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Tuesday, July 20, 2010
EDGAR WRIGHT ON SCOTT PILGRIM:
"KUNG FU HUSTLE MEETS PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE"
In a great interview with Film Journal International's Ethan Alter, Edgar Wright states that his upcoming adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which is actually the title of just one of the books in the series), is "a film that isn’t quite like anything else." The way Wright actually wanted to describe it to Hollywood studios would have thrown them off, he says. "In Hollywood," he told Alter, "they always encourage you to say a film is like X-meets-Y, so I always came up with some kind of bullshit for those meetings. Things like 'It's Cameron Crowe meets Five Deadly Venoms' or 'It's Ferris Bueller meets Kill Bill.' Actually, I always wanted to say that it's like Kung Fu Hustle meets Phantom of the Paradise, but if I had, people would have been like, 'Wait, what?'"

According to Alter, Wright mentioned some specific films that are referenced in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, Bob Rafelson's Monkees movie Head (screenplay by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson), and Russ Meyer's Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (written by Meyer and Roger Ebert). However, Wright insisted to Alter that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World "is its own beast." Wright also mentioned that with this film, he tried to bring a more bubblegum approach back to comic book movies, which he feels have lost a middle ground between the realistic style of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, and the "stylized but hardboiled" vibe of Sin City.

Wright also enthuses to Alter about his friendships with Quentin Tarantino and Joe Dante. "Meeting these guys is one of the most amazing things that's happened to me in my life," he told Alter. "You could pretty much learn everything about film history by talking with Quentin and Joe for a couple of hours. Between the two of them, you've got two walking cinema encyclopedias, Joe for the ’50s and ’60s and Quentin for the ’70s and ’80s. I always say that the two of them should go on a college tour together—maybe with Martin Scorsese as well."


Posted by Geoff at 12:56 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:57 PM CDT
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Friday, July 16, 2010
PARACINEMA SUGGESTS... PHANTOM GAGA?
BLOG OFFERS CASTING SUGGESTIONS FOR POTENTIAL PHANTOM REMAKE
Paracinema's Dylan has posted some cast suggestions for a potential update of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise (after seeing a remake listed as a future project at the IMDB). Although Dylan admits to having trouble thinking of someone for the role of Swan, the blogger has a radical suggestion for the lead role of Winslow: Lady Gaga. "It's 2010," writes Dylan. "Why couldn't a female be cast as Winslow Leach? Sure you'd have to change the character's name but that's small potatoes. Casting a woman in the role would be an interesting touch to an already great character and the (Gaga) Phantom's obsession with Phoenix could lend another layer to the story." Dylan adds that Gaga "could also help make the music in the film more contemporary and attract a huge audience to the film. And just think of the wardrobe possibilities!"

For the role of Beef, Dylan suggests the terrific Michael Shannon, while Karen O would be his choice for Phoenix (I think I'd go with an unknown for the latter). Another inspired suggestion from Dylan would be having the Jonas Brothers play the house band that shapes itself into whatever commercial whim deemed most saleable by Swan. Sounds like a fairly expensive cast all in all, but with Gaga leading the way, that fantasy cast would carry the potential to be financed. And with all that in mind, might as well get will. i. am for the role of Swan.

Posted by Geoff at 2:54 AM CDT
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Monday, July 12, 2010
BODY DOUBLE GETS REMIXED ON YOUTUBE


Courtesy CineCraze's Nathan Martin, here are a couple of intriguing remixes of Brian De Palma's Body Double. The above clip, "Ritual Of Body Courtship," is more of a visual remix created and posted on YouTube by Fabulon, who seems to love that whole mirror-image video gimmick (used to memorable effect in the video for Prince's When Doves Cry) where the screen is halved and duplicated, so that the image sometimes seems to be eating itself. It seems quite appropriate for a film titled Body Double. And then below is something that is really an audio piece posted to YouTube with image stills from the film's posters and soundtracks. This remix of Pino Donaggio's main theme from the film was done by Carambo & The Crew, and opens with a playful teasing of the dialogue from the porn channel Jake watches in the middle of Body Double. Mostly, I like this remix, although two things about the vocal bother me. I think it would have been better with a female vocal, as Donaggio used (Carambo's myspace page states that he would like to find a female vocalist to work with, so maybe he agrees somewhat). Also, his vocal phrasings seem a bit off. Other than that, a very enjoyable track-- check it out below.


Posted by Geoff at 10:39 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 11, 2010
NEW DE PALMA SITE, "THE DE PALMA TOUCH"
TRIBUTE DESIGNED TO MARK DE PALMA'S UPCOMING 70TH BIRTHDAY


Longtime De Palma a la Mod reader and contributor Rado has started up the tribute site, The De Palma Touch, timed to celebrate "the 70th anniversary of a great director." Rado has opened the site with five visual essays focusing on the usages of hands in specific De Palma films. The site's "Give us a hand" link offers a way for readers to send "a cool story about De Palma's achievements," which will then be published. Always great to see a new De Palma site popping up and furthering the discussion-- thanks, Rado!

Posted by Geoff at 2:35 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 11, 2010 4:23 PM CDT
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Friday, July 9, 2010
DESPICABLE RIFFS ON THE IMPOSSIBLE
ACCORDING TO CRITICS
The new animated film Despicable Me, which opens in theaters today, apparently includes a nod to Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. According to Filmcritic.com's Sean O'Connell, "There's a memorable riff on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible that involves a dangling shrink ray and a killer shark." (Of course, the dangling scene in M:I itself is a riff on Jules Dassin's Topkapi, which itself riffed on Dassin's own Rififi). The Toronto Star's Jason Anderson writes in his review that Despicable Me includes "swift spoofs of Mission: Impossible and The Godfather."

Posted by Geoff at 12:19 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 9, 2010 12:20 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 4, 2010
ESSAYS ON BLOW OUT
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

"Mr. Peel" attended last month's Brian De Palma double feature of Blow Out and Femme Fatale at the New Beverly, and incidentally reports that Eli Roth was in attendance. During the Q&A that followed Blow Out, Roth asked editor Paul Hirsch a question about De Palma's continued use of split screen techniques (Hirsch replied that he himself never liked the technique, "thinking it was too intellectual as opposed to emotional"). (We still love Eli Roth for defending De Palma's Redacted to FOX News in 2007, even though he had apparently not seen the film yet.) Anyway, Mr Peel starts out wondering whether people who "dismiss Blow Out as nothing more than an imitation of other films" have even bothered to see it. "For all that people talk about what he’s lifting from other films," writes Mr. Peel, "De Palma’s work often does feel dosed with a strong touch of the personal, whatever that may be and this seems to be the case with Blow Out much more than usual." Mr. Peel continues:

What begins as a joke in this film—CO-ED FRENZY feels like him making his own joke of a De Palma movie as if he was giving everyone the coarsest version of all the sleaze they expected after DRESSED TO KILL—gradually transforms into something else as the director’s visual mastery takes hold. In its purely visual way of giving us information the storytelling is absolutely crystal clear in how it allows us to understand things that only a sound expert like Jack Terry can figure out, best exemplified in that simply awesome Scope shot where he pieces together in his head exactly what happened at the moment of the titular blow out. All hail Vilmos Zsigmond, while we’re at it. The economy of storytelling continues right up until the final minutes which always winds up lasting shorter than I expect it to, with just a handful of setups giving us a great amount of information but there’s no need to give us more than that. There’s hardly a wasted frame in the film.

And that joke we got in those several extended takes right at the start (slightly similar to something Tobe Hooper did in THE FUNHOUSE around the same time) gradually dissolves away, a small running gag in the film that seems to be forgotten about as the world closes in on the two leads. What becomes clear on those multiple viewings is that as much as we wish Jack would do a few things differently, there’s the overwhelming feeling that nothing can be done about any of this, the shadowy ‘they’ who are actually just as paranoid about everyone else yet still powerful enough to pull the strings. Frankly, it actually becomes kind of depressing for me to go over certain parts of the film again because of this. Coming from what was at that time over seventeen years of conspiracy talk surrounding the Kennedy assassination (using iconography from both that event and Chappaquiddick) against the bogus Americana of the Liberty Bell Jubilee he muddies the water to have it both ways—a lone nut hired by the conspiracy who engineers his very own plot against the wishes of those allegedly pulling the strings.

In his final paragraph, Mr. Peel muses on the relationships between politics and art in De Palma's cinema between the cynical Blow Out in 1981, and the more "upbeat" Femme Fatale twenty years later:

Several months ago when I wrote about seeing DRESSED TO KILL at the New Beverly I mentioned how based on the screams heard right before the ending the film was still able to get that reaction. The audible response of the crowd registering just what had been done by the film’s lead character at the very end of BLOW OUT, making it clear how many people there were seeing this for the first time, was considerably different and much more complicated, just like the movie. Looking at it now I thought of De Palma as this sixties hippie, getting burnt out, observing what had been going on in all those years since Dallas. I wondered it he was maybe using this ending as a statement to finally throw in the towel on all he once cared about, essentially saying, “we tried to make things better, none of it worked, you went and elected Reagan…just go fuck yourselves.” When something like November 7, 2000 comes to mind for me I think I understand and maybe BLOW OUT is about one final attempt by a person with regrets to engage with the real world, to truly do something to change it for the better, only to find out that such a dream is futile and you can never wipe what happened in the past from your brain. As it turned out FEMME FATALE, screened second that night at the New Beverly, was the ideal chaser to come after this, in a sense transforming all these regrets into a giddy vindication—both films, after all, conclude with the one of the leads finally putting the finishing touch on what he’s creating, something he’s been searching for the entire film. The revelation at the end of the second film is of course much more ludicrous, not to mention considerably more upbeat, but it also offers the feeling that maybe it is possible for a person to find some sort of peace within a work of art that they’re attempting to create. Maybe that was a conclusion that Brian De Palma himself, who after all is an artist, was able to come to in the intervening years, long after he made this bitterly cynical film in 1981. I was in a wonderful mood after this double bill, practically dancing out of the theater, although in the days since those final seconds of BLOW OUT have stayed with me, as I suppose I knew they would. I guess that’s the whole point.

SALLY IS BLOGGER'S "FAVORITE MOVIE PROSTITUTE"
Meanwhile, this weekend Flick Sided's Scott Tunstall, inspired by the recent release Love Ranch (and the fact that he has no way to see that film at the present time), offers up Nancy Allen's Sally from Blow Out as his "favorite movie prostitute." Tunstall writes:

The world’s oldest profession has been a staple on the big screen for generations. Call girls, streetwalkers, call ‘em what you will. Everyone has a favorite type. Sometimes I prefer them to be elegant, like Inara from Serenity, who dresses as a queen and possesses the beauty of a goddess. Other times I get an itch for cheap and trashy, like Punchy from Street Smart, who dresses as a lot lizard and possesses the beauty of a toll booth operator. Like snowflakes, each is unique in their own way.

However, my ideal lady of the night is a combination of the two. She’s got a little bit of class, but not too much. Her wardrobe is slutty, but not disgustingly so. And her beauty is natural, more like the girl next door, not the swimsuit model up the street. In cinema, that representation would be Sally from Brian De Palma’s vastly underrated thriller Blow Out.

Sally is played by one of my first boyhood crushes, Nancy Allen. Her healthy mound of curly strawberry blonde hair frames the face of a cherub. Her voice is slightly squeaky and she speaks with an annoying Philadelphia accent. (Being a Philly guy, that’s an incredible turn on.) Sally is so darn cute she catches the eye of a psychotic serial killer dubbed “The Liberty Bell Strangler,” creepily portrayed by John Lithgow.

In the following scene, John Travolta’s sound technician has bugged Sally and is tailing her to a meeting with the Strangler, who is pretending to be a reporter.

Unfortunately for Sally, she meets a tragic end, as do many big screen hussies. Why must we be so cruel to these hardworking ladies of questionable morals? Have we no compassion? Have we no shame? *wipes single tear from cheek and sighs*


Posted by Geoff at 12:57 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 4, 2010 12:59 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010
MUIR LINKS BASTERDS TO SCARFACE
AS WELL AS TO THE AFOREMENTIONED CARRIE

Back when Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds was released last summer, I posted a link to an interview in which Tarantino agreed with Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf that there was a Carrie influence in his film's movie theater climax. A reader named Luu commented on my post, suggesting that there were also images in Tarantino's film that brought to mind De Palma's Blow Out and Scarface. John Kenneth Muir, who did an insightful serial survey of De Palma's work on his blog last year, just recently watched Inglourious Basterds for the first time, and discovered some intriguing links to De Palma's Carrie and Scarface:

Some scholars and pundits have suggested that [Inglourious Basterds] is morally facile, a simple revenge picture that makes the American Basterds (Jewish-American soldiers...) as reprehensible as the Nazis they fight in Europe; but that doesn't seem legitimately the case.

Tarantino's focus isn't necessarily on brutal, bloody violence, but on power, and how it feels to be the party without it. The Basterds in the film, as well as a Jewish cinema owner named Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), exact violent retribution against the Nazis, it is true. But, oddly -- in almost every situation -- it feels not like eye-for-an-eye Draconian violence, but rather an assertion or re-assertion of self, or self-actualization, if that's possible.

This is why, I suspect, the film's fiery final sequence quotes extensively from De Palma's Carrie (1976) and the famous sequence at the Prom. Both movies concern the victimized pushed too far, taking back the power for themselves in an apocalyptic showdown.

Later in his essay, Muir returns to this idea:

Given the importance of movie history and film in Inglorious Basterds, I find it fascinating that the last act in the film quotes so heavily from the work of Brian De Palma.

I mentioned Carrie at the Prom vs. Shoshanna at the Premiere, but it's much more than that too.

Notice, for instance, that the interior of Shoshanna's cinema is colored and designed to resemble the palatial interior of Tony Montana's Miami home in Scarface. There are staircases bracketing both sides of the central hall, with a ledge above -- on the second floor -- and, finally, a room (in the center of the frame...) leading back to a private domain (office or auditorium).

In Scarface, this grand hall is where Tony goes out in a blaze of glory ("Say Hello to My Little Friend..."). In a very real way, that's also Shoshanna's fate.

Both characters also share something else in common: they went from being powerless, to possessing all the power. Only in Tony's case, he misused and abused that power (through a drug haze). By contrast, our sympathies remain with Shoshanna throughout Inglourious Basterds. She is setting things right (and ending the war...), not committing a cocaine-addled suicide.

Why quote De Palma so extensively here? Well, we know that Carrie is in Tarantino's top five favorite film list (at least last time I checked). But the images and compositions that recall De Palma are well picked for reasons of theme and recognition too. Both Carrie at the Prom: the victim taking out the victimizers and Tony's last stand: a staccato suicide by machine gun -- embody an important part of our contemporary pop culture lexicon. Carrie is about the effect that cruelty has on a person, even a good person. And Scarface is about power corrupting, absolutely. Shoshanna may be Carrie; and Hitler may be Tony Montana, in some sense..


Posted by Geoff at 1:02 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ADRIAN MARTIN ON ALAIN RESNAIS' WILD GRASS

Adrian Martin begins his Sight & Sound review of Alain Resnais' Wild Grass with the following:

It starts like a Brian De Palma movie, in a mode of full exhilaration. Shots of feet take us to a chic shopping centre. A voice-over informs us that a woman – Marguerite (Sabine Azéma), whose face will not be fully seen from the front until six and half minutes into the film – has special shoe requirements, and this specialness is what will kick off ‘the incident’ (the title of Christian Gailly’s novel) at the heart of the narrative. Point-of-view rules, but on a split register: both the character’s sensorial experience of her surroundings, and the camera’s insistent display of its own, peculiar way of seeing things. Sudden bursts of slow-motion linger on the saleswoman who thrills Marguerite (it is her secret), and eventually on the roller-blading thief who snatches her purse. Mark Snow’s musical score soars. Within the shoe shop itself, we could almost be watching a scene from Sex and the City: a rapid but luxuriant montage surveys shelves, brands, boxes.

Straight away, Alain Resnais’ masterful new film announces its proudly mixed-up character. Resnais is a director who has always complicated drama with comedy, realism with surrealism, philosophy with pop culture – and vice versa. Invention and surprise are his watchwords: as the French critic François Thomas once remarked, Resnais’ gambit as an artist is to outrage or confound viewers at the start of a film, but hold them in their seats to the very end.

RESNAIS AS OVERLOOKED INSPIRATION FOR DE PALMA
At the start of De Palma's 1962 short film Woton's Wake, the camera briefly pans over a set of books on a shelf. Included on that shelf amongst published screenplays by Ingmar Bergman, film theory books by Sergei M. Eisenstein, V.I. Pudovkin, and others, are separate published screenplays for two early films by Resnais: Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year At Marienbad. Armed with this fact, one can detect a seemingly conscious (though perhaps subconscious) strain of Marienbad in De Palma's early feature Murder a la Mod. The influence of Resnais on De Palma's work is worth investigating, especially now that it has come full circle to where a major critic sees De Palma in late-period Resnais.


Posted by Geoff at 11:35 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013 5:45 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 20, 2010
SRAGOW ON DRESSED TO KILL AT 30
AS PSYCHO TURNS 50
Next month marks 30 years since Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill caused a sensation in theaters across America. As The Baltimore Sun's Michael Sragow suggests, there has been a lot of discussion about Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, which turned 50 this past week, "but nothing about the 30th anniversary of Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill." Sragow fills in that gap as a preview to tonight's screening of De Palma's classic at Baltimore's AFI Silver, calling De Palma "cinema's most underrated virtuoso." De Palma wrote the script "as if designing a set of booby-trapped Chinese boxes," writes Sragow. "The people he put inside them are one of the best ensembles ever to inhabit a blood thriller." I love what Sragow writes below about the subway scene, something that always strikes me as absurd everytime I watch the film, but in a kind of surrealist joke kind of way:

For all of its shocks, Dressed to Kill is often subtle and delicate. [Angie] Dickinson ponders picking up a sharkish-looking man in an art museum -- and De Palma registers every shift in her changeable mood with camera moves as poetic as the paintings on the walls. The film contains a terrific dated joke: at one point, [Nancy] Allen, pursued by the film's maniacal killer, runs into a subway station fit for Walter Hill's The Warriors. In 1980, before the city cleaned up its act, audiences roared at the sight of a woman seeking safety in the New York City subways.

But most of Dressed to Kill is timeless. With its most explicit surge of violence coming fairly early, this movie is a whodunit that's also a let's-hope-he-won't-do-it-again. In every decade from the 1960s on, De Palma has done terrific work. Why do you think we hear so little about Dressed to Kill and The Fury and De Palma's first masterpiece, Blow Out, also from his late-70s/early 80s heyday?

DTK PART OF "MASTERPIECES AD INFINITUM" EXHIBIT AT CENTRE POMPIDOU-METZ
Meanwhile, The Centre Pompidou-Metz opened last month in Metz, France, and according to The National's Natasha Edwards, features an exhibition titled "Chefs-d’oeuvre?" which "investigates the notion of the masterpiece." One of the galleries in this exhibit is titled "Masterpieces Ad Infinitum," which, according to Edwards, "covers the eclectic media, complexity and referentialism of contemporary art, where uniqueness and craftsmanship no longer apply, yet the notion curiously persists. In one room, three screens simultaneously show us suave James Stewart in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which influenced the gallery scene in Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, which is brilliantly parodied in Brice Dellsperger’s spoof Body Double 15."


Posted by Geoff at 12:54 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 20, 2010 1:12 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 17, 2010
M:I ONE OF TEN BEST "PURE HOLLYWOOD ACTION" MOVIES
PLUS: A YOUNG ADULT PARANORMAL THRILLER HAS DE PALMA POTENTIAL

Simon Brew at Den Of Geek has thought long and hard about it, and has now posted his list of "The 12 best pure Hollywood action movies of the 1990s." At number 10 is Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible, which Brew feels is De Palma's "last great movie." While I find the film brilliant, De Palma has actually made even better films since then, but here is what Brew writes about Mission: Impossible:

Mission: Impossible is a tight, taut action thriller, featuring some terrific set piece sequences (the kind that De Palma continually excels at).

It's also got a terrific cast, and one that Tom Cruise is happy to sit more as an ensemble member of (unlike, say, Mission: Impossible III). For while he's front and centre of the film for good chunks, just look at the memorable names around him. Vanessa Redgrave eats up the screen as Max, while the likes of Jean Reno, Jon Voight, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Beart and Ving Rhames are each good value, too. It'd be remiss not to mention David Schneider popping up right at the end, too.

But the thing we most take away from Mission: Impossible are wonderfully set-up action moments. De Palma knows how to wring maximum tension out of these, and it's his discipline in putting these sequences together that was sorely missed in the overblown first sequel. Furthermore, Mission: Impossible also benefits from a lean running time, meaning you're not left focussing too heavily on the occasionally over-wrought plot that the MI team are trying to uncover. Instead, you're just left to enjoy one of the very best action thrillers of the 90s.

YOUNG ADULT FILM FRANCHISE SOUNDS LIKE A MATCH FOR DE PALMA
While we're on the subject of kicking off franchises with a bang, The Hollywood Reporter's Jay A. Fernandez reported yesterday that Paramount and MTV Films will adapt the best-selling young adult paranormal thriller novel Wake. According to Fernandez, "Wake is the first of three novels written by [Lisa] McMann about a 17-year-old girl named Janie with the unwanted ability to become sucked into people’s dreams. Not surprisingly, she sees things she would rather not see. But when she gets pulled into a terrible nightmare, Janie dangerously goes from mere witness to participant." The script is being written by Christopher Landon, who co-wrote the Rear Window-esque Disturbia. This sounds like a project that would have huge potential for someone like Brian De Palma. I almost forgot to mention: Miley Cyrus is being talked about for the lead, but she wants to see the script first. I also forgot to mention: Paranormal Activity 2 producers Steven Schneider and Jason Blum are involved in this project, as well.


Posted by Geoff at 12:50 PM CDT
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