Tuesday, May 26, 2020
10:00 AM |
The Film Meme No. 32
[32nd of 100].
Of all the easy riders and raging bulls that came to prominence in the late 1960s to the 1970s -- Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, Schrader, Bogdanovich, Beatty, Kubrick, Hopper, Nichols, May, Allen, Fosse, Benton, Penn, Cassavetes, Altman, Ashby, Rafelson, Friedkin, Milius, and Malick -- the one that reminds me most about obsession of all things cinema is, incredibly enough, Brian De Palma. He bends his cinema to be about cinema itself, wearing his influences on his sleeve and treating cinematography in peculiar ways that not only add something concrete to the narrative, they are self-conscious enough for us to take note of his techniques considerably, and yet not be distracted from the elegance of the story he is telling. I guess you could say that De Palma's impact on me is on how to bend my cinevoracity to actually become concrete and real filmmaking. [I'm still getting there.] Take this film. Those in the know can tell you that perhaps the biggest influence on De Palma's filmmaking is the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock [and also Michelangelo Antonioni, Sergei Eisenstein, among many others], hence the propensity to do thrillers: in this film, he cribs without apology the structure of Hitchcock's Psycho
, and lets us follow ostensibly the protagonist -- a wealthy but bored New York housewife who succumbs to her desires, and midway in the film, ends up just like Janet Leigh in the shower getting a gruesome end in an elevator. [Is that a spoiler?] And then just like that, we are in an entirely new narrative track. He does Hitchcock, yes, but he goes beyond mere homage and teases out the overt carnality in the story that Hitchcock could never do. And everywhere else, cribbing the manipulated point-of-view insisted on us by Psycho
's camera, this film also does sleights of hand with regards camera movement, including the now-famous tracking shots in the long and wordless museum sequence, the camera building up on the action, resulting to sexual tension. What to make of this film? It's difficult enough to describe it. Aside from the horny housewife, we also get her dutiful son, and a woman who's ensnared enough in the housewife's bloody problems to become a Nancy Drew of sorts. And I'm not even mentioning the gentleman in the museum who may or may not have STD, the switchblade-wielding killer, the cross-dresser, the disbelieving cop, and Michael Caine's curious psychologist. I make mention of the film's nod to sexuality because eroticism -- both sensual [which must be succumbed to] and sinful [which must subsequently be punished ] -- is perhaps the key to understanding most of the filmography of this director, from Carrie
to Body Double
to Femme Fatale
. His camera does not hesitate to undress nubile bodies [usually in showers], and his storytelling does not hesitate to link sexuality to unhinged powers and depraved motivations. I first saw this film in Betamax sometime in the early 1990s when I was in high school, and needless to say, it seduced me: it made me see that cinematic carnality does not necessarily have to have pornographic simple-mindedness, it can be used to plunge deep into a character's psychology. De Palma among his cohorts remain the one director who made this kind of cinema his calling card, and perhaps to his detriment. I like that we live in a world where a film like this exists. I doubt this could be made today. What's the film?
For the introduction to this meme, read here
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich
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