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a la Mod:
The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl also finds the film's thriller/horror elements disappointing, and criticizes Swanberg's seeming use of nudity for nudity's sake. "Nobody's arguing that nudity precludes the possibility of serious artistic intent," states Scherstuhl, "except maybe those dopes who complain that the flesh bared on Girls doesn't seem to be there to inspire masturbation. 24 Exposures, on the other hand, seems crafted for viewers to watch with their hands in their pants. Yes, as the horny photographer and his girlfriend (Caroline White) hook up with their models, there are clever feints toward parody and criticism of godawful erotic thrillers, but the point of the many nude scenes never feels like anything more than the nudity. Swanberg has made an inspiring career out of rejecting the aesthetic crimes of Hollywood. It's dispiriting, then, that he so doggedly indulges in its tradition of male gazing. This is strict T&A, in a literal sense — just tits and ass, often gamely fondled.
"It's cheerful T&A, at least, and the women are allowed to be chatty, likable people, their characters always eager participants in their fetishization. If there's any artistic breakthrough it's in Swanberg's reclamation of the humanity of softcore, a project he's verged upon before: The women who get naked are the kind these indie filmmakers happen to know and like, a different set than the ones usually hired for movie erotica. Expect bobs, pores, nerves, and an affable freshness, and none of the steely, professional determination of the starlets of the Cinemax circuit. And don't expect to watch these women (all white) suffer acts of violence — there's none of that feeling, familiar from too many horror flicks, that at some level the filmmakers enjoy seeing women suffer.
"Granted, the female cast here all poses for Billy's crime-scene photo shoots, which involve ripped bras and tights, bathtubs of stage blood, and Laura Palmer–style corpse makeup. Since this is also something of a (gentle, self-referential, dissatisfying by design) horror film, those scenes of play-acted murder get juxtaposed against one that's meant to be real in the movie's story. It's a disorienting fakeout, as graceful as De Palma, and perhaps something of a commentary on the aestheticized sexual brutality of CSIs, SVUs, and every Shannon Tweed vehicle, but the deepest the movie digs into it is Billy admitting that he doesn't want to think too hard about what gets him off. (That could be the movie's thesis statement.)"
CraveOnline's Brian Formo adds that "there is a great Brian De Palma film within 24 Exposures. It is also filled with some perfectly framed De Palma moments: peering at women through blinds, sterile unfulfilling design of homes and offices, a third act that reveals that it never knew where to go with the narrative and explains it away in very writer-ly fashion."
However, these aren’t just any women. These are women who have subverted their “organic” female identity to survive and thrive in the man’s world of big business. The movie opens with Christine and Isabelle sharing a drink. When they both choke on what they’re drinking, Christine laughs and says, “It’s organic!” Of course it makes them gag. Both women are synthetic products, and organic is like poison to their plastic souls. This movie is largely about the bastardization of the “organic maternal” within the economic professional sphere, about how women subvert the “maternal feminine” to attain power in the global economy. Of course they’re going to choke when they swallow something organic...
With their clothes, shoes and hyper-performed yet subverted sexuality, these women are like high-end office furniture, lamps or mirrors who reflect the environment they occupy. Their interior selves merge with the exterior of the film – the cars, fancy apartments, slick offices. Their motives are driven by interior desire, yet they are also symptoms of the exterior world. They are mere pieces within their economic environment, yet they are also symptoms of it. Their interior and exterior have become the same thing, a reflection of the economic world, a terribly ugly beautiful surface. Their professional economic environment causes the women to act how they act and molds them into what they become.
Passion is a kind of science fiction of the now narrative, a thriller about the mutation of the female cosmology when it’s placed within the global economic sphere and becomes entwined with the market and the forces of power that drive it. Sure these women are vengeful, calculating and in many ways as synthetic as their environment. They are hyper-female yet coldly economic, but they are also seething with sexuality because in De Palma’s movies (like Scarface) sex and economic power are the same thing. These women use sex to maintain their position of dominance and control. Is it attractive? On the exterior they are sexy as hell, even when they are slashing each other’s throats. On the interior, well, these gals have forfeited their interiors so that question doesn’t really matter.
Do they have choices to not be their jobs? Well, it’s not a choice that De Palma gives us. The women’s actions are motivated by artifice, and they in turn become artificial beings, with their designer clothes, executive offices, and marketing campaigns. They are like Stepford women who have graduated from the kitchen and moved into the high rise office building...
We may not be sure who is out to get who, but one thing is for sure – all these women are out to get each other one way or another as they angle for power and position. I refer to this movie as post-feminist cinema because certainly this is not an image of women that feminists would feel comfortable with, but it’s also a more accurate portrait of women in the new economy than most filmmakers would dare to create. There are multiple references to Medusa within the film – the mythic female who turns men to stone when they look at her –, but these women are already stone. It’s like a reverse parable – they have been turned to stone by gazing into and occupying the male world.
Don’t get me wrong. These women may occupy and vie for power within the male marketplace, but they do not act like men. They act like women. They look like women. But they are women from whom the maternal has been excised by economic forces. In one scene, Christine learns that one of her lovers has a daughter, and she is appalled, horrified, and disgusted . . . almost as if she’s choking on an organic drink. She just wants to get fucked. She doesn’t want to breed. The mere idea of the maternal feels like swallowing poison to her.
D'Arcy describes the way the film captures events as they unfold at Penn State:
"Bar-Lev watches the university community witness news of Sandusky’s 2012 conviction on multiple counts of sexual abuse. Soon head football coach [Joe] Paterno (Sandusky’s boss), is sacked, along with the university president and other officials. The youth response on campus is a riot in which news trucks are overturned and property is destroyed.
"The mob reaction to disturbing news is at the core of Bar-Lev’s film, in which football fever fuels group fenzy in Happy Valley. Critics of Joe Paterno (nicknamed ‘JoePa’) are insulted and threatened when they express concerns publicly, as police stand by. This is extreme football fervor. It would be hard to find a Catholic congregation in the US that rallied behind a bishop who turned the other way after seeing evidence of sexual abuse. Football, as we see, is another story.
"Football as religion is a truism in the US. In Bar-Lev’s film, football as identity and profit takes over. The university searches for life beyond the revered Paterno, who dies in 2012 of a cancer that’s diagnosed the day after his firing. A popular statue of Paterno – a bronze figure of sports kitsch that was a tourist destination – is destroyed by the university, which also expunges the former coach’s name from the university’s history, like that of a purged Soviet official under Stalin. As the crowds pour back into the football stadium, Penn State is busy marketing a cult of personality for its new coach.
"Bar Lev’s scenes of crowd melees are frightening, but his film contains intimate poignant testimony that is equally troubling. Jerry Sandusky’s stoic adopted son, Matt, tells a sad story of growing up in the squalid digs of a desperately poor family and gravitating toward a program for poor boys headed by the coach, who gave the children food, gifts, and mandated sex."
And while Winthrow is disappointed by Mission To Mars, Pountain, ranking the film at number nine, feels that it is "in serious need of reappraisal." Pountain writes, "A film giddy off the wonders of life, Mission To Mars is an absorbing tribute to man’s potential for self-discovery through outward exploration. It’s also a testament to one man’s ability to take a Hollywood hack job with a corny script and turn it into a personal project with truly kick-ass results."
Another film they disagree on is The Black Dahlia. Winthrow calls it "one of the worst films everyone involved has been a part of. The plot is needlessly complicated, the execution of the story is puzzlingly clunky, and the acting is universally stiff." Meanwhile, Pountain, who generally seems more in tune with and more enthusuastic about De Palma's cinema, mentions The Black Dahlia as a "pretty great noir fever dream."
Pountain is also passionate about De Palma's latest, Passion, a film Winthrow feels is "too frenzied for its own good." As a remake of Love Crime, Pountain contrasts it with Kimberly Peirce's Carrie remake. "It isn’t just a film directed by Brian De Palma," writes Pountain. "It’s A Brian De Palma Film. This is evident in its formal detachment, its intense Pino Donaggio score, its indulgence in his pet themes such as voyeurism and sexual obsession, its inspired use of split screen, its playful references, its lack of true closure, its disorienting use of dreams and also, unfortunately, in its financial failure."
"Luttrell, played onscreen by Mark Wahlberg, was the only SEAL standing (barely) after a 2005 Afghanistan mission to assassinate a murderous Taliban warlord went wrong. Nineteen Americans died, and Berg uses every cinematic weapon in his arsenal to make you feel each bullet as it rips through the warriors’ bodies, defiling young flesh that he has previously hallowed. The Taliban fighters take single shots to the head or chest and are dead before they hit the ground; the SEALs stay up, eviscerated but seemingly invincible. It is only the Alamo-like imbalance of forces that finally brings them down, and even then their deaths are 'good.' They’re radiant as they take their last, shallow breaths. War has ennobled them.
"I’m not being snarky or ironic when I say to Marcus Luttrell, 'Thank you for your service.' It’s important to separate the men described in his book from their depiction in movies like Lone Survivor, which is crudely written, rife with clichés, and leaves out anything that would transform a piece of propaganda into a work of art akin to Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet, Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War, or Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan."
Kevin Costner: The mentor role is always that ‘what can you offer a younger man, what can you offer a younger woman.’ That thing is in your level of experience, and so that by definition is the mentor if you have a level of experience. If you read it on paper, that’s the role that was meant for me. It was inhabited perfectly. Chris did his role, and what I liked about it was that I wasn’t just a person at a desk on a phone going, “Get the hell out of there. What the hell are you doing? Well, you need to do it faster.” Kenneth was able to say, “Wait a second. I want to incorporate some of your skill set into this where even though I’m a stupid-visor (laughs), if you would, a supervisor here, that I could take the gloves off so to speak and become involved and bring a physical presence and team up with him at the right moment. I thought that was unusual for the mentor role. Usually they’re back in Washington or they’re in a big, giant control room. In this instance, we were always fairly close together and trying to sort it out a little bit together. And, as the movie progresses, you see that he just possesses a lot of intuitive skills, whether it’s being out of set, how to survive or to process a lot of information in a very quick way, which I actually asked him a couple of times to slow down, remembering that I’m in another century. (Laughter)
Mr. Costner, at the end of the film, you refer to Jack Ryan as something of a Boy Scout, which reminds me of a number of your most famous roles, perhaps specifically Elliot Ness. I was curious how does it feel to suddenly step into the Sean Connery role?
Kevin Costner: I think the smarter directors do this a lot of times. They’ll take a supporting role and they’ll put a leading man in it because they either know how to inhabit the screen or inhabit it and nowhere was it better than when Sean Connery came in and played the little Irish street cop and you realized how formidable he was. I remember telling Sean at the time, I said, “Sean, this has got enough meat on the bone that you could win the Academy Award.” And Brian (De Palma) could have easily cast any character actor to bring up that Irish brogue or whatever that you would do, but he said no. He went arguably to the biggest star, the biggest star I’ve ever worked with in my life as I think Sean Connery was, to play this. And I think what happens is then he just knows how to hold onto the screen. And so, I have a feeling that that might have been swirling around in this genius’ head over there with what he wanted to do with William Harper.
I love the way you talked about your character and that he was a mentor. Was it easier to mentor in 1984 than in 2014? Was 1984 an easier time for an old shoe to tell a new shoe what to do and what the pitfalls were?
Kenneth Branagh: I think if there’s openness of communication, then the timing doesn’t really matter. And sometimes the mentoring doesn’t really happen directly. It just happens intuitively. I certainly found that working with Kevin on this. There were a lot of things that went on. I was so grateful to have a master director on the set. There are just lots of moments where effortless…not advice…nothing so sort of obvious as advice, but just shared communication about things, a conversation about how a moment in a scene might go or how things might be approached which just came out of an honest collaboration.
If that honesty of communication exists, whether it’s 1984 or 2014, I think it’s quite marvelous actually. And watching these two together was great as well in terms of just when people trust each other and when they’re very good at what they do and when their egos are at the service of the better idea and what is right for the scene. When you see that kind of generosity at work, it really is a thrilling thing to be part of and actually that cuts across age. It doesn’t mean old or younger. I’ve learned a lot from people much younger than me as well as people much older than me. So I think it’s about honesty and generosity, and we were lucky to be in an atmosphere on this project across this table as it were where that was at work.
Who was your greatest mentor?
Kenneth Branagh: My greatest mentor was the guy who was the principal of the drama school I attended. For the first six or seven pictures I made, he was on the movie as the acting coach. To give you a quick example of what he did for me, he was a very sensitive English guy. We were making a film of Hamlet. I was doing the To Be or Not To Be soliloquy. I was very nervous. I said to him that day, “Look, this is the acting Olympics here. I’m doing the most famous speech in Western dramatic literature. If you have any notes for me, I’d like them very early on, please.” So we started doing it. I did Take 1. I said, “How was that?” and he said, “I don’t have anything to say.” I did Take 2 and Take 3 and he did not have anything to say. I said, “Look, I think I’m getting it. I’m going to call this a print very shortly.” He said, “I think you should do another one.” I said, “Do you have anything to say?” He said, “Not at the moment.” So we get to Take 6 and I said, “Hugh, I think we might have it. Do you have anything to say?” He said, “Well, yes, yes, yes. The rhythm of it, absolutely extraordinary. The understanding of the language, fantastic. The pacing of it, marvelous. The timing of it, really extraordinary.” I said, “What’s the problem?” He said, “I simply don’t believe a word you’re saying. I would have absolutely no sense of the man. It’s safe. It’s acting. It’s showing off. You really have to do another one.” So a guy with those balls that close to me, it was very helpful. He was my greatest mentor.
What about you, Kevin? Who was your greatest mentor?
Kevin Costner: I tell you, I think an honest exchange is never out of mode, and it will be just as practical in 1984 as in the year that we’re dealing with. This is a business that’s pretty interesting. Unlike a lot of businesses, you get up in the morning and you have breakfast with the people you work with all day. You have lunch with them and you have dinner with them. The nature of acting, if you think you put three minutes of film in the can a day, that means you’re spending an enormous amount of hours getting to talk about people’s lives and their families. There are a lot of things that go on, on a set.
In terms of mentorship, it was probably Sean. He was a leading man. He carries himself as a man. I remember a big scene with De Niro and everybody, and we were all talking, and he finally told me, (mimicking Connery’s accent) “Mr. Ness.” I said, “What?” He said, “Sit down.” And I said, “Sit down right now?” And he said, “Yes. Just sit. It’s going to be a long day.” He just talked about not artsy fartsy stuff. He talked about sometimes just practical shit, like “It’s going to be a long day. Sit down. You and I are going to sit here and we’re going to watch, and when it’s our turn, we’re ready.” So, what better advice could one man give another on something so practical that I hate to use.
Here are the complete specs for Arrow's Phantom, as posted at Blu-ray.com: