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Thursday, September 10, 2009
DE PALMA AT TIFF
WELL, OF COURSE HE IS
Looks like Brian De Palma is attending his favorite film festival again this year in Toronto. This photo of the director was taken in Yorkville, and posted today at The Hollywood Minute. Meanwhile, Johanna Schneller at the Globe And Mail, looks at the reasons various people have for attending the Toronto International Film Festival. For her own self, she writes that she is looking for the type of chance encounter she had at last year's fest when she met De Palma:

And for me? I'm looking, as always, for moments of truth. I'm hoping for a chance encounter that gives me goosebumps, as happened in my final TIFF screening last year, where the gracious man I chatted with turned out to be Brian De Palma. I'm hoping for that rare unguarded flash when an actor says something personal enough to reveal something universal - like the time Dustin Hoffman said of his children leaving home for university, "Nobody tells you about the empty bedrooms," and his eyes filled with tears. (I can't tell you how many people I've mentioned that to when their kids fly off, and it's utterly true.)

I'm hoping for a film that makes my hair stand on end, and for a collection of them that shows us where we are as humans. So far, the ones I've seen are suffused with a sense of loneliness, of people fighting very hard simply to get by. Maybe it's just my state of mind (and credit-card bills).


Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 10, 2009 6:13 PM CDT
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BLOG-A-THON PLUS
ZANZIE ON MURDER A LA MOD; KENNY ON BODY DOUBLE, ETC., ETC...
So many blogs, so little time! Cinema Viewfinder's De Palma Blog-A-Thon is going strong-- it opened with a great look back at The Untouchables from Ratnakar Sadasyula, followed by pieces on Raising Cain (by Kevin J. Olson) and Mission To Mars (by Chris Voss). Now, Glenn Kenny has posted an intriguing piece linking Hi, Mom! to Body Double. My own post will be coming later this week(-end)-- but wait, there's more! At Icebox Movies, Adam Zanzie has posted an essay in which he declares (rightfully so) that Murder a la Mod is "where it all began" for De Palma's thematic and stylistic obsessions. Meanwhile, John Kenneth Muir has been continuing his weekly look at De Palma's cinema. Two weeks ago, he posted an essay about Carlito's Way, and followed that up last week with a look at Mission: Impossible. Lots of reading to do!

Posted by Geoff at 12:08 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 11, 2009 7:41 PM CDT
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Monday, September 7, 2009
VOTE FOR FAVE DE PALMA FILM
Romain at The Virtuoso of the 7th Art has posted a poll: vote for your favorite Brian De Palma film, now through October 7th. So far, Phantom Of The Paradise is in the lead with 31% of the votes. This poll may turn out to be somewhat surprising-- so far, The Black Dahlia has one vote, while Blow Out has zero. Also keep an eye out at Cinema Viewfinder for the De Palma Blog-A-Thon that begins today.

Posted by Geoff at 2:44 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 7, 2009 2:48 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 6, 2009
GREEN: "THEY PLANNED IT..."
"IF I HAD NOT GONE TO IRAQ, I WOULD NOT HAVE GOT CAUGHT UP IN ANYTHING"
According to this Associated Press article from Canada's CBC, Steven Green told the judge at his trial in Kentucky that he was merely following orders from other soldiers when the group of them, disguised as insugents, attacked a family at their rural home outside Mahmoudiya, Iraq, in 2006. When asked how he felt about the others being out of prison one day, Green said that would be "all right" with him. "They planned it," said Green. "All I ever did was what they told me to do." Here is an excerpt from the article:

"You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever," Green said. "If I had not joined the army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything."

At a hearing in May, Green repeatedly apologized to the al-Janabi family, saying he knew little about Iraqis and that he realizes now his actions then were wrong.

Green described the attacks as "evil" and said when he dies "there will be justice and whatever I deserve, I'll get."

During Green's trial, defence attorneys never contested Green's role in the attacks. Instead, they focused on saving his life by bringing forward witnesses who testified that the U.S. military failed Green on multiple fronts — by allowing a troubled teen into the service, not recognizing and helping a soldier struggling emotionally and providing inadequate leadership.

During the sentencing hearing, defence attorney Patrick Bouldin said Green tried to take responsibility for his role in the attacks, twice offering to plead guilty and serve life in prison.

Assistant US attorney Marisa Ford said one offer came on the eve of jury selection, the other two weeks into jury selection.


Posted by Geoff at 12:18 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 5, 2009
GREEN SENTENCED FOR LIFE
AND ANOTHER PASSAGE ABOUT REDACTED
BBC News reports that Steven Green has been given five life sentences, with no possibility of parole, for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and the murder of her family. The incident was the basis for Brian De Palma's 2007 film, Redacted.

Nick Lacey posted an excerpt the other day from his recently published second edition of Image and Representation, which looks at key concepts in media language. The excerpt he posted, called "Representing the war in Iraq," looks at several of the films made in recent years about the conflict that began in 2003. Lacey provides a brief but interesting analysis of Redacted, although he seems to say that the photograph that ends the film is an actual photograph (which therefore leads him to call the film "exploitative"), although the final photograph (shown here) was actually a staged photo. Here is Lacy's passage about Redacted:

Redacted, the most unconventional of the ‘Iraq films’, also uses new media technologies to represent the rape of a 15-year-old girl and the murder of herself, and her family, by US marines. The film starts with a disclaimer that the film is ‘a fiction inspired by true events’. The writer-director, Brian De Palma, uses a mix of texts to show what (might have) happened: a ‘home video’ made by one of the marines; a pastiche of a French (intellectual) documentary about Iraq; CCTV cameras; Internet postings; a video made on a mobile phone; photojournalism. Although it may seem that it is a realist text, the multimedia mixing instead draws attention to the artifice of what is shown. This may suggest that such horrendous events cannot be convincingly rendered by realism. Indeed De Palma also deploys melodrama; the one good guy, who tries to publicise what’s happened, is called Lawyer McCoy. This melodrama extends to the use of an aria from Puccini’s opera Tosca, the protagonist of which murders the man who is trying to rape her. This, highly passionate, aria could be seen as an ironic comment upon the Iraqi teenager’s inability to kill her rapists. However, the last image of the film is an actual photograph of the dead girl which needs no melodramatic heightening to appall its audience and so, ultimately, De Palma’s film comes across as exploitative.


Posted by Geoff at 12:14 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, September 5, 2009 3:58 PM CDT
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Friday, September 4, 2009
FRAMES WITHIN FRAMES
THIS MONTH'S EDITION DEVOTED TO BRIAN DE PALMA


Tom Sutpen has been posting a "Frames Within The Frames" series about once a month at his blog, If Charlie Parker Was A Gunslinger, There'd Be A Whole Lot Of Dead Copycats. This month's edition is dedicated to the films of Brian De Palma, and features some amazing shots from the director's films, including the above image from Blow Out.

Posted by Geoff at 12:33 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009
PHILLIPS RECALLS CARRIE CROWD
NEW AT THE MOVIES CO-HOST ON THE "GOTCHA!" ENDING
Michael Phillips, the new co-host (with A.O. Scott) of At The Movies, posted on his Chicago Tribune blog a couple of weeks ago about going to see Carrie in 1976:

Best scream therapy? Seeing Jaws in the summer of 1975 and Carrie in the fall of 1976, when my high school-addled hormones were screaming every second of every day to begin with. Late show, Capitol Theatre, West Racine, Wis.: Some friends and I are on the sidewalk, in line for Carrie. The 7:30 show’s about to break when, from inside the theater, we hear this freakish roar, hundreds of people shrieking in terror and then laughing at their own screaming, and then the doors open and everybody comes out and some of them are still screaming, because the ending of Carrie—the gravesite visit finale, with the little flute melody playing on the soundtrack as Amy Irving leans down with the flowers—is the “gotcha!” ending to beat, still.

Well. By the time we got into the 9:30 show and began watching Brian De Palma’s maliciously manipulative classic (I love it still) we’d forgotten all about whatever was coming at the end. Until the end came. And the screams were louder than they were the summer before, when Jaws played for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Steve Wiener also commented on Phillips blog, saying, "I saw Carrie first run in a large Hollywood theater and vividly remember lifting up out of my seat simultaneously with hundreds of others besides and in front of me at the finale."


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 3, 2009 12:05 AM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 1:02 AM CDT
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Monday, August 31, 2009
TWO YEARS LATER: REDACTED
CLF: "A MASTERPIECE OF CONGRUENCY BETWEEN FORM & CONTENT"
Two years after Brian De Palma's Redacted had its world premiere in Venice, the collective known as Celluloid Liberation Front has posted a clear-eyed, poetic review-- the sharpest piece of writing I've read yet about Redacted. Click the link to read the whole thing, but here is a brief excerpt:

De Palma’s narrative strategy is depictive of his vision of reality: a cluster of events known not only by an omniscient narrator but, by whoever has access to the audiovisual archives available on the internet. If the Hitchcockian suspense is based on the fact that the cinematographic character knows more than the spectator, in Redacted the position of the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) is visible on an insurgents’ website: the intelligence’s function does not belong to the secret agents anymore but, is a possibility given to anybody surfing the global waves of telematics. Ignorance is the incapability of connecting information, of looking for the ‘right’ links, and not the imposed maleficence of an almighty narrator deciding the life and death of its characters.

Posted by Geoff at 11:37 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 29, 2009
TARANTINO ON CASUALTIES OF WAR
AND ALSO SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, SCHINDLER'S LIST
Samuel Blumenfeld, co-author of Brian De Palma: Conversations with Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, interviewed Quentin Tarantino a couple of weeks ago for Le Monde 2. In the article, Tarantino talks about the war films that inspired him, including Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War. Blumenfeld states that these are not necessarily the films Tarantino prefers, but they are "images of war films that marked his life as a veteran moviegoer." Thanks in large part to the Virtuoso of the 7th Art's Romain Desbiens, who alerted me to the article (and who tells me that he is in the process of changing his terrific site into a blog format), here is an English translation of what Tarantino said about Casualties Of War:

It’s the greatest film about the Vietnam war. Apocalypse Now would be classified in another category as Coppola's film goes beyond the war. De Palma adapts a very small news article, which must have occurred on several occasions in Vietnam or elsewhere. Elia Kazan had also been inspired by it for The Visitors (1972). He had made an intimate film. De Palma treats that same news item in the epic, operatic style that was his signature since Obsession (1976) and Blow Out (1981). Soldiers capture a young Vietnamese girl. Before her murder, every member of the unit, with the exception of one of them, torture and rape her. The cowardice associated with the forced courage of the character played by Michael J. Fox - who does not participate in the rape and denounces his friends – is very moving. Casualties of War presents the most traumatizing rape sequence in the history of cinema. It's also one of the best performances from Sean Penn, terrifying as the sergeant squad leader.

TARANTINO "SHAKEN" BY SPIELBERG'S WWII FILMS
Tarantino also comments on The Guns of Navarone ("This is the first film about men on a mission, of which Inglourious Basterds is the distant heir"), The Longest Day ("The opening sequence, in which the Germans play with a German shepherd in the hills, is breathtaking"), The Dirty Dozen ("Previously, actors like John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, and Jim Brown had never appeared in a war movie"), Kelly's Heroes ("This is one of the worst performances of Clint Eastwood"), and Inglorious Bastards ("This is not my favorite macaroni combat movie - that's the name given to these films on World War II, in reference to "spaghetti westerns." I am much more appreciative of Umberto Lenzi's Desert Commando").

And with so much discussion going on about Tarantino's new film in relation to some of Spielberg's WWII films it is nice to see what Tarantino himself has to say about them. Here is what Tarantino told Blumenfeld about Saving Private Ryan:

Spielberg is doing something unheard of with the opening of this movie. When you watch the sequence of the landing, it’s no longer possible to look the same way at The Longest Day, or even Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One. I was shaken in a similar manner by Schindler's List. Even though I have seen many films about the Holocaust, none up to that point had managed to get at the feeling of what it was like to be in the inside of a concentration camp. Saving Private Ryan made me aware of some issues raised by the cinema of war that I was unable to ask on my own. The idea that forty men on a boat are exterminated in seconds by a volley of machine gun is terrifying. Can you imagine the most atrocious carnage? Obviously, yes. Except that throughout the scene, you are persuaded to attend the worst slaughter in history. The sequence of the knife fight between a U.S. soldier and a Nazi at the end of the film is also as notable as the landing. I hate war movies where they show a soldier killing his opponents without sweating, as if it were insignificant. If I was fighting to save my skin, I think it would be a little more difficult. It's hard to kill someone, it takes sweat, and even with this, you have no guarantee of reaching your goals. Spielberg managed admirably to stage this scene with that dimension.


Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CDT
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