“De Palma” fascinates and compels curiosity

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Movies like Redacted deserve to be made, and have every right to exist and be seen. Of course, after I watch, I have every right to review and analyze, in good thought and bad. And it was mostly bad thoughts I had for Redacted, Brian De Palma’s Iraq War tome. The film came out before I started formally writing reviews, but I often think back on it when questioned about the worst movies ever made. Certainly, it’s not the worst “ever”, but one of “the worst”, I strongly feel it is. For all of its boldness in vision, it can’t escape the hole sucking nature of its performances or presumptions.

This is from one point of view (mine). Another might suggest that such perceptively poor decisions and presumptive pretensions may have been the thing De Palma was after. The very thing he was trying to comment on. I disagree, but contend now that this could very well be the case. Redacted, on the surface, appears as a stylistic drama of one note themes and haphazard graphics. Underneath, who can say? The director could.

De Palma as a candid conversation with one of the more courageous filmmakers’ alive (the most is Herzog) is a must have. De Palma as a documentary told from the perspectives of the interviewee and the observer is a must see. It’s a film course told in two hours, for the price of a well worth it ticket. De Palma goes through his career, the highs and the lows, with explanations and anecdotes that will give insight and provide charm to many a die hard cinephile. To the casual moviegoer? The frequent streamer? Still highly recommended. Give a man a fish, teach him to fish, etc. It’s a documentary that literally speaks for itself – De Palma is the only one who talks – putting pieces into place for us all to ponder over, before completing itself and returning to where it began.

Not to give much away, and not that giving out much info is truly spoiling anything, but this is a very affecting movie for me, as it flatly whispered in my ear the query “Why criticize?”. I heard this not in the moments that would make for fun tabloid fodder – moments regarding Tom Cruise and the like – but the more inquisitive times, where De Palma himself exposits on career conclusions he’s come to, and times when the inquisitors behind this camera ponder on what he said through visual and thematic juxtaposition. More than a study of one man’s work in filmmaking, De Palma is an open hearted peak into the work we all do with film.  

From a purely self centered and self interested (aint we all?) feeling, De Palma not only understands the dynamic between subject and those subjecting – which you could debate if the documentarians are being directed themselves – but also the OCD like burden for details we involved in movies must carry. Very little of De Palma’s personal life is explored, but as he says, it can all be traced back to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Through the cinema, he lives. We live. There is something biographical about the catalog of films we watch and make, which he acknowledges with a smile and a laugh. He picks his own brain for us, while editors work hard to visualize and interpret his monologuing. It’s not much of a trial, as the man is very articulate, but occasionally, what he says is given more and possibly unintended depth by what is shown. While he has no control over this, I have a suspicion he agrees and encourages. Always be learning, always be open, never be closed off.

In thinking on Redacted while watching and listening to De Palma himself discuss his career, I became stuck on his fire and preference for creative freedom. Stuck on his feelings towards current events and how art is tied to the time it was made during. Stuck on his line about whether any of this matters, and if that question matters at all. From one thread to another, from one existential crack to the next, and from Redacted, I found the answer to the why I was asked.

A pretentious work isn’t necessarily a “bad” work. Up its own ass with a sense of smugness, maybe, but not necessarily “bad”. Anyone and anything can potentially be redeemed. Life, stories and such tend to have an arc that begins and ends in familiar fashion, closing one door only to open another. Instead of trying to crawl back to birth up one orifice, it went through the shit, literally and figuratively. A misstep? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Not every journey towards the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end smells of roses. In other words, my thoughts on Redacted must be amended to state that, underneath it all, the director was grasping for something more. Something beyond the horrific drama unfolding on screen (which he depicted with much force). It wasn’t pretty what he showed to the world, inside or out, but he got hold of it for sure.

Why criticize? To posit, explain and argue the difference between crawling back to birth or creeping through crap. Thank you, De Palma.

5 / 5

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