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De Palma

Year: 2015
Production Co: Empire Ward Pictures
Director: Jake Paltrow/Noah Baumbach
Producer: Jake Paltrow/Noah Baumbach
Cast: Brian De Palma

Oliver Stone, Michael J Fox (again) Bob Iger and even Hawk Koch, a producer completely unknown outside Hollywood, have all penned memoirs in recent years.

This documentary about the life and times of Brian De Palma is very similar in structure, it just happens to be a movie. It paints a kind of cursory picture of his childhood and adolescence, then goes on to describe how he became the filmmaker he is while at Sarah Lawrence college studying physics (but falling in love with movies after seeing Vertigo).

Narrated by the man himself (and only him) with clips from his relevant work, it talks about his early, obscure and/or unseen movies including 1968's The Wedding Party, which would be Robert De Niro's acting debut.

He produced documentary films in New York for awhile before moving to Hollywood to join the big leagues, and subsequent chapters in the film talk about everything from Dressed to Kill right up to Redacted (glossing over the legal stoush with his producers). When he talks about losing his taste for Hollywood filmmaking after the crushing workload of Mission to Mars and it's many VFX shots it makes you realise how long it's been since he was around.

Like the books of the abovementioned celebrities and celebrity executives, there are plenty of priceless behind the scenes anecdotes cineastses will appreciate, but the most fascinating thing to remember about him is that even though he's thought of in the same breath as Spielberg, Milius, Coppola etc today, most of his movies were disparaged as exploitative trash on release. I for one have always thought of him as the pervy Hitchcock.

It's been two decades since he was in the public eye for his work in a major way, but this is a worthy attempt to remind us what a shadow he cast over the 80s and beyond and how many stars he helped make.

But there's one single very bizarre note – it's directed by Jake Paltrow and... Noah Baumbach?!? Of all the directors working today he'd be one of the last you'd imagine would be a fan of De Palma's frenetic, garish, over the top style. It'd be like Jim Jarmusch doing a documentary on Michael Bay or Zack Snyder profiling Ingmar Bergman.

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