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Wednesday, June 2, 2010
P.J. SOLES TALKS CARRIE
DE PALMA: "NEXT AUDITION, BRING YOUR HAT"
P.J. Soles recently discussed her career to The A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin, where she talked extensively about her experience auditioning for and filming Carrie with Brian De Palma. Soles talked about how De Palma liked her overalls and baseball cap look, and how he expanded her role after casting her as Norma Watson. She also talks about getting a ruptured eardrum while filming the climactic scene of the film, and how De Palma's friend Steven Spielberg would come by and ask out all the girls in the cast, eventually landing a date with Amy Irving, whom he would go on to marry. At one point, Soles mentions that De Palma "was one of the rare directors who wanted us all to go to dailies." Below are some excerpts from the interview:

PJS: After the first boyfriend, I got married to a musician, Steven Soles, and we had a nice time together. It seemed that I really wanted to move to L.A., because the soap opera [Love Is A Many Splendored Thing] is fine, but it wasn’t something I wanted to stay with. I wasn’t especially a Broadway type. I liked film acting better. I didn’t want to stay up late. I wasn’t a smoker, a drinker, or a drug-taker. So that kind of Broadway life—not that that’s what they do. But they do stay up late and hang out at Joe Allen’s until 2 in the morning, and that just wasn’t for me.

So I left there and came to L.A. by myself, one suitcase, checked into the Magic Hotel right there on Franklin, right behind Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The first audition—this is the story of my life—when I first auditioned through my modeling agency, Nina Blanchard, they said, “Everyone in town is going to see Brian De Palma and George Lucas. They just want to see all the teenagers, so go up.” And I walked into the office after waiting two hours sitting on the floor in the hallway with everybody else, and we’re all young, so we’re happy and having a good time, you know, laughing. George Lucas and Brian De Palma are sitting in two chairs behind one desk, and they both just looked me up and down and Brian says, “I’ll put her on my list.” George just nodded. Then as I turned to go he said, “Next audition, bring your hat.” I was wearing the red baseball hat, which was something I really loved and wore, and it was me. And I had on a pair of overalls and a striped shirt, pretty much the outfit I wore in Carrie.

I got to go to the second audition, which was at Brian’s house. Pretty much everybody that ended up in the cast, he had chosen right away. We had three more auditions at his house before we actually did the screen tests. He just wanted to see which person fit which characters best. We took turns reading different parts and scenes in the script for a couple hours, then finally did the screen tests. I do remember that Jack Fisk was already the set designer, and he kept begging Brian to see his wife, Sissy Spacek, and Brian kept saying no, because he really thought Amy Irving was going to be Carrie. Finally, the day of the screen tests came, and Sissy had not been in any of the auditions, but she came in, and apparently when they watched the screen tests, she blew everybody away, and there was no question that she was going to be Carrie, which left Amy Irving with the other part.

AVC: Which is not a bad part.

PJS: Well it’s obviously not a bad part, but Carrie was the lead, and that’s what Amy—with her training at the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Arts in London—that’s what she was looking for. [Laughs.] But it’s okay. She ended up with Steven Spielberg, who used to come to the set all the time, because Brian said, “There’s a lot of cute girls down here. Come down to the set.” And he’d hang out and he’d ask us all out and none of us said yes, except for Amy. So she ended up marrying him. [Laughs.]

AVC: So Steven Spielberg asked you out?

PJS: Yes, and I just kind of giggled and went “Well, I’ll think about it. Hee-hee-hee.” [Laughs.] And Nancy Allen had her eyes set on Brian De Palma, who she eventually married. So right from the beginning—even though he had a girlfriend at the time—she liked Brian, and I was not particularly enamored. I did my screen test with John Travolta, and I went over to his place a couple times, but he and I were just really good friends. He was a really nice guy.

AVC: The actual filming process seemed pretty dramatic, like the part when you get knocked unconscious with the hose.

PJS: Well yeah, I wasn’t really knocked unconscious, but the fire hose they wanted to use to bat my head around, the fire chief said he wasn’t going to do it, that it was too dangerous, ’cause the force of the water would be too strong. And so Dick Ziker, the stunt coordinator, said, “Well, I’ll just man the hose. It’s okay, and we’ll just put less water pressure on.” But I guess he lost control of it, and it just burst out and flipped my head to the side, and the full force of the fire hose went into my ear and broke my eardrum. And when you break your eardrum, you lose your sense of equilibrium, so I kind of slid down to the floor. The grips came running over, picked me up, and brought me to my dressing room. So it wasn’t a concussion. I wasn’t knocked out, but I did have a ruptured eardrum, and for six months I had a loss of hearing, but my hearing is really good now. There is a little scar there, but it healed fine. Kind of bizarre.

AVC: Did you have insurance?

PJS: Well, you get workman’s comp and the insurance from SAG. You’re covered during the shoot of the movie, and I was covered anyway. I went to the doctor once a week. He gave me some kind of shots and pills and all kinds of stuff, but the pain was unbelievable, and you can see it on my face, they kept that in. When I have that one grimace and then supposedly die—[Laughs.] That’s me just kind of going, “Aahh!” Then my head goes back and as I start to slide out of frame, they cut. So that was kind of interesting, but most of the filming and everything was pretty good. And we had a great time, and we shot that prom sequence for like, two weeks. We were at the MGM Culver City studios, and they had little houses, dressing rooms all around the outside set, inside the soundstage, so we could be there all the time. You had to always get there around 6 a.m., because Brian never knew when you’d be in the background or when he would pull one of the actors and say, “Okay, you’re sitting here.” So everybody always had to be on set all the time.

[Rabin then asks Soles about The Boy In The Plastic Bubble, a TV movie from 1976 starring Travolta]

PJS: Yeah, that’s because [Travolta] was in that movie—and it’s just great. Brian De Palma was one of the rare directors who wanted us all to go to dailies. It was like a party. After shooting, we’d all walk over together, at like 5 or 6 o’clock, to the little theater. And we’d sit down and watch the dailies from like, the day before. And John Travolta, whenever I came onscreen, he was just laughing hysterically. He just thought I was a riot. I got to ad-lib a lot of stuff. I was really loose, because I really only had one line in the opening of the script when we’re doing the volleyball scene, and I say, “Thanks a lot, Carrie.”

That was my one line. I was originally hired for two weeks, but after those dailies, Brian kept me on. He called my agent and he said, “We’re keeping her on for the rest of the shoot,” and then he just stuck me in whenever Nancy Allen was in, or needed something. I was collecting ballots, or, you know, “They’re all gonna laugh at you,” and then the blood goes on her head and I push my elbow into whoever—Betty Buckley—and then, “Ha ha ha!” They start laughing, and that’s all improvised. It was all just added stuff. Obviously there was much more of that, and a lot of dialogue between Nancy Allen and I, and we were really funny. So John Travolta just loved that. And like I said, we had done our screen test together, so I’d gotten to know him, and he was a really nice guy. So when he had the opportunity to do The Boy In The Plastic Bubble, he brought me and a couple other people from the movie to just be the students and have some parts, because he wanted to help us out. I thought that was really sweet.

SOLES: STEPHEN KING WAS "BANNED FROM THE SET"
Moving on to talk about her role in John Carpenter's Halloween, Soles went on to contrast her experiences on that film with the filming of Carrie...

PJS: I heard, of course, through all the interviews that have been done over the years—I didn’t know at the time, but John Carpenter said he had seen me in Carrie, and that’s why they asked me to come audition, even though he felt from the beginning that he would hire me. But the audition, I guess, cinched it. He did tell me at the audition, after I read one scene, he went, “Wow. You’re the only one that read the word ‘Totally’ the right way.” And I went, “Well, how else would you say it?” And he goes, “Well that’s why you got the part.” And I went, “Oh, I got the part?” He goes, “You got the part. Can you stay and pick out your boyfriend?” And I went, “Sure.” That’s very rare, for an actress or an actor to go up and have a director actually give you the part at the audition. Usually, you have to wait, like for the doctor to call and say whether you’re going to live or not. [Laughs.] So it was kind of nice.

Carrie was a pretty big-budget movie at a real studio, with a director that had already done a bunch of things and had some notoriety, and Stephen King was the writer. He was banned from the set, but that was kind of an A-plus production, with a serious DP and blah, blah, blah and all that. So that was my first experience. But then with Halloween, the director was this genius wonder boy who was the writer, director, producer, along with his girlfriend. They were this team, and they were making this small movie, and it was just completely different, but it was really inspiring and a lot of fun, and also allowed me to do a lot of improvisation, because they just depended on the girls to expand their parts to bring some real life, being girls ourselves, to the characters. So it was a really collaborative spirit. We just felt like we were part of this small team, making this movie. Never a thought to, “Oh my God, it’s going to be a big hit and a huge franchise and it’s going to go on forever and fans are gonna love it.” It was simply, “Let’s try and make a good movie. And gosh, I hope I do a really good job with this part. So I can get another job.” You know? [Laughs.]

AVC: It sounds like you had a lot of faith in John Carpenter.

PJS: Yes, because he was very gentle. He was very tender. He really liked talking to actors. He really wanted you to be comfortable. He waited until you were ready to do the scene, and he has a lot of confidence. As with Rock ’N’ Roll High School, we usually only did one or two takes, because both films had a 21-day shooting schedule. You would have had to pick people that were gonna be part of the team, and be able to get the job done, and contribute more than what was on the page. So both of those experiences were similar in that way. Unlike Carrie, which, even though there was a lot of improv and everybody was really great, it was really more of a structured environment for Brian’s vision. I remember the first time we went to his house for one of those three auditions—his entire dining room, all the walls, were covered with the storyboards. It was like the entire movie of Carrie was drawn out on pencil and paper and taped up on his dining-room walls, and I was like, “What?” [Laughs.] “That’s how you make movies?”

AVC: Is there much of a separation between him as an artist and him as a person?

PJS: Well, I don’t know. As a person, I don’t know. He had a little bit of a sarcastic sense of humor. He wouldn’t say much after he’d shoot a scene, but if he smiled and said, “Okay, let’s move on,” then you’d know, “All right, they’re taking that take.” Otherwise, he’d go, “All right, let’s try it again,” but he’d never tell anybody how to do it again—maybe it was a technical reason, I don’t know, whatever. He wasn’t really a collaborative director with an actor, in terms of what you’re doing or how to change it, and maybe it was also because my part was not that big, and everybody, especially Sissy, who was the lead, knew exactly what she wanted to do. So he trusted that. In terms of the visual and what the scene was gonna look like and what equipment he was gonna use—like the spinning scene is Sissy Spacek and William Katt dancing—he knew what he was gonna do. He was more into technical aspects, the look of the picture. That was cool, because that made it a very successful movie, I think. It really was just a teen drama, yet he took it to another level, obviously with the telekinetic powers and just the look of the movie was pretty new for that time, 1976.

Later in the interview, Soles states that she is not sure why she was picked for a small role in Old Boyfriends, which was co-written by Paul Schrader, but speculates that it might have been "because Paul Schrader was friends with Brian De Palma. So he probably saw Carrie, he might have come to the set once or twice, I don’t remember." Soles also talked to Rabin about her role in 1999's Jawbreaker: "Yeah, well. [Writer-director] Darren Stein was a huge fan of Carrie and Halloween. He was like a kid. He was 26, so he was such a fan. He wanted William Katt and I, from Carrie, to be in the movie as the parents. We had a little bit more that ended up on the cutting-room floor, but that was kind of fun. It was fun to see William Katt again. His kids actually went to the same school as my kids. So I would see him from time to time and say 'Hi.' I thought that was a really good movie."


Posted by Geoff at 5:34 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 5:37 PM CDT
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Monday, May 24, 2010
GARCIA ON HIS "JAMES COBURN" SCENE
AND HOW DE PALMA TOLD HIM TO "FIGURE IT OUT"
A couple of months ago, Aint It Cool's Capone interviewed Andy Garcia and asked him about his experience making Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Garcia shared some interesting tidbits about his character's introduction within the film...

Garcia: Well, I remember my introduction scene in the movie where they come and recruit me was the last scene we shot in the film, if I remember correctly. And we started here like at the end of the summer, so by the time we got to that scene, it was snowing that day in Chicago, so it was like the beginning of Fall with early snow. It was very cold, and I always remember that scene, because it’s a scene, when I was a young man going to the cinema in the '60s I loved the movie THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and THE UNTOUCHABLES is sort of a take on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN in a way, which is a take off of THE SEVEN SAMURAI. So structurally, one guy going out to recruit a bunch of people to achieve this objective…I remember seeing THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and when James Coburn was introduced, who was the knife thrower remember?

Capone: Yeah.

Garcia: I said “Wow, what an entrance in the movie.” I think that’s the movie that made James Coburn and got him known as an actor. I remember as a child being so impressed by that scene and saying “I want to be that guy!” Being lost in that concept that was engrained in my mind, and my scene in THE UNTOUCHABLES is basically the James Coburn scene, there’s a gun and whatever and the sharp shooter instead of a knife, but it’s basically that scene.

IT "HADN'T FOUND ITS WAY INTO THE SCRIPT YET"
Garcia also told Capone about his reaction when he found out he would be riding a horse in the film. It is interesting that De Palma already had storyboards for this sequence prior to it being added to the script...

Garcia: For some reason, I also remember the conceit I had… When we were in Montana. We went to Montana to shoot this horseback-riding thing.

Capone: The bootlegging sequence right on the Canadian border, right?

Garcia: Right, but when it got to Chicago, Brian [De Palma] took me into a room and had this whole thing storyboarded, but with stick figures. Those were his storyboards, like “Here’s the three shot…” And he says, “Well, I’m going to have you guys on horses,” and in the script there was nothing to do with horses, so I was like “Brian, my character has never been on a horse… This guy’s from the Southside of Chicago…” He looked at me and he said, “No, no, he’s an expert horseman” and I go “How is he an expert horseman?” He goes “Fuckin' figure it out.” I said “Oh, thanks." The guy’s from the Southside of Chicago, now he’s going to be an expert horseman.” [laughs]

It was something that he conceived that he wanted to have us on horses, and it’s something that he adapted in the script, but hadn’t found its way into the script yet, and so me as an actor was like “Oh God… First of all, I’ve got to get on a horse.” So I started taking lessons at this equestrian center here somewhere in town or nearby where it had like a ring, so I got on the horse and I told the costumers “Find me a tie pin or a lapel pin, something that has a horses head just so I can have some sort of connection to…” So I concocted this idea and did some research, there were some stables in a Chicago park here in the inner city that my father or my grandfather as an immigrant, he was like a stable boy and he took care of the stables. When I was a little kid, I would go visit him and I was helping him in the stables, and that's how I knew how to ride. So I had to concoct this whole backstory just to justify “How does this kid from Southside Chicago become an expert horseman?” Then I had two weeks to be an expert horseman.

Capone: There you go.

Garcia: [Laughs] So that’s my UNTOUCHABLES story. Then I just had to concentrate on not falling off when the horses were going 40 miles an hour.

"SUMMER SCENES WE LOVE" AT CINEMATICAL
Meanwhile, earlier today, Scott Weinberg at Cinematical posted a "Summer Scenes We Love" featuring, out of all the great scenes in the film, the opening credits for The Untouchables, which are, of course, simply the best.


Posted by Geoff at 8:59 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, May 24, 2010 11:02 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 23, 2010
PARANORMAL GOSSIP ACTIVITY
IS THIS HOW DIRECTOR WAS CHOSEN...?
A "Blind Gossip" item from a couple of weeks ago was promptly "solved" when an overwhelming consensus of readers concluded that the item referred to Gretchen Mol and her husband Tod "Kip" Williams, the latter being the man who, out of the blue last March, was chosen to direct the sequel to Paranormal Activity, after many (including the IMDB) were convinced the job would go to Brian De Palma. Here is the "Blind Gossip" item:

This married writer/producer/director wanted to direct this much anticipated movie. A movie for which there was a lot of competition. Well, one day the producer of the movie came over to the director’s house to interview him for the job. While he was there the director’s B- list movie and television actress wife showed up. She sat in on the interview and made it perfectly clear to the producer that she was perfectly willing to f**k him right there if it got her husband the job. The next day the producer came over and our actress and he had sex. The director got the job. What he might not have expected though is that his wife who has done this kind of thing before has continued to sleep with the producer.

The Blind Gossip page then quotes a post from Entertainment Weekly, and suggests the producer in question is Oren Peli. However, if one connects the dots of those allegedly involved the way "Plum" did in the post's comments section, it seems more likely the producer in question is Jason Blum, who is producing Paranormal Activity 2 with Peli and Steven Schneider.


Posted by Geoff at 9:36 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 2:23 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
KOPPELMAN & LEVIEN TALK CAPONE RISING
KOPPELMAN DISSES DE PALMA'S "LEGENDARY" STATUS
During an interview with Coming Soon's Edward Douglas, Brian Koppelman has dissed Brian De Palma with some surprisingly uncalled-for remarks about what he perceives as De Palma's status as a "legendary" director. Koppelman and his writing partner, David Levien, who are currently making the rounds as co-directors of the new film Solitary Man, wrote the Untouchables prequel Capone Rising for producer Art Linson, who originally had Antoine Fuqua attached to direct before De Palma decided to jump on board. After all, De Palma did direct the first film, which was one of his biggest hits and remains a critical favorite. Douglas made a point to ask Koppelman and Levien about Capone Rising, which has been in development for quite some time. Here is what went down:

Levien: "The Untouchables" is a situation where Art Linson is the producer and like right in the beginning, before we finished a second draft, he attached Brian De Palma to direct it, and as De Palma's fortunes have gone in Hollywood over his last couple of movies, that's the future of where "The Untouchables" has gone.

Koppelman: On the list of legendary directors, I don't think Brian De Palma has a legitimate place... so most guys who are considered masters I love and admire, and I think De Palma has had a long free ride that's deservedly coming to an end.

[Douglas]: Really? So you're saying that as long he's attached to it, it will never get made?

Koppelman: I don't think it will. Hopefully he'll drop off the movie though, and then they can find a great director for it.

Levien: Mamet says that Hollywood is the most obvious place in the world, so [De Palma's] movies have done so badly lately that the studios [don't] want to hire him right now. If he finds a way to make a movie that is well-received and a big hit, then it's an obvious place, they'll probably think it's a great idea. It's just not something we can affect right now.

Koppelman: Linson is a true impresario and an awesome movie producer and if anyone can figure out how to revive that, he'll do it.

Levien: Or maybe at some point, De Palma will let it go or Linson will decide that he wants to take it to somebody else. Art's a really loyal guy to the guys he's worked with, so it's likely they're fine the way it is and they'll just make it one day. They play like a long game.

[Douglas]: At this point, it's doubtful you could get anyone from the original movie back.

Levien: That was never the intention, because it's the prequel, so it would have been weird.

"A GREAT SCRIPT"
I understand that De Palma's two most recent films have mostly been considered disappointments (even though his latest, Redacted, won him the silver lion at Venice), but for crying out loud, these films are promoted as being "from the director of The Untouchables." Why on earth would those involved want anyone but De Palma, if he is willing, to direct a prequel to his own hit movie? In any case, after De Palma came aboard the prequel, he hired David Rabe to do a rewrite, and everyone involved, from star Gerard Butler to De Palma himself, seems to feel it is "a great script." Hopefully it will get made.

Aint It Cool's Mr. Beaks also interviewed Koppelman and Levien recently. Mentioning that he is a huge De Palma fan, Mr. Beaks also asked the pair about Capone Rising. This time, Mr. Koppelman was considerably more cordial:

Levien: Art Linson's the producer, and he had the concept that it should be a prequel. Even though there's sort of a huge fudging of time. If you think about the length of Capone's reign, it's very short. There's no way that there could've been a young Malone at the same time that there was a young Capone; there was too much of an age gap. So we just fudged that reality, and it was going to be a young cop crossing swords with a young mobster on the rise. Yeah, so we wrote a script, and think it's a good Chicago gangland story. And De Palma, as far as we know, is the director of it still. He was attached a while back.

Koppelman: There are so many things... because Art is a strong producer, it's so far out of our hands that it's hard to tell. You can't find two guys who are bigger fans of the early David Mamet, so I think the idea of getting to play around in his backyard in that way was very appealing.

Beaks: Writing a prequel to a David Mamet script must've been daunting.

Koppelman: It was daunting, but it was also sort of exciting. We both know the original movie by heart, before we got the assignment to go do that.


Posted by Geoff at 7:20 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 2:21 AM CDT
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Thursday, May 13, 2010
REDACTED IN ARGENTINA
RETITLED AS "SAMARRA"
Brian De Palma's Redacted was released today in Argentina under the title Samarra. One particularly insightful review of the film was posted by Martin Stefanelli at ¡Esto es un bingo!. Stefanelli, who states that Redacted is the best movie on the invasion of Iraq, also states that the film hasn't even the slightest intention of telling the truth, suggesting instead that through its "classic" De Palmian gestures, the film constructs a narrative that is no truer than any news coverage. The narrative De Palma constructs, however, reunites images from scattered screens "with the intention of holding its own account of the war," according to Stefanelli. Above all, Stefanelli concludes, the film displays an enormous will to let roar an otherwise unheard voice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CDT
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Friday, May 7, 2010
SNAKE EYES AT IFC THIS WEEKEND
"CAGE HEAT: NICOLAS CAGE AT MIDNIGHT"
IFC Center in New York has been running a series called "Cage Heat: Nicolas Cage at Midnight." Tonight and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday) at midnight, they will be screening a new 35mm print of Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, which features a great dynamic Cage performance that starts off ultra manic but also skillfully carries the weight of operatic pathos.

Posted by Geoff at 1:29 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 22, 2010
CARRIE AT A WEDDING
DE PALMA'S FILM A HUGE IMPACT ON IT'S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE DIRECTOR
It's A Wonderful Afterlife is said to be a film that puts several genres into a blender with uproarious results. Director Gurinder Chadha talked to The Northern Echo's Steve Pratt about how she came up with the idea to bring the house down at a London-set Indian wedding by bringing in a bit of Brian De Palma's Carrie. Carrie had a "huge impact" on Chadha, according to Pratt, as the first horror film she'd ever seen. Here's how she tells it to Pratt:

The way this movie came together was I was watching a clip on TV, on one of these 100 great family film kind of shows, of Bend It Like Beckham [a hit film Chadha directed in 2002]. They’d selected the wedding scene.

I was watching at home and thinking ‘ah, I loved shooting that scene’. It was so much fun, it’s got all my relatives and friends in it. I thought I’ll never be able to make another film with a wedding scene unless I subvert it. That’s when I had the idea that it would be great to do an Indian wedding scene but turn it into the prom scene from Carrie.

I come up with ideas for films that no one else has made that I’d really love to see, particularly featuring the West London Asian community.

Ghosts on their own are not particularly funny, but Indian women as ghosts are funny to me. The same with the Carrie scene. Doing a Carrie scene on its own is just not funny but Indian women having samosas and curry thrown at them, that is funny.

Taking those moments and putting a cultural spin on them is funny for me. And for the Indian audience it’s like a breath of fresh air to see ourselves in this kind of movie because no one makes movies with Indian ghosts.

Chadha tells Deadline Hollywood's Tim Adler that she next plans to channel the spirit of David Lean for a historical epic about the Indian Partition.


Posted by Geoff at 1:15 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
CAIN FRAMES AT 10/40/70
A NEW APPROACH TO WRITING ABOUT FILM
Nicholas Rombes at The Rumpus has begun an experimental new approach to writing about film by choosing three arbitrary time codes of a film, freezing the frame, and then writing commentary based around each frame. The third film Rombes selected for this series, in which he freezes the frames at 10-minutes, 40-minutes, and 70-minutes, is Brian De Palma's Raising Cain. Of the frame pictured here, Rombes writes:

Lithgow, playing several characters, gives a wildly expressionistic performance, and the marvel of the film lies not in the usual De Palma trademarks (split and multiple screens, slow motion, long takes, extended tracking shots) but in prolonged shots like this, that allows the actors to act with their faces. There is nothing campy or ironic about Lithgow’s performance at this point. In nature, in the Garden, he witnesses the forbidden transgression, with sorrow, disbelief, voyeuristic curiosity, and lurking fury. In these moments, Carter is pitifully human, his combed hair, middle-class jacket, falsely-ordered life, none of this can compete with the perpetual crisis in his brain.

Posted by Geoff at 2:32 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 18, 2010
DRAGON TATTOO FILM ECHOES BLOW OUT
FINCHER TO DO AMERICAN REMAKE
Film projects come along every now and then that seem perfectly fit for someone like Brian De Palma. For instance, when I read the news this past week about Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell being signed to star in a formerly lost Stanley Kubrick project, the dark mystery Lunatic At Large, it immediately struck me that the material seemed suitable for De Palma (who also seemed to have had a solid working relationship with Johansson on The Black Dahlia a few years ago). Production Weekly stated that a director had not yet been confirmed, but that production would start later this year. Another De Palma associate, Edward R. Pressman, was at one time attached to produce Lunatic At Large, but no longer appears to be involved. In any case, according to a 2006 article in the New York Times, the 1956-set story, which was modern at the time that Kubrick originated the project with pulp author Jim Thompson, features promising set pieces which include "a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down," a "romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge," and "a nighttime carnival sequence in which Joyce [the main female character], lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow’s worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, the Human Blockhead, with the inevitable noggin full of nails."

Another film idea that seemed ripe for De Palma's touch is the American film adaptation of Steig Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which might also be described as a remake of the Swedish film adaptation of Larsson's Men Who Hate Women, which was directed by Niels Arden Oplev. The photo above is from Oplev's film, which, according to The Moviegoer's Paul Matwychuk, includes a scene where the main protagonist "uses a bunch of old photos to make an 'animated' film of [a missing girl's] last moments of freedom." Matwychuk adds that the "nicely edited sequence... holds its own against a similar scene from Brian De Palma’s Blow Out." De Palma a la Mod reader Kim Thompson agrees that the sequence "unmistakably" echoes Blow Out. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that David Fincher has signed on to direct the American film version-- should be interesting.

Posted by Geoff at 4:18 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 18, 2010 4:20 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
CARRIE AND THE RUNAWAYS
ALSO BLUEBEARD; AND EDGAR WRIGHT ON THE GREATEST SCENE EVER SHOT
More than one critic has been reminded of Brian De Palma's Carrie while watching The Runaways, Floria Sigismondi's biopic about the real-life all-girl rock band, currently in theaters (the film still hasn't made it my way yet, so I have not seen it). The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey states that the film "opens with a quarter-sized spot of blood hitting a sidewalk." Lacey continues, "The sidewalk is on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, the blood is menstrual – perhaps a nod to Brian De Palma’s crypto-feminist horror movie Carrie. Either way, it’s a declaration that this is teenaged girl territory."

Writing in the New York Press, Armond White notes that the "drop of menstrual blood at the beginning of The Runaways recurs in Bluebeard, Catherine Breillat’s adaptation of the 17th-century Charles Perrault fairytale." White adds that "for the cinema-savvy, Breillat’s film may also recall the opening sequence of Brian De Palma’s 1976 Carrie, where menstrual blood evokes shame and vengeance (same as in The Runaways)." Comparing the two newer films, White writes:

Both blood images are bold, modern signs of female coming of age, but Breillat, like The Runaways’ director Floria Sigismondi, is also advancing a consciousness of female being that rarely makes it to the screen. (This is especially surprising— and welcome—coming right after Kathryn Bigelow gets rewarded for fitting into the status quo rather than challenging it.) The best way to understand Breillat’s very free fairytale adaptation might be to appreciate its aggressive, almost punk-rock, impudence: Breillat uses female blood for an extraordinary, unnerving finale that climaxes the film’s confrontation with erotic myths that are taught to us—via religion and art—since childhood.

Click here for Armond White's review of The Runaways, in which he compares Michael Shannon's androgynous overplayed performance as producer Kim Fowley to that of Gerrit Graham’s Beef in De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise.

CARRIE AS ADULT FAIRY TALE
Speaking of fairy tales, Susan Kim, co-author of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, mentioned last December in an article for the Huffington Post that De Palma's Carrie "is one of the most whoppingly effective fairy tales ever made for adults." Kim continues:

It's a Gothic horror story, a supernatural fable about menstruation, the taboos surrounding it, and the power it can unleash -- filtered through a Roman Catholic sensibility and juxtaposed against 70s American suburbia. To some, it's a cheesey camp-fest; to me, it's one of the best horror films ever made and, I bet, probably the only one about primary amenorrhea.

Finally, Brenda at Moot Point saw both Carrie and The Runaways last weekend, and points out that the films are both set in the mid-seventies (Carrie was released in 1976, while The Runaways takes place in 1975). Brenda writes, "Both of them are about different ways the power of womanhood runs away with the main characters. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sigismondi chose to start The Runaways with that image, also." While Carrie, according to Brenda, shows that "menstruation and therefore the female body are scary and monstrous," The Runaways presents a different perspective. "In the hands of a lady filmmaker making a movie about lady culture," writes Brenda, "the period is no longer a source of supernatural horror. It’s just a pain in the ass."

WRIGHT ON CARRIE: "THE GREASE OF HORROR MOVIES"
Last month, Edgar Wright was one of several filmmakers contributing to The Guardian's "The Greatest Film Scenes Ever Shot." Wright chose the "Blood at the Prom" scene from Carrie. Here is what he said about the scene:

I always describe Carrie as the Grease of horror movies: it resonates with all ages because everybody remembers their awkward teenage phase and can watch it and say – I was the bully or the victim or the person who did nothing. It explores how apocalyptic your rage can be as a teenager. Carrie's not a killer, she's a girl who has been bullied and through a terrible confluence of events ends up burning the school down.

It's also unusual for a horror film. It doesn't have someone being killed every 20 minutes and then a climax – it builds to one huge climax at the prom. School bullies have fixed the prom so that Carrie White will win and they can humiliate her by tipping a bucket of pig's blood over her in front of the whole school. The scene and the excruciating build-up to it is one of the greatest set pieces of all time, full of suspense, with a monumental payoff.

A crane shot sets up the sequence so you know where everyone is positioned and that the bucket of blood is above Carrie and Tommy's heads. Once the plot is set in motion Pino Donaggio's score takes over. The resulting sequence is pure opera.

I first saw Carrie on VHS with my brother's friend when I was about 12. I obsessively read about horror movies and was dying to see it. I've watched it so many times since. De Palma planned the sequence for months and battled the studio over the time spent on filming it. But it was worth the blood, sweat and tears. It still leaves audiences speechless.

HI, MOM!/TAXI DRIVER NOTED IN "GREATEST SCENES"
Also in the Guardian article, producer Stephen Woolley chooses the mirror scene from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and recalls watching De Palma's Hi, Mom!, which was made five years earlier, and thinking, "I can't believe it – the thing he does in Taxi Driver!"


Posted by Geoff at 6:24 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 6:27 PM CDT
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