Noah Baumbach isn’t exactly the first name in a list of directors that comes to mind for a documentary about renowned filmmaker Brian De Palma. With Baumbach’s own work as of late revolving around young and somewhat hip New Yorkers (Frances Ha and his recent release Mistress America), it’s not what anyone might naturally expect him to take on as his next project.
Brian De Palma
In Brian De Palma’s Sisters, the titular siblings are French-Canadian Siamese twins surgically separated as adults. Danielle is gentle and lovely, and Dominique gloomy and anguished. This dynamic is complicated by the fact that the former needs the latter to develop her persona. Without Dominique, Danielle has no identity. To weave the fiction of her socially acceptable behavior, she must have Dominique bear the burden of her most disturbing desires. Yet the film, oddly enough, is not about Danielle or Dominique, but about the journalist Grace Collier. As Dominique recedes into the background, Danielle and Grace become the main antagonistic pair, a transition that culminates in an intense climax, a hypnosis dream, that imagines them as conjoined twins. As we learn, Dominique has been dead from the outset, and Danielle has transformed into her in moments of sexual and emotional excitement.
It was the first film to be adapted from a Stephen King novel. Its leading ladies were acclaimed for their career-defining performances, and the film pushed its relatively unknown supporting cast into the limelight. It is one of the very few horror films to be recognised at the Academy Awards and has sincere spawned a musical, remakes, and a sequel. However, 40 years on since the publication of the original novel, nothing has captured the sheer horror of Brian De Palma’s 1976 film adaptation. So, what is it about Carrietta “Carrie” White that makes her so special?
De Palma has relied on expressionist imagery and self-reflexivity for most of his career, so why is it a problem with Snake Eyes? Were critics expecting a different sort of experience because of the genre? Either way, the issue seems worth delving into, if only to unpack false notions of the film being a waste of time.
It is obvious that Body Double (1984) is a combination of the plots of Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954) and Dial M for Murder (1955) by Alfred Hitchcock, and nearly as obvious to say that the film also takes cues from Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) and elements from various slasher films like Abel Ferrara’s The Driller Killer (1979). Unfortunately, a good number of critical pieces on Brian De Palma are obsessed with listing off his influences and coming to the inept conclusion that he is merely a Hitchcock imitator with a couple of clever cinematic tricks up his sleeve. Few writers take De Palma on his own terms, though select critics are finally coming around, and most ignore the way he constructs his complex thriller narratives, creates exquisite images that take advantage of cinema’s unique artistic properties, and underscores his films with dissenting politics. Body Double features all of these elements and more, making this film one of De Palma’s finest and most entertaining in his extensive filmography.
This classic horror movie based on Stephen King’s first novel, about a pubescent girl with telekinetic powers, remains Brian De Palma’s best film. Sissy Spacek stars as Carrie White, a shy, mousy teenager who is the victim of both her evangelical mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), and of her cruel high school classmates, who bully her constantly.
Noomi Rapace gracefully, viciously owns her role as the ambitious Isabelle;, ascending a multinational company ladder one rung below the sociopathic succubus Christine (a sinisterly focused McAdams, as though Mean Girls grew up). Professional power plays of catty words and sexual possession are maneuvered, and soon love, humiliation, hallucination and murder are on the table.