Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
his recent films:
"What I was
trying to do with
those films was to
make three student
films in order to
try and set a new
trajectory and try to
say, 'Well, what
happens if I have no
resources?' Now, having
done that, my new
work is going to be
much more ambitious
and bigger in scope and
budget and ambition,
but now building on a
new confidence or
assurance. The three
little films were very
useful. I'm glad I did
it. I hope George Lucas
does it, because he
has a wonderful personal
filmmaking ability that
people haven't seen
for a while."
a la Mod:
I'm actually not looking at the original, even though De Palma's movie was one of the best movies ever made. It's completely iconic and I'm proud to be able to be doing a retooling of it. We're kind of going off the book. It's darker and much more psychological. More Black Swan. You're really looking into her mind and it really looks into the relationship of Margaret and Carrie. It's set in modern time, so it's a lot different.
Lesnick got Moretz to talk about the clothes her Carrie will be wearing: "It's something that's very different from me. It's an out of body thing. I'm becoming a totally different person for it. I'm letting go of all of my self-esteem issues and just kind of going into it. You have to."
And finally, the article delves into the fan-made poster art pictured here:
Although shooting won't begin for another month, Moretz and Peirce have already been impressed with the outpouring of fan support and, in particular, the fan-made poster pictured above. Designed by Pierre-Luc Boucher, the teaser was posted to his Deviant Art page and soon found its way to Peirce.
"That was a cool poster!" Moretz laughs. "Kim sent that to me. She said, 'Oh my god, you've got to look at this. It's really, really, really cool!' We both felt so pumped. Now we're chomping at the bit to get in there."
I had it written in my contract that I would not appear fully nude on screen. But that was a trick of the editing room; the camera saw everything. Every time Brian shot another take of the shower scene, the clapper board was placed in front of me. And each time the board was pulled away, the camera was right where my contract said it couldn't be. Now, I'm not a shy person-- you can't be in this business!-- but by the time the rushes were over, I didn't know if I should laugh or crawl under my chair. I decided to laugh.
"Thanks a lot, Brian!" I said, as sarcastically as I could.
After that, Brian later told me, the female cast members stopped complaining about their topless locker scene.
Spacek is interviewed about the memoir at The Hook. The book is also likely to have stories about making De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, as Spacek worked as a set designer on that film with Fisk, who was the production designer on Phantom, and the art director on Carrie.
This naturally leads into a chapter on how the movie was made from the novel, with Cohen and De Palma providing key details, such as how producer Paul Monash had originally hired a young woman (no one seems to recall her name) to write the screenplay. After her first draft made Monash very nervous (because, as Cohen says in the interview, "it just wasn't good"), Cohen, having loved King's book and having a very strong idea about what the film of it should be, went on a three-week marathon in which he did nothing but eat, drink, and sleep Carrie. There is also a well-considered background on De Palma leading up to the making of Carrie, even quoting the interview De Palma did with the now-defunct web site "Le Paradis de Brian De Palma" to illustrate what Aisenberg calls "a rare romantic insight into De Palma's notion of film":
"The great movies that I remember are the ones that went right into my subconscious, and I don't know why they obsess me, or why I keep thinking about them, or why in a postmodern way I keep trying to recreate them, like Vertigo, for instance. It's just something that's inexplicable. These images have taken seed in your subconscious, and you can't get them the hell out... There are a few great directors that have been able to do it, and that's why we never forget those movies. Aisenberg allows insights such as this to color his analysis of Carrie throughout the study.
These initial chapters are well-researched and fascinating, and then the book really takes off when Aisenberg begins his scene-by-scene analysis, illustrated with black-and-white frames from the film itself. Incorporating an author interview with Betty Buckley in addition to the others mentioned, Aisenberg weaves his research in with the fabric of his analysis, producing a text that is as entertaining as it is insightful. Aisenberg deftly illustrates how the opening volleyball scene establishes Carrie’s theme of competition, which is presented most prominently by the film’s ongoing juxtapositions between Sue and Chris, but also between Margaret and Miss Collins, with Carrie (and, perhaps, “the boys”) stuck in the middle. Like the film itself, Aisenberg keeps moving forward, stopping to consider moments such as when Sue walks into the background of the scene in which Margaret pays a visit to Sue’s mother, and giving that moment just the right touch of curious investigation before linking the scene directly to Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane:
As Mrs. Snell hands over a contribution of ten dollars to be done with Margaret, which clearly annoys the religious woman, a further visual detail complicates the dramatic tension. Through the doorway behind them beyond the pink hallway where Mrs. Snell answered the phone is a sliver of another doorframe (frames-within-frames [Aisenberg highlights these throughout]) in which Sue appears and silently hovers. While most films would probably cut around at this point to make all the characters’ stakes obvious, De Palma expertly stages things on the cheap so that viewers can connect the dramatic dots between things for themselves, imparting to Sue hints of guilty feeling that will shortly lead her to atone for her actions.
When I asked De Palma about this scene, as well as other moments in which he makes use of background and foreground actions, or places things independent of one another on the left- and right-hand sides of the screen, De Palma described the effect in musical terms as “contrapuntal,” with roots in the deep-focus arrangements of Citizen Kane, a film that also lets scenes run on without too many cuts. Indeed, the staging here recalls an early moment in Kane specifically, wherein little Charles’s mother transfers legal custody of the boy to a lawyer. Up front, Kane’s mother (Agnes Moorehead) sits at a table signing over guardianship of the boy to her cold attorney, despite her husband’s protest, while deep in the background, through a window, the boy can clearly be seen playing in the snow enjoying a childhood which has already slipped away. Carrie reverses the terms: the child figure hidden in the faraway depths of the frame is the guilty party, while those near at hand are still “innocent” of life-changing events that have taken place (thus Sue’s image is appropriately blurred and ambiguous).
Later on, in his analysis of the prom scene, Aisenberg lays out very nicely Carrie’s deliberate echoes of David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai, and elsewhere delves into the film’s inspirations from John Boorman’s Deliverance and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne Of Blood. Regarding the moment of shock just after the pig’s blood spills over Carrie, and the film shows Carrie’s viewpoint in a kaleidoscope effect, Aisenberg states that it recalls “some of the overdone visual distortions and expressionistic devices of silent movies, such as in F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), whose themes, incidentally, parallel Carrie’s enough to compare them, I think.” Aisenberg also compares this moment in Carrie to a similar subjective visualization of shock from the 1958 version of The Fly.
I stated above that Aisenberg has read just about everything related to Carrie, and, well, he has listened to just about everything, too. The book includes bits of information throughout from the very rare Criterion laserdisc edition of Carrie, which included audio commentary by Cohen and Laurent Bouzereau. At one point, Aisenberg also serves up a quote from a recent Raising Cain-focused episode of the online radio show Movie Geeks United, in which editor Paul Hirsch discusses the music for the final dream sequence of Carrie:
The temp score for the nightmare was Albinoni’s Adagio for Organ and Strings, which was the saddest music I could find for Amy Irving laying the flowers on Carrie’s grave. And then I found a deliberately arrhythmic moment. I mean I lined the music so there was an arrhythmic moment when the hand shoots up out of the ground, and for that I used the main title from Sisters, which starts with an anvil strike, a sharp metallic sound just at the moment when the first rock is dislodged, you know, starts to move, and the hand comes shooting out. So you have this soft sweet, sad organ and strings interrupted at a very unexpected moment by a loud anvil strike guaranteed to startle anyone. So Pino [Donaggio] just copied that.
Aisenberg’s Carrie expertise makes for an eye-opening book, and provides a necessary credibility when he goes for the gusto and declares that both De Palma and Hirsch are wrong when they insist that the split-screen section at the prom does not work. “The scene is thrilling, marvelously realized,” states Aisenberg, adding that “the use of split-screen serves several purposes.” After quoting De Palma explaining his original rationale for conceiving the sequence in split-screen as a way to avoid simply cutting from Carrie to things moving around, Aisenberg explains why he thinks the sequence works so well:
Indeed, [De Palma’s] solution seems an ingenious way to dramatize Carrie’s power in action—she looks here, she looks there, and on the other side of the screen objects do her bidding. The effect is heightened by the stunning way Carrie’s face, at one point, slides from the right side of the screen to the left. De Palma’s frames and expertly montaged juxtapositions throughout the movie suggest irrational lines of influence hard at work between things; the split-screen liberalizes it. Also, from a practical point of view, this device makes the most of relatively little in the way of special effects-induced chaos, since all that’s really happening during the first part of the sequence is that the lights change and a fire extinguisher hose stands up like a penis-snake and starts spraying everybody. As with the volleyball game, where a single unbroken take was employed by the director so that the audience could see it being played in real time, De Palma may have instinctually hoped that by combining as many images on screen as possible he could trick viewers into thinking they were seeing al the destruction happen before their eyes.
Split-screen has stylistic-thematic significance as well. Throughout the film characters have been shown acting on several contradictory levels in bifocal shots, that oppose but mirror one another. Once the split perspectives come together in Carrie’s ultimate degradation, the traumatic force literally breaks the image itself in half, and a new doubling of the viewer’s experience sets in. The audience sees exactly how Carrie is misperceiving the situation in her crazed state, believing there to be a much bigger conspiracy at work than there really was—one including everybody, even Miss Collins.
Other tidbits from the book's De Palma interview include: a brief discussion about the two songs written for the film, one of which producer Paul Monash (whose wife wrote the lyrics to both) wanted to run over the opening credits (De Palma says he fought tooth and nail against that); De Palma switching cinematographers after initial filming around the school because he did not like the way Isador Mankofsky was lighting the girls (De Palma didn't like the way they looked); and how after figuring out how Margaret would be killed, they decided to go back and shoot scenes of Carrie in the closet, for which set designer Jack Fisk created the haunting Saint Sebastion figure "with all the arrows in it."
There are at least two more books about Carrie in the works, including a monograph by British critic Neil Mitchell, and a making of. These will undoubtedly be marvelous additions to the ongoing dialogue about this great film, but will in no way displace Aisenberg’s book. Aisenberg’s personal take on Carrie, informed by his exhaustive research, combined with the exclusive interviews with De Palma, Cohen , and Buckley, should make this a permanent fixture of any De Palma fan’s (and movie fan’s) bookshelf.
Cohen: Intensity. My partner Michael Gore, the composer, and I walked out of Lulu that night and he looked at me and went, “If Alban Berg were alive today, he’d be writing Lulu for the Met.” And it was one of those “ah-ha” moments where the light bulb went on. And I didn’t say a word. I looked at him. He looked at me. And we started walking up to Café Luxembourg from Lincoln Center, jabbering a mile a minute, with a gazillion ideas. What Carrie had was highly intensified, hugely heightened, operatic-like moments. I like that kind of theater. I really respond to that intensity of performance. Carrie was very weird material to choose to musicalize, until we thought about it and it didn’t seem weird to us at the time, at all.
"THEY WERE DANCING AROUND IN TOGAS DURING THE OPENING GYM SEQUENCE"
Elsewhere, Cohen contrasts the new version of the Carrie musical (potentially "our dream of the piece") with the 1988 version ("It was our nightmare of the piece..."). Cohen is then asked to provide a "Reader's Digest" account of what made the 1988 version so wrong:
We ended up being asked by the Royal Shakespeare Company. They had done Les Mis and were looking for a follow up. Having gone through a lot of really major directors, we ended up being persuaded that Terry Hands was the right match. He had come to New York with two productions with Derek Jacobi—a Cyrano and Much Ado that were brilliant—and he talked a really good game, and we were three smart guys, and when the RSC says we’d like you to be our next production? It was pretty hard to turn our 20-year-plus-old selves to say no to that. It turned out to be a pretty dreadful mistake. Meaning, this director thought when we referred to, in conversation, Grease: The Musical, he thought we were referring to ancient Greece, G-R-E-E-C-E. And they were dancing around in togas during the opening gym sequence. It was deranged. It was like, the ship has sailed, there is no stopping it, other than to kill it, but we had no power to do anything. And Terry was used to working with a lot of dead writers, starting with William Shakespeare. So three feisty guys like us? We gave him notes and they went into the Bermuda Triangle. So as a result, we didn’t recognize the show, other than watching Betty Buckley and Linzi Hateley, who had thrilling, wonderful moments on stage; the rest of the piece was just like being on Mars.
DE PALMA'S MOVIE "HAS THE INCREDIBLE ILLUSION OF FIDELITY" TO THE NOVEL
Cohen also gets a bit into the differences between the various versions of Carrie when asked by Smith whether he thinks "the myth of the previous production is contributing to this [new] show":
Cohen: Definitely. It’s to the good and to the bad. The good is that it has kept the show very much alive and mythic—people wanting to do it, people wanting to see it. And that’s great. The bad is that I think that people saw a version of it and that’s what they think the show is. The reality is, the book is the book, and it’s that story. The movie has the incredible [i]llusion of fidelity, but its very different as an adaptation—it stays true to its core value, absolutely, and it has eliminated everything else. The musical was its own 1988 version. And this is another attack at it. They’re all valid to me. They’re just different. One isn’t better or worse. They live as their own thing, which I think is cool.
Rail: It’s a different take on the same structure of this fable of Carrie, and each incarnation has had a reverberation of its own for the time.
Cohen: Utterly right. With this version, what ended up happening was, we got together and had a chat about what we would each like to do, and we were very much on the same page about getting on the horse again, and ready to do it. Because there were so many requests, we wanted to put a version of it out there in the world that we liked, as opposed to one we hated. And it was really in answer to that demand that wasn’t going away. And we felt badly the show we wanted wasn’t there. There’s an audience that’s determined, at whatever cost, they want to see the old Carrie, and they’ve got that in their minds and they know the lines by heart like it’s the Rocky Horror show. There’s nothing to say or do.
1988 'CARRIE' MUSICAL: CLIVE BARNES WAS RIGHT(?)
About a month ago, Isn't It Delicious posted a look back at the 1988 version of Carrie: The Musical, placing quotes from some of the rare positive reviews at the top of the page, including this one from the New York Post's Clive Barnes: "Surprise, Surprise! Terry Hands blood, sweat and tears staging of Carrie for his Royal Shakespeare Company works. ...a project that seemed unlikely from the outset, has unexpectedly emerged as a strong, effective and remarkably coherent piece of terrific total theatre." The Newyork Times' Frank Rich is quoted, "...the fiercely concentrated Ms. [Betty] Buckley brings theatrical heat to every slap-happy bout of corporal punishment, every masturbatory hand gesture indicating her sexual repression, and every aria invoking Jesus and Satan." The blog post includes a terrific array of pictures from the production, as well.
Cohen talked to Playbill's Harry Haun about the reviews of the 1988 show, and how they don't exactly reflect the legend of it:
There are a zillion myths concerning the production — partly, I think, because we've chosen not to speak for all these years, and those are the bits that have just gone on. For example: we got a devastating review — a withering review — from Frank Rich in The Times, and people think they were all like that. They weren't.
If you went back and looked at that, Clive Barnes in The Post was every bit as much a rave. We would be running today, had Clive Barnes had his way in terms of the review. The Hollywood Reporter review — if our mothers had written it — couldn't have been better. But, in the myth of the past, all the reviews were terrible.
Gore then explains to Haun the real reason the show closed after five performances: "Because Ken Mandelbaum never chose to interview the authors or anybody who was at the heart of that production, most people don't know that — three performances in — our producer, who was European and not experienced on Broadway, got nervous because he didn't get the [Frank] Rich rave he wanted, closed his bank accounts, then got on a plane to Germany. The reason the show closed after five performances is that there was no payroll to pay anybody. Regardless of the perception — whether audiences didn't like it or the show wasn't doing well — the reality was he left town, there was no money to pay anybody, and it was too difficult — and too late — to find other producers." The article by Haun then gets Cohen's, Gore's, and lyricist Dean Pitchford's collective perspective on what went down:
Carrie got on the wrong track right at the get-go. Because Michael Bennett was a friend, he gave the three creatives some of his rehearsal space at 890 Broadway so they could do a backers' audition — Pitchford directing, Gore playing the piano and Cohen reading the script. "Based on that, all of a sudden, it was moving," Gore says. "We had producers before we had Act Two. It was on a fast track, and the next thing we know — wow! it was up!"
And who can fault them for going with their most prestigious offer? Terry Hands, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, offered the facilities at RSC, his proven skills as a director and, head-turning most of all, $8 million. They said yes!
"It was irresistible as an offer," Cohen recalls. "He had 20 years experience directing and running with Trevor Nunn the RSC, so all three of us were thrilled at being a part of that esteemed company. He also spoke a really good game, and he was very, very smart. Then, we moved into the process of actually putting on the show."
The warning signs came early, according to Gore: "There are so many elements that just have to come together correctly in any play or musical, and we knew it was over when we saw the costumes, which were very abstract and looked like Greece. Not the show — the country. Every area, actually, did not resemble what we had in mind."
Carrie — in the hands of Terry Hands — became an unrecognizable, Anglicized aberration of their original concept. "He had all kinds of classical ideas about how this was to be done, and he decided it was a tragedy in 12 tableaus," Pitchford relays with a discernible grimace.
"Tableaus," Cohen underlines archly, "is a word we no longer use."
"Every day he was just taking out dialogue," Pitchford continues, making a vicious ripping gesture in the air. "The through-sung musical like Phantom of the Opera is very much a British creation — different from American musicals where you stop and talk and then you sing a song and then go back to talking — and Terry's only frame of reference was Phantom, Evita and Les Miz. He wanted to lessen the distance between musical numbers, and they were tumbling one on top of the other, without the story being quite covered. The American musical is a very homegrown kind of animal, and we had a British director who had not grown up in the traditions the three of us had."
"Nor," notes Cohen, "had he gone to an American high school or understood what that was about. The word 'prom' didn't mean the same thing to him that it meant to all of us. It was a chasm. That we spoke English in common was the confusion."
PLAYBILL VIDEO FEATURES SEVERAL SONG CLIPS FROM NEW 'CARRIE' MUSICAL
Meanwhile, film and theatre enthusiast Mark Leonard says he has the ticket stub and Playbill to prove he was at the notorious 1988 show, and recalls the rather passionate standing ovations afterward. "Audience members were practically standing on their chairs," he states. "This thing was getting to some people." Leonard has seen the new version, as well, and says that while it is not perfect, "they mostly pull it off!" He adds, "This subdued production, with standout performances from [Marin] Mazzie and Ranson may not belt a home run. But it’s, at least, a ground-rule double—and decidedly worth your while."
VANITY FAIR: MALE AND FEMALE PERSPECTIVES ON 'CARRIE: THE MUSICAL'
Over at Vanity Fair's Hollywood Blog, Bruce Handy (who also says he saw the 1988 version) and Juli Weiner provide male and female perspectives on the new version of Carrie: The Musical. Unfortunately, both perspectives seem to be in agreement that the new show is not very good, although Handy steps out to praise Molly Ranson's performance ("she gave the whole thing a weight it didn’t deserve"). Weiner was surprised at "how much of the dialogue was sung: I’d say there were probably 25 lines of spoken dialogue in the two-hour production. It was essentially an opera." The two bloggers discuss how the songs are not catchy enough to be memorable (but they do provide a sample of the lyrics), which leads them into a discussion of the non-main characters, and the new show's minimalist depiction of Carrie's telekinesis:
Juli: I can’t remember a single melody or hum a few bars of anything. We did scribble down some of the silliest lyrics, though. You had a good one …
Bruce: I did! Although I may have misheard it. After Chris hatches her plot to humiliate Carrie, her boyfriend sings, "You always amaze me, the way that you think/If I was your daddy I’d buy you a drink." At least that's what I heard. I think you heard, “If I was your daddy I’d get you a shrink,” but I think my interpretation is the more authentically Freudian. Did you have a favorite cast member?
Juli: Well, there were so many tiny strings of plot that never went anywhere or tied to anything! My favorite characters were those that had to do with nothing: the popular boy who can’t help himself from making homoerotic comments to his friends, and the Lolita-esque student who tries to seduce her teacher for maybe (?) half a sentence and then is never heard from again. I love these characters for their gratuitousness; their presence is just so extravagant! Who was your favorite character?
Bruce: I liked all the mean students because the actors who unconvincingly played them were so clearly theater nerds who had presumably been picked on in high school and were now acting out their mean-kid fantasies. It was like seeing Curt from Glee play Jack in a Lord of the Flies musical. (Hey, that’s a great idea! They could even use the kill-the-pig song from the original Carrie.) We haven’t talked about the almost non-existent telekinesis, which I remember as sort of the point of any version of Carrie in any medium.
Juli: First of all: “medium”—good pun. Second of all: what telekinesis? You mean that time a chair tipped over, perhaps accidentally, and the lights flashed? How did the original production do it? I was incredulous they dumped red paint on Carrie offstage instead of rigging a bucket to the ceiling! I paid—well, not actually, but theoretically—to see that actress get covered in red paint! (Carrie is really bringing out the mean high-schooler in me, too.)