Split Screen Bloodbath
Filmmaker, film critic and illustrator Peet Gelderblom made movie history recently when his re-cut version of Brian DePalma‘s 1991 film “Raising Cain”—which restored the movie’s original, nonlinear storytelling, a decision that was undone by DePalma after negative previews—was seen and approved by the director himself. Gelderblom’s re-cut, perhaps better described as an unauthorized restoration, was later released by Blu-ray by Shout! Factory. This is a remarkable achievement by any measure, but it came as no great surprise to fans of Gelderblom, a DePalma obsessive who ranks among the director’s most relentless advocates.
He’s got a new video essay on DePalma, which RogerEbert.com is happy to premiere here: a juxtaposition of moments from films by Alfred Hitchcock, a key inspiration of DePalma’s, and moments from DePalma’s own films that directly reference them.
That DePalma loves Hitchcock is far from a news flash; in fact, throughout the first half of his career, the director was dismissed by many critics as primarily a Hitchcock imitator. Gelderblom’s piece clarifies the relationship between the two directors by showing just how completely DePalma absorbed particular bits of Hitchcock’s artistic DNA into his own body of work. Not content to rework the plots and themes of particular Hitchcock films (“Vertigo” as “Obsession” and “Body Double,” for instance, or “Psycho” as “Dressed to Kill“), he has integrated discrete stylistic tics into his own directing, cherry-picking individual shots that run as short as one or two seconds into scenes in DePalma films where you might not necessarily expect to see them. And yet these appropriations are transformed into something uniquely DePalma; this becomes much more clear via Gelderblom’s use of split-screen, a technique that Hitchcock didn’t lean on with the same geometric playfulness as his most famous disciple has displayed in fifty years’ worth of his own work.