10 underrated films recommended by Brian De Palma
Brian DePalma is one of the most influential directors of the New Hollywood generation. A follower of Alfred Hitchcock and Jean-Luc Godard, De Palma updated the techniques of his heroes for a new generation. As a result, his filmography includes some truly iconic crime films and thrillers: Carrie, Switch off, scarface, and Impossible mission, to only cite a few. His films are distinguished by their violence, their energetic camera work and their borrowings from other films.
Filmmakers as diverse as Quentin Tarantino, Ronny Yu, Terrence Malick, and Edgar Wright cited De Palma as a favorite and an influence. Like most great directors, De Palma is also a big movie buff and has recommended several films over the years. His picks include several gritty, violent yet intriguing films that should appeal to his fans.
“The Tenant” (1976)
This psychological horror was Roman Polanskyis the follow-up to Chinese districtand the third entry in his “apartment trilogy”, after Repulsion and Rosemary’s baby. Polanski stars as Trelkovsky, a man who rents an apartment in Paris whose former occupant attempted suicide. As more mysterious events unfold in the building, Trelkovksy’s life soon descends into paranoia and confusion.
The tenantreceived negative reviews upon release, with Roger Ebert even calling it “embarrassing”. Since then, its notoriety has improved significantly, and it has become a cult film. Although it does not reach the heights of Rosemary’s baby Where Repulsionit’s still a tense, slow-paced thriller worth watching.
‘White Dog’ (1982)
white dog is a horror drama that revolves around a black dog trainer (Paul Winfield) as he attempts to rehabilitate a dog trained to attack black people. The film uses this premise to explore racism in modern America: it’s like Cujo meets get out.
Winfield put in an excellent performance, as did Kristy McNichol as starlet Julie Sawyer. The dog is also excellent. His snaps and growls are legitimately scary. Paramount Pictures was concerned that viewers would misinterpret the film, so they basically shelved it when it was completed. white dog did not receive a true home video release in North America until 2008 when Criterion added it to their collection.
Homicide stars John Arless as Emily, a woman who comes to a sleepy California town and murders a justice of the peace. The crime triggers a change of events – and the revelation of several secrets – that threatens to upend the town.
The film was directed by the director of B-movie Chateau Guillaume, who was known for marketing his movies with promotional gimmicks. In the case of homicidel, viewers would receive a refund if they were too scared to stay until the end. Upon its release, most critics compared Homicide unfavorable to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Since, HomicideThe critical condition of has improved.
This documentary follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen as they travel from Boston to Florida in an attempt to make a living. In particular, the film focuses on Paul, one of the salespeople who worries that he has lost his ability to close sales. It gives a candid look at the disillusionment and struggle to get by, as salespeople knowingly exploit people’s faith to sell their Bibles for $50.
The film is an example of the cinema direct documentary genre, which used light, low-budget equipment and took a naturalistic approach to its subjects. This method allows the crew to gain excellent insight into the subjects and their lives.
‘Cafe Flesh’ (1982)
Cafe Chair is an erotic sci-fi film set in a post-apocalyptic future where most of humanity can no longer have sex. The few who can perform in front of the public in a sex club called Café Flesh. Director Stephane Sayadian turns this dark concept into a bizarre art film that some have interpreted as a satire of 1970s pornography.
Cafe Chair certainly won’t appeal to everyone. It’s too artistic for exploitation fans and too trashy for arthouse fans. But the good viewer could enjoy it. Sayadian also wrote the similar surreal pornographic filmNocturnal Reveries, which weaves its way into Lynchian horror and hallucinations. De Palma described Sayadian’s work as a “guilty pleasure”.
“David Holzman’s Diary” (1967)
diary of david holzman is a low-budget super-meta-documentary about a fictional aspiring filmmaker (LMKit Carlson) living on the Upper West Side. After learning that he will be drafted into the military, Holzman begins filming his daily life, and the lines between art and reality begin to crumble.
diary of david holzman was the director’s first film Jim McBridewho will then direct the American remake of Breathless featuring Richard Gere. De Palma was inspired by McBride’s guerrilla cinema. “When I first got my 8mm sound camera, I was carrying it around like David Holzman and trying to film everything I was doing,” he said.
“Point Blank” (1967)
Point Blank is one of the first detective films of Issuance director John Borman. It features Lee Marvin and John Vernon as criminals Walker and Reese. The pair steal money from a team of criminals, but Reese turns on Walker, shoots him, and leaves him for dead. Walker sets out to get his half of the money back and exact revenge on Reese.
Point Blank has been adopted by several directors.Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh both cited him as an influence. De Palma praised Marvin’s obsessive and vengeful nature, in particular saying, “He’s like The Terminator.”
“The Damned” (1969)
This historical drama from the director Luchino Visconti follows the Essenbecks, a wealthy family doing business with the Nazis in 1930s Germany. Family patriarch Joachim (Albrecht Schoenhals) despises Hitler, but his son Martin (Helmut Berger) looks forward to working with future German leaders. The plot unfolds against the backdrop of Hitler’s rise: the burning of the Reichstag, the Night of the Long Knives and the consolidation of Nazi power.
The film explores the Essenbecks’ internal family dramas and secrets and serves as a portrait of the Junker class as the Germany they once knew has disappeared around them. It is held together by clever writing and intricate performances by the protagonists. Director Rainer Werner Fassbender (the brain behind Ali: fear devours the soul and Marriage of Maria Braun) called the damned the greatest movie of all time.
Another historical story of Visconti, Louis dramatizes the life of the mad king Louis IIruler of Bavaria, a German kingdom, in the late 1800s. Ludwig was famous for his expensive and exaggerated tastes (he liked lavish castles and grand entrances) and for being the composer’s patron Richard Wagner. Visconti’s film follows Ludwig’s exploits as his country is embroiled in the Austro-Prussian War. At the same time, the young king struggles with his secret homosexuality in a society that forbids it.
Helmut Berger gives an impressive and larger than life performance in the title role. De Palma said he was fascinated by the character of Ludwig as someone wealthy and powerful enough to bring all their eccentricities to life. “I’ve always been interested in characters creating their own reality,” he said.
“The Secret Cinema” (1968)
This short film follows Jane (Amy Vane), a woman whose life is filmed without her knowledge and screened at a local theater. His daily struggles are turned into a soap opera. Jane’s friends and even her psychiatrist know about it and enjoy watching her life on screen. Eventually, Jane attends a screening herself and realizes the strange truth.
This dark little story is notable for predating The Truman Show by 30 full years. It explores similar themes around surveillance, privacy and reality TV (which might explain why De Palma was initially attached to live Truman show before Peter Weir sign). Spielberg was also a fan ofsecret cinema and presented a version of it in his amazing stories anthology series.
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