9/17/04

Defending DePalma, Part Deux

Astroantiquity: "How can you assume that I don't "see" the styles mixed together? Don't be too condescending, because people aren't too stupid(well, some people are but I'm far from it)."

I didn't assume anything about you; I'm just presenting my argument. And any sign of condescension is an assumption on your part.

"Anyway, in the service of Brian de Palma, I think it would be better for him and for you not to use Femme Fatale as a representative of his work.  It's cinematic trash through and through.  The only saving grace in that bomb of a film is Romijn."

Oh, it's one thing to say something's trash; the challenge is to prove it. I'm not saying Femme Fatale is a great work, just a pretty good one, maybe even fun and brilliant trash, and one that's easy to use to bash over the heads of lesser filmmakers (Tarantino, et. al.)

"Perfunctory meaning selfishly.  Thank you."

That's a meaning of the word I've never heard of. Where did you pick up that definition?

"His movies don't resonate with the same power as Argento's nor Hithcock's."

Not as much as the best Hitchcock, I'm willing to admit. I've already pegged what I think is his proper status among filmmakers a while back. Argento's great and all, but when he can come up with scenes as moving as, say, Sissy Spacek with Piper Laurie in Carrie, or Spacek at the prom, or Angie Dickinson's character in Dressed to Kill, or Travolta's character in the final scenes of Blow Out then maybe we can say he's a great drama filmmaker as well...

"As far as politics is concerned, and serious messages are concerned,  John Waters was able to pull off a very serious message albeit in a brilliant satire (serial mom, although we do see a watered down version of John Waters)."

Oh, Waters. I much prefer Romero. Waters makes a few good satiric points but other than his color design it's hard to call him a filmmaker--more a satirist that happens to work on film (his non-film activities are more interesting, I think). A more shocking Mel Brooks, say.

"He was able to make Serial Mom more effective than Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers"

Okay, we agree there.

"So, this brings me to this: Are de Palma's movies effective?  Yes, in a way they are.  They somehow get the message across.  But, are they original enough?  No, I don't think so.  Brian de Palma riffs Argento, but has never given him any credit for all the riffing that he has done.  Hell, BDP has even called the guy a hack publicly."

I agree with wedge, there is no law to say one must be original (otherwise, George Lucas wouldn't have what little career he has). Arguably, Coppola in The Godfather movies wasn't being original, merely great in an old-fashioned manner (Coppola cribs from Visconti's The Leopard, in many important ways). And the point I've been trying to make all this time is that sometimes riffing off several chosen filmmakers is a style as well; if he adds anything to it (the aforementioned humor and sexuality) then it's an even more distinct style. I'm not talking mere camera moves, but moods, emotional tones, narrative strategies, sensibility, a whole other shebang.

And when did people have to credit others for their riffing? That's like providing cliff notes to take with you to the movie. It's more fun to guess, De Palma knows this, and that's part of the pleasure of his films--he's riffing and doing variations of a theme (something, incidentally, Bach and Mozart do very well).

2 comments:

cutefurrybeast said...

Eh, Argento.  I'm trying to think if I saw anything of his besides Suspiria, but I can't recall.  I like the wink, along with the edge and sensuality that's inherent in De Palma's films, even in an out-and-out shocker like Sisters.   I happened to like Femme Fatale but that's me and to call it trash and a bomb is to not really, in my opinion, understand the horror genre.  It is by definition drama first, an underlying story about a relationship; even when the story involves an inanimate object like a house (such as in The Haunting) or a car, or center around an animal.  It shouldn't be confused with sub-genres like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street slasher films.  You could argue Halloween as a slasher movie, but its got great drama at the heart of the story.  I rented Blow Out a couple of weeks ago and was still moved by it, especially as you said Noel, the last few minutes:  "Yeah, it's a great scream ... a great scream."

noelbotevera said...

"a great scream"

Yeah, people who accuse De Palma of being emotionally shallow and coldhearted need to look at that scene again. He beats the crap out of any of that snot-nosed brat pack.