Always strikingly, harmony and chaos are borne out of Brian De Palma’s frames. A worthy cinematic offspring to Hitchcock, De Palma’s cinema is transgressive, predicated on violence and how it gives people shape and how swiftly it distorts it—if it doesn’t take it completely away. Films like “Dressed To Kill”, “Scarface”, and “Snake Eyes” map a filmography of a highly proficient filmmaker.
A Fandor video (embedded above) explores how De Palma uses color to unnerve. A key example is “Carrie”, at the moment from the film in which a hog’s blood-soaked Sissy Spacek loses every tethan of her being human and lets hell loose. The warring tones of deep blues and dark reds warn that something isn’t right; that the slow-motion sequence of Spacek’s Carrie is but a reverie, a stretched eternity before nightmare breaks.
In De Palma’s movies, “color may not just stand for a time and place, but a mood, a metamorphosis, a threshold”. This is true most especially in “Blow Out”, arguably the filmmaker’s best work, in which he employs lurid color landscapes to murk up more darkly the mind of John Travolta’s soundman who’s unsure about the murder he’d just witnessed.
The next time you chance upon a De Palma scene, take it in its full glory, but do note how his colors work with and against each other. There’s a heap of treasure hidden somewhere among them.