Hi, Mom! (1970)
In the earliest work of any storied filmmaker, you’ll likely glimpse the raw elements of masterpieces to come. But rarely are those nascent films so brazenly unrefined that the audience is treated to arguably greater extremes than what the later movies offer.
So it is with Brian De Palma’s iconoclastic Greenwich Village beginnings, especially Hi, Mom!, a satire of media obsession and radicalism-as-fashion. An eerily fresh-faced Robert De Niro (still pre-Mean Streets) stars as an erotic filmmaker who peeps endlessly on his neighbors before planning his move in front of the camera.
Many of De Palma’s trademarks are present: the unabashed Hitchcock iterating (Rear Window in this case), the self-consciously voyeuristic camera, holding up the filmed image as the ultimate instrument of perverse arousal. But Hi, Mom! also toys with sitcom hyperbole, on-the-street journalism and bracingly committed satire wherein performance artists (many of them white) try to simulate “the Black experience” for unsuspecting New Yorkers.
It’s both a critique and a comedic experiment—to the point of near-gleeful disdain for reality. De Palma certainly gained skill, balance and the familiar comforts of genre in all his classics to come, but rarely got his Robert Downey Sr. freak on quite this way again. Hollywood, March 28.
Academy: Shrek (2001), March 24-30. Cinema 21: The Sound of the Music (1965) sing-a-long, March 25 and 26. Some Like it Hot (1959), March 25. Cinemagic: Hard Boiled (1992), March 23. Rock & Rule (1983), March 24. Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984), March 24 and 26. Phantom of the Paradise (1974), March 25 and 26. The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), March 25 and 26. The Apple (1980), March 26. Clinton: Wendy and Lucy (2008), March 24. The Beaches of Agnès (2008), March 27. Hollywood: Enter the Dragon (1973), March 24. Clueless (1995), March 25. The Watermelon Woman (1996), March 26.