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Coppola on
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trying to do with
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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
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but now building on a
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assurance. The three
little films were very
useful. I'm glad I did
it. I hope George Lucas
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has a wonderful personal
filmmaking ability that
people haven't seen
for a while."

Sean Penn to
direct De Niro
as raging comic
in The Comedian

Scarlett to make
directorial feature
debut with
Capote story

Keith Gordon
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with C. Nolan for
thriller that
he will write
and direct

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-Picture emerging
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-De Palma's new
project with
Said Ben Said

-De Palma to team
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for Paterno film
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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
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Carrie...A Fan's Site


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Monday, April 1, 2013
Ari, the Principal Archivist at The Swan Archives, continues to uncover and present amazing artifacts from the production of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. He recently added loads of new items, mostly to the Promotion and Production pages, including: De Palma's bill for the Los Angeles hotel he stayed at during the shooting of the film; a handwritten and signed note from Sissy Spacek in which she records that she spent $16.12 "for pink satin for Phoenix's dressing room" (likely at Goodwill, according to the site); Gerrit Graham's rental receipt for Beef's guitar; and so much more.

There is a letter from Edward Pressman to 20th Century Fox highlighting holes in the studio's New York marketing for Phantom just a week prior to its premiere. Pressman presents a laundry list of concerns, from lack of posters in New York, to wondering when the radio promotion will begin in New York (and wondering when the records will get to the DJs), to what celebrities will be coming to the New York opening. "Brian says Kristoferson and Coolidge want to come," Pressman writes. "Bette Midler wants to come, according to Lloyd, and, he said, Jagger and Alice Cooper. Do you want to contact Pat Luce, Paul Williams, etc. to get some more names?"

Have a look around the archives for these and much more.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:20 AM CDT
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dread Central's Heather Buckley has done us all a great service by posting a detailed report from last month's screening of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise at New York's Museum Of The Moving Image. The screening was part of a weekend-long series in tribute to Paul Williams, who attended each film. Buckley writes that following a brief introduction, Bibbe Hansen, "a staple of the Warhol scene and mother to musician Beck," spoke to the audience, "and noted her 'small' part in the film as a background performer, which she shot for over two months in Dallas, Texas. Though her part was going to be bigger, she is seen for a short while wearing 'a really bad perm; it was the 70s.'”

Buckley continues:

"Then Susan Finley spoke (wife of the late William Finley—The Phantom), who can be seen at the end of the film donning the Phantom’s mask. She spoke about the shock the filmmakers and actors had when it came out as a 'stillborn baby.' In retrospect she said, 'My son once told me when Columbus’ ships showed up on the horizon, the natives didn’t recognize them because they had no frame of reference. And I feel that way about Phantom. It did not fit a genre; no one knew what to make of it. No one knew whom it was speaking to or what it was about. The marketers and promoters didn’t know where to put it. And that’s because it is a very original film that has a lot of say about a lot of things.' Lastly she noted it would have made [her husband] Bill very happy to see everyone in attendance that evening."

After a description of the film (and the 35mm print, which she says was flawless), Buckley provides a long transcript of Paul Williams' post-screening Q&A, which is full of great highlights:

Williams on elements that went into the story: "It was a time with the Vietnam War, and we were sitting and watching the war news, eating our TV dinners and it was like this horror story was becoming entertainment. Watching the news like it was the evening’s entertainment, with the footage of Vietnam. That started to move its way into the story.”

Buckley: "As for finding Jessica Harper during rehearsals, De Palma and Williams had all the women sing Leon Russell’s song Superstar (with the famous lyric, 'Long ago and oh so far away, I fell in love with you before this second show.') He walked up to Harper while she was practicing the tune, and upon hearing her soft lovely voice, much like Winslow did in the film: '…I was like, "Yeah!" I mean, Jessica has a beautiful voice. And then she came in to audition, for Brian and she sang… and I was like, "No, no, sing it to yourself like you did before." And I think that’s where that moment in the film came from, she was just stunning.'”

Williams says he regrets not having Gerrit Graham sing his own songs on the soundtrack.

Williams on bringing Phantom to the stage: "So many times, before I die, now I’m not hoping that I’ll know how many years I’ll be able to tag onto my time right now, but I would like to think that before I hit room temperature, I’ll get to see this on stage."

Williams: "I think Brian had a real love affair with Hitchcock. He had a great sense of moving camera; there’s a shot in there, I don’t know if you know the one I’m talking about, the shot where The Phantom gets his costume, that’s Ronnie Taylor, the camera operator, who later became a cinematographer, and won the Oscar for Ghandi. It was him carrying a camera on his shoulder because there was no Steadicam yet, going up and down those stairs, again and again to get a shot, so it would end up… it’s just brilliant camerawork."

Williams: "I don’t remember Brian giving any of us a lot of direction. I think that his amazing work is in creating a story and a script and an environment. You have to understand that I had and have such a massive ego that’s a little out of balance. I was in the middle of my ‘what I really want to do is direct’ period, I remember walking up to Brian, and we were shooting at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, and he’s moving the camera up to shoot footage of me up in the balcony, and then he moves the camera down and shoots something there and going back up… and I remember jumping up and saying ‘Any idiot would know that you put a Chapman crane on the stage and swing the arm back and forth!’ and Brian was lining up his shot, he didn’t even look away from lining up the shot, and said ‘Stage won’t support a Chapman crane.’ And, umm… OK. Went back into my little dressing room, sat down, and was like, ‘I think I’ll keep my mouth shut. He knows what he’s doing.’ I think that he had a relationship with Bill Finley and the other actors and all that was possibly… there were moments where you watch a director like him or some of the guys that I’ve worked with over the years, the best ones will take an actor, and it’s a private moment between the two of them, so he never said from the back of the room, ‘Jessica, you need to be that,’ If he said anything, I think he probably took her or me aside and said quietly, ‘This is getting a little big, maybe you want to tone it down a bit.’ Or every director has his own way of saying two words, ‘Louder’ and ‘Faster.’”

Posted by Geoff at 12:26 AM CST
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Monday, February 18, 2013
The Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs posted a recap today of part of last weekend's 70-millimeter screenings at the Music Box Theatre, providing some rationale as to how Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise ended up thrilling a crowd teetering on disappointment after finding out that a much-anticipated screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey had to be cancelled. Here is what Sachs writes about it:

"Sometimes anticipation can bring out the best in a crowd. Case in point, the hundreds of people who went to the Music Box Theatre on Friday night to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on 70-millimeter—as part of the theater's two-week celebration of that format—didn't seem to mind waiting outside in the cold for nearly an hour, nor did they complain much when the film didn't start on time. Even when an unforeseen technical problem forced the screening to be canceled altogether, the house remained pleasant, with most of the audience staying put for a free screening of Brian DePalma's Phantom of the Paradise. (The problem was fixed in time for the subsequent screenings of 2001.)

"The promise of seeing something new, or at least novel, appeals to the child in each of us. It must be linked to the thrill of unwrapping a gift. Regardless of whether the present turns out to be a pair of socks (or, to cite one of the snoozefests in the current Music Box series, Lord Jim), there's undeniable satisfaction in knowing someone wrapped it up nice to gain our attention. P.T. Barnum demonstrated time and again that a good showman can make an audience feel good even about being taken in by a hoax; the buildup, which grows in direct proportion to the size of the audience, becomes a spectacle in itself.

"As it turned out, Phantom of the Paradise was a perfect fit for Friday night's carnival atmosphere. It's a great funhouse of a movie, complete with scary clowns and oversized sets (by the great Jack Fisk, who also worked on The Master, screening next weekend in the 70-millimeter festival). Even on plain old 35-millimeter, it was a blast on the Music Box's big screen. DePalma made the film at the height of his abilities as a showman (just after Sisters and not long before Carrie), indulging in split-screen sequences, cartoonish sight gags, and elaborate camera movements that exist just to call attention to themselves."

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 PM CST
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 7:57 PM CST
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 4:38 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Swan Archives has just added two photographs to its production page, each one showing Brian De Palma on the set of Phantom Of The Paradise. One of the photos shows De Palma in a "bosun's chair," which "is suspended from the ceiling, and counterbalanced with a 50 gallon oil drum filled with water," according to the Principal Archivist. The Archivist states that De Palma shot some of the wedding scene from this chair with a handheld camera, and "probably including the shots from the assassin's point of view." The other added photo shows De Palma on the balcony of the theater.

Posted by Geoff at 12:42 AM CST
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Museum Of The Moving Image in New York will hold a concentrated retrospective of Paul Williams films the weekend of January 25-27, 2013. Williams will be present for each film screening, which kicks off at 7pm Friday, January 25, with Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. The other films are The Muppet Movie, Ishtar, and the recent documentary, Paul Williams: Still Alive.

Posted by Geoff at 3:43 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 22, 2012 3:45 PM CST
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Saturday, December 8, 2012
Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr. posted the other day that Paul Williams has just signed on to write lyrics for a stage musical version of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, which del Toro has been quietly working on for four years. The music is being written by Gustavo Santaolalla. "I admire and love Gustavo and Paul wrote the perfect album in Phantom Of The Paradise, which I have loved for decades," del Toro told Fleming. In 2010, Harry Knowles wrote about how one night, del Toro had spent "hours" telling Knowles why he wanted to remake Phantom Of The Paradise, which is one of his very favorite films.

Del Toro also revealed to Fleming that Santaolalla and Williams are writing songs for the animated film Day Of The Dead, which del Toro is producing for Reel FX. That project is being directed and co-written by Jorge R. Gutierrez, and will be released in the fall of 2014.

Since 2009, Williams has been working with Brian De Palma and Edward R. Pressman on a stage version of Phantom Of The Paradise, something they have taken stabs at off and on for years. De Palma and Williams had tried to get a stage version going in 1987, and in 2003, Antonio Banderas discussed the possibility of taking on the title character for a stage version. For now, however, we have the incredible film from 1974. And, of course, the Baltimore Rock Opera Society.

Posted by Geoff at 7:51 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 27, 2014 7:54 PM CST
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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fright Rags last week revealed a new T-shirt design (above) inspired by Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. The shirt sells for $21.95, and is advertised as "A super smooth screenprint on the softest 100% pre-shrunk ringspun cotton." Fright Rags also has a Carrie design available.

This next bit of news comes to us courtesy the great and highly informative Swan Archives. Chicago's Music Box Theatre will screen Phantom Of The Paradise on two nights this upcoming February, as part of its ongoing Midnight Movies series. Phantom will screen on Friday and Saturday nights, February 15 and 16. Here is the Music Box website's description of the film:

"Praise be to whatever dark lord made this unholy masterpiece! Brian De Palma’s glam-rock musical, featuring songs by Paul Williams, is a coked-out mashup of T. Rex, Hitchcock, Universal Monsters, and Rocky Horror. Winslow Leach is a promising musician whose work is stolen by the evil producer Swan (played to pig-faced perfection by Paul Williams). tortured and beaten for attempting to reclaim his music, Winslow transforms into the steel-toothed, cape-wearing, leather-clad Phantom, out to wreak havoc upon Swan’s new nightclub, The Paradise!"

Posted by Geoff at 10:22 AM CST
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Saturday, October 6, 2012
Brian De Palma's phenomenal Phantom Of The Paradise screens at 12:05 tonight (Saturday) at Brooklyn's Nighthawk Cinema. (So if you happen to be lucky enough to be heading to tonight's 9pm screening of De Palma's Passion at the Walter Reade Theater, you could make it a De Palma double feature, with a nice break in between.) The Principal Archivist at The Swan Archives notes that it will be a DCP screening, which, despite all the troubles with the DCP [non-]screening of Passion a week ago, should make for a pristine cinematic experience. "DCP," the Archivist adds, "provides a super high quality, scratch and splice free presentation with remixed sound...the [Phantom Of The Paradise] has never looked or sounded better." Phantom also screened last night at midnight at the Nighthawk.

Meanwhile, as if on cue, Critics At Large's Kevin Courrier has done a nice write up of this "neglected gem." Although he seems to have confused the lyrics for Paul Williams' Phantom's Theme with those of Williams' Faust, Courrier provides a brief history of artists' intrigue with the Faust myth throughout the years, leading up to Courrier's disappointment with Randy Newman's 1993 musical Faust, which the critic felt was too literal. "De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise, by contrast with Newman, has an imaginative power that links our associations with the legend of Faust to what we've already stored up from popular culture."

In his opening paragraph, Courrier mentions that he screened Phantom in a class on Alfred Hitchcock and De Palma: "Director Brian De Palma has accumulated a long list of neglected gems (The Fury, Blow Out, Casualties of War, Redacted), but the one whose neglect makes the least sense is his ingenious satirical rock musical, Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Fiendishly clever and percolating with film-making fever, De Palma provides ingenious allusions to Phantom of the Opera, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Last year, while teaching a class on Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma, I had more angry responses to this picture than some of De Palma's more inflammatory work.) But this pulsing musical comedy is an exhilarating modern retelling of the Faust myth (with roots in Dante's Divine Comedy) wherein a man becomes so consumed by his thirst for divine knowledge that he sells his soul to the Devil. In Phantom of the Paradise, though, the thirst is for something perhaps a little less lofty: rock immortality."

Posted by Geoff at 7:11 PM 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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