|Pocket Essentials Brian
Written by John Ashbrook
Trafalgar Square Publishing 2000
|I learned some things about Brian De Palma I
wasnt aware of before. John Ashbrook does a fine job of focusing in on the things De
Palma is fascinated with and pinpoints where De Palma uses cinematic technique, color and
special lenses time and again throughout his films.
Brian De Palma likes to use the color white to represent evil in his films. The bad guys or violent scenes will usually take place in a white setting. John Ashbrook sites examples of this; Danielles (Margot Kidder) white apartment in SISTERS, the sofa Danielle puts Philips (Lisle Wilson) dead body in SISTERS is white, Swan (Paul Williams) generally wears white in PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, the waiter at the party in OBESSION has a gun under his white coat, the shower scene in CARRIE is bathed in white light, Carries surname White is inherited by her malevolent mother, the showdown in THE FURY takes place in a white room, Kate (Angie Dickinson) is dressed in white in the art gallery in DRESSED TO KILL, cocaine powder of SCARFACE, in BODY DOUBLE Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) finds his girlfriend in bed with another man in the white colored house, then Jake follows the sexy Gloria (Deborah Shelton) who is dressed in white, which leads him eventually into her house where he is attacked by a white dog. There are so many more examples of this which you will discover reading this book.
Brian De Palma uses the color red to represent transition; hallways in SISTERS, Tony (Al Pacino) wears a red shirt in SCARFACE when he kills Rebenga (Roberto Contreras) to secure his freedom. Red is also used as an empowering color; Swan is surrounded by red in PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, both Carrie and her mom have red hair in CARRIE, Tommy (William Katt) and Billy (John Travolta) drive red cars in CARRIE, the bucket of pigs blood in CARRIE is obtained by Billy wearing a red shirt and wielding a red hammer. In THE UNTOUCHABLES when Jim Malone (Sean Connery) fights the corrupt police chief they are bathed in red light.
De Palma likes to use the color black to represent good in his films. One of the many examples of this is that Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) wears black in CARLITOS WAY and he is certainly not the bad guy in that movie.
John Ashbrook has subheadings for each film regarding the reoccurring cinematic storytelling devices De Palma is famous for; Themes Voyeurism/Surveillance, Techniques Slow/Fast-Mo/POV, Stories Within Stories, Split-Screen, Long Takes/Tracking Shots, Colors, Masks/Multiple Personas. I found these sections fascinating because they give you real insight into the mind of Brian De Palma.
Ashbrook also has created a neat Artometer rating system: 5/5 = an artistic triumph, made without compromise or eye towards box office revenue. Where as 1/5 = a film which succeeded in making money, by sacrificing almost all vestiges of artistic content.
Ashbrook gives the highest score 5/5 to De Palmas early films GREETINGS, HI, MOM!, DIONYSUS IN 69 as well as SISTERS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and CASUALITIES OF WAR. The low score 1/5 he assigned to MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.