Time Out says
A ferociously intelligent doc on iconic film director Brian De Palma
One of the most revealing documentaries ever made about a filmmaker, this juicy profile of Brian De Palma explores its subject’s famous obsessions with Hitchcock, gorgeous women in peril and coke-snorting gangsters. Even if you’re not a fan, you emerge from this feisty two-hour portrait – in which only De Palma speaks – with an unforgettable impression of a complex and brashly entertaining survivor. Its directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow indulge De Palma like a crazy uncle, and the stories they get are worth it.
‘De Palma’ plunges with unusual depth into the director’s personal history and craft. A self-described science geek, De Palma admits to following his philandering dad with a camera during his infidelities as a kid. He is endearingly partial to the exclamation ‘Holy mackerel’, which gets applied to everything from being blown away by the then-undiscovered Robert De Niro to selling his ‘Dressed to Kill’ script for a cool million.
But the doc transcends film-buff details for a fascinating, slowly emerging portrait of a pig-headed provocateur, maybe somewhere on the spectrum. Why did his marriages end? ‘My true wife is my movie,’ De Palma admits with exhilarating straightforwardness.
Even more absorbing is his fury at defeats that still sting. Cursed with a razor-sharp memory at 70 (these interviews were shot in 2010), the director seems to recall every dispute, from arguments with the ‘Mission: Impossible’ script doctor over the ending, to the critical dislike of ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’ (1990): ‘I understood the book perfectly,’ he spits, clearly still smarting.
Baumbach and Paltrow do De Palma’s work justice with intelligently selected clips, a string of which – dating from 1974’s ‘Phantom of the Paradise’ and the now-classic ‘Carrie’, to ’80s triumphs like ‘Casualties of War’ – should be a religious experience for fans. But this is hardly a sermon. It’s more like a confession – or a public therapy session.