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Sunday, August 18, 2013
NEW DE PALMA INTERVIEW @ THE GUARDIAN
AND REMINDER: DE PALMA TO DISCUSS 'PASSION' ON STAGE TOMORROW IN NY


The Guardian's Damon Wise posted an interview with Brian De Palma today. The article begins with De Palma sighing about critical reactions to Passion and saying, "I just like to shoot beautiful women, as elegantly as possible." The "elegant" part seems in contrast to critical reactions that use words such as "sleaze." Continuing, De Palma tells Wise, "It's kind of a lost art. I mean, I don't think anybody's interested in it any more. I'm always surprised when I get critical reactions saying my films are sleazy." Wise writes that De Palma then laughs, and continues, "What's sleazy about them? They say they're 'erotic European trash'. I'm like, 'What are they talking about? These women look fantastic. I spent a lot of time making them look as stylish as possible!'"

De Palma tells Wise about the Afternoon Of A Faun ballet sequence in Passion: "I've been fascinated by that ballet for years. It was on YouTube. It was shot in the 60s, a very grainy black-and-white video. I loved the idea – the dancers are interacting with each other and looking at themselves all the time. It was a shocker when it was first done, because it was so explicitly sexual. So I always wanted to use it. And when I saw the Corneau film, there was a scene where the detective says to the suspect, 'Where were you?' She says, 'I was at the ballet.' And I thought, 'Wow, now I have a place to put it.'" {Note: in the Corneau film, it was "at the movies", and De Palma saw the opportunity to make it "at the ballet" for his version.]

"I GET OFFERED A LOT OF THINGS I'M NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN"
Wise gets into the discussion of big screens and smaller screens, and De Palma laughs and tells him, "I saw Vertigo in VistaVision – in 1958 at Radio City Music Hall. No wonder it made an impression on me!"

"Nevertheless," Wise writes, "as his movies seem to be getting smaller again (Passion is being released here only on DVD), De Palma says he is not struggling to find work."

De Palma tells Wise, "I get offered a lot of things I'm not really interested in. I can work on big budgets, little budgets. I'm just interested in doing what interests me."

At the end of the article, Wise asks De Palma about potential retirement. De Palma tells him, "In the words of William Wyler, when the legs go, that's when you've gotta pack it in. My cinematographer is older than I am. He does Almodóvar's movies. He's 74. I watch him standing up all the time. I say, 'Why don't you sit down?' He says, 'If I sit down, I fall asleep.' I think that's waiting for me."

REMINDER
Tomorrow night (Monday) at 7pm, De Palma takes the stage at the Film Society Lincoln Center, where he will discuss Passion and take questions from the audience. The hour-long event is part of a series called "Summer Talks". The Lincoln Center website states, "Complimentary tickets will be available only at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center box office on a first-come, first-served basis. Limit: One ticket per person." Video of each discussion will also be posted on the website (Filmlinc.com). Passion will open at Film Society on August 30.


Posted by Geoff at 2:41 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 11:11 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:13 AM CDT
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Saturday, August 17, 2013
50/50

Posted by Geoff at 11:03 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:13 AM CDT
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Friday, August 16, 2013
DE PALMA TALKS PREPARATION, MOTIVATION
"IF YOU HAVE A PLAN TO RETURN TO, IT AFFORDS YOU THE ABILITY TO FREESTYLE"


Tom Seymour at Ideas Tap posted a terrific interview with Brian De Palma yesterday, focusing on aspects of filmmaking such as preparation, improvisation, and motivation. When asked by Seymour how much preparation he does before he shoots a film, De Palma replies, "Pre-production is extensive. For Passion, I spent years laying out the whole movie with computer architectural programs. I scouted the locations myself and storyboarded every shot in the movie. I spent a lot of time working out the lighting for the surrealistic aspects of the film.

"Every film I make, I try and incorporate new technology in order to pre-visualise the movie from beginning to end, and modern programmes allow you to do practically everything. So I designed each storyboard, and when it came to printing them out, I had these huge stacks of the whole movie; I knew exactly what I wanted minute from minute on set."

Seymour then asks if De Palma believes in improvisation on the set. "Yes," De Palma replies, "you have to adjust your vision for the film according to what happens on the day. I focus really intently when I’m on set. I’m always looking for emotional shifts, for little interactions between the actors, for what’s happening to the weather or the light. If you have a plan to return to, it affords you the ability to freestyle a little bit. Filmmaking is like catching [lightning] in a bottle; you have to be adept at looking at what’s going on at that moment, because if it’s on the film it will be there forever."

STILL A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE THE BOUNDARIES OF CINEMA
When Seymour asks what motivates him as a director, De Palma replies, "I’m motivated by big cinematic ideas and broad canvasses. I believe deeply in the big screen. A lot of independent films now are walking and talking movies, which hold little interest to me, while the top of the industry is dominated by comic books. There’s a lot of opportunity for people to explore the boundaries of cinema still – even if they’re working on a $2,000 budget – and I’d encourage anyone to do that."

Seymour concludes by asking De Palma for his advice to young filmmakers. Read the answer to that, along with the rest of the interview, at Ideas Tap.


Posted by Geoff at 8:41 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 15, 2013
TWO MORE 'PASSION' REVIEWS
"A RARE ITEM OF AUTHORIAL PERFECTION, EVEN IF EXPERIENCE ITSELF NOT PERFECT"
A couple of interesting Passion reviews were posted the other day. Michael Ewins begins his review with this paragraph:

"If there’s a more definitive auteurist statement put to film this year than the dazzling split-screen centrepiece of Brian De Palma’s Passion – a close-up on trembling female eyes and puckered lips; a showering blonde; an elegant ballet; black gloves and a giallo mask – I’ve yet to see it, and frankly I don’t want to. A lithe, luscious and serpentine thriller, varnished and executed to perfection, Passion is equivalent to Cocteau’s Orphée (1950), Fellini’s City Of Women (1980) and even Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) as a summation, examination and evolution of the aesthetic and thematic motifs of a director’s cinema – it is a rare item of authorial perfection, even if the experience itself is not perfect."

Ewins states that, "like the best of De Palma, Passion evokes such a precise feel through framing, light and editing that you could follow the story just as well with the sound off," adding that "the fever-pitch finale is a wordless, cross-cut masterstroke." He concludes with the following two paragraphs:

"A final note – watch it twice. A first viewing will find you figuring out the tone, nodding toward the references and enjoying the ride as it picks up traction. The second time around those initial twenty minutes sit more comfortably – a whirlwind of office politics, sexual betrayal and callback setups (it threatens us with a doppelgänger motif and then holds it back for the duration), it plays more self-aware in the knowledge of what follows, and you gather that the slightly undisciplined structure is all in service of a greater good – those juicy auteurist cues.

"Passion is an extraordinary return to form for De Palma, and its presumed (not to mention expected) awfulness turns out to be gleeful, self-aware genre abandon – this is a mucky, perverse world full of ludicrous twists and turns, flashbacks, lesbian trysts and pill-popping anti-heroes. If you’re not having fun, you’re just not doing it right."

KEITH UHLICH ON 'PASSION'
Keith Uhlich posted a Letterboxd review of Passion, in which he states, "I'm totally with this movie right from the moment Rachel McAdams chokingly says, 'It's organic.'" Uhlich loves how Passion "is a tri-perspective thriller that moves from the cold, calculating blonde to the all-in vengeful brunette to the haunt-you-even-in-death redhead. The surfaces are so enticing, and the depth emerges from the collision of emblems—not just hair color but zeitgeisty products (Mac computers; Panasonic cell phones; an ill-fated Coca-Cola machine) and strata of art (an ass-cam advertisement that goes YouTube viral and the Jerome Robbins version of Afternoon of a Faun, which may or may not have actually been witnessed)."

Uhlich concludes, "The key scene for me is the one in which McAdams tearily talks about her twin sister (who of course appears subsequently with bloody scarf—this film's Hermès handbag—in murderous hand), if only because it brings me back to that great Mission: Impossible exchange between Jean Reno and Emmanuelle Béart, which concisely and poetically sums up the polarizing De Palma project: 'Is he serious?'/'Always.'"


Posted by Geoff at 1:09 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:10 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
'THE FURY' SCREENS AT EBERT TRIBUTE THURSDAY
FREE SCREENING IS PART OF SERIES AT UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
A new 35mm print of Brian De Palma's The Fury will screen at 7pm Thursday night as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cinematheque series tribute to Roger Ebert. The series summer opened July 12 with Carol Reed's The Third Man. Cinematheque director Jim Healy told Madison.com that with the series, he "wanted to showcase the sheer range and eclecticism of Ebert’s tastes, from the great movies he loved to the guilty pleasures he enjoyed to the little-seen underdogs he championed," according to the article by Rob Thomas. A sidebar with Thomas' article includes a quote from Ebert about The Fury: "I'm not quite sure it makes a lot of sense, but that's the sort of criticism you only make after it's over. During the movie, too much else is happening."

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013


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Monday, August 12, 2013
DE PALMA DISMISSES LINKS TO GIALLO
SAYS SCORSESE SHOWED HIM A FEW A LONG TIME AGO, BUT THAT HE NEVER CONNECTED
Cine Vue's John Bleasdale interviewed Brian De Palma at the Venice Film Festival last September, and posted the article today, as Passion is released on DVD and VOD in the U.K. and Ireland. Back when talking about Passion was still quite fresh for him, De Palma compared it to The Women (a film he mentioned briefly in a more recent interview), and also answered a question about the giallo genre his films are often compared with. De Palma tells Bleasdale that with Passion, "I set out to make what I thought was a clever mystery even cleverer. Redacted is completely driven by men and so making this we're doing the opposite. It's a bunch of conniving business women who are passionately entwined, and it's like George Cukor's The Women. It's all these women manoeuvring."

When asked by Bleasdale about the idea that Passion uses many giallo tropes, De Palma responds, "That's a genre I've heard a lot about, but I'm completely unfamiliar with. Martin Scorsese talks about them all the time. He's shown me a few movies a long time ago, but I've never connected with it."

"I SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SILENT MOVIE DIRECTOR"
Bleasdale brings up the split screen sequence in Passion, which leads De Palma to discuss his love of silent pictures. "In my whole career, I've been fascinated by long, silent periods which are punctuated and scored by music. I should have been a silent movie director. I just love that form. And I'm probably one of the few directors who's still practising it. Whenever I do a sequence in a film everyone says 'Yikes! What's that?' Why isn't everybody talking all the time. Everybody is brought up on television. All you have is heads talking to each other. It's very easy to shoot - a close-up here, a close-up there - but for me this is boredom. We have a big visual screen here, we can do all kinds of things with the camera, so I try to find material which lends itself to that."

De Palma also talks to Beasdale about how screens are getting smaller and smaller, how the "big spectacular movies" on IMAX are basically kids movies, and how at 71 years of age, Marvel superheroes don't interest him anymore. When asked if he worries about the future of serious cinema, De Palma replies, "No, because there's a whole independent cinema. It's cheaper to make movies. You can make a film with your high definition camera and edit them on your Mac, so you can make personal movies that cost nothing. Whether you write a novel or paint a painting, it's always difficult to get anyone to look at it." The interview concludes with De Palma contrasting his early days working for studios with today: "When you're making a big studio picture there are a lot of meetings and you're getting a stack of notes on your script. I grew up in the era when the director was the superstar and said, 'Fuck you, take your notes and throw them out the window.' And we got away with it for a while."


Posted by Geoff at 8:21 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:38 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 11, 2013
GREVEN ON 'OBSESSION'
IN CURRENT ISSUE OF CINEACTION (#90)
Issue 90 of Cineaction, available now, carries the theme of authorship. To that end, David Greven has written a terrific essay about Brian De Palma's Obsession for the issue. Titled, "De Palma's Vertigo," Greven starts out by stating that he thinks Obsession "is one of De Palma's finest" films. Greven suggests that instead of playing down the ties to Hitchcock in De Palma's work, as is the tendency of De Palma's supporters, "we should do the opposite." Throughout the article, Greven notes echoes of Hitchcock in Obsession, from, obviously, Vertigo, but also from Rebecca, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho, Dial M For Murder, Suspicion, and Marnie.

Along the way, Greven makes some keen observations about Obsession, such as this one about Courtland:
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"The ostensible hero of this film, Courtland is quite an ambivalently rendered character. While the movie sypathetically evokes his pain over the death of his wife and daughter, it also frequently invites us to regard him skeptically. He is a dark, brooding, disturbing figure, and De Palma's treatment of him is characteristic of the director's critical disposition towards American masculinity in his work generally. In my view, this is the most important political dimension of De Palma's work.

"A telling example of the film's detached position toward Courtland is the brilliant pure-cinema sequence in which he makes the drop-off of the fake ransom money, as a French-accented detective urges him to do, during the first kidnapping. Herrmann's score charges the entire sequence with grandiloquent portentousness. As he journeys on the ferry the 'Cotton Blossom' (which evokes images of the Old South), its huge red wheel churning in the water like the tragic gears of fate, Courtland, in dark sunglasses and dark suit, macabrely tapping his wedding-ringed finger on the black suitcase full of blank paper, seems more like the villain, a coldly impassive hired assassin on his way to a hit. If the sequence can be read as a critique of normative masculinity, an entirely incongruous but also richly symbolic detail reinforces this critique. A troupe of Boy Scouts scamper aboard the Cotton Blossom as it departs. We pull back to see, from a distance, the stoic, impassive, opaque image of Courtland standing on the deck as the Scouts board the ship. Later, after Courtland has hurled the suitcase on the wooden planks of the drop-off point, we see only the ghostly shadows of the Scouts. Here is the payoff of the Boy Scout motif, an eerie dream-image of boyhood and lost promise, suggesting that adult masculinity derives from a corruption of a former state of innocence. Even stranger is the shot of Courtland after he has dropped off the money, standing alone in a passageway, dark sunglasses and dark suit intensifying his dark-haired appearance, as the brown waters beneath the ferry churn. Discordantly, this shot further conveys the sense that he is a dubious, even frightening figure, far from the sympathetic male lead on the verge of losing everything."

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In the final paragraphs, Greven discusses potential allegories that can be applied to the climax of Obsession, and suggests that De Palma's chief identification figure in the film is not Courtland, but Sandra/Amy. Greven argues that Courtland should be read "as an allegorical figure of the Hollywood machine, the movie producer and studio head figured as the dark, dubious specter of male power." He's the one who finally "comes up with the money." Hitchock, then, fittingly, aligns with the dead mother. According to Greven, "Hitchcock is... the figure of the dead mother whom Sandra [De Palma's identification figure] obsessively copies but also strives to surpass, of whom she attempts to become the new and desired and, most importantly of all, living version."

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:37 PM CDT
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