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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Monday, July 18, 2011
CASTING FOR 'SCARFACE EVOLUTION' IN SICILY
ITALIAN REMAKE OF THE REMAKE OF 'SCARFACE' LOST ITS LEAD ACTOR LAST FALL
In August of 2010, I posted about an Italian remake of Scarface that Massimo Emilio Gobbi claimed to already be directing. At the time, Gobbi had yet to cast his female leads, but he had the controversial figure Fabrizio Corona cast in the title role of what he referred to at the time as Scarface 2010. However, by the end of September, Corona had been kicked off the movie, according to Tuttogratis' Valentina Gerig. Gobbi told Gerig that the actor simply took everything too lightly, "as if the set was a joke." Gobbi said that Corona took a full month's vacation, and then wanted to go off to South Africa. "At this rate," Gobbi told Gerig, "in 2013 I finish my film!"

Catania Oggi posted an article today stating that the film, now titled Scarface Evolution, will be shot mostly in Sicily, where Gobbi has just spent the past weekend with his casting crew looking over four hundred people of all ages, male and female, to cast in the film. The article makes mention of one role in particular, that of the protagonist's sister. Gobbi, according to Catania Oggi, said that the sister role requires "a young Mediterranean actress, preferably Sicilian, with a great personality, strong-willed." The older Tuttogratis article mentioned Tony Sperandeo and Vincent Cassel as possible replacements for Corona. In Scarface Evolution, drug trafficking will be replaced by the handling of embryonic cells.

Posted by Geoff at 11:09 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 6:31 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 16, 2011
AMC BLOG LISTS 'DE PALMA'S BEST MOVIES'
WITH A COUPLE OF SURPRISING CHOICES
Yesterday, AMC-TV Blog's Robert Silva posted a nicely-written list called "Flashback Five - Brian De Palma's Best Movies." Calling De Palma "the most unappreciated of the so-called Movie Brats," Silva goes on to add, "Gifted with an impeccable visual style, his pulp stories are always more complex than they appear at first." AMC notoriously screens De Palma's Scarface repeatedly throughout the year, so it is no surprise to see that film listed at number one. But look at what Silva picks for number 2-- The Fury. "Contrary to common belief," Silva writes, "The Fury isn't all about exploding heads but rather a visceral exploration of young people on the cusp of adulthood who find themselves victimized by adults. The flick is a stylistic tour de force, with the director's signature plot puzzles and self-referential violence. And then there's the top-notch cast: you wouldn't expect to find Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes in a thriller about psychic warfare, but here they are."

Time and time again it seems like The Fury is said to be too complicated, or too bogged down in the action plot of Douglas' character, or Robin isn't in the film enough, etc., etc. They have been showing this film on cable quite a bit lately, and every time it comes on, I get engulfed in its sumptuous images and intricate plot. De Palma pulled off a lot of terrific, interesting visual tricks with this film, almost like a kid in a candy store. And the performances are excellent. I recently read someonoe complain that the staircase shot, where Amy Irving appears to be standing in front of a giant movie screen showing an incident that happened with Robin in that same staircase, was somehow a shoddy effect. On the contrary, I feel the effect is very powerful, with the camera moving around Irving, watching the action unfold. It is a key part of The Fury's motif of "letting the screen fill your mind." So it is nice to see someone do a list such as this, and to put The Fury up so high.

Filling out Silva's top five are Blow Out ("a heady mix of Blow-Up, The Conversation, and The Parallax View"), Carrie (the prom sequence is "a masterpiece of apocalyptic glitz"), and The Untouchables, another AMC mainstay. Silva then adds a list of "Honorable Mentions," essentially giving us his top ten De Palma films, which includes one film that I never expected to read about on an AMC blog: Redacted. "With this Iraq-war movie," Silva writes of his number three honorable mention, "De Palma trades his sumptuous visuals for lo-fi digital camerawork that proves just as dazzling. Still, there's no shortage of the director's usual violence in this YouTube video from hell." Filling out the honorable mentions are Body Double (#1), Carlito's Way (#2), Dressed To Kill (#4), and Mission: Impossible (#5). Of the latter, Silva writes, "Some complain about a labyrinthine plot, but this is still one of the most stylish event movies of the nineties, with a knockout sense of visual storytelling."


Posted by Geoff at 6:59 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011 7:01 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 10, 2011
DE PALMA CHAPTER IN 'SHOCK VALUE'
UPDATE: NEW INTERVIEW WITH ZINOMAN AT COMPLEX

After getting my hands on a copy of Jason Zinoman's new book, Shock Value (see earlier post here), I immediately skipped to the chapter on Brian De Palma, which is titled "He Likes To Watch." This chapter makes the book an essential read for anybody interested in De Palma's work. The chapter is put together with the help of new interviews with De Palma, William Finley, Jared Martin, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon (pictured here from De Palma's Home Movies), Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Lawrence D. Cohen, Tina Shepard, and, if I'm not mistaken, Steven Spielberg, and perhaps Stephen King (having not read the entire book yet, I skimmed but could not find any official acknowledgment of who provided new interviews for the book, but based on the way they're worded, I'm pretty sure Zinoman uses a couple of brand new quotes from Spielberg).

In this chapter, De Palma says that he couldn't see before what he sees clearly now: that the reason his films repeatedly feauture a character who fails to save somebody is because that was how he felt when his little brother, Bart, was all torn up over their parents marital woes. De Palma helped his mother get a divorce by spying on and eventually catching his father in the middle of a tryst with his nurse (De Palma later called the photos he snapped his first film). But he could not save his brother from the pain of the situation. And it is De Palma who sees now that this is the source of the heroes' consistent plight in his own films.

Hence, Zinoman argues, De Palma's films are much more invested in autobiographical elements than most (critics and fans alike) have given them credit for, and he points out the irony that De Palma's most confessional film, Home Movies, is hidden as a zany comedy that hardly anyone has seen or even heard of. Zinoman goes so far as to show how De Palma himself relates to the character Kate Miller in Dressed To Kill. While it may be a stretch when Zinoman tries to link to the above De Palma narrative by suggesting that Kate is a character who tries to save herself from a dead-end marriage, he is spot on that Kate goes to the museum and does essentially what De Palma used to do at museums: pick up a member of the opposite sex. Zinoman concludes that, far from the usual misogynistic reading of Kate Miller (who has an adulterous affair and symbolically "pays for it" with her death), De Palma is quite sympathetic to the character. Zinoman stops there, but I would add that by designating Kate's son, Peter (again played by Gordon), as De Palma's obvious surrogate in the film, the sympathy toward Kate is corroborated.

The chapter's main focus is on De Palma's Carrie adaptation, although Zinoman nicely leads up to that film by moving from the aforementioned divorce story, through De Palma's formative college years, and his early film work. Through descriptive passages, Zinoman relates how an experience De Palma had while sitting in the audience at a performance of Dionysus In ‘69, which he was preparing to film in split-screen, led to an idea for the key prom sequence in Carrie. Zinoman also delves into how the film departed from King’s novel, and a volley between Buckley and Irving over which of their characters should survive Carrie’s massacre (throughout filming, it was not known who would be the one to survive).

All in all, a terrific chapter full of new information that fills in some major pieces of the De Palma puzzle. I said that this book is essential to any research on De Palma, and in that respect, I would put it on a shelf along with The Film Director As Superstar by Joseph Gelmis, The Movie Brats by Michael Pye and Lynda Myles, Brian De Palma by Michael Bliss, The De Palma Cut by Laurent Bouzereau, Double De Palma by Susan Dworkin, The Devil’s Candy by Julie Salamon, Brian De Palma: Interviews, edited by Laurence F. Knapp, Brian De Palma, entretiens avec Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, and Les mille yeux de Brian De Palma by Luc Lagier. There are other great books out there that feature insightful analyses of De Palma’s work, but the books mentioned above include interviews and provide priceless bits of information useful to anyone studying the films of Brian De Palma.

UPDATE: ZINOMAN SOUGHT OUT INTVS WITH THE PEOPLE WHO KNEW THEM BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS
Today (Monday, July 11 2011) Complex posted Matt Barone's interview with Zinoman, who says he wanted to get the stories behind these films that haven't been told before:

The biggest challenge for me, though, was…. There’s a really excellent and dedicated sect of horror press that covers every single one of these movies all the time. There are so many wonderful blogs, and, seeing the response to my book, it’s hard not to be impressed by how smart all these people are. So one of the biggest challenges was: Wes Craven has been interviewed thousands of times, so how do you get him to recreate what it was actually like in the early ’70s to make The Last House On The Left, in a way so that it’s not him repeating the same stories that he’s told over and over again?

So, my goal with this book was to root it in reporting. There are definitely criticisms in it, and I have a strong point-of-view, but I wanted to really tell a story. I wanted it to read like a narrative, with these horror directors and writers as the main characters. and I wanted it to be rooted in original reporting. I found that spending long periods of time interviewing them was very helpful. Talking to a lot of people who don’t usually get interviewed was also key, like supporting actors, family members, people who went to school with these directors, childhood friends.

I tried to really look at sources from back in that time; I didn’t want to talk to people who are higher-level fans or made movies starting in the ’90s or later. I looked at it more as, “Who knew Brian De Palma before he was famous? Who went to college with him?”; Wes Craven’s wife from back before he made The Last House On The Left. Those people I found were excellent sources; they had firsthand knowledge of what was going on, that wasn’t informed by the fact that they’ve been telling the same stories for thirty years. Often times, I got a fresher perspective talking to those people, and once I talked to those people I went back to Craven and De Palma, joggled their memories with the stories I’d heard, and then I got all-new memories from these filmmakers.


Posted by Geoff at 11:17 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, July 11, 2011 7:19 PM CDT
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'THE ULTIMATE HITCH COOKBOOK'

Hitch from Pascal Monaco on Vimeo.


Posted by Geoff at 11:40 AM CDT
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011
NEW BOOK LOOKS AT MODERN HORROR
'SHOCK VALUE' AUTHOR MAKES CASE THAT DE PALMA'S FILMS ARE HIGHLY PERSONAL
A new book on modern horror films that officially comes out tomorrow (Thursday, July 7th) has been getting quite a bit of pre-release web publicity this week. In the book, Shock Value, New York Times writer Jason Zinoman looks at the way horror movies changed in the 1960s, moving through the early 1980s, and, according to reviews, blasts several myths about these films and their makers along the way (notably citing "the problem with Psycho," and how these filmmakers responded to that "problem"). See reviews from Drew Taylor at the Playlist, Joe Meyer, Bookgasm's Rod Lott, and Johnny at Freddy In Space, who says he'll never look at a De Palma film the same way again. That's apparently because Zinoman begins his discussion on De Palma by relating the story about how as a teenager who wanted to impress and help out his mother, De Palma spied on his father (a doctor), and caught him cheating with his father's nurse. Zinoman, it is said, links this story to De Palma's films in a way that he argues makes them highly personal, and not the cold exercises in pure style they are often mistaken for. NPR's Fresh Air posted an audio interview, as well as an excerpt from the book.

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 8, 2011 6:50 AM CDT
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Monday, July 4, 2011
DAUGHTERS AND DOLLS
THE RAGGEDY ANN FILES, CONTINUED...

Back in 2003, I posted the above stills, which had been sent in to me by Manuel from Spain. Each set shows a curiously large Raggedy Ann doll in a girl's bedroom, each placed prominently enough as to be no mistake in prop or set direction. The Sisters shots are interesting, as they show the feminist-figure Grace infantilized, back in her bedroom in her mother's house, answering a detective's questions with a programmed response that nobody can make any sense of. The shots from Raising Cain show the doll looming large over Amy's bedroom, perhaps foreshadowing the presence of Margot, looming as the guardian of the kidnapped children.

A couple of days ago, while looking through the set of screen shots from the upcoming Obsession Blu-Ray over at DVD Beaver, I noticed something in one of the shots that I had never noticed before: a small Raggedy Ann doll belonging to another girl named Amy, also kidnapped...

I quickly thought about other girls' bedrooms on display in De Palma's films, and set my DVD player in motion to check them out. I found no Raggedy Ann dolls in Gillian's bedroom in The Fury, nor in the girl's bedroom in Femme Fatale. In the comments below, JF says they spotted a Raggedy Ann in Carrie, so I double-checked, and spotted that one, as well. I also discovered another little Raggedy Ann doll, shown in two separate scenes, in The Untouchables...

So, taking the four films' diegetic timelines into account, we have Raggedy Ann dolls in four separate decades: the 1930s (The Untouchables), the 1950s (Obsession), the 1970s (Sisters), and the 1990s (Raising Cain). I'm not sure what these dolls mean, but they are a minor, yet intriguingly consistent, presence in De Palma's work.


Posted by Geoff at 2:16 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 31, 2013 9:13 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 3, 2011
'DRESSED TO KILL' BLU-RAY SEPT 6
SAME DAY AS 'SCARFACE' BLU-RAY
September 6 will be a big day for De Palma fans who have a Blu-Ray player, as two early De Palma classics are released that day. FOX and MGM announced this past week that they will release Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill on Blu-Ray September 6th, with all the same extras as the regular DVD a few years ago. Earlier this year, Universal announced its Scarface Blu-Ray, also for September 6th. Judging by the cover of Dressed To Kill, shown here, the Scarface date may have had a lot to do with FOX's strategy to release Dressed To Kill on the same date (re: "From the director of Scarface).
(Thanks to Paul and Christopher!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:38 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 3, 2011 12:43 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 2, 2011
'OBSESSION' REGION-FREE BLU-RAY OUT JULY 11
U.K. ARROW VIDEO RELEASE INCLUDES 'WOTON'S WAKE' & 'RESPONSIVE EYE'
DVD Beaver has a review (including several screen grabs) of Arrow Video's Blu-Ray edition of Brian De Palma's Obsession. The region-free package will be released July 11. And what a package-- included on a region-free disc for the first time are two of De Palma's early short films, Woton's Wake and The Responsive Eye (the review says the shorts are "in rough shape," but at least they are there. Also included in the package is an exclusive collector's booklet featuring a new essay on Obsession by Brad Stevens, and Paul Schrader's original, uncut screenplay for the film.
(Thanks to Sergio for the link!)

Posted by Geoff at 4:11 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
WATCH 'DIONYSUS IN '69' ONLINE
COURTESY UBUWEB
UbuWeb, the independent resource that posts materials for noncommercial and educational purposes, has uploaded Dionysus In '69, the split-screen documentary of Richard Schechner's play filmed by Brian De Palma, Robert Fiore, and Bruce Rubin that was released in 1970. Back in March, UbuWeb uploaded De Palma's documentary The Responsive Eye.

Posted by Geoff at 12:15 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:16 AM CDT
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Monday, June 27, 2011
LARRY KARASZEWSKI ON 'GET TO KNOW YOUR RABBIT'
AT TRAILERS FROM HELL

Posted by Geoff at 6:14 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 27, 2011 6:24 PM CDT
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