Brian De Palma’s overtly stylistic method of filmmaking may have won him fans such as Quentin Tarantino, but there’s a sinking feeling when you look over his career that he’s never quite received the respect he deserves. De Palma already had several films under his belt by the time the “movie brats” came of age in the 1970s. He worked with Robert De Niro years before Scorsese and Coppola ever got their hands on the actor. He’s amassed a filmography that features classics such as “Carrie,” “Scarface,” “The Untouchables,” and he has three other films in the Criterion Collection. And yet, he’s also the guy who somehow wound up with zero Oscar nods and six Razzie nominations. What’s that all about?
No matter how you look at De Palma’s career, there’s no denying he can be a remarkable craftsman. Video essayist Julian Palmer recently created a series on Vimeo entitled “The Discarded Image” and in his second episode, he’s decided to take a close look at a particularly memorable scene in “Carlito’s Way.” Julian analyzes the pool hall sequence from the film in several different ways: the choice of shots, the use of color, character motivations, etc.
The essay highlights how De Palma used his trademark style to effectively tell a story, especially from a visual sense. Whether it’s his oft-used POV shot, moving the camera in a circular motion, strategically deploying zooms and close-ups—De Palma had numerous filmmaking tricks up his sleeve and he used them all whenever necessary. And most importantly, he used them with purpose.
You can check out the 19-minute video essay below. Plus, if you’re thinking of watching “Carlito’s Way” immediately after, you’re in luck: the movie’s available for free on Crackle.