A couple of weeks ago I talked about Brian De Palma’s infamous tendency to divide his career between “one for me” personal works and “one for them” studio movies. One of his strangest and most beautiful films, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, airs tonight at midnight, and it is absolutely not to be missed. In fact, “strange” doesn’t even do it justice.
Brian De Palma
Back in in 1987, when Brian De Palma came out with THE UNTOUCHABLES — which airs tonight at 10P — nobody quite knew what to expect. True, it was a much-anticipated crime epic about the small group of Chicago law enforcement officials led by Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) who brought down Al Capone (Robert De Niro) at the height of Prohibition, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and filmmaker David Mamet, but nobody quite knew which Brian De Palma was going to show up.
The 50th New York Film Festival is bookmarked by two films in which disasters lead to personal awakenings. The opening movie on September 28 is Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI, a 3D adventure tale about an Indian boy’s antics with various wildlife after a shipwreck sets them adrift on the ocean. The closing night attraction is Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT, about a pilot, played by Denzel Washington, who saves a plane — if not necessarily his life — from crashing.
Anyone can make a bad film, but it takes considerable craft, talent and personality to make something intentionally B-grade that’s really, really good. So what Brian De Palma does in the 1970s bouillabaisse of American culture PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (playing tonight at 12:20A) is nothing short of a brilliant hot mess, if not the template for great schlock.