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Saturday, July 16, 2011
AMC BLOG LISTS 'DE PALMA'S BEST MOVIES'
WITH A COUPLE OF SURPRISING CHOICES
Yesterday, AMC-TV Blog's Robert Silva posted a nicely-written list called "Flashback Five - Brian De Palma's Best Movies." Calling De Palma "the most unappreciated of the so-called Movie Brats," Silva goes on to add, "Gifted with an impeccable visual style, his pulp stories are always more complex than they appear at first." AMC notoriously screens De Palma's Scarface repeatedly throughout the year, so it is no surprise to see that film listed at number one. But look at what Silva picks for number 2-- The Fury. "Contrary to common belief," Silva writes, "The Fury isn't all about exploding heads but rather a visceral exploration of young people on the cusp of adulthood who find themselves victimized by adults. The flick is a stylistic tour de force, with the director's signature plot puzzles and self-referential violence. And then there's the top-notch cast: you wouldn't expect to find Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes in a thriller about psychic warfare, but here they are."

Time and time again it seems like The Fury is said to be too complicated, or too bogged down in the action plot of Douglas' character, or Robin isn't in the film enough, etc., etc. They have been showing this film on cable quite a bit lately, and every time it comes on, I get engulfed in its sumptuous images and intricate plot. De Palma pulled off a lot of terrific, interesting visual tricks with this film, almost like a kid in a candy store. And the performances are excellent. I recently read someonoe complain that the staircase shot, where Amy Irving appears to be standing in front of a giant movie screen showing an incident that happened with Robin in that same staircase, was somehow a shoddy effect. On the contrary, I feel the effect is very powerful, with the camera moving around Irving, watching the action unfold. It is a key part of The Fury's motif of "letting the screen fill your mind." So it is nice to see someone do a list such as this, and to put The Fury up so high.

Filling out Silva's top five are Blow Out ("a heady mix of Blow-Up, The Conversation, and The Parallax View"), Carrie (the prom sequence is "a masterpiece of apocalyptic glitz"), and The Untouchables, another AMC mainstay. Silva then adds a list of "Honorable Mentions," essentially giving us his top ten De Palma films, which includes one film that I never expected to read about on an AMC blog: Redacted. "With this Iraq-war movie," Silva writes of his number three honorable mention, "De Palma trades his sumptuous visuals for lo-fi digital camerawork that proves just as dazzling. Still, there's no shortage of the director's usual violence in this YouTube video from hell." Filling out the honorable mentions are Body Double (#1), Carlito's Way (#2), Dressed To Kill (#4), and Mission: Impossible (#5). Of the latter, Silva writes, "Some complain about a labyrinthine plot, but this is still one of the most stylish event movies of the nineties, with a knockout sense of visual storytelling."


Posted by Geoff at 6:59 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011 7:01 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 12, 2011
PATRICK BILLINGSLEY, 1925-2011
CHICAGO-BASED ACTOR APPEARED IN 'THE FURY' & 'UNTOUCHABLES'
Patrick Billingsley, a charismatic University of Chicago mathematics and statistics professor who also acted on stage, television, and film, died April 22nd following a brief illness. He was 85. Billingsley made his film debut as a CIA agent in Brian De Palma's The Fury, and also played a bailiff in De Palma's The Untouchables (both were filmed in Chicago). Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune obituary (written by Margaret Ramirez):

Mr. Billingsley joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1958 as an assistant professor in statistics, attaining the rank of professor in statistics and mathematics five years later.

He started acting as a hobby in 1969 and performed in numerous plays for the Court Theatre. In 1977, while performing in a production of "The Lover" in 1977, he was spotted by a talent scout who asked if he would like to audition for a film. To his surprise, he got the part.

In "The Fury," Mr. Billingsley played a bad guy with a simple objective: Kill Kirk Douglas.

In a 1978 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Billingsley commented on the similarities between teaching and acting.

"Teaching has a little bit of show biz," he said. "When you teach, you perform in front of an audience. That's much like acting. As a teacher you're used to being onstage."


Posted by Geoff at 12:16 AM CDT
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Thursday, July 29, 2010
ANOTHER GREAT HOMAGE TO THE FURY
TOSHIBA AD WAS INSPIRED BY ENDING OF DE PALMA FILM


Hot on the heels of yesterday's post about the collage interpretation of the climax of Brian De Palma's The Fury, reader Peder Pedersen sent in the link to the above ad he directed for Toshiba "a while back." Pedersen says it was inspired by the end of The Fury. In addition, he claims, the entire thing was done in camera-- "no CGI." I think you'll agree with me when I say it is quite extraordinary.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 30, 2010 12:07 AM CDT
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
COLLAGE INTERPRETS FURY CLIMAX


The mixed media collage above is titled John Cassavetes in The Fury. It was created by Ina D. Archer in 2008. Archer included the piece in a post on the Continuum blog a couple of days ago, writing that the climactic moment "seems metaphorical of [John Cassavetes]'s relationship to Hollywood." Archer further continues in the post, "What a fabulous set piece--crazy, operatic--I even like John Williams here! The snow white carpeting, the mod lamp falling in slo mo, the multiple camera angles, the repeated explosion, the flying head and the musical crescendo punctuated with cymbal crashes! A Big Finish!"

Posted by Geoff at 2:11 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 10, 2010
PASSION FOR THE FURY
"DELIRIOUS, BOUNDARY-PUSHING CINEMA AT ITS HIGHEST FORM"
Kenji Fujishima discovered Brian De Palma's The Fury on DVD last weekend, and calls it "delirious, boundary-pushing cinema at or very near its highest form." With that I concur completely. Fujishima breaks down The Fury's operatic slow-motion escape sequence, with selected captures from the scene. "De Palma—more so than in his previous film Carrie," states Fujishima, "creates a world in the film, but not just a visual one: He practically evokes a whole emotional universe, one keyed intensely into the broiling anxieties of its telekinetic pre-pubescent characters, Gillian and Robin."

Posted by Geoff at 1:41 PM CDT
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Friday, February 12, 2010
ARMOND WHITE ON THE WOLFMAN
CITES ROMANEK, RAISING CAIN, THE FURY, CARRIE
Mark Romanek, who was one of the students who made Home Movies with mentor Brian De Palma in 1979, had put a lot of energy into making The Wolfman before quitting over budget issues just before filming was to begin. According to a CHUD interview with Joe Johnston, the director who took over the project, Romanek had left behind some choice ingredients. Armond White at the New York Press concludes his mostly negative review of "the loudest horror film ever made" with a discussion of Romanek's vision, citing De Palma a few times along the way:

Here’s a puzzle for film historians: The Wolfman was conceptualized by music video director Mark Romanek, who studied under Brian De Palma on 1980’s Home Movies. Although Romanek left The Wolfman before capable Joe Johnston took over direction, this is the most complete representation of Romanek’s sensibility yet to reach the big screen. Every shot features enormous artistic detail (Romanek’s encyclopedic visual mastery). It is sumptuously art-directed with Gainsborough interiors and exquisitely photographed (by Shelly Johnson) so that moonlight, candlelight and dust motes play in a single shot. And the genuinely malevolent slaughter scenes evoke Goya’s richly tragic disasters. This isn’t sentimental cruelty like Peter Jackson’s silly King Kong remake nor Sam Raimi’s ridiculous Drag Me to Hell. But like De Palma’s grievous violence, it’s artful.

At the core of Del Toro’s performance is the same Oedipal anguish as De Palma’s Raising Cain; and though a father-son werewolf clash turns ludicrous, there’s a final flourish straight out of The Fury. Best of all is a liebestod, staged Romanek-style against a jugendstil waterfall where Lawrence grabs Gwen’s wrist—a shocking gesture of love just like the climax of Carrie. What’s missing from The Wolfman is De Palma’s sophisticated, humorous purpose, as Romanek surely intended.


Posted by Geoff at 7:04 PM CST
Updated: Friday, February 12, 2010 7:07 PM CST
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009
THE FUSS & THE FURY
EMERSON ASKS: "CAN A MOVIE RUIN A GOOD REVIEW?"
Today Jim Emerson's Scanners blog discusses the way a film review can set expectations for a work that make actually viewing the thing a letdown. His first example is Pauline Kael's "intoxicating" review of Brian De Palma's The Fury. Emerson writes: The movie itself was a bit of a letdown for me after that review, but Kael's enthusiasm proved infectious. I'm sure I've seen The Fury at least half a dozen times and it remains one of my favorite De Palmas (and Carrie Snodgress is one of the most heartbreaking of the tender, funny oddball heroines of early-ish De Palma, alongside Sissy Spacek, Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Genevieve Bujold and Angie Dickinson). Kael's description of the movie's climactic crescendo has never left me:

This finale -- a parody of Antonioni's apocalyptic vision at the close of Zabriskie Point -- is the greatest finish for any villain ever. One can imagine Welles, Peckinpah, Scorsese, and Spielberg still stunned, bowing to the ground, choking with laughter.

Well, once that image has been implanted in your head to accompany the one(s) in the movie (and the villain is John Cassavettes, so there's even more auteur glee on display), it's hard to shake it.

Emerson discusses a couple of other examples before getting into a discussion of A.O. Scott's review of Sam Mendes' Away We Go, and how the review impressed him so much that he is now hesitant to see the actual film.


Posted by Geoff at 1:14 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 28, 2009
ARMOND WHITE ON ZABRISKIE POINT
AND HOW ANTONIONI'S FILM INVENTED THE "CINEGASM"

Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, one of several films that have had a profound influence on the cinema of Brian De Palma, finally gets a proper DVD release this week. Armond White's review in the New York Press goes into the influence of its grand finale:

Zabriskie Point is part of Warners’ Directors Showcase package bringing back such overlooked films as John Boorman’s very fine Beyond Rangoon and Hal Ashby’s Looking to Get Out, but Antonioni’s masterpiece has already had notable influence: Bruno Dumont misunderstood and disgraced it in his horror-show/parody Twentynine Palms but Brian De Palma paid great tribute in The Fury. Daria’s affair with businessman Rod Taylor is repeated in De Palma’s John Cassavetes/Amy Irving finale where moral and generational conflict literally explode. It was Antonioni’s idea to unleash his heroine’s frustration while critiquing the spiritual emptiness of materialist excess.This still-amazing and thoughtful sequence (volatile yet measured and thematic) invented the “cinegasm.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:27 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
PSYCHIC VISIONS
ARMOND WHITE ON FAST & FURIOUS/THE FURY
Armond White on Fast & Furious in the New York Press:

[The] closest [director Justin] Lin gets to bliss is the hokey moment Dom psychically imagines a road incident involving his ride-or-die lovematch, Michelle Rodriguez. Lin spins the camera 360 degrees as the past envelops Dom’s consciousness. It updates Brian De Palma’s breathtaking Vision on the Staircase sequence in The Fury, yet nothing else in Fast & Furious justifies such an hallucinatory leap.


Posted by Geoff at 9:48 PM CDT
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Sunday, February 22, 2009
GIALLO COMPOSER TALKS HERRMANN, WILLIAMS
SAYS ARGENTO'S LATEST REMINDS OF HITCHCOCK & DE PALMA
This past week, Little White Lies' James Gracey interviewed composer Marco Werba, who has scored Dario Argento's latest film, Giallo. Werba told Gracey that for Giallo, he was inspired by Bernard Herrmann's scores for Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma...

I offered to write a symphonic score in a similar vein to Bernard Herrmann because Giallo is a great film that reminds me of the masterpieces of Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. Herrmann not only composed for Hitchcock, he also wrote the music for two of the best De Palma films, Sisters and Obsession.

Werba also mentions the score for De Palma's The Fury as John Williams' best:

It’s difficult to say which specific film scores I deeply admire. There are many good compositions for films. I would say that each composer has his own best film scores. John Williams wrote wonderful music for Brian De Palma’s thriller The Fury, but it’s not a well-known score.

WES CRAVEN TALKS EXPLODING HEADS
Also this past week, UGO's Jordan Hoffman posted a conversation with Wes Craven in which the two discussed cinema's best exploding head scenes...

[Hoffman, discussing a screening of the Last House On The Left remake] “You heard the audience’s reaction with the exploding head. That’s entertainment! That was one of the best exploding heads I’ve seen in a while. Definitely in the top ten.”

[Craven] “Well, nothing beats Cronenberg’s Scanners."

[Hoffman] “I disagree! I think Scanners takes the silver medal and there is one better. John Cassavetes exploding at the end of Brian De Palma’s The Fury.”

Craven seems unsure and simply says, “Mmm.”

I backpedal. “But that isn’t just his head, that is his whole body. But it is the head that flies up at the camera. In slow motion.”

[Craven] “Well, I had a hell of an exploding head I shot for Deadly Friend. It was one of the more spectacular things I ever shot of Anne Twomey’s head, but the studio had us cut it out. It’s out there somewhere in a vault at Warner Brothers never to see the light of day.”

[Hoffman] “Maybe for a DVD release?”

[Craven] “Well, you never know.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:20 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 26, 2009 7:53 PM CST
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