De Mented, De Ranged, De Ceptive, De Palma

De Mented, De Ranged, De Ceptive, De Palma




by Sherif Awad
A not so great documentary about a great filmmaker is the
2015 (released late 2016 online and on other media) De Palma by the
directorial duo of Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow who went to interview the
great American-born writer-director Brian De Palma where he is based now:
Paris, France. The documentary can only serve for De Palma’s fans to recapture his
works from his early days till now or for new audience to discover his
thrilling films for the first time. The reason: the documentary was shot like a
one-time interview that is interrupted by scenes from De Palma’s films with no
analysis or insights from the two filmmakers apart from De Palma’s great own
commentaries, facts and trivia.
In the documentary, De Palma explained how his own life as a
son of a surgeon and his viewing of films by Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Wells
influenced his decision to become the writer and director of several
psychological thrillers not to mention gangsters’ classics like The
Untouchables with Robert De Niro and Scarface and Carlito’s Way both with Al
Pacino. Speaking of Scarface with Al Pacino that was at the time written by
Oliver Stone, this film received a great admiration worldwide even in Egypt
when people, educated and uneducated, rooted for Al Pacino’s character: Tony
Montana, the Cuban refugee in the US who becomes a Miami drug lord. Here in
Egypt, many young people had T-Shirts with Montana’s photos although they were
mistakenly pronouncing the name of the star like that: “Albanchino”. Scarface influenced
our own cinema to the point that it drove a young Tarek al-Erian who has just
returned from the US after film studies to create an Egyptian remake
al-Embarator (The Emperor) with Ahmed Zaky playing the Egyptian version of Tony
now renamed Zenhom for remake purposes. Of course, the late Zaky was often
considered the Egyptian version of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. With the
latter, Zaky has a photo with Mohamed Khan while attending festival. As for
Pacino, Zaky also played an Egyptian remake of another one of his classic
films: Serpico, renamed in Egypt as Ard El-Khof (Land of Fear).
Back to De Palma, the documentary shows clips of his early films
made during the late 1960s like The Wedding Party, Greetings and the 1970’ Hi
Mom! that they all marked first appearances by a then-unknown Robert De Niro.
De Palma’s following films during the following decade concreted his name as a
new director with a very special visual style highlighted by unconventional
camera angles, flowing camera tracking shorts, split screens and long takes
(see the Carlito’s Way exciting subway chase).

In addition to his action and gangsters’ films, De Palma
wrote and directed many enjoyable psychological thrillers that tackled
voyeurisms and split personalities that merge dreams and realities. He was also
the director of the first Mission: Impossible film starring Tom Cruise which
became a franchise till nowadays. I believe that De Palma left Hollywood to
seek European finances for his latest films like Femme Fatale and Passion
because he directed, according also to his opinion, two films that criticized
the American invasion of other countries: Casualties of War about Vietnam and
Redacted about Iraq.

Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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