Hi, Mom! Screen 84 of 11 reviews

Hi, Mom!

1970

Hi, Mom! Poster
  • This independent film, which Brian De Palma made in New York in 1970, is an exuberant grab bag of diabolical whimsy that blends radical politics, sexual freedom, racial tension, and emotional hangups with the director’s own catalogue of artistic references, from Hitchcock and the French New Wave to cinéma vérité and avant-garde theatre—and adds a freewheeling inventiveness and an obstreperous satire all his own.

  • De Palma's film is very obviously attempting to psychoanalyze its protagonist Jon Rubin, treating his unquenched sexual desire as substantively identical to the radical political group's desire for social revolution.

  • The telescope lens, from cinema vérité to amateur porn -- Brian De Palma’s joke, in its manifold aspects, roasts the counterculture’s naïveté regarding cinema as "truth 24 frames per second," he takes the camera himself and shows how it’s done... A revue, a manifesto: Within such thick chunks of improv, De Palma lays out a remarkable array of stylistic strategies and ideas, which explode in the propagandistic "Be Black, Baby!" mini-masterpiece.

  • De Palma suggests in Hi, Mom! that if neither art nor action can be trusted in the ability to provide “the truth”—if the tricks that cause us to “feel what it’s like” only remain merely that, tricks—then one can at the very least make a terrific ruckus in bringing us to awareness of this unavoidable contradiction, smearing our faces in it while laughing at the mess.

  • In its take on the relationship people have with their own image-making games, Hi, Mom! occasionally comes off as the work of a film student who spent his summer session on Marshall McLuhan blitzed out of his mind on acid. The concepts are all there, but they’ve been kneaded into a bizarrely funny burlesque of the “medium is the message” worst-case scenario.

  • The De Palma/De Niro collaboration through three more films (Greetings, Hi, Mom!, and The Untouchables [1987]) is much more rewarding overall than De Niro’s more popular association with Martin Scorsese, which starts out brilliantly but devolves into been-there/done-that... De Palma’s first masterpiece, Hi, Mom!, finds a parallel to these audacious scenes [from Greetings] in its revolutionary “Be Black, Baby” sequence.

  • [The] shockingly realistic and nerve-racking [Be Black, Baby] sequence (shot in faux-vérité black and white) is immensely troubling, and De Palma’s depiction of this and the succeeding acts of “real” violence is perhaps too uncomplicated to function. But the anger and genuine sense of subversion remains, and that is what matters.

  • HI, MOM! is undisciplined in many ways, but where those better-known films [REAR WINDOW, PEEPING TOM, BLOW UP] are contained and thematically anchored around the implications of the camera and the relaying of what it captures, HI, MOM!'s richness comes from its scattershot, allusive approach.

  • Slightly less enamoured this time, much of the first half being wasted on a couple of flabby comic ideas - the (very tame) REAR WINDOW conceit of the spied-on neighbours, then the date with De Niro's delaying tactics - but it really starts cooking when hero "trades in his camera for a TV set", partly because it's more complicated: the political side gets angrier... yet the image shrinks to the dimensions of a TV show, our hero implicitly more passive, a character instead of a creator.

  • Fascinating to watch young Robert De Niro sweating bullets; he obviously had no idea he'd be one of the most famous actors in the world within the next five years. The "Be Black, Baby!" sequences get all the attention, and that broomstick rape crosses a definite line for me, but it's strong/brilliant stuff anyway. The split-screens and voyeurism are already in place, just waiting for more money, and the final punchline is perfect.

  • Lacking the unity of its progenitor (Greetings!), this film stacks the comedic deck both against the audience (too many parodies, too many topics) and against the fine cast (too much improvisation, not enough coherent material for Allen Garfield, Jennifer Salt, and Robert De Niro to work with). The result is a series of potshots: against porno filmmakers, educational television, the black theater of assault on its white audience—against a lot of things in general, but nothing in particular.

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