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a la Mod:
In discussing his belief that most directors do their best work before the age of 60, De Palma tells Nicholson, "Even Hitchcock — he made eighty movies, and personally, I think his films started to deteriorate after The Birds." The article closes with a De Palma quote about the Oscars: "I'm telling you, these award things where people stand up and tell you how great you are, I avoid them. Fortunately, I've never had to deal with it."
EMPIRE MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 2013, 'RAISING CAIN' RECUT
Nick De Semlyen has a great little sidebar interview with De Palma in the September 2013 issue of EMPIRE magazine. De Semlyen asks De Palma what we would find in his browser history cache. "They're doing live trials online now," De Palma replies, "so I've been watching the Zimmerman trial. I'm not really a YouTube guy, though I did see somebody re-edited Raising Cain into the original order in which I cut it. I looked at it and said, 'I should have left it that way.'"
'DEXTER', 'MAD MEN', 'WAR AND PEACE'
Asked if he watches any TV shows, De Palma replies, "I watched Dexter in the beginning and was fascinated by it. But when they extend these shows for six or seven years, they sort of run out of ideas, so I didn't watch the whole John Lithgow series. Even Mad Men is getting a little tired now. These things are ten times longer than War And Peace.
De Semlyen then asks De Palma if he saw Hitchcock. "Yes," De Palma replies. "I bought the book to see if it was actually real, what happened. I don't remember Hitchcock having problems with his marriage during the making of Psycho. So I thought it was interesting, but is it true?"
'THE DEMOLISHED MAN'
When asked about Ridley Scott's Prometheus, De Palma tells De Semlyen, "I didn't think it was as good as the original. It's not like Godfather I and II. There's a science fiction story that I've always felt would make a terrific movie: an Alfred Bester book called The Demolished Man. It's about a society of Espers, who can read people's minds. And then a great economic titan figures out how to kill his wife and not get caught. The rights are all tied up at Paramount."
JASON STATHAM FAN
De Semlyen concludes by aksing De Palma if he's a fan of Jason Statham, who he was going to direct in the remake of Heat. "Oh yes," replies De Palma. "I've always wanted to make a film with him. I've seen both Cranks and loved them. In fact, I don't think there's a Jason Statham film I haven't seen. He's been doing too much action stuff, driving cars and beating up people. He needs a more Steve McQueen-type part. But it didn't work out."
The same issue also includes a positive review of Passion by Ian Nathan, who says that during its second half, "Passion is transformed into a butterfly of hyperactive noir."
"You resolve to tell the world.
"Then you wake up.
"You watch Passion again. Then Love Crime. Passion is pretty good. If you cared enough to make a list, it might be your fifth or sixth favorite De Palma. You could even argue it's about something: the surveillance state, or sex on film, or some style-section piece De Palma may have read about how women sometimes don't support one another in the workplace.
"Then you wake up."
"Brian DePalma, your director, treats this narrative shift as a kind of checkered flag for his own intense stylistic shift. At the beginning he shoots with clean light, level camera angles, and pretty standard mise en scene. Then, once the pedal hits the floor and the ratcheting tension is unleashed, all bets are off. What was a fairly routinely shot film becomes a classic neo-noir exercise, saturated in deep shadows, dripping with incredible texture, and laced with angles and pans and visual tricks that make one realize just how boring most films are shot. For a while nothing makes sense, but my God isn’t that the thrill of the new and the unknown? Don’t we go looking for thrillers and dramas so they can take us by surprise and leave us just as confused and unmoored as the protagonists?
"There’s something to be said for a film that is filled with arch performance, blindly executed moments of sheer bravado, and style the likes of which is rarely present nowadays outside of parody. When the music and action of a film fit together as a kind of bold, rebellious 'tada!' not out of satirical grandeur but through actual conviction, who can be strong enough to resist it? Why would you want to? When Rachel McAdams plays catty and bewitching with so much unadulterated glee and Noomi Rapace throws her eyes so wide and plays melodrama with such sweeping affection, who are we to tell them to hold back?
"Plus, no one with half a cinema-loving bone in their body could ever resist a film that culminates in a scene wherein a clever observer to the action is given a parlor scene, the kind of expository monologue reserved for private eyes and polices detectives. When the plot is being recounted with that serpentine slyness, when the new twists are added in, when motives and machinations are underlined with omniscient flashbacks and everything comes to a marvelous head… If that isn’t the kind of thing you think we need more in our lives, I don’t even want to know you.
"So cheers, Passion! You burlesque, you cabaret, you unabashed whirlwind of a film. I look forward to baffling people with you for years to come."
BDP: Well, I have heard that but… In this genre, to some extent, you have to set up the characters, the rivalry, the point at which you've basically pushed one to murder the other and it's basically businesswomen, you know, working within an advertising agency so you're trying to restrict it, visually, to characters walking down hallways and talking to each other across desks. So, until we get to the night of the murder, we really can't introduce the surreal element, "Was she dreaming this? Did she take too many sleeping pills?" How she's fooling herself, us and the audience, that you can really kind of take off. So, that's the way it sort of laid its way out.
Bibbiani then says, "That's interesting because the villain… Well, that's a bad word for it. Christine is in many ways this cold, manipulative person and we don't necessarily have sympathy for her the whole time but you made it very clear, whenever you showed her on her own, that there's a genuinely emotional, kind of tragic element to her life."
And De Palma responds, "Yeah, and I think Rachel brought that to the character. That's not in the original film. I mean, every once in a while, she's completely cracking up. You know, the sad story about the twin sister, she has everybody crying. Whether it's true or not, who the hell knows? And then, when she's at home and the date cancels out on her, she completely freaks out. And you see a kind of woman unraveling and she does evoke a little sympathy for the character."
De Palma also talks a bit about the costume choices in the film, saying that Isabelle is "completely uninterested in what she's wearing so she goes completely in black throughout the movie, basically. She's the creator. She's the idea person. She doesn't really think about what's around her or what she's wearing, as opposed to Christine; all she is is a creation of what she wears and the style that she evokes."
'RAISING CAIN' - "I SHOULD HAVE LEFT IT THE WAY IT WAS"
Bibbiani starts to talk about the contrast between the "mad" way Raising Cain was shot and the more restrained shots used in the early scenes in Passion, leading De Palma to discuss the original cut of Raising Cain: "Well, the interesting thing about Raising Cain is that the way I originally wrote it, is not the way I ultimately released it. Interestingly enough, some Raising Cain aficionado got the film together and released it on the web the way it should have been constructed. And it kind of worked! [Laughs] I thought it was too complicated but the original idea of Raising Cain is you start with the wife's story, you don't start with his story, and you follow her story, all the way until she gets smothered in bed and then, you start to pick up his story. The problem was, I felt at the time, was that Lithgow was so commanding, so fascinating to watch what he was doing I didn't think that a movie could sustain this kind of soap opera beginning. You know, this woman getting involved with this old lover, threatening her marriage, did she sleep with him or didn't she? So, I started the Lithgow story and flashed back to the wife's story and in retrospect, I think it was sort of a mistake. I should have left it the way it was."
When asked about the possibility of releasing such a cut on DVD, De Palma replies, "Well, usually, a studio has to come to you and say, 'Look, we have a lot of demand here. Would you like to change anything? Would you redo it?' Which I did, with Casualties of War. I put some scenes back in that I took out of the initial release. Sure! I'd be interested to try to put it back the way it originally was edited."
'RELAX' - "A PORN MUSIC VIDEO, NOBODY'S EVER SEEN THAT BEFORE"
Bibbiani made sure to ask De Palma something he'd been wondering about for years:
BDP: Well, it was a combination of things. It comes right down to a lot of research with a real porn star and I sort of based the Holly Body character on her. And the thing that you discover with porn stars is that they have a hysterical sense of humor. I mean, they're very funny. So, when we got to the point of, the so-called, the actor goes into the porn film in order to get close to Holly Body, so he can find out what she had to do with the murder… This is at the point where people are starting to direct music videos. I think that's also the year I did Bruce Springsteen's first music video.
CraveOnline: "Dancing in the Dark?"
BDP: Yeah, and I think the Michael Jackson ones were first coming out. This was like, the era of the music video, I said to myself, "Why don't we make this into like, a music video? A porn music video, nobody's ever seen that before." Then I think one of the executives at Columbia came up with the song and then I heard the song and said, "This is perfect!" They were very unhappy with the video they had done, so I shot the video and put it in the movie, then gave them the video for them to use but they were not very happy with that, either so they went on and it turned into another video. So, I think there are like, 3 videos of Relax. We shot it way after the principle photography. I'm trying to remember how this happened but we went and shot it almost 6 or 7 months after the principle photography. We went back and shot the "Relax" video, then I put it into the movie so I'm trying to remember, what was in the movie before we put this in? [Laughs]
CraveOnline: I'd be very curious to find that out.
I don't quite remember.
After telling Bibbiani that he now has a script for Happy Valley and is figuring out how to shoot it, the following exchange takes place:
BDP: I know. They're all over the place.
Do you have a specific take on it or are you going to try to keep this accessible for everyone?
BDP: I don't know. It's a very difficult story. All kinds of conflicting testimonies. You know, it's a terrible tragedy but we're going to try to make… It's strong stuff. What can I tell you? It's very strong stuff and it's very sad stuff.
CALUM MARSH INTERVIEWS DE PALMA
Film.com's Calum Marsh interviewed De Palma just yesterday, prior to De Palma's appearance on stage at the Film Society Lincoln Center. At the start of the interview, Marsh says that when he saw Passion at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, "it seemed that people had a hard time understanding what they were supposed to take seriously and what was supposed to be funny." Marsh then asks, "Do you want that to be ambiguous or is supposed to be pretty clear?"
Marsh: It’s clearly funny to you?
BDP: I always have a kind of ironic sense of humor about the outrageousness of what these girls were doing to each other. That’s more or less throughout all of my movies, so I don’t know why it comes as a particular surprise to anybody.
Marsh: Do you think that people who aren’t particularly familiar with your filmography might have a harder time understanding that what seems to be played straight is more tongue-in-cheek?
BDP: Well, if you want to see straightforward mysteries, you just have to turn on your television set. They’re playing 24 hours a day. You can listen to people being interviewed, talking to each other, investigating things. It goes on ad nauseum. I try to do something a little different. That’s why it may appear that it’s not what you’re used to seeing day in and day out.
Marsh: …that a video was seen ten million times in five hours?
Marsh: …okay. That seems really improbable to me. And, I mean, that line gets a laugh—people think it seems absurd.
BDP: Well, that speaks to an audience being very observant of the rates at which YouTube videos are seen. I would hardly be one who would know that. I just took that statistic from a piece of information on the internet. I think it’s a correct statistic. It’s not meant as a joke.
Marsh: Okay. Well, were you at the screening in Toronto? Have you seen in with an audience?
Marsh: When I saw it there was a lot of laughter. And not necessarily at the film, but with the film, because I think it’s sort of a fun genre film that seems a little more playful than most films of that kind. You’re not parodying the genre, necessarily, but it does seem a little arch and a little silly. If you’re watching it with an audience and they’re laughing, do you feel like it they’re not taking it seriously when they should be taking it seriously?
BDP: It’s a murder mystery! These are women outrageously destroying each other! And sometimes I find it quite amusing.
Marsh: So do I. But murder mysteries usually seem more self-serious. I don’t think this film seems to be taking itself so seriously, and I don’t think people will watch Passion in the same way they might watch an ordinary murder mystery.
BDP: I’ve been making movies my whole life with this kind of ironic stance, in which sometimes the characters are doing things so seemingly excessive, but you can be amused by it. It’s nothing new to me. If you want to see straightforward murder mysteries, turn on your television set! They’re very drab as far as I’m concerned. I’m always pushing the envelope. Some people find that difficult to take, and maybe they laugh at it, but that’s I guess the risk you take.
Marsh: If we’re so saturated in that then why are you interested in offering more of the same?
BDP: It’s a reality. It isn’t like we’re interested, it’s just how it is. They draw the eye. That’s why they’re there.
Marsh: Sorry, can you elaborate on that?
BDP: People have been looking at beautiful women since the beginning of time.
Marsh: And so you feel like just because they’ve been doing that since the beginning of time that makes it inherently interesting?
BDP: When was the last time you looked at a woman?
Marsh: Recently, I imagine.
BDP: Good. Then you’re like a normal individual to me. I have a rather attractive one right across the table.
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?"