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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
FIRST REVIEW OF ARROW'S 'THE FURY' BLU-RAY
INCLUDES MORE DETAILS ABOUT EXTRA FEATURES
Simon Crust at AV Forums has posted a review of Arrow Video's upcoming Blu-ray edition of Brian De Palma's The Fury, which will be released October 28th in the U.K. Calling it "a sterling package" from Arrow, Crust states, "re-mastering the picture from the original camera negative has produced a magnificent restoration, with a bright, detailed and colourful image that belies its age. The sound doesn’t fare quite so well, the surround track being the best of the bunch, though it’s great to also have the isolated music track." Here's what Crust has to say about the extras included in the package:
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• Blood on the Lens (27.00) – An interview with cinematographer Richard H Kline who discusses his time making the picture the ideas he brought to it, the professionalism of De Palma and the cast and how many of the optical effects were achieved. Entertaining and informative.
• Spinning Tales (13.38) – Another interview this time with Fiona Lewis. She talks about her time on set, relationships with the other actors and De Palma, of course. Far more anecdotal than either of the other two interviews.
• The Fury: A Location Journal (49.49) – Third and final (new) interview for this release this time with Sam Irvin who interned on The Fury and wrote up several interviews for the magazine Cinefantastique while there. This guy knows just about everything there is to know about the film, he talks about how he was introduced to De Palma, his time on set, his relationships with the cast and crew, how scenes were shot, the editing process, the post production and how it was received. There is a wealth of information here all told in an enthusiastically infectious manner.
• Original Archive Interviews – Four interviews recorded in 1978 to promote the film, very interesting in how they are set up (single camera panning between the interviewer and the guest) is in rather poor shape and even poorer sound, but very interesting in its own right. Included are Brian De Palma (06.03), producer Frank Yablans (06.52), [Carrie Snodgress (05.05) and Amy Irving (04.45). The chats are very light in tone and every question leads to an answer that in some way promotes the film.
• Double Negative (17.58) – Sam Irvin’s short film tribute to De Palma, telling the story of a director getting his own back on some ruthless producers. Looks to be VHS of a film source, not terrible quality but not great, easily watchable and showcasing some very early talent – I actually quite enjoyed it.
• Gallery (0.53) – A number of production pictures play as a slideshow accompanied to some of the film’s score.
• Reversible Sleeve – Original and newly commissioned artwork from Jay Shaw.
• Booklet – Thoroughly comprehensive writings on the film, printed interviews with De Palma and John Farris, all illustrated with original film stills and poster art.

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Posted by Geoff at 11:00 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 11:04 PM CDT
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Monday, October 7, 2013
'CARRIE' PROMO PRANKS COFFEE SHOP PATRONS

Posted by Geoff at 8:20 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 6, 2013
ARMOND SOUR ON 'GRAVITY', RECALLS RICHER 'M2M'
"REMEMBER THAT ASTOUNDINGLY WITTY ENNIO MORRICONE SCORE?"
Armond White at City Arts has posted his review of Alfonsso Cuaron's Gravity, and is sour on what he sees as Cuaron's "glib cynicism," left over from the director's Children Of Men, unearned Kubrickian sense of "intellectual contemplation and wonder" (in Gravity's opening-image evocation of 2001: A Space Odyssey), and Cuaron's "fashionable" anti-religious "sop to the hipster market". White then contrasts Gravity with Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars and Walter Hill's Supernova:
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Too bad Gravity’s fanboy audience is conveniently ignorant of richer space dramas like Walter Hill’s sexy-scary Supernova and Brian DePalma’s Mission to Mars (remember that astoundingly witty Ennio Morricone score?) which entertainingly combined psychological and visionary pondering with sci-fi agape. Hill advanced the genre with tense, erotic, metaphysical characterizations. Nothing in Gravity compares to Mission to Mars’ extraordinary orchestration of passion and dread among a team of astronauts attempting to forge a lifeline in outer space. DePalma created an unforgettable, breathtaking sequence of love and loss. His great tragic humanism was more powerful than Cuaron’s tepid “hope.”
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Posted by Geoff at 11:59 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 12:01 PM CDT
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Saturday, October 5, 2013
PEIRCE SHOT FIVE ENDINGS FOR 'CARRIE'?
AND TWO MORE PRODUCTIONS OF THE MUSICAL THIS MONTH IN NEW JERSEY
SPOILERS - According to a post from this past Monday (September 30th) by Very Aware's Michael Haffner, a test screening of Kimberly Peirce's remake of Carrie happened a "few days" prior. Haffner writes that he spoke with someone ("a big horror fan") who attended the screening and liked it well enough to say that he plans on seeing it again when it opens in theaters later this month. Haffner's source says that Julianne Moore "gives an award worthy performance," and that Chloe Grace Moretz "isn't bad but they really gathered a realistic group of high school kids that she’s surrounded by."

Haffner's source tells him that four different endings were shown to the test audience, with a fifth ending mentioned, but held back from the screening. One of those endings, according to the source, "is an exact replica" of De Palma's ending. It also sounds like Peirce uses De Palma's crucifixion idea in her film (the source says he likes the new crucifixion scene better). "Four different endings were shown to us," the source tells Haffner. "They said that there is a fifth but they held back from showing it so that they could have a surprise ending if test audiences really didn’t like the others that were shown to us.” Here is Haffner's summary of what the source said about the endings:
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The first ending is very similar to the ending of the 1976 film but without the final twist: Sue Snell actually gets killed when Carrie pulls her into the ground. The second ending is an exact replica of the original film where Snell gets pulled into the ground by Carrie but wakes up in her bed to find it’s just a dream. The third ending is described as a “morning after voiceover” by Snell as we see the town coping with what happened. Finally, the fourth ending shows the town the morning after Carrie’s attack filled with news crews, reporters, and cops talking about the whole thing. What’s bizarre about this scene is that Carrie’s destruction of the city is being described as “a conspiracy.” Apparently the town is “trying to cover up what really happened.” Apparently the audience preferred the first two and “weren’t really into the other two at all.”
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The test audience was also shown multiple versions of the prom scene, as well as some others, according to Haffner's source. Haffner expresses much surprise that they were testing the film with so many different verions so close to the release date. (We'll have to wait and see the final film to determine whether these claims are true or not.)

'CARRIE: THE MUSICAL' IN NEW JERSEY
And we have two more productions of Carrie: The Musical to mention, and both are in New Jersey. NENAProductions Theater Project will stage the revised version of the musical for two weekends, from October 25th through November 3rd, at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.

Meanwhile, Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre will host Pierrot Production's eight performances of the revised version, including two midnight shows, from October 18-27. Two actors, Lindsey Krier and Jenna Scannelli, will alternate in the lead role. "The demands in this highly emotional role are extreme, not just the amount of singing, but the fact that the majority of the singing is high belt,” explains the show's director, Kat Ross-Kline, to MCCC News. “We want to give each girl a chance to perform at her best. They work well together and the cast has been so respectful and supportive of both of them. It has been a neat process to watch as they discover their own version of the character. This is my first attempt as a director to cast in this way.”

(Thanks to James!)


Posted by Geoff at 1:54 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 1:55 AM CDT
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Friday, October 4, 2013
GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S 'SIMPSONS' INTRO
INCLUDES SHOUT-OUT TO 'PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE' AT HALFWAY MARK

Guillermo del Toro directs the intro to this year's "Treehouse Of Horror" episode of The Simpsons, and includes a prominent shout-out to Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, which del Toro has not been shy about discussing as one of his favorite films. About halfway through the intro, the Phantom of the Paradise, voice-box and all, is at his organ, making music with a choir made up of several other phantoms, but when Lisa begins playing her saxophone, the Winslow-esque character orders her to get out. Behind our Phantom is his Swanage recording studio, lovingly detailed, straight out of De Palma's film. The episode airs on FOX-TV this Sunday (October 6th). UPDATE: UPROXX's Warming Glow has a video showing every single reference in the intro.
(Thanks to Drew!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:28 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 5, 2013 7:05 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 3, 2013
'TIS THE SEASON FOR 'CARRIE'
RAY OF LIGHT THEATRE STAGING MUSICAL IN SAN FRANCISCO
Looks like October is the month for Carrie, as yet another theatre company is staging the revised musical. At left is high school junior Cristina Ann Oeschger, who has the title role in Ray Of Light Theatre's production of Carrie: The Musical, running October 3rd through November 2nd at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco. In discussing the notoriety of the original version of the musical, Ray Of Light director Jason Hoover tells the Bay Area Reporter's Richard Dodds, "I'm sure someone could do a hilarious sendup, but it's something we're trying to distance ourselves from. It's not played for comedy, and it's not really a horror thing, either. It's more of a suspense thriller with a really beautiful score."

Hoover explains to Dodds that Ray Of Light has been wanting to stage Carrie for a while. "We've had our eye on the show for a long time, and we e-mailed [licensing company] Rodgers and Hammerstein to let us know the moment it became available. It really fits the aesthetic of the kind of darker, edgier musicals in a rock vein that Ray of Light produces." Hoover later adds, "This is a real, relatable tale in its themes of bullying and not fitting in and just everything that goes on with the fraught high school experience. Everyone already knows the climactic scene of the movie, but we're still hoping to get people to sit on the edges of their seats."

Posted by Geoff at 11:45 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 11:46 PM CDT
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ARROW'S 'FURY' INCLUDES NEW FARRIS INTERVIEW
FINAL SPECS FOR BLU-RAY, RELEASES OCT. 28; 'SISTERS' & 'PHANTOM' IN 2014
Arrow Video put out a press release today announcing the release date (Ocftober 28) and final specs for its mouth-watering Blu-Ray edition of Brian De Palma's The Fury. There has only been one real addition since the initial specs were announced in July, but it's a pretty great one: the booklet will include "a brand new interview with screenwriter John Farris on the writing of the film, his and De Palma’s unrealised adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and more, illustrated with original stills and posters."

The press release states that "this new version of The Fury has been painstakingly restored from the original camera negative, a process overseen by master technician James White (who also restored the massively acclaimed Arrow Video release of Zombie Flesh Eaters in 2012). Marking the film’s UK Blu-ray premiere in style, Arrow’s team of restorers have breathed new life into this telekinetic masterpiece – it’s crystal clear, incredibly vibrant and has been newly graded, all the while keeping true to Richard H. Kline’s brilliant original cinematography. 2013 year marks THE FURY’s 35th birthday... it’s never looked better."

Restoration Supervisor White is quoted, "It's been a great honour to restore The Fury, a truly fantastic film by one of my favourite directors. Its combination of sci-fi, horror and post-Watergate paranoia thriller make it one of the key titles in Brian De Palma's filmography, although some fans may be less familiar with the film due to its poor treatment on home video until now. Thankfully, this new restoration, struck directly from the original camera negative and carefully restored to preserve the full colour palette and subtleties of Richard Kline's masterly cinematography, should reaffirm the film's reputation as one of De Palma's greatest works, as well as a key film in American 1970s cinema. Finally audiences can see The Fury as it was meant to be seen."

The press release also provides new details about one of the Sam Irvin extras included in the set. Irvin was an intern on The Fury, and an assistant to De Palma on Dressed To Kill. In 1985, he made a short film called Double Negative that featured William Finley, which is included as an extra on The Fury Blu-ray. The IMDB's plot description of Double Negative: "Horror film director must plot to steal the negative of his film in order to save it from being destroyed in an insurance scam cooked up by his sleazy producers."

The press release also mentions that Arrow will release restored Blu-ray editions of De Palma's Sisters and Phantom Of The Paradise in 2014.


Posted by Geoff at 6:34 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:52 PM CDT
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ZACHAREK ON 'GRAVITY' & 'MISSION TO MARS'
"CUARON IS EVEN MORE OF A ROMANTIC THAN DE PALMA, IF SUCH A THING IS POSSIBLE"
Writing from the Venice Film Festival last month, Stephanie Zacharek posted a review of Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity for the Phoenix New Times, calling Cuaron "one of our greatest living directors." Zacharek states, "I'm thoroughly sick of 3D movies and I would have been happy to never have to look at one again. But I wasn't prepared for the way Cuarón uses it to explore both wonder and despair, in Gravity. Forget stretched-out blue people, Peter Max-colored flora and fauna, and explosions comin' at you: This is what 3D was made for."

Zacharek compares Gravity to Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars, as well as to Philip Kaufman's adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, the latter of which she calls "superb." Here are the last three paragraphs from her review:
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Gravity is both lyrical and terrifying, and sometimes Cuarón even merges the two, sending us into free fall along with his characters. No space movie arises from a vacuum, and the obvious comparative pulse points for this one include The Right Stuff and Brian De Palma's sorely underloved Mission to Mars. The Right Stuff isn't so much about space as about the space program, but Cuarón — who co-wrote the script with Jonés Cuarón, his son — captures the mingling of duty and curiosity that motivates any human being who actually makes it into space. And Cuarén, just as De Palma was, is alive to the empty-full spectacle of space and to the workaday poetry of the words astronauts use to describe it. At the time Mission to Mars was released, detractors made fun of the allegedly stiff dialogue. But have you ever heard astronauts — who are usually men of science, not Iowa Workshop grads — speak when they get that first long-distance view of planet Earth as a glowing orb? They grab for the simplest words, which are often the best...

Cuarón is even more of a romantic than De Palma, if such a thing is possible. He finds all kinds of ways to link survival in space with life on Earth. There, as here, anyone might have reason to feel loneliness, despair, fear, or exaltation, and homesickness — for a place, a person, a planet — is universal. Incidentally, the first person who tries to tell me Gravity is "unrealistic" or "implausible" is going to get a mock-Vulcan salute and a kick in the pants.

Given the amount of balderdash we have to swallow just to get through a typical summer movie season, taking a small leap of faith and imagination with Cuarón should hardly be a problem. Gravity is harrowing and comforting, intimate and glorious, the kind of movie that makes you feel more connected to the world rather than less. In space, no one can hear you scream. But a whole audience can hear you breathe. And that is a wondrous thing.

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The New Zealand Herald's Dominic Corry also brings up Mission To Mars in his review of Gravity:
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[Cuarón's] Children of Men famously features a bravura action sequence during which the camera maintains a single shot for almost four minutes without cutting. It's one of the coolest action scenes in cinema history, and when word emerged that Cuarón would be employing similar techniques in Gravity, film fans the world over rubbed their hands together in delight. Gravity isn't all long tracking-shots, but they make up the majority of the film, and enhance the tension to no end.

One of cinema's biggest proponents of the extremely long tracking shot is Brian De Palma, who I wrote about last week. Long tracking shots are a cool idea, but can be very difficult to pull-off without calling attention to the filmmaking. Hitchcock was a fan too; as was Robert Altman; but De Palma's voyeuristic style always best suited the technique in my mind - until Children of Men came along, that is.

Brian De Palma was also behind a widely-derided (but secretly awesome) film which now stands as a noteworthy antecedent to Gravity - 2000's Mission To Mars.

There's a full-on sequence near the beginning of the film which involves a space walk and a desperate attempt to grab on to a satellite. When details about Gravity started emerging, I hoped that it would be a movie-length version of this scene. And it is. In the best possible way.

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Posted by Geoff at 1:19 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:20 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013
MORE 'CARRIE' -- MUSICAL IN MINNEAPOLIS
2-HR PODCAST ON DE PALMA'S VERSION; DONAGGIO & 'PATRICK' REMAKE
Yesterday, we posted a video review of Brian De Palma's Carrie which was the first part of a "Kings Of Horror" series in which the two hosts plan to review each movie based on a Stephen King novel or story. Of course, Carrie was the first one of those, and now today, we found out that the Now Playing Podcast is doing the same thing (both started October 1st), except going even more in-depth into the films and how they compare with the sources. The Carrie podcast, running two hours, features a terrific in-depth discussion of the De Palma adaptation, although one of the three hosts is way off when he implies that De Palma was in any way trying to put anything over on audiences by supposedly stealing from Hitchcock. He shows an ignorance of the fact that the links to Hitchcock were not only well-known among most people watching De Palma's '70s films, but they were overt and often even advertised as Hitchcockian. This aside, the discussion of Carrie is fun and interesting.
(Thanks to Will!)

Meanwhile, opening Friday (and playing through October 27th) in Minneapolis is the recently revised version of Carrie: The Musical, brought to the stage by the Minneapolis Musical Theatre, which had always wanted to do the original 1988 musical, but the creators would never let them (or anyone) even read it, according to Pioneer Press' Chris Hewitt. MMT's artistic director Steven Meerdink tells Hewitt, "It's been on our list of shows to look at for a while, but we've never been able to get ahold of it." Talking about the revised version, Meerdink tells Hewitt, "The biggest thing they did is make it a smaller, more intimate show. I didn't see the original show, but they tried to make it a big blockbuster. Based on the clips I've seen, that was the biggest problem with it. It had a Phantom of the Opera feel, rather than focusing on the characters and story, and I think that's what they've done now by reducing it to a smaller version." talking about the tone of the new version, Meerdink tells Hewitt, "It's not a camp show at all. It's going to be a hard thing for us to convince people of, since we did Evil Dead and Bat People, but it's very much a serious piece that is relevant in today's society."

DONAGGIO TELLS 'PATRICK' DIRECTOR IT REMINDED HIM OF 1ST TIME HE SAW 'CARRIE'
Mark Hartley has directed a remake of Richard Franklin's Patrick, and tells Crave Online's Fred Topel that in preparation, he and his cinematographer Garry Richards watched "all of De Palma’s films, we watched a lot of Argento films," as well as The Legend Of Hell House, The Orphanage, Julia's Eyes, and The Changeling. Hartley also tells Topel about getting Pino Donaggio to compose the score for Patrick:

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One of the highlights for me, in my life basically, was all the way through the writing of Patrick and all through the shot listing and all through preproduction in general, I was just constantly listening to Pino Donaggio’s music to get me in the mood. We wanted it to be a throwback to the films that I loved when I was growing up, but they’re all the films that were made by proteges of Hitchcock. They’re all made by Richard Franklin who made the original Patrick, by Argento and by Brian De Palma.

So all the way through the production of the film, the producer Tony Ginnane was saying, “We need to get a composer on board.” I was saying, “I’m holding out. We’ll finish the film, we’re going to do a cut, we’re going to send it to Donaggio and see if we can get him. Everyone thought it was just a ludicrous idea and that’s what we ended up doing. As I said, one of the great moment of my life is when I got an e-mail back from Pino saying that he loved the film. He actually said that it reminded him of watching a rough cut of Carrie which was praise beyond belief, and was happy to do it.

The score does divide people too because if you’ve got a Pino Donaggio score, why bury it in the mix? I feel you need to have it basically lead the film. I really love it. Scores now are just incessant percussion turned up to 11 and that’s the last thing I wanted for this film. It really is a throwback to Bernard Hermann’s scores.

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Posted by Geoff at 11:18 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 11:20 PM CDT
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CHRIS O'NEILL ON 'PASSION
IN-DEPTH LOOKS AT SPLIT-DIOPTER SHOT, SPLIT-SCREEN, ETC.


Chris O'Neill, who programmed and presented Brian De Palma's Passion at its Irish theatrical premiere this past July at Triskel Christchurch, has posted an in-depth essay about that film at Experimental Conversations. This thoughtful piece on Passion focuses on several aspects of the film, including a specific split diopter shot (the rest of this post may contain SPOILERS -
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De Palma has a masterful ability to fill a frame with multiple visual elements, yet he can still balance conveying essential narrative information with details that enrich the film as a whole. His use of the split diopter lens, which allows for the image to display separate depths of field in one shot, is relatively restrained in Passion yet is subtly effective in what it achieves. In one sequence there are three points of focus in a single shot. Dirk lies in bed smoking a cigarette. He is framed in the foreground on the left hand side. In the background, Isabelle stands in the bathroom with her back to the camera. Isabelle's face is reflected in a large mirror, while other ornamental objects are either situated on the bathroom counter or seen as reflections in the mirror from the other side of the room. In the dialogue exchange between the two characters, Isabelle learns more about Dirk's relationship with Christine, and discovers Christine's adventurous sex life which includes a variety of sex aids including a strap-on and a Venetian carnival mask modelled on her own features. This sequence runs a little over two minutes, but within this limited amount of time De Palma conveys the interior design of Dirk's home which reflects aspects of his personality (an ornament shaped like a penis, a sculpture of an obedient dog), Dirk's contemptuous attitude towards Christine ("Whatever Christine wants, she gets"), Isabelle's inquisitive nature ("What's it like with her?" she asks before rooting through a drawer full of sex aids), and the toys that Christine uses with Dirk that reflect dominance (the strap-on) and narcissism (the mask).
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O'Neill closes by framing Passion within the context of De Palma's recent late-career cinematic freedom (having no need to prove himself at this late stage), and also contrasts its dream elements with those of Raising Cain:
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De Palma uses dream sequences in many of his films but he rarely lets on that they are dreams until the climax of the scene snaps the narrative back into waking reality. This is usually announced with a blatant 'waking from a nightmare' moment of a character starting bolt upright and screaming in their bed. Such sequences, however, tend to be isolated set pieces rather than central elements in the narrative structure. A possible reason for this is that for many years De Palma was concerned about pushing the audience a step too far and causing them to reject the whole premise of a film. An example of this is his 1992 picture Raising Cain. As scripted, that film had numerous dreams within dreams but the film was re-edited for clarification after it tested poorly at preview screenings.

However, since going into self-imposed exile from the Hollywood studio system following Mission To Mars (2000), De Palma has been working on smaller scale independent productions, many of them based in Europe. A director of his stature no longer has anything to prove, and producers approach him knowing his previous work and, therefore, his quirks and capabilities. Thanks to this freedom, De Palma has been indulging in more playful and challenging cinematic techniques. The 'alternative universe' scenario of Femme Fatale (2002) is a good example of this, where a large section of the narrative is in fact the lead character's premonition, warning her where life will lead if she makes the wrong decision. With Passion, he returns to the initial dream-within-dream concept of Raising Cain and this time goes through with it, seemingly unconcerned if the audience sometimes gets lost. The constant twists, red herrings and false endings are disorientating on initial viewing, but subsequent viewings reveal a precise logic behind these overlapping elements. For example, on revisiting the film it becomes noticeable that images in the dream sequences are marked out by a much heavier blue tint than is used in the remainder of the film. It is clear that De Palma is having fun with the form, and he saves a final laugh for the very end: the screen cuts to black and ‘The End' appears in simple white lettering before the closing credits roll. This title playfully anticipates a collective sigh of relief from the audience: there will be no more bewildering twists and turns. It's over, the viewer can finally relax.

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Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 12:50 AM CDT
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