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1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Brian De Palma
1 review about Greetings

The comedic side to De Palma

  • Nov 12, 2007
So this is what happened to a high-spirited, talented director who could in 1968 co-write, direct and edit this movie for $39,985 (I know I could of just rounded it out) yet 30 years later made Mission: Impossible? With this, his 3rd film, he was well entrenched in an underground style of low budget works with an element of humor and a vigour that was exciting in its own right, not for what it gorily displayed.

Depalma introduces us to three friends through a series of New York-based sketches that bear only tenuous relation to each other; if not for the film's intense forward velocity, all the raw materials would certainly fall apart. Paul (Jonathan Warden) is trying to dodge the draft while testing the waters of computer dating; Jon (Robert De Niro) is giving "amateur" filmmaking a shot; and Lloyd (Gerrit Graham) is a JFK conspiracy nut trying to ferret out the truth of the assassination. The three are introduced in a lengthy, bravura sequence where Lloyd and Jon provide increasingly ridiculous draft-dodging advice as they shift venues: from a clothing store to a zoo, a random apartment, a public bathroom and finally a bar. The first half-hour neatly captures a sense of early twenties aimlessness, where hanging out--wherever--is an end in itself; it's jovial and feels at times not unlike Godard's Band of Outsiders.

Even though the "Greetings" theme song, a jangly Byrdsian creation, quickly negates the gravity of the opening LBJ Vietnam clip, the war hangs heavily over the film. (Hearing a president speak in 1968 about fighting terror abroad to help secure the homeland gave me chills.) "I'm not saying you never had it so good, but that is the case isn't it?" says LBJ, and the three draft-concerned friends do their best to prove him right. The sight of a young mustachioed Robert De Niro gallivanting through Central Park and goosestepping through the Lower East Side trying to figure out just how great of an actor he might one day become should be enough to warm the heart of even the most hardened cinephile. And De Palma himself is no slouch here, taking time to skewer the art world, tenuous race relations, JFK conspiracy nuts, the dating scene, radical liberalism, and the city of New York's own innate pretensions. Paul manages to dodge the draft by playing gay, but Jon's not so lucky. His plan to pose as an extremist arch-conservative with bloodlust only rendered him more worthy of the military, forcing him to abandoned his burgeoning "Peepers and the Peep" avant-porn masterwork Even if the film loses a bit of steam mid-way through, Greetings' coup de grace comes in an obviously staged Vietnam by way of Long Island where a newsman hooks up with a rifleman on the front line--none other than Jon Rubin. In the course of the interview Jon captures a young Vietnamese girl, seats her in front of the news camera and begins restaging his "Peepers" film as De Palma intercuts footage from the original taken in a Manhattan bedroom, effectively thumbing his nose at his audience, and the political priorities of the day.

I thought the cast (at the time) were fresh and in tune with his anarchy. He uses the story of a draft-dodger with an ingenious line in excuses to present a portrait of late-60s society. Rough and ready compared with later films, but minus the cynicism and contempt of those glossy works.

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