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Friday, September 28, 2012

El mundo sin Brando #70 (8º capítulo de la 4ª temporada) by El Mundo Sin Brando on Mixcloud

Posted by Geoff at 6:40 PM CDT
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Despite the negotiations with IFC Films revealed this past Monday, Entertainment One (also known as eOne Entertainment) announced today that it has acquired the North American rights to distribute Brian De Palma's Passion. Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily, and Deadline all reported the news, adding that Passion will be released in theaters in early 2013. (I got a pretty big laugh out of The Wrap's Brent Lang stating that "it's been over a decade since De Palma was a critics' darling." Was he ever so loved by what we might call "the critics"?)

Regarding Passion, the Deadline team states that "the deal was negotiated by ICM Partners along with SBS’ Saïd Ben Saïd and eOne’s David Reckziegel and Sejin Croninger; ICM Partners also reps De Palma." The Hollywood Reporter quotes Reckziegel (the president of eOne Films North America)-- "Rachel McAdams' and Noomi Rapace's performances are captivating and De Palma delivers another great thriller that audiences have already embraced at Venice and Toronto."

Posted by Geoff at 1:11 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 7:44 PM CDT
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Peter Labuza and Simon Abrams begin a special NYFF episode of the Cinephiliacs podcast with a stimulating discussion of Brian De Palma's Passion. They delve into the characters' manipulation of digital images, as well as the use of color in the film. Abrams also discusses how he thinks there is a lot of interesting things going on in the first half of the film, contrary to the seemingly popular view that the film only picks up in its second half.

Posted by Geoff at 1:16 AM CDT
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Benjamin Grayson was assistant to Kenneth Branagh on last year's Thor, and now Branagh stars in Grayson's short film Prodigal, about a father who tries to keep his daughter away from two competing organizations out to harness her "special abilities" for their own purposes. The short is included in a new anthology, Stars In Shorts. The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck says the collection of shorts has no apparent overall theme, and is a mostly "rewarding grab bag." However, "The sole dud of the bunch is Benjamin Grayson’s sci-fi effort Prodigal," states Scheck, "with Kenneth Branagh as the ominous representative of a villainous organization intent on capturing a young girl with psychic powers. Even at 25 minutes, it seems overlong compared to Brian De Palma’s The Fury, to which it bears an obvious debt." Neil LaBute also has a short in the anthology called Sexting, "in which Julia Stiles, playing an aggrieved mistress to a married man, delivers a nearly eight-minute monologue directly to the camera," according to Scheck.

Posted by Geoff at 12:51 AM CDT
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The New York Post's Farran Smith Nehme (also known as the Self-Styled Siren) has some passionate words for Passion. "The many, many people who hate Brian De Palma will walk out still hating him after Passion, as it flaunts his every alleged flaw," states Nehme. "Highly stylized acting -- Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace seem to have studied Kim Novak in Vertigo down to the last 'Pledge of Allegiance' -- like line delivery. Kinky sex (although the nudity is kept to a minimum). Flashy, look-ma-no-hands technique, notably a split-screen sequence that sets a performance of Afternoon of a Faun next to nefarious goings-on."

Continuing, Nehme writes, "And of course, a crazy-quilt plot. It's a remake of Alain Corneau's Love Crime, but the events still feel as though they're stitched together from the least logical elements of every other thriller De Palma ever made. Plus, you simply will not believe how heavily he references the dream sequences in Dressed to Kill. Lucky for me, Dressed to Kill is my favorite De Palma, and I was practically drunk on this new movie's sensuality and dazzle. Passion is pure cinema, giddily unrelated to any aspect of life as it is actually lived in Europe or anywhere on Planet Earth. And for me (as well as the audience at the press screening, which seemed to dig it) that's an excellent thing."

Posted by Geoff at 6:09 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 6:52 PM CDT
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I know there are a few interviews I still need to link to from the other festivals (Part Two of the interview roundup is coming soon, for sure!), but Jack Giroux at Film School Rejects got a chance to interview Brian De Palma prior to the start of the New York Film Festival, and, well, it's fresh.

When asked if he takes it as a compliment when critics call something "very much a De Palma picture," De Palma said, "I think that’s a good thing. When a director’s style is so evident in his work that you immediately identify it after he’s made so many movies…it’s like a certain type of ice cream: you go, 'Yeah, strawberry, my favorite!' Or, you know, 'Strawberry, I hate it!' Either way, you know it’s strawberry." Giroux further asks De Palma if his style has evolved over time. "Yeah," replies De Palma. "Obviously, you do certain things. I have a rather large paint box full of certain plots and montage elements I like to use. It’s like John Ford‘s landscapes. There are certain things you say, 'Well, let’s have them run through there again.' It’s the same picture I’m very comfortable with, and that keeps repeating in your work."

The interview then goes on...

You still look for challenges within that style, right?

I think my career has met every challenge imaginable. [Laughs] I’ve tried every form that’s out there except the western. I love the landscapes of the western.

Have you ever been interested in doing a western?

I’d do one, absolutely.

A theme in some of your work is characters feeling trapped, even in something like Snake Eyes. For Passion, you use that barred-in widow shades effect, so do you think it fits that theme?

We don’t really think about it like that. We sort of address the aesthetic problems of the piece. For Snake Eyes, the whole idea was you never leave the casino, which is the same idea that a casino never wants you to leave. For other films, the landscapes are very important. I think about them all the time, because I’m very scrupulous in finding visuals that illustrate and magnify the themes in the film. The world the girls live in is a very important location.

Obviously a lot of those visuals come from your dreams. What dreams did you use for Passion?

I myself get a lot of ideas from my dreams. I wake up many times during the night thinking about certain aesthetic problems, which sort of figure themselves out in my dream. For this movie, I got the idea of the phone commercial in a dream. With this I was always thinking, “How am I going to end it?” I decided to go with this whole extended dream sequence.

The last time you made a thriller you deconstructed the genre with Femme Fatale. For this, did you want to do the same or make a straight thriller?

The problem with this is it’s a police procedural in many ways. I felt what was effective about the original movie was the first scene revealed who did it. After that, then it’s seeing how all these phony clues were set up, which I didn’t find all that interesting. Actually, I looked at 10 years of CSI, to see how exactly they use clues to solve cases. I said, “My God, this has been done to death 1,000 different ways.” You can’t do a police procedural in a movie anymore. Television has already done it 27 different ways. I had to come up with a way to make the confession seem absolutely real, but then get into the surreal world.

I haven’t done any police procedurals, because it’s usually people talking to the accused at a table holding up evidence. Besides having to shoot that, I have to find a way to make this interesting. Also, having to simplify the clues. In the original movie, she left four clues, four things that had to be deconstructed. I just got it down to the bloody scarf, to make it as simple as possible.


[After some discussion of the strong reactions audiences usually have to De Palma's films (including Redacted), the interview continues as De Palma mentions that the commercial in Passion is based on an actual commercial...]

I believe your original idea for that was a riff on Inception.

Yeah, it was. It was a very complicated three-dream level Inception.

That’s interesting, since you’re known for classical influences. How often do you find yourself inspired by modern films?

Well, I’m inspired by anything that touches my imagination, which is why I think I’m the only living director who actually goes to film festivals to see the movies. I’m looking at stuff all the time. I go see the movies that rarely get into this country. I’m interested in what everyone else is doing. When I see what I consider an interesting idea, it’s, like, “Wow!”

What do you usually look for in those festival films?

The great thing about the film festivals in Montreal and Toronto is the ability to move in and out of the theater if you’re seeing things that don’t interest you. I only had a few days to look at films in Toronto, but, I don’t know, I looked at seven films in one afternoon. If I see nothing there that catches my eye, I’ll just move on to the next movie. I’m going to the movie that nobody usually attends. I don’t go to the big tickets, because I can see those in New York. I want to see the ones which are really strange and only have ten people in the theater. I go completely by chance, since I don’t read extensive reviews or introductions. I usually just go, “This sounds sort of interesting.”

You’ve mentioned being a big admirer of his, so I have to ask, did you get a chance to see The Master in Toronto?

No, I didn’t, unfortunately. I’m an admirer of Paul [Thomas Anderson]‘s, obviously. I thought Magnolia was fantastic. I’m the one who understands the films completely.

[Laughs] There’s already been a lot of debate over what The Master means as well.

Well, when you’re pushing the envelope, that’s what’s going to happen.

You shot Passion on film, which is always surprising now. Why didn’t you go with digital?

The reason we shot on film is…I mean, it has a lot of beautiful women. On film you can light them beautifully. I’m sure that’ll change. Digital doesn’t lend itself to the class of beautiful lighting. I chose the cinematographer specifically because he knows how to light women. I like beautiful women, dressing them, and making them look as beautiful as they can.

Posted by Geoff at 12:49 AM CDT
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Peaches Does Herself is a semi-autobiographical musical, written by Peaches and shot by Robin Thomson, that is (according to Rolling Stone) "culled from a 10-date live stage production" she presented in Berlin. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. On the TIFF website, Noah Cowan describes the film as "a wild transsexual rock opera." Vanguard's Leslie Hatton asked Peaches, who is from Toronto, what movies served as inspirations in transforming the stage show into a movie. "I saw Phantom of the Paradise and Tommy at a very young age," Peaches replied, "and it's affected everything I do ever since." She added that she is also inspired by Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing. Peaches mentioned Phantom Of The Paradise and Tommy to Rolling Stone, as well, and also added The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Busby Berkeley musicals (the latter an influence from her mother).

"This is not a documentary, but it's a way to understand me in a fantastical way," Peaches explained to Rolling Stone's Karen Bliss. "It's also subversive – an anti-jukebox musical. Actually, the songs relate more to what they're actually about in the musical than something like Mamma Mia, where they make up another story, or We Will Rock You, where [they have] this cheesy future crap. There's enough of a story there for me to have originality, but I also – not even parodied, but gave homage to all my favorite musicals. Like the speech at the beginning, the professor – that's kind of borrowed from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the scene 'I Feel Cream,' when they bring in all the sets and all of a sudden we're in love. That to me is so Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris, all those Gene Kelly [and] Fred Astaire movies."

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 12:04 AM CDT
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Monday, September 24, 2012

According to the Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel, IFC Films is in negotiations to acquire domestic distribution rights to Brian De Palma's Passion. International Creative Management (ICM), which represents De Palma, is negotiating the deal on behalf of the filmmakers, according to Siegel. Passion was produced by Saïd Ben Saïd, who also produced Alain Corneau's Crime d'amour, and is executive produced by Alfred Hürmer and Valérie Boyer. The film will screen three times at the New York Film Festival, which opens this Friday (Passion screens Saturday night).

Siegel notes that IFC acquired domestic rights to a number of films at the Toronto International Film Festival, including Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha, which stars Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film). De Palma attended an NYFF press and industry screening of that film on Thursday, where Movie Geeks United's Dean Treadwell noticed De Palma and invited him to be on the radio broadcast again sometime to talk about Passion (De Palma enthusiastically said yes, but it won't be until around the time the film gets released-- you can hear Treadwell's report below). De Palma and Baumbach, who have been friends for a while, will appear on stage together at NYFF on October 7, discussing their film influences, showing clips, and answering questions from the audience.

Posted by Geoff at 6:53 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 12:34 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brian De Palma was interviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival by The Hot Button's David Poland...

(Courtesy of Go Into The Story's Scott Myers.)

Posted by Geoff at 11:32 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2012 11:48 PM CDT
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J. Hoberman posted about Brian De Palma's Passion on his Blouin ArtInfo blog today, ahead of the start of the New York Film Festival this Friday. Hoberman calls Passion "sleek, slick, humorously kinky," and suggested that the film continues the play with cinematic forms De Palma displayed in his previous film, Redacted. Hoberman also takes a look at Chris Dumas' book, Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible, and finds that Passion is a good example of Dumas' conception of De Palma as "a sort of intuitive film theorist who, like Peckinpah and Coppola before him, has reached a place where he can only make movies that are allegories for making movies." Here's how Hoberman lays it out:

"A German-produced, English-language remake of the late Alain Corneau’s last feature Crime d’amour, a bit of boardroom intrigue released here last September as Love Crime, Passion has a prime spot on the festival’s first Saturday night (and is showing twice more after that). As in the Corneau film, it’s predicated on a battle royale between two cool chicks—in this case, advertising hotshot Christine (Rachel McAdams) and her protégée Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). McAdams makes a most excellent bad girl—in part because, as his wont, De Palma elicits some truly 'bad' acting.

"The promise of AC-DC workplace romantic triangle is only one of Passion’s deceptive attractions. Basically, De Palma’s movie is a playful, shamelessly manipulative movie about shameless manipulation—not least of cinematic forms. Like Redacted, Passion concerned with cyber recording and digital duplicity and, also like Redacted, new types of cinema—including sex tapes, Skype conversations, and an 'ass-cam' you stick in your back pocket to monitor who’s checking you out. It’s also showboat film-making, full of expressionist angles, baroque lighting, nested narratives, and inconsequential film school references (not just to Vertigo but De Palma’s own Dressed to Kill).

"De Palma may be an inveterate trickster but his compulsion to extra-textualize Corneau’s original is both a way of taking ownership of the material and a form of free-association less rigorous than, but not unlike, Raymond Roussel’s method for composing his surreal novels. Thus, Passion’s split screen set piece, involves both a slyly seductive performance of the ballet Afternoon of a Faun and an obscurely unfolding criminal plan, mainly because both (as will only later be clear) hinge upon stolen scarfs.

"It was while in Toronto, browsing the well-stocked bookstore at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre, that I discovered Chris Dumas’s high-powered, witty, and provocatively (as well as suitably) disreputable Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible. Dumas, who writes like a PhD student who wise-guyed himself out of film school, Dumas clearly identifies with his subject. By his logic, it was precisely because De Palma — a cineaste of the ’60s and thus contemporary to the whole Cinema Studies enterprise — took it upon himself to rewrite, or travesty, the two Cinema Studies deities Hitchcock and Godard, that his oeuvre has found so little academic support. (In that sense, Un-American Psycho is something like the return of the Cinema Studies 'repressed.')

"Dumas’s De Palma is a sort of intuitive film theorist who, like Peckinpah and Coppola before him, has reached a place where he can only make movies that are allegories for making movies. Blatantly global, predicated on theft and betrayal (as well as plots and image-making), Passion is a case in point.

"In the best of all possible worlds, De Palma would only direct remakes and all remakes would be directed by him. Still, it is strange that this one has yet to find a US distributor. Can an openly commercial mocksploitation film possibly be too cerebral? As Oscar Wilde observed, 'There is always something ridiculous about the passions of people whom one has ceased to love.'”


Meanwhile, someone who is not so impressed with Dumas' book is Adrian Martin, who, in a review posted in the current edition of Screening The Past, states that the book "is full of sloppy, careless mistakes," and "poorly constructed as an argument." For examples of the mistakes, Martin writes, "The bibliography lists Tony Conrad as the author of The Hitchcock Murders – Tony Conrad, the 'underground' filmmaker, wow! Alas, it’s really that old fogey, Peter Conrad. In a chapter devoted to Godard, James Roy MacBean is described as a once-regular contributor to Film Comment – ah, that would be Film Quarterly. Godard’s films Numéro Deux and Ici et Ailleurs are dated as 'early 1970s' – they are 1975 and 1976, respectively. And on and on it goes."

Dumas responds: "As a longtime fan of the music of Tony Conrad, I am truly ashamed to have carelessly cited him as the author of Peter Conrad's dreadful The Hitchcock Murders. I hope Tony can forgive me. -- Chris Dumas"

Another error in the book involves De Palma's Obsession, which Dumas describes as one of De Palma's works for hire ("he neither originated the project nor wrote the script"). Of course, De Palma did originate the project, and in fact Paul Schrader's screenplay is based on a story by Schrader and De Palma. When I asked Dumas about this, he said someone else had told him the same thing, and acknowledged that the error left a hole in the book's thesis that he hopes to retrospectively correct with a potential presentation in the near future. One of Martin's biggest problems with Dumas' book is the dismissal of Obsession, "in my opinion one of De Palma’s greatest and most powerful works," states Martin. Referring to the book's title (which itself reflects Dumas' thesis that Film Studies cannot "see" De Palma because his cinema is exactly what Film Studies strives to be), Martin adds, "Talk about a blind spot!"

For myself, despite the mistakes, Dumas' book provides a unique view of De Palma that correctly identifies Godard as the basis from which to understand De Palma's continued "use" of Hitchcock (or, to paraphrase Dumas, De Palma's developed operation of the Hitchcock machine, which Dumas states is understood "as the sum of Hitchcock's appropriable narrative and technical gestures"). Dumas analyzes the way the Godardian, political De Palma turned toward Hitchcock's grammar as a way to develop his own filmmaking skills. "De Palma, therefore," states Dumas, "becomes not a 'Hitchcockian' - the way that, say, M. Night Shyamalan has become a 'Hitchcockian' - but, rather, takes on the operation of the Hitchcock machine as un Godardiste." In this vein, Dumas further posits the idea of De Palma as film theorist, and at one point suggests that Raising Cain might also have been called "Some Thoughts on Hitchcock's Authorship." Martin himself admits that he can "see some small truth" in Dumas' thesis, but feels that Dumas is prone to overstatement.

The book also includes well-selected and juxtaposed stills, mostly from De Palma films, but also some other directors here and there. (Martin himself finds the series of stills featuring faces returning the camera's gaze, such as the still of William Finley that graces the book's cover, the book's highlight.) I also appreciate a book such as this for those instances in which it brings to light a reference in a De Palma film that I may never have thought to look at otherwise, such as when Dumas notes the influence of Anthony Mann on De Palma's The Untouchables and Femme Fatale (Dumas suggests that the latter's "supremely illogical dream structure" is "clearly borrowed from Strange Impersonation," a claim I have yet to investigate for myself).

A.V. Club's John Semley also appreciates the book's close readings of De Palma's films, stating it is one of the "great strengths of Dumas' theorizing."

One other note of interest regarding Dumas' book: Slavoj Žìzek is presented as "un Lacaniste" who makes the mistake of operating the Hitchcock machine while ignoring De Palma, who, as a theorist in his own right, entered Hitchcock studies prior to Žìzek. Prior to the completion of Dumas' manuscript, Žiz̀ek had never once seemed to have mentioned or written about De Palma. However, in his latest book, Living In The End Times (2010), Žiz̀ek spends a paragraph with De Palma's Redacted, in the context of a discussion of U.S. military interventions around the globe. Below is that paragraph and, for context, parts of the ones that surround it on pages 174-175:


"Can we still conceive of heroism as the simple attitude of risking-it-all for our (democratic) Cause? This brings us to the final feature: what exactly is the conflict in which the U.S. is heroically ready to participate, in defense of the weak 'postmodern' states? The struggle against a conglomerate of religious fundamentalists and corrupt dictators? Is this the true struggle? When Madeleine Albright defined the US as 'the indispensable nation which doesn't need any counterbalance, because it balances itself, she was being truly fatuous: this self-aggrandizing Hegelian-sounding definition is simply wrong-- the US is precisely not able to balance itself, for it has to be reminded of its limitations again and again by some external counter-force.

"No wonder that Brian De Palma's Redacted was boycotted by the US public: it portrays rape and murder as part of the US army's obscene subculture, a form of 'group solidarity' in collective transgression. The supreme irony is that the gang rape incident which the film stages happened in the summer of 2006 in Samara-- and the film makes a reference to the 'Appointment in Samara' story, nicely left half untold. This legend was retold by W. Somerset Maugham: a servent on an errand in the busy market of Baghdad meets Death; terrified by its gaze, he runs home to his master and asks for a horse, so that he can ride all day and reach Samara, where Death will not find him, in the evening. The good master not only provides the servent with a horse, but goes to the market himself, looking for Death to reproach it for scaring his faithful servant. Death replies: 'But I didn't want to scare your servant. I was just surprised at what was he doing here when I have an appointment in Samara tonight...' What if the message of this story is not that a man's demise is impossible to avoid, that trying to twist free of it will only tighten its grip, but rather the exact opposite, namely that if one accepts fate as inevitable then one can break its grasp?

"It was foretold to Oedipus's parents that their son would kill his father and marry his mother, but the very steps they took to avoid this fate (exposing him to death in a deep forest) ensured that the prophecy would be fulfilled-- without their attempt to avoid fate, fate could not have realized itself. Is this not a clear parable of the fate of the US intervention in Iraq? The US saw the signs of the fundamentalist threat, intervened to prevent it, and thereby massively strengthened it. Would it not have been much more effective to accept the threat, ignore it, and thus break its grasp?"


Incidentally, Žiz̀ek himself makes a mistake in stating that the incident that Redacted is based on actually took place in Samara (it actually happened in Al-Mahmudiyah-- De Palma's film begins with a clever bit of wordplay, deemed necessary by the studio to avoid lawsuits, that probably threw Žìzek off: "redacted visually documents imagined events before, during and after a 2006 rape and murder in Samara").

Posted by Geoff at 6:43 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 7:23 PM CDT
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