Film of the Week: Hi, Mom!

Brian De Palma’s Hi, Mom! (1970) is a bait-and-switch of a film. Robert De Niro, in a proto-Travis Bickle role, plays Jon Rubin, an amateur photographer hired to take Rear Window (1954) style erotic photos of his neighbors. To explain any further, however, would spoil the surprise. Suffice to say, the script carries with it a sense of urgency that’s comedic, sexual and political. Many contemporary American films are desperate to establish a through-line from the country’s founding to now. Hi, Mom! does so in a manner that truly shows perhaps how little has changed. The film’s political topic isn’t focused on bureaucracy[1], but rather plays out on the societal level, where De Palma depicts the social relations in a rapidly changing and explosive downtown New York neighborhood, matched by DP Michael Chapman’s frenzied camera.

[1] No art is psychic, but a sub-plot in the film involves the accessibility of video-cameras for the home-market. New York, defined in the film by its dystopian, modernist architecture, becomes riddled with cameras, mimicking the development of every-day surveillance now common in urban areas.

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