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Monday, November 18, 2013
NEIL MITCHELL ON HIS NEW 'CARRIE' BOOK
MOST SHOCKING SCENE TO HIM IS WHEN MARGARET THROWS TEA INTO CARRIE'S FACE
Neil Mitchell has written a new book about Brian De Palma's Carrie, as part of the "Devil's Advocates" series from Auteur Publishing. The book was released in the U.K. last month, and should be available in the U.S. early next year. BN1's Chris Sadler posted an interview with Mitchell last week. Here are some excerpts:
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Sadler: For you, what makes Carrie such a powerful film?

Mitchell: I think it’s the fact that nobody is left unscarred by what unfolds; they are either killed or, in Sue Snell’s case, left psychologically disturbed. That’s pretty unforgiving – young and old, intimately involved or a bystander, antagonistic or well meaning, they all pay a heavy price for the cruelty dished out to Carrie White.

Sadler: In the introduction to your book you touch upon your overriding sense of sadness for the character’s isolation. It’s a key element of the film, which I totally understand. Carrie, played brilliantly by Sissy Spacek, is a character that we have a lot of sympathy for, isn’t she?

Mitchell: We do, it’s a canny trick De Palma and Spacek pulled off. In the novel, King makes her a lot less sympathetic. In the movie, however, most of us will either relate to or empathise with Carrie. We all have either been Carrie at some point or known a Carrie – male or female – the runt of the class, always the punchline, forever the outsider. If we’re honest, most of us will also have probably joined in with ridiculing those figures as well. Of course, the most complex part of our relating to or sympathising with Carrie is that she goes on to massacre everyone, leaving us repulsed by her as well...

Sadler: How would you describe the director, Brian De Palma’s style, particularly for Carrie? Of course, he’s known for a split-screen technique, which was used rather effectively in this film.

Mitchell: It’s funny, I think the split-screen sequence in Carrie is effective too, De Palma, on the other hand, has since called it a ‘great mistake’, believing it takes the viewer out of what is happening. He’s a grandiose film-maker, very operatic. Slow motion, split-dioptre shots, canted angles, 360 degree camera movements – he draws attention to the film-making, but always in a way that complements the story in question. He really is a master of creating suspense and tension – visually and aurally – which he does so well in the prom sequence in Carrie. In fact, just about everything you would mark down as being anachronistic about De Palma’s directing style can be seen in that sequence...

Sadler: Describe the process of writing the book. Was it enjoyable and how much of a challenge was it, if at all?

Mitchell: It was hugely enjoyable, and a challenging too. I’ve edited a few film-books but this was my first solo authored project. Research is key, I spent a long time preparing – re-reading the novel, watching the film again, devouring everything I could find that had been written about both and De Palma’s career (there’s a lot), and then amalgamating that into what I personally thought about the film, about what it means to me. John Atkinson, the head honcho of Auteur Publishing, wanted the Devil’s Advocates series to be a mix of the personal and the academic – the format works well in my opinion. Some days I wrote for hours, sometimes I’d stare at the page blankly, I guess that happens to most writers. I’m itching to write another and have a few projects on the horizon.

Sadler: What would you say is the film’s most shocking scene?

Mitchell: It’s a film full of shocking scenes – the ‘plug-it-up’ sequence at the beginning, the prom night massacre and the hand-out-of-the-grave scene at the end – but the one that always gets me is, in comparison, relatively tame, but I find it horrid. It’s when Margaret throws her tea into Carrie’s face, it’s so contemptuous, disrespectful and abrupt. It’s obviously symbolic too: Margaret is literally pouring scorn on her daughter’s desire to go to the prom and be ‘normal’ like the other kids. It’s the banal, pitiful reality of it, who’d want to live a life like that?

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For more of the interview, go to BN1.

Posted by Geoff at 7:09 PM CST
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Sunday, November 17, 2013
INTERNATIONAL FILM JOURNAL FOCUS ON DE PALMA
ISSUE #4 OF 'LA FURIA UMANA' TO FEATURE MULTILINGUAL ESSAYS
La Furia Umana Paper Issue #4 will feature an extensive collection of essays about the works of Brian De Palma, in a variety of languages. Chris O'Neill is contributing an English language overview. There will be one other overview, and 19 essays covering individual films (three of which appear to be centered on Passion). Included will be Nicole Brenez' "The Impossible, Seriously", previously published at Senses Of Cinema. Thanks to Chris, we have a preview of the complete line-up below:

Chris O'Neill / Personal Effects: An Artist's Pursuit of His Cinematic Obsessions

Didier Truffot / Brian De Palma avec Rudolf Arnheim

Benjamin Léon / L’écran dans l’écran : Notes sur le plan-séquence chez Brian De Palma

Daisuke Akusaka / Farce in slow motion

Eirik Frisvold Hanssen / To look, to respond: vantage points and mixed media in Brian De Palma’s 1960s and 2000s

Raquel Schefer / The Early Politics of Brian De Palma

Alain Hertay / Hi, Mom ! ou les simulacres

Julien Oreste / Two Sisters. Brian De Palma & Douglas Buck

Jessica Felrice / Dread And Time Travel

Covadonga G. Lahera / Efectos personales: la huella de Some Came Running en Blow Out

Carlos Losilla / Naturaleza uerta. A propósito de Dressed to Kill

Fredrik Gustafsson / Body Double

Kim Nicolini / The World Is Yours: Tony Montana’s Paradise Pie in Scarface

Nicole Brenez / L'impossible au sérieux

Sigismondo Domenico Sciortino / Dell'inevitabile e del multimediale

Adrien Clerc / Quand les corps font écrans

Guillaume Rouzaud / Au-delà de la suture

Ricardo Adalia Martín / La cuestión humana. Cinco apuntes sobre Passion

Louis Daubresse / Passion pour le Tout-Image

Toni D'Angela / Il testo im-possibile : Passion

Monica Munoz Marinero / John Litghow, a imagen y semejanza

The issue also has a section of essays about Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without A Cause.


Posted by Geoff at 11:50 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 11:28 PM CST
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Saturday, November 16, 2013
GLOBE & MAIL'S ART OF JFK INCLUDES 'BLOW OUT'
"10 WORKS TO REMEMBER" IN THE YEARS SINCE THE ASSASSINATION
The Globe And Mail's James Adams has written an article headlined "The art of JFK: 10 works to remember." Introducing his list, Adams writes, "The President’s assassination and the events surrounding it have been a fount of inspiration for artists (and ‘artists’) of all stripes in the past five decades. Herewith some examples of their insinuation into the warp and woof of popular culture." Amidst works by Andy Warhol, Don DeLillo, and Lou Reed, Adams includes the Zapruder film itself ("the 26-second precedent-setter for the 'convulsive beauty' of Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, Taxi Driver and Scanners", etc.), as well as Brian De Palma's Blow Out.

"Films have feasted heartily on the assassination," Adams writes of the latter, "using it as either direct inspiration or riff bait. Blow Out’s one fun, heady concatenation, at once a variation on Antonioni’s Blow-Up and an interpolation of the themes and events of JFK’s assassination with Ted Kennedy’s 1969 Golgotha at Chappaquidick. John Travolta stars as the Zapruder-like witness – except here it’s a microphone and tape-recorder, not a Bell & Howell camera, that make him one troubled man."

Posted by Geoff at 8:32 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 16, 2013 8:34 PM CST
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Friday, November 15, 2013
'PASSION' PLAYS KINOMANIA IN SOFIA
SCREENING TONIGHT, SUNDAY, AND NOV. 28; FEST INCLUDES DE NIRO TRIBUTE
Brian De Palma's Passion will screen three times as part of the 27th edition of the Kinomania Film Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria. The festival, which opened last night with Lee Daniels' The Butler , continues through December 1st. Passion screens tonight, as well as November 17th and 28th.

The international festival this year includes tributes to Federico Fellini and Robert De Niro. The latter might as well double as a tribute to Martin Scorsese-- the four De Niro films being screened are Scorsese's Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, and The King Of Comedy. Other films in the festival include the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.

Posted by Geoff at 6:32 PM CST
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Thursday, November 14, 2013
TINA HIRSCH TALKS 'GREETINGS'
SHE AND DE PALMA SAT AND WATCHED ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE WINDOW TOGETHER
The Nashville Public Library's "Off The Shelf" blog featured William Chamberlain's interview with film editor Tina Hirsch on its "Legends Of Film" podcast last week. Hirsch appeared in Brian De Palma's Greetings and Hi, Mom!, so of course, Mr. Chamberlain, himself a big fan of De Palma's films, made sure to ask her a couple of related questions:
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William Chamberlain: You had a small role in Brian De Palma’s Greetings that was quite humorous, with Gerrit Graham. Was it improvised?

Tina Hirsch: Yes and no. Brian and Chuck [Charles Hirsch], the producer and co-writer, wrote the scene. As originally written, Gerrit Graham was, you know, he played a Kennedy assassination buff, and he wants me to blow up a picture taken on the grassy knoll to prove that officer Tippet is Oswald’s accomplice. And that he’s hiding behind a tree. I was supposed to answer that if he blew it up, all you’d see is the grain. I mean a funny side story is that that literally was a studio in which I was working as a photographer’s assistant, and I actually blew up those shots that are shown at the end. I told Brian that I couldn’t say that line, that the movie Blow-Up was all about that. I didn’t feel comfortable saying it without crediting the other movie. So my answer became something like, “You’re not going to be able to see anything. I’ve seen Blow-Up, I know how this turns out. You’re not going to see anything but grain the size of golf balls.” Years later, Pauline Kael, the movie critic for the New Yorker, quoted the line as one of Brian’s great citations. [Laughing] But, in fact, I was the one who cited Blow-Up. That’s the way it goes.

Chamberlain: You worked also with Brian De Palma on Hi, Mom! [as well as] Greetings. Was he talking about or thinking about going to the thriller genre? Soon after that, he directed Sisters. And before he was directing sort of these social comedies. Was he discussing, “Well, maybe I should do a thriller," or of that line?

Hirsch: No, not really. I mean, the only thing that touches on that is that, you know, we all lived in New York at the time, and I remember having dinner over at his place at one point. And he and I were both sitting facing the window, where we were watching all of the activities going on in the buildings around us [begins laughing]. And the two other people with us were chatting. I mean, actually having conversation [laughs some more]. And he and I were just staring at windows. So, I think his voyeuristic tendencies might have been what got him into thrillers.

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This is a good, interesting interview, running just under a half hour. Hirsch also talks about Woodstock, More American Graffiti, Mystery Date, Paul Bartel, and more.

Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2013 6:15 PM CST
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
PROJECTION BOOTH 3-HOUR 'BLOW OUT' PODCAST
WITH NANCY ALLEN, DENNIS FRANZ, FRED CARUSO, BILL MESCE JR.


The Projection Booth yesterday posted a three-hour podcast centered around Brian De Palma's Blow Out, including new interviews with Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz, producer Fred C. Caruso, and Bill Mesce Jr., the latter having won the Take One magazine screenwriting contest for what was known at the time as Personal Effects. The first hour of the podcast features the show's hosts, Mike White and Rob St. Mary, discussing many facets of Blow Out with Jamey Duvall of Movie Geeks United. At about the 49-minute mark, the Mesce interview begins. Mesce says he was never a De Palma fan, but knew he was a stylist, so instead of focusing on plot, he wrote what he thought was a very De Palma-esque script. However, he laughs that with this one, De Palma decided to do a non-De Palma-esque movie. Ultimately, Mesce says, De Palma's film kept a few lines of his dialogue, and that the closest to an entire scene of his that was kept was when Sally goes to visit Manny in order to get the negatives of the photos he took.

The Fred Caruso interview begins around the 1:36 mark. Caruso tells the podcast that it was his idea to include the Mummers Parade in the film's final act, as well as the fireworks going off in the background. Caruso says there was a big question from the studio and producer George Litto about whether Nancy Allen's character should die at the end. But De Palma said, look, that's the ending. If they like it, fine, if not, so be it. He also mentions that De Palma drew his own storyboards and had his entire office filled with them, from the first scene to last.

The Nancy Allen interview begins around the 2:06 mark. She talks about the heart and warmth that John Travolta brought to what on the page was a very dark piece. She also talks about how she and editor Paul Hirsch thought Travolta had to save the girl, but "John and Brian said nope, that's not happening." She also talks about the remake of Carrie (which she doesn't seem to have seen at the time of the interview), saying she is not a fan of remakes. She doesn't see the point unless you can somehow make it better, and doesn't think that is possible with Carrie. She and Paul Verhoeven did a Q&A after a screening of Robocop last year, and when someone brought up the upcoming remakes of that film and last year's remake of his Total Recall, Verhoeven said, "It's very depressing. I should be dead." Allen laughed and said she really gets that. Allen also confirmed that it was really her scream in Blow Out.

At about the 2:42 mark, there is a conversation with Dennis Franz, who at first says he does not remember much about Blow Out, having only watched it once around the time it was first released. But after the host mentions some things, Franz begins to remember a little more, including the fact that it was shot in Philadelphia, where Franz met his future best friend, who happened to be De Palma's driver at that time. Franz recalls De Palma calling him as Dressed To Kill was in theaters, saying, "Looks like we have a hit on our hands." De Palma asked Franz if he was interested in a part in this new thing he was working on. After listing off some of the potential roles, De Palma laughed. "Why are you laughing?" Franz asked him. De Palma said he had this character named Manny Karp. Franz immediately said, "I'll take it. You're laughing about him, I like the name, I'll take it." Franz told the podcast that once De Palma starts a job, he crawls into his shell and focuses, while Allen, who De Palma was married to at the time, enjoyed being social and having people over, which weighed on De Palma a little bit after long days on the set.


Posted by Geoff at 12:55 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 4:58 PM CST
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Sunday, November 10, 2013
FARRIS ON 'THE DEMOLISHED MAN', MORE
MORE FROM DUMAS' ARROW BOOKLET INTERVIEW


Following up on Thursday's post about Chris Dumas' interview with The Fury author/screenwriter John Farris, here are some more excerpts:

ON 'THE DEMOLISHED MAN'
Farris: "The film rights belonged to a Hollywood wannabe who was in the hotel business. I don't recall his name. Brian [De Palma] was attached to write the screenplay and direct and the project was set up at Paramount. Mike Eisner thought Brian's script needed work, although he was thrilled with the project, etc. I was brought in at Brian's suggestion. Read his draft, which I thought was excellent. I did a 30-page treatment, adding new angles but not straying far from the novel. Brian okayed the treatment. I did the new screenplay. Next thing I knew [Frank] Yablans was involved, took the project away from Paramount and gave it to Fox. There were heavy-duty politics involved in this move. But Fox passed and Brian was irate. For mnore on that story, you would have to talk to Brian. He never mentioned The Demolished Man to me again."

ON DE PALMA'S EARLY LIFE AND AFFECT ON HIS CAREER TRAJECTORY
In the interview (which was conducted via e-mail), Dumas tells Farris, "A friend of mine -- a grad student in film studies at the time -- once had an opportunity to as Oliver Stone about De Palma; Stone replied that De Palma was 'the saddest person' he'd ever met. (I assume that by 'sad' he meant 'despondent,' rather than something like 'pathetic.') Did he strike you as a melancholy sort?"

Farris responds, "Brian was 36 when he made The Fury. I found him to be somewhat shy, not overly talkative but humorous and engaging when his guard is down, intensely observant but not judgmental, far too intelligent to be anything but annoyed by the Hollywood game, impatient with anything or anyone that caused him to lose focus. And, I think, disappointed that his career hadn't taken off like that of his friends Spielberg and Lucas. Friends, but rivals, in what Brian has referred to as 'The Competition'.

"A friend of mine since high school had played the female lead in Hi, Mom! and had briefed me on her experiences with him during filming. As a fledgling director he gave her a tough time. But he was younger then, and still unravelling the emotional knots of growing up in a prosperous but dysfunctional family. I'm not trying to psychoanalyze him. Adolescence wasn't paradise for most of us. But having heard from Brian about certain incidents in his early life, which are strictly his business and will not be related here, it's clear that they profoundly affected the direction, or trajectory if you will, his career has taken. For complex studies of where his fascination with, and terror of women has led him creatively, try watching Sisters, Dressed To Kill, and Raising Cain one after another.When Dumas asks how these things came up in the context of writing films together, Farris answers, "That grew out of discussions over lunches at Musso and Frank's, relevant to the script of The Fury and how much of the relationship between Gillian and her mom should be in the movie. Also there is something about me that often has near-strangers eager to talk about moments in their lives they wouldn't confess to a priest. Basically I guess I'm just a good and uncritical listener."

FARRIS & DUMAS DISCUSS OTHER DE PALMA FILMS
Dumas asks Farris what De Palma films he had seen prior to working on The Fury. "I had seen Sisters, Obsession and Carrie," replies Farris, "brilliant exercises in what can be done when you have almost no money to spend. Other than what my actress friend had told me about Hi, Mom! I didn't know anything about Brian's student-film years."

Dumas then continues, "Have you kept up with all of De Palma's movies since then? You mention Raising Cain, which I still think is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, like Preston Sturges remaking Psycho -- did you have a similar reaction to it? I wonder what you thought of the particularly political ones, like Casualties Of War and Redacted and even Snake Eyes, and I especially wonder what you thought of Scarface, given its initial failure and its unprecedented second life on home video."

Farris then responds, "Scarface is my second-favourite De Palma movie, after The Untouchables. It has a near-hallucinatory quality, wonderful script and a visual flair to make any of his rivals in 'The Competition' envious. I also liked The Bonfire Of The Vanities. That one was a lose-lose situation for Brian, based as it was on an overhyped, revered 'masterpiece.' If you don't 'get' Brian, then you hate the movie. Pauline, where were you when he needed you?

"Casualties Of War is another good one. Haven't seen Redacted. As for Cain, I think it's a minor masterpiece waiting in the wings to be properly acknowledged by film scholars. The only movie Brian has made, and at a very stressful time, that is so obviously about himself."

UNREALIZED PROJECT: 'WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN'
Near the beginning of the interview, while telling Dumas how The Fury came together as a film project, Farris mentions another adaptation he and De Palma had been working on together. While working on the screenplay for The Fury between 1975 and 1976, Farris says, agent Bob Bookman "put me together with another client, Brian De Palma, to work on an adaptation of the Mary Higgins Clark best-seller Where Are The Children? which Brian was attached to direct. I spent a couple of months on a screenplay that would work. By then Brian was bored with the project. Carrie had been released and was a big success and he wanted something more challenging than a fairly mild mystery. 'What are you working on?' he asked me.

"So on January 17 we all met in Frank's office, agreed that day on Kirk Douglas as the lead, called him, and then the real work began. Seven drafts of the screenplay later, Brian began filming on a beach in Chicago."

Where Are The Children? was eventually made in 1986 by director Bruce Malmuth, with the screenplay credited to Jack Sholder. The film starred De Palma's friend, the late Jill Clayburgh, who had played the female lead in De Palma's first film, The Wedding Party. The plot/storyline synopsis on the IMDB has a similarity or two with the plot of De Palma's Femme Fatale, regarding a woman who loses her children (they are later found dead). After being convicted of their murder and then having that conviction overturned, the film moves ahead "seven years later," where the woman has changed her identity and hair color, and has a new life married to a realtor. One day she opens the newspaper and is stunned to see her picture in the local section.

SPOILER ALERT: Femme Fatale has a woman who has a premonition that she has assumed the identity of a look-alike who has committed suicide following the death of her child. The story moves ahead "seven years later" where a paparazzo takes her picture and it gets plastered in the streets of Paris, causing her to fear retribution from the thieves she had swindled in her earlier life.


Posted by Geoff at 2:14 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 10, 2013 2:57 AM CST
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Saturday, November 9, 2013


Posted by Geoff at 3:21 PM CST
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Thursday, November 7, 2013
FARRIS ON 'THE FURY', MORE
INTERVIEW IN BOOKLET FOR ARROW'S BLU-RAY OF 'THE FURY'
The Arrow Video release of Brian De Palma's The Fury on Blu-Ray includes a booklet which has a new interview with John Farris, who wrote the Fury screenplay from his own novel. This great interview was conducted via e-mail by Chris Dumas, who also wrote a new essay for the booklet titled, "Who's Afraid Of John Cassavetes?" Farris tells Dumas that he came up with the idea to blow up Childress at the end of The Fury. When Dumas asks whether he and De Palma had discussed the ending of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, Farris replies, "At the time we did The Fury, I hadn't seen it; I caught up to it years later. Brian never mentioned the movie to me."

SONG-AND-DANCE COUPLE
While telling Dumas about changes from his novel, Farris mentions a song-and-dance couple: "As Brian worked on The Fury from his particular point of view, he requested changes, additional scenes, and eliminated other scenes, including those involving the old song-and-dance couple. I liked those characters but Brian was right: by that point in the movie they just got in the way. Another, later scene between Robin and his psychiatrist/lover in her bath was filmed but just didn't work."

When asked by Dumas whether the scenes involving the song-and-dance couple were ever filmed, Farris tells him, "Donald O'Connor and, I believe, Gloria De Haven were signed to play the song-and-dance couple and construction was underway on their apartment set when they were cut from the script, a few days before we began shooting in Chicago." Dumas further asks whether any test footage might have been shot, and Farris answers, "Test footage on O'Connor and Gray? I don't think anyone tested for The Fury. Brian knew who he wanted and what they could do."

Farris indicated above that he wasn't quite sure about who the female half of the song-and-dance couple was. According to Dumas, Farris had originally stated that the female was Dolores Gray, but just before the booklet went to press, Farris told him he was mistaken, and that it was actually De Haven. However, according to a 2005 article at Classic Images, it was Vivian Blaine. The Classic Images article also suggests that the scene with the couple may have been shot and then left on the cutting room floor.

"The Fury starring Kirk Douglas and made at Fox cast Donald O'Connor and Vivian as a song and dance movie team, similar to Marge and Gower Champion," writes Classic Images' Colin Briggs. "With a very gory horror plot, it was based on the best selling novel of the same name. When the film was previewed it was way too long and as their parts were expendable (they both meet an extremely gory end) their scenes were excised. Vivian's comments: 'My fans were disappointed but have them know, the pay was tops.'” (Thanks to Bill Fentum for sending in this article a while back!)

WILLIAM FINLEY'S DUNWOODIE ASSASSINATION SCENE CUT DURING EDITING
Farris also reveals a couple of cut/altered scenes, saying that the bus ride in the final act was originally written as a ferryboat ride across Lake Michigan (it was cut due to "budget and logistic considerations," according to Farris). "as for locations," Farris tells Dumas, "Brian wanted to do the beach scene in the Chicago Museum of Art. No Chance. As you know, the scene with Dunwoodie shadowing the girls and tuning into Gillian psychically he later adapted to great effect for Dressed To Kill. Dunwoodie's assassination and a nice overhead shot of his sprawled body with beachgoers walking around it were cut in editing." (Note: this sounds very much like the way the death scene of the former Castro confidante killed by Tony Montana in the refugee camp near the beginning of Scarface was staged and shot. The character's physical features suggest that this dying figure could have been played by Finley himself.)

There's a lot more great stuff in this interview. I'll do a second post about it tomorrow.


Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2013 5:18 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
'PASSION' DVD HITS THE SHELVES IN RED
If you went DVD shopping today, Brian De Palma's Passion probably stood out amongst the other new releases, as the cover art was framed by its red plastic shell. Even the Blu-Ray edition is red instead of the usual blue. And to accentuate the lipstick color, the robe worn by Rachel McAdams in the film has been altered for the back cover (and the disc label-- see below) from green to red. Well, that's one way to help the product stand out amongst its competition.


Posted by Geoff at 11:00 PM CST
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