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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
MORE RANKINGS OF DE PALMA FILMS
FILM.COM RANKS 'BLACK DAHLIA' IN TOP 5; 'SNAKE EYES' GETS MORE LOVE
It seems as though everybody is posting lists of their favorite Brian De Palma films these days. Film.com yesterday posted Jake Cole's ranking of every De Palma film from worst to best (the site has been doing such rankings regularly for various directors). De Palma's newest film, Passion, just misses the top ten for Cole, ranking at number 11. At the very bottom of the list is the "soulless" gangster comedy Wise Guys. Other De Palma comedies, such as Home Movies and The Bonfire Of The Vanities, also rank near the bottom for Cole, although Hi, Mom! takes the number three spot. (Cole seems to have missed the irony in De Palma's adaptation of Bonfire, arguing that the film "turns a satire of corrupted social values into a celebration of them." He also seems to have missed the irony in the final line of The Untouchables, which he seems to think is spoken near the beginning of the film. This latter slip-up makes his entire weird dismissal of that film seem wrong all over the place. The train station sequence is hardly a "beat-for-beat duplication" of the "Odessa Steps" sequence from Battleship Potemkin, De Palma's direction is excellent, and David Mamet's script is top drawer material.)

Cole's number one choice is Carlito's Way ("De Palma’s swooning movements and intense close-ups have never been more gracefully used to draw out the human from the generic and stereotypical," Cole states, "and no other De Palma film offers so great a fusion of form and content.")

One of the more surprising choices is Cole's ranking of The Black Dahlia at number five. "Unfairly maligned upon its release," Cole explains, “The Black Dahlia represents the best fusion of the director’s classical eye and postmodern deconstruction since Carlito’s Way. Body Double shows ‘80s cinema inexorably linked to pornography, but this postwar vision of Hollywood finds sets from silent masterpieces reused to film porn, cast with a never-ending supply of exploited small-town dreamers. L.A. Confidential remains the standard for James Ellroy adaptations for its tediously safe aesthetic and narrative structures, but it is The Black Dahlia that truly sinks into Ellroy’s noxious world, the swirling torrents of chauvinist supremacy, xenophobia and capitalist opportunism that powers the film industry as much as the city around it."

Two other films from the 2000s made Cole's top ten: Femme Fatale (#7) and Mission To Mars (#8).

Cole's dismissal of The Untouchables (#21) seems wrong all over the place.

Meanwhile, Alex Withrow at And So It Begins... posted his top 5 De Palma films, placing Snake Eyes at number 5. "I am fully aware that this is not a sentiment shared by many people," writes Withrow, "but I fucking love Snake Eyes. I love how Nicolas Cage just barely keeps it together (which is to say, barely keeping zany Cage at bay), I love the insanely long tracking shots (which is to say, I appreciate De Palma doing his best to hide them via digital technology), I love Gary Sinise stepping as far away from Lt. Dan as he can, the double-back narrative, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s perfect music – everything. 'You got snake eyes. The house wins.'" Blow Out tops Withrow's list, with Body Double in second place.

And finally, The Artifice's Vic Millar serves up "A Beginner’s Guide to Brian De Palma." Millar explains, "With an impressively daunting body of work consisting of almost 30 films dating as far back as the 1960′s, Brian De Palma is a director than can be a bit difficult to dive into. De Palma’s new film Passion hits theaters on August 30th and is already available on VOD platforms, and it really is a return to form for the director who has stumbled with his last few outings. In Passion, De Palma not only has a chance to deploy many of his favorite visual signatures, but it also provides him with the opportunity to return to some of the subject matter he frequently enjoys exploring. Because of this, it’s worth looking back at De Palma’s most important films to identify how he’s used these themes and tricks throughout his lengthy career. If you’re a novice when it comes to Brian De Palma’s work, these six films are the perfect place to start."

Millar suggests: 1) Blow Out, 2) Carlito's Way, 3) Body Double, 4) Carrie, 5) Mission: Impossible, and 6) Phantom Of The Paradise. "A joyously weird musical-horror hybrid," says Millar of the latter, "Phantom of the Paradise finds De Palma at his most wacky and experimental. With a mash-up plot drawing from The Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and Dorian Grey, this movie follows a scarred and deformed masked man who haunts the Paradise Theater to get revenge on the musician who stole his work. As if the popping music and tragic characters weren’t enough, De Palma loads the film with startling amounts of violence and cultural satire. This movie shows off how gleefully excessive De Palma can be. Look at one key scene halfway through the movie: De Palma uses one of his favorite techniques, splitting the screen down the middle to show us two images at once. On one side, we follow a car with a ticking bomb in it being pushed onto the stage during a performance. On the other side, we see a band called the Juicy Fruits rocking out to the applause of the crowd. Partly a Touch of EvilThe Beach Boys, this scene sums up everything there is to love about Brian De Palma. Who else could give us film references, mounting tension and violence, and ironic musical numbers not only in the same scene – but in the same frame?"


Posted by Geoff at 1:14 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:15 AM CDT
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Monday, August 19, 2013




Posted by Geoff at 5:48 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 19, 2013 7:24 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 18, 2013
NEW DE PALMA INTERVIEW @ THE GUARDIAN
AND REMINDER: DE PALMA TO DISCUSS 'PASSION' ON STAGE TOMORROW IN NY


The Guardian's Damon Wise posted an interview with Brian De Palma today. The article begins with De Palma sighing about critical reactions to Passion and saying, "I just like to shoot beautiful women, as elegantly as possible." The "elegant" part seems in contrast to critical reactions that use words such as "sleaze." Continuing, De Palma tells Wise, "It's kind of a lost art. I mean, I don't think anybody's interested in it any more. I'm always surprised when I get critical reactions saying my films are sleazy." Wise writes that De Palma then laughs, and continues, "What's sleazy about them? They say they're 'erotic European trash'. I'm like, 'What are they talking about? These women look fantastic. I spent a lot of time making them look as stylish as possible!'"

De Palma tells Wise about the Afternoon Of A Faun ballet sequence in Passion: "I've been fascinated by that ballet for years. It was on YouTube. It was shot in the 60s, a very grainy black-and-white video. I loved the idea – the dancers are interacting with each other and looking at themselves all the time. It was a shocker when it was first done, because it was so explicitly sexual. So I always wanted to use it. And when I saw the Corneau film, there was a scene where the detective says to the suspect, 'Where were you?' She says, 'I was at the ballet.' And I thought, 'Wow, now I have a place to put it.'" {Note: in the Corneau film, it was "at the movies", and De Palma saw the opportunity to make it "at the ballet" for his version.]

"I GET OFFERED A LOT OF THINGS I'M NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN"
Wise gets into the discussion of big screens and smaller screens, and De Palma laughs and tells him, "I saw Vertigo in VistaVision – in 1958 at Radio City Music Hall. No wonder it made an impression on me!"

"Nevertheless," Wise writes, "as his movies seem to be getting smaller again (Passion is being released here only on DVD), De Palma says he is not struggling to find work."

De Palma tells Wise, "I get offered a lot of things I'm not really interested in. I can work on big budgets, little budgets. I'm just interested in doing what interests me."

At the end of the article, Wise asks De Palma about potential retirement. De Palma tells him, "In the words of William Wyler, when the legs go, that's when you've gotta pack it in. My cinematographer is older than I am. He does Almodóvar's movies. He's 74. I watch him standing up all the time. I say, 'Why don't you sit down?' He says, 'If I sit down, I fall asleep.' I think that's waiting for me."

REMINDER
Tomorrow night (Monday) at 7pm, De Palma takes the stage at the Film Society Lincoln Center, where he will discuss Passion and take questions from the audience. The hour-long event is part of a series called "Summer Talks". The Lincoln Center website states, "Complimentary tickets will be available only at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center box office on a first-come, first-served basis. Limit: One ticket per person." Video of each discussion will also be posted on the website (Filmlinc.com). Passion will open at Film Society on August 30.


Posted by Geoff at 2:41 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 11:11 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:13 AM CDT
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Saturday, August 17, 2013
50/50

Posted by Geoff at 11:03 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:13 AM CDT
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Friday, August 16, 2013
DE PALMA TALKS PREPARATION, MOTIVATION
"IF YOU HAVE A PLAN TO RETURN TO, IT AFFORDS YOU THE ABILITY TO FREESTYLE"


Tom Seymour at Ideas Tap posted a terrific interview with Brian De Palma yesterday, focusing on aspects of filmmaking such as preparation, improvisation, and motivation. When asked by Seymour how much preparation he does before he shoots a film, De Palma replies, "Pre-production is extensive. For Passion, I spent years laying out the whole movie with computer architectural programs. I scouted the locations myself and storyboarded every shot in the movie. I spent a lot of time working out the lighting for the surrealistic aspects of the film.

"Every film I make, I try and incorporate new technology in order to pre-visualise the movie from beginning to end, and modern programmes allow you to do practically everything. So I designed each storyboard, and when it came to printing them out, I had these huge stacks of the whole movie; I knew exactly what I wanted minute from minute on set."

Seymour then asks if De Palma believes in improvisation on the set. "Yes," De Palma replies, "you have to adjust your vision for the film according to what happens on the day. I focus really intently when I’m on set. I’m always looking for emotional shifts, for little interactions between the actors, for what’s happening to the weather or the light. If you have a plan to return to, it affords you the ability to freestyle a little bit. Filmmaking is like catching [lightning] in a bottle; you have to be adept at looking at what’s going on at that moment, because if it’s on the film it will be there forever."

STILL A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE THE BOUNDARIES OF CINEMA
When Seymour asks what motivates him as a director, De Palma replies, "I’m motivated by big cinematic ideas and broad canvasses. I believe deeply in the big screen. A lot of independent films now are walking and talking movies, which hold little interest to me, while the top of the industry is dominated by comic books. There’s a lot of opportunity for people to explore the boundaries of cinema still – even if they’re working on a $2,000 budget – and I’d encourage anyone to do that."

Seymour concludes by asking De Palma for his advice to young filmmakers. Read the answer to that, along with the rest of the interview, at Ideas Tap.


Posted by Geoff at 8:41 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 15, 2013
TWO MORE 'PASSION' REVIEWS
"A RARE ITEM OF AUTHORIAL PERFECTION, EVEN IF EXPERIENCE ITSELF NOT PERFECT"
A couple of interesting Passion reviews were posted the other day. Michael Ewins begins his review with this paragraph:

"If there’s a more definitive auteurist statement put to film this year than the dazzling split-screen centrepiece of Brian De Palma’s Passion – a close-up on trembling female eyes and puckered lips; a showering blonde; an elegant ballet; black gloves and a giallo mask – I’ve yet to see it, and frankly I don’t want to. A lithe, luscious and serpentine thriller, varnished and executed to perfection, Passion is equivalent to Cocteau’s Orphée (1950), Fellini’s City Of Women (1980) and even Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) as a summation, examination and evolution of the aesthetic and thematic motifs of a director’s cinema – it is a rare item of authorial perfection, even if the experience itself is not perfect."

Ewins states that, "like the best of De Palma, Passion evokes such a precise feel through framing, light and editing that you could follow the story just as well with the sound off," adding that "the fever-pitch finale is a wordless, cross-cut masterstroke." He concludes with the following two paragraphs:

"A final note – watch it twice. A first viewing will find you figuring out the tone, nodding toward the references and enjoying the ride as it picks up traction. The second time around those initial twenty minutes sit more comfortably – a whirlwind of office politics, sexual betrayal and callback setups (it threatens us with a doppelgänger motif and then holds it back for the duration), it plays more self-aware in the knowledge of what follows, and you gather that the slightly undisciplined structure is all in service of a greater good – those juicy auteurist cues.

"Passion is an extraordinary return to form for De Palma, and its presumed (not to mention expected) awfulness turns out to be gleeful, self-aware genre abandon – this is a mucky, perverse world full of ludicrous twists and turns, flashbacks, lesbian trysts and pill-popping anti-heroes. If you’re not having fun, you’re just not doing it right."

KEITH UHLICH ON 'PASSION'
Keith Uhlich posted a Letterboxd review of Passion, in which he states, "I'm totally with this movie right from the moment Rachel McAdams chokingly says, 'It's organic.'" Uhlich loves how Passion "is a tri-perspective thriller that moves from the cold, calculating blonde to the all-in vengeful brunette to the haunt-you-even-in-death redhead. The surfaces are so enticing, and the depth emerges from the collision of emblems—not just hair color but zeitgeisty products (Mac computers; Panasonic cell phones; an ill-fated Coca-Cola machine) and strata of art (an ass-cam advertisement that goes YouTube viral and the Jerome Robbins version of Afternoon of a Faun, which may or may not have actually been witnessed)."

Uhlich concludes, "The key scene for me is the one in which McAdams tearily talks about her twin sister (who of course appears subsequently with bloody scarf—this film's Hermès handbag—in murderous hand), if only because it brings me back to that great Mission: Impossible exchange between Jean Reno and Emmanuelle Béart, which concisely and poetically sums up the polarizing De Palma project: 'Is he serious?'/'Always.'"


Posted by Geoff at 1:09 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:10 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
'THE FURY' SCREENS AT EBERT TRIBUTE THURSDAY
FREE SCREENING IS PART OF SERIES AT UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
A new 35mm print of Brian De Palma's The Fury will screen at 7pm Thursday night as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cinematheque series tribute to Roger Ebert. The series summer opened July 12 with Carol Reed's The Third Man. Cinematheque director Jim Healy told Madison.com that with the series, he "wanted to showcase the sheer range and eclecticism of Ebert’s tastes, from the great movies he loved to the guilty pleasures he enjoyed to the little-seen underdogs he championed," according to the article by Rob Thomas. A sidebar with Thomas' article includes a quote from Ebert about The Fury: "I'm not quite sure it makes a lot of sense, but that's the sort of criticism you only make after it's over. During the movie, too much else is happening."

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 12:14 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Posted by Geoff at 12:36 AM CDT
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