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Wednesday, March 5, 2014
L. COHEN WILL TALK 'CARRIE' IN OHIO FRIDAY
DURING FINAL WEEKEND OF 'CARRIE' AT BECK CENTER
According to Broadway World Cleveland, Lawrence D. Cohen is so impressed by the "rave reviews and vivid photographs" for Beck Center and Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program's production of Carrie the musical, that he will be in attendance Friday night, March 7, and will share his experience with both the movie and the stage show during a discussion following the performance. This will be the final weekend for the production, which plays at 8pm Friday, 8pm Saturday, and 3pm Sunday. The article states that "Lawrence D. Cohen and composer Michael Gore reached out to Director Victoria Bussert with a congratulatory note and accolades for her creativity in capturing some of the technical challenges the show presents."

Posted by Geoff at 9:16 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 9:19 PM CST
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CST
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Monday, March 3, 2014
TRULY EXCEPTIONAL

Posted by Geoff at 12:56 AM CST
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OSCAR'S 'HEROES' INCLUDE UNTOUCHABLES, M:I
The theme of last night's Oscars telecast was "Heroes", and included time-filler montages of all kinds of movie heroes. One montage, introduced by Sally Field, included a clip of Ness and Malone talking in the church from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. In another montage, introduced by Chris Evans, a quick-clip from De Palma's Mission: Impossible showed Ethan Hunt landing on top of the train after blasting himself from the helicopter.

Posted by Geoff at 12:12 AM CST
Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 12:12 AM CST
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Saturday, March 1, 2014
THREE 'CARRIE' LADIES IN PORTLAND TODAY
AFTERNOON AT MOVIE MADNESS VIDEO, EVENING 'CARRIE' SCREENING AT HOLLYWOOD THEATER


We previously shared the poster for tonight's screening of Brian De Palma's Carrie at Portland's Hollywood Theater, but it turns out there's more: the three actresses (Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, and PJ Soles) who will be on hand for the Q&A at the screening will also be on hand for autographs this afternoon, from 12:30-3pm, at Movie Madness Video. It sounds like you may be able to get a photo taken, as well, for a fee.

Posted by Geoff at 2:35 AM CST
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Friday, February 28, 2014
'PASSION' IN NEW YORK, TONIGHT & SUNDAY

Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CST
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'PASSION' INCLUDED IN SEOUL UNDERRATED SERIES
'PARALLAX' SERIES RUNS MARCH 11- APRIL 13 AT SEOUL ART CINEMA, HONG KONG
Brian De Palma's Passion will be included as part of a film series at the Seoul Art Cinema. According to the Korea Herald's Claire Lee, the series is called "Parallax", and runs March 11 through April 13. Lee's Herald article states, "Seoul Art Cinema will screen 22 modern films it thinks are important or severely underrated. The featured filmmakers include Brian De Palma, Nanni Moretti, Abbas Kiarostami and Takashi Miike." Other filmmaker names in the series include Olivier Assayas and Bruno Dumont.

Posted by Geoff at 12:57 AM CST
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Thursday, February 27, 2014
'PASSION' COMPARED WITH 'TWIXT'
BRAD STEVENS: "IDENTITY, SEXUALITY & MORALITY HAVE ALL BECOME PROVISIONAL"
Sight & Sound's Brad Stevens reviews Brian De Palma's Passion, linking it with Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt, both of which have been recently released in the U.K. as straight-to-video titles. "For many years," Stevens states, "the phrase ‘straight to video’ had the force of an insult, generally being used to describe ‘B’ movies not good enough for theatrical distribution. Yet, at least in the UK, ‘straight to video’ initially meant something quite different, often referring to films considered too quirky for mainstream audiences." Stevens writes that as DVD took over from VHS, in the U.K., more and more of those unique films not getting theatrical distribution would simply receieve "no UK distribution whatsoever."

Stevens continues, "In recent months, however, the situation appears to have changed, with two works by important American directors – Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt (2011) and Brian De Palma’s Passion (2013) – making their UK debuts on DVD (thanks to Metrodome). The fortuitous juxtaposition of these titles underlines how much they have in common, both being concerned with the ways in which modern communications technology has obscured the distinction between reality and fantasy. Their endings, in which the protagonists appear to dream or imagine their own murders before awaking into a reality which may itself be a fantasy, are strikingly similar.

"I have written about Coppola’s film in more detail for Video Watchdog but De Palma’s is perhaps the more distinguished of the pair, if only because that cynicism which so frequently permeates his work ends up giving Passion greater thematic coherence – something which, for better and worse, is lacking from Twixt, Coppola’s optimism preventing him taking De Palma’s final leap into despair."

Stevens somewhat echoes Sara Freeman's essay on Passion, in which she suggests that the advertising businesswomen involved in the film's drama are each "living inside her very own Facebook profile or twitter account." But Stevens seems to delve even further into this idea-- here is another excerpt:

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De Palma has of course been dealing with the impact of imagery on both those who create it and those who consume it throughout his career. Hi, Mom! (1969) in particular now seems remarkably prescient in its portrait of a society wherein we record our everyday activities and end up staging them for the camera’s benefit. Passion updates this concern to the era of Skype, email and mobile phones, all of which De Palma sees as providing new opportunities for deception (including self-deception) and misrepresentation.

The plot involves a rivalry between two women working for a German advertising agency, the seemingly introverted Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) and her extrovert boss Christine (Rachel McAdams). Although the film is told mostly from Isabelle’s viewpoint, we learn almost nothing about her. Her sexuality, friendships, familial relationships, past life and nationality are all mysterious; as Christine tells her, “I don’t even know where you’re from or what you want.” Isabelle is the product of a social-media culture, creating herself through various manipulations and technological transactions, existing only to the extent that desires can be projected onto her by the people she encounters, ultimately disappearing into a state of uncertainty wherein everything is (or might as well be) a dream.

Stylistically, the film is divided into two parts. The first half is lit and framed like an episode of a television series about backstabbing among the jetset (Dallas, perhaps) while the second half is much lusher visually, with the kind of excessive mise en scène typical of this director. It is here that Isabelle abandons her former passivity and takes decisive action, successfully carrying out a complex scheme to destroy Christine. Essentially, she retreats into an ‘online’ world in which her fantasies can be realised without fear of exposure, and De Palma implies that this entire section is Isabelle’s dream.

But the earlier scenes take place in a world which is just as ‘unreal’, just as heavily marked by wish-fulfilment fantasies and stylish surfaces: Christine claims to have both a twin sister and a childhood trauma but may have invented both, and at times is so harshly lit that her face appears to be as white as the mask of herself she makes her lovers wear. This mask is eventually donned by Isabelle (who thus ‘becomes’ Christine) during a murder scene that might be a fantasy (but also might not). In a world where so many of our relationships are conducted via the internet, it makes little difference whether we are on or offline, awake or dreaming, guilty or innocent. Identity, sexuality and morality have all become provisional, subject to constant revision. As with Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch presidential campaign, it is always possible to hit the reset button and start again.

Monte Hellman’s Road to Nowhere (2010) shares many of these concerns and so far has not received any UK exposure. A few months ago, I wrote about a group of 80s films that critiqued American cinema’s dominant trends. These recent works by De Palma, Coppola and Hellman suggest the emergence of a new oppositional movement, one which challenges those hermetic CGI entertainments wherein the erasure of physical reality serves as a guarantee that we can leave our troubles at the door, that nothing will be permitted to disturb our involvement in corporate-controlled fantasies.

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(Thanks to Rado!)

Posted by Geoff at 1:57 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014 1:58 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
MORODER TO PRESENT 'SCARFACE' AT MOOGFEST
FEST RUNS APRIL 23-27 IN ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Giorgio Moroder will introduce a special screening of Brian De Palma's Scarface, for which he composed the score and songs, at the 2014 Moogfest, which runs April 23-27 in Asheville, North Carolina. Moroder will also discuss how he brought the synthesizer into film music during a festival panel called "Innovators In Electronic Music." The fest, according to its website, is dedicated to the synthesis of technology, art and music, paying tribute to the creativity and inventiveness of Dr. Robert Moog and to the legacy of the analog synthesizer.

Posted by Geoff at 10:32 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 10:33 PM CST
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CRITIC: 'PHANTOM' THRIVES ON DE PALMA'S EXCESS
AND IS PERHAPS DE PALMA'S "MOST BRECHTIAN FILM"
In a review for Arrow's new Blu-ray of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, Mostly Film's Blake Backlash analyzes how the film's song lyrics by Paul Williams work in conjunction with the film's themes and worldview. He also turns David Thomson's criticisms of De Palma upside down, embracing the very qualities that Thomson would use to dismiss De Palma with. Here are some excerpts from Backlash's inspired review:
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Because it is a musical, this is Brian De Palma’s best film. The opening number is ‘Goodbye Eddie, Goodbye’, a pastiche of 50s rock n roll that, amidst all the doo-wop sass, tells the story of a singer with a terminally ill sister and not enough money to pay for her life-saving operation. He kills himself because: Eddie believed the American people / Had wonderful, lovegiving hearts / His well-publicised end he considered would send / His memorial album to the top of the charts… and it did.

The song was written by Paul Williams (who also plays Swan, the film’s villain) and is a kind of bubble-gum overture, anticipating a number of notions that the film will kick around. So we’re turned on to the idea that this movie will be about how the music industry processes tragedy into sensation and sentiment in order to sell records. But the current of dark humour in the lyrics cuts that idea with a playful cruelty in the way it views Eddie:

Well you did it Eddie and though it’s hard to applaud suicide / You gave all you could give so your sister could live / All America’s choked up inside. The overall effect is a three-minute summary of a worldview which, while more on the side of art than industry, is still ready to stick a pin in the way artists see themselves. There’s wit there and that wit is a gift from Paul Williams to Brian De Palma.

David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film makes a case against De Palma that seems capture much of why people who don’t like De Palma, don’t like De Palma. According to Thomson he is ‘ready to control everything except his own cruelty and indifference. He is the epitome of mindless style and excitement swamping taste or character… He has contempt for his characters and his audience alike.’ I’m not sure. When things do go wrong for De Palma he seems burdened not with cynicism but with an excess of moist-eyed sentimentality. One can find both sentiment and cynicism in De Palma’s films but what defines him as director is his excess. So both the cynicism and the sentiment often get given free reign. And the films are visually excessive too. De Palma is fond of lurid and striking formal techniques – split-screens, long tracking shots, slow-motion, and splashes of vivid colour – which demand the viewer either fall in love or fuck off. And sometimes, when the visual excess, the sentiment and the cynicism are all cooking at once, he delivers scenes that are marked by a vivid, sick purity.

Paul Williams makes that sentiment, cynicism and purity sing. He heightens the cynicism with lyrics that have a verbal sharpness lacking in De Palma’s dialogue. And he lends depth to the sentiment with the kind of melancholy early-70s torch-songs that seem perfect for capturing sadness and regret...

There is another affinity between the songs and De Palma’s technique. Arrow’s lush and comprehensive Blu-ray release includes a long interview between Guillermo del Toro and Williams. In it del Toro talks about the stylistic eclecticism of the songs and draws a parallel with the variety of filmmaking techniques De Palma employs. One of the conceits of the film is that the songs of Winslow Leach, the sensitive singer-songwriter who becomes The Phantom, are supposed to be debased when they are given a pop rewrite by Swan. So Winslow’s heartfelt ‘Faust’ becomes a cheerful Beach Boy’s pastiche called ‘Upholstery’. Inevitably ‘Upholstery’ is about ten times as much fun as ‘Faust’. And the scene where we see it is performed is the best scene in the film...

When I’m in the right mood, I find this scene intensely pleasurable to watch. There’s something thrilling about the ways in which the layers of smartarse showing-off connect with one another. De Palma is trying to simultaneously reference and outdo Touch of Evil by having a bomb-in-a-car scene done with two simultaneous extended long-takes, instead of Welles’s one, and combining them in a split-screen, as characters move between both takes. The fact that the bomb is put in a prop car makes such intertextual riffing come off as light and playful, rather than stifling. There’s even a hint of a self-detracting joke, in the way the scene’s reworking of Touch of Evil mirrors the way Swann has reworked ‘Faust’ into ‘Upholstery’. And it’s just fun to be able to switch one’s attention between two different types of set-piece: the musical number, and the suspense countdown. Not only that, the two add a little pep to one another: I like how the ticking of the bomb compliments the song’s rhythm. I also like how the camera move on the right-half of the screen, which shows us first The Phantom and then Swann seeing the Phantom, works as quick bit of misdirection to distract you before the explosion in the left-half.

The scene has never looked and sounded better than it does on Arrow’s Blu-ray release. In previous DVD versions the soundtracks from the two takes tended to melt into each other, so the dialogue was impossible to make out. Arrow have cleaned up the soundtrack and used stereo to compliment the split-screen. That gives the scene a tingly immersiveness that adds to how much fun it is.

Early in his career De Palma talked about wanting to be the American Godard. And, since Godard attempted to take Brecht’s theories about theatre and put them into practice in the cinema, it’s maybe not too cheeky to call Phantom of the Paradise De Palma’s most Brechtian film. There is no attempt at realism. Winslow escapes from prison by climbing into a box on the production line he works. He’s half bursting out of the box and is accompanied by both guards and old-timey, silent-film chase music. But somehow the next shot is of the box falling off the back of a truck outside the offices of Swan’s record label...

In the closing credits William Shephard appears twice, for playing ‘Rock Freak’ and for doing the choreography in the climactic assassination/wedding scene. What this means is De Palma got him to do the kind of thing he did for Dionysus in 69, which was break down the barriers between the audience and actors. So you can see Shephard at the film’s climax dancing, getting in the extras’ faces, mocking Finley and causing trouble. De Palma filmed all this like he filmed Dionysus in 69, without really knowing what Shepard would do or how people would react. He also managed to film the carefully timed assassination set-piece happening at the same time. Then he and his editor Paul Hirsch put something together that interweaves uncontrolled excess and precision well enough to prove that De Palma is, at least sometimes, truly brilliant.

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Posted by Geoff at 2:16 AM CST
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