cinema cinema:english

Holy Mackerel!

A note on De Palma: the documentary
BaradwajR in his review of the Tamil film Thoongavanam cried out that what that film really needed was the styling of De Palma, not workman like direction; but that is just reducing De Palma to a stylist, Thoongavanam on the other hand got the workman like director it needed (just a flat out thriller), it certainly did not deserve the twisted visual brilliance that a De Palma film is expected to have.

It also reinstates the prevailing notion that De Palma is just a stylist, which he isn’t, just.

Like the people who I know who love Mission Impossible, I fell in love with the De Palma film without actually knowing that it was his film, and when I did and later re-watched Mission Impossible (my permanent laptop lock screen is the cyclical staircase from the film), I went “holy mackerel!”
Obviously when I heard that a documentary was being made, it went right to the top of my ‘to watch’ list of the year and I finally saw it yesterday.
De Palma, the documentary is a very straight-plain-just-the-director-talking-about-his-movies kind, of course interspersed by clips from his films, but it doesn’t have the admittance of peers or future admirers like the documentaries of Kubrick or Orson Welles or even Woody Allen, which is sad because De Palma deserves more than just a talking head documentary, the least is to have arranged for the rest of the New Hollywood to say few words about him.
Maybe BDP wanted it this way. His life, his work, his words.
<Idea Suggest: one big round-table with Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese and De Palma>
Even among New Hollywood, De Palma stands a little away; he has never got the widespread admiration of the others (which itself is enough reason to re-look DP films) but somehow managed to stay commercially relevant. The bright spot of this documentary is De Palma himself, to use the often cited “he carries the film on his shoulders” expression, but here there is no other option, you just have an aged film maker being very matter-of-fact about his films, there is no romanticizing or bowing down to any of the greats, very avuncular.
DP also realizes that he was fortunate to have worked in a time when studios were more genial towards filmmakers.
The stylistic flourishes that have now come to be known as the De Palma catalogue: the long takes, split screens, character juxtapositions, ominous music or the general feeling of accentuated darkness are not mere add-ons(as they have been written about in every style vs substance argument), these are the tools of a director who thinks visually, a director whose stimulus comes from walking through art galleries, a director who know holds the same thread that Hitchcock had; these aren’t just gimmickry (well but some are).
Let us just say that De Palma uses style like how a writer uses words, well but then he uses them lightly without pretense so that you don’t have to run and look-up a dictionary every time.
I think it is very difficult to un-see a DP film, a part; ok that is too much, a moment or the visual experience always remains, like say the fireworks in Blow-Out (my favorite DP, possibly one of the best tragedies in cinema), the church in Obsession, the staircase in Mission Impossible, the opening of Snake Eyes, the ending of The Untouchables; with only great difficulty that a person can lie about forgetting the above.
It is the paranoia that he creates which just comes out of the film and surrounds the audience much like the atmosphere, to keep me thinking about the places that I’ve never been to and situations I’ve never been in. In this way even the below-average De Palma thriller is cut above your everyday thriller and holy mackerel, entertaining as well.
Proof of what a thinking mind can do a medium.
(insert Brain De Palma joke here)
De Palma films have divided people and critics, thumbed down on many efforts, even the critics who adore him only see him within Hitchcock’s shadow, clouding him from adulation are his dubious distinctions including sharing shoulders with Michael bay on the number of Razzie nominations for Worst Director.
If not for nothing, De Palma the documentary would be a good place to start or revisit a wonderful director.
Because the real life of a movie only begins when it has been removed from the theaters.
Books cinema cinema:english


I remember it to be a gloomy but windy evening; a neighbor had left an odd sized book on the plastic woven cot which was arranged outside for elders to pass the time. That was the first time I saw a Tintin comic, and yes I have been a fan but not the rabid dog types. It would take me some years before I completed the original set and a coloring book which I hopelessly wasted (I don’t seem to have the book now, but I remember painting Haddock’s hat purple and his pants green). The comic books are a joy to read, I do not think there could be anyone who had read the books (or singular,book) and not wanted to return to the adventurous world, yet relatable created by Herge.

So, every time a comic book is made into a film we read of people being disappointed or expressing concerns over the loss of ‘true spirit’ in the adaptations and we often do see directors appealing to fanboys claiming that they were making the truest of adaptations. But more often than not we fail to realize that the movies are not made (only) for those collectors of comic books or the obsessive quoters or the angst filled annotators, not even the pedantic types. Because films are not made for a certain slice of the population and that it is basic to note that there is always some loss when data transfers from some medium to another( I read that somewhere, don’t remember where). Go ahead, be sad.

My race to the cinema screen could be described as a Tintin adventure, but then dodging traffic is more like a daily duty and I think Tintin would have been bored, he preferred travel. He wanted to see the world and he found a story wherever he went. I wanted to see the movie from the start, by start I mean the credits. I was looking forward to the movie, and I knew I would like the credits too. The movie uses the same font as the titles of the books and inserts elements from other books in the background and as a tribute to the animated series there is also Tintin and snowy trying to catch the light. The movie begins with the animated face of Herge trying to draw a waiting Tintin and remarks on the likeness, nice touch indeed.

I wouldn’t know if people sitting beside did recognize this well meant reverence because the crowd consisted of kids who had come because their parents had been Herge loyalists, one young fellow kept screaming asking around when ‘Tantan’ will come. When the movie began, he refused to believe that the young reporter could be the protagonist, he is later known to have remarked, “Amma, where is the hero?”

Haddock would have screamed ‘Freshwater Pirate!’ or something of that sort, but I didn’t say a word. This was Tintin being introduced to the minds who had grown up on Harry Potter and bloodsucking Cullens, but by intermission the kids seemed to have caught up and were enjoying.

Only when the action scenes begin, you realize that there is so much of physical movement contained within those boundaries of the comic panels and this movie does to an extent brings it about but it does fails in bringing out the slapstick comedy and the onomatopoetic words associated with the books.

Andy Serkis, is comfortable as always in lending his voice and Jamie Bell as Tintin fits in well(rhymes), the voice being similar to the one in the 90s cartoon episodes, but it is Daniel Craig who is menacing under the plastic(or whatever that is) skin of Ivan Sakharine(Haddock calls him a man with a sweet sounding name), sadly the film moves too quickly guided by Spielberg’s Indiana Jones experience before any of them begin to make a personal impression, but there is promise for subsequent films and the motion capture technology would have matured by then.

I can only hope, that the boy who said ‘Tantan’ would go back thinking it was good fun and recognize a Herge cover when he sees one at a bookstore, there lies the success of the movie.