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Monday, January 7, 2013

Les Inrockuptibles critic Jean-Baptiste Morain has just posted a review of Brian De Palma's Passion, which opens in France on February 13. Morain calls it one of De Palma's finest films. Below is a Google-aided translation of the review:

"Funny idea on paper: the new De Palma is adapted from the last film directed by Alain Corneau, Love Crime, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier, a game of manipulation that goes wrong between employees of the same company. What was the interest in this rather easy-going French thriller? He draws from it a film in his own way, the one that we prefer, a mixture of Hitchcock and Lang, erotic and morbid fever in an atmosphere where the baroque and fantastical reality and imagination are blurred constantly, where the characters are manipulated, to humiliate each other without really knowing who prevails over the other.

"No realism in Passion, but formalism at all costs. No plausibility either, but suspense, pitfalls, daydreams or nightmares that seem to fit into each other. Passion is also a film of women, mostly bisexual, a film where the one man band will leave pale and deceived like a rookie. Who is nice: blonde, brunette or redhead? Mystery. And if they were one? The twists succeed more twists in a game of mirrors where revenge leads the dance. Passion is nearly a genre film. De Palma returns to his 70s Hitchcockian vein, a period when he amused himself by making variations on the themes of the old master, to draw his own cinema, both haunted by the model and its ability to give life and day to a very personal film.

"De Palma said one day, in a bonus DVD: 'Hitchcock, I know very well of what he speaks.' Another way of saying acquaintances between fantasy filmmakers of Catholic formation, where sex is at the same time a horrific vision and completely exciting. Filmed with great precision, uncluttered, with a knife, with a mastery of every second, Passion is undoubtedly one of the finest films of Brian De Palma."

Posted by Geoff at 9:18 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2013 9:20 PM CST
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 3:18 PM CST
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Monday, December 31, 2012
Manu Yáñez, a film critic from Barcelona who writes for Fotogramas, posted his finalized list of top ten films from 2012 today on Twitter. While Brian De Palma's Passion will not be officially released until the spring of 2013, it made Yáñez' list at number 3, right in between the latest works from David Cronenberg and Kathryn Bigelow. Richard Linklater's Bernie tops the list at number one. On his Twitter page, Yáñez wrote a tweet for each title, each tweet beginning with the word "because." For Passion, he wrote, "Because mi amigo Brian goes about his business: think of the cinema doing cinema. More loose, more free."

Here is Yáñez full top ten:

1. Bernie (Richard Linklater)
2. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
3. Passion (Brian De Palma)
4. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
5. Ensayo final para utopía (Andrés Duque)
6. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
7. Bleak Night (Yoon Sung-hyun)
8. Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
9. Enero 2012 (O la apoteosis de Isabel la Católica) (Colectivo Los Hijos)
10. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)

Posted by Geoff at 8:05 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 1:19 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In the video above, Noomi Rapace is interviewed at the British Independent Film Awards, and at one point is asked about working with Rachel McAdams on Brian De Palma's Passion. "Oh, we had such a great time," replies Rapace. "We were in Berlin for three months. And I love working with her, we had such a… it was fun, even though we didn’t really like each other on screen, but... [laughs, then looks serious again]. And it was a really intense journey for me."

Posted by Geoff at 6:41 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 6:44 PM CST
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Sunday, December 9, 2012
The Guardian's Xan Brooks interviewed Ludivine Sagnier about her career and her work on Alain Corneau's Love Crime. Here is the passage in which they discuss that film, and Brian De Palma's remake of it:

In her latest film, Love Crime, Sagnier plays a corporate worm that turns. For the first half she's the supplicant, sweating through an agonising, quasi-sexual relationship with her implacable boss (Kristin Scott Thomas). For the second she's the agent of change, apparently martyring herself in the service of committing the perfect crime. "Human beings are so complicated," grumbles the detective called in to clean up the mess.

Sagnier explains that she actually shot Love Crime three years ago and that her memory of it is coloured by the subsequent death of its director, Alain Corneau. "I mean, I do like the movie," she stresses. "But for me it's tainted by frustration and so much pain, because he died on the very week it got released in France." Corneau, she now realises, was suffering from lung cancer while the picture was being shot. In hindsight this explains a lot.

"In France we have a saying: 'He never put his arms down.' Forward, forward, never stop, which was very difficult for me and Kristin. He was like a little boy playing with iron soldiers and we were the soldiers. He wouldn't talk, wouldn't listen, and we had to do exactly what he wanted. It was like he only had so much energy to spare. He must have known he did not have much time left."

The film, she adds, has just been remade by Brian De Palma, as Passion. She's eager to see it; she wants to know if the sexual undercurrent has been brought to the fore.

What if the new version is better than hers? Wouldn't that make her mad? She gives an airy shrug. "I would not be surprised."

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 PM CST
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 7:01 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 18, 2012 12:44 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012
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 2, 2012
Flickering Myth's Trevor Hogg posted a second batch of quotes from Brian De Palma spoken during a group chat at the Toronto International Film Festival (Hogg's first batch was posted last week). This latest batch includes quite a bit of spoilers about Passion, as De Palma was presumably chatting with people he believed had just seen the film at the festival. I won't share the spoilerific parts (you can read the source post for those), but here is an excerpt that goes from more discussion about De Palma's Inception riff, to De Palma's description of some of Pino Donaggio's music cues from the film, and then to the blond/brunette/redhead aspects of the main characters:

As for the origins of the Internet ad that triggers the lethal rivalry between the characters portrayed by Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace, Brian De Palma reveals, “At one point I had this incredibly complicated commercial based on Inception with three dreams on top of each other, they finally get to the vault and there’s the phone. It was elaborate and some of my director friends looked at this and said, ‘Come on! Get rid of that Inception thing. Do something else.’ I said, ‘I love this Inception thing.’ I was looking on the Internet seeing what they were doing with phone commercials. I stumbled across this thing which these two girls [created]. It’s almost exactly what they did. They walked around L.A. with people looking and the commercial went viral. We discovered later they were two advertising executives.”

In regards to the film score provided by frequent collaborator music composer Pino Donaggio, De Palma notes, “The cues are specific. In the beginning it is go to work music. Then it is the erotic music. Danni [Karoline Herfurth] is in love with her boss [Noomi Rapace] who won’t go out to dinner with her. Danni is hurt as she looks out the window. There is the lyrical sad music when Noomi gets humiliated. It is a simple piano thing as she stumbles down the hallways, drops everything, and goes into the elevator and her car. Then we have the dream music which is this strange obsessive odd stuff and we have the dream music in the end which is emotional and climatic. With Pino, I worked on temp tracks for each of the cues. I changed them. As he composed something I said, ‘No. It’s not right. Maybe I’m giving you the wrong direction.’ I’ll try something else until we came to something that seemed to work for the particular section of the film. One of the most difficult things was Noomi’s breakdown because I used the opening of Contempt; there is nothing more beautiful than that.”

There was nothing thematic or archetypal about having a blonde, a brunette and a redhead on the big screen. “Rachel came with her blonde hair,” recalls Brian De Palma. “Noomi decided we should go with the black look for her because she creates everything in her brain and is not concerned with what’s around her. Rachel is the politician, the wheeler and dealer. Noomi is constantly thinking and trying to get ideas. Danni is the beloved assistant who is in love with her boss. I saw Karoline [Herfurth] in Tom Tykwer’s Perfume; she had this great red hair and I said, ‘Lets keep it red.’” The American helmer kept in the mind the genre of the tale. “This is a murder mystery. The characters have certain aspects but they have to fit in to the architecture of the murder mystery. In this movie everybody seems to be in love with Noomi, a very mysterious girl.”

Posted by Geoff at 11:49 PM CDT
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Friday, October 26, 2012

A couple of days ago, Flickering Myth's Trevor Hogg posted a transcript from a group chat with Brian De Palma, which took place at last month's Toronto International Film Festival. De Palma discusses the fact that it has gotten more difficult for any filmmaker working for a studio to have final cut on a picture. "I’ve always been able to work within the studio system," De Palma is quoted as saying. "If your budget gets big you have a lot more meetings which was true on Mission to Mars [2000] which was the most expensive movie I’ve ever made. It was the early 1990s, around Bonfire [1990] when you started to get stacks of notes. Everybody would have notes for you. That’s when I remember there was a lot more hands on in the studio system. Normally you would have a few meetings and they would let you go off and make the movie. You would have to deal with them in the previews stage. In the day of the director, long and far gone, you could bowl your way through them like with Scarface [1983]. We had a preview in Texas. There were walkouts and cards in which people said, ‘It’s the worse movie I ever seen.’ I basically said, ‘Sorry. That’s it. I’m not changing it.’ That was lucky in those days but it has gotten harder. I don’t think the young directors have final cut the way we older directors do. The studios would prefer to deal with a director who they can control and control the cut. They don’t like working with directors of my generation because we’re stubborn, old and crotchety."

Someone asked De Palma about situations in which a director is told by a studio to convert a film into 3D. "That’s a sad position to be in as a director because you shouldn’t do it. 3D is a specific technique like split screen, split diopters, long steady cam shots, and montages. It needs a specific use. To throw it in in order to charge five or six dollars more for the glasses is a mistake and you’re going to finally say, ‘I’m not going anymore because this has nothing to do with 3D.’"

When asked about his long-planned adaptation of Gardner McKay's Toyer, De Palma replied, "It was bought by a guy who went out of business so I don’t think we’re going to see that one."

The end of the discussion takes off from Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which looked at the lives of the young Hollywood filmmakers of De Palma's generation in the 1970s. De Palma chose not to participate in the book. "The first thing you discover," De Palma told the TIFF group, "and this is probably true of a lot of biographies is, ‘Who talks to the biographer?' Is it the bitter ex-wife, the unhappy girlfriend or the partner who got screwed out of a deal? They do a lot of talking. The people who like and respect the filmmakers they don’t talk at all like me. That’s why you see me very little in this book. I would know all of those situations. I was there in the 1970s. I saw it all. I could see this was taking a gossipy, drugs, girls, rock ’n’ roll, and I shied away from it immediately.”

Regarding those Hollywood days early on in his career, De Palma told the TIFF group, “We worked hard trying to get into the studio system. We helped each other. We helped with scripts and casting. [Paul] Schrader came to me with Taxi Driver [1976]. I read it. I gave it to Marty. I introduced Marty [Scorsese] to Bobby [De Niro]. I helped Marty with Mean Streets [1973]. We were all living in the same area. I got an email from Steven [Spielberg] the other day. I met Steven because my girlfriend at the time Margo Kidder knew him from the lot at Universal. The first time I met Steve we were going to homosexual baths in Manhattan scouting locations for Cruising which I reminded him of and we started to laugh."

Posted by Geoff at 1:23 AM CDT
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