Directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow pay tribute to Brian De Palma in the best way possible in the documentary, De Palma, by showing his work. With an interview with this Hitchcock-influenced filmmaker at its core, the film features clips of De Palma's extraordinary career, with lots and lots of anecdotes about craft, compromises, and critical reception. De Palma is a master class with a master.
At a special screening this week, Martin Scorsese introduced the film speaking about their salad years as film students at NYU, coming of age in the era with Spielberg, Coppola, and others. Jake Paltrow and Noah Baumbach, from the podium at the DGA Theater, just let the film speak for itself, for an audience that included a high concentration of directors: Barry Levinson, J C Chandor, Paul Schrader, and more. Actors paid homage too: Amy Irving, Greta Gerwig, Carol Kane, Ellen Burstyn, Rupert Friend and Aimee Mullins, Jonah Hill, Fisher Stevens, and Broadway actors Alex Brightman and Lena Hall, who is about to start her two-week tenure at the Café Carlyle this Tuesday.
Moving chronologically, De Palma, a mild mannered Buddha on camera, answers the younger filmmakers questions about his career. Of course, they ask just the right ones. As uncompromising and experimental as he could get away with, De Palma was exceptionally pleased with adding the knives in Carrie, his breakout film in 1976. The scene still terrifies. One of the director's personal favorites was Casualties of War (1989), and he speaks about the tension between Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn working well for their on screen characters. De Palma was surprised that the film, so hard to make in the heat of Viet Nam, did not do well critically or commercially. Scarface (1983), on the other hand, remains a cult favorite among hip hop artists.
The ensuing celebration at the Russian Tea Room was a microcosm of film world moving and shaking: Gay Talese urged Paul Schrader, Taxi Driver screenwriter, to write a memoir about his boyhood leading to his first ever film watched at age 19. De Palma gave Taxi Driver to Scorsese. Talese's new book, The Voyeur's Motel, will be made into a film with director Sam Mendes.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.