Set in a remote forest ashram in India, the film explores the daily life of the followers of Swami Dayananda, one of the last teachers of Vedanta. Rather than focus on the Swami or the intricacies of his teachings, Gurukulam places the audience in the ashram, evoking a visceral presence of the place and a tactile sense of the sacred.
In a vibrantly depicted Havana, 11-year-old Chala industriously cares for carrier pigeons and dogs on his apartment balcony. Trouble is, there’s easy money in dog fighting. The most important champion in his life however is his aging teacher, Carmela (the marvelous Alina Rodríguez), a woman who refuses to let the boy fall between the cracks and endures government reprisals as a result. Director Ernesto Daranas demonstrates equal bravery in confronting Cuba’s social ills.
Considered a seminal Scottish novel, Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 classic, Sunset Song, sounds echoes of Thomas Hardy and DH Lawrence in its bracing tale of a farmer’s daughter enduring all that life can throw at her in the World War I era. Beautifully photographed, Terence Davies’ film is a heartbreaking melodrama about emancipation, poverty, and life during wartime.
Brian De Palma
With a screenplay by David Mamet and a magnificenct cast (De Niro, Costner and Connery!) De Palma enjoyed one of his biggest hits with this big scale, mythic rendering of the Elliot Ness/Al Capone story.
De Palma’s delirious mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and 70s glam-rock is the musical/horror/comedy freak-out that Rocky Horror wanted to be. His rock opera stolen by Machiavellian record producer Swan and his face disfigured when it lands in a record press, songwriter Winslow Leach dons a silver mask and vows to spread terror through the duplicitous Swan’s rock palace The Paradise.
A young reporter (Jennifer Salt) witnesses a murder from afar, but cannot prove it. The truth is more grim than she imagines… Sisters has a grand guignol conceit but it’s not really a horror movie - rather it’s a witty mystery suspense thriller drawing from Rear Window and Psycho. Ironically through Hitchcockian pastiche De Palma found his own voice as a filmmaker. Even at this early stage includes extraordinarily adept use of split screen, lengthy travelling shots, and an operatic "Eye of God" storytelling sense - or if you prefer, a deeply twisted sense of humour.
"The World Is Yours." Half a century after Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht delivered their brutal critique of the American Dream as personified by Al Capone in 1932’s Scarface, De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone found the Dream alive and kicking in Miami. Cuban hoodlum Tony Montana (Al Pacino) sees the fast track to success lies in cocaine, murder and pure ambition. Though only a modest success on its initial release, Scarface became one of the most iconic and resonant movies of its era.
De Palma’s last feature to date is a twisted erotic thriller. Noomi Rapace plays Isabelle, a rising star in the advertising world and Rachel McAdams is Christine, her venomous, manipulative, insecure boss. " is one of the great seducers of the cinema, and he proves it with Passion, a spellbinding thriller… Essentially an adult version of Carrie with the cruelties located in boardroom instead of the locker room." Peter Sobczynski, rogerebert.com
Fifteen years after the love of his life was killed through his own failings, businessman Cliff Robertson meets a young woman who appears to be his dead wife’s doppelganger - and has a second chance to prove his love. Initially dismissed as a mere stylistic copy, almost faux-Hitchcock, Obsession is now understood as a "conversation" with Vertigo, reframing and in some aspects refining the original’s thesis about the nexus of money, power, and desire.
De Palma’s only modern day blockbuster is an infectiously enjoyable series of conceits and deceits, feints, masks and trompe l’oeils, designed to undermine the hard and fast polarities that propped up the Cold War. To be sure it’s De Palma-lite, but light years ahead of the other films in this franchise.
Beginning with one of the most original and daring diamond heists ever concocted - and located at the Cannes Film Festival, no less! - this labyrinthine neo-noir is arguably De Palma’s most underrated movie, a crazy mirror of illusions and allusions to cinema’s love affair with deception.
Manhattan therapist Dr Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) faces true horror when a psychotic killer begins attacking the women in his life (Angie Dickinson; Nancy Allen) with a straight razor stolen from his office. Desperate to find the murderer before anyone else is hurt, Elliott is drawn into a dark and disturbing world. And as the doctor edges closer to the terrible truth he is in danger of losing himself in a labyrinth of obsession, deviance and desire.
The biggest hit from the 70s phase of Brian De Palma’s career, Carrie takes Stephen King’s horror novel about a troubled telekinetic teen and weaves it into a purely cinematic rhapsody of angst and (retali-)elation, what Pauline Kael termed "a terrifyingly lyrical thriller". Sissy Spacek is the shy adolescent brought up by an evangelical Christian mother (Piper Laurie - both actresses were nominated for the Oscar), and mortified when she has her first period in the girls’ shower. The incident leads to a cruel prank, which will in turn unleash Carrie’s furious response
Along with Blow Out this is arguably peak De Palma (he implies as much himself in the new documentary that accompanies this series). A classic gangster film, updated to the disco era of the late 70s (and reuniting the director with his Scarface star, Al Pacino), Carlito’s Way is the tale of a drug kingpin who vows to go straight - and means it. Trouble is, nobody believes him: not his old friends and cronies, not his enemies, not even his best friend and lawyer (Sean Penn).
An out of work actor takes to spying on the beautiful woman across the street, but realizes she may be in terrible danger. His efforts to intercede lead him into LA’s porn industry. Tippi Hedron’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, stars. "It’s a mystery, a romance, a horror flick, and a straight-faced parody all rolled into one unique little movie." Scott Weinberg, DVD Clinic
John Travolta in his greatest role, as sound technician Jack Terry, who accidentally records a fatal car accident, and finds himself embroiled in a murky political conspiracy. The culmination of an unofficial trilogy that starts with Antonioni’s Blow Up and Coppola’s The Conversation, Blow Out is a mesmerizing thriller, De Palma in his prime.