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No hitch in the delivery
ferguson-64 July 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. A self-inflicted career retrospective … that's my most fitting description of this project from co-directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. Rather than line-up a slew of third-party observers and collaborators, we get the famed director himself walking us film-by-film through his resume. That's right, Brian De Palma discusses the De Palma film canon … and we movie lovers couldn't ask for anything better.

Beginning with a clip of Vertigo, the doc leads with the Hitchcock influence, almost as a form of disclosure. It's as if everyone associated is saying, Yes we admit it … Director De Palma has been heavily influenced and inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Now pay attention to what he's done with his career – some really good, some not so good, some downright awful. "Underappreciated" might be the best label for De Palma. He was part of the "New Hollywood" with Spielberg, Scorcese, Coppola, and Lucas, yet they are worshiped, while De Palma is mostly ignored.

Mr. De Palma speaks directly to the camera and seems to thoroughly enjoy this opportunity to analyze (and at times defend) his career, providing a self guided reflective approach - a chronological retrospective that doesn't shy away from his inability to put together a streak of successful films. This is direct talk (describing a particular bomb as "one of many disasters") with no apologies from a filmmaker who has worked for five decades. He tells behind the scenes stories in a matter-of-fact manner, not always complimentary of himself, actors or the industry.

The stories and recollections are the highlight here. De Palma speaks highly of Wilford Leach (his mentor and professor at Sarah Lawrence), composer Bernard Hermann and Robert DeNiro, with less than flattering tales of Cliff Robertson (Obsession), Sean Penn (Casualties of War), and Oliver Stone (Scarface). It's fascinating to hear De Palma explain the box office failure of his version of The Bonfire of the Vanities, address the scandal of Body Double, and describe in detail the simultaneous casting (with Spielberg) of Star Wars and Carrie. Even more eye-opening is his reminiscing on the back-and-forth with director Sidney Lumet as they played hot-potato with Scarface and Prince of the City.

Brian De Palma was Columbia University educated (math and physics), and has directed some of the most creative, colorful and controversial films – some of which never received their "due". This may be mostly a film for those who want more inside-industry scoop, but it's a man who takes pride in the fact that famed film critic Pauline Kael was a fan of his work, and that few directors have a more varied canon of film.

His patented "holy mackerel" is on full display as he takes us on the journey of De Palma films, and it's a reminder that "talking head" documentaries can still work … provided the talking head doing the talking is saying something worth listening to.
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Compelling and personal
ujtc8 October 2015
This interview/documentary on Brian DePalma's work is completely fascinating - it's not bloated with expert perspectives or critical assessment of DePalma's work. Rather we get an unfiltered story from the director himself which works its way through the last 50 years of cinema and discusses in much candor the highs and lows of a directing career. Particularly compelling are the practical steps DePalma took to stay relevant in a rapidly changing industry, as well as his pragmatic approach of dealing with hard-nosed movie executives, difficult actors and minuscule budgets. Throughout the DePalma's interview narrative is supplemented with clips from his own movies as well as other contemporary pieces, which convey the story line brilliantly. The documentary was filmed over the course of a view days based on dinner- time conversations between DePalma and Bombauch/Paltrow. Wonderful editing, amazing perspective; a must-see for any film lover or aspiring director.
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De Palma on De Palma
Michael_Elliott10 September 2016
De Palma (2015)

**** (out of 4)

Directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow got Brian De Palma to sit down and talk about all of the movies that he has made. This documentary has De Palma basically giving a history lesson about all of his movies. He talks about his influences, their failures or things that he wish he had done differently.

If you're a fan of De Palma's work then you probably already know that he has contributed to countless interviews and special features for his movies. There's a lot of stuff out there where the director talks about his career but this documentary works because you can pretty much get everything in one sitting. I really liked the flow of the picture because it really does come across as being shot in real time and it's just like you're sitting down at a table with the director and listening to him talk about his career.

DE PALMA is certainly a must-see for film buffs because the director is quite honest with his talk. At this point in his career he certainly doesn't have to worry about offending anyone and this leads to some very good stories about issue he had on films with actors including Robert DeNiro on THE UNTOUCHABLES. Each film is given a good amount of discussion and it's fascinating getting to hear the director pat himself on the back when he thought he did a great job or pointing out things that went wrong.

None of them films are given great, full details but as I said there are countless bonus features out there that dive into each film in more detail. This film works remarkably well because of how simple it is. The camera is set up close to De Palma and he simply talks and tells stories.
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"Holy Mackerel"
ollie1939-97-9579949 February 2017
In this film, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow interview one of Hollywood's most polarizing directors in Brian De Palma. De Palma has been praised for his innovative camera techniques and his suspenseful stories but has been criticised for misogyny in his films as well as seemingly ripping of many "Hitchcockian" traits. I am familiar with De Palma's work, although I haven't seen too many of his films apart from his most well known ones (Scarface, Untouchables, Carlito's Way etc.) but this documentary certainly wants me to explore more of his movies. The film is mainly just one shot of De Palma talking to the camera intercut with scenes from many of his movies. He goes into extreme detail about every single one of his movies, whilst occasionally talking about aspects of his personal life.

De Palma is a very interesting character. He's eccentric and funny but also can be arrogant sometimes. However, as a director he is a great storyteller and talks about most of his movies in extremely intricate and interesting detail e.g. how he performed certain shots to how he dealt with many of the different egos on his set. If you're someone who isn't particularly interested in film, you'll probably not find too much enjoyment in this documentary. It really is a documentary for cinephiles (such as myself) or at least people who have some interest in the art of film making. I do sometimes wish the documentary would perhaps tap into more aspects of De Palma's personal life such as his childhood or his relationship with his peers (Scorsese, Spielberg etc.). There are moments when De Palma talks about his childhood and refers to incidents that impacted his voyeuristic style but I wish the movie tapped into more moments like these. One other criticism I also have is perhaps De Palma does tend to talk about certain movies more than other ones. I would've liked for him to go into more detail about some of his more notable failures like Mission to Mars and Passion but De Palma generally just skips over these particular films.

However, if you're a movie fan or Brian De Palma fan( hell, even a detractor) you'll find great enjoyment out of this fascinating documentary about one of Hollywood's most prolific directors.
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Good look at a fascinating filmmaker
jellyneckr23 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
How much one enjoys DE PALMA depends almost entirely on one's opinion on the work of Brian De Palma or De Palma himself. For those who like De Palma's films, this new documentary will be a real treat. For those who dislike or are relatively indifferent to De Palma will most likely be completely bored throughout the entire running time. This is a documentary made for a very small audience: De Palma fans and general film fanatics.

The whole movie consists of De Palma going through his complete filmography, talking about each one of his films with clips spliced into the mix. There are no additional interviews, which would be a problem if De Palma wasn't such an engaging speaker. In terms of modern day filmmakers, De Palma, even after a career that spans several decades, is still of the most fascinating personalities in the film industry, something that is clear throughout almost every minute here. While I won't say there's never a dull moment, a good 85% of De Palma's stories are entertaining and insightful. Even the stories he tells about his biggest flops like The Bonfire of the Vanities adaptation and Wise Guys starring Danny Devito are fun to hear. De Palma doesn't disown any of these productions, but he is quite candid about why certain ones weren't well received critically or commercially.

The only real flaw is that a few of De Palma's films here get too much commentary, while a few gets too little commentary. Some of De Palma's most recent movies like The Black Dahlia and Passion are barely mentioned at all. Even if they are among his least popular films, it's disappointing that they aren't discussed enough here given the treatment all the other films seem to receive. Even with this imbalance,this is something that's worth watching more than once, just like the De Palma's films themselves. 8/10
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What an Artist!
aharmas30 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this documentary, one begins to realize how big of an influence De Palma himself in the world of movies. His output includes a little bit of every possible genre, and though he's not a young man anymore, he can still surprise us. He belongs to a group of directors that will probably never be matched in either their individual or collaborative work. He has definitely left a legacy worth enjoying and studying.

De Palma started in the 60's, and the film gives some background on his earlier productions. It's the 70's where he started making movies that most of us are familiar with and will always associate his name with. He unleashed the world of horror with "Carrie", probably igniting a surge in popularity for King and himself. That film also introduced Sissy Spacek to us. The documentary continues to give us informational bits on most of his work, clarifying issues, telling us what he liked or he didn't like in some of the films, and how there were always unexpected developments in his productions depending on who his partners were.

His work is for the most part quite remarkable. He combines beauty, obsession, and horror in films like "Body Double" and "Dressed to Kill". He works with some of the biggest stars in the world and directs hits or unexpected flops, but they are always memorable. Throughout the documentary, we admits his mistakes, and how his films could have been improved. He also tells us how other films which tried to imitate him fail because they might be going in a different direction.

Overall, De Palma proves himself an artist, a man who loves movies, who understands them and knows how to make them. He values the association with a good writer, a good idea, and most importantly he is cognizant that there is no way one can work alone in a place like Hollywood, regardless of the risks and the benefits.
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There's nothing like hearing it from the filmmaker himself
subxerogravity12 June 2016
You know, I went into this experience thinking I what was a big fan of De Palma, but was really cool is, I knew nothing, but learned a lot.

I was expecting this movie to be all about Carrie, the Untouchables, Mission Impossible, but for those of us who De Palma became a big name for because your of the generation that group up with Hip hop artist who loved Scarface, that movie and many of his mainstream hits play an important part in this sit down interview, but a small one, as De Palma talks with great personal depth a careering touching 50 years.

He's tells the story from his perspective and it's told with an honest feel, and it gives you perfect insight on his film style. He's a guy who loves indie films for the freedom it allows but needed to prove to himself that he can make a mainstream hit. He defends his disturbing images, by revealing to us how he did not realize it was disturbed.

Though focus on his movies, De Palma does give you personal insight on his upbringing and the state of mind he was in when he made those movies (like during the early 80s when he constantly cast his then wife, Nancy Allen, which he knew as damaging to their relationship).

A few times in the film, his treatment of women in his films came up and once again this is where his honesty of what he was trying to do came up. The interview is intertwine with clips from his movies and other movies that inspire him, and I think every nude scene De Palma has ever filmed was used here. Another contemporary subject was War in which he was able to give his two cents on what's going on now by talking about the two war movies he did do.

It's a great sit down for not just De Palma fans but for film fans everywhere. The man was enjoyable to listen to for almost two hours and he told great stories about the development for his long list of film credits.

Now I have to go out and find the movies I never seen.
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More a conversation than a documentary...
brchthethird24 September 2016
Brian De Palma is one of those directors whose films are very polarizing (with a few exceptions, of course). Being that he no longer works within the Hollywood establishment and his output has been drastically reduced, I guess a documentary will have to do. And boy, what a documentary! Still, the word 'documentary' doesn't really describe this film that well, since it's more like a one-on-one conversation. De Palma is very candid about his past and doesn't shy away from emphatically stating his opinions on people he's worked with and his own work. One thing that did surprise me was how little Hitchcock, his clearest influence, was brought up. Not a criticism, just an observation. Clips from VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and REAR WINDOW are shown, though, in the context of techniques or stylistic features that De Palma learned from them. If anything, the range of artistic influences was much wider than I had ever realized before. Even if he never made another film, De Palma has left behind an incredible body of work that deserves serious study and consideration, and this documentary fills a void for everyone. It provides a nice retrospective for those already familiar and, for those not, a great place to start.
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Holy mackerel!
Quinoa19841 September 2016
This documentary is by and large an excellent film school in 108 minutes, which is just slightly ironic as at one point in a moment of candor (among several if not often points for this man), he says how film schools produce many people who just won't ever really get into the film business (he gives a percentage of people who just won't make it, and it's high). Sometimes things do simply come out to good luck, good timing, and maybe for certain studio heads and people frankly go to see the blasted things (Carrie, as we can see here, was from all four of those things coming together at once).

The whole thing is De Palma only, talking to the camera, with a tiny bit at the end of him walking down the street for... some reason I'm not sure of, maybe .98% of him doing something other than talking and gesticulating was necessary - and this is juxtaposed with some photos and newspaper clippings and footage from ALL the De Palma movies (including little side pieces like "Wonton's Wake", a student film, and he even gives an anecdote about being the one with the idea to bring Courtney Cox on stage for his charming music video for "Dancin' in the Dark"). It's a full retrospective of the violent, the satiric, the operatic, and the messy.

I'm glad Paltrow and Baumbach took this approach; if it had been the requisite usual documentary where other talking heads chimed in about who this guy was and his films perhaps other opinions could pipe in, but if the movie is called DE PALMA, give us a full course of the man! And this does as far as it being a full life story, with the semi-framing of Vertigo, Hitchcock's masterwork of surrealism and voyeuristic nightmares realizes, being the lynchpin for many of his works (Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, basically any movie that has a long take of a character following another or doubles being used, not to mention Bernard Herrmann). There's also, something I'm glad about, not too much in the way of trying to deep-focus-psychoanalyze the man as far as his films; the questions, though we don't hear them, seem to lead to straightforward answers (whether you like what he has to say about women - in his plain language, he says, "I like following women, I think they make good subjects on film" in so many words, that depends on how you see it in his films).

Because it's all on him for those interviews, camera planted down as De Palma talks, the scenes from his many films, from The Wedding Party to Passion (50 years!), it doesn't feel bogged down at any time - from one movie it leads to another and another, and I liked that I came away understanding there was no real grand plan for De Palma as a filmmaker (he didn't know he wanted to even be one until college, again with good timing the Nouvelle Vague changed everything as well as American experimental cinema), and this is a documentary that is charting a real commercial artist of the 2nd half of the 20th century.

By this I mean he is conscious of the money - one of the anecdotes about Carrie reveals how he knew down to 200 grand what a movie *would* cost with a certainty - and yet even with this consciousness he could go too far; look at what happened between 1987 and 1993, where he goes from one of his biggest successes (Untouchables) to a personal triumph but financial flop (Casualties of War), a general fiasco (Bonfire, though he says he still enjoys the movie, "Don't read the book", he says half jokingly), and then another personal film but this time as one of *his* thrillers (Raising Cain) and finally what he thought of as "I can't make something better than this (Carlito's Way, one of my personal favorites) - it all shows a man working in the system (perhaps sometimes against his better judgment, though it's not to say he didn't want his films to be seen and appreciated, he clearly did and still does), but he was always finding his way through the films, falling on his face at times, but still coming away with how he wants to do it, if only by the skin of his teeth.

If there is a complaint to have it's not even that it's too short, per-say, but near the end the section of De Palma's life and career in this century feels short-changed; perhaps this may be intentional by way of the director's point near the end where he brings it back to Hitchcock, that, according to him, post-Psycho his films didn't connect because a filmmaker's best work is in their 30's-40's-50's (spoken like a true Tarantino eh?), however I still wanted to know more about this latter-day films, that have interesting elements even as they go back to his roots (Femme Fatale, Redacted, Passion being good films, the middle one showing some innovation even in his latter years). This said, for at least 100 minutes this is film-geek ecstasy, with stories that sometimes feel like their from the front-lines, and you can't help but laugh at some/several of them. His candor brings you in, but it's also that he can simply be fully engaging with an audience as a speaker (albeit it's clear occasionally he's talking to two filmmakers behind the camera), and so for regular audiences who may have only seen Scarface or Carrie or the first M:I movie and want to more more it can be compelling as well.

To put it another way, if I showed this to my film school students, I'd almost feel like I wouldn't need to hold too many other classes - except, maybe, probably, to just make a damn movie as a collective ala Home Movies!
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director's commentary
SnoopyStyle11 April 2017
This is a documentary about Brian De Palma's movies and career. It's almost entirely him sitting and talking about his movies. His Hitchcockian influence is obvious to any passing fans. This is a good documentary for anyone who likes his movies. Having come up along with many young directing icons of the era, he has some good insights and stories about everything. It doesn't get too salacious but he's not really sugar-coating too much either. It's a compelling watch and a fine insight into his movies. This is basically a compilation of the best of twenty plus movie commentaries by the director.
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masonfisk20 August 2018
A brilliant doc chronicling all of Brian DePalma's work from his humble beginnings, critical hits & misfires & box office gold told by none other by the master himself. I have a strong affinity for DePalma's works that years ago I attended a double feature of Sisters & Phantom of the Paradise at Brooklyn's BAM. Even my earliest memories were of his version of Carrie that whenever the commercial would come on TV it would send me reeling to another room to get away from his haunting imagery. The worst thing that can be said about this outing is once it's done you'll want to dive into his oeuvre to rekindle your memories almost like a knee jerk reaction.
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Simple, honest, insightful and extremely entertaining
runamokprods3 June 2017
For those with in interest in De Palma's films and long career, or just cinema in general, this is a highly entertaining and informative visit with one of the most interesting, controversial and eclectic American film makers of the last 50 years.

The form couldn't be simpler. Just Brian De Palma sitting in a chair telling stories about each of his films in chronological order, from his first shorts in the mid 1960s to "Passion" in 2013 – an amazing span of almost 50 years. His comments are interspersed with well chosen clips from his own work, and – when he makes a reference – those of other film-makers as well.

What makes this form work so well is that De Palma is a terrific interview subject. He's funny, thoughtful, insightful, and sometimes very entertainingly snarky. He is also tremendously honest. He saves many of his toughest criticisms for himself, analyzing with surgical precision why certain of his films could have been better, and his part in those lapses. Very few directors are willing to talk at length about choices and moments they regret, usually choosing only to blame others for artistic goals falling short. But by acknowledging his own choices that didn't work out he makes himself very human, empathetic and trustworthy as a subject. He's not interested in self-glorification as much as he is in sharing a lifetime of wisdom won by mostly hard experience (few of De Palma's films got the support and attention they deserved at the time of their release – some, like 'Scarface' only became iconic years later). And he also talks with a touching wistfulness about those films he is truly proud of that never got the support – critical, commercial or both – that they deserved.

Overall you end up with a real sense of what it's like to be tremendously talented, protean, rule-breaking film-maker over 50 years – the ridiculous highs and lows, the multiple struggles, hard times and occasional triumphs of a high-profile artistic life in the weirdness that is the American film scene.
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Engaging and informative documentary about filmmaker Brian De Palma with the auteur in full focus
george.schmidt16 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
DE PALMA (2016) **** Engaging and informative documentary about filmmaker Brian De Palma with the auteur in full focus on screen recollecting his oeuvre with unapologetic frankness and good nature. Peppered with footage of his canon and self-effacing to a fault with its subject matter, filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow - friends and fans alike of the director - fully immerse themselves into the up and down career highlights and bumps in the road while his personal life is more or less a side note on the whole. For film fans and fans of De Palma a must sees to appreciate the once heir apparent to Alfred Hitchcock by employing The Master's zen philosophy of camera movement, editing and composition as well as his own imprint and impact as a force majeur.
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More like a cliff notes version of De Palma's career
petermartineditor11 June 2016
This is perhaps the most mundane film ever about a most colorful filmmaker.

Watching "De Palma," one gets the sense of a home movie more than a professional retrospective of a director's career. The interviews are insightful, and he tells some good stories -- but he is filmed and edited so ineptly the stories lose much of their impact.

The film clips are also choppy and badly cut -- that is, badly incorporated. De Palma's famous long takes are sliced and diced and jammed into the narrative without ever allowing one the pleasure of just enjoying the man's craft. His narration also seems rushed and jammed together. I read that this film was put together from 30 hours of interview footage. It shows. One can tell his many hours of speaking have been condensed and shortened and jammed into 100 or so minutes. And because only a single camera angle was used, the editors apparently re-sized the image occasionally just to create a bit of variety.

It's also very much of an insider's film. De Palma speaks of friends and colleagues using nicknames the general public isn't aware of. And yet we're supposed to understand. For example, most audiences don't know who composer Bernard Herrmann is, and fewer still know his industry nickname, "Benny." When De Palma starts referring to "Benny," it's not clear who he's talking about. This could have been cleared up in the editing -- but apparently the film's two editors -- who have never edited a documentary before -- and the directors, who have never directed a documentary before -- felt clarity wasn't important.

The film is at its worst near the end, when De Palma's final words, summing up his life as a director, are played off-camera. This clearly illustrates the inexperience and ineptitude of both directors and editors.

It's a pity someone with a fraction of De Palma's talent and skill wasn't entrusted with telling the life story of one of our greatest filmmakers.
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A must-see for fans (like me)
pmtelefon8 December 2018
I'm a big big fan of the films of Brian DePalma. Warts and all, he is one of the top five movie directors of all time. "DePalma" is not really a documentary. It's Brian DePalma doing an interview and commenting on each one of his films. It's just what I wanted to see. He is very underappreciated as a filmmaker. Unfortunately, "DePalma" is not the type of documentary that will help bring a new audience to his films. It's a movie that's really only for his fans. But that's okay. It's a movie made for people like me.
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Lostintranslation8924 September 2016
Who would ever have thought watching one man speak for nearly two hours could be so addictive. De Palma is a mango icicle to director, and this very candid interview/documentary shows the inner working of a genius mind.

From his early student films to the height of his career Carrie, The Untuchables, Scarface. de Palma holds no prisoners and rightly so. He tells it as it is, discusses the pitfalls of the industry system and shows newbie directors how to break free

The doc goes passed at the blink of an eye, and is such addictive viewing, I'd be prepared to watch it again right now.... in fact..,
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A missed opportunity
pascal-charpentier8112 September 2019
There is nothing really wrong with this documentary. We go through his career and he tells us what happened on every set. But that's it. What would have helped this immensely would have been other directors and actors telling us stuff about him, about who he is. We never get that. Why is he so facinated with brutal scenes which is a recurring theme. Besides his directing style of steadycam shots and long shots we never get to know who De Palma is.
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Nice career retrospective
Leofwine_draca4 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
DE PALMA is a nice interview/career retrospective for director Brian De Palma, a Hollywood talent who has been making short films since the 1960s. I'm a big De Palma fan and have been for many years, so watching this documentary was a real treat for me. It's simple, unfussy, and unhurried stuff, presenting De Palma as he sits in front of a fireplace and talks about his films from his early shorts through to his recent efforts. Many clips from the movies are used to illustrate his points, but other than that it's straightforward, anecdotal, and thoroughly engaging.
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a mixed result
proud_luddite17 June 2018
A documentary film exposes the life and career of Hollywood director Brian De Palma who began making films fifty years ago.

This film tells a fine history, not just of De Palma's films or films in general, but also of the various historical events that influenced movies throughout the decades. Any history of the period that began in the late 60s and continued through the 70s is always welcome. De Palma mentions that there was much more freedom in those days before the business lobby took over Hollywood in the 80s and continued dominance ever since.

There is enjoyable nostalgia in seeing clips of De Palma's films (which include a young, pre-stardom Robert De Niro) and those of other films that influenced him. These clips are the only alternative to this movie's main source of storytelling: De Palma himself narrating his history. While he is engaging and never dull as a speaker, the documentary feels incomplete as it lacks interviews from others - whether they be specifically for this film or older film clips from friends and foes.

At one point, the renowned director mentions that he was condemned as misogynist for depicting violence against women. While he defends himself well, it would have been more interesting to hear directly from the other side. In fairness, male characters were also brutally treated in his films. His thrillers pushed the boundaries for violence. Personally, I've never been a fan of this kind of film-making even though I've enjoyed some of De Palma's films. Some of his films may stand out in movie history but I don't think the genre of excessive violence is worth glorifying.
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aleskander6 December 2019
Impressive dialogue with Brian De Palma, a magician of the audiovisual, independent filmmaker with the vocation of an author, director of his own screenplays and other excellent writer's scripts....
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Chronological view, by de Palma himself, of his entire carreer.
imseeg13 June 2019
Straightforward interview with ONLY de Palma himself talking directly into the camerea about all his movies in chronological order. Refreshingly simple to ONLY see de Palma talk briefly about ALL the movies he made. And no one else...

BUT, what's a bit disappointing is that the lesser movies get as much attention as his biggest succeses. That nags a bit. One would have love to hear him talk a lot more about Scarface for instance. But unfortunately it is just covered briefly. As all the movies he made are just covered briefly. There are some nice anecdotes to be heard about the actor's and filmstudios. And de Palma is a funny guy, watching him talk about his pictures, but generally speaking this documentary has no surprises that make it really stand out.

Recommended for whom? De Palma fans would like it ofcourse, because of all the anecdotes he tells about his pictures. But if you arent a fan of his work, this interview covering all his movies wont light your fire. In that case watch his classics "Scarface" (1983) or "The Untouchables" (1987) instead of this documentary...
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Absolutely essential viewing for anyone who loves film, film technique and the process of film creation
moonspinner5523 June 2017
Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow co-produced and co-directed this sit-down interview with filmmaker Brian De Palma, using clips of the movies he has been inspired by and key sequences of De Palma's own pictures to illustrate his colorful, amusing, often fascinating stories of film technique, on-set difficulties and, the always dicey, hindsight regrets: what-worked-and-what-didn't. Raised in Philadelphia, the youngest of three boys born to an absentee surgeon father, De Palma was a science nerd at Columbia University before enrolling in the Sarah Lawrence College drama department, where he honed his technique, began shooting short films, and eventually made his first full-length feature, "The Wedding Party" featuring a young Robert De Niro (with whom De Palma would work again with several times). Universal paid for De Palma's tuition and put him into their New Talent program, but never used any of his submissions, so De Palma went rogue and filmed "Greetings" in New York City, followed by "Hi, Mom!" which won him a modicum of success and a repertoire of actor friends. This is only the beginning for the De Palma that soon followed, the movie auteur who became close pals with Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola and Scorsese, the mastermind behind smooth, erotic thrillers such as "Dressed to Kill", violent crime epics such as "Scarface" and "The Untouchables" and the big-budget action-adventure "Mission: Impossible", De Palma's first blockbuster. Not especially a raconteur, De Palma nevertheless looks back at his cinematic output with bemusement, telling wonderful stories of working with De Niro, Sean Connery, John Cassavetes, Cliff Robertson, composer Bernard Herrmann, Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox. He doesn't go in for gossip (very little about his two marriages), nor does he linger on the criticisms he's received over his Hitchcock allusions. However, any young filmmaker or movie buff will be intrigued by the constant struggles he's had to see his vision through, about standing up to producers and studio heads and writers who all want his film to reflect their views. It's a tantalizing 110 minutes. ***1/2 from ****
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Holy Mackarel!
PimpinAinttEasy16 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Think about it. A film like Carlito's Way was made only 23 years ago. I cannot imagine a film like it getting made today. It cost $30 million in 1993. It would cost approximately $50 million to make today (I used % increase in CPI). I don't think any studio today would finance a $50 million gangster flick with little or no action. Unless it was made by Tarantino or someone.

And even if it were to get made today, who would play Pacino and Sean Penn's roles? Tom hardy? Ryan gosling? Di Caprio? The actors today are simply terrible.

I guess I went a little off topic. This documentary had De Palma talking us through some of his early socially conscious Greetings era films to his erotic films and also the big studio films. De Palma is like a really candid and jovial character who nonetheless exudes a certain toughness. It was interesting to note that he spoke at length about the movie composers that he worked with. De Palma worked with the very best of movie composers - Bernard Herrmann, Pino Donaggio, Ennio Morricone etc.

He also gave an important advice to young filmmakers - most filmmakers do not make the films they want to. Certain films come their way and they make the best of it. He gave a few examples of how he would be working on one screenplay or a novel but then he would be offered something else to make and he would abandon the project he was working on. I thought that was very interesting.
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Simple format, simply great execution
The_Badger_Man17 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If you've ever seen any of his films (Scarface, Mission: Impossible, among seemingly countless others) or have noticed his rather strange spiral into exclusively erotic thrillers as of late, then you just might enjoy this doc. If you happen to be a fellow director or other Hollywood fellow, then you just might appreciate exploring the mind of a uniquely-minded director.

The filmmakers used a rather straight-forward technique to capture Brian De Palma's life as a director/producer/writer. They put him in front of a camera, and then let him tell them story after story about making each of his films. This format may have grown stale after a few minutes and a few stories in the hands and mouth of anyone else. Not for De Palma though. His strength as a storyteller and the editor's strength of knowing when and how to cut from one story to another kept this documentary moving at an enjoyable pace.

Since I had only seen four of his almost thirty feature-length films, I was in awe of how extensive and varied his career behind the camera had been. Most of his work just never appealed to me - too weird, vulgar, and/or ill-regarded for my rather delicate palate. Here, he made his work into bite-sized snippets for easy and delicious consumption.

One thing that worried me and almost dissuaded me from seeing it was my worry about spoilers. After watching the documentary, I can say that he does spoil a few plot points of his movies. Does it matter? I don't think so. He's the kind of director that specializes in building suspense and not the kind that dazzles with mind-blowing twists. For Brian De Palma, it's the journey that counts, not the destination (as much).
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Great documentary for movie lovers
8512223 December 2016
Greetings from Lithuania.

"De Palma" (2015) is a very simple documentary about legendary director Brian De Palma. There aren't any interviews beside of Brian De Palma himself - for the whole movie he speaks about himself, his carrier and his movies. I was highly involved into listening things about his films, how they were made, all the nuances and etc. So those who saw every or many movies from this director and did like them - "De Palma" is for them - this is a true gem for movie buffs.

Overall, "De Palma" is a very involving and simple documentary. It simply shows you images and scenes from movies you have probably seen and many times (like i did), and listen to director speaking about these movies. Personally i loved many movies from this director, especially "Carlito's Way" and "Scarface" - two great movies. "De Palma" is a pure movie heaven for those who loves movies.
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