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Monday, January 20, 2014
TWO RANDOM RANKINGS OF DE PALMA'S FILMS
ONE GUY'S "GREAT" IS ANOTHER GUY'S "EH", ETC.
Two random rankings of the films of Brian De Palma have popped up on the web within the past few days. While there is some consensus between the two as to the greatness of films such as Carlito's Way, Body Double, and Hi, Mom! (give or take a few degrees), the lists are probably more interesting for their differences. Alex Winthrow, who rated every De Palma film for a directors series at his blog, And So It Begins (those are some of his rankings pictured here to the left), ranks the "Be Black, Baby" sequence from De Palma's Hi, Mom! as "masterful" (he gives the movie as a whole a C+), while The Boar's David Pountain ranks that film at number two on his "Top 10 Brian De Palma Films" list, writing, "No other work from this director does a better job of exploring his beloved themes of voyeurism and the relation between life and art. Watch this film and you’ll see it staring right back at you."

Winthrow is tone deaf to The Fury, stating that it "is two different movies needlessly cut into one," and wondering why "the film shows its climatic moment thirteen times." But he is passionate about De Palma's Snake Eyes, writing, "I love Snake Eyes. All of Snake Eyes. Not an opinion shared by many, I know, but I just can’t help it. I love the amount of detailed trickery it took to pull off its opening shot, I love Nicolas Cage’s showy, but dedicated performance, a sneaky Gary Sinise, a curiously sexy Carla Gugino – there’s simply nothing about it that I don’t enjoy. In many ways, Rick Santoro is the perfect role for Cage. He’s gaudy, dirty, but equipped with solid morals, albeit ones buried deep. The character allows Cage to be his most, well, Cagey, while also providing him moments of great torment. Cage’s character anchors the film, so I suppose if he doesn’t work for you, the film won’t either. To say it still works for me would be an understatement."

And while Winthrow is disappointed by Mission To Mars, Pountain, ranking the film at number nine, feels that it is "in serious need of reappraisal." Pountain writes, "A film giddy off the wonders of life, Mission To Mars is an absorbing tribute to man’s potential for self-discovery through outward exploration. It’s also a testament to one man’s ability to take a Hollywood hack job with a corny script and turn it into a personal project with truly kick-ass results."

Another film they disagree on is The Black Dahlia. Winthrow calls it "one of the worst films everyone involved has been a part of. The plot is needlessly complicated, the execution of the story is puzzlingly clunky, and the acting is universally stiff." Meanwhile, Pountain, who generally seems more in tune with and more enthusuastic about De Palma's cinema, mentions The Black Dahlia as a "pretty great noir fever dream."

Pountain is also passionate about De Palma's latest, Passion, a film Winthrow feels is "too frenzied for its own good." As a remake of Love Crime, Pountain contrasts it with Kimberly Peirce's Carrie remake. "It isn’t just a film directed by Brian De Palma," writes Pountain. "It’s A Brian De Palma Film. This is evident in its formal detachment, its intense Pino Donaggio score, its indulgence in his pet themes such as voyeurism and sexual obsession, its inspired use of split screen, its playful references, its lack of true closure, its disorienting use of dreams and also, unfortunately, in its financial failure."


Posted by Geoff at 2:53 AM CST
Updated: Monday, January 20, 2014 2:55 AM CST
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Sunday, January 19, 2014
VOLUPTUOUS DOOM
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ COMPARES 'FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC' MUSIC TO DE PALMA'S
Reviewing the adaptation of V.C. Andrews' Flowers In The Attic that airs of the Lifetime network tonight, Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz states, "Mario Grigorov's score is a resigned lament, mourning the cruelty and suffering you've seen and are about to see; then in tense moments it rises in pitch and intensity, until it sounds like music you'd hear at the end of a Brian De Palma picture that ends in voluptuous doom."

Posted by Geoff at 8:47 PM CST
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Saturday, January 18, 2014
LEGUIZAMO TALKS 'CASULATIES OF WAR'
AND EDELSTEIN ON CRUDE PROPAGANDA OF 'LONE SURVIVOR', LACKS ART OF DE PALMA, FULLER, SPIELBERG
In 2011, we posted a video of John Leguizamo talking to ABC's Good Morning America about getting slapped by Sean Penn during take after take of a scene being shot for Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War. That video appears to be indisposed, but Contact Music's Michael West this week posted some quotes of Leguizamo discussing the situation. "I was a Latin guy," Leguizamo is quoted as saying, "and everybody would tell me to stay out of the sun so I could pass... for white... and I audition for this movie and I got the part of Corporal Murphy and then we get to Thailand and I go, 'Ok, shoot, there's a lot of sun; I forgot to put sunscreen on and I get really dark,' and they demote me - to Corporal Diaz... I was mad dark. Sean Penn is a sergeant and we kidnap this Vietnamese girl and we gotta gang rape her and my character refuses and Sean's gotta slap me into submission, and of course, Sean doesn't believe in stage combat because he's too method for that shit, so he's slapping me for real. We're on the 13th take and my face (is) out to here and you can't even understand the dialogue I'm saying and Brian De Palma's going, 'We have to do it one more time, John, it was out of focus.' So it's 'whack' and 'whack' and I'm about to quit and then they cut the scene out of the movie. I twitch every time he (Penn) comes near me."

EDELSTEIN ON 'LONE SURVIVOR'
Meanwhile, Peter Berg's Lone Survivor is a massive hit at the box office. Vulture's David Edelstein opens his review of the film by stating that "Berg’s film of Marcus Luttrell’s memoir Lone Survivor is frankly worshipful: It celebrates sacrifice and sanctifies agony. In an early training montage, Berg lingers on the young Navy SEALs’ sinewy limbs and ripped torsos, marveling (in slo-mo) at their ability to endure pain with manly, near-miraculous stoicism. The prep for war is itself a near-death experience, and it’s transmutational. These ordinary American guys — guys’ guys with pretty wives and loving families — are reborn as supermen.

"Luttrell, played onscreen by Mark Wahlberg, was the only SEAL standing (barely) after a 2005 Afghanistan mission to assassinate a murderous Taliban warlord went wrong. Nineteen Americans died, and Berg uses every cinematic weapon in his arsenal to make you feel each bullet as it rips through the warriors’ bodies, defiling young flesh that he has previously hallowed. The Taliban fighters take single shots to the head or chest and are dead before they hit the ground; the SEALs stay up, eviscerated but seemingly invincible. It is only the Alamo-like imbalance of forces that finally brings them down, and even then their deaths are 'good.' They’re radiant as they take their last, shallow breaths. War has ennobled them.

"I’m not being snarky or ironic when I say to Marcus Luttrell, 'Thank you for your service.' It’s important to separate the men described in his book from their depiction in movies like Lone Survivor, which is crudely written, rife with clichés, and leaves out anything that would transform a piece of propaganda into a work of art akin to Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet, Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War, or Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan."


Posted by Geoff at 4:11 PM CST
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Friday, January 17, 2014
COSTNER STEPS INTO 'SEAN CONNERY ROLE'
COMPARES PLAYING MENTOR IN NEW 'JACK RYAN' FILM TO CONNERY'S IN 'THE UNTOUCHABLES'
Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, and Chris Pine conducted a press conference recently for Branagh's new film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, wherin Costner talked a lot about Sean Connery's role as mentor in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, and how that informed Costner's own mentorship role to Pine's Jack Ryan in the new film. ScreenCrave's Damon Houx has a good transcription of the press conference. Here are the related Costner excerpts:
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Kevin, you were originally going to play Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October. I was wondering if you were already well versed by the time you came in to play the mentor role to Jack in this film?

Kevin Costner: The mentor role is always that ‘what can you offer a younger man, what can you offer a younger woman.’ That thing is in your level of experience, and so that by definition is the mentor if you have a level of experience. If you read it on paper, that’s the role that was meant for me. It was inhabited perfectly. Chris did his role, and what I liked about it was that I wasn’t just a person at a desk on a phone going, “Get the hell out of there. What the hell are you doing? Well, you need to do it faster.” Kenneth was able to say, “Wait a second. I want to incorporate some of your skill set into this where even though I’m a stupid-visor (laughs), if you would, a supervisor here, that I could take the gloves off so to speak and become involved and bring a physical presence and team up with him at the right moment. I thought that was unusual for the mentor role. Usually they’re back in Washington or they’re in a big, giant control room. In this instance, we were always fairly close together and trying to sort it out a little bit together. And, as the movie progresses, you see that he just possesses a lot of intuitive skills, whether it’s being out of set, how to survive or to process a lot of information in a very quick way, which I actually asked him a couple of times to slow down, remembering that I’m in another century. (Laughter)

...

Mr. Costner, at the end of the film, you refer to Jack Ryan as something of a Boy Scout, which reminds me of a number of your most famous roles, perhaps specifically Elliot Ness. I was curious how does it feel to suddenly step into the Sean Connery role?

Kevin Costner: I think the smarter directors do this a lot of times. They’ll take a supporting role and they’ll put a leading man in it because they either know how to inhabit the screen or inhabit it and nowhere was it better than when Sean Connery came in and played the little Irish street cop and you realized how formidable he was. I remember telling Sean at the time, I said, “Sean, this has got enough meat on the bone that you could win the Academy Award.” And Brian (De Palma) could have easily cast any character actor to bring up that Irish brogue or whatever that you would do, but he said no. He went arguably to the biggest star, the biggest star I’ve ever worked with in my life as I think Sean Connery was, to play this. And I think what happens is then he just knows how to hold onto the screen. And so, I have a feeling that that might have been swirling around in this genius’ head over there with what he wanted to do with William Harper.

I love the way you talked about your character and that he was a mentor. Was it easier to mentor in 1984 than in 2014? Was 1984 an easier time for an old shoe to tell a new shoe what to do and what the pitfalls were?

Kenneth Branagh: I think if there’s openness of communication, then the timing doesn’t really matter. And sometimes the mentoring doesn’t really happen directly. It just happens intuitively. I certainly found that working with Kevin on this. There were a lot of things that went on. I was so grateful to have a master director on the set. There are just lots of moments where effortless…not advice…nothing so sort of obvious as advice, but just shared communication about things, a conversation about how a moment in a scene might go or how things might be approached which just came out of an honest collaboration.

If that honesty of communication exists, whether it’s 1984 or 2014, I think it’s quite marvelous actually. And watching these two together was great as well in terms of just when people trust each other and when they’re very good at what they do and when their egos are at the service of the better idea and what is right for the scene. When you see that kind of generosity at work, it really is a thrilling thing to be part of and actually that cuts across age. It doesn’t mean old or younger. I’ve learned a lot from people much younger than me as well as people much older than me. So I think it’s about honesty and generosity, and we were lucky to be in an atmosphere on this project across this table as it were where that was at work.

Who was your greatest mentor?

Kenneth Branagh: My greatest mentor was the guy who was the principal of the drama school I attended. For the first six or seven pictures I made, he was on the movie as the acting coach. To give you a quick example of what he did for me, he was a very sensitive English guy. We were making a film of Hamlet. I was doing the To Be or Not To Be soliloquy. I was very nervous. I said to him that day, “Look, this is the acting Olympics here. I’m doing the most famous speech in Western dramatic literature. If you have any notes for me, I’d like them very early on, please.” So we started doing it. I did Take 1. I said, “How was that?” and he said, “I don’t have anything to say.” I did Take 2 and Take 3 and he did not have anything to say. I said, “Look, I think I’m getting it. I’m going to call this a print very shortly.” He said, “I think you should do another one.” I said, “Do you have anything to say?” He said, “Not at the moment.” So we get to Take 6 and I said, “Hugh, I think we might have it. Do you have anything to say?” He said, “Well, yes, yes, yes. The rhythm of it, absolutely extraordinary. The understanding of the language, fantastic. The pacing of it, marvelous. The timing of it, really extraordinary.” I said, “What’s the problem?” He said, “I simply don’t believe a word you’re saying. I would have absolutely no sense of the man. It’s safe. It’s acting. It’s showing off. You really have to do another one.” So a guy with those balls that close to me, it was very helpful. He was my greatest mentor.

What about you, Kevin? Who was your greatest mentor?

Kevin Costner: I tell you, I think an honest exchange is never out of mode, and it will be just as practical in 1984 as in the year that we’re dealing with. This is a business that’s pretty interesting. Unlike a lot of businesses, you get up in the morning and you have breakfast with the people you work with all day. You have lunch with them and you have dinner with them. The nature of acting, if you think you put three minutes of film in the can a day, that means you’re spending an enormous amount of hours getting to talk about people’s lives and their families. There are a lot of things that go on, on a set.

In terms of mentorship, it was probably Sean. He was a leading man. He carries himself as a man. I remember a big scene with De Niro and everybody, and we were all talking, and he finally told me, (mimicking Connery’s accent) “Mr. Ness.” I said, “What?” He said, “Sit down.” And I said, “Sit down right now?” And he said, “Yes. Just sit. It’s going to be a long day.” He just talked about not artsy fartsy stuff. He talked about sometimes just practical shit, like “It’s going to be a long day. Sit down. You and I are going to sit here and we’re going to watch, and when it’s our turn, we’re ready.” So, what better advice could one man give another on something so practical that I hate to use.

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Posted by Geoff at 1:36 AM CST
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Thursday, January 16, 2014
DEL TORO INTERVIEWS PAUL WILLIAMS
FOR ARROW'S 'PHANTOM' BLU-RAY; COMPLETE SPECS REVEALED
The not so bad news is that Arrow Video's Blu-ray release of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise has been delayed one week, to February 24th. The wonderfully awesome news is that the reason for the delay, according to The Swan Archives' News page, is because a 72-minute interview between Paul Williams and Phantom-fan Guillermo del Toro had to be delayed, and was finally shot "just a couple weeks ago on location at del Toro's man-cave," according to the Principal Archivist. "In addition to that brand new interview," reports the Archivist, "the extras on the Arrow disk will include a new featurette (scripted by our Principal Archivist, and utilizing our Swan Song Fiasco footage) discussing the last minute changes made to the film as a result of the claims brought by Peter Grant, which you can read more about, if you're so inclined, on our Swan Song Fiasco page. The disc will also feature all of our collection of deleted footage and outtakes, run together from beginning to end, available for the first time in a hi def transfer (which Arrow made directly from our archival camera negatives and interpositives). Arrow has licensed Deborah Znaty's terrific "Paradise Regained" featurette, which was first released on the Opening DVD in 2006, the "Carte Blanche" interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton, and William Finley's faux advertisement for the Phantom action figure, also from the Opening disc. Arrow is also using Randy Black's backstage photographs (which Mr. Black had unearthed specifically for the Swan Archives a few years ago, and which appear in lower resolution on our Production page). And, the collector's booklet that accompanies the disk contains some writings by our Principal Archivist, as well as new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth. In addition to our deleted footage, Arrow borrowed our radio spots, and will be stocking the release with the original trailers as well. In terms of technical features, the disc will showcase the film in 1080p with the original uncompressed stereo soundtrack (PCM) and a 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, as well as, for the first time anywhere, an isolated music and effects soundtrack (so that you can hear the incidental music without dialogue playing over it!)."

The rest of the Archivist's news post is worth reading for its details about how the Archivist was holding on to the outtakes and deleted scenes, in the hopes they could be used for a special edition just like this. "We attempted on numerous occasions to get in touch with Criterion," states the Archivist, "but they never responded. We made sure that both Brian De Palma and (Phantom editor) Paul Hirsch knew that we had the footage. We told Mr. De Palma that we'd be happy to deliver it to him should he so request; he told us that we should just hang on to it, and that the materials were better off in the Archives' hands. Mr. Hirsch told us that if anyone wanted to try to restore the film using our footage, he'd be happy to help."

Here are the complete specs for Arrow's Phantom, as posted at Blu-ray.com:

Special Features:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, available in the UK for the first time!
  • Original uncompressed Stereo PCM / 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio options
  • Isolated Music and Effects soundtrack
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Paradise Regained – A 50 minute documentary on the making of the film featuring director Brian De Palma, producer Ed Pressman, the late star William Finley, star and composer Paul Williams, co-stars Jessica Harper and Gerrit Graham and more!
  • Guillermo Del Toro interviews Paul Williams (72 mins, 2014)
  • The Swan Song Fiasco: A new video piece exploring the changes made to the film in post-production
  • Archive interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton
  • William Finley on the Phantom doll!
  • Paradise Lost and Found: Alternate takes and bloopers from the cutting room floor
  • Original Trailers
  • Radio Spots
  • Gallery of rare stills including behind-the-scenes images by photographer Randy Black
  • Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth and an exploration of the film's troubled marketing history by Ari Kahan, curator of SwanArchives.org, illustrated with original stills and promotional material
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress [Amaray release only]
  • Limited Edition SteelBook™ packaging featuring original artwork [SteelBook only]

Posted by Geoff at 5:42 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 11:10 PM CST
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'SISTERS' IS A 'FURIOUS WASP'S NEST OF A WORK'
"IS IT OKAY TO WATCH THIS?"
Brian De Palma's Sisters screened in Chicago last night as part of Doc Films' De Palma Retrospective, running Wednesdays through March at the University of Chicago. Cine-File included the screenings (it was shown twice) in the "Crucial Viewing" portion of its weekly guide to alternative cinema. Contributor Kian Bergstrom wrote very enthusiastically about the film:

"After a decade in training," Bergstrom begins, "making movies that are variously interesting (GREETINGS, THE RESPONSIVE EYE), fascinating (HI, MOM!, MURDER A LA MOD), or catastrophic (GET TO KNOW YOUR RABBIT), De Palma burst into artistic maturity with this astonishingly accomplished and subtle masterpiece. It marks the moment De Palma went from being the geekiest of the American New Wave brats to simply the greatest American filmmaker working, a title he's maintained with an almost unbroken string of subsequent wonders. Like many of De Palma's films, SISTERS is antagonistic towards its audience, barraging us with images of brutality, damaged bodies, damaged people, pushing us uncomfortably interrogating us at all times to defend our continual decision to keep watching. It is as though every segment were structured around a question, asked of the audience, as to whether the upcoming visual offense would finally prove to be too much for us to justify. Is it OK to watch this? would be film's ideal motto, with the emphasis on the question mark. At its heart are the Blanchion twins (in a disarming and mesmerizing performance by Margot Kidder), conjoined at birth but surgically cloven from one another as young women. A young model in New York, Danielle picks up a fellow game show contestant, only to find her erotic trajectory frustrated by her astonishingly creepy ex-husband, Emil. Eluding Emil, the amorous couple finds their way into bed together with the casual revelation that the next day will be Danielle's birthday. But that birthday brings with it not joy but murder as Dominique, the evil twin of sweet-natured Danielle takes control of the narrative. As always with De Palma, though, there's much more at play than there seems. Quick as a knife-strike, he introduces the real main character, Jennifer Salt's Grace Collier, a combative investigative journalist whose apartment overlooks the twins' abode. Desperate to discover who her strange neighbors really are, and what they really did with the body she saw killed there, Grace and a private detective pry into the history of the Blanchions, only to discover that peering to closely into their lives threatens indeed their own very existences. SISTERS moves rapidly through a succession of set-pieces, each extraordinary in stylization, exacting in execution, and monstrous in implication: invasions of privacy, hypnotism, madness, and horrifying errors of judgment. This is a film troubled by doubles, by two detectives, by two policemen, by twins, and also by duplication: the duplication of a person when death strikes, the duplication of an image by the television screen, the duplication of cells within a woman's womb, the duplication of space by the split screen. Many critics of De Palma see him as working in hermetic structures, narratives so precise and specifically and idiosyncratically realized that his films are comprehensible only when we understand them to be entries in grand artistic conversations with his inspirations (Hitchcock, Hawks, Lang, Welles). They miss so much: the nausea the film expresses towards the casual misogyny and power of the mysterious Emil; the fragility of the social world, as easily ripped to shreds as a Grace's thin shirt; the arbitrariness of the normal, broken and shattered by the slightest action. SISTERS is no insular work, pillaging all its best ideas from Hollywood's graying masters, but a living, beating, furious wasp's nest of a work, stable at a distance, but ready to explode with the slightest touch."

Posted by Geoff at 12:45 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
NEW TORNATORE FILM COMPARED TO DE PALMA
'OBSESSION' & 'FEMME FATALE' MENTIONED, AS WELL AS HITCHCOCK


OregonLive's Jeff Baker yesterday reviewed Giuseppe Tornatore's The Best Offer, which opens Friday in Oregon. Baker notes that this is Tornatore's first all-English film. "The movie, shot in Trieste and Prague, looks great and has a soaring score by Ennio Morricone," says Baker. "It wants badly to be a sophisticated Euro-thriller in the Hitchcock tradition. It ends up as a lame Brian De Palma knockoff, more Femme Fatale than Blow Out. The plot twists are telegraphed from one end of the villa to the other, and if you somehow missed something, Tornatore signals it with portentous dialogue or shows it in a flashback." Well, if we happen to love De Palma's Femme Fatale, will we love this movie?

The Chicago Tribune's Gary Goldstein states that "Although writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Everybody's Fine) certainly puts his own stamp on the intriguing art-world thriller The Best Offer, there's an effective dash of Hitchcock and even a soupcon of 1970s-era De Palma (remember Obsession?) tossed in for good measure."


Posted by Geoff at 1:06 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 8, 2014 1:25 AM CST
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Monday, January 13, 2014


Posted by Geoff at 7:52 PM CST
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Friday, January 10, 2014
'PHANTOM' RERELEASE IN FRANCE FEB. 26
AND JANUARY SCREENINGS IN NASHVILLE & CHICAGO
Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, which turns 40 this year, is part of the January line-up at Nashville's Cult Fiction Underground, a theater and lounge located in the basement of Logue’s Black Raven Emporium, according to Nashville Scene's Randy Fox. The film will play there on Saturday, January 18th. Meanwhile, according to The Swan Archives, Phantom Of The Paradise will get a theatrical rerelease in France beginning February 26th, courtesy of Solaris Distribution. Watch the trailer for the French rerelease at the Swan Archives news page. As noted two weeks ago, Phantom Of The Paradise will be screened in DCP as part of Doc Films' De Palma Retrospective in Chicago, which started this week. Phantom screens there January 22nd.

Posted by Geoff at 12:44 AM CST
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014 7:54 PM CST
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Thursday, January 9, 2014


Posted by Geoff at 7:34 PM CST
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