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Warren Beatty's
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moving forward

Filmmaker Mike
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Rie Rasmussen
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Mentor Tarantino
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Scorsese tests
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James Franco
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Coppola on
his recent films:
"What I was
trying to do with
those films was to
make three student
films in order to
try and set a new
trajectory and try to
say, 'Well, what
happens if I have no
resources?' Now, having
done that, my new
work is going to be
much more ambitious
and bigger in scope and
budget and ambition,
but now building on a
new confidence or
assurance. The three
little films were very
useful. I'm glad I did
it. I hope George Lucas
does it, because he
has a wonderful personal
filmmaking ability that
people haven't seen
for a while."

Sean Penn to
direct De Niro
as raging comic
in The Comedian

Scarlett to make
directorial feature
debut with
Capote story

Keith Gordon
teaming up
with C. Nolan for
supernatural
thriller that
he will write
and direct

Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

-Picture emerging
for Happy Valley

-De Palma's new
project with
Said Ben Said

-De Palma to team
with Pacino & Pressman
for Paterno film
Happy Valley

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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
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Saturday, March 8, 2014
MORE 'GRAND PIANO' REVIEWS
DE PALMA CONTINUES TO BE FREQUENTLY MENTIONED


Eugenio Mira's Grand Piano has been available on demand for about a month, and is now slowly making its way to select theaters. The screenplay was written by Damien Chazelle, who had originally planned to direct it, according to Deadline's Brian Brooks. Chazelle did end up directing another script he wrote, Whiplash, a story about a drummer (played by Miles Teller) that was the talk of this year's Sundance Film Festival. Music seems to be Chazelle's thing, as his next film, "La La Land," is said to be a romantic musical about an actress and a jazz musician.

Regarding Grand Piano, Mira tells Brooks, "The irony of this movie is that 20 years ago it would be a mainstream movie. Richard Donner and the late John Frankenheimer are directors that I grew up with and I loved and for some reason, Hollywood has failed to deliver [today].”

After Grand Piano's world premiere at Austin's Fantastic Fest last September, we posted links to several reviews that frequently mentioned filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma, and Dario Argento. With the theatrical release this weekend, there are more such reviews popping up. Here are some more links:

Drew McWeeny, HitFix
"If you saw Eugenio Mira's earlier film Agnosia, then you may have already noticed his fondness for Brian De Palma. Anyone making thrillers who holds De Palma as part of the pantheon is already on my short list of people I like, but when you see how well Mira pulls it all together for Grand Piano, it's obvious that he's graduated to a different level with this film.

"I think it's very fair to compare this to Non-Stop, which I reviewed earlier today, since both of them are thrillers that take place over a compressed period of time in a fairly restrictive setting with a ticking clock. For both filmmakers, the exercise is the same. Can you keep the film somewhat plausible while ratcheting up the tension and convincing us that things could unfold like this? In the case of Grand Piano, the answer is a resounding yes, and I was delighted by just how playful and fun this is."

Glenn Dunks
"Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano has a thoroughly ridiculous premise that borrows liberally from films such as Jan de Bont’s Speed, David Fincher’s Panic Room, and, most strikingly, Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth. Much like that 2002 thriller with Colin Farrell as a man stuck in a telephone booth with a sniper’s rifle fixed on him, Mira’s films features a more-or-less single location with a lone man aware of the stakes and an escalating tension that is seemingly at odds with its intimate focus. Needless to say, it is a better film than Phone Booth, but that may be because the Spanish director (Grand Piano is in fact a Spain/US co-production) decided to reference Brian De Palma more than his most direct influence, Alfred Hitchcock.

"There’s a playfulness to Grand Piano that is deeply rewarding. It’s slick, 35mm lensing is drenched in bold colours, interesting compositions and in some sequences a sense of virtuosic camera trickery. Despite its compact confines, Mira’s film recalls the more heightened sense of Hitchcockian style that ebbs and flows throughout De Palma’s Blow Out, Body Double, or Dressed to Kill rather than the elegance of Hitchcock’s boutique thrills like Rope or The Lady Vanishes. It is a style that is perhaps too obvious for its own good, and yet one that works. It elevates the film and allows its moments of flight and fancy to not strike one as absurd or over-the-top. The entire film is working on a level of OTT sublime that is as much seat-grippingly intense as it is giggle-inducing."

A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club
"Mira, for his part, just gets his Brian De Palma on, most notably during a split-screen sequence that puts the harried hero on one side of the frame and a brutal murder on the other."

Kevin Taft, Edge on the Net
"A nifty little thriller that should cement director Eugenio Mira as 'the' director to watch, Grand Piano is filled with Hitchcockian suspense and gorgeous shades of Brian DePalma. With a compelling performance by Elijah Wood... the film is a noose-tightening 80 minutes of masterful direction... Credit must also go to cinematographer Unax Mendia who swoops around the stage like a magician making what could be a claustrophobic film feel spacious and alive. The music by Victor Reyes is flawless and, of course, Eugenio Mira handles the proceedings like an old school master. It’s a harrowing and nail-biting piece that is well worth tuning in for."

William Bibbiani, Crave Online
"Grand Piano is the more playful cousin of Chazelle’s other script this year, Whiplash (a film he also directed), a tale of a drumming prodigy and his abusive professor that also demonstrates the horrifying relationship between antagonism and perseverance. Chazelle seems fascinated by the notion that the ends might just justify the means, and that opposition to true villainy is a prerequisite for becoming a hero. He may be right but it’s a scary message to send to sensitive art students who have probably been bullied enough already, unless schools have changed dramatically since I attended them.

"So while Eugenio Mira may be having the time of his life finding ways for Selznick to secretly call for help, and in offing one-by-one the poor saps who might be able to save him, the real drama comes not from the enjoyable but contrived set-up, but rather the way that contrived set-up highlights the ongoing struggle for self-improvement, and the simply unfortunate need to be pushed in order to push back.

"To achieve these somewhat lofty goals, Mira crescendos Grand Piano’s suspense to ludicrous heights, formulating complex shots that Brian De Palma would be proud of, and setting the climactic battle against an impromptu, bizarre and deliciously overblown performance of 'Motherless Child.' What better way to finally stop the show than with a proper showstopper?"

Robert Levin, amNew York
"In short, Grand Piano is an extended set piece with tension that starts high and remains elevated throughout. Mira's camera spins, dives and soars throughout the concert hall, ranging from POV images to steady zooms and sustained long shots, with at least one of De Palma's favored split screens thrown in for good measure. You're constantly disoriented, hyper-aware of the stakes at hand."

Scott Pierce, MoviePilot
"It's being touted as Speed or Phone Booth at a concert hall, but in reality comes across as a mostly non-violent giallo mashup inspired by visual directors like Brian de Palma, Alfred Hitchcock, and Dario Argento. It's regimented and structured in a way that few movies today are despite its kitschy premise."

Eric D. Snider, Twitch
"I don't know what Elijah Wood's actual skill level is on the piano, but the way he fakes it here is nothing short of remarkable, and it speaks to his and Mira's commitment to taking the whole thing seriously. It would have been infinitely easier to avoid showing Wood's hands as much as possible, to focus on chest-level shots where we see his arms moving but not which specific keys he's hitting. Instead, Mira gives us long, unbroken takes of Wood banging away on the keyboard, our view of his hands unobstructed so we can see that what he's playing really could be the music we're hearing. The hand-synching, if that's what you call it -- sure, let's call it hand-synching -- is nearly flawless.

"Moreover, Mira and cinematographer Unax Mendia are constantly pulling off carefully orchestrated shots and marvelous feats of camera movement, applying the same type of sweeping, operatic bravura that Brian De Palma applies to everything he does. (I thought of Snake Eyes in particular.) There's something thrilling about seeing such technical precision used in the service of such lunacy. While the screenplay (by Damien Chazelle) is overly expository and larded with repeated dialogue, everything else about the film has energy and confidence and is perfectly capable of carrying you away if you'll go along with its fantastically goofy premise."


Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CST
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Friday, March 7, 2014
NANCY ALLEN RECALLS 'MAGICAL MOMENT IN TIME'
MAKING 'CARRIE' "SPOILED ME; I THOUGHT EVERY MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE THAT FUN"
EMPIRE's Nick de Semlyen spoke with Nancy Allen by phone recently, as the remake of RoboCop made its way into theaters. Here are some excerpts regarding the films she made with Brian De Palma:

MEMOIRS
Nick: Your Carrie co-star Piper Laurie released her autobiography, Learning To Live Out Loud, in 2011. Are you going to write a memoir yourself?
Nancy: I don't know that my story is that interesting. I'm a pretty average gal, although I've been very fortunate and had an incredible career. Piper was in the studio system and has had a really interesting life. And she's one of the best actresses in a generation. So I'm thinking, "What's my story? What would keep people reading?" (Laughs) I grew up, made commercials, studied acting, moved to Hollywood, made movies, married a director, got divorced... Piper's 20 years older than I am, so maybe I'll get another perspective. We live our lives forwards, but understand it backwards, you know?

FROM JACK NICHOLSON TO 'CARRIE'
Nick: Your first movie job was The Last Detail in 1975. What was it like?
Nancy: I was with Jack Nicholson in a practical location, playing his girlfriend. And I was completely intimidated. Frozen in fear. I was originally offered the role of the hooker, which Carol Kane ultimately played so brilliantly. I called [casting director] Lynn Stalmaster and said, "You know, I don't think I can act and be naked at the same time!" I don't have any regrets about that, I must say. I think things unfold as they're meant to. But go figure, I was naked a few years later in Carrie!

Nick: How did you get that job?
Nancy: I came out to Hollywood in September of '75. In November I thought, "Well, this isn't working out" and planned to go home. But a casting director I knew from New York brought me in for the last day of casting on Carrie and said, "You won't get the part, but at least you'll meet a good director." So I went in as the last person on the last day, and got the part.

Nick: Was Carrie more fun to make?
Nancy: Absolutely. It was a magical moment in time. I couldn't believe it: a real movie and I had a real part. And Brian [De Palma] was about to break out, so that was his big moment. I don't remember being afraid on that set. The funny thing is that when I auditioned for it, it felt like do-or-die so I threw caution to the wind. John [Travolta] and I had a fabulous time working together and Brian is a great director, so I really had a great time on the movie. It spoiled me, because I thought that every movie was going to be that fun and that fabulous and that creative and that successful. I was very, very naive, because that's certainly not the case. You don't always have the right chemistry. You may make a great picture but it doesn't get the success it deserves. But Carrie was a special thing. I mean, look at the cast - everybody broke out from that movie. It was, I guess, a good thing that Brian spent so long casting the movie, because he got the right mix.

"LISTENING TO THEM DISCUSS MOVIES, IT WAS LIKE BEING IN FILM SCHOOL"
Nick: You then went on to work with Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma another three times...
Nancy: I had a remarkable journey, working with incredible people. At the time, in the '70s, everyone was so young. Steven was like a boy, living in a little cabin in Laurel Canyon. He'd made Jaws, and he was just about to start Close Encounters, but he was a kid. Everyone was so young and excited. I mean, to be in that group of people on a regular basis socially, listening to them discuss movies, it was like being in film school. So I feel I was lucky. I do believe in destiny, so I think it was the path I was destined to take. I reflect back to being a teenager and I had three experiences where people tried to put me in movies and I didn't go forward with it. So I guess sooner or later it was going to happen!

Nick: 1941 was famously an out-of-control shoot. What was your experience of it?
Nancy: Oh, those were the crazy times. We had a great time for six months. It was one big party. We all loved the Zemeckis and Gale script, but once we started shooting people were walking around scratching their heads, going, "It's funny, right?" We weren't really quite sure what was going on! Tim [Matheson] and I were really lucky: our storyline was so simple and did not change or veer off course. We fared pretty well in the long run. We had a great time.

Nick: What are your bad memories?
Nancy: The underwater car stunt in Blow Out was tough. If you're claustrophobic it's a tough stunt, and I'm absolutely claustrophobic. The other time that really was a problem for me was during I Want To Hold Your Hand. I had to go under the bed in The Beatles' suite and sometimes the crew forgot I was there when they were fixing the lighting. I was not happy under there at all! Give me a gun any day, just don't put me under a bed...

Nick: Blow Out's one of my favourite films of yours...
Nancy: I loved working on Blow Out. That was just an incredible experience. It's really hard to say which is my favourite, but there are a handful I love. Carrie is special because it was my first film that I had a significant role in. RoboCop because it was so unique and original and I got to do something that there was no reason to give to me given the roles I'd done previously. And Blow Out, that was a great challenge, because I didn't particularly like the character when we started out. I wasn't supposed to do it originally, so to fall in love with that character, and to work with John [Travolta] and Dennis Franz... my God, talk about a dream come true.


Posted by Geoff at 1:10 AM CST
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014
L. COHEN WILL TALK 'CARRIE' IN OHIO FRIDAY
DURING FINAL WEEKEND OF 'CARRIE' AT BECK CENTER
According to Broadway World Cleveland, Lawrence D. Cohen is so impressed by the "rave reviews and vivid photographs" for Beck Center and Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program's production of Carrie the musical, that he will be in attendance Friday night, March 7, and will share his experience with both the movie and the stage show during a discussion following the performance. This will be the final weekend for the production, which plays at 8pm Friday, 8pm Saturday, and 3pm Sunday. The article states that "Lawrence D. Cohen and composer Michael Gore reached out to Director Victoria Bussert with a congratulatory note and accolades for her creativity in capturing some of the technical challenges the show presents."

Posted by Geoff at 9:16 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 9:19 PM CST
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CST
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Monday, March 3, 2014
TRULY EXCEPTIONAL

Posted by Geoff at 12:56 AM CST
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OSCAR'S 'HEROES' INCLUDE UNTOUCHABLES, M:I
The theme of last night's Oscars telecast was "Heroes", and included time-filler montages of all kinds of movie heroes. One montage, introduced by Sally Field, included a clip of Ness and Malone talking in the church from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. In another montage, introduced by Chris Evans, a quick-clip from De Palma's Mission: Impossible showed Ethan Hunt landing on top of the train after blasting himself from the helicopter.

Posted by Geoff at 12:12 AM CST
Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 12:12 AM CST
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Saturday, March 1, 2014
THREE 'CARRIE' LADIES IN PORTLAND TODAY
AFTERNOON AT MOVIE MADNESS VIDEO, EVENING 'CARRIE' SCREENING AT HOLLYWOOD THEATER


We previously shared the poster for tonight's screening of Brian De Palma's Carrie at Portland's Hollywood Theater, but it turns out there's more: the three actresses (Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, and PJ Soles) who will be on hand for the Q&A at the screening will also be on hand for autographs this afternoon, from 12:30-3pm, at Movie Madness Video. It sounds like you may be able to get a photo taken, as well, for a fee.

Posted by Geoff at 2:35 AM CST
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Friday, February 28, 2014
'PASSION' IN NEW YORK, TONIGHT & SUNDAY

Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CST
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'PASSION' INCLUDED IN SEOUL UNDERRATED SERIES
'PARALLAX' SERIES RUNS MARCH 11- APRIL 13 AT SEOUL ART CINEMA, HONG KONG
Brian De Palma's Passion will be included as part of a film series at the Seoul Art Cinema. According to the Korea Herald's Claire Lee, the series is called "Parallax", and runs March 11 through April 13. Lee's Herald article states, "Seoul Art Cinema will screen 22 modern films it thinks are important or severely underrated. The featured filmmakers include Brian De Palma, Nanni Moretti, Abbas Kiarostami and Takashi Miike." Other filmmaker names in the series include Olivier Assayas and Bruno Dumont.

Posted by Geoff at 12:57 AM CST
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Thursday, February 27, 2014
'PASSION' COMPARED WITH 'TWIXT'
BRAD STEVENS: "IDENTITY, SEXUALITY & MORALITY HAVE ALL BECOME PROVISIONAL"
Sight & Sound's Brad Stevens reviews Brian De Palma's Passion, linking it with Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt, both of which have been recently released in the U.K. as straight-to-video titles. "For many years," Stevens states, "the phrase ‘straight to video’ had the force of an insult, generally being used to describe ‘B’ movies not good enough for theatrical distribution. Yet, at least in the UK, ‘straight to video’ initially meant something quite different, often referring to films considered too quirky for mainstream audiences." Stevens writes that as DVD took over from VHS, in the U.K., more and more of those unique films not getting theatrical distribution would simply receieve "no UK distribution whatsoever."

Stevens continues, "In recent months, however, the situation appears to have changed, with two works by important American directors – Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt (2011) and Brian De Palma’s Passion (2013) – making their UK debuts on DVD (thanks to Metrodome). The fortuitous juxtaposition of these titles underlines how much they have in common, both being concerned with the ways in which modern communications technology has obscured the distinction between reality and fantasy. Their endings, in which the protagonists appear to dream or imagine their own murders before awaking into a reality which may itself be a fantasy, are strikingly similar.

"I have written about Coppola’s film in more detail for Video Watchdog but De Palma’s is perhaps the more distinguished of the pair, if only because that cynicism which so frequently permeates his work ends up giving Passion greater thematic coherence – something which, for better and worse, is lacking from Twixt, Coppola’s optimism preventing him taking De Palma’s final leap into despair."

Stevens somewhat echoes Sara Freeman's essay on Passion, in which she suggests that the advertising businesswomen involved in the film's drama are each "living inside her very own Facebook profile or twitter account." But Stevens seems to delve even further into this idea-- here is another excerpt:

-----------------------

De Palma has of course been dealing with the impact of imagery on both those who create it and those who consume it throughout his career. Hi, Mom! (1969) in particular now seems remarkably prescient in its portrait of a society wherein we record our everyday activities and end up staging them for the camera’s benefit. Passion updates this concern to the era of Skype, email and mobile phones, all of which De Palma sees as providing new opportunities for deception (including self-deception) and misrepresentation.

The plot involves a rivalry between two women working for a German advertising agency, the seemingly introverted Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) and her extrovert boss Christine (Rachel McAdams). Although the film is told mostly from Isabelle’s viewpoint, we learn almost nothing about her. Her sexuality, friendships, familial relationships, past life and nationality are all mysterious; as Christine tells her, “I don’t even know where you’re from or what you want.” Isabelle is the product of a social-media culture, creating herself through various manipulations and technological transactions, existing only to the extent that desires can be projected onto her by the people she encounters, ultimately disappearing into a state of uncertainty wherein everything is (or might as well be) a dream.

Stylistically, the film is divided into two parts. The first half is lit and framed like an episode of a television series about backstabbing among the jetset (Dallas, perhaps) while the second half is much lusher visually, with the kind of excessive mise en scène typical of this director. It is here that Isabelle abandons her former passivity and takes decisive action, successfully carrying out a complex scheme to destroy Christine. Essentially, she retreats into an ‘online’ world in which her fantasies can be realised without fear of exposure, and De Palma implies that this entire section is Isabelle’s dream.

But the earlier scenes take place in a world which is just as ‘unreal’, just as heavily marked by wish-fulfilment fantasies and stylish surfaces: Christine claims to have both a twin sister and a childhood trauma but may have invented both, and at times is so harshly lit that her face appears to be as white as the mask of herself she makes her lovers wear. This mask is eventually donned by Isabelle (who thus ‘becomes’ Christine) during a murder scene that might be a fantasy (but also might not). In a world where so many of our relationships are conducted via the internet, it makes little difference whether we are on or offline, awake or dreaming, guilty or innocent. Identity, sexuality and morality have all become provisional, subject to constant revision. As with Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch presidential campaign, it is always possible to hit the reset button and start again.

Monte Hellman’s Road to Nowhere (2010) shares many of these concerns and so far has not received any UK exposure. A few months ago, I wrote about a group of 80s films that critiqued American cinema’s dominant trends. These recent works by De Palma, Coppola and Hellman suggest the emergence of a new oppositional movement, one which challenges those hermetic CGI entertainments wherein the erasure of physical reality serves as a guarantee that we can leave our troubles at the door, that nothing will be permitted to disturb our involvement in corporate-controlled fantasies.

-----------------------------

(Thanks to Rado!)

Posted by Geoff at 1:57 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014 1:58 AM CST
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