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Wednesday, September 1, 2010
ARONOFSKY'S BLACK SWAN OPENS VENICE
VARIETY REVIEW: "SUPERFICIAL ECHOES OF SISTERS & FEMME FATALE"
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan opens the Venice Film Festival tonight, but a critics preview this morning has created a buzz. Variety's Peter DeBruge is quite taken with the film, calling it "a wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer's all-consuming ambition" that he feels resembles something closer to Aronofsky's Pi than to Powell & Pressburger's The Red Shoes (the latter being the one most reviews are comparing Black Swan with, along with Aronofsky's The Wrestler). DeBruge also compares the lure of the film to the cinema of Brian De Palma, but finds it closer in execution to David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski:

Already the film has acquired a certain lesbian allure, courtesy of a trailer that somewhat unfairly teases a scandalous [Natalie] Portman-[Mila] Kunis love scene. This footage will no doubt help to entice ballet-averse auds, though "Black Swan" is anything but a Brian De Palma-style erotic escapade (superficial echoes of "Sisters" and "Femme Fatale" notwithstanding).

Aronofsky seems to be operating more in the vein of early Roman Polanski or David Cronenberg at his most operatic. Though the director never immerses us as deeply inside Portman's head as he did Mickey Rourke's in "The Wrestler," the latter third of "Black Swan" depicts a highly subjective view of events that calls to mind the psychological disintegration of both "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby."

MUBI is running a roundup of the reviews as they are posted.


Posted by Geoff at 12:33 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
MORRICONE RECEIVES POLAR MUSIC PRIZE
EVENT IN STOCKHOLM CLOSES WITH SCREENING OF THE UNTOUCHABLES
Ennio Morricone was awarded the 2010 Polar Music Prize (also referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Music") by the King of Sweden in a ceremony Monday at the Skandia Theater in Stockholm. The award is traditionally given to a composer and a pop musician every year, and this year's pop honor went to Bjork. According to Lupin The 4th, the evening concluded with a screening of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, the film for which Morricone was nominated for an Oscar for composing the score. Morricone has also scored De Palma's Casualties Of War and Mission To Mars.

Posted by Geoff at 1:19 PM CDT
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Monday, August 30, 2010
KOEPP'S CORNER: PREMIUM RUSH
HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE READER'S PICS FROM NYC SHOOT
David Koepp is currently shooting a new movie, Premium Rush, in New York City. The other day, Hollywood Elsewhere posted two pictures of the New York shoot sent in by a reader of that site, Eran Evron. The film, which was written by Koepp and his longtime creative partner John Kamps, involves a New York City bike messenger (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, pictured on the far right) who is pursued by a dirty cop (played by Michael Shannon, in the center of the picture wearing a tie). Dania Ramirez (wearing a blue top in the photo) plays a fellow bike messenger. Koepp is wearing a red ball cap, all the way on the left side of the photo. Premium Rush will be released on January 13, 2012. About a month ago, Gordon-Levitt posted a video on his site, that was shot by Koepp himself, showing the bloody arm he got from crashing into the back of a cab during filming. Gordon-Levitt wrote, "My first real wreck today. Busted through the rear window of a cab. Luckily got my elbows up. Coulda been way worse. No, but it was my fault, I was going too fast. The director, Dave Koepp, was extremely concerned for my well-being, but I made him RECord the wound. Anyway, Premium Rush is gonna be awesome. Gratuitous ER footage to follow, stay tuned…" A few more set pics of Gordon-Levitt and Ramirez can be seen at Accidental Sexiness

Posted by Geoff at 11:50 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 30, 2010 12:04 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 29, 2010
MI4'S WORKING TITLE IS ARIES
Between Variety and Deadline Hollywood last week, we found out that Paramount is "rebooting" the Mission: Impossible franchise with the fourth installment. Jeremy Renner has been cast as partner spy agent to Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, with an eye toward Renner taking over as the lead in future MI films. Brad Bird is directing, and the word is that the fourth film will not be called "Mission: Impossible 4." Now, Production Weekly has a listing for a film called "Aries (aka Mission: Impossible 4)." Meanwhile, several actresses are being tested for the female lead, according to another Deadline Hollywood post. The film will open in December of 2011.

Posted by Geoff at 1:13 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 29, 2010 11:02 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010
ITALIAN FILMMAKER CLAIMS HE'S REMAKING SCARFACE
STARRING FABRIZIO CORONA; SAYS PARIS HILTON ONE OF SEVERAL "VYING FOR" ELVIRA ROLE
Italian film blogs have been abuzz the past week and a half over rumors that Massimo Emilio Gobbi, who appeared in Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah (which was partly about characters influenced by Brian De Palma's Scarface), is already filming a remake of Scarface. CINEblog.it's Dr. Apocalypse got ahold of Gobbi himself, who confirmed that he has already started shooting the film, and that it stars the controversial paparazzo Fabrizio Corona, a scandalous Italian figure whose Italian Wikipedia page reads like an FBI rap sheet full of counterfeit bills, bankruptcy fraud, allegations of extortion, prison, and an assault on an officer. Corona has more recently appeared on a reality TV show and in a documentary film by Erik Gandini, Videocracy - Basta Apparire. Gobbi tells Dr. Apocalypse, "Corona is simply perfect for the role of Scarface. He's an actor who is undeniably difficult to manage and I think I'm one of the few who can do it."

As for the film itself, Gobbi is referring to it as Scarface 2010 even though he does not plan to have it completed for at least a couple more years. Dr. Apocalypse asks Gobbi about the idea going around that he does not complete films, after having announced at the Venice Film Festival last year that he was making a Mafia film called Kamorrah Days. Gobbi explained that that film's original director indulged in exaggerated costs, after which Gobbi rewrote the script and shot the "experimental" film digitally, finally releasing it on home video. In any case, Gobbi tells Dr. Apocalypse that he wants Scarface 2010 to be a contemporary movie. Gobbi, who is said to have written the screenplay, has been quoted as saying, "Tony Montana in the third millennium will prefer the handling of embryonic cells rather than drug trafficking. The gang will be Italian American and not Cuban." Which, of course, sort of brings the whole thing back around full circle to its origins, but with Al Pacino's Cuban gangster as a huge influence.

When asked about the rumors that Paris Hilton and others are in talks to take on the Elvira role, Gobbi replied, "There are several actresses vying for that role. Brigitta Bulgari, Paris Hilton and Naomi [who-- Naomi Campbell?]. At the moment we have not decided yet." However, since filming has apparently already begun, Dr. Apocalypse wonders how they will fit this character in when the role hasn't even been cast yet. Gobbi replies that with nobody running behind him chasing the money for the film, he has no deadline and "no obligations for the return of capital. If Francis Ford Coppola was unduly with Apocalypse Now, using three years to complete it, I can do it myself... So I can also take two years, the important thing is to be able to finish it."

Posted by Geoff at 5:47 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 27, 2010 7:18 AM CDT
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Sunday, August 22, 2010
TOYER TALK
A BRIEF LOOK AT THIS UPCOMING PROJECT
As I wrote last week, Brian De Palma has been thinking about ways to film Toyer since at least 2002, when he indicated that he "had an idea to make a very scary movie, based on a kind of serial murderer that preys on tourists." Later that year, Le Paradis' Carl Rodrigue & Tony Suppa interviewed De Palma and asked him about Toyer. De Palma explained:

This is material based on a book and a play by Gardner McKay called TOYER [De Palma later stressed that his film was based on the play, and not the book]. People have been trying to do it for decades. It's a very intensive psychodrama between two characters, but no one's figured out how to open it up and make it work as a movie. I got an idea how to do it, and I pulled it off the shelf last year and adapted it. It took us quite a while to obtain the rights to the material because Gardner died last year and we had to deal with his estate and his widow. Finally, we were able to work out a deal. It's a very terrifying piece of material. It's been terrifying for over thirty years...

De Palma had taken McKay's play and expanded it, adding De Palma touches such as flashbacks that repeated certain scenes from different perspectives, newly invented characters, and locations to provide set pieces for a true blue De Palma film.

In 2005-2006, as post-production work was being done on The Black Dahlia, there were rumored to be plans to shoot Toyer in Venice, Paris, and London. One new character is an English surgeon named Laura Manning, and it had been rumored in 2004 that Tilda Swinton was in talks for that role. With the various settings, of course, an international cast was planned, and Giancarlo Giannini had been rumored for the role of the Italian Inspector Scarlatti. With a four/five-year gap since the project was last considered, the casting has started anew, and it will be interesting to see who fills out some of these roles this Fall.

DON'T LOOK NOW & DONAGGIO
As noted earlier, De Palma had planned to have Pino Donaggio compose the score for Toyer, and I suspect that will still be the plan. Donaggio also scored Nicolas Roeg's Venice-set thriller Don't Look Now in 1973. De Palma briefly discussed Don't Look Now in 2002 with Rodrigue and Suppa. "I love the way Roeg shot Venice in that period," De Palma said. "I always wanted to shoot a movie in Venice in the winter."

THIERRY ARBOGAST, DANTE FERRETTI
Also in 2005-2006, Thierry Arbogast was set to be the cinematographer on Toyer, and Dante Ferretti, having just worked with De Palma on The Black Dahlia, was getting ready to jump onto the Toyer project, as well. Hopefully this dream team is still available... Incidentally, Ferretti will be honored at next month's Venice Film Festival. On the morning of September 10th, Ferretti will receive the Premio Bianchi prior to the premiere of Gianfranco Giagni's hour-long documentary, Dante Ferretti: Production Designer. The film will then be shown on Italian TV in October.


Posted by Geoff at 10:47 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 10:00 AM CDT
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Friday, August 20, 2010
MOVIE GEEKS EXAMINE "THE DE PALMA THRILLER"
TRIBUTE TO DE PALMA LEADS UP TO 70TH BIRTHDAY
Brian De Palma will turn 70 on September 11th, and Movie Geeks United! is preparing a fantastic-looking slate of shows that week leading up to the occasion, with a rich line-up of special guests. The guests are still being added, but here is what they have so far:

The De Palma Thriller: SISTERS - Monday, September 6 at 10pm EST
featuring special guests author/critic John Kenneth Muir and producer Edward R. Pressman

The De Palma Thriller: CARRIE - Tuesday, September 7 at 10pm EST
featuring special guests author/critic John Kenneth Muir, actress Nancy Allen, and additional insights from critic Armond White

The De Palma Thriller: DRESSED TO KILL - Wednesday, September 8 at 10pm EST
featuring special guests author/critic John Kenneth Muir, actress Nancy Allen, actor Keith Gordon, and producer George Litto

The De Palma Thriller: BLOW OUT - Thursday, September 9 at 10pm EST
featuring special guests author/critic John Kenneth Muir, actress Nancy Allen, and producer George Litto, with additional insights from cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.

The De Palma Thriller: RAISING CAIN - Friday, September 10 at 10pm EST
featuring special guests author/critic John Kenneth Muir and editor Paul Hirsch

Keep up to date at Movie Geeks United!.
(Thanks to Jamey!)


Posted by Geoff at 1:43 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 20, 2010 5:31 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 15, 2010
NEW CAST IN TALKS FOR TOYER

Producer Scott Steindorff tells De Palma a la Mod that there is a new cast now in talks for Toyer. This was in response to my question of whether or not they are still talking with Juliette Binoche and Colin Firth about the lead roles in the upcoming film. It looks like we can expect to see some news of a new cast in the upcoming weeks. Steindorff also confirmed for me that Brian De Palma is the sole writer of the screenplay adaptation (so the long-ago unsubstantiated rumor of a Ted Tally revision was probably never true).

When I talked to De Palma in Paris in 2002, he told me that he "had an idea to make a very scary movie, based on a kind of serial murderer that preys on tourists." In later months, it was announced that he would be filming an adaptation of Gardner McKay's Toyer with producer Tarak Ben-Ammar, and it always seemed to me that this must have been the film De Palma had been referring to. "A kind of serial murderer" is different than saying "a serial murderer," and seems close to the premise of Toyer, which is about a serial killer who does not actually kill his victims, but has the surgical skill to lobotomize them. Hence, "a kind of serial murderer." There was also a rumor around 2004 that De Palma had planned to cast famous actresses in cameo roles as Toyer's victims (or should we say, Venice "tourists"?). This would be one obvious alteration to the original one act play, which has only two characters.

When De Palma said in the quote above that he "had an idea," part of that idea was undoubtedly visual. As he explained in the same interview, "you know, now you go through a process of reading a lot of material, books, scripts, writing… until you get something that’s going to get you interested enough to make the movie. And as you get older, it just gets harder. And you say, do I want to spend all this time making something I’m not really a hundred percent sure that it’s going to be moving what I’m doing another step. You know, 'What am I saying with this movie? Am I involving some kind of cinematic idea I’m working on?'" With Toyer, which he has tried to get off the ground repeatedly, it is a safe bet that De Palma feels he will be working out some new cinematic ideas.


Posted by Geoff at 6:09 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 4:50 PM CDT
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Friday, August 13, 2010
DE PALMA TO MAKE TOYER AFTER ALL
THRILLER TO SHOOT IN VENICE LATE FALL, EARLY WINTER
Claude Brodesser-Akner at New York Magazine's Vulture posted an exclusive item Friday announcing that Brian De Palma will be heading to Venice late this fall to begin shooting Toyer, a project he has been wanting to do since at least 2002. The film will shoot from late fall into early winter, according to Vulture. De Palma's screenplay for Toyer, which he adapted from the one act play by Gardner McKay (not from McKay's later novel of the same name), has been in the control of Tarak Ben-Ammar all this time. Ben-Ammar worked with De Palma on Femme Fatale, a film in which De Palma was able to follow his muse and create a stunning work of profound brilliance. As of 2006, De Palma had Juliette Binoche and Colin Firth on board to play the two leads in Toyer, and each had said they were just waiting for De Palma to be ready to film. (About the long delay, Firth had quipped that perhaps he would play Toyer's grandfather.) De Palma's adaptation is set in Venice during the winter, with a set-piece designed to take place during the Carnevale di Venezia. Part of the challenge initially seemed to be getting permission to film during the Carnival, which takes place in February and March. Scott Steindorff, who is now aboard the project as a producer, tells Vulture that it would be logistically impossible to shoot during the Carnival itself, and so they plan to re-create the Carnival on location.

"I READ THE SCRIPT-- IT'S REALLY FRICKIN' SCARY"
There was a report somewhere along the line that Ted Tally had also done some work on De Palma's script adaptation, but that has never been confirmed. In any case, Steindorff tells Vulture that De Palma's adaptation of Toyer "has all the elements of suspense that Brian does so well in films like Blow Out and Carrie. And by that I mean, it's really frickin' scary: I read the script on a plane, and I was still terrified." The Vulture post adds that "Steindorff has brought heavyweight literature like Philip Roth's The Human Stain and Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera to the screen." (Steindorff also produced the suspenseful horror film Turistas.) Brodesser-Akner also notes that De Palma's film should be creepy, as it is set against the Carnival "for which elaborate masks disguising one's identity are traditionally worn on the street from St. Stephen's Day (the day after Christmas) until the start of the Venitian Carnival (two weeks before Ash Wednesday)."

Pino Donaggio had mentioned around 2004 that he had been asked by De Palma to write the score for Toyer, something he said he was looking forward to. In a 2008 interview with Joep de Bruijn at MainTitles, Donaggio said, "And of course I would have liked to do all other films by Brian De Palma. He keeps on changing composers, but there is still something out there. He came to Venice to talk to me about The Toyer. After that meeting The Black Dahlia followed and another one. I don't know, I'll wait for it."


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 16, 2010 1:47 AM CDT
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JENNIFER SALT, BIG-TIME SCREENWRITER
EAT, PRAY, LOVE ADAPTED FROM ELIZABETH GILBERT MEMOIR
Jennifer Salt is the co-screenwriter on the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, which opens in theaters today. Salt wrote the screenplay with the film's director, Ryan Murphy, the creator of the TV series Nip/Tuck and Glee. Salt was a regular writer and co-producer for Nip/Tuck.

Salt, of course, is a staple of the early films of Brian De Palma, having appeared in his first feature length project, The Wedding Party, in 1963 (released in 1969), which was made while both attended Sarah Lawrence College (according to Brooks Barnes at the New York Times, De Palma and Salt briefly dated during this time). In 1964, De Palma made a short film about her called Jennifer, and Salt subsequently appeared in De Palma's Murder a la Mod, Hi, Mom!, and Sisters, the latter having been imagined by De Palma specifically with her and Margot Kidder in mind to play the leads. She also appeared in a film written by her late father, Waldo Salt, 1969's Midnight Cowboy, which costarred her then-boyfriend Jon Voight (Salt would appear in one more film with Voight, Paul Williams' The Revolutionary, released the same year as the similarly-themed Hi, Mom!). Salt told Backstage's Jenelle Riley that her father had originally thought of a small role for her in Midnight Cowboy, but that role became bigger when she met with director John Schlesinger. Barnes' New York Times article, which features quotes from De Palma, briefly discusses this early part of Salt's career:

The early 1970s found [Salt] living (and partying) in Malibu, Calif., with Margot Kidder, who would go on to play Lois Lane in three “Superman” films. Drawn by Ms. Salt’s cooking and both women’s tendency to sunbathe topless were some dudes: Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg. (“To see those pale city boys running around on the beach with no clothes on was so charming,” Ms. Salt recalled. Said Mr. De Palma, “She cooked so well she could get us to do almost anything.”)

Salt went into television, acting for a long time on the TV series Soap before becoming disillusioned with it all, and eventually realizing that she never really wanted to be an actress after all. Here is how she told it to Riley at Backstage:

"I was doing nice guest shots on TV, but it just wasn't happening in a creative and fulfilling way," she says. "The roles I was up for—mostly mom roles—were dreary. And my enthusiasm for working on them and for auditions was very low." She had an epiphany. "Over the course of your life, you realize more and more who you are and how you want to spend your time," she reflects. "And it became clearer and clearer that I was very unhappy as an actress and didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. When I was younger I thought it was because I wasn't successful enough. But as I got older I realized it had more to do with the fact that I just didn't love it."

The two interview articles linked to above are great, and for another really great interview in which Salt discusses working with De Palma in depth, check out Cult Film Freak. The undated interview appears to be from around the late 2000's (maybe even 2009). When asked which of the directors she worked with provided the most freedom for an actor, Salt replies:

Without a doubt, Brian De Palma. Back in the late 60's and early 70's there was much more freedom in filmmaking. Brian was always experimenting with new ideas and wanted equal input from everyone. He was willing to hear and try nearly anything you could think of that might help. But I also worked on more than one film with him, so we trusted each other very much and over time we created a formula that worked between us. There was chemistry there by the time production began on Sisters. John [Schlesinger] was also equally open to ideas and he was focused on getting naturalness out of the performances of his actors. But during the duration of the shooting of Midnight Cowboy John was also battling some personal issues that often hampered the flow of the film's progress. Some of the best directors I have ever had the chance to work with were those in television. Many of them are now making theatrical films. There was at least back then much more room for improvisation in television than there is now.

When asked which of her roles she likes best, Salt replied:

I loved playing “Judy Bishop” [in Brian De Palma’s Hi Mom!]. Of course who wouldn't want to work with Bobby De Niro? Naturally back then he was pretty much an unknown, but I still can't believe I shared the screen at one time with him. Of course I still say “Grace Collier” [Sisters] is up there at the top of my short list as well.


Posted by Geoff at 1:07 PM CDT
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