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Friday, November 16, 2012
Megan Abbott's latest book, Dare Me, takes place in the world of high school cheerleading, and has been described as Heathers meets Fight Club. Abbott is currently working on the screenplay adaptation of Dare Me for a film version in development with producer Karen Rosenfelt at Fox 2000. In an interview with William Boyle at Fiction Writers Review, Abbott discusses, among other things, the influence of David Lynch and Brian De Palma on Dare Me. Here are the first few paragraphs of the interview:

William Boyle: You cited Twin Peaks as a big influence on The End of Everything and you mentioned Laura Palmer in your article about competitive cheerleading for The New York Times a few weeks ago. I feel David Lynch’s presence in Dare Me, as well. There’s a Laura/Donna dynamic between Beth and Addy and a very palpable erotic tension throughout. Did Lynch influence Dare Me?

Megan Abbott: With me, it’s never one-to-one or conscious exactly. But this is interesting: when I had the title for The End of Everything I watched Mulholland Drive again and it’s a line in that film: “This is the end of everything.” Someone told me, “Oh, it’s also a line in your first book” [Die A Little], which I had written the year Mulholland Drive came out, so clearly that line is/was tattooed in my brain. So I think it mostly comes out in unconscious ways.

But that’s a great analogy. The Laura Palmer/Donna relationship is such a fundamental female friendship dynamic and that’s a perfect example with Beth and Addy. There’s always the one friend who takes all the air out of the room or is such a presence and the other one who is secondary and is longing to be that bigger person. There are those moments when Maddy comes and looks like Laura and then Donna realizes that she’s going to be dethroned again. There’s something about that complicated female dynamic that I think has been a pulse through a lot of my stuff.

And then sometimes I look at Lynch when I’m trying to add odd tensions to a scene. I get that a lot from him. It’s never direct either. But I’ll just sort of watch a bunch of his stuff to remind myself of why things are scary that wouldn’t necessarily seem scary. There’s a scene in Dare Me where Beth is talking about a dream she had and that definitely feels like a Lynch kind of thing. You know, when someone’s telling you the dream, but they’re telling it in a way that it becomes terrifying to the listener.

Also, in Lynch’s films everything is infused with eroticism. That’s something that’s probably characteristic of maybe all my books, but certainly the last two where it’s adolescence, so it takes over everything anyway.

William Boyle: Early in the book you confront the fetishization of cheerleaders head-on: “All those misty images of cheerleaders frolicking in locker rooms, pom-poms sprawling over bare bud breasts. All those endless fantasies and dirty-boy dreams, they’re all true in a way.” This put me in mind of Brian De Palma. It’s almost as if you’re playing a kind of trick he’d play, making us believe that’s true but yet undermining it with the portrait of the Cheerleader Real that you wind up painting. Was that your intention?

Megan Abbott: Absolutely. De Palma. I can never think of a female locker without thinking of the beginning of Carrie, which is exactly what “dirty boy-dreams” I had in mind. And it’s funny because I always feel like I go both ways with that. I love De Palma. I’m a big De Palma fan. And I want to diffuse the fantasy, but then it also turns out to be partially true. That’s always the thing—it’s the two sides of me. My Times essay is my intellectual take. I want this to be real. But when I write, it’s a different part of my brain—it also wants it partially to be a fantasy. And for it to be a fantasy part of it has to be true. So there are moments in the book where the fantasies are made real, they are kind of literal, there is a sensory pleasure the girls get from each other’s bodies even in just touching each other during stunts. I wanted that to be in there. The sort of thinking feminist part of my head wants to puncture this stuff, but the other part of me knows it is part of the Real in some ways, that all fantasies have some basis in reality. People always say De Palma’s a misogynist, but I think he’s actually really a feminist. And I think he gets to have it both ways. I mean, that’s sort of his trick. He’s making fun of it, but he’s still indulging it.

Posted by Geoff at 12:50 AM CST
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 4:41 PM CST
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 12:08 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012
As co-creator Ryan Murphy stated last month, the current season of American Horror Story is under the influence of Brian De Palma. The first episode featured repeated music cues from Pino Donaggio's score for De Palma's Carrie, and the whole season so far has echoes of De Palma's Sisters here and there. Tonight's episode introduced a new character: a Nazi hunter named Sam Goodwin, played by Mark Margolis, who is perhaps best known as Alberto "The Shadow" in De Palma's Scarface. Margolis also made an uncredited appearance as a patient in De Palma's Dressed To Kill, another film Murphy mentioned as a direct influence on this season of American Horror Story. (Margolis has also gained recognition of late in another Scarface-influenced TV show, Breaking Bad.)

Margolis and Al Pacino appear in the upcoming Stand Up Guys, which, judging by the trailer below, has surface echoes of De Palma's Carlito's Way. And when Margolis appears in the trailer as some kind of crime boss ordering a hit on Pacino, who has just been released from prison, one can't help but think of their roles in Scarface, where Pacino as Tony Montana ends up killing Margolis' Alberto, and sealing his own fate in the process. Stand Up Guys is directed by Fisher Stevens, who incidentally once dated Scarface's Michelle Pfeiffer for about three years in the early 1990s. The film had its world premiere last month at the Chicago International Film Festival, and The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge called it "a raunchy and touching comedy" that "lubricates its old joints—of the plot, genre and actors—quite entertainingly." Variety's Alissa Simon states that the film incorporates "conventions from and sendups of countless other pics," but feels that the "talky, tongue-in-cheek feature is most likable when the main characters are simply playing off each other."

Posted by Geoff at 11:27 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 11:33 PM CST
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Ipsilon's Francisco Valente posted an interview with Brian De Palma yesterday, in relation to the De Palma retrospective currently running at the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival. Here are some of De Palma's quotes from the article:

On the turmoil of the 1960s:

"The Vietnam War and the assassination of Kennedy made us aware that the government was deceiving us. When we realized that they lied about the war, and when we saw that the government was making excuses for the Kennedy assassination, none of that made sense to our eyes. For us, who trusted in our political leaders, it was a revelation. Today, obviously, we doubt everything they say."

On Redacted:

"With Iraq, we fell, again, to the lie of a war, and we sent kids there helpless to fight for something that they had no idea what it was. They had horrific experiences and then they too responded to them in a terrible way."

On establishing the idea of deception with the viewer:

"Film can be the art of deception. You can create movies that lie and deceive the public with pictures, and there are elements of it in my movies."

On the visual language of motion pictures:

"Many of the images developed in the movies are inspired by the material with which we work, but the advantage of thriller and horror films is that they rely on a specific visual language... Voyeurism is a staple of the cinema. It is intrinsic to the art, because the movie has to do with observing an action: we're pointing a camera at a person who pretends to not have a lens pointed at her... There is a vast reservoir of movies from the past which show how the way to tell a story visually has evolved, something that originated in the silents. We saw what happened when sound came in and made films in static forms, which worsened with television."

On beauty in cinema, and studio resistance:

"Beauty is an important idea for me, and there is not enough beauty in film, because it costs a lot of money to the studios... Making Scarface was a terrible struggle. Studios said it was too violent, and they had immense fear. We always find that kind of resistance in the industry and I don’t believe this has improved in the last two decades."

On the pictures getting smaller:

"Much of what we see on the screens [phone] and television coverage is just for boring dramatic events, instead of formats that seem to have the aspects necessary to tell a story in a visual way. They’re not able to create exciting visual experiences, which I feel are an important part of the cinema: large images made for a big screen... A film like Lawrence of Arabia or Once Upon a Time in the West would not make sense on a small screen. This part of the achievement has been lost today, and we see how movies are mechanical and do not have well choreographed sequences. And images that are repeated endlessly because they are programmed by a computer."

And in closing, Valente notes that De Palma's cinema has a sentimental layer underneath the suspense, and quotes De Palma once more:

"I'm drawn to classical tragedy because I see it as a way to tell a more emotional story. I'm only interested in art that is emotional, that withstands the test of time."

Posted by Geoff at 1:08 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 6:19 PM CST
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Friday, November 9, 2012
When I first posted about the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival, I stated that it would feature a complete Brian De Palma retrospective, up to and including his new film, Passion. Well, as it turns out, the retrospective features a select 16 films from De Palma's filmography, which is not bad for a ten day festival (LEFF runs November 9-18). The festival opens today, and while The Master and Beasts Of The Southern Wild are the official opening night films, earlier in the day, at 12:30pm, De Palma's Carrie will kick off the retrospective. Following the screening, internationally respected critic Bill Krohn will be on hand for a Q&A discussion of the film. In fact, Krohn will be on hand to discuss De Palma's Passion when it screens out of competition at the fest next Friday, November 16. And in between, on Sunday, November 11, Krohn will be the featured guest at screenings of De Palma's The Responsive Eye and Dionysus In '69.

A couple of side notes: In 2007, Krohn placed De Palma's Redacted at number 10 on his list of top 10 films of that year; the closing night film of this year's LEFF will be Cloud Atlas.

Posted by Geoff at 1:01 AM CST
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Thursday, November 8, 2012
The Maryland Film Festival presents "A Tribute To John Travolta" at the MICA Brown Center this Saturday (November 10) at 7pm. The event will raise funds for the festival, and will be highlighted by an "Open Conversation" with Travolta and John Waters, the fifth in the fest's annual "Open Conversations" series. Travolta will also be awarded the MFF "Reel Guy" for achievement in film.

In preparation for the event, director of programming Eric Allen Hatch has been reviewing several Travolta films on the MFF blog, including Blow Out. "Travolta is perfectly cast here," writes Hatch. "Already known as a stylish and dynamic star for his work on enduring favorites such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever a few years earlier, he begins the picture as an easily relatable leading man for the audience. Smooth and sly, he’s also heroic—ready to jump into the mouth of danger to save a stranger—and so it becomes all the more startling when obsession takes over, and his search for the truth recasts him as a figure on the margins."

Posted by Geoff at 7:05 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 7:06 PM CST
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The face above may look like Al Pacino from Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, but it is actually an action figure of extraordinary detail. The Carlito action figure will be released in December from Blitzway, a South Korean company that specializes in action figures of mostly Asian cultural icons. Last year, Blitzway found some success with its first "global figure," Tony Montana from De Palma's Scarface. Both 12-inch figures come with extra sets of hands, among other accessories. Tony Montana goes for $180, while Carlito goes for $195. Pics of each are below.

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 4:37 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
New York Live Arts presents a reconstruction of the Performance Group's Dionysus In '69 (a re-imagining of The Bacchae) beginning with a preview tonight, and continuing through Saturday. The production is by Rude Mechs, the Austin-based theatre collective which first staged a painstaking recreation of the original 1968 production in Austin in 2009. Not only did the group use Brian De Palma's film of the play as a key source material, but they even got Richard Schechner himself, who staged and directed the 1968 production, to lead some of the early rehearsals. They now bring Dionysus In '69 back to New York City, 44 years after its premiere there, notes the Live Arts website. Schechner will join a discussion following Friday night's 7:30 performance.

Posted by Geoff at 12:34 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 12:36 AM CST
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Monday, November 5, 2012
Nacho Vigalondo, whose 2007 film Timecrimes is said to be a variation on Brian De Palma's Body Double, mentioned another De Palma film, Blow Out, in his description of the currently-shooting Open Windows. Screen Daily's Melanie Goodfellow had the exclusive on Friday:

Elijah Wood has boarded Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo’s first English-language picture Open Windows, an innovative, high-tech suspense thriller unfolding on the screen of a laptop connected to the Internet.

Shooting began this week on a high-security set in Madrid. It is Vigalondo’s third feature after the 2008 time-travelling tale Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial, a hit on the fantasy film festival circuit over the past 12 months...

Open Windows develops in real time, delivering 90 minutes of suspense in a tense, fast-paced, high-tech thriller with action and terror, updating the key elements of 70s paranoid thrillers through today’s computer and online environment,” said Wild Bunch sales chief Vincent Maraval.

The plot revolves around a desperate search by Wood’s character for an actress, played by The Girlfriend Experience lead Sasha Grey, who has been abducted by vicious villain Chord, played by British actor Neil Maskell.

“Just as in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, the girl is captured. The hero will have to use every means at his disposal to discover where she is, and rescue her from the villain before its too late,” said Vigalondo.

The director began developing the picture three years ago with Apaches Entertainment and his own production company Sayaka.

“The action will be followed on the screen of a laptop connected to the Internet – an approach that has excited us all from the outset. Something like this means going beyond high concept films like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield or Chronicle,” he said. “Instead of simulating a home video camera, we will be representing a computer desktop. The movie screen becomes a computer screen, and the spectator becomes the protagonist of this adventure.”

Spanish producer Lavigne revealed the production would use 12 different types of camera, including webcams, head cameras, tablets, mobile phones, 3D mapping cameras as well as security and satellite cameras to shoot the multi-format picture.

Open Windows is full of twists, but it’s essentially a 90-minute chase, a continuous climax with unrelenting tension… it is also a powerful viral tool, with a wide potential for different audiences,” he said.

Posted by Geoff at 1:54 AM CST
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