Hey Toronto! It's Time to Get Your De Palma Voyeurism Fix

Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)
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Hey Toronto! It's Time to Get Your De Palma Voyeurism Fix

Over the course of what promises to be a long, hot, sticky summer, what better way to escape the streets and enter the sleazy, dreamy, violently dark ouvre of Brian De Palma. With the release of Jake Paltrow & Noah Baumbach's wonderful documentary interview, De Palma, getting released in Toronto this Friday, and the start of the summer programming at TIFF Lightbox, the festival's year round house of cinema is offering a near-complete retrospective of the works of the love-him/loath-him king of homage.  

Famously back by Pauline Kael, and currently revered by Quentin Tarantino, De Palma is a disciple of not only Hitchcock which can be easily seen in most of De Palma's work, but also of classic film theory, from Sergei Eisenstein (his lovely homage to Battleship Potemkin is one of several stand out scenes in the 1986 blockbuster The Untouchables) and Jean-Luc Goddard (1970's Hi Mom! is as Goddardian as much as it is the prototype for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver) to a serious misfire attempt to do Kubrick (The seriously ill-executed Mission to Mars.)

De Palma loves crafting a shot that stands out unto itself, whether it be long steadicam point of view shots (Snake Eyes, The Black Dahlia, Obsession), glorious split-screens (Sisters, Carrie), diopter splits (Blow Out), epic crane shots, or any other showy film-making technique, the director knows how to make visual stick. And he always is sure to implicate the viewer in the affair, as the lionshare of his films are exercises in extreme voyeurism (Body Double, Femme Fatale) and extreme violence (Scarface).  Just when you think you have the man pinned down with his obsessions, he'll go and make an action romp (Mission Impossible) or a goofy gangest slapstick (Wise Guys) or a serious and nuanced war film (Casualities of War).

This is why we love the man and his movies, they may be derivative on the surface, but there is a living breathing film aficionado looking to make a mark with a yeoman's work ethic stretched by force into art.

Split/Screen: The Cinema of Brian De Palma, "A retrospective on one of the most prolific, poorly understood and controversial directors in the history of cinema." Starts June 18th and runs all the way to September 3rd. It includes almost everything the director has ever done from his early shoe-string work through his 70s prolificity to 80s blockbusters, 90s experimentation, 00's struggles  to present. (Sadly, absent is the rarest of birds, that film he made in 1972 with Orson Welles and Tommy Smothers about magicians and tap dancing, Get To Know Your Rabbit, which would have been quite a prize, if any prints even exist of it anymore as well as the Bruce Springsteen video that made Courtney Cox famous.)  With just about the rest of the prolific director's work screening, now has never been a better time to get to know your De Palma.

 

Casualties of War 1989 | 113 min. | R | 35mm
Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox star in this devastating war drama based on the true story of a squad of American soldiers who raped and murdered a young Vietnamese woman during a mission in 1966.  Saturday, June 18 at 7 p.m.
 
Dressed to Kill 1980 | 104 min. | R | Digital
This luxurious Hitchcockian thriller is regarded by many as Brian De Palma's greatest film. Sunday, June 19 at 5:45 p.m.
 
Dionysus in ’69 1969 | 85 min. | 18A | 35mm
De Palma deploys an early instance of his signature split-screen technique in this filmed record of the orgiastic, avant-garde production of Euripides' The Bacchae by Richard Schechner and The Performance Group. Tuesday, June 21 at 9 p.m.
 
Murder a la Mod 1968 | 80 min. | 14A | Digital
Little known and rarely screened, De Palma's first released feature is an eccentric, exhilarating fusion of French New Wave japery and Hitchcockian suspense. Thursday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m.
 
Sisters 1973 | 93 min. | R | 35mm
A beautiful young model (Margot Kidder) tries to conceal the bloody handiwork of her murderous twin, in Brian De Palma's stylish Hitchcock homage. Friday, June 24 at 9:30 p.m.
 
Phantom of the Paradise 1974 | 92 min. | PG | Digital
De Palma's horror/satire/rock-musical revamp of The Phantom of the Opera by way of Faust has become a beloved cult classic. Thursday, June 30 at 9:15 p.m.
 
Greetings 1968 | 88 min. | R | 35mm
Robert De Niro makes his screen debut in Brian De Palma's brash, biting, and frequently hilarious satire of Vietnam-era America. Friday, July 1 at 8:45 p.m.
 
Hi, Mom! 1970 | 87 min. | 14A | 35mm
Robert De Niro returns in De Palma's sequel to Greetings, reprising his role as a voyeuristically inclined Vietnam vet who embarks on an erratic journey from peeping tom to sleaze merchant to upstanding yuppie to domestic terrorist. Thursday, July 7 at 9:30 p.m.
 
Carrie 1976 | 98 min. | R | Digital
Sissy Spacek became a star as a mousy high-school outcast whose telekinetic powers are unleashed after a vicious practical joke, in Brian De Palma's stunningly stylish version of Stephen King's first published novel. Friday, July 8 at 9:30 p.m.
 
Obsession USA 1976 | 98 min. | PG | Digital
A New Orleans businessman (Cliff Robertson) seeks to recreate his dead wife in the body of her doppelgänger (Genevieve Bujold), in Brian De Palma's homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo. Thursday, July 14 at 9 p.m.
 
The Fury USA 1978 | 118 min. | R | 35mm
An ex-CIA agent (Kirk Douglas) races to rescue his psychic son from a sinister Agency colleague (John Cassavetes) in Brian De Palma's sci-fi/horror opus. Friday, July 15 at 8:45 p.m.
 
Blow Out 1981 | 107 min. | R | Digital
A movie sound man (John Travolta) believes that his recordings contain evidence of a political assassination, in De Palma's riveting, brilliantly constructed thriller. Saturday, July 16 at 7 p.m.
 
Body Double 1984 | 114 min. | R | Digital
Critically assaulted upon its original release, De Palma's sly, skeezy and frequently funny Rear Window riff is one of the best and most enjoyable films in the director's oeuvre. Sunday, July 17 at 3:30 p.m.
 
Wise Guys 1986 | 100 min. | 14A | 35mm
Two low-level mob flunkies (Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo) go on the run from their vengeful boss, in De Palma's madcap crime comedy. Thursday, July 21 at 9:15 p.m.
 
Scarface 1983 | 170 min. | R | Digital
De Palma's remake/update of the 1932 gangster classic gives Al Pacino his most famous role as vicious Cuban criminal Tony Montana, who shoots and snorts his way to the top of the Miami drug trade. Saturday, July 23 at 8:45 p.m.
 
The Untouchables 1987 | 119 min. | R | Digital
Brian De Palma had one of his biggest critical and commercial hits with this handsome big-screen version of the 1950s TV series, about a straight-shooting federal agent (Kevin Costner) who recruits an unorthodox team to take down Chicago crime kingpin Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Saturday, July 30 at 1:15 p.m.
 
Raising Cain 1992 | 91 min. | 14A | 35mm
A respected child psychologist (John Lithgow) proves to have more than a few screws loose in De Palma's highly stylized, self-reflexive psychological thriller. Friday, August 5 at 9:30 p.m.
 
Carlito’s Way 1993 | 144 min. | R | Digital
A decade after Scarface, Brian De Palma and Al Pacino reunited for this considerably more tender-hearted take on the gangster genre, about a former Puerto Rican drug lord who finds himself being pulled back into his old life by his loyalty to his friends. Friday, August 12 at 9:15 p.m.
 
Mission: Impossible 1996 | 110 min. | PG | Digital
De Palma was hand-picked by producer-star Tom Cruise to helm this blockbuster revamp of the classic 1960s spy series. Thursday, August 18 at 9 p.m.
 
Snake Eyes 1998 | 98 min. | 14A | 35mm
A cheerfully corrupt cop (Nicolas Cage) uncovers a sinister conspiracy following a political assassination at a championship Atlantic City boxing match, in De Palma's flamboyant thriller. Friday, August 19 at 9 p.m.
 
Femme Fatale  2002 | 114 min. | 14A | 35mm
A seductive jewel thief (Rebecca Romijn) ropes a bewildered photographer (Antonio Banderas) into a deadly game of double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses, in De Palma's delicious ode to classic film noir. Saturday, August 20 at 9:15 p.m.
 
The Black Dahlia 2006 | 121 min. | 14A | Digital
Two cops (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) find their personal lives spiraling out of control as they investigate a gruesome murder in 1940s L.A., in De Palma's stylishly sordid adaptation of the James Ellroy novel. Tuesday, August 23 at 9:15 p.m.
 
Mission to Mars 2000 | 114 min. | PG | 35mm
A rescue mission to the Red Planet unearths the key to a metaphysical mystery, in De Palma's critically lambasted but visually dazzling space adventure. Thursday, August 25 at 9:15 p.m.
 
Redacted 2007 | 90 min. | 18A | 35mm
De Palma's angriest, most overtly political film in years adopts a found-footage aesthetic for its lightly fictionalized account of a 2006 case of rape and mass murder by US soldiers in Iraq. Saturday, August 27 at 10 p.m.
 
Passion 2012 | 98 min. | 14A | Digital
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace star in De Palma's fiendishly clever mix of corporate satire and psychological thriller. Saturday, September 3 at 9 p.m.
 
 
[Related: Kurt is currently doing a chatty film-by-film discussion on the work of DePalma with his podcast Cinecast co-host, which will be going on in conjuction with this retrospective at Rowthree.com, currently Hi Mom! and Blow Out episodes are up here.]
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Brian De PalmaDEPALMASplit ScreenNoah BaumbachJake PaltrowDocumentaryBiography

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dannyRJune 17, 2016 10:11 AM

"...whether it be long steadicam point of view shots...

Would critics please remove that word from their vocabulary? The device has become a staple of the cinematic toolbox for the better part of half a century now. A review may as well have said 'dolly-shot', fifty years ago.

KurtJune 17, 2016 11:16 PM

I get what you are saying, but De Palma's particular execution of this type of thing is more the typical way, he's usually doing it literally from the point of view of a character, not just a smooth steadicam shot.

I mean look at what De Palma does in both Snake Eyes and The Black Dahlia (or the beginning of Blow Out) and it is his own kind of thing, quite different from a Scorsese's steadicam shot or a Kubrician one, or a Malick one.