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Wednesday, August 28, 2013
DE PALMA Q&A AT NY 'PASSION' SCREENINGS
AND eONE POSTS LIST OF THEATERS SHOWING 'PASSION'
Thanks to Randy for pointing out to us that Brian De Palma is scheduled to be on hand for Q&As at the Lincoln Center screenings of Passion at 6:45pm on both Friday and Saturday (this weekend). Passion opens there this Friday, August 30th. Meanwhile, EOne Films, via Facebook, has posted a list of theaters in the U.S. that will be showing Passion when it opens this Friday.

Posted by Geoff at 9:56 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 12:06 AM CDT
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DE PALMA ON 'HAPPY VALLEY'
IDEA IS TO FAIRLY REPRESENT DIFFERING VIEWS ON WHAT HAPPENED
At last week's Summer Talks discussion at the Lincoln Center, our old friend Brett was in the audience, and got to ask Brian De Palma a question about Happy Valley. Here is my transcription of the exchange from the video of the event:

Brett: I know you’ve worked with Al Pacino in Scarface and Carlito’s Way, and as I understand, you’ll be working with him again in a new film about Joe Paterno. And I’m just curious, the first two being sort of tragic American stories, do you see your next film as like the completion of a trilogy of tragic American stories? And maybe, can you tell us a little bit more about this new production?

De Palma: Well, it’s indeed a tragic story, and it’s a part Al wants to play. I mean, that’s how it all started. You know, and it’s a great honor to direct Al. He’s, you know, one of the greatest actors of his generation. So, in order to tell it in a fair way, I mean, it’s sort of like Lawrence Of Arabia. Everybody has a different view on what happened. So the idea of the script is to try and represent each view equally, and let the audience try to figure out what exactly happened and who’s culpable.

On August 29, Vanity Fair posted an interview with De Palma by Jason Guerrasio, who also asked De Palma about Happy Valley, and about working with Pacino again. "It’s a fantastic part for him," De Palma told Guerrasio. "It’s almost like a King Lear–type of part. When you look at something like Scarface you see the incredible performance he gives. It’s always exciting for a director to work with someone like that." Guerrasio then asked if he and Pacino had talked yet about how he's going to play Paterno. "Oh yeah," De Palma replied, "we've exchanged extensive e-mails. It has begun."


Posted by Geoff at 9:43 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:19 AM CDT
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VIDEO OF LAST WEEK'S 'SUMMER TALKS' W/DE PALMA
"I PULL THAT RABBIT OUT OF THE HAT ANY TIME I CAN"

Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 6:45 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 5:39 PM CDT
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THE RANKING CONTINUES
DE PALMA FAN RANKS 28 FEATURES; 'SNAKE EYES', 'DAHLIA', 'M:I' ALL MAKE TOP 10
Jacob Knight at Very Aware has posted a wonderfully-written ranking of 28 Brian De Palma features (he left Dionysus In '69 off the list).

Throughout the article, Knight keeps a running focus on autobiographical elements in De Palma's films, citing, for instance, Jason Zinoman's profile of De Palma for the book Shock Value in his entry on Dressed To Kill (#4). Knight's top three De Palma films are (#1) Blow Out ("the ending... solidifies Blow Out as De Palma’s bonafide masterwork"); (#2) Phantom Of The Paradise ("a careening bullet of pop art"); and (#3) Body Double (a "cinematic explosion meant to intoxicate those who are as in love with form as its director").

Also in Knight's top ten are a couple of surprises: Snake Eyes at number six, Mission: Impossible at number eight, and The Black Dahlia at number nine. De Palma's latest film, Passion, ranks at number 17. Of the latter, Knight writes, "There’s something to be said about De Palma’s choice of setting for the Berlin ad office — a towering building made entirely of glass. Not only does it feel like an on-the-nose visual representation of the 'ceiling' all female employees face as they navigate the current corporate climate, but also a metaphor for the lack of transparency all of these characters share. While we the audience can see through the walls of this crystal shrine to capitalism, each character holds up a shield of deception to stop the other from seeing their next move. It’s a brilliant bit of location scouting, as De Palma yet again finds a perfect way to convey an idea without using a single word."

At the bottom of Knight's list is Raising Cain, which Knight feels is hurt by De Palma's seeming lack of interest in that type of thriller at that point in time. And he has The Untouchables at number five, writing of the latter, "This is pulp on an epic, exciting level that takes both balls and chops in equal quantity to pull off."


Posted by Geoff at 1:15 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 5:40 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
MORE DE PALMA INTERVIEWS
'PASSION', 'KISS KISS, BANG BANG', 'WISE GUYS', 'CAPONE RISING', 'HAPPY VALLEY'
Several more interviews with Brian De Palma have posted between yesterday and today. Fandango's Robert B. DeSalvo asks De Palma what justifies a remake. "If it's a very good basic story," De Palma replies, "like when people do different versions of Shakespeare, why not interpret it many different ways? I've always thought that when you see something that is really done well, maybe it could be done again with a different viewpoint. This is something you see in all the other art forms. Whether it is an homage or whatever you want to call it, there are certain basic stories that can be retold over and over again. I'm not surprised that these movies are being remade, and the ones that I remade were because I could bring something new to the basic material."

'WISE GUYS' WAS A BASTARD CHILD AT THE STUDIO
When asked if he favors any of his own films over others, De Palma tells DeSalvo, "Well, take a movie like Wise Guys. It's not one of my favorites because nobody at the studio ever liked it. It was given a go by one administration and they left, and then another administration came in. It was a bastard child that no one wanted anything to do with, so that was not a pleasant experience. But I liked working with Danny DeVito so much that we managed to soldier through it."

'RAISING CAIN' RECUT BY SOME YOUNG DIRECTOR NAMED PEET GELDERBLOM
De Palma brings up the Raising Cain Recut once again in response to DeSalvo's question about any films he would like to go back and change. "In Raising Cain," De Palma says, "I initially had thought to tell the story with the wife's story. But because John Lithgow was so fascinating playing these multiple characters, I started the movie with his story. Then some young director recut it and put the wife's story first. I looked at it and said, 'You're right. That's the way it should have been done.' So, yes, my initial instinct was correct."

A YOUNG AL CAPONE ON SCREEN
DeSalvo asks whether De Palma would like to see any of his characters come back for a sequel. De Palma responds, "We were working on the prequel for The Untouchables, so a young Al Capone. But I guess they are doing that on television now [on Boardwalk Empire]. We were working on the prequel for many years, but it was under the former administration at Paramount."

DE PALMA LIKES 'KISS KISS, BANG BANG'
DeSalvo asks De Palma, "What is a guilty-pleasure movie that you love that everyone else seemed to hate?"

"A movie I really liked that didn't do well was Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," replies De Palma. "It didn't do well at the box office, but I thought Shane Black did a fantastic job."

My favorite part of the interview is when DeSalvo says that "Passion is probably the first movie to feature someone using their toe to send a text." That leads into a discussion about how technology has changed the way we communicate with each other. When asked what is the "craziest criticism" he's ever read about him, De Palma replies, "That I'm a misogynist. I love women. I love working with women. I love to photograph them. I like stories where they are the principle characters. I'm interested in beauty and sensuality. That would be hard for someone who is supposed to be a hater of women."

NON-RETIREMENT & 'HAPPY VALLEY'
The interview concludes with these two exchanges:

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Fandango: Steven Soderbergh, who is 50, recently announced his retirement. Would you ever make an official announcement about your retirement like that?

De Palma: No, I would never make an announcement about that. I mean, who the hell cares?

Fandango: What movie would you like to make after Passion?

De Palma: I got interested about a year ago in the Joe Paterno case, and we're developing a screenplay for Al Pacino to play Joe Paterno. This is very distressing material, but I think we can make a really terrific movie from it. We're working on it now.

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DE PALMA ON KAROLINE HERFURTH & SEXUALITY IN 'PASSION'
In a brief interview posted by Ned Ehrbar at Metro New York, De Palma discusses the sexuality at play in Passion: "I just let the girls go with the scene and just sat back to see what would happen. The way that Dani [played by Karoline Herfurth] offered herself to Isabelle [played by Noomi Rapace] — 'Kiss me!' — and then starts to undress her! [Laughs] All the girls, all their intimate stuff, was all improvised. They just play it. They make it as real as possible. If something’s not working, we try something else, but they were all fantastic, and it was just fascinating to watch them."

SPOILERS - ROUNDTABLE FROM LAST YEAR'S TIFF
Slant's Fernando F. Croce yesterday posted his edition of a roundtable interview De Palma did at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. In discussing the viral ad in Passion's narrative, De Palma said, "I originally had thought of an incredibly more complicated commercial, all these dreams on top of one another. It got a bit too much like Inception. I showed it to a few director friends of mine, and they all said, 'What are you, crazy? Simplify!' [Laughs]"

At one point, De Palma is asked what his intention was with the split screen in Passion. He responds, "My intention? Now, what could that be? One interpretation is quite simple: Noomi is at the ballet. We're showing her watching the ballet at the same time somebody is stalking Rachel at her house. On the half of the screen where you see the ballet, we cut to a close-up of Noomi's eyes. [Mock-excited] Aha! Well, she must be at the ballet! She couldn't possibly be at the house, now could she? Meanwhile you see all these things going on back at the house, and when the POV shots start we don't see any more close-ups of Noomi's eyes. Viewers have become conditioned to expect A to lead to B, and accept it without question. The juxtaposition of the images on the screen seals a destination on viewers' minds, but do we go there or do we undermine it? Again, the important thing is to look actively at what's unfolding before us."

Asked how the screenplay influences him as a director, De Palma replies, "I tend to start with the camera. Some directors start with the characters and then proceed from that. Paul Thomas Anderson is a good example of somebody who builds his stories from the people on screen. Same thing with Noah Baumbach. They're very different from the way I do it, but that's why I like their movies. When I think of a scene, the people in it and what they're saying are just one element in a visual frame. And I like to use the entire frame instead of cutting from shot to over-the-shoulder shot, which I find very boring and TV-ish. I love when actors can play the scene continuously, the way you see in many films from the '40s or '50s. Maybe I'm becoming a bit anti-close-up in my old age. [Laughs]"

In discussing movie studios, De Palma mentions that Mission To Mars was affected by too many producer meetings. "As much as I want to think of myself as an outsider," De Palma says, "I've been able to work within the studio system for years. If your budget gets big, producers start to have too many meetings and chip away at the movie, which was the case with Mission to Mars. I guess it was around the time of Bonfire of the Vanities, the early '90s, when I started getting piles of notes, suggestions from the producers. In the beginning, in the 'day of the director' which is now long and far gone, you could make your movie and then preview it, say, in a theater in Texas and then be handed reports on audience reaction. You could still say, 'Sorry, that's it. I'm not changing a thing,' and get away with it. That's become harder and harder, and the directors of my generation just no longer have the stamina to deal with it. Hence our crotchetiness. [Laughs]"

When asked if he has any comments on Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, De Palma pauses, then chuckles before saying, "There's something very interesting about books like that. Here's my question: 'Who's talking to the writer?' Is it the unhappy ex-girlfriend? The bitter producer? The partner who got screwed out of some deal? They sure do a whole lot of talking, don't they? But the people who were actually making movies during that time period? They don't talk. Like me, for instance. You don't see me participating much in these books, which strikes me as very gossipy and reductive. You know, feeding into the whole sex, drugs, and rock n' roll myth."

PODCAST INTERVIEW FROM LAST YEAR
And finally, yesterday Rooftop Films posted a "Filmwax Radio" podcast in which De Palma is interviewed by Adam Schartoff. The interview appears to be from about a year ago, when Passion was still playing film festivals and prior to having a U.S. distributor. There's discussion of Passion, as well as Redacted, and more.


Posted by Geoff at 8:24 PM CDT
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DE PALMA INTERVIEWED BY DREW TAYLOR AGAIN
WESTERNS, 'LONE RANGER', 'THE SEARCHERS', 'DEMOLISHED MAN', 'MINORITY REPORT', ETC.
Last month, Drew Taylor posted an interview with Brian De Palma at The Playlist. Now it seems he's done another interview with De Palma, this time for moviephone. Sounds good to us-- Taylor asked De Palma some interesting questions, such as whether he has any desire to do a western. "Interesting that you say that," De Palma tells Taylor. "I think a Western is a very interesting genre. Unfortunately, I think The Lone Ranger has put it away for another couple of decades." When asked if he's seen that film, De Palma replies, "I was dying to see The Lone Ranger. I thought it looked great. And it was gone from the theaters before I had a chance."

Taylor asks De Palma is he has an idea for a western that he would like to make. "I just like the terrain," De Palma tells him. "There was this terrific book called The Searchers [The Making of an American Legend]. It's fascinating. The terrain is what interests me. Of course "The Searchers" is all about Indians who kidnap white women and turn them into wives and what happens when they get re-rescued. It's a fascinating idea that John Ford did a couple of times but, yes, I think it's a great genre and has been neglected for quite a while. The problem with doing a Western now is that they don't have the stunt men and the people who ride horses like they used to. When I did The Untouchables we had the scene where everybody is on a horse; in the old days when they had one western after another, you had stunt men and actors who could ride. That's not the case anymore."

After discussing Passion, Taykor turns the discussion to Redacted. "It's of course very similar to Causalities of War," De Palma tells Taylor, "and I was well aware that the film was not going to be well-liked in America because in America you can never criticize the troops. Of course that wasn't the case in the rest of the world." Asked if he was ultimately happy with the attention that film received, De Palma replies, "Of course. That's why I made it. I felt that our involvement in Iraq was criminal and we had invaded this country and destroyed it and then left and now we wonder why it's a chaotic mess. It just reminded me of the whole Vietnam thing and I was extremely incensed and I tried to put it in a movie."

'THE DEMOLISHED MAN', 'MINORITY REPORT', 'HAPPY VALLEY', NO DESIRE TO RETIRE
Here is the final stretch of the interview (you can read the entire thing at moviephone):

----------------------------------------

I wanted to ask you about a movie you had wanted to make called The Demolished Man. It was allegedly similar to a movie your friend Steven Spielberg made, Minority Report.

I saw Minority Report and told him how good I thought it was.

Was it similar to what you were going to do with Demolished Man?

Well. Sort of. The Demolished Man is a great piece of material that's owned by Paramount, if I recall. There were many screenplays that were written that I'm sure are over there in a vault, just millions of dollars against the material. It would have been a very big movie to do and probably not going to be done by me.

How are things going with Happy Valley?

We have a very good script and we're in the process of boarding and budgeting it now.

Do you want to return to bigger studio material afterwards?

I have a couple of projects I'm working on and people send me stuff all the time, like how this project came to me. Some of them I think are good ideas and some of them I don't. At my age, I'm trying to enjoy my life. Because what we don't have is a lot of time. [Laughs]

Do you ever think about retiring?

No I have no desire to retire. I just want to enjoy my time. Every day above ground is a good day.

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Posted by Geoff at 1:13 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 1:14 AM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 12:29 AM CDT
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Monday, August 26, 2013
DE PALMA LOOKS AT 'SISTERS', 'DRESSED TO KILL'
AND HOW THEY INFLUENCED 'PASSION'; CALLS SPLIT-SCREEN A MEDITATIVE FORM


The New York Times' Nicolas Rapold posted an article online last night in which Brian De Palma joins Rapold in the back of a Greenwich Village restaurant to watch and discuss sequences from his own films (a version of the article appears in today's New York print edition of the newspaper). Rapold states that De Palma was "originally invited to view classical films that influenced Passion," but that he playfully responded with, "I could only refer to my own films. Nobody does this but me."

The three films looked at are Sisters, Dressed To Kill, and Passion. Watching the split-screen sequence from Sisters, De Palma tells Rapold, "I don’t know where I got this idea. The thing about split screen is: It’s a kind of meditative form. You can go very slowly with it, because there’s a lot to look at. People are making juxtapositions in their mind. And you can have all this exposition mumbo jumbo on one side." Regarding the hiding of the dead body in the movie, De Palma tells Rapold, "The producer said we could never put anybody into a sofa bed, and I shot it in one shot to show that you can in fact fit somebody into the sofa bed."

The article then moves on to the final dream sequence of Dressed To Kill:

-----------------------------------

White nurse’s shoes inch along, while Ms. [Nancy] Allen is observed in the shower. Ms. Allen’s character hears something, spots the killer’s shoes — and panics. The sequence cruises on with a mesmerizing, almost narcotically heightened suspense that’s one of Mr. De Palma’s specialties.

“You make this stuff as slow as possible,” he murmured. “You’re just agonizingly building up.”

And then there are the shoes: “A lot of people have made remarks about the white shoes. Creepy white nurse’s shoes.”

--------------------------------

'PASSION' - DE PALMA HAD AN INSTINCT ABOUT THE SPLIT SCREEN SEQUENCE
Watching the split-screen juxtapositions in Passion, De Palma tells Rapold, "You’re lulling the audience. I had no idea how it would work. I just had an instinct about it. This is your very typical point-of-view murderer shot, but here juxtaposed against this beautiful ballet." As they earlier watch Rachel McAdams on the right side of the screen, De Palma tells Rapold, "I told her, ‘Just get yourself ready,’ and she could make that as long or as short as she wanted. I would just cut it."

Posted by Geoff at 12:43 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 26, 2013 6:06 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 25, 2013
EBERT.COM CRITIC INTERVIEWS DE PALMA
AND RANKS 27 OF DE PALMA'S FILMS, WITH 'PASSION' IN TOP 10
Roger Ebert.com's Peter Sobczynski posted an interview with Brian De Palma the other day, discussing Passion with a SPOILER WARNING. "In a weird way," Sobczynski says to De Palma, "with the increasingly cruel treatment that Christine perpetrates on Isabelle, the film sort of reminded me of Carrie, minus the supernatural element and with the cruelties transplanted from the locker room to the board room…"

"That is true," replies De Palma. "In Carrie, she is being tormented by her fellow students and seemingly set up and destroyed by another woman. There is a similarity but I must say that did not occur to me as I was making the movie."

DE PALMA SHOT TEST OF BALLET TO USE WHILE SHOOTING MURDER SCENE
In discussing the split-screen sequence in Passion, De Palma tells Sobczynski, "I used this particular piece in order to juxtapose Christine waiting for her lover with a ballet having to do with two dancers in a rehearsal studio who are going through their exercises while there is a growing sexual tension between them. I thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition between the two venues of action. It is very intricate but the advantage is that I shot a test of the ballet before I actually shot that sequence and when I was shooting the material of Christine being killed, I had my test footage of the ballet to play it against in order to determine how one scene juxtaposed against another and how it was working. By the time I got down to the shooting of the ballet, which was during the last two days of filming, I knew exactly what I needed in order to properly juxtapose the murder."

DE PALMA KNEW FROM EARLY ROLES THAT RAPACE COULD PLAY VULNERABLE
Sobczynski tells De Palma that when he first heard about the casting, he had assumed Noomi Rapace would play Christine and that Rachel McAdams would play Isabelle. "Fortunately," De Palma replies, "I had seen these Swedish movies that Noomi had done before she had become this international star of the Dragon Tattoo films where she plays this demonic creature—films in which she played vulnerable characters and mothers—and had sort of a fuller grasp of her acting talent."

'PASSION' DISTRIBUTION; 'PARANORMAL ACTIVITY'; FAV MOVIE CRITICS & OTHER DISCOVERIES
In discussing the VOD and limited theatrical release of Passion, De Palma tells Sobczynski, "That is the strategy of the distributor—they are the ones that paid for the movie and they have an idea about the best way to exhibit it in order to maximize their investment. I have no idea if this is going to make the movie any more successful as opposed to opening it in a more conventional way."

When asked how close he came to directing Paranormal Activity 2, De Palma tells Sobczynski, "Not very. Basically, I think one of the producers was an admirer of my work and they talked about it but nothing really came of it." When asked about the current state of film criticism, De Palma says, "I think that some of the best film critics nowadays are on the web. Dana Stevens over at Slate, Stephanie Zacharek over at the Village Voice—they write some of the best criticism around."

The interview ends with Sobczynski asking De Palma if there are any of his lesser-seen films he might like to see rediscovered. De Palma replies, "The public basically decides the movies that are going to be remembered and you have named a couple of them [Scarface and Blow Out]. Anyone who likes a director's work is exposed to them by the best-of movies, and then they start digging. Take someone like Fritz Lang—you start by seeing things like Metropolis or The Big Heat and the other fantastic films that he made and then you start exploring the ones that are less well-known. I assume that is what people do with me—they know the movies that are well-known and then ask 'Who is this guy?' and start digging into the others."

SOBCZYNSKI RANKS DE PALMA'S FILMS - 'BLOW OUT' TOPS LIST
Also posted that same day is Sobczynski's ranking of 27 of De Palma's films. "I have compiled the following retrospective look at his entire career (minus one or two obscurities)," Sobczynski explains in the introduction. "Some are better than others but with few exceptions, they are all the work of a singular director with a singular vision that stand out all the more amidst its committee-created competition and which make even his weakest efforts more interesting than the best works of most other filmmakers working today." Sobczynski's top three are Blow Out ("De Palma's masterpiece"), Femme Fatale ("this may be the most purely De Palma film of them all"), and Phantom Of The Paradise ("one of De Palma's most wildly entertaining films").

Sobczynski ranks Passion at #7 on the list, stating, "the film as a whole is a sexy stunner that is De Palma's most satisfying work since Femme Fatale." In contrast to Jake Cole's list from earlier in the week, Sobczynski ranks The Untouchables at number 5. Some possible surprises on Sobczynski's list: Raising Cain makes his top 10, Snake Eyes up at number 12 (even though "the ending is a bit of a letdown"), and Casualties Of War all the way down at number 23 ("I must confess that it is one that has never quite worked for me that well," writes Sobczynski). All the way at the bottom of the list is Get To Know Your Rabbit.


Posted by Geoff at 3:29 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013 3:33 PM CDT
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