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NYFF: Brian DePalma & Noah Baumbach Discuss Friendship, Fraternity & Filmmaking In A Career-Spanning Conversation

by Cory Everett
October 10, 2012 10:02 AM
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“When I see a character movie, see a two-shot in a restaurant, I suddenly start getting very sleepy,” De Palma groused. “I see that two-shot, I see that over-the-shoulder, I think ‘Oh God, this is boring.’ But of course, you need scenes like that in order to build character relationships. I’m very aware of it. But to me, because I think in all these developed cinematic terms, it’s not very challenging to me. You know, the worst thing I could say about a director is that he ‘covered the scene,’” he said, adding that “any idiot could do that.”

Another cliche that seemed to irritate De Palma was lazy movie openings. “How many helicopter shots have you seen of Manhattan? Or a car driving up to a house? And also in the beginning of movies when they waste all this time going into the city and you see all the second unit going out there shooting all this arriving in New York or arriving in Chicago while the titles go across. In the beginning of a movie you’re ready for anything, you’re all excited. And suddenly you start seeing this terrible travelogue?” he said annoyed. “It drives me crazy.”

Baumbach agreed, “How you start the movie is critical. And how often you feel that there’s no reason for how it’s starting. And every so often you get the helicopter shot in ‘The Shining’ and you feel like the scariest thing is about to happen and you don’t know why.” De Palma interjected, “Well, that’s Stanley Kubrick, please. And he’s always the exception to the rule.”

Baumbach’s films have evolved visually over his career but says he would never attempt to shoot one of his films using a more theatrical style like De Palma’s. “I love how Brian approaches his movies visually, the things that he’s known for -- the long shots, the split screens -- I’m in awe of that when I’m watching his movies. I have the museum scene from ‘Dressed To Kill’ and the scene in the mall in ‘Body Double,’ they play on in my head. There’s pieces of all his movies that I have in there and will reflect on at different times. But they’re not things that I feel like I could imitate or would want to imitate.”

Foundas struggled to draw similarities between the two filmmakers (because there really aren’t very many practical ones to be had) but De Palma offered some help offering up the obvious, “Well, I think we’re both interested in women,” he said. “Beautiful women.” A pair of sex scenes were screened for the audience which included the “Relax” sequence from “Body Double” and the awkward oral sex scene from “Greenberg.” DePalma said the key to a good sex scene was “a good idea,” saying that “just shooting naked people rolling around in the bed together is not very exciting and you’ve seen it a billion times.” For the scene on “Body Double,” he said, “The idea is that he’s in a pornographic music video that doesn’t exist,” before lamenting that, “unfortunately MTV never showed it because I guess it was too pornographic.”

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  • steven | October 20, 2012 3:43 PMReply

    Someone once said that Brian De Palma would sell his Grandmother to get a film made. Update that to Brian De Palma has stood on the souls of his children to make films. He is a horrible insensitive excuse for a human being. The void that is his soul gives you what you don't see or feel on screen, ultimatley amounting to nothing.

  • Tom | October 10, 2012 3:53 PMReply

    Great article. If you dig these guys, checkout Baumbach interviewing DePalma on the Criterion release of Blow Out.

  • G.T.O. | October 10, 2012 3:47 PMReply


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