A Conversation with Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow on Brian De Palma and their New Documentary De Palma at the New York Film Festival
By Susan Kouguell
In the documentary “De Palma” directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, iconoclast American director Brian De Palma talks directly to the camera, in an honest recounting of the highlights and low points of his movie-making career. Only De Palma is seen interviewed on camera; no other talking heads, no other voice-over interviews from either Baumbach or Paltrow are seen or heard.
Paltrow: “The film was shot with one camera and one angle on Brian. There are no other people talking about Brian. It was our direct approach to him.”
Intercut with clips from De Palma’s body of work from the 1960s to the present, as well as from other directors, most notably Alfred Hitchcock, the film moves at a rapid pace with honesty and a sense of humor, as it explores how movies get made (and often not the way intended) and how they don’t get made.
Directors Baumbach and Paltrow describe their documentary as an extension of their friendship, having spent time with Brian De Palma over the last ten years.
Paltrow: “We kept it in the same spirit as having coffee with him.”
Baumbach: “Brian was totally open and available. We wanted to talk about filmmaking. We weren’t going to go in areas that were uncomfortable for him. We’d let him guide, knowing that we would let him lead the way.”
Paltrow: “The most surprising for us about Brian was how electric he was on camera; how he told these stories the same as he did with us at dinner. He was so good on camera. So direct. So made for cinema.”
From the success of his films “Carrie,” “Dressed to Kill,” “Blow Out,” and “Carlito’s Way” to the box-office failures, including “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “Mission to Mars,” De Palma is candid about his successes and failures.