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Friday, November 21, 2008
Bryan Singer on Valkyrie
From MTV.com:

"It opens with a bit of a bang, and then, about a third of the way in, a little ticking clock starts, and it moves faster and faster right up until the last frame. And you get to see Tom Cruise come face to face with Adolf Hitler!"

Posted by Geoff at 11:39 AM CST
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Thursday, November 20, 2008
A terrific new book by Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker looks at the Brian De Palma-directed Scarface as "the ultimate gangster movie," and explores "how it changed America." Scarface Nation is the title of the almost-300-page paperback, which Tucker has been promoting since its release last week. Last Tuesday (November 11), Tucker posted on The Best American Poetry blog about "what it’s like to send a book out into the world," and finding that his local Barnes & Noble store is only stocking two copies. On Wednesday, New York Magazine's Boris Kachka posted an interview with Tucker in which he asked the author why the Scarface cast and crew was "so reluctant to discuss its influence?" Tucker, who says that Al Pacino would talk to him about any Pacino movie other than Scarface, replied:

I think their interpretation of its acceptance in pop culture is that it somehow tarnishes the movie and they can’t understand that it’s what keeps it alive. I think they really ought to loosen up and embrace it. They should own their Scarface.

Tucker echoes Pauline Kael's estimation of Orson Wells' Citizen Kane when he calls Scarface a "shallow masterpiece," but he differentiates the two films in his book's introduction. He writes:

No, what Scarface is, in a sense, is something bigger, more outsized than [whatever it is that makes Citizen Kane "great"]. [Scarface] is a great and shallow masterpiece of pop, a work of diverse mongrel artistry. It's all surface, but, boy, what Brian De Palma, Oliver Stone, and Al Pacino applied to that surface. It glows, it glistens, it retains its sheen of power, glory, and shimmeringly decadent rot a quarter century after its release. It remains a tremendously exciting and dismaying piece of moviemaking, unique in the careers of every one of its various creators.

As a film and as a pop culture phenomenon, Tucker appreciates Scarface very much, and his book takes a non-linear approach in exploring both the origins of De Palma's film and the unpredictable journey it has taken since it was released 25 years ago this month. Delving into the "disreputable and sneaky" way the film has and continues to seep into American culture (via posters, T-shirts, mansions, parties, etc.) Tucker concludes that "Scarface belongs to no single author, and therefore we are all free to be the auteurs of Tony Montana's saga, and his life everlasting."

I will write more about this book later this week, delving into some of Stone's thoughts on the film via a new interview for Tucker's book. At the end of Scarface Nation, Tucker acknowledges that he consulted the "superb" De Palma a la Mod, as well as Bill Fentum's "invaluable" (and unfortunately now defunct) website, briandepalma.net. Tucker was also able to get a few quotes from De Palma when he ran into the director during the 2005 Toronto Film Festival. Tucker closes his book with the following about that instance:

At that time, [De Palma] said he would sit down for a more extensive interview. He subsequently declined all my follow-up requests. I will refrain from using a Scarfacian imprecation regarding this behavior, and simply say goodnight to the bad guy.

I should also mention that throughout the book, Tucker displays a fondness for several of De Palma's films, especially The Fury, which he describes in loving detail as a way to delve into some of De Palma's stylistic themes. In this section, Tucker states, "The climax of The Fury is, in its way, just as bloody and tragic and 'operatic' as that of Scarface." However, as I loved Tucker's book overall, it pains me to say that he should have gone back and looked at The Fury more closely, because he gets certain significant facts about who was killing who and what actress was playing the one getting killed, etc., wrong. This leads Tucker to suggest inadvertantly that Gillian purposely killed a woman in a savage manner prior to meeting Robin, which simply is not true. But don't let that dissuade you from checking out this unique and otherwise well-informed book.

Also check out Michael Sragow's interview with Tucker.

Posted by Geoff at 1:38 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:22 PM CST
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Sunday, November 9, 2008
As 24 Lies A Second webmaster Peet Gelderblom's new season of Directorama comics begins Monday (with the notorious "Alan Smithee" being thrown into the "negative space" mix), it seems a good time to post some links to a couple of interviews Peet has done in recent weeks to promote his new book, which collects the first series of Directorama webcomic filmstrips, along with 31 additional movie-related cartoons. You can buy the book from Lulu. You can listen to Peet discuss the book in an October 12th interview he did with our friends at the Movie Geeks United! radio show by clicking here. And a couple of weeks ago, Dennis Cozzalio, who provides the forward in the Directorama book, interviewed Peet at his blog, Sergio Leone And The Infield Fly Rule. In the latter, Cozzalio asks Peet about the first Brian De Palma films he'd ever seen:

Gee, I'm not sure. Either Dressed to Kill, Carrie or Blow Out. In my memory I discovered these three pictures almost simultaneously. Whatever it was, I watched it in horrible pan-and-scan and was mesmerized anyway. What really triggered my interest in De Palma were a few preview clips of Body Double on TV; that marvelous beach scene and a bit of Jake Scully running to save Gloria from that hulking Indian with the giant drill. I was too young to be allowed to see it in the cinema, but I made a vow to rent Body Double as soon as it became available. The restrictions for theaters were harsh, but in the early ‘80s a 13-year-old could go and rent Faces of Death and no one would blink an eye.

While 24 Lies A Second is defunct (the site's articles can now be found posted at The House Next Door), we look forward to a new series of Directorama strips.

Posted by Geoff at 9:58 PM CST
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In the "Don't Make A Scene" column today at the blog Let's Not Talk About Movies, Yojimbo posted a compelling shot-by-shot, line-by-line breakdown of the church scene from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Here is an excerpt from Yojimbo's post:

Director Brian De Palma (one of those directors who never leaves anything to chance) shoots from just two angles*--both two-shots because the scene is about the two men and their needs: Ness' for Malone's help and expertise, and Malone for Ness' commitment. The first shot looks up at them from a forward pew, looking through their hands at their up-turned faces. In Malone's hands are his fob with his master key and a medal of St. Jude ("the patron saint of Lost Causes" "...and cops," as we'll find out later.), which swings like a guillotine at times in the scene. Ness' hands are folded together, as if in prayer, as if pleading. The other shot is more difficult to get--it required a split-focal lens that would keep both Ness and Malone in sharp focus despite their different proximities to the camera. Ness is in profile (an angle that connotes dismissal, or supplication) Malone is talking directly at Ness, and to the camera, and that angle is saved for the most dramatically charged speeches. Ness' face is soft, doughy, unsure. And Malone's is craggy, lined and in constant conflict--at points angry, pitying, weak, and hard. The men are talking about life and death--for themselves and the city of Chicago. Good intentions are not good enough. You have to do what needs to be done to win. To not win is to die. It's all or nothing. There is no "middle way." Commit or die. The scene begins with Ness looking at the medal in Malone's hands. It reaches its crux when Malone looks at Ness' praying hands. Both tell each men all they need to know.

Be sure to read all the way to the bottom, where Yojimbo relates a story about Sean Connery playing 18 holes of golf before filming his "advice" scene in two takes.

Posted by Geoff at 11:52 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Amy Irving will be on hand to introduce and discuss Brian De Palma's The Fury when the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York screens a brand new print of the film November 30th. The screening is part of the Society's weekend-long series, "Problem Child: A Cinematic Display of Bad Behavior," which runs Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 28-30) at the Walter Reade Theater. The Film Society web site has this to say about the film:

This seldom seen, gripping and vibrant science-fiction spy chiller ranks with Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables as director Brian De Palma’s best work. Featuring Richard Kline’s superb cinematography, it constantly delivers punch after punch of fear and suspense.

(Thanks to Randy!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:18 AM CST
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Sunday, November 2, 2008
The Haunting Of Molly Hartley was not screened for critics prior to opening this weekend in North America. The Toronto Star's Tony Wong caught a screening this weekend, and suggests that the new film has "the subtlety of a '70s-style psychological thriller," even though it is "tailored for the Gossip Girl set." [Gossip Girl, incidentally, currently features De Palma's step daughter Willa Holland as a special guest-- Willa gets a rave review for her first episode from Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack.] Wong further states that Molly is inspired in parts by Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby and Brian De Palma's Carrie. Here's an excerpt from Wong's 2-and-a-half-star review:Rosemary's baby is all grown up, and her name is Molly Hartley.

But will tweenies raised on a diet of rental torture porn appreciate the subtlety of a '70s-style psychological thriller?

Although the film is tailored for the Gossip Girl set, and even stars the show's hunk, Chace Crawford, this may be too tame for the Saw V generation. Still, if you get past the retro Nancy Drew title, this is a worthwhile effort.

Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett of Music & Lyrics) is nearing her 18th birthday, and evil lurks everywhere – from the mean girls at her private school to the fact that she has been promised to the devil. After her mother has a breakdown, Molly moves to a private school and gets the attention of rich kid Joseph (Crawford). While trying to adjust to her new life and strange friends, she is haunted by dark visions.

Director Mickey Liddell borrows heavily from Roman Polanski's classic fright film and throws in a nod to Brian De Palma. Molly's knife-wielding, verse-spewing mother is straight out of Carrie.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. This year the Hollywood horror factory has plundered Japanese, Spanish and Korean works for inspiration, so there's nothing wrong with dipping into the classics.

Bennett pulls off a sense of deep vulnerability, evocative of Mia Farrow's turn in Rosemary's Baby, in a role that is more demanding than most teen horror flicks.

Posted by Geoff at 11:53 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 2, 2008 11:55 AM CDT
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Friday, October 31, 2008

Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise will play three times this Halloween as the FOX Movie Channel's Fox Legacy Classic of the Week. De Palma's classic will play tonight at 8pm, 10pm, and midnight eastern time. All over the web the past couple of weeks, bloggers are writing about Phantom and linking to the great Swan Archives, where, as we've posted about before, you can see exclusive outtakes and alternative scenes from the film. Now, at FanEdit.org, you can download a fan's edit of the film that utilizes a complicated splicing-together from the DVD release, audio from the old 1988 laser disc release (which is apparently much better than the DVD's audio), and the outtakes from the Swan Archives to create something akin to De Palma's original vision of the film. Be warned, however, that you must own at least one of the DVD versions of Phantom before downloading, or you could find yourself engulfed in the sort of legal entanglements that would make Swan jealous.

Another De Palma film being mentioned all over the place this Halloween season is Carrie. Today, romance writer Jill Sorenson wrote on her blog that Carrie is one of her favorite scary movies. "De Palma's masterpiece" was also screened under the stars last Saturday at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In a U.K. poll of more than 6000 HMV customersCarrie was voted the 24th best horror film ever made, according to results released yesterday. And just today, The Playlist team posted what they call the "Rosetta Stones of the fright genre." Here's what they say about Carrie:

Carrie (1976) begins and ends in a bloodbath. From the unforgettable opening scene as bullying girls unmercifully taunt the titular menstruating outcast with tampons ("Plug it up!") in the high school locker room to the prom night cataclysm that leaves Carrie soaked to the skin in pig's blood before unleashing her telekinesis for ultimate revenge against her vindictive classmates, this film remains today one of the most effective cinematic tragedies. Stephen King's first novel-to-film adaptation directed by Brian De Palma is not your standard horror flick, obviously, and the fact that Carrie is both the sympathetic protagonist and demonic villain — leaving the delineation between good and evil unclear — makes this film so powerful and classic. And who could forget Piper Laurie's bone-chilling performance as Carrie's bible-beating, devil-fearing, lunatic mother, in particular, the orgasmic exhalations of her kitchen knife crucifixion?

Posted by Geoff at 12:45 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 31, 2008 6:19 PM CDT
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Monday, October 27, 2008
Gale Anne Hurd was interviewed by UGO Movie Blog's Jenna Busch a few days ago. Hurd told Busch that her production company, Valhalla Motion Pictures, is gearing up to seek financing and distribution on Brian De Palma's The Boston Stranglers, with intentions to begin filming in 2009. Hurd layed out the film's story line for Busch:

It’s based on Susan Kelly’s book called The Boston Stranglers, because everything that we think we know is wrong. There was a film made right after the events called The Boston Strangler starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda. And it posits that Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler, but the truth is, if you scratch beneath the surface, Albert DeSalvo was never charged with the crimes. He was actually incarcerated for another series of assaults, and there was not one shred of evidence linking him to the crimes. So the film is very much (about) how did things go so wrong, that to this day we all think Albert DeSalvo was tried and convicted as the Boston Strangler?

When Busch told Hurd that that sounded "really interesting," Hurd responded by saying, "Yeah. With media, with fear, with the cult of celebrity, so many of the things that are part of our life today, were just beginning in the late sixties."

Mr. Beaks over at Aint It Cool News provides a brief synopsis from an earlier draft of Alan Rosen's screenplay. (Rosen has been with the project since 2001, when Hurd was trying to get it set up for Carl Franklin to direct at Paramount. Now that De Palma has signed on to the project, the screenplay is being revised under his direction.) Mr. Beaks writes:

The massive-in-scope screenplay (a recent draft by Alan Rosen ran over 160 pages) starts small with DeSalvo's first string of crimes (he talked his way into the homes of lonely/neglected women by pretending to be a scout for a modeling agency), but quickly turns into a multi-layered dramatization of the botched police investigation, the intense, often unhelpful media scrutiny (courtesy of an ambitious young female reporter for The Boston Herald), and DeSalvo's jailhouse confession to convicted murderer George Nassar (who got F. Lee Bailey involved). It's kinky, bloody and full of betrayal; in other words, it's ideal material for De Palma. Right now, he's just got to find the narrative throughline.

A user named blackmantis, posting in the "Talk Back" section following Mr. Beaks' AICN post, stated, "Michael Imperioli is DeSalvo's doppelganger! He absolutely must play that part." Several other users agreed that Imperioli would be perfect for the role. Imperioli is best known for his role on HBO's The Sopranos, and can currently be seen carrying an authentically distinct '70s vibe as a cop working for Harvey Keitel on ABC's Life On Mars. No casting has yet been mentioned for The Boston Stranglers.

Posted by Geoff at 4:50 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 27, 2008 7:34 PM CDT
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Above is a video of Lars Nilsen providing a wonderful introduction to Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill last Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin, Texas. The screening was part of Nilsen's "Weird Wednesday" series, which happens every Wednesday night, and is free of charge thanks to local sponsor I Luv Video. When you go to Nilsen's blog posting about Dressed To Kill, be sure to read the comments section, where a guy named Jay complains that Nilsen was so uptight about the "slightest snicker" that he went into "full-on Geek police mode" to keep people from distracting from the film (in the intro above, Nilsen tells the audience it is especially important not to talk during Dressed To Kill). Nilsen's reply to Jay's post indicates what kind of atmosphere to expect when attending "Weird Wednesday":

Sorry, we don't allow people to carry on conversations during the movie. It's an unpopular policy with people who like to carry on conversations at movie screenings.

You'll also note that Nilsen is wearing a De Palma T-shirt as he introduces the film. I've seen this shirt before, and was turned off by the design that resembles the Def Leppard logo. But now I may just have to get one as a tribute to Nilsen's enthusiastic introduction.

Thanks to Drew!

Posted by Geoff at 10:25 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brian De Palma's Redacted opened yesterday in Japan. The Japan Times ran a review of the film by Giovanni Fazio, who discussed the effect of De Palma's juggling of forms within the film:

The effect is a little jarring: Some 10 minutes into the film, the tone shifts so wildly — from a shakily shot barracks video to a stately documentary, complete with voice-over and classical soundtrack — that I thought the wrong film had been dubbed onto the DVD preview copy.

This jumble of perspectives seems intentional: half a prosecutor's assemblage of evidence of a crime, half a reminder that the war's big picture remains on the fringes and can only be glimpsed by sifting the miasma of Web videos. The media, De Palma is quite clear in pointing out, are not doing their job of showing us the reality on the ground in Iraq.

Redacted will also screen this Friday (October 31st) as part of the 22nd Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia. The fest began October 25th, and runs through November 1st.

Posted by Geoff at 12:45 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 27, 2008 9:55 AM CDT
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