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Sunday, August 25, 2013
EBERT.COM CRITIC INTERVIEWS DE PALMA
AND RANKS 27 OF DE PALMA'S FILMS, WITH 'PASSION' IN TOP 10
Roger Ebert.com's Peter Sobczynski posted an interview with Brian De Palma the other day, discussing Passion with a SPOILER WARNING. "In a weird way," Sobczynski says to De Palma, "with the increasingly cruel treatment that Christine perpetrates on Isabelle, the film sort of reminded me of Carrie, minus the supernatural element and with the cruelties transplanted from the locker room to the board room…"

"That is true," replies De Palma. "In Carrie, she is being tormented by her fellow students and seemingly set up and destroyed by another woman. There is a similarity but I must say that did not occur to me as I was making the movie."

DE PALMA SHOT TEST OF BALLET TO USE WHILE SHOOTING MURDER SCENE
In discussing the split-screen sequence in Passion, De Palma tells Sobczynski, "I used this particular piece in order to juxtapose Christine waiting for her lover with a ballet having to do with two dancers in a rehearsal studio who are going through their exercises while there is a growing sexual tension between them. I thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition between the two venues of action. It is very intricate but the advantage is that I shot a test of the ballet before I actually shot that sequence and when I was shooting the material of Christine being killed, I had my test footage of the ballet to play it against in order to determine how one scene juxtaposed against another and how it was working. By the time I got down to the shooting of the ballet, which was during the last two days of filming, I knew exactly what I needed in order to properly juxtapose the murder."

DE PALMA KNEW FROM EARLY ROLES THAT RAPACE COULD PLAY VULNERABLE
Sobczynski tells De Palma that when he first heard about the casting, he had assumed Noomi Rapace would play Christine and that Rachel McAdams would play Isabelle. "Fortunately," De Palma replies, "I had seen these Swedish movies that Noomi had done before she had become this international star of the Dragon Tattoo films where she plays this demonic creature—films in which she played vulnerable characters and mothers—and had sort of a fuller grasp of her acting talent."

'PASSION' DISTRIBUTION; 'PARANORMAL ACTIVITY'; FAV MOVIE CRITICS & OTHER DISCOVERIES
In discussing the VOD and limited theatrical release of Passion, De Palma tells Sobczynski, "That is the strategy of the distributor—they are the ones that paid for the movie and they have an idea about the best way to exhibit it in order to maximize their investment. I have no idea if this is going to make the movie any more successful as opposed to opening it in a more conventional way."

When asked how close he came to directing Paranormal Activity 2, De Palma tells Sobczynski, "Not very. Basically, I think one of the producers was an admirer of my work and they talked about it but nothing really came of it." When asked about the current state of film criticism, De Palma says, "I think that some of the best film critics nowadays are on the web. Dana Stevens over at Slate, Stephanie Zacharek over at the Village Voice—they write some of the best criticism around."

The interview ends with Sobczynski asking De Palma if there are any of his lesser-seen films he might like to see rediscovered. De Palma replies, "The public basically decides the movies that are going to be remembered and you have named a couple of them [Scarface and Blow Out]. Anyone who likes a director's work is exposed to them by the best-of movies, and then they start digging. Take someone like Fritz Lang—you start by seeing things like Metropolis or The Big Heat and the other fantastic films that he made and then you start exploring the ones that are less well-known. I assume that is what people do with me—they know the movies that are well-known and then ask 'Who is this guy?' and start digging into the others."

SOBCZYNSKI RANKS DE PALMA'S FILMS - 'BLOW OUT' TOPS LIST
Also posted that same day is Sobczynski's ranking of 27 of De Palma's films. "I have compiled the following retrospective look at his entire career (minus one or two obscurities)," Sobczynski explains in the introduction. "Some are better than others but with few exceptions, they are all the work of a singular director with a singular vision that stand out all the more amidst its committee-created competition and which make even his weakest efforts more interesting than the best works of most other filmmakers working today." Sobczynski's top three are Blow Out ("De Palma's masterpiece"), Femme Fatale ("this may be the most purely De Palma film of them all"), and Phantom Of The Paradise ("one of De Palma's most wildly entertaining films").

Sobczynski ranks Passion at #7 on the list, stating, "the film as a whole is a sexy stunner that is De Palma's most satisfying work since Femme Fatale." In contrast to Jake Cole's list from earlier in the week, Sobczynski ranks The Untouchables at number 5. Some possible surprises on Sobczynski's list: Raising Cain makes his top 10, Snake Eyes up at number 12 (even though "the ending is a bit of a letdown"), and Casualties Of War all the way down at number 23 ("I must confess that it is one that has never quite worked for me that well," writes Sobczynski). All the way at the bottom of the list is Get To Know Your Rabbit.


Posted by Geoff at 3:29 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013 3:33 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 12:26 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 24, 2013
DE PALMA NAMES SOME FILMS ON HIS SHELF
AND DISCUSSES THE "EROTIC FENCING GAME" BETWEEN THE WOMEN IN 'PASSION'
Yet another interview with Brian De Palma posted to the web today, this one from The Arizona Republic's Bill Goodykoontz. When asked about his strong visual style, De Palma responds, "I’m always composing for the big screen. That’s why we have operas and ballets. These are forms that have lived through centuries and they’re kind of specialized things that we get all dressed up to go see, and it’s kind of a big event. But the mass of visual entertainment is basically being watched on an iPad or an iPhone."

Goodykoontz then asks De Palma if he still has films that inspire him. "Yeah, I have films that are on a shelf," De Palma replies. "I show them to my daughters and some of their friends, because they’re completely unaware of some of this stuff. Certainly The Red Shoes — where would you see this film except on TCM, or Martin Scorsese presents it? This is a very influential film on the directors of our generation. Obviously Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. And, of course, David Lean. Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Brief Encounter. I mean, these are films you can watch over and over again."

Earlier in the interview, Goodykoontz had some questions for De Palma about dealing with sexuality on the set:

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Q: A lot of your films deal with sexuality. How do you make the actors comfortable?

A: In this case, there’s not that much explicit sexuality. I mean, the girls are toying with each other all the time. These actresses (Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace) came to this because they liked acting together. They like this kind of twisted relationship, and they could tease each other and slam each other. It became an erotic fencing game they played. And that was the fun of it, and they really enjoyed doing it. But this isn’t naked girls running around in the shower, which is a whole different problem.

Q: A problem you’ve dealt with.

A: When you’re dealing with themes like that, like I had in Carrie, it’s incredibly difficult to do. A lot of these actresses had never been in a movie before, this whole naked shower scene, you know, they were all a little nuts. Fortunately Sissy (Spacek, the star) had to do all her stuff before, and when they saw Sissy doing it, they thought, “Well, God, if Sissy can do it, I can.”

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Friday, August 23, 2013


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Thursday, August 22, 2013
2 MORE DE PALMA INTERVIEWS
'PASSION', 'DEMOLISHED MAN', 'PROMETHEUS', STATHAM, 'DEXTER', 'HITCHCOCK'
Denver Westword's Amy Nicholson interviewed Brian De Palma for an article that was posted yesterday. In discussing the competitive nature of the women in his new film, Passion, De Palma tells Nicholson, "Men get very like two rams banging their horns together; women are wilier. They do things like, 'What did you do to your hair?' My first wife, her mother would look at her daughter and go, 'Did you cut your hair?' My wife would go, 'Oh, God — what did I do wrong?'" Later, De Palma continues, "Women can play a subservient role very easily — and know how to maneuver through subservience. I don't think you'd see a man do that. That's putting his ego on the line."

The conversation later turns to Mission: Impossible, and De Palma's decision not to accept Tom Cruise's offer to direct the sequel. "When they asked me to do another one, I said, 'Why would you do that?'" De Palma tells Nicholson. "Making multiple movies like Jurassic Park 1, 2 — I think Steven's going to make Jurassic Park 5! — that never made any sense to me."

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.

'HITCHCOCK'
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."


Posted by Geoff at 11:22 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:37 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013
A NICE PAIR OF 'PASSION' REVIEWS
ONE FROM A FUTURISTIC DREAM, THE OTHER AS A LETTER TO THE FILM ITSELF
Two very interesting reviews of Passion were posted on the web today. OC Weekly's Alan Scherstuhl (who is actually the film editor for The Village Voice) takes an amusing view from a noirish future dream where "maybe everything around you is tilted a bit, and strips of light glow on the wall." In this dream, the reader watches the movie on a device originally meant for reading. Scherstuhl writes, "Here's a familiar, bravura split-screen sequence recalling Dressed to Kill in its pairing of high art (this time ballet) and kinky stalking, but this time, the effect seems less a new way of seeing than an acknowledgement of how we see already: With your web browser open, and the movie itself only taking up half of your device's display, your screen is already split. De Palma trisects it."

As the review comes to a close, Scherstuhl parodies Passion's many shots of the protagonist waking up from a dream:
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"And then you wake up. You see the movie hasn't been lost and found. It's just getting a half-assed original release, dumped onto video on demand, gutted and ignored by critics. You put it on again to see if they're right. They're not: If a new Woody Allen film came as close to the spirit and quality of vintage Woody Allen as Passion does to vintage De Palma, the world would plotz. I mean, Christ, have you seen Blue Jasmine? At least De Palma doesn't think the Sweathogs have opened up a San Francisco chapter.

"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."

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DEAR 'PASSION'
Dearfilm's Brian J. Roan writes a letter to Passion. "It is not often that a movie that begins as just a handsome and immaturely titillating exercise in high dramatics turns into a head-spinning tale the likes of which cannot easily be explained or delineated," writes Roan, "but my God do you pull it off. It is like being in a car, going languidly around the neighborhood with a pleasant pop song on the radio, when suddenly the driver snaps, throws the whole heap into reverse, breaks the speed limit, and begins viewing gardens and mailboxes as checkpoints on some psychologically unhinged rally car course.

"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."


Posted by Geoff at 8:57 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:34 PM CDT
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