De Palma – A must see for all Brian De Palma aficionados – removes the glossy Hollywood veil to reveal a strikingly honest portrait of one of the most iconic, controversial Hollywood directors. I enjoyed delving into De Palma’s anecdotes of collaborations with Studio major players, and his constant struggle with staying true to his artistic aesthetics, whilst making profitable films in the age of New Hollywood cinema.

de palma baumbach paltrow

The documentary opens on a black screen. The screeching synth sounds and ominous violins which have come to be synonymous with De Palma, and reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), demand attention, as bold red letting spelling out ‘DE PALMA’ flood the screen. This retrospective takes a chronological format, as our subject considers the last 50 years of film-making. Scenes from his vast repertoire of films are inter-cut with snippets from notorious films produced by the likes of Goddard, Truffaut and of course Hitchcock, who have heavily influenced his cinematographic style. The film touches on De Palma’s collaborations with New Hollywood pals Paul Schrader, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese, to name a few, and their experiences working for the studios before the businesses took over.

De Palma Scarface

What’s appealing about the format of this documentary is how it enables an honest representation of De Palma. By presenting what is essentially a prolonged, candid interview, Baumbach and Paltrow have allowed the material to speak for itself, and what you see are the hints of the underlying issues De Palma has grappled with throughout his career: The clash between making innovative unique films versus making profitable films, a penchant for pushing boundaries, and an inability to hide the misogynistic undertones which come through in his films, which we are shown have stemmed from his own childhood experiences.

On the negative side, the film runs too long for what it presents and how it presents it, however De Palma’s hilarious experiences more than make up for this. His rebel attitude and sense of humour makes what could have potentially been a run off the mill documentary, truly entertaining to watch. For viewers who are well versed on the cinematic legacy of De Palma, this is a truly enjoyable experience.


Dir: Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
Featuring: Brian De Palma
Prd: Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
DOP: Jake Paltrow
Country: USA
Year: 2015
Run time: 110 mins

De Palma will be released in UK cinemas 23rd September 2016.