RUTANYA ALDA: "BRIAN WOULD SAY, 'I'VE ONLY GOT THREE MINUTES OF FILM'"
Rutanya Alda is briefly quoted about working on Brian De Palma's Greetings in Brian Kellow's Pauline Kael: A Life In The Dark, his recent biography of the influential film critic. In the following paragraph from page 119 of Kellow's book, one senses the origins of De Palma's "No Net Productions"...
Although Pauline definitely had her favorites among directors, her New Yorker reviews were, from the beginning, full of surprising reactions. She went out of her way to praise a movie that few saw, Greetings, directed by a twenty-eight-year-old filmmaker named Brian De Palma. Greetings wasn't in the macabre vein of the later films that made De Palma famous but was an off-kilter comedy about three young New Yorkers trying to keep from being drafted, and it had been shot in two weeks for very little money. Rutanya Alda, who played a supporting role in the film, recalled how the tiny budget made it essential to work fast and accurately: "Brian would say, 'I've got only three minutes of film-- we've got to get the scene in three minutes.'" Locations were snapped up wherever they could arrange them cheaply: one sequence in a bookstore was shot at three in the morning without the owner knowing about it. Pauline acknowledged that some of Greetings was a mess, but she also recognized a vibrant, original talent; Greetings went on to win the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and Pauline noted De Palma as a talent to watch.
44 years later, De Palma is hoping his latest film, Passion, will be accepted for the Berlin fest next February. Nancy Allen is also quoted in Kellow's book, in regards to Kael's enthusiastic response to De Palma's Carrie...
If her elevation of De Palma's "persistent adolescent kinkiness" into some kind of major achievement baffled many of Pauline's friends as well as her enemies, it was her review, in the end, that carried the day for De Palma and his cast. Nancy Allen, who played the movie's chief villainess, remebered vividly the day that Pauline's review appeared. "I think that Brian was just thrilled," she said. "And disgusted at the same time, because the studio wasn't treating it like it was anything better than a slasher picture." De Palma quickly became one of the directors Pauline felt compelled to promote. Allen remembered that she had the reputation for being a bit chilly toward her pet directors' wives and girlfriends, but she found Pauline warm and friendly. "She liked Brian a lot and there I was, the girlfriend. I didn't know if I would be accepted or not. She was very pleasant and said hello and smiled sweetly. I remember thinking, Okay, that was all right. She was possessive. They were her guys."
EBERT BOOK DELVES INTO SOHO LOFT WHERE 'GREETINGS' & 'WOODSTOCK' WERE EDITED
Kael and Greetings are both mentioned within a chapter on Martin Scorsese in Roger Ebert's recent memoir, Life Itself. In this excerpt, Ebert recalls meeting Scorsese for the first time:
That first time we met in New York, he took me to visit his job, as an assistant director and editor on Michael Wadleigh's Woodstock. The footage from Woodstock was being edited by a team headed by Thelma Schoonmaker, later to become the editor of Scorsese's features, and Walter Murch, a tall young man with a mustache who would later reinvent the strategy of sound design. In a top-floor loft in Soho, reached by a freight elevator, a headquarters had been cobbled together with a skylight and a lot of little rooms off the big one. "You know what picture was cut in this loft?" Scorsese asked me. "They made Greetings in this loft." That was the De Palma movie with Robert De Niro in his first role. So much was still ahead. The loft was a crazy, jumbled place, with earnest young editors bending over their Kellers. "The Keller Editing Machine," I was told. "The finest editing machine in the world, and the only one you can use to cut three-screen footage with eight-track synch sound, with thirty-five-millimeter and sixteen-millimeter film on the same machine at the same time."
A couple of paragraphs later, Ebert recalls going out to dinner with Scorsese, Kael, De Palma, De Niro, and Paul Schrader...
Marty mailed me screenplays titled Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Season Of The Witch, which was later to become Mean Streets. One night during the New York Film Festival he and I and Pauline Kael ended up in my hotel room, drinking and talking, and his passion was equaled by hers. Pauline became urgent in her support of those filmmakers she believed deserved it. She sensed something in Scorsese. Her review in the New Yorker of Mean Streets would put him once and for all on the map.
Her connections were crucial. One night we met in the lobby of the Algonquin and went out to eat with Brian De Palma, Robert De Niro, and Paul Schrader. De Palma and De Niro had made two low-budget films. Did Marty, De Palma, De Niro, and Schrader know one another at that time? Certainly. Did anyone guess Raging Bull would result? Pauline must have sensed the mixture was volatile. We went to an Italian restaurant. Pauline was then between her jobs at McCall's and the New Yorker; De Niro and De Palma were unemployed; and Schrader was a hopeful screenwriter. Thinking I was the only person at the table with a paycheck, I picked up the tab. "You dummy," Pauline told me. "Paul just sold The Yakuza for $450,000." She always knew about the deals.