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De Palma Masterclass,
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Pics, quotes from
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Donaggio records
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Washington Post
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Scarface: Make Way
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De Palma a la Mod

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Intrada has just released a limited edition soundtrack of Pino Donaggio's score from Brian De Palma's Body Double. The complete soundtrack has never, to my knowledge, been officially released before. Selected tracks have shown up here and there on various collections, but this is the real deal. The Intrada web site states that this is the "complete score presented in brilliant stereo from original 30 i.p.s. multi-track session masters vaulted at Sony Pictures." The release marks volume 86 in the Intrada Special Collection, and is limited to 3000 copies. The CD has 21 tracks totaling over 68-minutes, and sells from the Intrada web site for $19.99. The web site describes Donaggio's Body Double score like this:

Pino Donaggio creates what might be his greatest masterpiece, compliments Hitchcock style visual set-pieces with massive musical set-pieces of his own. Signature display of Herrmann-ish strings, layers of bold over-the-top brass (particularly French horn) for claustrophobia sequences, sinous & sexy themes for sleaze elements, throbbing synths for graphic drill murder, dynamic orchestral action for final confrontation, you name it! At heart is primary love theme plus gentle secondary idea for high violins that lingers throughout... Savor every note, from smallest keyboard cues and intricate synth overlays through porno-film source pieces to framing vampire movie music and grandiose orchestral fireworks! Natale Massara conducts.

Posted by Geoff at 9:20 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 9:24 PM CST
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Friday, December 12, 2008
Movie Geeks United! paid tribute to the 25th anniversary of Scarface last Sunday by interviewing Ken Tucker, author of the recent Scarface Nation. The show also featured clips of the Geeks' previous interviews with Brian De Palma and Steven Bauer, as well as trivia and discussion of the film. Click here to listen to the Scarface show. On last Wednesday's show, the Movie Geeks interviewed Mark Margolis, who played Alberto the Shadow, the assassin whose lack of morals leads Tony Montana to draw a violent line in the sand. Discussing the filming of that scene with the Geeks last night, Margolis said that in between takes, Al Pacino did a lot of "lame" talking about locker room-type subjects. Margolis was wondering for an hour and a half what he was doing there listening to such uninteresting and uninspired machismo, and then suddenly came to the realization that Pacino was in fact talking in character-- it wasn't Pacino talking, but Tony Montana, 24-7.

Oliver Stone was interviewed by Tucker for Scarface Nation. We all know that Stone was at odds with De Palma for slowing down Stone's fast-paced narrative and excising dialogue scenes in favor of elaborate camera shots and long takes. Stone tells Tucker that had he been directing the film himself, he would have made it more "realistic and fast-paced, because it was more like, let's get to know this world. [But] Brian chose another approach, and I respect him for that."

In Tucker's book, Stone discusses some of the real life inspirations for his Scarface screenplay, and how De Palma added a oft-"excessive" operatic framework over the material that took liberty with logic. Stone is quoted as saying that certain things about De Palma's edits were sticking in his craw. "To me," Stone told Tucker, "what was being sacrificed was narrative sense and atmosphere."

Stone elaborates on some of the issues he brought up in the memo he sent to producer Martin Bregman and Pacino in this excerpt from Tucker's book:

Stone's irksome memo addressed what he felt were "questions of logic. The film has a realistic base onto which was put an operatic framework. Which is okay-- it made the movie what it is, but for operatic purposes you don't throw out logic, and certain things were sticking in my craw. I think Brian had strayed--" Stone pauses here, looking for the right words before simply sighing and saying, "Sometimes his plot points are ridiculous. It's as if there's nobody keeping rational logic there. He's done certain things in other of his films too that are really loopy"-- Stone pauses to laugh almost affectionately-- "really loopy."

"I'll give you an example," Stone continues in Tucker's book...

"I think the ending was written realistically, that Tony had fucked over the cartel. And they came to get him at the mansion, and I'd written it as four or five gunmen sneaking up on him on his property, and, of course, when I got on the set"-- Stone laughs and shakes his head in disbelief-- "it was like thirty or forty gunmen! It could have been fifty or sixty-- it didn't matter. It became a Hong Kong [action] movie at that point. And I'm surprised-- but, well, people loved it! And I don;t say Hong Kong idly, because after Scarface, Hong Kong action films started upping their numbers, shooting people much more readily and easily.

It changes the nature of the film; it was so outrageous at this point, and Brian just kept going and going, and for some reason it works. Why does it work to have, I don't know, a hundred men go in there and shoot at Tony, all alone? I didn't know, I didn't see it, back then. [But] that's a Hong Kong action-film shoot-out before its time, right?

So despite Stone's misgivings, Tucker told Michael Sragow at the Baltimore Sun that Stone is a big enough man to say, "I have to hand it to Brian; he knew what he was doing. He captured something that was in the air." Part of what De Palma captured in the ending of Scarface may have been inspired by King Kong, with Tony Montana acting as the old-fashioned monster, defiantly fending off attackers from below as he sits on top of the world (which for the original King Kong would have been the Empire State Building). Indeed, it would seem as though De Palma could have read the script and, either consciously or subconsciously, amped up the threat to Tony Montana as an echo of the ending of the 1933 classic. The climax of King Kong is quite obviously referenced at the end of De Palma's 1962 short Wotan's Wake, so it is definitely a film on De Palma's radar.

In fact, in a 1997 Journal Of Film And Video article titled "At Work In The Genre Laboratory: Brian De Palma's Scarface," Tricia Welsch suggested that De Palma's film alludes to both Frankenstein and King Kong. For Welsch, this "postmodern hybrid" of the gangster film was problematic, as it alluded to the Cuban immigrant as a "monster." Welsch further felt that De Palma's reputation added an element of the slasher film to the mix, but it is also interesting to note that Stone himself began directing by making horror films like Seizure and The Hand (both made before writing Scarface), so Scarface as a horror/gangster hybrid seems valid from the ground up. In any case, De Palma spoke in those days of wanting to break out of genres and of creating new ones, and his free-wheeling sensibilities were perhaps most aptly described by critic Jake Horsley, when he referred to De Palma as a "pinball wizard."

Tucker was also interviewed recently by Craig D. Lindsey at the Philadelphia Weekly. Elsewhere, Tucker and Bauer are two of several people quoted in a Scarface 25th anniversary article posted by Lee Hernández three days ago at the New York Daily News.

Posted by Geoff at 2:11 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, December 14, 2008 11:08 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Swan Archives has unearthed yet another small batch of unused footage from Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. Go to the site's production section and click on the "Swan Song Fiasco" page to see some newly discovered footage of the receptionist flipping through the names to check on Winslow Leach-- some more of the names on the list can be seen, including Martin Scorsese and Jack Nicholson. Also on that page is a newly uploaded take of Winslow barging into the Death Records reception area, revealing another "Swan Songs Enterprises" sign. Click on the Outtakes page to see newly discovered footage of Winslow stabbing himself, and also footage of Winslow introducing himself to the receptionist in several takes.

Posted by Geoff at 1:35 PM CST
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008
"De Palma is consistently conjured, in a manner that surpasses even the most excessive auteurism, as a kind of Godhead..."
At Screening The Past, Adrian Martin has reviewed Eyal Peretz's Becoming Visionary: Brian De Palma’s Cinematic Education of the Senses. Martin titles his review "Strange Days," highlighting the idea that to Peretz, nothing in De Palma's cinema is seen as natural. Martin writes:

To Peretz, nothing that happens in a De Palma film – no gesture, line of dialogue, bit of behaviour, camera angle or scene transition – is natural, obvious or common-sensical; on the contrary, all is ‘strange’, bizarre, in urgent need of interpretation. The word strange appears multiple times on many pages; indeed, this book could have been subtitled (with a nod to Raymond Durgnat) The strange case of Brian De Palma. Becoming Visionary launches itself from where the best De Palma criticism wisely begins: from the sense that everything in these films is grandly unreal, illogical, unbelievable, risible, grotesque, a live-action cartoon. So much for the stuffy old business of character psychologies (and believable performances), dramatic/comic themes and coherent, and fictive-world meanings! Peretz is more riveted by the falling softball that inaugurates the deepest action and logic of a story (in Carrie), or the sudden apparition of a big toe (Bataillian, bien sur – in The Fury) that is merely the first of a string of breaks or interruptions (on every level of the cinematic apparatus) which crack open the coherent shell of a diegesis and open up to something else: an Outside or Beyond that, however, is not metaphysical (that would be a kind of sin in Peretz’s argument) but somehow immanent – immanent to the filmic frame itself.

Martin states that he hesitates to call this a film book, and while he at first sounds skeptical about Peretz's "frequently stimulating, occasionally baffling" deep focus on certain moments in De Palma's films, he pleasantly admits to finding the book rather engaging. Martin explains:

It would be easy – it has already become a reflex in recent, disenchanted cinephile commentaries on the occasional writings on film by contemporary continental philosophers – to complain that Becoming Visionary has seemingly not much to do with the films it discusses, or (a worse charge) that it simply lines up some choice illustrative or allegorical moments from them in order to cue a heavy bout of philosophising. However – once I got past the defensive Cavellian moment on page 6, listing De Palma (after the great-philosopher roll call) as the ‘unlikely hero’ of this adventure – I found myself (almost despite myself) very engaged with this book; this successful diversion of a reader’s preconception is the mark of a good and interesting critical/theoretical work. (Why read something that merely confirms what I already think I know about De Palma, in the language that has already confirmed it?)

All in all, an interesting take on an interesting take.

Posted by Geoff at 7:54 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 7:56 PM CST
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Monday, December 8, 2008
Images from Blow Out

Jeremy Richey today posted images from Brian De Palma's Blow Out as part of his series, "Images From My All Time Favorite Films," at Moon In The Gutter.

Posted by Geoff at 10:30 PM CST
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Space Ace sent in this poster image for The Lodger a few weeks ago, noting the obvious similarities with the poster for The Black Dahlia. In the November 28 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Jesse North criticizes the "criminal" similarities on display in the Lodger poster:

1. A dead woman's ghostly visage faces heavenward.

2. A joker-esque trail of blood oozes from the corner of the woman's plump red mouth.

3. The titles are stylistically severed in two by an ominous red line.

4. The credits list a quartet of actors-- but Dahlia's cast is way, way sexier. (Sorry, Alfred Molina!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:11 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, December 7, 2008 11:15 AM CST
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Friday, December 5, 2008
To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of prohibition, TIME presents "Bootleggers, Bandits and Badges: The Top 10 Prohibition Tales." Number nine on the list is Eliot Ness and his band of Untouchables. Number eight is the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

Posted by Geoff at 11:40 AM CST
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Thursday, December 4, 2008
David Fincher has apparently been quietly preparing to shoot his Eliot Ness film, which is based on the graphic novel Torso by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andrey-ko. Fincher's project is now titled Ness. Fincher explained to MTV's Kurt Loder last year that he is not so much interested in the torso killings as he is in "the de-mythologizing of Eliot Ness. Because, you know, The Untouchables was only two or three years of the Eliot Ness story. There's a whole other, much more sinister downside to it. And so that's of interest to me. We want to make it the Citizen Kane of cop movies." Don Murphy, who with Todd McFarlane is producing Ness, told Robert Sanchez in 2006 that Fincher's film would begin with Ness immersed in mayoral elections, and then flashbacks would delve into the torso murders.

This past September, it was reported that Matt Damon had come aboard to play Ness. Yesterday, it was reported in the Akron Beacon Journal that Fincher would begin scouting locations in Ohio "in the next few weeks" for his $100 million film about Ness and the torso murders. However, Entertainment Weekly's Christine Spines also reported yesterday that Hollywood is buzzing about why Paramount has yet to greenlight the Ness project, as the studio's rights to the project are due to expire on December 15th. Spines states that Casey Affleck has joined Damon in the cast, with Rachel McAdams also in negotiations. Paramount, the studio that would also distribute Brian De Palma's Untouchables prequel that has stalled over questions about who owns the rights, told Spines that Ehren Kruger's finalized screenplay had only just arrived, and that they were working on making a decision. This led Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells to check in with his own sources. Wells posted the following on his site yesterday:

A source close to team Fincher has told me that Fincher is ready to make the picture immediately but can't get an answer out of Paramount because -- ready?-- production execs prefer that Fincher make a Keanu Reeves chef comedy instead.

That "Keanu Reeves chef comedy" could very well be related to Fincher's long in development project previously klnown as Seared, which is a fictional take on CIA-trained Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. IGN's Stax reviewed the script for Fincher's film back in 2001, when Brad Pitt was set to play the lead. Late last month, Production Weekly reported that Reeves had indeed signed on to star in a film called Chef, to be directed by Fincher.

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 4, 2008 11:59 PM CST
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On tonight's episode of NBC's 30 Rock, Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) attends her high school reunion, but finds that her old classmates all thought she was a bully and hated her. In a quick-hit sitcom twist at the end of the episode, they decide to "Carrie her" by calling her up on stage to give her an award, while a bucket of something waits above the stage. In a brief but pointed homage to Brian De Palma's Carrie, Liz is shown walking to the stage in slow motion as her "friends" cheer her on, and one old classmate is shown licking his lips as he holds the rope that is tied to the bucket. Meanwhile, Liz's boss, played by Alec Baldwin, has pretended to be another one of Liz's old classmates, and, aware that they are about to "Carrie" Liz, takes the Sue Snell role in the slow motion build-up, except that he runs up on stage, where he then sort of takes on the Tommy Ross role, except since he knows what they are planning, he persuades them not to "Carrie" Liz. Perhaps the best bit is that when her boss tells Liz that they were going to "Carrie" her, she immediately looks up and sees the bucket, and expresses her annoyance. In the end, Liz makes a sharp turnaround, spitting venom at her old classmates, who finally tip the bucket over, but the timing is off, as it spills a black-looking substance straight onto an unoccupied part of the stage, allowing Liz to get the last word in.

Posted by Geoff at 9:32 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 4, 2008 9:34 PM CST
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Saturday, November 29, 2008
The French director of the recent Un Conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale), Arnaud Desplechin, tells the Toronto Sun's Bruce Kirkland that he is carving out his own niche as a personal filmmaker, because he is not clever enough "to be more clever than Brian De Palma." Kirkland states that Desplechin admires De Palma very much "for his complex thrillers." Desplechin is quoted as saying, "But I am not a competitive guy. Perhaps what I can do is to be more personal." Kirkland also states that Desplechin "is on a quest to achieve what the films of Francois Truffaut inspired in him when he was young."

Posted by Geoff at 10:48 PM CST
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