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Monday, June 7, 2010
HIRSCH AT BLOW OUT SCREENING TUESDAY
PAIRED WITH FEMME FATALE AT THE NEW BEVERLY


Film editor Paul Hirsch will be on hand for a Q&A following a screening of Brian De Palma's Blow Out, which Hirsch edited, Tuesday June 8 at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. The Q&A will be moderated by Ain't It Cool News' Jeremy Smith. Aside from Blow Out, Hirsch has worked with De Palma on numerous films, including Hi, Mom!, Sisters, Phantom Of The Paradise, Obsession, Carrie, The Fury, Raising Cain, Mission: Impossible, and Mission To Mars. He also worked as editor on the two best Star Wars films, "A New Hope" and The Empire Strikes Back. Also on the inspired bill is De Palma's Femme Fatale, scheduled to start at 9:40pm (Blow Out begins at 7:30pm). The double bill is part of "Phil's Film Explosion Part 2," in which Phil Blankenship, the man responsible for the theater's midnight screenings, focuses on (mostly) 1980s cinema, with an apparent shot to the future with 2002's Femme Fatale. Dennis Cozzalio offers a terrific suggestion for anyone in the Los Angeles area: attend tonight's double bill at the New Bev of Sorority House Massacre and The Slumber Party Massacre to get a taste of the genre that De Palma parodies at the very beginning of the next night's lead-off feature, Blow Out.

Speaking of Hirsch, he recently served as editor on the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino cop/buddy movie Righteous Kill, which I finally watched last week (watch out for SPOILERS here). De Niro and Pacino got a lot of flack for this one, but the project itself I think was a good one to take on. Where De Niro went wrong, I believe, was in taking the project to director Jon Avnet, who has a style akin to television. The script is good, and the idea to cast Pacino opposite DeNiro in this is a good one. However, with that pairing having previously been directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Mann, a stronger director would have worked wonders for this project. That said, there are two sequences that really stand out for being extremely well-edited. The first is a scene where the two cops are being interrogated, and the shots roll at us in rapid succession and from various directions, as the pair are compared to Lennon & McCartney ("not an inch of daylight between them"-- how's that for a contrast to their juxtaposition in The Godfather Part II?). Indeed, De Niro and Pacino tease their interrogators with irreverence as if they were two Beatles at a sixties press conference. A followup scene later in the film becomes a split-screen marvel as the two cops are juxtaposed against each other, and then against themselves, as if we are watching four personalities in the minds of two men. Very creatively done.

Righteous Kill also carries thematic links with De Palma's Snake Eyes. Pacino had turned down the role of Kevin Dunn in the latter film opposite Nicolas Cage's Rick Santoro, but in Righteous Kill his character takes a very similar twist, although the roles in each film, regarding who looks up to who, is reversed. In an odd bit of serendipity, Carla Gugino has been cast in both films as the go-between female figure who is the first to identify the real killer. (John Leguizamo plays a younger cop in Righteous Kill, teaming up with Pacino's cop, but there is no real "Carlito"-type of tension between the two characters in this one.) In the making of docs on the DVD, De Niro says he liked the script, which I agree is a good one, but he should have taken it to a great director. De Palma, Scorsese, Coppola, or Eastwood—even Michael Mann, any of these would have elevated the material, which was already a strong piece of work, especially when combined with the casting.


Posted by Geoff at 12:48 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 7, 2010 12:53 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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
OBSESSION & BLOW OUT SHADE THE BOX
AND ALSO PAKULA, LYNCH, & KUBRICK, ACCORDING TO VIVA LA GEEK CRITIC


According to Jerry Dennis at Viva La Geek, Richard Kelly's The Box uses Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out "as reference points throughout." Dennis, who likes The Box quite a bit, says the film also has shades of De Palma's Obsession, stating that the score by Arcade Fire " has a deliberate Bernard Herrmann feel to it, specifically his score to Brian De Palma’s Obsession." Dennis writes that while there are "some Lynchian touches in the film," it "has a deliberate Kubrickian style to it as well." Dennis specifically mentions Lynch's Lost Highway and Kubrick's The Shining as having left traces on The Box.

Posted by Geoff at 12:49 PM CST
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Friday, November 6, 2009
A BOX OF DE PALMA?
RICHARD KELLY'S '70S-SET FILM ECHOES BLOW OUT & DRESSED TO KILL
Richard Kelly's third film, The Box, opens in theaters today. At left is a shot from the film juxtaposed with the key shot from Brian De Palma's Blow Out, courtesy of Peet Gelderblom at Directorama (thanks Peet!). Back in June, Kelly talked about the film to Aint It Cool's Mr. Beaks, discussing how he wanted The Box to have the feel of a 1970s picture, even though he shot it digitally with the Genesis camera. When Beaks brought up Vilmos Zsigmond, Kelly talked about how actor James Marsden was reminded of De Palma:

It's funny. When Marsden saw the film last week, he brought up DRESSED TO KILL and early De Palma for some reason. We do use a lot of zoom lenses. But because it's the Genesis, it has clarity that's beyond that. But it still does not feel digital. I've seen it digitally projected and I've seen a print, and I have to say I prefer the print because Genesis transfers to film beautifully. It's such a great camera system. Normally, when I see digitally-photographed films, I prefer to seem them digitally projected. And I do prefer digital projection only because I hate cigarette burns at the reel changes. And I hate it when the plate system is not well calibrated and you sometimes lose a few seconds in between changes. That drives me crazy - especially when it's a film I directed. My biggest nightmare is having a press screening where the projectionist is not quite hitting the reel changes right. That's upsetting. And that's why I'm like, "Please, just digitally project it." But I'm really happy with the print.

(Thanks to Rado!)


Posted by Geoff at 4:22 PM CST
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009
BLOW OUT TOPS POLL AGAIN
BUT CARLITO MAKES CLOSE PLAY FOR RUNNER UP
Romain has posted the poll results of fans' favorite Brian De Palma film, and Blow Out has once again come out on top. The top three films, however, are only separated by a single percentage point. Romain reports that 304 people voted in the poll, and the results are a bit different than the poll run last month for Cinema Viewfinder's De Palma Blog-A-Thon. The Blog-A-Thon poll was less concentrated on De Palma fans, with its contributors presumably being film fans who may or may not consider themselves De Palma "fans." It is also worth noting that while one could only vote for a single definite favorite in Romain's poll, each voter in the Blog-A-Thon poll offered their top three choices.

In any case, it seems safe to say that Blow Out is the collective film of choice when speaking about De Palma. In Romain's new poll, Carlito's Way came in at number two (4th place in the Blog-A-Thon), followed very closely by Phantom Of The Paradise at number three (9th place in the Blog-A-Thon). Body Double showed a surprising resurgence in both polls, tying Dressed To Kill for the fourth spot in Romain's poll, and tying Femme Fatale for the fifth spot in the Blog-A-Thon. The Blog-A-Thon's number two film, Carrie, only came in at number eight in Romain's poll. Scarface and The Untouchables hover in the bottom of the top ten on both lists. In fact, the top ten of each poll include the same nine films in the top nine. Coming in at number ten on Romain's new poll is Casualties Of War (number 13 on the Blog-A-Thon). The Blog-A-Thon's number ten film, Sisters, did not even get a single vote in Romain's poll.

Posted by Geoff at 8:23 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
KENNEDY LEAVES BLOW OUT LEGACY
INFAMOUS CHAPPAQUIDDICK INCIDENT INSPIRED PLOT OF DE PALMA PICTURE
The passing of Ted Kennedy has inspired at least two bloggers to recall Brian De Palma's Blow Out, which had definite echoes of the infamous Chappaquiddick incident from 1969. In that incident, following a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Mary Jo Kopechne was found dead inside Kennedy's overturned car, which was submerged in a tidal channel. Kennedy had left the scene of the incident, and later said that the night before, he had taken a wrong turn and accidentally drove off a bridge and into the water. A scandal quickly took hold, and Kennedy's presidential hopes seemed forever scarred by the whole affair. Conspiracy theories emerged, as well, as Kennedy had apparently driven down the original road (before he made that "wrong turn") on several occasions, and also altered his story in a televised address about a week later.

Jordon Hoffman at UGO Movie Blog today wrote a "thank you" to Kennedy "for Brian De Palma's Blow Out." After listing several TV and films that feature Ted Kennedy-types, Hoffman writes: The death of a prostitute and its subsequent cover-up in Fredo Corleone’s brothel in Godfather II was certainly meant as an echo to the Chappaquiddick incident of 1969.

One film, however, took Chappaquiddick and ran all the way with it. And it’s a great film, too. Brian De Palma’s Blow Out from 1981 is, for me, the swan song of the great paranoid political thrillers of the 1970s. These films, kickstarted by John Frankenheimer with The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds include The Parallax View, The Conversation, Chinatown and Three Days of the Condor. If you haven’t seen all of these titles, see them now. They are fantastic. The genre still exists (Enemy of the State, David Mamet’s Spartan and Eagle Eye all have their value) but Blow Out was the last true masterpiece of the genre.

So, what is Blow Out? Wasn’t that a show about a hair stylist? Blow Out, starring the not-yet-embarrassing John Travolta, is a true film-lover’s film. In it, Travolta plays a post-production sound engineer for low budget horror pictures - working out of Philadelphia of all places. One night he is out recording ambient sound on his Paleolithic analogue sound equipment and he witnesses an auto accident. A Governor with Presidential aspirations and his pretty young thing end up in the drink. What at first seems like a tire blowing out is soon discovered to be a gun shot.

Travolta then uses the power of cinema to expose a massive government conspiracy. Indeed, not until 2009 and the release of Inglourious Basterds will we see the nuts and bolts of pure cinema so deliberately conquer evil.

But as our hero is splicing, mixing, animating still photos and changing reels (AVIDs be damned! Fetch me my razor and sticky tape!) De Palma exposes another great conspiracy: how the magic of the movies is made. Once we get to the final act, and the split-screens, color saturation, tracking shots and slo-mo are flying in ever direction, we find ourselves in pure film lover paradise.

So, yes, Teddy Kennedy. I know I should be thanking you for the health care reform and the advancement of civil rights. But I’d be lying to myself (and to you) if I didn’t say that you’ve touched me most by inspiring Brian De Palma to create Blow Out, one of my favorite whacked-out thrillers of all time.

In a brief post titled "Ted Kennedy and the Cinema," the New Yorker's Richard Brody recalls how Kennedy's presidential hopes were dashed in 1980:

I remember the hope that we liberal Democrats held, in 1980, that he’d prevail in a floor fight at the Convention. It wasn’t so, and Ronald Reagan was the result. So the tight chain of causality seemed to my callow young self, at least. Well, he wasn’t President, but the next year, he was a movie: Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, starring John Travolta as a sound recordist who (shades of Antonioni’s Blow-Up) studies a tape for evidence that a Chappaquiddick-like accident he coincidentally recorded was actually a plot. In De Palma’s film, it’s the politician who dies and his female passenger who survives; I was happy to see Travolta in a new sort of role, but disappointed that De Palma didn’t stick closer to docu-drama. Sometimes an accident is just an accident; the randomness of life is what the cinema, or, rather, its screenwriters, have more trouble with. And maybe what people everywhere have trouble with: there’s the desire to think of history as the product of intelligent design, too, even when its presumed designers are often malevolent.


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:02 AM CDT
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Saturday, August 22, 2009
MUIR ON BODY DOUBLE & BLOW OUT
John Kenneth Muir continued his weekly essays about Brian De Palma films last week with a look at Body Double, delving deeply into the issue of mysogyny often leveled at that film. This week, Muir looks at Blow Out-- here is a key excerpt:

In Blow Out's most ironic and mocking use of iconic American imagery, Jack arrives too late to save Sally from Burke, but De Palma's camera triumphantly spins around the tragic duo nonetheless. As an "average" citizen dies below so the powerful may continue to "serve," in the heavens above fireworks explode with orgasmic glee and abandon.

The illusion of freedom and liberty are alive for all to see in the sky, even if Sally (and the truth...) die right here; their ends acknowledged only by Jack.

Sally's personal story in Blow Out also serves as a metaphor for disillusionment and disenfranchisement in America. Sally begins her journey as a disinterested observer, just minding her own business trying to make a buck any way she can. She doesn't even watch the news "because it is too depressing." When Sally finally does get involved in the "political process," in a quest with Jack to reveal the truth about this conspiracy, what happens? She is brutally murdered.

In this case, a murdered innocent in a movie may very well represent a disappointed, disillusioned electorate in real life. Most people don't get involved in politics, and those activists who do so inevitably face disappointment because things don't seem to change, or get any better. The parties in power may alternate, but the entrenched interests don't. Killing Sally in Blow Out is, essentially, killing hope in the democratic process; it's killing political involvement. From a certain perspective, there are no real "good guys" in Blow Out because even the guy in "search of the truth," -- Jack himself -- exploits the simple-minded Sally (representing the American electorate) for his own purpose. He ruthlessly uses her for his ideological agenda...and she ends up dead, even though that agenda was inarguably noble.


Posted by Geoff at 11:32 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
LITHGOW GOES SERIAL FOR DEXTER
AND REMINDS KEN TUCKER OF BLOW OUT
John Lithgow has signed on to play a serial killer on the fourth season of Showtime's Dexter. According to Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello, Lithgow has been cast as "Walter Simmons, an unassuming suburbanite who has been living a dual life as one of America’s most prolific and deadliest serial killers." Ausiello continues, "When the mad man (who is dubbed the 'Trinity Killer' because he always kills in threes) relocates to Miami, Dexter becomes obsessed (or inspired?) by his efficient killing methods and ability to evade capture for almost three decades." Ausiello's fellow EW blogger (and author of Scarface Nation) Ken Tucker is naturally reminded of Lithgow's creepy opportunist serial killer in Brian De Palma's Blow Out.

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
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Monday, December 8, 2008
Images from Blow Out

Jeremy Richey today posted images from Brian De Palma's Blow Out as part of his series, "Images From My All Time Favorite Films," at Moon In The Gutter.

Posted by Geoff at 10:30 PM CST
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