Widely regarded as a second-rate director, mainly due to the lack of originality of his film material and the unmistakably glossy, B-movie varnish that impregnates his films, Brian De Palma could well be considered a true auteur, that is, a creator with a thematic and stylistic consistency in his work.
To say that Hitchcock is an influence to De Palma is, admittedly, an understatement, but it might be as simplistic to call him a sheer rip-off.
De Palma’s first excursion into the Hitchcockian world took place in 1973 with Sisters, in which two siamese twin sisters, played by Margot Kidder, of later Superman notoriety, are separated at birth with one of them, surprisingly enough, taking the path of evil. Jennifer Salt takes on James Stwewart’s Rear Window Peeping Tom role as she tracks down the naughty twin. There’s Hitchcock everywhere and yet the film is suspenseful on its own right; much more than, say, Gus Van Sant’s copy of Psycho or any “more original” nonsense gore film. Obsession (1976) is a variation on Vertigo‘s main theme with Genevieve Bujold emulating Kim Novak’s resurrection efforts, while Hitch’s influence on Dressed to kill (1980), one of De Palma’s most satisfying films, is obvious if only for the fact that a guy in drag wanders around girls’ bathrooms with a dangerously sharp knife.
De Palma takes Hitchcock as a model in the plastic and physical representation of suspense through objects and the importance of the score (he worked with Bernard Hermann in Obsession and Sisters). However, his films have a distinct De Palma touch which makes them utterly original and hence fascinating.
De Hitchcock à De Palma is the title of the conference Laurent Vanclaire will give at the CINEMATEK on December 15 at 19:00. Let’s wait and see what he has to say on the subject. Vertigo, Rear Window, Frenzy, Psycho, Marnie and other classics by Hitchcock, as well as Dressed to kill, Blow out, Obsession, Double body and other by De Palma will be playing at the Cinematek until the end of the month. Check it out at www.cinematek.be