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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
During an interview with Coming Soon's Edward Douglas, Brian Koppelman has dissed Brian De Palma with some surprisingly uncalled-for remarks about what he perceives as De Palma's status as a "legendary" director. Koppelman and his writing partner, David Levien, who are currently making the rounds as co-directors of the new film Solitary Man, wrote the Untouchables prequel Capone Rising for producer Art Linson, who originally had Antoine Fuqua attached to direct before De Palma decided to jump on board. After all, De Palma did direct the first film, which was one of his biggest hits and remains a critical favorite. Douglas made a point to ask Koppelman and Levien about Capone Rising, which has been in development for quite some time. Here is what went down:

Levien: "The Untouchables" is a situation where Art Linson is the producer and like right in the beginning, before we finished a second draft, he attached Brian De Palma to direct it, and as De Palma's fortunes have gone in Hollywood over his last couple of movies, that's the future of where "The Untouchables" has gone.

Koppelman: On the list of legendary directors, I don't think Brian De Palma has a legitimate place... so most guys who are considered masters I love and admire, and I think De Palma has had a long free ride that's deservedly coming to an end.

[Douglas]: Really? So you're saying that as long he's attached to it, it will never get made?

Koppelman: I don't think it will. Hopefully he'll drop off the movie though, and then they can find a great director for it.

Levien: Mamet says that Hollywood is the most obvious place in the world, so [De Palma's] movies have done so badly lately that the studios [don't] want to hire him right now. If he finds a way to make a movie that is well-received and a big hit, then it's an obvious place, they'll probably think it's a great idea. It's just not something we can affect right now.

Koppelman: Linson is a true impresario and an awesome movie producer and if anyone can figure out how to revive that, he'll do it.

Levien: Or maybe at some point, De Palma will let it go or Linson will decide that he wants to take it to somebody else. Art's a really loyal guy to the guys he's worked with, so it's likely they're fine the way it is and they'll just make it one day. They play like a long game.

[Douglas]: At this point, it's doubtful you could get anyone from the original movie back.

Levien: That was never the intention, because it's the prequel, so it would have been weird.

I understand that De Palma's two most recent films have mostly been considered disappointments (even though his latest, Redacted, won him the silver lion at Venice), but for crying out loud, these films are promoted as being "from the director of The Untouchables." Why on earth would those involved want anyone but De Palma, if he is willing, to direct a prequel to his own hit movie? In any case, after De Palma came aboard the prequel, he hired David Rabe to do a rewrite, and everyone involved, from star Gerard Butler to De Palma himself, seems to feel it is "a great script." Hopefully it will get made.

Aint It Cool's Mr. Beaks also interviewed Koppelman and Levien recently. Mentioning that he is a huge De Palma fan, Mr. Beaks also asked the pair about Capone Rising. This time, Mr. Koppelman was considerably more cordial:

Levien: Art Linson's the producer, and he had the concept that it should be a prequel. Even though there's sort of a huge fudging of time. If you think about the length of Capone's reign, it's very short. There's no way that there could've been a young Malone at the same time that there was a young Capone; there was too much of an age gap. So we just fudged that reality, and it was going to be a young cop crossing swords with a young mobster on the rise. Yeah, so we wrote a script, and think it's a good Chicago gangland story. And De Palma, as far as we know, is the director of it still. He was attached a while back.

Koppelman: There are so many things... because Art is a strong producer, it's so far out of our hands that it's hard to tell. You can't find two guys who are bigger fans of the early David Mamet, so I think the idea of getting to play around in his backyard in that way was very appealing.

Beaks: Writing a prequel to a David Mamet script must've been daunting.

Koppelman: It was daunting, but it was also sort of exciting. We both know the original movie by heart, before we got the assignment to go do that.

Posted by Geoff at 7:20 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 2:21 AM CDT
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Thursday, May 13, 2010
Brian De Palma's Redacted was released today in Argentina under the title Samarra. One particularly insightful review of the film was posted by Martin Stefanelli at ¡Esto es un bingo!. Stefanelli, who states that Redacted is the best movie on the invasion of Iraq, also states that the film hasn't even the slightest intention of telling the truth, suggesting instead that through its "classic" De Palmian gestures, the film constructs a narrative that is no truer than any news coverage. The narrative De Palma constructs, however, reunites images from scattered screens "with the intention of holding its own account of the war," according to Stefanelli. Above all, Stefanelli concludes, the film displays an enormous will to let roar an otherwise unheard voice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CDT
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Friday, May 7, 2010
IFC Center in New York has been running a series called "Cage Heat: Nicolas Cage at Midnight." Tonight and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday) at midnight, they will be screening a new 35mm print of Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, which features a great dynamic Cage performance that starts off ultra manic but also skillfully carries the weight of operatic pathos.

Posted by Geoff at 1:29 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 22, 2010
It's A Wonderful Afterlife is said to be a film that puts several genres into a blender with uproarious results. Director Gurinder Chadha talked to The Northern Echo's Steve Pratt about how she came up with the idea to bring the house down at a London-set Indian wedding by bringing in a bit of Brian De Palma's Carrie. Carrie had a "huge impact" on Chadha, according to Pratt, as the first horror film she'd ever seen. Here's how she tells it to Pratt:

The way this movie came together was I was watching a clip on TV, on one of these 100 great family film kind of shows, of Bend It Like Beckham [a hit film Chadha directed in 2002]. They’d selected the wedding scene.

I was watching at home and thinking ‘ah, I loved shooting that scene’. It was so much fun, it’s got all my relatives and friends in it. I thought I’ll never be able to make another film with a wedding scene unless I subvert it. That’s when I had the idea that it would be great to do an Indian wedding scene but turn it into the prom scene from Carrie.

I come up with ideas for films that no one else has made that I’d really love to see, particularly featuring the West London Asian community.

Ghosts on their own are not particularly funny, but Indian women as ghosts are funny to me. The same with the Carrie scene. Doing a Carrie scene on its own is just not funny but Indian women having samosas and curry thrown at them, that is funny.

Taking those moments and putting a cultural spin on them is funny for me. And for the Indian audience it’s like a breath of fresh air to see ourselves in this kind of movie because no one makes movies with Indian ghosts.

Chadha tells Deadline Hollywood's Tim Adler that she next plans to channel the spirit of David Lean for a historical epic about the Indian Partition.

Posted by Geoff at 1:15 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Nicholas Rombes at The Rumpus has begun an experimental new approach to writing about film by choosing three arbitrary time codes of a film, freezing the frame, and then writing commentary based around each frame. The third film Rombes selected for this series, in which he freezes the frames at 10-minutes, 40-minutes, and 70-minutes, is Brian De Palma's Raising Cain. Of the frame pictured here, Rombes writes:

Lithgow, playing several characters, gives a wildly expressionistic performance, and the marvel of the film lies not in the usual De Palma trademarks (split and multiple screens, slow motion, long takes, extended tracking shots) but in prolonged shots like this, that allows the actors to act with their faces. There is nothing campy or ironic about Lithgow’s performance at this point. In nature, in the Garden, he witnesses the forbidden transgression, with sorrow, disbelief, voyeuristic curiosity, and lurking fury. In these moments, Carter is pitifully human, his combed hair, middle-class jacket, falsely-ordered life, none of this can compete with the perpetual crisis in his brain.

Posted by Geoff at 2:32 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 18, 2010
Film projects come along every now and then that seem perfectly fit for someone like Brian De Palma. For instance, when I read the news this past week about Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell being signed to star in a formerly lost Stanley Kubrick project, the dark mystery Lunatic At Large, it immediately struck me that the material seemed suitable for De Palma (who also seemed to have had a solid working relationship with Johansson on The Black Dahlia a few years ago). Production Weekly stated that a director had not yet been confirmed, but that production would start later this year. Another De Palma associate, Edward R. Pressman, was at one time attached to produce Lunatic At Large, but no longer appears to be involved. In any case, according to a 2006 article in the New York Times, the 1956-set story, which was modern at the time that Kubrick originated the project with pulp author Jim Thompson, features promising set pieces which include "a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down," a "romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge," and "a nighttime carnival sequence in which Joyce [the main female character], lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow’s worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, the Human Blockhead, with the inevitable noggin full of nails."

Another film idea that seemed ripe for De Palma's touch is the American film adaptation of Steig Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which might also be described as a remake of the Swedish film adaptation of Larsson's Men Who Hate Women, which was directed by Niels Arden Oplev. The photo above is from Oplev's film, which, according to The Moviegoer's Paul Matwychuk, includes a scene where the main protagonist "uses a bunch of old photos to make an 'animated' film of [a missing girl's] last moments of freedom." Matwychuk adds that the "nicely edited sequence... holds its own against a similar scene from Brian De Palma’s Blow Out." De Palma a la Mod reader Kim Thompson agrees that the sequence "unmistakably" echoes Blow Out. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that David Fincher has signed on to direct the American film version-- should be interesting.

Posted by Geoff at 4:18 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 18, 2010 4:20 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
More than one critic has been reminded of Brian De Palma's Carrie while watching The Runaways, Floria Sigismondi's biopic about the real-life all-girl rock band, currently in theaters (the film still hasn't made it my way yet, so I have not seen it). The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey states that the film "opens with a quarter-sized spot of blood hitting a sidewalk." Lacey continues, "The sidewalk is on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, the blood is menstrual – perhaps a nod to Brian De Palma’s crypto-feminist horror movie Carrie. Either way, it’s a declaration that this is teenaged girl territory."

Writing in the New York Press, Armond White notes that the "drop of menstrual blood at the beginning of The Runaways recurs in Bluebeard, Catherine Breillat’s adaptation of the 17th-century Charles Perrault fairytale." White adds that "for the cinema-savvy, Breillat’s film may also recall the opening sequence of Brian De Palma’s 1976 Carrie, where menstrual blood evokes shame and vengeance (same as in The Runaways)." Comparing the two newer films, White writes:

Both blood images are bold, modern signs of female coming of age, but Breillat, like The Runaways’ director Floria Sigismondi, is also advancing a consciousness of female being that rarely makes it to the screen. (This is especially surprising— and welcome—coming right after Kathryn Bigelow gets rewarded for fitting into the status quo rather than challenging it.) The best way to understand Breillat’s very free fairytale adaptation might be to appreciate its aggressive, almost punk-rock, impudence: Breillat uses female blood for an extraordinary, unnerving finale that climaxes the film’s confrontation with erotic myths that are taught to us—via religion and art—since childhood.

Click here for Armond White's review of The Runaways, in which he compares Michael Shannon's androgynous overplayed performance as producer Kim Fowley to that of Gerrit Graham’s Beef in De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise.

Speaking of fairy tales, Susan Kim, co-author of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, mentioned last December in an article for the Huffington Post that De Palma's Carrie "is one of the most whoppingly effective fairy tales ever made for adults." Kim continues:

It's a Gothic horror story, a supernatural fable about menstruation, the taboos surrounding it, and the power it can unleash -- filtered through a Roman Catholic sensibility and juxtaposed against 70s American suburbia. To some, it's a cheesey camp-fest; to me, it's one of the best horror films ever made and, I bet, probably the only one about primary amenorrhea.

Finally, Brenda at Moot Point saw both Carrie and The Runaways last weekend, and points out that the films are both set in the mid-seventies (Carrie was released in 1976, while The Runaways takes place in 1975). Brenda writes, "Both of them are about different ways the power of womanhood runs away with the main characters. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sigismondi chose to start The Runaways with that image, also." While Carrie, according to Brenda, shows that "menstruation and therefore the female body are scary and monstrous," The Runaways presents a different perspective. "In the hands of a lady filmmaker making a movie about lady culture," writes Brenda, "the period is no longer a source of supernatural horror. It’s just a pain in the ass."

Last month, Edgar Wright was one of several filmmakers contributing to The Guardian's "The Greatest Film Scenes Ever Shot." Wright chose the "Blood at the Prom" scene from Carrie. Here is what he said about the scene:

I always describe Carrie as the Grease of horror movies: it resonates with all ages because everybody remembers their awkward teenage phase and can watch it and say – I was the bully or the victim or the person who did nothing. It explores how apocalyptic your rage can be as a teenager. Carrie's not a killer, she's a girl who has been bullied and through a terrible confluence of events ends up burning the school down.

It's also unusual for a horror film. It doesn't have someone being killed every 20 minutes and then a climax – it builds to one huge climax at the prom. School bullies have fixed the prom so that Carrie White will win and they can humiliate her by tipping a bucket of pig's blood over her in front of the whole school. The scene and the excruciating build-up to it is one of the greatest set pieces of all time, full of suspense, with a monumental payoff.

A crane shot sets up the sequence so you know where everyone is positioned and that the bucket of blood is above Carrie and Tommy's heads. Once the plot is set in motion Pino Donaggio's score takes over. The resulting sequence is pure opera.

I first saw Carrie on VHS with my brother's friend when I was about 12. I obsessively read about horror movies and was dying to see it. I've watched it so many times since. De Palma planned the sequence for months and battled the studio over the time spent on filming it. But it was worth the blood, sweat and tears. It still leaves audiences speechless.

Also in the Guardian article, producer Stephen Woolley chooses the mirror scene from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and recalls watching De Palma's Hi, Mom!, which was made five years earlier, and thinking, "I can't believe it – the thing he does in Taxi Driver!"

Posted by Geoff at 6:24 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 6:27 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 8, 2010
According to Mr. Peel, Quentin Tarantino was among the audience at a midnight screening of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill this past weekend at Los Angeles' New Beverly Cinema, which Tarantino now owns and operates. Mr. Peel was still coming down from the screening days later. Here is an excerpt from his post on the matter:

...as much as Hitchcock is mentioned looked at how the film feels amazingly giallo-tinged, daring to bring a true sense of art to all that sleaze in those films, elements that usually make me want to take a shower—just where this movie begins in a sequence with its famous body double, come to think of it. How many giallos had De Palma taken a look at during the seventies? What is this film’s connection to the opening scene of THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS? Is there anything to be gained in pointing out the resemblance of white-clad Angie Dickinson to the also white-clad Anna Maria Rosati in TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE? So you really think that Autotron’s going up? Why can’t I stop staring at Nancy Allen as she runs through that subway station?

Posted by Geoff at 11:27 AM CDT
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay for Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, will be on hand to discuss the film April 15, as the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica presents the film in 70mm. The event begins at 7:30pm.
(Thanks to Chuck!)

Posted by Geoff at 9:35 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 9:36 PM CDT
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Romain at the Virtuoso of the 7th Art sends news that Carlotta will release a DVD of Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom! in France May 5th. The DVD will include an introduction by Samuel Blumenfeld, co-author of Brian De Palma: Conversations with Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, and an analysis by legendary French filmmaker and critic Jean Douchet, as well as other bonus features.

Posted by Geoff at 9:03 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010 1:07 AM CDT
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