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Monday, December 6, 2010
BLACK SWAN REVIEWS
ARONOFSKY FILM REMINDS EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHERS OF DE PALMA
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan opened in select North American theaters this past weekend, and the reviews comparing the film to the work of Brian De Palma and Roman Polanski are piling up. The initial Variety review compared Black Swan superficially to De Palma's Sisters and Femme Fatale, and a couple of the recent reviews add De Palma's Carrie into the mix, apparently due in large part to the mother role played by Barbara Hershey. Here's a rundown:

Ray Pride, New City
"Simultaneously pretentious and lurid, ripe with mirrors, doubles, mirrorings, dopplegangers, Black Swan‘s temper is pitched at the level of a Brian De Palma adaptation of Polanski’s Repulsion that’s convinced it’s being directed by Stanley Kubrick."

Scott Weinberg, FearNet
"Perhaps it's just because I naturally look for these sorts of things, but throughout the whole of Aronofsky's piece I caught glimpses of the early thrillers from Nicolas Roeg, Roman Polanski, Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, and (yes) even some quick dashes of David Cronenberg."

Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"Black Swan calls to mind, more dramatically and more deeply than anything since the heyday of Brian De Palma, the work—and the life—of Alfred Hitchcock, all the more so since Aronofsky brings Natalie Portman’s naturally cold performance style to bear on the character of Nina in precisely the way that Hitchcock brilliantly employed Tippi Hedren, in The Birds and Marnie, to embody a porcelain perfection that was essentially the subject of both films. All three films are stories of possessive mothers and absent fathers."

Richard von Busack, Mr. MovieTimes
"The wildness of Black Swan’s color is a treat in a cinematic world where we’re putting up with the worst color since 1932, thanks to endless computerized twiddling. Some of the awed reception of Black Swan seems to reflect the need for a great movie this time of year—or is it mindfulness of Michael Powell’s broken-hearted ghost, grieving at those who couldn’t succumb to The Red Shoes? Black Swan is less like Powell and much more like a Brian De Palma film, anyway—it’s a film of technical virtuosity, shock and voyeurism, but without De Palma’s sense of play or wit."

J. Hoberman. The Village Voice
"Not body but ballet horror, Black Swan is a Red Shoes/Repulsion/Carrie mash-up, slathered with Dario Argento cheese."

Richard Corliss, TIME
"It's reminiscent of older, better movies: the late-'40s backstage dramas A Double Life (Ronald Colman plays Othello and becomes fatally jealous of his actress ex-wife) and the classic ballet melodrama The Red Shoes; and of films about tender, troubled psyches — I won't say which ones — by 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."

Dann Gire, Daily Herald
"Black Swan effortlessly escorts us into Nina’s paranoia with living daydreams and nightmares, some violent, some overtly sexual. Aronofsky dabbles in the sort of hallucinatory sleight-of-narrative perfected by Brian De Palma, but never crosses into the realm of exploitation or cheap shock value."

Jeannette Catsoulis, npr
"Gorgeous and glacial, ecstatically photographed and wonderfully acted — Cassel's wordless play of expressions when Nina finally kisses him in character as the Black Swan is remarkable — Black Swan feels frustratingly incomplete. Obsession and repression are powerful themes, but you have to take them somewhere. It's not enough simply to emulate Dario Argento's glam-goth palette, David Cronenberg's bodily invasions, Adrian Lyne's softcore menace (a nightclub scene is right out of Jacob's Ladder) and Brian De Palma's demented sensibility. For all the influences on display, the one filmmaker who might have taken Black Swan from the lurid to the lyrical is Polanski: Take a look at Catherine Deneuve cowering in her apartment in Repulsion and tell me I'm wrong."

Al Kratina, The Montreal Gazette
"Darren Aronofsky's latest film is nothing if not filmic insanity, with all the showy formalism of a Brian De Palma film mixed with the delirium of Oliver Stone and a rotten batch of mescaline. But there's something so captivating about it's swirling, deliberate psychosis."

Jordan Hoffman, UGO
"Dario Argento's Showgirls goes Lincoln Center? Sure, why not? Argento is just one beloved auteur who may come to mind. This tale of a young ballerina descending into a self-designed madness as she strives for artistic perfection had me flashing on the Brian De Palma of Sisters and Carrie and the Polanski of Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. One could also describe it as a feminine Fight Club. All of these analogies are valid (and all are comparisons to worthy films - even Showgirls) but what's most important (and what I hope doesn't get diluted amidst all the name-dropping) is that Black Swan is very much its own movie. Its balance of horror tropes and formidable performances against a high culture milieu is innovative and fresh and very, very watchable."

Lou Lumenick, New York Post
"This eye-popping, inspired and often-demented (in a good way) cross between The Red Shoes and All About Eve channels horror maestros David Cronenberg, Brian De Palma and Dario Argento. It’s also something of a companion piece to Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (the unsettling ending is very similar) but far surpasses the earlier film."

Benjamin Sutton, The L Magazine
"As for Hershey playing the mother of all mothering mothers, Brian De Palma’s Carrie repeatedly came to mind."

Damon Wise, Virtual Neon
"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."

Greg Christie, twitch
"Essentially, Black Swan is Repulsion & Perfect Blue by way of Showgirls with heavy influences of Brian De Palma & Kenneth Anger thrown in for good measure. In fact, I think I could easily liken this to the work of the Kuchar Brothers as well. With a combination like that, this should play like gangbusters for the cult set. The problem is that this isn't nearly as intelligent of a mindfuck as Repulsion or Perfect Blue. It tries to be a slow burn but comes across as just plain dull for the first hour. Until Natalie Portman starts to turn into a fucking Swan at the end of Act 2, nearly every line of dialogue and every character is about as cliché as they come. And for all of the hokey dialogue and sleazy sex, it lacks the guilty pleasure thrills of Showgirls or the full on psychedelic imagery of Mr. Anger."

Jesse Hawken, via Twitter
"Black Swan is Brian De Palma's first film since Redacted."


Posted by Geoff at 6:11 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
ANGIE'S VOICE WAS DRESSED UP...
RUTANYA ALDA SUPPLIED ORGASMIC DUB IN TAXI CAB SCENE


It is well known that Brian De Palma used a body double for Angie Dickinson's opening shower scene in his 1980 film Dressed To Kill. Now old school De Palma regular Rutanya Alda has revealed that she provided the orgasmic vocals for Dickinson's character, Kate Miller, as she is ravished by a stranger in a taxi cab. Alda, who appeared in several early De Palma films (Greetings, Hi, Mom!, and The Fury), was the guest of honor November 19th at the New York Film Academy Screening Room, where she took part in a Q&A hosted by New York filmmakers Bryan Norton and Joe Zaso. The video above, featuring clips from several of Alda's films, was played at the start of the evening. The video concludes with the aforementioned scene from Dressed To Kill, with a note of trivia superimposed that reads, "As favor to Brian De Palma, Rutanya dubbed Angie Dickinson's hilarious moans of pleasure in this scene from DRESSED TO KILL." Jed Central has a brief account of the evening.

There have been other known or rumored instances of voice dubs in De Palma films. Dressed To Kill features another familiar voice as "Bobbi," the alter ego of Michael Cain's Dr. Elliott, voiced by William Finley, and heard within the diegesis of the film only on an answering machine. It is rumored that Helen Shaver dubbed the voice of Deborah Shelton in De Palma's Body Double (which would mean, perhaps, that Shaver's is the voice of passion in that film's "yes/no" make-out scene just outside the tunnel). Charles Durning provided a voiceover dub for the opening interrogation scene in Scarface. And finally, Amy Irving provided a favor to De Palma by dubbing the voice of the young Vietnamese-American woman played by Thuy Thu Le in the final scene of Casualties Of War. After all this dubbing, it is interesting to watch Shelton show off her lip-synching abilities in this commercial (circa early 1990s) below: 


Posted by Geoff at 11:39 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 7:19 AM CST
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Sunday, November 28, 2010
R.I.P. THE UNTOUCHABLE LESLIE NIELSEN

Posted by Geoff at 9:51 PM CST
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Thursday, November 25, 2010
HOME MOVIES SOUNDTRACK ON CD
AS DONAGGIO APPEARS AT DE PALMA EVENT IN ROME
Well, just a week after the news about the Kritzerland release of the complete Pino Donaggio score to Brian De Palma's Carrie, Varese Sarabande has announced a limited edition release of the soundtrack to Donaggio's second collaboration with De Palma, Home Movies (thanks to Randy!). This release, which features all of the same tracks as the original vinyl release, is limited to 1000 copies, and is expected to go fast, so if you want one, don't hesitate.

Meanwhile, earlier this month (on November 9th), Donaggio was a special guest at Cinema Detour's celebration in Rome of De Palma's 70th birthday. The event was a presentation of the recently published Italian study, The Writing Of The Gaze: The Cinema of Brian De Palma, edited by Massimiliano Spanu and Fabio Zanello. Four of the book's authors were in attendance: M. Deborah Farina ("De Palma Underground: The Independent Production"), Domenico Monetti ("Sound and Vision: Images With Sound in Blow Up"), Diego Mondello ("Scarface and His Followers"), and Edvige Liotta ("Shapes of Utopia: Notes on Mission to Mars"). The evening concluded with a screening of De Palma's award-winning short Wotan's Wake, a rare treat in Italy (and in the U.S.!).

Posted by Geoff at 12:51 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 25, 2010 2:40 AM CST
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Thursday, November 18, 2010
ROMAIN DESBIENS' SHORT FILM

If you've been thinking things have been quiet over at Virtuoso Of The 7th Art lately, now you know why-- webmaster Romain Desbiens has been busy making a short film of his own. Frénésie (which translates into "Frenzy," although Desbiens says there is no link with Alfred Hitchcock's film) is a comically disturbing Polanski-esque trip into the absurd. Desbiens says he took a bit of inspiration from Brian De Palma with some high-angle shots, and a nod to Dressed To Kill in the subway scene. Desbiens had hoped to submit Frénésie as part of a French festival of short films in December, but battles with the producer of the film will keep it underground for now.

Posted by Geoff at 12:02 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 18, 2010 10:59 AM CST
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Monday, November 15, 2010
TRUE CARRIE SOUNDTRACK UNEARTHED
LIMITED EDITION OF DONAGGIO CLASSIC TO SHIP IN DECEMBER
Kritzerland has announced a limited release of a newly unearthed complete soundtrack to Brian De Palma's Carrie, which was scored by Pino Donaggio. The soundtrack includes all of Donaggio's cues as used in the film, as well as the two songs he wrote and recorded for the prom sequence. The other pop songs used in the film (two songs heard on the radio while Billy and Chris are in Billy's car, and another song played by the band at the prom) were unavailable to Kritzerland. The label's web site explains the discovery of the original material, and the history of the original soundtrack's release:

United Artists released the soundtrack album on LP. It was an odd presentation in that almost all of the music was from the film’s second half, save for the main title sequence (which was repeated verbatim at the end of the album). The album ran thirty-five minutes. That LP was released twice on CD – first by Ryko (with dialogue snippets included to pad out the running time), and then by Varese Sarabande (with the dialogue snippets gone). Ryko used the album master, and the Varese was a clone of the Ryko release (the pop songs used in the film were not available to them or to us).

For this very special release, we are pleased to say that our detective work paid off in spades – we found 13 reels of the original session masters and they included the entire score, about twenty-five minutes of never-before-released score cues. Since both film and score are iconic, it was the greatest kind of discovery we could have made.

So, it is with great pleasure that we offer for the first time the complete score to Carrie in film order. We also found two instrumentals of the songs, which we’ve included as bonus tracks. Additionally, on CD 2 we offer the original album, newly remastered for this release.

This release is limited to 1200 copies only. The price of this special 2 CD set is our usual one CD price – $19.98, plus shipping. Additionally, we are offering a special deal with the purchase of this release. Go to the item page and click on the link to find out about it.

CD will ship the third week of December – however, preorders placed directly through Kritzerland usually ship one to five weeks earlier (we’ve been averaging four weeks early).


Posted by Geoff at 11:37 AM CST
Updated: Monday, November 15, 2010 11:39 AM CST
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Saturday, November 6, 2010
JILL CLAYBURGH DIES
OSCAR-NOMINATED ACTRESS BATTLED CHRONIC LYMPHOCYTIC LEUKEMIA

Jill Clayburgh, who starred as the bride in Brian De Palma's first feature The Wedding Party, died Friday at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut, according to the Hollywood Reporter. She was 66 years old, and had been quietly battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia for 21 years, according to her husband, David Rabe, speaking to the Associated Press. At Sarah Lawrence College in the early 1960s, Clayburgh met and dated De Palma, where they made The Wedding Party with mentor Wilford Leach. The film also featured Robert DeNiro, William Finley, and Jennifer Salt. In an interview for Sarah Lawrence College's alumni magazine in 2007, Clayburgh explained how she steered herself toward the theatre, and, eventually, films:

I did theatre because I hated gym. It wasn’t like now, when everybody is thinking about what they’re going to be. I went to an all-girls’ school in New York City and the theatre was at the boy’s school, so I went there to hang around with the boys – not because I thought, ‘I’m going to be ACTRESS.’ It let me get out of horrible gym, but it was no great, overwhelming drive to act. And then I got very tall and I kept getting the boys’ parts and I didn’t like that. So I stopped acting.

At Sarah Lawrence, I started off concentrating in religion and philosophy, but then I did a summer apprenticeship at Williamstown – it’s a fabulous program that they have – and I just fell in love with the theatre.

I did plays at Sarah Lawrence with Wilford Leach, who subsequently became a director at the Public Theater with Joe Papp, and I also worked with John Braswell. So I had Will and John and Brian De Palma [SLC/M.A. ’64], who was one of our first male students – in fact, he was one of the few men around. He directed and did some of his earliest movies there. I dated him and worked with him. We did a movie called The Wedding Party. It was a collaboration with Will and Brian. John was in it too, and Robert De Niro, who used to come up from the City and do shows at SLC. What Will was doing was so off the radar; it was as if he had his own theatre chemistry lab at the College.

FROM THE WEDDING PARTY TO BRIDESMAIDS
[Clayburgh and De Palma are pictured here from 1976]

Clayburgh went on to appear in several Broadway productions and films, and really made her mark in Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman in 1978, which garnered her first Oscar nomination. The following year, she was nominated again for her role in Alan J. Pakula's Starting Over. These two roles solidified Clayburgh as a symbol of the growing feminist movement in the 1970s.

Clayburgh, Rabe, and De Palma have remained friends throughout the years (as recently as three years ago, Rabe revised a draft of the screenplay for De Palma's still-in-development Untouchables prequel). Clayburgh once dated Al Pacino, with whom she starred in an off-Broadway production of The Indian Wants the Bronx in 1968. Recently, her daughter, Lily Rabe, had been co-starring with Pacino in a Broadway production of The Merchant of Venice (Rabe is taking a week-long leave of absence from the show, which is pushing its official opening night from November 7th to November 15th). Clayburgh had been appearing in several stage productions of late, as well as taking on various film and TV roles, including Nip/Tuck, for which Jennifer Salt was a producer/writer.

Clayburgh can be seen back in theaters later this month when Edward Zwick's Love & Other Drugs opens November 24th. Clayburgh's movie career will perhaps come full circle with her final film role next May, in Paul Feig's Bridesmaids, a comedy in which two women battle to plan their friend's wedding party.


Posted by Geoff at 11:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, November 6, 2010 2:56 PM CDT
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Friday, November 5, 2010
CLUE SUGGESTS CRITERION BLOW OUT
The Playlist's Drew Taylor speculates that a new clue from Criterion hints that a new DVD package of Brian De Palma's Blow Out may be on the way soon. A very welcome idea, as the film has been out of print on DVD for some time now.

Posted by Geoff at 1:51 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 28, 2010
IF IT'S OCTOBER, IT MUST BE CARRIE
SCREENING IN NEW YORK THIS WEEKEND, TOP HORROR FILMS, ETC., ETC.

Brian De Palma's Carrie will screen Saturday night as part of the Film Society Of Lincoln Center's "Scary Movies 4" series in New York this weekend. In the meantime, the film has been mentioned in numerous top horror lists the past couple of weeks, so here is a rundown:

As part of its Film Season 2010, The Guardian has chosen Carrie as the 24th best horror film of all time. The paper's Phelim O'Neill states, "Thanks to [Sissy] Spacek and De Palma, this is one horror film that's as likely to make you cry as it is to make you scream (and it will definitely make you jump, no matter how many times you rewatch that scene)." Wired asked the gang from Fangoria to name the 25 best horror films of all time, and of course Carrie made the un-numbered list. Here is what they said about De Palma's film:

Chris Alexander: Sad, stylish and shocking Brian De Palma-directed melodrama improves upon Stephen King's novel and offers a revelatory performance by Sissy Spacek as a tormented teen cursed with telekinesis. Moving Pino Donnagio score and a head-spinning last reel (and final shot!).

Michael Gingold: Thanks to King and De Palma, countless people don't feel so bad about how their own proms went.

Bekah McKendry: This movie offered a shockingly real depiction of what it is like for girls to come of age in sexually repressive environments ... minus the telekinesis, which, if I had possessed it during my teen years, I would have used to mentally smack up bitches left and right.

Sam Zimmerman: I've always been oddly attracted and emotionally drawn to tales of damaged female protagonists, and that can probably be traced back to my extreme love of this film. (P.S. You should see its contemporary spiritual soul mate, May, starring Angela Bettis and directed by Lucky McKee. It's marvelous.)

Greatbong includes Carrie on his list of top 10 horror movies, opining, "What makes Carrie for me a cut above the more famous Exorcist is that while the latter’s shock value lies in its depiction of religious blasphemy (personally which left me cold), Carrie is unique in the way it brings out the horror of school life, the relentless cruelty shown by the cool kids to those socially awkward, a reflection of the essential sadism of human nature." And finally, Obsessed With Film's Dan Owen places Carrie at number 8 in his top 10 horror movies list, stating that "Brian De Palma’s seminal horror is a brilliant piece of work, probably because it takes its time getting you into the mindset of the bullied Carrie."

SPLIT SCREEN AS "CINEMATIC MEAT GRINDER"
One of the best of the recent essays about Carrie was posted by Bryce Wilson at Things That Don't Suck. Wilson writes, "One of the things that has always set De Palma aside from his New Wave contemporaries like Scorsese, Coppolla, Friedkin and even Altman, is here is a man with absolutely no love nor nostalgia for the Catholic Church. It’s not the last bastion of moral clarity; it’s a breeding ground for lunatics." Wilson adds that "never before or since has De Palma’s virtuosity blended so unobtrusively with his subject matter," and uses the split screen sequence as an example:

Take the infamous split screen finale. What has to be the best use of split screen in De Palma’s career (and thus by extrapolation, maybe the best use of the split screen ever). Here he turns it into a kind of cinematic meat grinder. A meat grinder that runs on for a subjective eternity before it finally ends. Perhaps the finest thing I can say about it, is that I always forget that it is inter cut with non split screen shots until I actually watch it.

Daniel Montgomery, apparently viewing the film for the first time, states, "At the outset I expected a revenge fantasy, but the film surprises by how sad it is. There is no vicarious thrill in watching Carrie take her revenge after being humiliated at the prom, because wee see that not all of her victims are guilty. Some were trying to help her. Two classmates seem to have been involved in the plot all along but are revealed to have been sincere, which compounds the tragedy. Their act of kindness was one act too late."

THE LOVED ONES DIRECTOR DIRECTLY INFLUENCED BY CARRIE
Clint Morris at Australia's What's Playing interviewed Sean Byrne, the writer/director of The Loved Ones, who says he was inspired by De Palma's film, among others (including Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre). "The horror films from the 70’s and 80’s are just balls to the wall fun," Byrne told Morris, "and I just wanted to recreate that experience. I was especially inspired by Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Brian De Palma’s Carrie, as well as Misery and Tarantino and Lynch." Discussing the Australian humor of his new horror film, Byrne told Morris, "I think it’s got its own distinctly wild Australian sense of humour," but then added that "its roots definitely lay with the classic American Cabin in the Woods and Prom movies."


Posted by Geoff at 3:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010 5:20 PM CDT
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4TH M:I TO BE TITLED GHOST PROTOCOL
CRUISE ANNOUNCES NEW TITLE IN DUBAI PRIOR TO SHOOT
According to Gulf News, Tom Cruise held a press conference in Dubai today, where he was getting ready to begin shooting scenes for the fourth Mission: Impossible film with director Brad Bird. Cruise announced that the title of the new film will be Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. "One of the things I always wanted for the franchise was for it not to have a number afterwards," Cruise said, according to Gulf News. "I’ve never done sequels to films and I never thought of these films as sequels. Paramount has done a great job in coming up with a title, so it’s not going to be MI2, 3, 4: it’s going to be Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I always felt it should have a title."

Posted by Geoff at 2:50 PM CDT
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