|Courtesy of A24 Films|
2015, 107 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
Noah Baumbach is on a roll. With this year's enjoyable While We're Young and the brilliant Mistress America, this would be a great year in anyone's book. But, Baumbach had to one-up himself with one more film that proves that he's mastered another kind of filmmaking craft: documentary. De Palma is essentially the results of Noah Baumbach and co-director Jake Paltrow interviewing famed director Brian De Palma (Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface) about his career. It's simple in concept, but endlessly fascinating.
De Palma is very candid in front of the camera, giving insights into his own films while telling stories about their productions. He isn't afraid to discuss his regrets about many of his films, which deepens the film and our understanding of its subject (while many of his films are considered classics, a fair amount are not, to say the least).
It's very refreshing to see a piece of work as passionate as De Palma. Baumbach has made it no secret that he is a huge cinephile. When watching a Baumbach film, it's fun to see which films he has paid homage to. His past two paid homage to the French New Wave (Frances Ha) and the screwball comedy (Mistress America), and the attention to detail in those films is astonishing. So, it comes as no surprise that De Palma is a detailed, comprehensive work, covering every one of De Palma's films. This may sound tedious, but De Palma is so entertaining to listen to that it never once becomes less than completely compelling.
A few years ago, I saw Yves Montmayeur's Michael H. Profession: Director, a comprehensive look at Michael Haneke's career, at the Tribeca Film Festival. While I certainly enjoyed that film, it grew tedious by the end. That film wasn't told by its subject, which is something unique about De Palma. Listening to De Palma is like listening to the greatest Hollywood insider story ever told, except with brutal honesty.
Overall, De Palma is one of the best movies about movies I've seen. It made me want to revisit a number of De Palma films and then watch the ones I haven't. This is a passion project that went very right. While it will help to have seen a few of De Palma's films before viewing De Palma, it isn't essential since this could serve as someone's entry point into his fascinating filmography.