Imitator or Innovator? Brian DePalma’s Obsession with Alfred Hitchcock

By  · Published on December 9th, 2016

A new video places the directors side-by-side in a series of visual comparisons.

If you know anything whatsoever about director Brian DePalma (Blow-Out, Body Double, Carrie) then you know he really loves the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Both men are known for their suspenseful thrillers, but where DePalma gets the most credit (and the occasional flack) for his Hitchcock appreciation is in his mimicry of the other director’s technical tricks like his voyeuristic camera, his extreme close-ups as psychological indicators, and his quick-cut scenes of violence. But to call DePalma a mere imitator of Hitchcock is to dismiss what DePalma actually does with these techniques, which isn’t just to imitate but to embellish and manipulate them to fit the particular worlds of his thrillers, which are certainly more erotically-charged, but also in many ways more insidious and twisted.

The best way to recognize the distinctions between imitation and incorporation in DePalma’s work is to view it side-by-side with Hitchcock’s, and that’s exactly what you get in this video from Peet Gelderblom which premiered on my second-favorite film site – behind FSR, of course – What Gelderblom’s done in essence is set up a sparring match between the two directors, Hitch in one corner and DePalma in the other. He then drops a film of the former’s between them and compares shots from the latter’s work, so one half of your screen shows scenes from Psycho, while the other shows scenes from Passion, Femme Fatale, Mission: Impossible, Raising Cain, and other DePalma’s titles that have taken aesthetic inspiration from Hitchcock.

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Believe me when I tell you there is no one better than Gelderblom to be presenting this video. If his name is familiar to you, that’s because he’s the mad genius who re-edited Raising Cain to have the original, nonlinear narrative DePalma originally intended but gave up when his first cuts weren’t well-received. DePalma himself saw Gelderblom’s cut and gave it his stamp of approval, and the fine folks at Shout Factory issued it on a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray. So yeah, Gelderblom is pretty much the world’s foremost DePalma expert, making this video not just valuable, but canon for other fans.

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