Don’t count Brian De Palma among the fans of the golden age of television.
The “Carrie,” “Body Double” and “Mission: Impossible” director — currently the subject of a new documentary by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow — sat down with RogerEbert.com’s Matt Zoller Seitz for a comprehensive interview that touched on, among other things, his thoughts on TV. The filmmaker doesn’t mince words, saying the medium “is not cinematic. It’s shots of people talking to each other.”
This is certainly true much of the time, though myriad counterexamples come to mind instantly, the “Lost” pilot, last season’s “Game of Thrones” episode “Hardhome” and any number of surgical sequences in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” among them. De Palma’s curt answer came after Seitz asked whether the filmmaker has any interest in working on TV, which also elicited a negative response: “No,” he said. “I worked on a project once for HBO but it didn’t work out.” Asked whether he thinks television has the capacity to be truly cinematic, De Palma elaborates:
“It would be difficult, because television is basically controlled by the producers and the writers. The directors are brought in to a series or a ten-part story, and the template has already been set. It’s shot very quickly, and you don’t have the time for sort of elaborate sequences, you can only shoot so many pages a day, the characters are all set, the story lines are all plotted out for the next four or five years, it’s like the old studio system.”
His thoughts make more sense in that context, given the split screen–obsessed director’s well-known difficulties working within the studio system. The rest of the interview is well worth reading, as is so often the case with Seitz, so give it a look-see.