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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
BLOG SERIES LOOKS AT DE PALMA & DUMAS BOOK
AND LEADS RYAN HOLT TO EXAMINE HOW 'OBSESSION' VEERS FROM 'VERTIGO'
Thanks to Christian for pointing us to a new series that began last week at Filmwell, in which Ryan Holt discusses Brian De Palma's cinema and Chris Dumas's recent book Un-American Psycho. Dumas has admitted the error of dismissing De Palma's Obsession in his book as a "work-for-hire," and of course, it is to be expected that many reading the book as it currently exists will find serious fault with this stumbling block, as did Adrian Martin. Nevertheless, Holt sees that "Dumas’ conception of De Palma as a failed revolutionary who has embedded the narrative of that failure in his films leads to some compelling engagement with De Palma’s work." This leads Holt to examine Obsession by looking at the "analogical structures" contained within the film, and contrasting it with those contained in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Doing so allows Holt to argue that Obsession is part of the same line of political filmmaking "built on a Hitchockian skeleton" (to quote Dumas) that, according to Dumas, began with Sisters.

Far from simply a mere attempted remake of Vertigo, Holt shows how Obsession veers from its source:
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"Critics have often remarked on the presence of analogues for the screen-spectator relationship in Vertigo. Vertigo’s protagonist, Scottie, can be seen as progressing from the role of 'film watcher' (his interaction in Gavin Elster’s fictional ghost story) to 'film director' (his obsessive recreation of Gavin Elster’s fictional ghost story). However, this understanding cannot be applied to Obsession. Obsession’s protagonist, Michael Courtland, never progresses from 'film watcher' to 'film director,' though he can at least be said to the former. Obsession actually opens with a film of sorts: a title sequence montage of home photos that turns out to be the slide-show at Courtland’s wedding anniversary party. But this is really not a 'film' at all, as much as it is Courtland’s actual life; insofar as there is a 'film' Courtland watches, it is the intricately-conceived fantasy masterminded by his sinister business partner, Robert Lasalle.

This points to a key shift of narrative emphasis and structure from Vertigo to Obsession, the latter of which places significantly greater emphasis on the role of the manipulator. In Vertigo, the manipulator, Gavin Elster, fades from the picture around the halfway mark, but in Obsession, Lasalle remains a significant presence right up until the film’s climax. Obsession goes to great pains to emphasize Courtland’s business relationship with Lasalle, the details of which are explained in the opening minutes of the film and ultimately provide the key motivation for Lasalle’s villainy. De Palma further emphasizes Lasalle’s role in other ways, by directing John Lithgow to deliver an outrageous performance, accentuated by his outrageous Colonel Sanders appearance and accent—which puts the lie to Dumas claim that Obsession “may be said to be without humor” (59).

Lasalle may be built on the framework of Vertigo’s Gavin Elster, but in the way Obsession emphasizes his role as a devilish business partner, he seems closer to Phantom of the Paradise’s Swan, a manipulative businessman whose greed leaves no room for innocence. Swan and Lasalle both relentlessly seek to exploit the naïve in pursuit of their own interests. Take the Lasalle/Courtland confrontation scene, which has no precedent or parallel in Vertigo. Vertigo’s Scottie uncovers the scheme by himself, proceeding to very carefully deduce every feature and aspect of the plot, and takes his aggression out on Judy, not on Elster, who has since vanished from the picture. In Obsession, Lasalle reveals the plot to Courtland—Courtland is so desperate to believe that his wife has returned to him that he ignores all warnings and signs to the contrary—and taunts Courtland about his privileging of romanticism over financial gain. Like Phantom’s Winslow Leach, Courtland turns violent, murdering his manipulator.

Of course, the scheme hinges on romance, and once again we find substantial differences between the leading ladies in Vertigo and Obsession. Vertigo’s Judy/Madeleine remains defined by Scottie’s perception of her; she exists in the film only in relationship to Scottie. Obsession breaks away from this—leading Dumas to proclaim that Obsession fails locate 'the central theoretical issue in Vertigo (that la femme n’existe pas)' (59). But he does not consider the significance of this break, the shift from 'the woman does not exist' to 'the woman exists, but she is not who you think she is, and she is also a victim.' Amy/Sandra, Michael’s daughter who pretends to be his reincarnated wife, shares Michael’s tragedy, but from a different vantage point, and has become obsessed with her father’s failure and absence, and therefore mirrors Courtland in a way that Madeleine/Judy could never mirror Scottie. The love story of Obsession is the story of two damaged, exploited people, each playing a part in Lasalle’s scheme, never completely aware of their shared relationship with one another until the finale.

That final scene proves to be Obsession’s master-stroke, a brilliant revision of Vertigo which collapses reunion and loss into a single event. Where Vertigo concludes with a repetition of death, a brutal, devastating loss and a literal gaze into the abyss, in Obsession, the abyss is present in the reunion. Father and daughter are reunited at last, but what they have gone through has hopelessly shattered their relationship to one another and their sense of self (in the original cut of the film, their relationship had been demolished by consummated incest; concerns about censorship led to the transformation of their consummation of marriage into an ambiguous dream sequence, leaving incestuous overtones without sexual consummation). The camera whirls around them, in the same move from Vertigo’s famous 'reunion' sequence—but here, the camera is manic, spiraling out of control as Amy endlessly mutters 'daddy, daddy' and Courtland moves from shocked realization to mad laughter."

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The second essay in the De Palma/Dumas series, De Palmian Dissonance, was posted yesterday. In it, Holt examines De Palma's strong urge to expose the lie in the illusion of cinema (most blatantly applied in Body Double, according to Holt), and how this contrasts with De Palma's love for pure cinema. "But what makes De Palma such a beguiling filmmaker," states Holt, "is that he isn’t just a trickster, but he is also a true-blue believer, which no film encapsulates quite like Mission to Mars. What makes the much-maligned Mission to Mars such an odd experience for those familiar with De Palma’s work is that it serves up standard Hollywood tropes and conventions without a hint of satire or parody. Instead, Mission to Mars utilizes the Hollywood blockbuster format in an attempt to achieve a sense of awe, offering a paean to scientific achievement and human determination. The film climaxes with an audience analogue that is as notable as the one Dumas singles out in Body Double: scientists come into contact with their creators through an extraterrestrial movie screen that plays out the history of the solar system and the birth of life on Earth. It’s humanity meeting God in a movie theater."


Posted by Geoff at 8:27 PM CDT
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Monday, March 25, 2013
SANDUSKY SPEAKS TO DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER
ZIEGLER TO NBC'S LAUER: "I'M TRYING TO GET JOE PATERNO HIS DAY IN COURT"

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In the above video, NBC's Matt Lauer introduces John Ziegler, saying he has been working on a documentary about the Joe Paterno scandal for almost a year. Ziegler interviewed Jerry Sandusky in prison, and shares some clips from the interview in the segment. Ziegler wrote a "preemptive strike" open letter to the media yesterday, and he tells Lauer he wrote it because he knows the media, "and I know I'm gonna get attacked from everybody because nobody wants the truth here." Ziegler said his ultimate goal is to "get Joe Paterno, who he feels was "railroaded", his day in court," and that he is trying to get at the truth of the matter. Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr. posted the video today, mentioning Brian De Palma's upcoming Paterno/Sandusky project, Happy Valley. Fleming suggests that the team behind Happy Valley will face challenges similar to those of last year's Zero Dark Thirty.

Fleming wrote: "While Lauer couldn’t match the superb interview Bob Costas did when Sandusky was dumb enough to get on the phone before his trial (Sandusky did not testify on his own behalf and was convicted of crimes that will keep him behind bars the rest of his life), Lauer certainly injected a lot of skepticism in interviewing the filmmaker who is widely described as a conservative who made an unabashedly positive film about Sarah Palin and whose work has been disavowed by the Paterno family. While it is creepy to hear Sandusky from behind bars in any capacity, it will be interesting how the continued reporting influences Paterno’s legacy. As well as Happy Valley, which in a way finds itself in a challenge similar to the one faced by the makers of Zero Dark Thirty. De Palma, Pacino and cohorts are also trying to make a permanent screen document out of a story that keeps changing, where there’s endless spin from partisan parties, and one that will continue to evolve when Penn State higher-ups go on trial."

Ziegler appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Live later that evening:



Posted by Geoff at 6:50 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013 12:32 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 24, 2013
NEW 'PASSION' VIDEO
IN HD WITH CLIPS & ON-SET INTERVIEWS; (THANKS TO JORD!)

Passion - Making Of (6min49sec) [HD] (2013... by myfilm-gr

Posted by Geoff at 1:51 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 24, 2013 1:53 AM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 12:42 AM CDT
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R.I.P. JAROSLAV 'JERRY' GEBR
ARTIST HAD LONG HOLLYWOOD CAREER, WORKED ON 'SCARFACE'


Deadline reported this week that Jaroslav “Jerry” Gebr, a highly sought-after artist who worked in film and television for over 50 years, passed away last month at the age of 86, after a long illness. It was during his time at Universal Studios that Gebr, according to Thomas Gebr, worked on Brian De Palma's Scarface, presumably painting the portrait on display in the still above. Gebr may have done more than just portrait work on Scarface, as well, since he could mimic many styles, and also did murals, story boards, and various types of illustrations. He was still at Universal when De Palma and Al Pacino re-teamed for Carlito's Way at that studio.

Gebr is said to have been commissioned to paint replicas of beloved works of art for many in Hollywood. "They’d put the originals in safe storage and hang Jerry’s versions on the wall," his son-in-law Kevin McMahon told Deadline. "Nobody could ever tell the difference."

In 1966, Gebr painted a full-scale replica of Michelangelo´s Sistine Chapel for the film Shoes of the Fisherman. That same year, he created paintings for the pilot episode of his friend Rod Serling's Night Gallery (for which the Deadline obituary states that Gebr is perhaps best known). Gebr also did the memorable Norman Rockwell-ish titles and story chapter works for George Roy Hill's The Sting. According to Gebr.art, he painted a western scene on a semi-truck trailer in Smokey And The Bandit, and completed portrait work for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "and all works delivered within a film production window of one to two weeks." Gebr also worked on David Lynch's Dune, and Robert Wise's The Sound Of Music, among countless others.


Posted by Geoff at 12:14 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:16 AM CDT
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Thursday, March 21, 2013
'PASSION' LIMITED RELEASE JUNE 7
AS LISTED ON SEVERAL MOVIE SITES; RECEIVES 'R' RATING FROM MPAA
Looks like eOne is making some progress on getting Brian De Palma's Passion into U.S. theaters this summer. Yesterday, Rope Of Silicon's Brad Brevet noted that all ten films rated this week by the MPAA received R ratings, including Passion, which was given an R "for sexual content, language and some violence." Meanwhile, perhaps not coincidentally, several movie sites, such as Movie Insider, ComingSoon.Net, Rotten Tomatoes, and The Numbers are listing June 7 2013 as the release date for Passion. The latter three sites note that it will be a "limited" release that day, meaning it probably won't be in enough theaters to compete head-to-head with M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth (with Will Smith), or the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy The Internship, but it will be out and about, and will hopefully go wide at some point.

Passion opened today in Hong Kong and in Greece. South China Morning Post's Andrew Sun is not impressed, complaining about the film's use of dream sequences, and saying that "if you enjoy trashy kitsch so stupefyingly bad it is entertainingly good, Brian De Palma's latest fetish thriller is a ripe, aromatic cheese of a Showgirls piquancy."

Horrorant's John Hatzopoulos took a while to warm up to Rachel McAdam's performance in the film, and really liked Karoline Herfurth's. He notes that the exaggerated interpretations of the actors in the slower first parts of the film help to prepare the viewer for the more surreal twists and turns of the latter parts. Hatzopoulos goes on to praise the cinematography of José Luis Alcaine as "excellent", adding that "there are many beautiful shots, while the blue color that prevails in the second half is the right touch to put us in the surreal world of the film." Hatzopoulos expects that Passion will divide audiences.


Posted by Geoff at 12:51 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 6:56 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013
ATTIA'S 'UNTOUCHABLES' FILMING LOCATIONS
SECOND PART UPLOADED TO YOUTUBE TODAY



Posted by Geoff at 10:38 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:40 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Posted by Geoff at 7:22 PM CDT
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Monday, March 18, 2013
TURKISH 'PASSION' POSTER & STILLS
AND 'PASSION' TO PLAY OFFICIAL DANISH FILM FESTIVAL IN APRIL
Thanks to Lindsey for pointing us to a Flickr page with some terrific high-quality stills from Brian De Palma's Passion, including the Turkish poster here at left.

Meanwhile, thanks to Carsten for letting us know that Passion will screen April 17 and 21 at CPH PIX, the official Danish film festival that takes place in Copenhagen from April 11 through April 24.

Posted by Geoff at 8:36 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 17, 2013
'SPRING BREAKERS' HAS 'SCARFACE' ON REPEAT
WILMINGTON: LIKE OLD-STYLE SOFT-CORE PORN BLENDED WITH TEEN-SLANTED 'SCARFACE' PASTICHE


In Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, which was shot by frequent Gaspar Noe cinematographer Benoit Debie, James Franco's plays a meth dealer who, while showing his new spring break girls around his crib, boasts about having everything he needs, including Brian De Palma's Scarface on repeat. Here are some of the reviews:

Michael Wilmington, Movie City News
"It may be the apotheosis or culmination of all the Korines: a picture that starts off, as many have noted, like an arty Girls Gone Wild video, inflated to Hieronymus Boschian or Pieter Brughelian Beach Party proportions, and ends up doing a riff on the Al Pacino-Brian De Palma 1983 Scarface, mashed up into Charlie‘s Angels gone homicidal...

"A lot of Spring Breakers is shot and shaped like old-style soft-core porn show– even to the old cheapo porn trick of repeating some scenes and lines over and over. It’s blended with what plays like a teen-slanted ‘83 Scarface pastiche. But, as long as Franco is on screen, it’s a good movie, and there’s also something crazily compelling about the scenes of that huge outdoor dance-a-thon. The ending is beyond ridiculous, and not funny enough to save things. And the four femme stars could have used better parts and better lines, but what the hell. The movie‘s credibility vanishes after the restaurant robbery scene anyway, which is shot flashily, in a Gun Crazy-style single take. But as the man says, who needs credibility? Just pretend…"

David Edelstein, Vulture
"Spring Breakers switches gears midway through with the arrest of these bacchanalians (bikinis behind bars!) and the arrival of James Franco as a flamboyant meth dealer with silver teeth and red-tinted cornrows. He watches them go before a judge and, enraptured, bails them out. 'Sprang break … Sprang break … ' he intones, attempting to lull us with his sexy outlaw incantations. In his lavish manse, he shows off his arsenal, invokes Scarface, and says, 'This is the fuckin’ American dream, y’all.' Every one of Franco’s lines could be the prelude to a rap song too moronic for airplay. 'Sprang break ... Sprang break … ' I wanted to spring-break his silver teeth, but at least he’s more committed here than in his other movie on screens now, Oz the Great and Powerful — a Disney production."

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"Already swollen with girl-on-girl flirtation, criminal fantasy and naive dreaminess, the movie explodes into Tampa Bay–set skankitude, where our leads are never out of bikinis, even when flung in jail for trashing a hotel room. They’re bailed out by Alien (James Franco, more alive than ever in the film’s only actual performance), a cornrowed, heavily armed wanksta rapper who nakedly desires them for his posse.

"It all plays out in a final flourish of DayGlo Scarface wish fulfillment, and you can’t really believe what you’re watching. Alien—and Korine—tell us it’s the American dream come true, and even if you resist going there with them, the have-your-cake-and-fling-it-too stupidity is breathtaking. It takes some kind of cracked artistry to put coeds in hot-pink ski masks and have them twirl around to a Britney Spears ballad toting machine guns. Spring Breakers is either an inspired satire of the youth movie or the most irresponsible comedy mainstream Hollywood will never make. The bros in your crowd will call it rad—and radical it is."

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"Too bad the movie itself is rarely as outrageous as he is. The promise of nudity and girl-on-girl action among Disney hotties Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) and Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars) is just a porny tease. Candy (Hudgens), Brit (Benson), Faith (Gomez) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, the director's wife) are merely college BFFs yearning for a spring break. Everyone but Faith (she's into Christian studies) agrees to rob a local chicken shack to finance a Tampa getaway. Here's your chance to hear the chirpy Hudgens say, 'Give me your motherfucking money or I'm going to shoot your fucking brains out.' And they're off.

"Alien laps them right up. At his crib, where bongs and blow are plentiful and Al Pacino's Scarface plays on a continuous loop, the coeds live the dream. Violence looms in the form of Archie (Gucci Mane), Alien's gangsta enemy. No sweat. When Alien isn't going down on a gun barrel in a homoerotic domination game, he sits at his poolside piano and croons Britney Spears ballads to the girls, who wear pink ski masks and dance around waving AK-47s."

Katie Calautti, Comic Book Resources
"Sure, it has the aesthetic of a Girls Gone Wild video mashed up with Scarface (and there’s certainly a portion of the film’s audience that will be all too happy to take it at that face value), but deep beyond its epic one-liners, brazen nudity, omnipresent drug use and stylized scenes of criminal activity, there’s a core that reveals an all-too-terrifying truth about the desensitization of youth and the moral quandaries it presents...

"That is to say, after watching Spring Breakers, you’ll have Britney Spears and Skrillex stuck in your head on a loop, you’ll quote (and re-quote, and re-quote) James Franco’s dialogue (his crooning repetition of 'spring breeeeeeak' will haunt your nightmares), you’ll never watch High School Musical the same way again, you’ll feel the crushing urge to view Scarface on repeat, you’ll realize you’re inadequately prepared (abdominally speaking) for swimsuit season, and you’ll suffer the after-effects of an onslaught of so much perverse and perverted imagery that you’ll want to disinfect yourself by taking a bath in (and swallowing shots of) tequila."


Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 23, 2013 11:25 PM CDT
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