Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod

E-mail
Geoffsongs@aol.com

De Palma Discussion
Forum

-------------

Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Are Snakes
Necessary?

De Palma & Lehman
thriller novel to be
published in France
May 16

De Palma Masterclass,
Casualties Of War,
and book signing
June 2 in Paris

Pics, quotes from
Tribeca Scarface reunion

Donaggio records
Domino score with
Massara in Belgium

Washington Post
review of Keesey book

-------------

Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

------------

AV Club Review
of Dumas book

------------

« November 2018 »
S M T W T F S
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30

Interviews...

De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


Enthusiasms...

De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site

Phantompalooza

No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags

Directorama

The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the
Guillotine

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema

LOLA

Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor

italkyoubored

Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds

EatSleepLiveFilm

No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod
site

Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
All topics  «
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
BAMcinématek
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Books
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Cannes
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Carrie
Casualties Of War
Cinema Studies
Columbo - Shooting Script
Cop-Out
Cruising
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dionysus In '69
Domino
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Fire
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Greetings
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Heat
Hi, Mom!
Hitchcock
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Lithgow
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Morricone
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Noah Baumbach
NYFF
Obsession
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parker
Parties & Premieres
Passion
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Predator
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Redacted
Responsive Eye
Retribution
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Sakamoto
Scarface
Sean Penn
Sisters
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Spielberg
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Sweet Vengeance
Tabloid
Tarantino
Taxi Driver
Toronto Film Fest
Toyer
Travolta
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Untouchables
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
HITCH & DE PALMA ARE THE MASTERS FOR FEDE ÁLVAREZ
"DE PALMA IS ONE OF THOSE GUYS THAT WAS NEVER AFRAID TO AMP IT UP"
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/girlspidersweb.jpgAt last month's Rome Film Festival premiere of his new movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Uruguayan director Fede Álvarez brought up Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma as key inspirations for him as a filmmaker (his previous features are the Evil Dead remake and Don't Breathe). According to Cinecittà News' Nicole Bianchi and Artribune's Margherita Bordino, Álvarez said of adapting the fourth book in the Millennium series (which was written post-Stieg Larsson), "The main thing to do is not a comparison between book and film, but a personalized transposition, different from that of others. The fourth book was a 'Scandinavian Agatha Christie', a kind of crazy James Bond. I was very interested in the development of Lisbeth Salander."

Responding to the idea of Lisbeth Salander as superhero, Álvarez said, "I do not like superheroes, I find them oppressive: Lisbeth is presented as a superheroine, but then I try to expose her to perennial destruction. There is always an element of self-revelation in the character, so this inspires me, the fact that she is human in the end. This film has a tone that I think has a relationship with my previous ones, in particular the suspense of my last film. Hitchcock said to shoot a scene of love as if it were one of death, and vice versa, and here this suggestion was greatly followed. For me he is a master along with Brian De Palma."

Over at Polygon, Álvarez is asked by Matt Patches, "How do you know if you’re going too far into the perverse?" In answering this question, the director again brings up Hitchcock and De Palma: "Well, the MPAA will make sure you’re going too far [laughs], but when it comes to morals, I like to push the boundaries of taste. South Korean cinema is one of my favorites. And directors like Hitchcock or De Palma are the kind of the directors that I think I learned more from by watching their movies. Particularly De Palma, who is one of those guys that was never afraid to amp it up. Even the wardrobes are over the top.

I always like knowing that I really went for it, rather than thinking that, oh, I played that one too safe. There would never be a worse feeling to me in a movie than to think that I played it safe, that I was scared to go in too far. Actually, I look back at Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe and now this — I feel like an old conservative man! But I really try not to be afraid of going overboard."

Back at the Rome Film Festival, Álvarez told Lega Nerd's Gabriella Giliberti, "Undoubtedly I was inspired by the previous directors of this saga. I was in high school when I saw and loved David Fincher's film. He is a director I admire. I would not have imagined that in my life it would have happened that my name and his were put side by side in the same sentence. So surely there is a little bit of Fincher, but I went to the cinema of De Palma or Hitchcock more with this film. I was inspired by them because they are directors who have never been afraid to exaggerate, especially De Palma with his style a bit theatrical and 'operatic.' I did so, and every time I realized I had crossed the limit, I went even further in the scene. I didn't know if what I was doing would work but I still had to try it!"

Also at the festival, Álvarez talked to BadTaste's Gabriele Niola:

This saga seems unable to end. Now after Fincher we start again ....

FA: "Consider that I would never have made a second and third film after that of Fincher, to continue on that style and tone set by a master like him would be impossible. This is instead a story of another author, so it's all a bit less sacred, just be faithful to Lisbeth and you can do whatever you want. And besides, the studio gave me freedom, otherwise I would not even have started. I've never made a film in which I did not have total control."

So if I had to explain the style and tone of your Millennium how would you describe it?

FA: "Not Nordic Noir mystery but more pulp-- I like Brian De Palma and the Korean cinema. I like that territory between the melodramatic and the expressionist that perhaps also implies a sick revenge. Last night I saw the film and all these bright red clothes in the snow were very South Korean cinema but immersed in a fairy tale: we start with a town and we end up in the woods with snow and a cliff."


Posted by Geoff at 10:07 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, November 12, 2018
'CARLITO'S WAY' - RELEASED 25 YEARS AGO TODAY
SECOND-SIGHT NOTES & ANGLES ON STEFFIE, BODY DOUBLES, ETC.
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carlitoswaytrouble2.jpg

Some notes on re-watching Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way today, 25 years after its initial release:

We start with Steffie, the catalyst in the scene above, having just seduced Kleinfeld on the dance floor and pulling him into the bathroom for a quickie. Carlito, of course, already has his attitude issues with Benny Blanco from the Bronx, and Steffie knows this-- the first time the viewer sees Steffie, from afar, she's talking to Saso but watching with keen interest as Carlito tells Benny Blanco about the "new ownership/new rules," and she witnesses, from afar, Benny's obvious respect for Carlito's legendary status. Soon, Steffie is dating Benny Blanco, before she moves on to Kleinfeld in the crucially pivotal sequence of the film pictured above.

At one point, De Palma directs Stephen H. Burum's camera eye from outside the blinds of Carlito's office window downward, to spy Steffie grilling Pachanga about Carlito's meeting with Lalin above. As De Palma shows throughout the film's first 90 minutes, Steffie is obsessed with new owner Carlito from that first time we see her. And while that first time we see her, the shot is lingered on a bit, at this point in the film, the first-time viewer has no way of knowing that this woman will be a pivotal player in the narrative (when we look over from Carlito's point-of-view, the focus is ostensibly on Saso, as Benny Blanco is pointing toward Saso as he mentions him). In this way, the shot of Steffie, at this early point in the film, is somewhat akin to De Palma having Bobbi show up in the frame during a pan on the stairs outside of the museum in Dressed To Kill, prior to our knowledge that Kate Miller is being stalked. Of course, Bobbi is merely glimpsed in the pan in question, but in both cases, a sort of subtext is visually suggested.

Shortly after first watching Carlito's encounter with Benny Blanco, Steffie approaches Carlito, who is sitting and watching a tall blonde woman across the room attempt to get her boyfriend to get up and dance with her. This scenario will be played out by Gail and Carlito much later in the film, at a different nightclub, where Carlito tells Gail, "I love to watch you." The line, of course, harkens back to De Palma's Body Double (Jake's line of dialogue in the porn film-within-the-film, "I like to watch," itself nodding to Peter Sellers's famous line from Hal Ashby's Being There). Carlito's fantasy of Paradise in the billboard at the film's end shows a dancing figure who is surely Gail, yet could also be tinged by this other blonde woman who only reminds him of Gail-- a sort of delirious vertigo at twilight as the bars are closing down. And, as Carlito stares, there's our Steffie, trying to get Carlito's attention, asking him why a good-lookin' dude like him doesn't have a woman. "Nobody but you, Stef."


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 1:36 AM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, November 11, 2018
DE PALMA ATTENDS SCHNABEL FILM & RECEPTION
SCREENING OF 'AT ETERNITY'S GATE' LAST NIGHT IN NY, Q&A AT SCHNABEL'S STUDIO
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/briansusannov102018b.jpg

Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman attended a special screening and reception last night of Julian Schnabel's At Eternity's Gate in New York. The picture above, from Marion Curtis / StarPix for CBS Films / Shutterstock, shows De Palma seated in between Ellen Burstyn and Lehman at Schnabel's art studio as they and others listen to a Q&A discussion with Schnabel, star Willem Dafoe (who plays Vincent van Gogh in the film), co-star Rupert Friend (who plays Theo van Gogh), and moderator Kent Jones. Roger Friedman's Showbiz 411 has a report of the evening:
It’s not easy to get Brian DePalma out to a screening of anything, or to a reception in honor of a new film. But there was the reclusive director of “Carrie,” “Dressed to Kill,” “Body Double,” “The Untouchables,” “Mission Impossible” and so on at painter-director Julian Schnabel’s incredible home and studio Saturday night for “At Eternity’s Gate.”

Many of us went first to the screening at the Crosby Street Hotel of Schnabel’s new movie which features a tour de force performance by Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh. CBS Films is pushing “Eternity” and they’re right– if Dafoe isn’t nominated, something is wrong.

Also from the movie came actor Rupert Friend, who plays Theo van Gogh, very moving as the put upon brother, and Schnabel’s actress daughter Stella who’s terrific as a maid in the Arles estate where van Gogh painted his most famous works.

But that wasn’t the end of the A-list in attendance: director Barry Levinson, actresses Ellen Burstyn and Carol Kane, playwright Israel Horovitz, actors Steve Buscemi and Tony LoBianco, producer Jean Doumanian, and 95 year old indie film legend director (and famed poet) Jonas Mekas not only came to see the movie but stayed at Schnabel’s for a scintillating Q&A moderated by Kent Jones. People stood, sat on the floor, took up every seat in one of Schnabel’s huge painting studios to hear all about the making of “At Eternity’s Gate.”

All these people came to see the movie on a Saturday night– a frigid one, too. Why a Saturday? It was Dafoe’s day off from shooting a Disney movie in Calgary, Alberta, Canada called “Togo.” He literally flew in for the gathering and a little press, then flies back tonight. “Lucky for me, there’s a Canadian holiday,” he told me, “so it bought me a day.”

We learned a lot about this amazing movie: Schnabel, obviously a famed artist, painted all the “van Goghs” in the movie. Now they are in his tri-level West Village studio complex. He painted Van Gogh, and Dafoe as Van Gogh. A huge central Schnabel made of chopped up plates and pottery — portrait of Van Gogh– was so stunning everyone wanted to pose with it!


In another Marion Curtis shot from the event (see below), De Palma is pictured with Levinson and publicist Peggy Siegal, who got her start with De Palma in the late 1980s.


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2018 12:02 AM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, November 10, 2018
MORE DETAILS ON DONAGGIO CUES USED IN HOMECOMING
ASIDE FROM OPENING DTK THEME, MUSIC FROM 'BODY DOUBLE'/'CARRIE'/'RAISING CAIN' APPEAR IN LATER EPISODES
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/homecomingep1b.jpg

Amazon Prime's Homecoming, which premiered last week, opens with the same music that opens Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, which was scored by Pino Donaggio. Instead of moving through a hallway toward a bathroom, as in the opening moments of Dressed To Kill, the camera at the start of Homecoming (each episode of which is directed by Sam Esmail) moves from a close-up inside an aquarium of fish, and pulling back to reveal its placement in a large office where Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) is setting up her desk and looking at the file of a recently-returned young soldier she is about to meet for the first time. When he enters her office (continuing the same shot, with Donaggio's DTK theme still playing underneath), he looks at the aquarium, saying it's nice, and asks her if she likes fish. "Not especially, it was here when I got here," she responds with the distracted nervousness of meeting someone for the first time. "I decided it's...soothing." As he has a seat and the two settle in for the start of their first session (at this early point in the story, we are not really sure what the session is about), the camera moves toward the window behind her desk, looking outside of it before a cut takes us to the other side of the window and Donaggio's music gets louder, the camera pulling back to reveal a courtyard scene outside, where a bird walks into frame and lifts itself up onto a ledge, perching and making a sort of deep squawking noise as the episode's title is revealed in large white letters. From here the music abruptly ends as the episode cuts to a different window but in a different, much narrower aspect ratio and quieter music, in what is revealed to be a flash-forward.

Donaggio's "Telescope" from De Palma's Body Double is used in the opening moments of episode 5 ("Helping"), in a sort of playful twist on the kind of romantic preparations taken by Gloria in Body Double, Jenny in De Palma's Raising Cain, or Kate in Dressed To Kill. The music is cut-off abruptly to enhance a bit of humor, yet the end of the episode calls back to this opening in an absurdly dark fashion. The beginning and end of the episode also manage to call back to the opening moments of episode 1, pairing the two Donaggio themes into a unifying thematic strategy.

I have only watched the first seven episodes so far, and I understand there is more Donaggio to come in one of the three remaining episodes. I can tell you that Episode 4 ("Redwood") brilliantly uses Donaggio's suspenseful "Bucket of Blood" cue from De Palma's Carrie to show the investigator visiting the location of the Homecoming facility during one of the flash-forward sequences.

"When we started talking about music, I started talking to my editors about those classic scores by Pino Donaggio, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams and John Carpenter even,” Esmail tells IndieWire's Chris O'Falt. "I just started thinking, this is going to be really unfair to ask a music composer to ape David Shire’s Conversation theme. That’s just ridiculous, or to ask someone to ape Michael Smalls’ theme from Klute."

O'Falt's article goes into the challenges of getting the rights to use so many varied pieces of existing scores, and includes a handy episode-by-episode list of all the scores used:

Esmail broached the subject with music supervisor Maggie Phillips when she first interviewed for the job. She found the idea discomfiting. “People have licensed a score piece here or there, but there’s no real paper trail for older scores like there is for the other music we license,” said Phillips. “There was no way of estimating costs, at all, and the people we were licensing from wouldn’t even know. The NBC-Universal clearance team and my team, no one had ever done this before.”

Still, Phillips took the job and it became an extensive research project to determine who owned the scores’ publishing rights, and then the actual recordings. Once that was determined, another journey began: locating the recording and digitizing it for the show. (While there might be obvious appeal in a “Homecoming” soundtrack comprised of the best thriller scores from the 20th century, that was a licensing bridge too far.)

Pre-existing scores meant tremendous time and expense. Sometimes Phillips discovered dead ends, or scores that couldn’t be licensed. Phillips and NBC-Universal also had to work with unions to make sure dozens of session players would be paid for scores they played decades ago. However, Phillips’ bigger concern became the creative side.

“Most editors are used to sending a scene to a composer, and having a composer hit those beats and write to those beats and emotional storylines to make it work,” said Phillips. “On ‘Homecoming,’ the editors, and our one music editor, had to to carve it out of preexisting score written for a different movie. We’d have to combine a few scores, and there were times I had to tell them to replace some scores, because they were too expensive after they had carefully crafted it to work with their scenes.”

As the first few episodes hit the editing room, Phillips and the editors started to see an even bigger creative problem. In the 10-episode series, there are longer, key scenes between Heidi (Julia Roberts), a counselor helping veterans adjust to everyday life, and Walter (Stephan James), a young soldier back from a tour in the Middle East. The show ultimately arcs around their many-layered relationship.

“It’s a weird tone between the two of them,” Phillips said. It’s slightly romantic, it’s a little emotional, but you don’t want to push it too hard. It should be pretty subtle, and the scores that we were using were really big scores… a lot of these things we found to put under those scenes felt very heavy handed.”

Often, published scores don’t include quiet moments of “underscore,” but rather the showy moments of action, drama, and emotion. Phillips started to doubt the feasibility of using entirely pre-existing scores.

“I called one of the producers and I was like, ‘I really don’t know if we’re going to be able to do this,’ and it was mostly because I was trying to help the editors find stuff for that first scene between Heidi and Walter,” said Phillips. “So they sat down and talked to Sam, I wasn’t there, and Sam was like, ‘Absolutely no. I want all pre-existing score.'”

Esmail recalled the moment he realized there was no turning back on his concept. “Music is everything to me,” said Esmail. “It’s the heart and soul of a movie or TV show to me because it can be such an injection of tone, and I think tone is everything to a story. So I just took a moment and said, ‘We should embrace this.’ This is too critical for me to ask someone to be derivative, which is also not very fair to them, but also, I wouldn’t want that. I would always constantly compare it to the real thing, and just thought it was so critical to the kind of tightrope walk that we’re doing with tone in the show that I just thought, ‘Let’s just go for it.'”

Phillips agrees that using older scores as temp music would have been a mistake. Music supervisors and composers refer to this as “temp love,” in which creators fall in love with the temp music and ask composers to mimic it. Like many, Phillips believes it’s not only a horrible way for a director to collaborate with a composer, but it’s also why so many scores in the last 15 years sound the same.

Phillips did get Esmail to use a few more modern scores for the show’s quieter moments. She also established a “No YouTube” rule for the editors: Not only were many scores pulled off the internet knock-offs that wouldn’t match, Phillips also wanted to secure the original recording before the editorial team started cutting to it.

Now that she has the final product, Phillips is impressed by how organic the music feels to the show, and the future possibilities for television scores.

“You don’t hear scores this big in TV, and it added so much of the tension,” said Phillips. “It’s a thriller, but it’s a slow burn. It’s not like you are wondering what’s behind the corner. The scores make it feel very thematic and heighten the tension and add to that edge-of-the-seat feeling you’re getting while you watch it. I don’t think it’d be like that without that big dramatic score on top of these scenes.”

So would she recommend using pre-existing score to other creators? “No,” laughed Phillips. “This ended up working because it was so organic to how Sam saw the show and shot the show. He’s a crazy genius, who was backed by a producing team willing to spend the money to see the process through.”

Below is list of the scores used in “Homecoming,” by episode.

Episode 1

“Dressed to Kill,” composer Pino Donaggio
“All The President’s Men,” composer David Shire
“Marathon Man,” composer Michael Small
“Vertigo,” composer Bernard Herrmann

Episode 2

“Klute,” composer Michael Small
“Duel,” composer Billy Goldenberg
“The Gift,” composers Daniel Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans

Episode 3

“Capricorn One,” composer Jerry Goldsmith
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“The Car,” composer Leonard Rosenman
“Chariots of Fire,” composer Vangelis
“Gray Lady Down,” composer Jerry Fielding
“Star Chamber,” composer Michael Small

Episode 4

“The Amityville Horror,” composer Lalo Schifrin
“The Day The Earth Stood Still,” composer Bernard Herrmann
“The Hand,” composer James Horner
“Carrie,” composer Pino Donaggio
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“L’Apocalypse des animaux,” composer Vangelis
“All The President’s Men,” composer David Shire

Episode 5

“Body Double,” composer Pino Donaggio
“The Taking of Pelham 123,” composer David Shire
“The Conversation,” composer David Shire
“Escape from New York,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“Narrow Margin,” composer Bruce Broughton
“The French Connection,” composer Don Ellis

 

Episode 6

“High-Rise,” composer Clint Mansell
“Scanners,” composer Howard Shore
“The List of Adrian Messenger,” composer Jerry Goldsmith
“Copycat,” composer Christopher Young
“Creation,” composer Christopher Young
“Three Days of the Condor,” composer Dave Grusin

Episode 7

“Gray Lady Down,” composer Jerry Fielding
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“The Andromeda Strain” (TV Series), composer Joel J. Richard
“Christine,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“The Parallax View,” composer Michael Small
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“The Fog,” composer John Carpenter
“Halloween 3,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth

Episode 8

“The Conversation,” composer David Shire
“Christine,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Halloween 3,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Altered States,” composer John Corigliano
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“The Fog,” composer John Carpenter

Episode 9

“Body Heat,” composer John Barry
“Dove Siete? Io Sono Qui,” composer Pino Donaggio
“Raising Cain,” composer Pino Donaggio
“Legend,” composer Tangerine Dream
“Oblivion,” composer Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese
“All The President’s Men,” composer Michael Small
“The Eiger Sanction,” composer John Williams

Episode 10

“The Dead Zone,” composer Michael Kamen
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“Opéra sauvage,” composer Vangelis


ADAM NAYMAN ON THE VISUAL STYLE OF 'HOMECOMING'

Meanwhile, at The Ringer, Adam Nayman delves into the visual style of Homecoming:

The all-around excellence of Amazon’s new 10-part thriller Homecoming has been covered already on The Ringer; not since that show about mean rich guys (I think it’s called Succession? Can anyone help me with this?) has an original series gotten so many Twitter-verified writers so excited. Fortunately, the hype is justified, at least on a level of pure craft. The Ringer’s Alison Herman correctly describes Esmail’s aesthetic as “heavily stylized, filled with split screens, overhead shots, and a constant accompaniment in an intricately composed composite of nail-biting scores,” to which I would only add—in case there’s any ambiguity—that this kind of audiovisual ingenuity is very much a Good Thing. Even in a year when directors like Atlanta’s Hiro Murai have already demonstrated serious chops in the TV format—and even without the knowledge that Esmail is trying to find a way to visualize material that began in podcast form—the Mr. Robot helmer’s bravura showmanship is worth celebrating. So how about doing it with some of the same detail-oriented focus that the show has itself? I thought you’d never ask.

The first shot of Homecoming’s pilot is also the first opportunity for Esmail and his team to play a game of spot the reference. As the camera tracks back from the aquarium in therapist Heidi Bergman’s office, Pino Donaggio’s satirically overwrought score from Dressed to Kill plays in the background. The obvious in-joke is that Brian De Palma’s 1980 thriller hinges on a plot twist involving a psychiatrist with a secret, and the shot’s slow, elegant movement copies De Palma’s style.

As the camera locks into place and Heidi prepares to deliver the first line of the show, the blinds on either side of her create a frame within a frame whose dimensions mirror the 1:1 aspect ratio used in the flash-forward scenes. Even within the reality of the show’s 2018 timeline, Heidi occupies a narrowed position, suggesting a lack of knowledge despite her authoritative position behind her desk. More importantly, the show’s visual signature has been established almost subliminally.


Posted by Geoff at 2:11 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 10, 2018 2:21 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, November 9, 2018
2 ARTICLES LOOK AT 'CARLITO'S WAY' 25 YEARS LATER
"THE RARE CRIME FILM TO CONSIDER WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A LIFE OF CRIME"
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carlitoalmostsplit2.jpg

Two articles this past week take fresh looks at Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, which opened in theaters 25 years ago, on November 7, 1993:

Keith Phipps, Vulture
Carlito’s Way, Scarface, and Brian De Palma’s Fantasies of Power

As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, Brian De Palma thought he was done with gangsters. He’d had tremendous success with The Untouchables in 1987, pitting Kevin Costner’s squeaky-clean Eliot Ness and Sean Connery’s pragmatic Irish cop against a Chicago underworld led by Robert De Niro’s Al Capone. And that was his third visit to gangland in four years, arriving on the heels of the instantly forgotten dark comedy Wise Guys, starring Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo, and the very-much-not-forgotten Scarface, a bloody, Oliver Stone–scripted remake of a Howard Hawks classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban refugee who embarks on a bloody ascent to the top of the Florida drug trade. Scarface had been controversial in 1983, thanks to some notoriously violent sequences and Everest-like mounds of cocaine, and it had never really faded from the conversation, becoming a home-video favorite and the go-to reference point for a particular strand of hip-hop. So, as proud as he was of Scarface and as much as he enjoyed working with Pacino, when a chance arose to make another film about a Latino gangster with Pacino in the lead, De Palma figured he’d pass, that he could say nothing more by returning to this world. Then he read the script, and changed his mind, quickly realizing that this was a different sort of movie.

Twenty-five years ago, Carlito’s Way might have looked like a virtual sequel to Scarface, thanks to a poster that screamed “PACINO” above a shadowy image of the star toting a gun. But its relationship to its predecessor is much more complicated. Where De Palma’s Scarface reveled in operatic scenes of violence and its bloody consequences, ending at the moment when Tony Montana runs out of rope, Carlito’s Way is the rare crime film to consider what happens after a life of crime. Is reform possible? Can a gangster with a changed heart find a way out? Can anyone escape the sins of the past? The film would play just as well in a world in which Scarface never existed, but it works even better as the somber bookend to that earlier film. Where Scarface is a film of manic highs leading to a sudden stop, Carlito’s Way is a movie of regretful mornings after. To argue one is better than the other is to miss the point: They belong together.

...

De Palma and screenwriter David Koepp fill the film with period detail, perfectly chosen songs, and rich local color, no doubt helped by source material written by someone who was there. The film is adapted from a pair of novels by Edwin TorresCarlito’s Way and After Hours, with most of the plot coming from the latter — the son of Puerto Rican immigrants who grew up in Spanish Harlem and served as an assistant DA and defense attorney before being appointed to the New York Supreme Court. Torres wrote crime fiction on the side, drawing from the world in which he grew up and using its tougher characters for inspiration. (Based on Torres’s appearance on the making-of doc included on the film’s home-video releases, he also seems to be the primary influence for Pacino’s vocal inflections in the film. Whether or not Pacino’s casting as a Puerto Rican would fly in 2018 is, of course, another matter entirely.) The prevailing sensibility is that of someone who’s seen how hard it is to escape a life of crime. No matter how deep the commitment, one obstacle or another keeps getting in the way.

For all of the film’s fatalistic qualities, however, Carlito’s Way is also a thrilling piece of filmmaking. Brigante’s early encounter with a new generation of gangsters in a bar’s creepy backroom is among the most tightly constructed suspense sequences of De Palma’s career, and the film ends with a set piece to rival The Untouchables’s Union Station climax or the heist at the heart of Mission: Impossible in scale and ambition: a long chase from a club to the subway to Grand Central Station to a train that’s waiting to whisk Brigante and Gail away to a new life in a better place if he can just slip away from his enemies and make it before it pulls out of the station. The filmmaking’s so breathtaking that it becomes easy to forget that you already know how this ends — that there was always only one way it could end.

Tony Montana’s story is the tale of a coke-fueled Icarus; Brigante’s is more complex, and sadder — even if neither of them makes it out of their films alive. Carlito’s Way is the moodier, more mature film, a tragedy of misplaced loyalty and a story of how our surroundings can short-circuit even our loftiest instincts. It was never destined to inspire Funko POP! figures and ridiculously expensive leather jackets. Even with its can’t-miss “crime doesn’t pay” moral, Scarface is a power fantasy. Carlito’s Way understands that power doesn’t last. Tellingly, its most sampled bit of dialogue — Brigante shouting, “Okay, I’m reloaded!” — isn’t a brag but a bluff. He’s out of ammo, faking it, just trying to get out, to live another day. The world, he now understands, is not his and never was. He may not even have a place in it much longer.


Larry C. Taylor - On Film and Film History
CARLITO'S WAY, Brian De Palma’s Unsung Masterpiece, at 25

The tension that builds through Carlito’s Way relies on Carlito’s lack of power; it isn’t about how he is going to escape with Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) to the Caribbean, it’s how he is going to navigate each and every second he stays in New York as his mere presence grows increasingly dangerous. He is vulnerable, scared, and often powerless to the influences and the decisions of the characters who surround him, and powerless to his own code, a code that convinces him to stick with his lawyer, Kleinfeld, who is so clearly the biggest roadblock in Carlito’s exodus.

Sean Penn surprised everyone when he showed up on set with a perm shaved back to resemble severe male pattern baldness. His appearance smartly sets him apart from everyone in the picture. Davey Kleinfeld is the poisonous fruit Brigante cannot avoid, not one of the neighborhood guys, but a slick outsider; Carlito unknowingly helping Kleinfeld murder Tony Taglialucci in the East River outside Riker’s Island leads to the extended chase sequence finale, but ironically it is not the source Carlito’s ultimate demise.

The one time Carlito’s old instincts jump up to bite him is his conflict with Benny Blanco, From the Bronx (John Leguizamo). The bravado of Blanco may mirror a young Carlito, it may not, but one thing is certain: Blanco’s presence stoked a long-buried fire in Carlito’s youthful soul, the one he is working so fervently to leave behind. But his decision in this moment was enough to seal his fate in Grand Central.

Brian De Palma knew from the outset he needed to inject his signature style into as much of the film as he could in order for it to stand out from the scores of gangster films that had preceded it. Even The Untouchables has a feeling of familiarity in regards to the genre. Carlito’s Way is stylistically indulgent, with De Palma employing his psychosexual thriller aesthetics early and often. The split screens and the first-person POV work brilliantly to put the suspenseful building blocks in place, and the story lends itself more to a humanistic tale than what was present in De Palma’s previous gangster films.

Carlito’s Way opened second at the box office the weekend of November 10, 1993, with just over $9 million. Reviews were solid, but word of mouth was nil. Perhaps fatigue with the gangster genre had set in by the end of 1993; the success of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas had spawned Warren Beatty’s Bugsy, but it also generated ridiculous wannabes like Billy Bathgate, Hoffa, and the embarrassingly bad Christian Slater/Richard Grieco star vehicle Mobsters. Whatever the case, Carlito’s Way quietly drifted out of the picture, accruing a meager $36 million in ticket sales; enough to cover the $30 million budget, but nothing to write home about.

In his documentary, Brian De Palma says he didn’t think he could make a better movie than Carlito’s Way. He would return three years later to kick off the Mission: Impossible franchise, but it’s difficult to argue with De Palma’s assessment of his own work. Even though Carlito’s Way hasn’t seen the kind of reappraisal that Blow Out or Dressed to Kill has in recent years, and it doesn’t have the cultural currency of Carrie or Mission: Impossible, or the prestige of The Untouchables, it might very well be his best film. It is, at times, a beautiful film with true affection for its characters. It’s an endlessly engaging thriller, tactile and true, and its collection of incredible set pieces is held together by actors and actresses who hit the heightened notes of their characters with palpable passion.

And, no matter how many times you watch it, you always hold out hope that Carlito will make it to Gail in the end, as a smile breaks through his panicked sprint across the train platform. Even though you’ve known from the outset that happiness isn’t in the cards of a condemned man, you still hope. Because you are invested in Carlito’s salvation.

That’s how great filmmaking works.


Posted by Geoff at 1:56 AM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, November 4, 2018
'SISTERS' LINKS - REVIEWS OF NEW CRITERION EDITION
PETER SOBCZYNSKI, SLANT, TRAILERS FROM HELL


Several essays and reviews of Brian De Palma's Sisters were posted this past week, as Criterion released its new director-approved edition on Blu-ray and DVD:

Glenn Erickson, Trailers From Hell

The nigh-perfect score is by Bernard Herrmann, who was probably the biggest item in producer Pressman’s budget. Sisters launches with a gripping title sequence consisting of a progression of macro-photographed fetuses set to Herrman’s crashing horns and screaming Moog synthesizers. One could put that music to pictures of baby kittens, and we’d know they were Kittens from Hell. Herrmann’s prestige keeps the Roe-vs-Wade baby monsters from becoming exploitative: the disturbing opening makes the neutral one-word title instantly sinister. We’re prepared for anything.

Out here in Los Angeles, Sisters ‘premiered’ in November 1972’s Los Angeles Film Exposition (FILMEX), and was acquired one month later by American International. I saw parts of it at FILMEX while working as an usher (talk about immediately recognizing music by a specific composer!) and later saw a preview screening in Westwood. Some of the filmmakers were in the lobby afterwards, and I almost walked into a wall when I caught sight of Margot Kidder, who was losing no opportunity for self-promotion.

Variety reviews could usually be relied upon to point out fresh creativity, even in exploitation films. For this show they weren’t as enthusiastic, noting the gory details but minimizing Sisters’ appeal as an ‘okay shocker for the action market.’ The reviewer rather grudgingly noted the filmic references to The Master of Suspense, adding that the ‘Hitchcock-style music’ smooths over the film’s rough edges.

I can’t imagine a 1973 film student not being energized by De Palma’s movie — many of us were in film school because we were inspired by reading about Alfred Hitchcock. As a card-carrying Hitchcock- obsessed film student, I went home and scribbled down a list of Hitchcock allusions, plot points, themes, shots, setups, etc. The only previous movie that I’m aware was consciously constructed of Hitchcock homage material is Riccardo Freda’s L’orribile Segreto del Dr. Hichcock (The Horrible Dr. Hichcock). It wasn’t until much later that I realized Sisters was also a veritable travelogue of witty references to classic horror films that I hadn’t yet seen: Peeping Tom, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, etc.

Here’s the rundown of what I once rudely called ‘Hitchcock Rip-Offs.’
They’re Big Spoilers, so see the film first if you have an analytical memory:

Rear Window: A murder seen by an ‘amateur’ is doubted by a police professional. Actions are observed and investigated with binoculars between apartment buildings. Durning’s detective Durning waves, ‘ain’t found nothin’ yet’ from afar.

Psycho: The major prop introduction of the butcher knives. The unexpected knife killing of a likeable character in whom we’ve invested our emotions. The murder clean-up shown in detail. A private detective that disappears from the film mid-case. The revelation that ‘Dominique died on the operating table’ (= ‘Who’s that buried up in Greenlawn Cemetary?’). Various subjective/objective walks, especially the walk leading to the mystery asylum. A trucking-zoom into the pupil of an eye. The psychiatrist blurting out essential exposition for uncomprehending audiences. Kidder’s double identity and the entire Norman Bates personality transference theme. ‘Special guest transferences’: one between psycho killer and psychiatrist, and another between killer and investigator.

Spellbound: The Dali-like dream nightmare (granted, in style it is more akin to a Fellini nightmare).

Suspicion: Philip’s walk with the cake mirrors the walk with the poisoned milk.

The Birds: The pastry clerks (including Olympia Dukakis!) argue behind the counter, just like the hardware proprietor in Bodega Bay. The ‘huh’ ending features an innocuous-sinister exterior landscape with telephone poles.

Lots of Hitch films: Grace’s troublesome Mother, arguing with the cops (calling the police always leads nowhere).

Yes, the ‘borrowed’ situations do stack up. But this is not a lifeless copycat movie. De Palma mounts several inspired set piece sequences that are wholly his own, not merely witty or clever. The Life Magazine newsreel story on the twins provides very effective exposition. But Sisters is best remembered for two killer scenes, the asylum nightmare and the split screen murder.

Enthusiastically received and much discussed was De Palma’s split-screen experiment during and after the opening murder sequence. Hitchcock never tried a split-screen sequence. He had tried many gimmicks in his long career — claustrophobic staging, ultra-long takes, subjective flashbacks, 3-D. But by the time the multiscreen movie at the 1966 World’s Fair made big news, Hitchcock was no longer tinkering with such experimentation. At the time we thought De Palma had been inspired by Richard Fleischer’s 1968 The Boston Strangler, but De Palma’s own Murder à la Mod, released first, uses the technique as well; it also featured actor William Finley.

As was also seen in parts of the Fleischer film, De Palma’s split-screen replaces standard parallel cutting: he simultaneously shows both halves of actions that would normally be intercut one with another. The suspense of the murderers cleaning away traces of the crime while investigators dawdle only a few feet away is very effective. Audiences I saw Sisters with applauded the double-vision synchronous hide ‘n seek game near the elevators.

Grace’s witnessing of the actual murder is equally effective, but brings up a glaring inconsistency, a big Hitchcock no-no cheat. Grace is shown calmly walking to her window perhaps thirty seconds after the actual murder takes place. Seeing a bloody hand writing ‘help’ on a window, she recoils in alarm, indicating that she was unaware of any problem before. And what can she (we) see? She can barely tell that the man is black. The rest of her view, which we see on one half of the split screen, is obstructed by the reflection of a brick wall on the glass. Yet Grace tells the cops she witnessed a murder, knows it was a stabbing, even describes the assailant, who never came anywhere near the window to be identified. It’s a very cute confusion – on first viewing the murder is so shocking and the events so riveting that Savant just took Grace at her word. Maybe it’s another Hitchcock reference — to the ‘lying flashback’ in Stage Fright.

Brian De Palma’s second bravura sequence is the B&W nightmare, an almost perfect horror vision visually unlike anything in Hitchcock. Assembled as a master tracking shot through a fantastic horror scene, it’s stylistically more akin to Federico Fellini. It also has a purpose, to impress on Grace’s mind a traumatic false reality, ‘Manchurian Candidate-style.’ The zoom into the eye of the drugged Grace was probably inspired by Repulsion; it also has the ‘diamond bullet to the brain’ effect of 2001. Inside the mind’s eye is a convincingly warped B&W Dali-scape of elements and characters we’ve seen earlier on, plus a menagerie of grotesques.

Our ability to take the scene literally vanishes as we recognize people that ‘don’t belong’: Grace’s mother and the famous journalist (Barnard Hughes) are among the creepy inhabitants of this asylum. The fisheye nightmare is too theatrical to be one of Polanski’s quietly disturbing dreams in Rosemary’s Baby, and is much more ‘felt’ than the remote creepshows in Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf. Of course, the spectacle is greatly enhanced by Bernard Herrmann sledgehammer music scoring. When Charles Durning is suddenly revealed holding a meatcleaver, the irrational reigns supreme. It’s the director’s doing: nothing in De Palma’s later horrors matches this moment.


Chuck Bowen, Slant

Though Brian De Palma had directed several accomplished features before it, Sisters feels in many ways like a debut film. It’s certainly De Palma’s first attempt to marry the edgy satirical textures of his earlier work with a recognizable genre narrative. Or, more bluntly, Sisters is De Palma’s first horror thriller, which is the genre that has allowed him to express himself fully. Like many debut films, Sisters is self-conscious and intellectually guarded, lacking the emotional vibrancy of its creator’s future productions, but it’s also a stunning work of style that erupts into ferocious madness.

Sisters opens on what was already then a classically auto-critical kind of De Palma joke. A blind woman, Danielle (Margot Kidder), strolls into a dressing room where a man, Phillip Woode (Lisle Wilson), is changing. Unaware that anyone else is in the room, Danielle begins to disrobe. Until this point, the sequence plays as a perfectly conventional opening for a thriller, or maybe a comedy, until it’s revealed to be part of a Candid Camera-style show within the film called Peeping Toms, with Phillip as the mark. Danielle isn’t blind and works for the show, which follows contestants as they bet on whether Phillip will watch her undress, turn his head, or alert her to his presence. A polite man, Phillip turns his head, causing the contestants to lose points.

Most obviously, this scene functions as one of De Palma’s references to Alfred Hitchcock, acknowledging the voyeuristic functions, and interrogations, of much of the latter’s filmography. And the title of the game show within the film references Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, which was also concerned with the dehumanizing qualities of media. These references are clever, relatively easy to parse, and safe—representing the sort of violations of a viewer’s trust that ironically broker an audience’s greater complicity in the post-Psycho age, as such rug-pulling encourages us to gleefully anticipate the next trick.

Yet De Palma laces all this potentially smug cleverness with an uncomfortable detail that echoes the social satire of the “Be Black, Baby” sequence from Hi Mom!, and that reveals a major element of his own distinctive voice: his scalding humor and distrust of conventional surfaces. Phillip is African-American, and the game show’s audience and contestants are all white. Which is to say that we’re watching a scene in which white people try to lure a black man into sexually harassing a white woman for their own amusement.

Phillip weathers this offense the way people of color have been conditioned to, with a resigned restraint that’s intended to prevent further accosting. De Palma dramatizes the racial savagery of the game show with an off-handedness that’s amusing and disturbing. In case we miss the point, Phillip is given two tickets to a restaurant called The Africa Room for being a good sport, and Danielle is given a set of knives. These prizes epitomize De Palma’s brutal cleverness, as each play a role in Phillip’s destruction.

This racial satire continues to inform Sisters even as the film morphs into a delirious fusion of Psycho, Rear Window, and Rope that retrospectively suggests a test run for Dressed to Kill. Phillip is this film’s Marion Crane, a subjugated person, initially assumed to be the protagonist, who must die so as to satisfy the whims of a white establishment that’s spinning out of control. De Palma plays with our awareness of Hitchcock’s films, deriving suspense not from the pulling of the narrative rug but from the timing of the pulling.

Phillip has sex with Danielle, who’s being stalked by her ex-husband, Emile (William Finley). Phillip overhears Danielle arguing with her twin sister, the pointedly unseen Dominique, who’s enraged that Danielle has a man over at the apartment. Then, Phillip goes to sleep and gets up and buys the sisters a birthday cake—a poignantly thoughtful gesture that seals his doom. Though we empathize with the character, we’re conditioned to become impatient for Phillip’s death so that we may begin to recover from it.

Dying a death as painful and lonely as the one that Marion Crane suffered before him in Psycho, Phillip crawls across the floor of Danielle’s apartment—his blood perversely echoing the color and texture of the icing on the birthday cake—and hands the film’s narrative baton off to Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt). Grace sees Phillip’s hand pressed against Danielle’s window from the neighboring angle of her own apartment and calls the police, whom she’s often criticized in her liberal-minded journalism. And the indifference of the police to Grace’s sensational story of a potential hate crime is visually expressed by one of the greatest split-screen sequences in De Palma’s career: two simultaneous nine-minute shots that contrast Emil’s efforts to conceal the murder with Grace’s efforts to expose it. In an astonishing flourish, we see Grace and Emil just miss each other in a blood-red hallway, suggesting desperate mice in an elaborate labyrinth. And this struggle, to become aware of social atrocity and to expose it, is capped off at the end of Sisters with a galvanizing punchline: Grace, the film’s social crusader, is willed into amnesia.

In prolonged bits and pieces, Sisters shows De Palma to be on the cusp of achieving the mastery that he would display in full by the early 1980s. What the film lacks is the seemingly intuitive sense of emotional escalation that sustains Dressed to Kill and Blow Out, which are so fluid that they almost feel as if they’re composed of a single, breathless shot. Though it climaxes with a mind-fucking in an insane asylum that’s classic in its own right, Sisters is also freighted with tongue-in-cheek exposition that occasionally stops it dead in its tracks, putting unnecessary quotation marks on a grimy, starkly sophisticated fusion of social satire and body horror.


Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com

Even though “Sisters” was De Palma’s first full-out attempt at the suspense genre, one would never be able to discern that thanks to the sheer filmmaking skill that he demonstrates here. After lulling viewers into a state of complacency during the long opening sequence, De Palma begins turning the screws on them with his ability to generate tension thanks to his detailed visual approach. The scene in which Grace’s argument with the cops is juxtaposed with Emil and Danielle trying to clean up Dominique’s mess before anyone else arrives is a virtual master class in filmmaking all by itself in the way that it effortlessly supplies a wealth of information regarding the relationship of Emil and Danielle and the mutual antipathy between Grace and the cops while simultaneously generating equal levels of tension on both fronts. It is a bravura moment that still stands as one of the greatest set pieces in De Palma’s filmography and while nothing else in the film can quite match it, a darker and moodier feel begins to dominate the proceedings—aided in no small part by the spectacularly moody score by the legendary Bernard Herrmann—and the nightmarish final sequence in the asylum, featuring key flashbacks shot in 16mm by De Palma in a manner designed to resemble “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), is a knockout.

One aspect of “Sisters” that makes it a pure product of De Palma is in the usage of voyeurism, a theme that the director would return to time and again throughout his career. In this film, everyone is watching each other, it seems, but from skewed perspectives that prevent them from actually seeing what is right before their eyes. The game show where both Philip and the audience are seeing two different things that are not quite as they seem. Philip sees Emil but can only look at him as a jealous ex-lover of Danielle’s and not as a potential warning sign. Grace witnesses the murder but cannot actually prove anything that she saw and when she does find proof, her inability to watch where she is going ends up destroying it. It is only at the end of the film that people like Grace and Larch are able to see the truth head-on but due to circumstances, neither one is able to communicate the truths that they have seen to anyone, a notion that is perfectly articulated in the haunting shot that brings the story to a close on a deeply ambiguous note.

Even De Palma’s most devoted fans will admit that narrative logic and structure is not always of interest to him and that some of his stories do not exactly stand up to rigorous analysis when all is said and done. Therefore, watching “Sisters” proves to be a bit of a shock because the screenplay that he and Rose have conjured up is actually pretty strong and sound in the way that it provides a sturdy dramatic structure for him to build upon with his weirdo humor and elaborately designed suspense sequences. The opening 20 minutes or so are interesting in the sense that nothing really happens—none of the sex or violence that viewers might be expecting—but the characters of Danielle and Philip are so likable and engaging that it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of complacency that only makes Philip’s murder at the hands of Dominique all the more horrifying. (By employing this kind of slow burn opening, De Palma is utilizing the same approach that he would later deploy in his original version of “Raising Cain” (1992) before restructuring it into the eventual theatrical version.) With all of that going on, he manages to deftly introduce another winning and appealing character in Grace, a contemporary version of the kind of hard-driving crusading female journalist that Glenda Farrell used to play back in the day—the kind who is all about the work and becomes exasperated when her mother (Mary Davenport, Jennifer Salt’s real-life mother) keeps noodging her about when she is going to give up her hobby and finally settle down and get married. As the story progresses, things become increasingly strange and outlandish but De Palma never departs from the logic that he has established early on and indeed, one of the pleasures of watching the film again, once the surprises have been revealed, is to observe just how intricately the elements come together.


Posted by Geoff at 10:36 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, November 3, 2018
VIDEO ESSAY LOOKS AT SPACEK'S PHYSICALITY IN 'CARRIE'
AND HOW SHE DREW INSPIRATION FROM GUSTAVE DORÉ BIBLE ILLUSTRATIONS

In the video above, titled "What Makes Carrie So Scary," Adam Tinius at Entertain the Elk looks at the physicality of Sissy Spacek's performance in Brian De Palma's Carrie, with a specific focus on how Spacek drew inspiration from a book of Gustave Doré's Bible illustrations that her husband, production designer Jack Fisk, had as part of his research for Carrie.

The Elk video also inspired Film School Rejects' Jacob Trussell to post some thoughts about the video and the topic:

The video focuses on how actors can physically transform for a role. This emphasis on physicality can reinforce the darker, mysterious quality of horror. But frankly, I find there is just something inherently eerie about seeing an actor disappear into a role as Spacek does into Carrie.

Before he was known as Batman, Christian Bale pushed his body to the limit and dropped 60 pounds for his role in Brad Anderson’s The Machinist. This was at a time when we knew Bale mainly as the paragon of muscular definition in American Psycho. Seeing his character’s body mimic his mind as it slowly disintegrates is as haunting as anything else in this story of tragedy and guilt. And this is because the physical body doesn’t just convey emotion, but it can beckon it. Michael Chekhov created a series of poses to illustrate his psycho-physical acting technique in his book “To The Actor”. The abstract poses connected to a range of emotions that the actors could then use in conjunction with their sense memory to create realistic gestures electrified with energized physicality. You can see these types of abstract expressive forms as the video essay emphasizes how the era of Romanticism in visual art inspired Spacek.

Sissy Spacek, thanks in part to her husband Jack Fisk who was a production designer and collected the religious iconography for the film, found inspiration within the religious imagery, especially “The Stoning of Stephen” and “The Martyrdom of St. Stephen” by Gustave Dore. Looking at these two works of art, the parallels to Carrie are plain as day. Both paintings feature the titular Stephen as a crowd assaults him with stones. This echoes our introduction to Carrie White as she is pelted with tampons and pads by the mob of teenage girls. But it’s also the twisted body and anguished expression on Stephens’ face that harkens to Spacek’s nervous bubbling over energy.

The video also mentions minute acting choices like Anthony Hopkins unblinking stare as Hannibal Lecter as a nuanced way an actor can layer physical subtext into their performance. But something that I think is not mentioned is that these ticks, these choices, feel good to the actor. When I was in a production of the musical Sweeney Todd playing the titular demon barber, I constantly had a handkerchief in my pocket that I would smell periodically on stage. It was my Todd’s tick, his psychological gesture. For the audience, this could have been seen as just one of the many choices I made during my run, but for me, this was the last remaining vestige of Todd’s long thought dead wife. In this swatch of fabric was my motivation, my drive, and most importantly: a secret. An early lesson every actor learns is that you should always carry with you a secret when performing, something that’ll keep you one step ahead of the audience, but also give audiences something to mine for. While Carrie’s telekinetic powers are not necessarily a surprise in the film, the force of her powers is.

Sissy Spacek effortless performance in Carrie garnered her first Academy Award nomination for actress, and she achieved this by constantly pushing against the performative grain of her character, imbuing Carrie White with utter authenticity. She counterbalances this authenticity with her striking use of physicality to convey the large religious motifs layered into Brian De Palma’s film. While this video essay highlights what makes Carrie so scary, I think it’s also what makes Sissy Spacek so special. On working with Terrence Malick in his debut feature Badlands Spacek said, “The artist rules. Nothing else matters.” Spacek is an actress, but first and foremost she is an artist. One who uses her body, rather than a canvas, to convey the truths inside us all.


Posted by Geoff at 3:46 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, November 2, 2018
TRAVOLTA RECALLS 'CARRIE' WITH ON-SET PIC
"I DON'T THINK ANY OF US COULD HAVE KNOWN THE LIFE THE MOVIE WOULD TAKE ON..."
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carriekidspromset.jpg

John Travolta posted the above pic to his Instagram page a couple of days ago. "On the set of #Carrie over 40 years ago," Travolta wrote on his post. "I don’t think any of us could have known the life the movie would take on for decades...or how many times we’d have to explain to our families the blood was actually corn syrup!"

Posted by Geoff at 8:04 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
ALEKSANDER SZCZEPANIAK'S 'FEMME FATALE' POSTERS
GRAPHIC DESIGNER FROM WARSAW REIMAGINES POSTER FOR DE PALMA FILM
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/ffalsz1.jpgAleksander Szczepaniak, a graphic designer based in Warsaw, Poland, posted a stunning set of four new poster variations for Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale today on Instagram. Two of them are included here-- visit his Instagram page to see the other two, plus many other terrific poster designs.


Posted by Geoff at 10:57 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, October 29, 2018
JENNIFER SALT DISCUSSES DE PALMA IN CRITERION CLIP
"HE PICKED PEOPLE HE ENJOYED WORKING WITH, AND KIND OF LET THEM GO THEIR WAY"
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sisterssetjenniferbriansmall.jpg

Earlier today, Criterion posted a video clip from a new interview with Jennifer Salt. The full interview is one of the extra features on Criterion's new edition of Sisters, released last week. In the clip, Salt describes Brian De Palma on the set:
So, on the set, when we were shooting, Brian was... kind of grumpy-- didn't love being on a set, didn't like being asked all these questions, didn't like the amount of time that everything took. He was impatient. He didn't like sitting around. So, he was never in the best of humor, and so he wasn't like somebody who said let's talk about this and let's rehearse it and let's go deeper. He never said anything like that. He just would say, "A little more of this," or some-- you know, it was minimal, what he was giving us, in terms of direction. He picked people he enjoyed working with, and kind of let them go their way and, you know, hope that they would do their thing. And it was easy to do that, because you were getting so much respect from him. You know, I found it very easy. I was never nervous on the set, or, I just, like I said, I just wanted to make him laugh.

Posted by Geoff at 9:50 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post

Newer | Latest | Older