Does he say anything? Does an artist have to (think the Marx Bothers)?
astroantiquity: Which is an apples and oranges analogy if you ask me, you really can't compare the two right? The point of comparison is so out there.
Yes, I think as an artist one does have to say anything. Even if it is something to the detriment of the majority, it's better than not being mentioned. Well, De Palma has a voice and has wit that a lot of directors copy and fail, but I don't think he has his own visual style (except for the cheesy split screen which he often uses, which annoys me to no end) which he can actually call his own. At best, De Palma is a perfunctory director going the rounds of making a movie.
Okay, I know that kind of thinking, and I guess it's popular, and I suppose it has a point (we must make movies that say something). But it misses out on so much! Does that make the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Rene Clair, Jean Cocteau lesser filmmakers because they avoid serious messages? De Palma has a few 'relevant' pictures, like Blowout, but I can't take it seriously as a political film any more than I can take Welles' political or socially relevant themes in Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil seriously--both have a more personal agenda. Does that make Welles a lesser filmmaker?
Sure it's apples and oranges; I'm all for appreciating both, for the different kinds and varieties of oranges, even the not-so-sweet ones. The Sicilian blood orange has a unique color and tart flavor, and has a unique place in Italian cooking, and I'm glad it's there. It's not the greatest orange, or the sweetest or most nutritious, but it's there.
I think his use of split screen is brilliant; he can even cut within the split screen or do fadeouts; it' like following two trains of thought simultaneously. Check out Kill Bill for indifferent use of split screen.
And yes he derives from Hitchcock, Welles, and Argento, among many others; thing is you never see those styles mixed together, and in the service of sardonic jokes Hitchcock can only wish he did (I'm thinking of the shower room scene in Carrie, the first 20 minutes of Dressed to Kill); it's the camera moves, and brilliant color, and sound design combined with that prankish sensibility and sensuality and a generous amount of 'quoting' from other filmmakers that's original. Femme Fatale is a joke Hitch couldn't even begin to concieve of, a 90 minute loop-de-loop pratfall that ends with De Palma landing miraculously on his feet. Is it socially significant? Hell, no. Can Tarantino and his ilk do something remotely like it? Hell no.
If that's perfunctory (Meaning, he makes it look casual and easy? I'm even more impressed), it's better than the best efforts of most other filmmakers.