Saturday, September 22, 2012

Does Brian DePalma Deserve 4-5 Fingers?

photo by John Rubin
My brother-in-law, Mr. Pink, sent me a text where he said that for the most part director Brian DePalma is a hack, who is only famous for making very few good movies.

Or as he put it, "You can count the good/great films Brian DePalma has made on about 4-5 fingers."

It got me to thinking about film making.

Our greatest directors often are ones that make not just one, but several classic movies like Stephen Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock.  Or they make one extradordinary movie like Frank Darabont did with The Shawshank Redemption.

But even the best directors make bad movies (Christopher Nolan might be an exception).  For every ET and Indiana Jones, there's a Terminal and 1941.

Someone once asked Alec Baldwin how he dealt with failure in Hollywood.  He said that it's ALL failure and then you just happen upon success.

While I'm sure hard work and talent are essential, I think Baldwin might be right.  Being successful in the industry must rely on a lot of good fortune.

How often have we seen a great director make an amazing movie and then get drowned out by other failures?

Somewhere in Time is in my top ten films ever.  It is the greatest love story ever put to screen with a final shot that is hauntingly perfect, both heartbreakingly sad while at the same time being ecstatically joyous.  It was filmed with such genius and tenderness that inspire me.

The film was directed by Jeannot Szwarc.  Ever heard of him?

Film buffs may know the name, but he is not well known to the general public.  Does he still direct?  Yes, he does.  And you have probably seen his work lately if you've watched the shows Bones, Private Practice or Smallville.  Why isn't he directing features anymore?  2 reasons:

Supergirl and Santa Clause.  Both movies that Szwarc directed.

But I should also include Somewhere in Time, which was a box office bomb (except in China where it played for 18 months!).  Szwarc's real hit was Jaws 2 (which incidentally is pretty darn good).

The point is that if you look at the resume of any director you like, you will probably find as many duds as you find hits.  But that doesn't mean that they are necessarily bad directors.  If you can make one great movie in your life, then that is better than most could hope for.


But returning to Brian DePalma, I actually agree with Mr. Pink on this.  I know I may be stomping on my whole point, but I think most of his films are pretty bad.

He's has one great movie: The Untouchables.

He has one good movie:  Mission: Impossible.

And the rest are not that good.

My biggest problem with him and why I don't hold him in any real esteem, even though he made at least one great film, is because of Redacted.

He made a propaganda film for the enemy in the middle of a war (and from what I heard it was a pretty crappy propaganda movie too).

So I think, at most, Brian DePalma deserves 2 fingers.


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