Brian at the AV Club

AV ClubAn interesting assessment of Brian De Palma’s career recently by the hipsters over at the Onion’s AV Club.  Interesting in that Phantom of the Paradise seems to have been rediscovered (or, simply, discovered) and ranks fifth in their list of “essentials”:

The Essentials

1. Blow Out (1981)
2. Carlito’s Way (1993)
3. Femme Fatale (2002)
4. Casualties Of War (1989)
5. Phantom Of The Paradise (1974)
In a more just world, De Palma’s camp musical would be the midnight phenomenon that The Rocky Horror Picture Show became instead, but there’s still a pocket of cultists who rightly appreciate his fiendishly clever mix of soaring songcraft and satirical jibes at the tools that run the music industry.

Naturally this set off a torrent of the usual unnecessary Rocky vs Phantom shenanigans in the comments section.  Can’t we all just get along?  I mean, we’re perfectly willing to acquiesce in cultural servitude to the cult juggernaut that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  But meet us halfway and admit that Phantom is the superior film – is that asking too much?!  (Note to self – actually watch RHPS some day.)

I made a point of watching every Brian De Palma movie I could get my hands on between Phantompaloozas, including actually paying cash money to see The Black Dahlia in a movie theatre.  Here, then, is my own annotated list of Essentials:

  1. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
    I still think there are problems with the third act.  But still.
  2. Femme Fatale (2002)
    Probably the best thing Brian has ever done.  Well cast (has Gregg Henry ever been better?), absolutely riveting, very modern, and very sexy.  If Brian had hung up his ball cap after this one we would have called it the climax of a long and wonderful body of work.
  3. The Fury (1978)/Dressed to Kill (1980)
    I combined these thrillers because both feature William Finley in scene-stealing cameos.  Brian was riding a rollercoaster by the late seventies and DTK was probably his peak.
  4. Raising Cain (1992)
    I was expecting a total train wreck but there is absolutely nothing wrong with this picture.
  5. Body Double (1984)
    Brian got in a lot of trouble at the time for this one, and I will admit that there is one scene that goes on for about three seconds too long.  Still this is another taut, sexy thriller, with a very fetching Melanie Griffith. Relax!
  6. Dionysus in ’69 (1970)
    Presented entirely in split screen, this is a filmed performance of a stage play based on “The Bacchae” of Euripides.  William Finley is totally on fire in this thing – you get the feeling that the man’s talents have no limits.
  7. Scarface (1983)
    The story of a gangster who quits drugs to become a dishwasher.  Wait, I’ve got it backwards.
  8. Casualties of War (1989)
    I had no problem accepting Michael J. Fox as a Vietnam soldier.  This is about as moving a picture as Brian has ever made.  The ending is desperately powerful stuff.

That’s all I got.  Discuss.



2 Responses to “Brian at the AV Club”
  1. joanna says:

    Here, here and AMEN!!! (On Phantom/Rocky Horror furor) Good grief, like there aren’t enough wars going on in the world without starting a flippin’ blood bath over a couple of movies! Because, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re dealing with!

    If I must go into detail, then here it is; Richard O’Brien, who wrote the screenplay and the songs for RHPS said of his film, “It was a lovingly constructed piece of crap.” He had FUN with it. He made a movie that became a CULT Classic. Not so much as a WHISPER of argument there! AND…. however much I prefer Phantom, I MUST say, in Rocky Horror’s defence that…well, RHPS had TIM CURRY. ‘Nough Said. Between the legs and the voice, Tim and ‘Frank’ leave Swan in the dust. (Much to Winslow’s delight! Bury the little BLEEEEEP!)

    On the other hand, Phantom of the Paradise did have a richer mix of music and literature. Dorian Gray, Faust, of course, and Phantom of the Opera, with Brian making the theme of Winslow’s music the theme, or one of the main themes for the movie. It was a triple decker clubhouse movie. Just about something for everyone.

    Not sure what you meant as far as the third act having problems. You mean the wedding scene? Unfortunately, when you’re shooting ‘crowd scenes’ you have to go on the fly. According to the Special Edition interviews (Two disc dvd with Paradise Regained) in the wedding scene, George (Philbin) wasn’t supposed to be seen in that one snippet, but I think it works. There was a tiny piece where Winslow/WILLIAM nearly removed the mask too soon, but, like I said, crowd scenes in movies are tough to direct. Point is, Phantom became a part of our growing up!

    I watched the movie on the 23rd of April, to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the Original PHANTOMPALOOZA. (I HUGGED WINSLOW LEACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Passed that I don’t watch it so much anymore. As Gerrit Graham said to a Winnipeg friend, “From now one, we’ll be a smile on eachother’s face that no one else understands.”

  2. Where’s ‘Carrie’ ??

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