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Saturday, September 18, 2010
TORONTO TIDBITS
JULIA'S EYES, DETECTIVE DEE, BANG BANG CLUB, AND MORE BLACK SWAN
The Toronto International Film Festival winds down this weekend, and Brian De Palma was spotted as recently as yesterday, when Guardian critic David Cox tweeted that De Palma was sitting behind him at a screening for Tsui Hark's Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Regarding De Palma, Cox tweeted, "Don't think there's time to get him to explain FEMME FATALE." Regarding the film, which is said to have stunning visuals, Cox tweeted that it "was a flamboyant way to bring my festival to a close. It even had fire turtles." On Monday (September 13th), Empire Movies' Liam Cullin tweeted that he saw De Palma waiting in line for a screening of Steven Silver's gonzo journalist film The Bang Bang Club, which Screen Daily's Mark Adams was quite impressed by. Based on true events, The Bang Bang Club follows "a band of freewheeling, hard-partying, daredevil photographers in South Africa of 1994, in the turbulent moments of the final days of apartheid" according to Adams. "The sequences of them photographing the violence around them," writes Adams, "a violence the[y] start to become immune to – is wonderfully staged, and a scene of Ryan stumbling onto a brutal photograph of a killing that will win him a Pulitzer Prize is quite memorable. So too a similar (though very different) scene where Carter travels to the Sudan and take a photo of a starving girl stalked by a menacing vulture, which will eventually win a Pulitzer for him as well."

BLACK SWAN
Meanwhile, De Palma' name keeps popping up in reviews of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Empire critic Damon Wide on Monday blogged, after seeing Black Swan in Toronto, that "At the moment, the film, for me, is still too fresh to filter, but I suspect that once it has settled, and I've stopped wondering why it reminded me of films as diverse as Brian De Palma's Sisters, P&P's Black Narcissus and John Cassavetes' Opening Night, it will reveal itself as a film of great power and longevity." Jorge Mourinha calls Aronofsy's film a "smart shocker of the sort Brian de Palma knew how to do so well in his prime, with a strong lead and confident handling making the slightly overwrought plot work." Writing from the Venice fest early this month, TIME's Richard Corliss also mentioned De Palma in his Black Swan review:

I've also heard from folks at Venice who think Black Swan is a junky horror show and [Natalie] Portman way too strident. Me, I'm of two minds about a movie that wants to be a nail-ripping thriller and a statement on an artist's unholy communion with her role. It's reminiscent of older, better movies: the late-'40s backstage dramas A Double Life (Ronald Colman plays Othello, becomes fatally jealous of his actress ex-wife) and the classic ballet melodrama The Red Shoes; and of films about tender, troubled psyches in the films — I won't say which ones — of Roman Polanski, Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and David Fincher. Black Swan also takes a view of women that might kindly be described as old-fashioned.

JULIA'S EYES SUGGESTS DE PALMA, SAYS SALON CRITIC
And finally, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir sees a De Palma influence in the Guillermo del Toro-produced Julia's Eyes, a horror film directed by Guillem Morales. O'Hehir writes that Julia's Eyes, "which reassembles much of the creative team that made The Orphanage in 2007," is "altogether a chillier, slicker and colder affair, formal and beautiful in composition and shot through with a sadistic eroticism that strongly suggests Brian De Palma." O'Hehir concludes, "I doubt this project occupied much of del Toro's attention, and it's fundamentally an exercise in genre and style -- but what style! The brooding skies and gray-green trees, the closely packed prewar houses, the naked bodies in a locker room full of blind women, the deepening shadows as Julia's sight gives way and evil comes ever closer. Even the deep, dark crimson when we finally see blood. (Despite this movie's moodiness, it's not without its share of gruesome gore.) In the long arc of Guillermo del Toro's career, Julia's Eyes is a minor side project -- but we can only wish that one in 20 American horror films were this well made."


Posted by Geoff at 11:24 AM CDT
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Monday, September 13, 2010
ELI ROTH SAW SCARFACE 56 TIMES
ENJOYED CONTEMPLATING BACK-STORIES OF THE MINOR CHARACTERS

Eli Roth revealed to Love Film that he prided himself on watching Brian De Palma's Scarface 56 times on VHS in his youth. He talks about how he would consider the plight of the man "with the big nose" in the club who dances to Frank Sinatra's Strangers In The Night and gets machine-gunned to death. Roth says he and his friends would stop the tape and deconstruct the back-stories of minor characters. "Think about this poor guy," says Roth about the big-nosed dancer. "He went to work that day, he was just doing his job. He was just trying to entertain, and then these guys came in and just machine-gunned him. And like, what's his wife gonna say, like, was this guy married? And then, like he doesn't come home from work that night. I would sit and obsessively think of the back-story for every minor character in the film."

Posted by Geoff at 8:56 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 11, 2010
DE PALMA AT TIFF AS HE TURNS 70
SPOTTED NEAR BLACK SWAN & BAD FAITH SCREENINGS
Brian De Palma turns 70 today, and he appears to be celebrating by attending the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, of which he has been a loyal patron for years. On Thursday, Roger Ebert tweeted that he spotted De Palma at the festival ("Brian de Palma, the only big-time director who often attends film festivals on his own dime," wrote Ebert). Grey Goose's Mohit Rajhans also saw De Palma on Thursday. "The bulk of the buzz so far was centered around the press office yesterday while people gathered the necessary passes," wrote Rajhans. "I spotted Brian De Palma chatting just outside the office with friends – word has it Toronto is one of his favourite cities for movie watching." Today, Fernando F. Croce tweeted that he "saw Brian De Palma just outside yesterday's screening of Black Swan," adding that he "should have wished him happy b-day." (Croce is covering the festival for Slant Magazine.) And finally, Swedish journalist Rebekah Åhlund, while attending the premiere yesterday of Kristian Petri's Bad Faith, spotted De Palma in the lounge, prompting her to recall the days when she used to watch De Palma's Carlito's Way once a month. Steve Gravestock's description of Bad Faith at the TIFF website sounds intriguing:

Monia (Sonja Richter), a rather strange young woman who may be in the midst of a nervous breakdown, walks alone through the streets of a Gothenburg. Walking past a sinister alleyway, she sees a badly injured man struggling to breathe. The man’s been dispatched by the Bayonet Killer, a murderer who’s been plaguing the city for the last couple of months. Monia is immediately plunged into a mystery only she and the strangely solicitous and philosophical Frank (Jonas Karlsson) seem to care about. As Monia stumbles on one killing after another, she confronts a shady hoodlum (Kristoffer Joyner) who, rather suspiciously, seems to be at the scene of every crime.

With Bad Faith, Swedish director Kristian Petri intelligently riffs on the history of the suspense film, deftly combining its highs and lows. On one hand, the film offers up a gloss on giallos – the lurid, visually stylized, Italian-thriller form popularized by Mario Bava and later by Dario Argento. At the same time, Petri and his collaborators make reference to the most cerebral and self-conscious mysteries ever made, from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up to Paul Verhoeven’s international breakthrough, The Fourth Man. Like Verhoeven’s underrated classic, Bad Faith is propelled by the characters’ awareness that they’re caught in a narrative they should recognize but refuse to – a conflict which allows for ample amounts of suspense and for a very sly comedy.

Central to the film’s success is our suspicion that Monia isn’t playing with a full deck. As she grows more and more obsessed with the murders and her daily life crumbles around her (she hides in her apartment for weeks on end), we begin to question her sanity and, by extension, the rules and assumptions of the genre which she inhabits. It’s a genuinely postmodern thriller, a sublimely funny movie that questions its characters mental soundness and our own addiction to narrative.


Posted by Geoff at 11:08 PM CDT
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Thursday, September 9, 2010
NANCY ALLEN ON NANCY FRIDAY
AS MOVIE GEEKS UNITED SERIES CONTINUES

The Movie Geeks United! tribute this week to "The De Palma Thriller" continued last night with a focus on Dressed To Kill, although several films were included in the discussion, including Home Movies (discussed with guest Keith Gordon and touched on with Nancy Allen), Obsession (discussed with guest George Litto), Mission To Mars, and more. The geeks got deep into De Palma discussion within the show's first hour, with Jamey talking about the merits of Mission To Mars, and Chris suggesting that he did not trust his not-so-thrilled assessment of De Palma's The Black Dahlia, because he knows it's De Palma, and he might look at it somewhere down the line and see that it is actually brilliant. The interviews on the show, including John Kenneth Muir, were terrific. Gordon showed a keen knowledge of De Palma's cinema that fit right at home with the geeks, who will feature a separate part of the interview with Gordon about his own directing career on an upcoming episode. Meanwhile, Nancy Allen mentioned that De Palma had her read books by Nancy Friday as preparation for her character, and in particular for her scene at the doctor's office with Michael Cain. A lot of great stuff on last night's show, which you can listen to on the site's archive. Looking forward to the final two shows: tonight, a look at Blow Out, with Allen, Muir, Litto, and Vilmos Zsigmond. Tomorrow night it's Raising Cain, again with Muir and editor Paul Hirsch.

Posted by Geoff at 12:43 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010
DE PALMA IS A "BORN FILMMAKER"
ARMOND WHITE CONTRASTS NOLAN & DE PALMA
With Armond White set to be one of the guests on tonight's Carrie-related episode of the Movie Geeks United! tribute to the De Palma thriller, it seems a good time to note that about a month and a half ago, White was a guest on a /Film Filmcast episode devoted to Christopher Nolan's Inception. /Film's Adam Quigley was incredulous about White's review of Inception in the New York Press, in which the critic stated that "Christopher Nolan doesn’t have a born filmmaker’s natural gift for detail, composition and movement, but on the evidence of his fussily constructed mind-game movies—Following, Memento, Insomnia and the new Inception—he’s definitely a born con artist." On the /Film filmcast, White said that he goes into each Nolan film hoping to be impressed, but that Nolan always disappoints him. Nolan presents a “depressing, repellent nihillism,” according to White, who went on to note that while Nolan is not a "born filmmaker," Brian De Palma most definitely is:

Adam Quigley: Judging from the Inception review you wrote, Armond, you said that Nolan doesn’t have a born filmmaker’s natural gift for detailed composition and movement. But that’s interesting. I mean, that’s how your review starts. That’s interesting to me, though, because are you assuming it’s a born talent, or… it sounds like, as soon as you started this review that you were judging Nolan, you know, Nolan the person, and perhaps not the movie. Did you have that idea of him before you even saw Inception?

Armond White: Well… well, wait a minute—think about what you’re saying. It’s how I started the review. I don’t write my reviews with no thought in my head. That may be the way I started the review, but it’s not the way I approached the review. Consider this: I approached the review after having seen the movie, and after having thought about it. I write my reviews in a way that I hope can be read enjoyably and with some interest. So I’m starting an argument in that way. It doesn’t mean that that’s my first thought. I’m beginning the construction of an argument that way. And I begin the argument after having seen the film, and after having thought about it. So it’s not that I start with a prejudice. I start with a response. And the review is a response. From the very first word of the review, it’s a response, it’s not a prejudice.

And so you want to know about the idea of a born filmmaker?

Adam: Yes.

Armond: I believe there is such a thing. Just as I believe there are people who are born singers. I’m not one of those. But Prince is. Whitney Houston is. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a born singer. Singers can be trained, but some people are born with a gift. And it’s easy to find artists who are born with a gift. Bertolucci is a born filmmaker. I would reckon from the first piece of film by Brian De Palma that was ever exhibited in public, you can see that he’s a born filmmaker—he’s got it. He’s doing things in a distinctive way. It’s a gift. And not everybody’s got the gift.

From there, the discussion delved into a comparison between Nolan and Michael Bay, the latter of which, according to White, also has a natural gift for visual filmmaking.

Also on tonight's Carrie-themed episode of Movie Geeks United! will be Nancy Allen and John Kenneth Muir.


Posted by Geoff at 11:35 AM CDT
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Monday, September 6, 2010
PRESSMAN MENTIONS PHANTOM STAGE VERSION
TALKING "ENDLESSLY" WITH DE PALMA & WILLIAMS

The Movie Geeks United! week-long tribute to Brian De Palma got off to a terrific start Monday night with a show dedicated to Sisters, although films such as Mission: Impossible (delved into with guest John Kenneth Muir) and Phantom Of The Paradise were discussed, as well. Regarding the latter, guest Edward R. Pressman, who produced Sisters and Phantom, mentioned that he has been talking "endlessly" with De Palma and songwriter Paul Williams about getting together a stage version of the film, for which Williams has been writing new songs. Of course, we already knew they all were working on this from previous posts here, but it's good to know the project is still being developed. Kudos to Jamey DuVall and Jerry Dennis for a solid kick-off to a promising week of "The De Palma Thriller." If you can't listen to any of the shows live, never fear-- the shows are all available to listen to in the archive.

Posted by Geoff at 8:40 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 10:41 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 5, 2010
NEW DE PALMA BOOK DEBUTS AT VENICE
"THE WRITING OF THE GAZE: THE CINEMA OF BRIAN DE PALMA"
At the Venice Film Festival today, Historica Edizioni previewed the inaugural volume in its new series of books on cinema. The book is called The Writing Of The Gaze: The Cinema Of Brian De Palma, and it was unveiled today at the Info Point in front of the Venice Film Festival in the Movie Village. The Writing Of The Gaze is edited by Massimiliano Spanu and Fabio Zanello, who were each scheduled to be on hand at the Info Point today to take part in a video interview for Giuseppe Amodio and Deborah Farina's Italian program Venezia Pulp. Last January, Lankelot's Francesco Giubilei interviewed Zanello, asking him why they chose De Palma as the initial subject for the series, to be followed by a volume on Francis Ford Coppola. Zanello responded:

Yes, the title of this inaugural volume of the Historica Editions planned for April will be "The Writing of the Gaze. The Cinema of Brian De Palma." That one is being taken care of between myself and Professor Massimiliano Spanu at the University of Trieste. Spanu and I have assigned the essays that will make up the volume to a very competent working team: Leonardo Gandini, Massimo Causo, Edvige Liotta, Domenico Monetti, Elisa Grando, M.Deborah Farina, Andrea Fontana, Mario Gerosa, Carlo Griseri, Diego Mondella, Alessandra Montesanto, Davide Taro, Michele Raga, Michele Tosolini, Mario Molinari, Enrico Terrone, Luca Bandirali, Andrea Fontana, Piero Babudro, Fabio Migneco and Corrado Denaro.

The choice fell on Brian De Palma, because, besides being a leading exponent of the new Hollywood, from the outset he has pursued a continuous research and reflection on the image and forms of narrative genres, far from being exhausted themselves. He is a real investigator who has represented and continues to represent a model of artistic coherence, even when dealing with commercial films. Aware that we will not be neither the first nor the last to study the auteur of "Scarface," "Carlito's Way" and "Carrie" Spanu and I think that De Palma as a director is always "forward" and "young." So, because of this, there will never be enough written about him in subsequent years, I'm sure.

WONDERS WHY "MASTERPIECE" LIKE REDACTED WAS NEVER RELEASED IN ITALY, DESPITE WINNING AT VENICE
I moreover confess that I’d like to stir the consciences of those who have not distributed into the country a masterpiece like "Redacted" that, after winning the Venice Film Festival, was visible only on satellite TV. We'll see!

Asked why they chose Coppola for the second volume, Zanello replied:

Some of the adjectives that I spent on De Palma may also be applied to Francis Ford Coppola. As a notation I would add: bold and reckless. Only he could sign a formal masterpiece of elegance such as "Dracula", after the many film versions of the myth, and producers who taunted him for his idea to bring Bram Stoker’s creature to the screen, before the proliferation of vampire movies in recent years. Other movies like "The Conversation" and "One from the Heart" have foreshadowed issues such as wire tapping and high definition. Today everybody worships these films as they rightly deserve, yet at the time they were notorious flops at the box office. Coppola, therefore, provides another congenital ground on which to develop a 360-degree analysis.

ESSAY SEEKS TO "REHABILITATE" DE PALMA'S MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
Carlo Griseri posted on his blog today that he had the "privilege/burden" of writing the essay on Mission: Impossible, an image from which graces the sublime cover to The Writing Of The Gaze. Griseri's essay attempts to "rehabilitate" De Palma's film which, according to Griseri, is unanimously considered one of De Palma's minor works, and is "discreetly snubbed by purists and critics." All this despite French critic Luc Lagier's book-length study on De Palma's Mission: Impossible.


Posted by Geoff at 11:47 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010
ARONOFSKY'S BLACK SWAN OPENS VENICE
VARIETY REVIEW: "SUPERFICIAL ECHOES OF SISTERS & FEMME FATALE"
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan opens the Venice Film Festival tonight, but a critics preview this morning has created a buzz. Variety's Peter DeBruge is quite taken with the film, calling it "a wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer's all-consuming ambition" that he feels resembles something closer to Aronofsky's Pi than to Powell & Pressburger's The Red Shoes (the latter being the one most reviews are comparing Black Swan with, along with Aronofsky's The Wrestler). DeBruge also compares the lure of the film to the cinema of Brian De Palma, but finds it closer in execution to David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski:

Already the film has acquired a certain lesbian allure, courtesy of a trailer that somewhat unfairly teases a scandalous [Natalie] Portman-[Mila] Kunis love scene. This footage will no doubt help to entice ballet-averse auds, though "Black Swan" is anything but a Brian De Palma-style erotic escapade (superficial echoes of "Sisters" and "Femme Fatale" notwithstanding).

Aronofsky seems to be operating more in the vein of early Roman Polanski or David Cronenberg at his most operatic. Though the director never immerses us as deeply inside Portman's head as he did Mickey Rourke's in "The Wrestler," the latter third of "Black Swan" depicts a highly subjective view of events that calls to mind the psychological disintegration of both "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby."

MUBI is running a roundup of the reviews as they are posted.


Posted by Geoff at 12:33 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
MORRICONE RECEIVES POLAR MUSIC PRIZE
EVENT IN STOCKHOLM CLOSES WITH SCREENING OF THE UNTOUCHABLES
Ennio Morricone was awarded the 2010 Polar Music Prize (also referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Music") by the King of Sweden in a ceremony Monday at the Skandia Theater in Stockholm. The award is traditionally given to a composer and a pop musician every year, and this year's pop honor went to Bjork. According to Lupin The 4th, the evening concluded with a screening of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, the film for which Morricone was nominated for an Oscar for composing the score. Morricone has also scored De Palma's Casualties Of War and Mission To Mars.

Posted by Geoff at 1:19 PM CDT
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Monday, August 30, 2010
KOEPP'S CORNER: PREMIUM RUSH
HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE READER'S PICS FROM NYC SHOOT
David Koepp is currently shooting a new movie, Premium Rush, in New York City. The other day, Hollywood Elsewhere posted two pictures of the New York shoot sent in by a reader of that site, Eran Evron. The film, which was written by Koepp and his longtime creative partner John Kamps, involves a New York City bike messenger (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, pictured on the far right) who is pursued by a dirty cop (played by Michael Shannon, in the center of the picture wearing a tie). Dania Ramirez (wearing a blue top in the photo) plays a fellow bike messenger. Koepp is wearing a red ball cap, all the way on the left side of the photo. Premium Rush will be released on January 13, 2012. About a month ago, Gordon-Levitt posted a video on his site, that was shot by Koepp himself, showing the bloody arm he got from crashing into the back of a cab during filming. Gordon-Levitt wrote, "My first real wreck today. Busted through the rear window of a cab. Luckily got my elbows up. Coulda been way worse. No, but it was my fault, I was going too fast. The director, Dave Koepp, was extremely concerned for my well-being, but I made him RECord the wound. Anyway, Premium Rush is gonna be awesome. Gratuitous ER footage to follow, stay tuned…" A few more set pics of Gordon-Levitt and Ramirez can be seen at Accidental Sexiness

Posted by Geoff at 11:50 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 30, 2010 12:04 PM CDT
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