Greetings [1968] Brian DePalma

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An offbeat, episodic film about three friends, Paul, a shy love-seeker, Lloyd, a vibrant conspiracy nut, and Jon, an aspiring filmmaker and peeping tom. The film satirizes free-love, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, and amateur film-making.
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Greetings (1968)

Greetings is a 1968 film directed by Brian De Palma. The film, which featured a young Robert De Niro in his first major role, is a satirical film about men avoiding the Vietnam War draft.

Jonathan Warden ... Paul Shaw
Robert De Niro ... Jon Rubin
Gerrit Graham ... Lloyd Clay
Richard Hamilton ... Pop Artist
Megan McCormick ... Marina
Tina Hirsch ... Tina (as Bettina Kugel)
Jack Cowley ... Fashion Photographer
Jane Lee Salmons ... Model
Ashley Oliver ... Bronx Secretary
Melvin Morgulis ... 'Rat' Vendor
Cynthia Peltz ... Divorcee
Peter Maloney ... Earl Roberts
Rutanya Alda ... Linda (Shoplifter) (as Ruth Alda)
Ted Lescault ... Bookstore Manager
Mona Feit ... Mystic

It was among the first films to receive an X rating, although it was later given an R
rating. De Niro reprised the character of Jon Rubin in the 1970 film Hi, Mom! also directed by DE Palma.

Greetings is about three friends Jon Rubin (Robert De Niro) a peeping tom who wants to
become a filmmaker and his two friends Lloyd Clay (Gerrit Graham) and Paul Gerald Shaw
(Jonathan Warden). The film centers on two major themes the Vietnam War which all three are trying everything they can to avoid and the Kennedy assassination which Lloyd is obsessed with.

Brian De Palma is one of Hollywood’s most controversial directors and for the last forty years he has made films that have pushed the envelope. He has had his fare share of battles with the MPAA over content in his films and in many cases he was forced to change his vision while some of his peers were allowed to get away with things he was being punished for. De Palma is most known for his Hitchcock like thrillers even though he has made films in just about every film genre. He began his career directing a string of comedies like The Wedding Party, Hi, Mom, Greetings and Get to Know Your Rabbit with Tom Smothers half of the Smothers brothers who were no stranger to censorship. Upon its initial release Greetings was the first film in the United States to receive an “X” rating and years later it would be changed to R. Brian De Palma even at this early stage of his career has already developed a strong visual style bold pastel title screens, sped up motion, time lapse photography, jump cuts and partially masked lenses. Many of these camera techniques he still and has refined through the year. He also was the editor on Greetings and his lightning fast cuts help capture the chaotic mood of the late 1960’s. De Palma takes advantage of his lack of budget as he uses the streets of New York to his fullest advantage. The film achieves its
documentary feel through the actors improvising and their lack of knowledge how to play to the camera. All three leads Robert De Niro, Gerrit Graham and Jonathan Warden have little or no experience making movies. The lack of screen presence from the three leads actually helps the film giving a gritty realism. One of De Palma strongest attributes as a filmmaker is his ability to take controversial material and turning it into a satire. Uneven at times Greetings is a fascinating look at late 1960’s culture.

Greetings, DePalma's 1968 anti-military/anti-war movie melange, was the first of his films to find an audience. In fact, it was so successful that Hi, Mom! was conceived as a sequel (originally to be called Son of Greetings). Greetings is an ebullient, brazenly disturbing mixture of movie-movie acrobatics and American counter-culture politics in the manner of pre-1968 Godard. Critics have emphasized over and over DePalma's debt to filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and (especially over-emphasized) Alfred Hitchcock. In Greetings, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, another hip youth-cult film of the time, also looms large.

But the filmmaker whose spectre really presides over this film is that of Abraham Zapruder, the man who made the most famous 8-mm home movie of the Kennedy assassination at Dealy Plaza. Greetings offers mostly modish student-movie tricks, such as sped-up, silent-movie-like inserts where characters cavort in the streets or have sex, that are a long way from the perceptual and emotive orchestration of his later greater works. Only vaguely present is the emotional kinesis, balanced somewhere between ardour and sadism, that drives his most memorable stories and characters. There are occasional shows of impish technique (such as Paul’s third date, which also purports to be Garfield’s porn reel, “The Delivery Boy and the Bored Housewife”) that aren’t half as dynamic or poetic as those employed in Martin Scorsese’s equally rough-and-ready Who’s That Knocking At My Door? (1967). It sits apart from other early works of De Palma’s Movie Brat generation that take in similar settings and ideas. It’s not, like Who’s That Knocking a vivid work by a tyro trying to capture elusive
psychological moods and ethnic specifics, or a flashy piece of attenton-seeking pop, like Francis Coppola’s You’re a Big Boy Now (1967). Nor does it have the lyricism and scope of Arthur Penn’s draft-dodger epic, Alice’s Restaurant or the urgency of Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool (1969).

To be fair, Greetings’ budget was rock bottom, even lower than Penn’s and Coppola’s films. It is a counterculture document, but in a ground-level, distracted, self-critical fashion, attentive to the sights and sounds of its era, yet more caught up in analysing new habits in perceiving the world. It’s also a cinephile’s work that bears relation, in a way, to the films of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, with its three heroes as screwball foils interacting with a specific environment, surviving, and contending with the forces that assail them. Nonetheless, the film does have a specific political and social idea to communicate. It’s not found in scenes such as when Lloyd encounters a zealous radical magazine seller, or in the draft-dodging hijinks. Lloyd’s paranoia, Jon’s fetishist interest in realising voyeuristic fantasies, and the way these tendencies cross-pollinate in efforts to capture the obscured truth on film reveal the leitmotifs of De Palma’s career. It’s easy,
for instance, to point to Lloyd’s constant citation of Blow-Up and his general obsession with assassination and political skulduggery and note that both inspired Blow Out (1981).

Berlin International Film Festival
1969 Won Silver Berlin Bear Brian De Palma
1969 Nominated Golden Berlin Bear Brian De Palma

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Greetings [1968] Brian DePalma


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