If you were ever looking for confirmation of directorial greatness, then having the likes of Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg adore you is perhaps the greatest mark of commendation one can receive. The two icons of cinema, famed for their rise to the top amid movie brat surge for Hollywood, have enough experience between them to set up their own industry, so picking out a fellow director they would refer to as “the filmmaker” is about as good as it gets.
Simply put, Scorsese and Spielberg’s pedestal standing director, Brian De Palma, should truly be recognised as one of the greats. Of course, the trio were close friends, something De Palma once called the “Warner Bros. youth group” and they shared a deeper understanding of one another than perhaps any other set of directors in history.
Aside from the two greats named above, one can also point to Quentin Tarantino as a huge fan and, in more modern times, also look at Edgar Wright as one of the most sincere fans of De Palma’s work such as Scarface or Carrie or, indeed, Wright’s favourite, Blow Out.
When Wright was asked by Criterion to pick out his top ten favourite films of all time, number one was the quite brilliant Blow Out by De Palma, starring John Travolta and Nancy Allen. Wright told the institution: “I have heard people call themselves Brian De Palma apologists. I am proud to say that I am a huge fan without any caveats. There’s a reason that, back in the seventies, fellow movie brats Spielberg, Lucas, and Scorsese would defer to De Palma as ‘the filmmaker.'”
“When on form,” Wright continues, “his work is something to behold. Even the lesser works of De Palma contain flashes of genius, while the best of his movies rank as pure cinema.” That’s some high praise from one of the most honestly infatuated directors in the current space. A noted cinephile, Wright has always put movies before everything else in his life so his seal of approval is certainly worth having. But considering both Scorsese and Spielberg’s approval, it pales in comparison.
The duo, alongside Star Wars director George Lucas, would often eulogise on De Palma’s searing ability for combining both storytelling with artistic technique and intrigue. “Brian is a great director,” Scorsese once wrote. “Nobody can interpret things visually like he does: telling a story through a lens […] What Brian does with it is tell the story, progressing the story within the shot.” As well as technique, Scorsese simply says: “Brian knows”.
While Spielberg and Scorsese would go on to have more flattering careers in terms of commercial growth, De Palma remains the filmmaker’s filmmaker.
Watch Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma talk about violence in a rare interview below.