about not taking on some projects that never came to fruition. But Baumbach and Paltrow seems to gloss over movies worth delving further into. What went wrong with the misbegotten 2006 James Ellroy adaptation The Black Dahlia? Why does he dislike 1978’s psychic thriller The Fury, on the top of many De Palma admirers’ like lists? And his calling card obsessions with voyeurism and Hitchcock sure could use some further examination.

Despite its gaps, however, De Palma stands as a must-see for fans of the auteur’s films or of movies in general. In a way, then, this film encapsulates what viewers feel about De Palma, fascinating them and frustrating them all at the same time.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.