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August 18, 2006

The Wedding Party

weddingparty.jpg

Brian De Palma, Wilford Leach and Cynthia Munroe - 1969
Troma Entertainment Region 1 DVD

In part because of the entries written by Girish on his blog, and because I like to be a completist with some filmmakers, I finally saw Brian De Palma's debut feature. Filmed in 1964, with a copyright dated 1966, the film did not receive theatrical play until the release of Greetings, De Palma's first film to get significant distribution following its December 1968 opening. The evolution of Brian De Palma will probably be better evaluated by the scheduled DVD release of his first solo directorial credit, Murder a la Mod from 1968.

What importance The Wedding Party has is largely based on its being the first film for several participants in the cast. Cast primarily with actors and friends from Sarah Lawrence College, the film includes Jill Clayburgh, as well as three actors who would collaborate several more times with De Palma - Jennifer Salt, and William Finley, seen above to the left of Charles Pfluger and future De Palma star Robert De Niro. Had none of the actors or the co-writer/director gone to greater acclaim, The Wedding Party would probably be another forgotten student movie.

This is not to say that the film is bad or unwatchable. The Wedding Party is the kind of cute farce that students from the Sixties would make primarily for an audience of their peers. Having been an NYU film student at the end of the decade, I speak from experience. De Palma's taste for satire and sight gags would be developed in future films. The rich white people teased gently here would be treated more savagely in films like Greetings and Hi, Mom. Some of the visual humor is inspired, if not by silent films, then second-hand by Godard, Truffaut and quite probably, Richard Lester.

De Palma has become something of the Rodney Dangerfield among the so-called Film Generation directors. Instead of giving his films fair evaluations, De Palma has too frequently been written off for imitating Alfred Hitchcock. I have to wonder why Claude Chabrol is not held to the same standard, especially as his films have become increasingly formulaic. More than any other filmmaker from the Nouvelle Vague, Chabrol has made films that are similar to the French "Cinema of Quality" that Cahiers du Cinema had rebelled against fifty years ago. De Palma, at his best, including the maligned Femme Fatale, still manages to take his narrative into unexpected places, often with startling images. While Chabrol sometimes is too refined for his own good, De Palma is unafraid to shock, jolt and above all, entertain.

Posted by peter at August 18, 2006 09:00 AM

Comments

This is one of the films by DePalma I still havent seen. I've been a huge DePalma fan since I first saw Scarface when I was a little kid in 1984. I've seen all his films except for his real early ones like Wedding Party, Greetings, Murder ala Mod and Dionysus 69.

It seems like lately alot of people have been re-evaluating his work which is really great to see. Every other blog I goto is reviewing his stuff and the thoughts are very positive.

I'm really looking forward to The Black Dahlia. I'm not one to care about the Oscars, but I'd love to see The Master of Suspense (DePalma, not Hitch) get his props!

Posted by: Pete at August 18, 2006 01:36 PM