This post is being published by me for the Best of Best Blogathon at Potpourri of Vestiges, The post is dedicated to one of my favorite directors Brian De Palma here.Brian De Palma has always been one of my all time favorite directors. From gangster dramas like Scarface, Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables to action thrillers like Blow Out, Body Double to horror movies like Carrie to war dramas like Casualties of War he has covered it all. Add to that some stunning visual montages be it the Odessa steps scene in The Untouchables or the pool room shoot out in Carlito’s Way. These are my favorite movies of Brian De Palma here. A brief summary, and a link that takes you to the main post.
Ted Kennedy, Chappaquidick incident, Conspiracy theories, all of them making me recall Brian De Palma’s 1981 thriller flick, Blow Out. While Blow Out, is not based on the Chappaquidick incident per se, the movie contains numerous references to the political events in the era, with a conspiracy thriller background. In fact the 80′s was the time when Hollywood and Capitol Hill, two entities with no love lost for each other, came together, with a movie actor, Ronald Reagan entering the White House. 1981 saw John Hinckley Jr making an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, in LA, to make an impression on Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed ever since he saw Taxi Driver. Come to think of it, a guy making an attempt to assassinate a movie actor turned President, to impress a heroine, who acted in a movie, which incidentally was about a loner, obsessed with the heroine, plotting to assassinate a Presidential candidate. This surely has to be one of the craziest coincidences ever, a collision of the real, the reel, the political, whew.
Quite often when i go through some of the best anti war movies that have been made, i can’t help noticing one thing, in a vast majority of the cases, the anti war movies come out after the actual war is over. I take a look at some of the more well known anti Vietnam war flicks, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and then i see that all these movies have been released after the end of the war, post 1975. Even when anti Vietnam war protests were raging across the US, and many Hollywood stars voiced their opposition to the war, there were actually no significant anti Vietnam war dramas comming out from Hollywood. The only Vietnam war drama released around the time was John Wayne’s propagandist The Green Berets, which tried to drum up public support in favor of the war. Is it due to the fact that Hollywood was afraid of adverse audience reactions, some kinda backlash? Then again i see the slew of movies about Iraq in recent times,In the Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, Jarhead, Redacted this while the war in Iraq still shows no signs of an end. Was it that Hollywood finally took up the courage to take a stand? Were the stridently anti war postures of Sean Penn, George Clooney, Jane Fonda, Nick Nolte having an effect? Would want to think so, but a catch here, most of these movies started to come, only in the later half when the war went horribly wrong, the American public’s mood turned against it, more against the Bush Govt’s mishandling of the situation. One more interesting thing i notice is that most of Hollywood’s anti war dramas center around Vietnam and now Iraq, rather than WW2, barring some like Catch 22. Again i feel its cause Vietnam and Iraq, make it easier, both of them wars in which the US has lost badly, not too popular with the public, so easier to weave an anti war message around them. Just some thoughts in the head, as i started to draft out my take on Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War.
To just look at the tale of Carrie, as a ”scorned woman” taking revenge on the world, would be to overlook it’s deeper meaning, its rather unsettling look at the ”normal” world, and how we treat the ”different” and ”others”. Carrie is not just another ”horror” flick, its Brian De Palma’s look into the minds of people, a look at the world through the eyes of Carrie. In a superbly filmed opening scene, De Palma, plays the voyeur, allowing the camera to wind it’s way through the girl’s shower room, lovingly gazing at the nubile bodies of the young nymphets, some of whom are half naked, and some of whom are fully nude. The camera tracks in deeper, the voices of the young women, shots of their naked bodies, the steam and mist, giving it a dreamy effect, as the credits flash on the screen. Away from all the other girls, is Carrie White( Sissy Spacek), taking her bath all by herself, soaping herself up, having a rare moment of hapiness in her life. And then she begins to bleed, the blood trickling down her legs. As she screams out in shock, clutching her towel, running for help, one of the girls gives her a tampon to stop the bleeding asking her to “Plug it up”. The girls around seem to revel in Carrie’s plight, as they chant in unison ”Plug it Up!! Plug it Up”, as Carrie by now becomes hysterical.
In Scarface Brian De Palma took an ironic, twisted up view of ”The World is Yours” funda, tracing the rapid rise and fall of its lead character. In Body Double, Brian De Palma, takes the tagline ”You Can’t believe Everything You see” and crafts a thriller where nothing is what it really seems. And the fact that the entire movie is set against the ”illusionary” movie world backdrop, adds that much more meaning to the tagline. Body Double is not a masterpiece, nor is it the kind of mind bender thriller, where you could spend your time figuring out everything and still not be clear. In fact at the end of the movie, when you join the dots, everything seems plainly obvious. What Brian De Palma has done here is to take all the standard Hollywood cliches, pack them together, and layer them over with dollops of cheese, giving us a movie that screams out every moment“LOOK AT ME, I AM CHEESE”. If you are seeking subtlety, understatement you sure won’t be finding them here, but then Brian De Palma has never been associated with such virtues.
In 1983, Brian De Palma and Al Pacino, came together in Scarface, a movie that polarized critics and audiences alike. After his turn as the suave Michael Corleone in The Godfather Series, Pacino, again lit up the screen as Tony Montana, a foul mouthed, hot headed, illiterate, cocaine snorting gangster who makes it to the top, and has an equally sudden fall. A decade later in 1993, Brian De Palma, takes up the issue, “Now what if Tony Montana wanted to go straight?”. So he gives Tony Montana, a makeover, renames him Carlito Brigante, and again gets Pacino, who by now had become to the gangster genre, what John Wayne was to the Westerns. Ah yes Tony was Cuban, and Carlito is Puerto Rican. Incidentally the book on which the movie was based was called After Hours, but De Palma had to change the title, to avoid the confusion with Martin Scorcese’s 1985 black comedy of the same name.
Between April 15 and Oct 31, 1980 there as a mass migration of people from Cuba to the US. It was called as the Mariel boatlift after the name of the harbor from where these people departed. Ostensibly done by Cuban President Fidel Castro to improve relations between US and Cuba, it was ended when President Jimmy Carter , realized that a large number of the refugees were jail inmates or those from asylums. By that time, 125,000 Cubans had migrated to US, or more specifically to Florida, which even to date has a large Cuban population, especially Miami. Of these exiles, around 2% were discovered to be violent criminals, whom Castro had released from Cuban jails. And these people would make Miami the center of a profitable drug trafficking network.Just as New York is famous for it’s Italian Mafia , Los Angeles for it’s Mexican mafia and San Francisco for it’s Chinese mafia, Miami would become the center for the Cuban mafia as well as the notorious Colombian Gangsters .This incident is the backdrop for Brian De Palma’s 1983 Gangster flick Scarface , which centers around the Cuban mafia .
In the 1920’s and early part of 1930’s, prohibition in US, led to the rise of illegal liquor or what is called in common terms as bootlegging. Mafia gangs fought pitched battles for the control of the trade, and none more serious than Chicago , which emerged as the focal point. The notorious St.Valentine’s Day massacre highlighted, this dangerous trend. The law enforcement agencies choose to look the other way, as gangsters merrily plied their trade. And of all the gangsters, one name struck terror alike in the hearts of cops, civilians and rival gangsters alike. Alphonse Gabriel Capone or more commonly known as Al Capone .The Untouchables is a 1987 movie that takes its inspiration from a real life story of a Fed agentEliot Ness who along with his incorruptible team, took on Capone, and managed to nail him for tax evasion.