ByBrian Finamore, writer at
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Brian Finamore

Brian De Palma: Auteur

It's no secret that I am a HUGE Brian De Palma fan, he is one of my favorite filmmakers. De Palma has his haters and his big time fans, for the past 10 years I was mostly a De Palma defender who would admit to the occasional common criticisms levied against the director; he's all style over substance, he rips off Hitchcock, etc. However, it wasn't until I read a brilliant piece by Slant Magazine called Auteur Fatale: The Films of Brian De Palma, that I became an ardent "defender" of Brian De Palma's films.

Brian De Palma came to prominence in the 1970's and was one of the founding "rat pack" of 70's New Hollywood filmmaking. De Palma is credited with fostering the careers of or outrightly discovering Robert De Niro, Jill Clayburgh, John C. Reilly, John Leguizamo, Andy Garcia and Margot Kidder. He was the first of the bunch experience major success, with films like Sisters (1973) and the massive hit, Carrie (1976).

His contemporaries include Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, John Milius, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, John Carpenter, and Ridley Scott. His artistry in directing and use of cinematography and suspense in several of his films has often been compared to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Psychologists have been intrigued by De Palma's fascination with pathology, by the aberrant behavior aroused in characters who find themselves manipulated by others.

De Palma has encouraged and fostered the filmmaking careers of directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Mark Romanek and Keith Gordon. Tarantino said – during interview with De Palma, that Blow Out is one of his all time favourite films, and that after watching Scarface he knew how to make his own film. Terrence Malick credits seeing De Palma's early films on college campus tours as a validation of independent film, and subsequently switched his attention from philosophy to filmmaking.

Critics who frequently admire De Palma's work include Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert and Armond White, among others. Kael wrote in her review of Blow Out, "At forty, Brian De Palma has more than twenty years of moviemaking behind him, and he has been growing better and better. Each time a new film of his opens, everything he has done before seems to have been preparation for it."

However, like Slant points out, De Palma has received savage criticisms over the years, more than any of the filmmakers that came out of the 1970's. Some of his films have received major critical backlash over the years, I am here to argue for most of them. That's why, instead of just diving head first into defending the films I feel are "unsung", I decided to introduce the upcoming "Unsung Cinema" articles as a celebration of Brian De Palma's extraordinary career. The films of his I will do articles on are: Dressed to Kill (1980), Body Double (1984), Snake Eyes (1998), Mission to Mars (2000), Femme Fatale (2002), The Black Dahlia (2006) and Redacted (2007). All of these films were received poorly by critics and the public, all I feel are worthy of a second look.

You can read my review of Brian De Palma's latest film Passion (2013) here.


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