Director Brian De Palma has always been a polarizing figure in film, often times drawing as many scathing critiques as he has mentions of effusive praise. One thing his detractors and fans alike agree upon is that there are certain recurring elements, themes, and motifs in his works that pop up. Whether it’s the question of voyeurism, the use of multi-panel frames within one shot, or how sexuality plays into the forming of identity.
One filmmaker who is a huge De Palma fan is Edgar Wright, who tweeted out a video made by fellow filmmaker Joe Ahearne. The video is a great montage of these recurring shots, palettes, and editing tricks of a masterful filmmaker. Once the motifs are compiled, how De Palma is able to insert them across various genres and tones becomes even more striking, producing a short master class on the director himself.
The A.V. Club reached out to Ahearne to learn what spurred his creation of this video, and what he learned about De Palma from making it.
I saw my first De Palma film when I was 17—Dressed To Kill—and that film taught me what it was a director does. It was only on repeated viewings that I realised what was happening with the slow motion (so gripped was I, I didn’t even realise the film had slowed down), the music, the colour, the editing, the framing, the camera moves, the story-telling (later on of course I realised what a superb director of actors he was too). And I hunted down all his films before and since (almost—haven’t seen Get To Know Your Rabbit yet!). I grew up on spectacle like Star Wars but De Palma showed me how a director could invest human scale drama with even more extraordinary emotion and intensity. Anyone who’s seen any of the stuff I’ve done who loves De Palma will easily spot the influences.
For a long time I’ve wanted to use De Palma’s images against Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” They share a certain obsessive quality. It was so great viewing De Palma’s last 22 films and appreciating him like a great composer, enjoying the reworking and recapitulation and reframing of themes - hearing his voice, I suppose. What really came home to me this time (I’ve seen them all many times) was what a master of colour he is. I tried to reflect that in the cut.
Indeed, set to Blondie’s “One Way Or Another,” that spirit of tense obsession and violent wanting comes through in this edit. It’s an incredibly well done overview of one of the most impressive and diverse filmmakers.