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Monday, March 24, 2014

Thanks to Donald for letting us know about the TCM Cinéma video embedded above. Below is a transcript of what Brian De Palma says in the video:

Well, you discover that you can tell stories in pictures, and you have these images, and you know how to photograph them, and you start out with a camera, and you take a lot of images, and you construct a story in which you employ these images, and then you put it up on the screen, and you see if anybody’s interested.

When I was very young, I was fascinated by computers. I built many of them, and won many science fairs.

[Talking about Blow Out] I was sort of fascinated by the fact that even if you had the correct information about the Kennedy assassination, no one would care. And I also wanted to create the mystery that can only be solved with filmic means. Only by syncing the sound, the basic building block of cinema solved the mystery. I wanted to use a purely cinematic visual to solve the mystery. And that’s why I think it’s so effective.

There’s a big white canvas up there. You can hold the audience with a series of images that are poetic and dramatic. And it takes a lot of thought in order to create these sequences. Non-verbal cinema is something that has almost died in the last couple of decades.

I like Rear Window. It’s a very clever idea, shooting everything from Jimmy Stewart’s point of view, and keeping the movie in the apartment of Jimmy Stewart, and dealing with the fact that he can’t get up and do anything, because he’s in a wheelchair.

Well, Hitchcock showed a way of telling a movie with pictures. And he was a genius at producing these sequences in his movies, and nobody really is following in that tradition.

And I remember seeing Vertigo when I went to college. Well, Vertigo is a movie that greatly affected me. I have used the idea and images in it throughout my career.

Some great cineaste once said the history of cinema is about men photographing women, and I think that’s pretty much true. I’ve made stories with lots of men in them, like The Untouchables, or Scarface, but if you’re interested in beauty, you’re interested in photographing women.

When I read about the incident in Iraq, about the rape and killing of an innocent Iraqi girl, I said, well, this is just like Casualties Of War, except it’s happening again. It was a great story, and a very tragic story. But our invasion and destruction of Vietnam was very much like the rape and murder of this girl. It was the best story from out of the Vietnam war. To me, it represented everything wrong we were doing there. [Now back to talking about Redacted] When I did the search about the original incident on the internet, it came up with all these blogs, and YouTube postings, and a montage of Iraqi casualties. [It was] totally original, in a whole new language, and that’s the form in which I told the story. I’d like to use their own dialogue, the real things that they said, but I couldn’t, because they were being prosecuted while the movie was being made. I’m afraid to say that if you haven’t learned from the lessons of the past, you’re doomed to repeat them, and obviously, America did not learn from those experiences in Vietnam. So maybe you have to tell the same story again so that maybe they’ll get it this time.

There were some very good reviews, but again, it was not an image of American soldiers that anybody wanted to see. Because it’s too disturbing. They don’t want to see the pictures. They don’t want to see the images. They don’t want to think that their soldiers are [anything] but valiant crusaders planting democracy in a mid-east country. And they’re difficult movies to get made, and you can only make them after you have some kind of success. And they sort of will not prevent you from making something that you think is important to be produced. Somehow because you’ve made a successful movie, they think you’re a charmed director, and you can make a success out of anything.

This is the Turner channel? I watch this channel a lot!

Posted by Geoff at 1:13 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 6:02 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

James Rebhorn, who so memorably played DA Norwalk in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, passed away peacefully Friday afternoon from Melanoma. Rebhorn was a well-loved character actor who appeared in many many films and TV shows, and appeared with Al Pacino in Martin Brest's Scent Of A Woman, a year before the two worked together again on Carlito's Way. His agent, Dianne Busch, tells Deadline, "He was a wonderful, wonderful man. I represented him since 1990, and I represented him for my entire career. He was an absolute joy to work with. He was very funny and was warm. He was drawn to projects with a social conscience. One of his favorite movies that he did was Lorenzo’s Oil because it made a difference. He had a very strong faith and loved his family. His family was extremely important to him and I saw him make career sacrifices for them."

Posted by Geoff at 7:25 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 23, 2014 7:27 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Variety's Justin Chang on Open Windows:

"A fiendishly inventive thriller built around an audacious if unsustainable gimmick, Open Windows elevates Hitchcockian suspense to jittery new levels of mayhem and paranoia. Essentially conceived as a technologically sophisticated mash-up of Rear Window and Rope, this latest mind-bender from Spanish genre trickster Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial) unfolds entirely in one carefully manipulated 'shot,' with the camera glued to the lead character’s computer screen, employing desktop videos, images and pop-ups to tell its lurid tale of celebrity obsession, stalking, hacking, surveillance, blackmail and murder. Barely maintaining coherence if not plausibility, the compulsively watchable result should enjoy a vigorous fest and VOD life; fitting as it might be to stream it on your laptop, its complex visual layers and blink-and-you-miss-’em plot turns are best suited to the bigscreen.

"One of former adult star Sasha Grey’s higher-profile vehicles since her mainstream debut in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, Open Windows also plays like a companion piece of sorts to Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano, another recent thriller in which a justifiably freaked-out Elijah Wood found himself at the mercy of a menacingly disembodied voice. If that film suggested an ivory-tickling riff on Brian De Palma, then Vigalondo’s picture feels like a high-tech Hitch homage on speed, one that exerts a strong narrative grip for about an hour before tumbling down a discomfiting series of rabbit holes that strain credulity and internal logic to the breaking point."

Posted by Geoff at 5:18 PM CDT
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Thanks to Antonios for posting the above video onto YouTube. It's a CNN Showbiz clip from 1992 about Brian De Palma's Raising Cain, and it features interviews with De Palma and his wife at the time, Gale Anne Hurd, who produced the film. The pair brought the film in more than one million dollars under its $12 million budget, De Palma having gone extravagant on the film he made at Warner Bros. immediately beforehand, The Bonfire Of The Vanities. In the above video, De Palma tells CNN's Jim Moret, "It's sometimes an artistic challenge to work within limitations, as opposed to having all the money in the world to do anything."

A lot of discussion in the video is about how De Palma mixes satire with horror in Raising Cain, using humor as a set-up for springing a shock on the viewer. De Palma also attempts to separate his movies from those of Alfred Hitchcock. "Even my thrillers, I mean, most people want to compare me to him. They're very much me, and very much my sensibility. And what I find similar in Hitchcock is his incredible visual sense in telling stories. And that's something anybody can learn from."

Indeed, you can see De Palma's sensibility from movie to movie. Look at the scene in The Bonfire Of The Vanities, how he highlights the ridiculous rationale behind Sherman taking his dog out for a walk in the rain (so that he can call his mistress on a payphone away from his wife), underlining the humor with the shot of the dog being dragged along the floor by his leash. That scene has a correlative in Raising Cain, when Jenny tells herself that she can't let Jack open Carter's gift, and sneaks out of the house underneath her husband's nose in the middle of the night to sneak into Jack's hotel room. That ridiculous notion (what really would be the harm in Jack opening that gift?) is simply a rationale for disaster, and although it happens in a dream this time (Jenny's dream logic?), you get the sense that an equally ridiculous notion would happen with Jenny when it comes to Jack either way, as long as it ultimately gets her into his bed. Although the Bonfire scene (and in particular the shot of the dog mentioned above) is played a bit more broadly for a definite laugh, the scene in Raising Cain might not seem so funny until the second time you watch it, after you know everything that has and hasn't happened-- it's one of those scenes CNN's Moret might have been thinking of when he tells De Palma he may have felt uncomfortable laughing, not knowing whether or not something was meant to be funny. De Palma assures him it was-- that's the De Palma sensibility.

Posted by Geoff at 12:58 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 21, 2014 4:49 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Brian De Palma's Passion has made yet another list of the best films of 2013, this one from a "ragtag band of scattered cinephiles" that strives to "recognize noteworthy achievements from the previous year in cinema, unswayed by awards-season hype." Together, they vote for the Muriel Awards. The 2013 list features several ties, including Passion, tied with Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives at number 42. Each of the films had three votes. The Golden Muriel for 2013 went to Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, with 32 votes.

Posted by Geoff at 12:02 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014 12:04 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Above is the opening image of Bigas Luna's Anguish, which the Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs felt compelled to write about this week. Here's the opening segment of his Bleader blog post:

Since invoking Spanish genre entertainment in my review of Non-Stop, I've been thinking a lot about Bigas Luna (Jamon, Jamon), the Spanish writer-director who passed away last year at the age of 67. Luna excelled at the flamboyant stylization that I associate with a particular strain of Spanish filmmaking, coupling deliberately outlandish plots with deliberately show-offy camerawork. "Luna's point," Fred Camper wrote of his 1998 film Chambermaid on the Titanic (released in the U.S. as The Chambermaid), "is that one can enjoy [overblown] fantasies and still acknowledge them as false," a sentiment conveyed by all of his work. Here was a filmmaker who worked hard but didn't take himself too seriously—even the shallowest movies of his I've seen have made me smile.

Of the Luna works I know, I'm most partial to his English-language horror film Anguish (1987) because a large section of it takes place in a movie theater. It's comparable to Brian De Palma's work in its over-the-top suspense set pieces and its hall-of-mirrors plot. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend saving the rest of this post until you do. You'll have to rent it, though, as I doubt if any theater will revive it soon, for reasons I'll explain below.

Anguish begins as a quasi-spoof of psycho-killer movies, in which a timid optometrist (Michael Lerner, an actor I've always enjoyed for his resemblance to Randy Newman) murders people and plucks out their eyes while acting under the telepathic control of his overbearing mother (Zelda Rubinstein, best known as psychic Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist movies). I say "quasi-spoof" because the scary sequences really deliver the goods. Like De Palma, Luna deconstructs the mechanics of suspense filmmaking without sacrificing suspense, acknowledging that sometimes it's just fun to be scared.


Posted by Geoff at 8:29 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 8:30 PM CDT
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At a press junket for Captain America: Winter Soldier, Den Of Geek's Don Kaye interviewed the film's screenwriting duo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The movie, which will be released in theaters April 4, was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. In giving an example of what it is like to work with the directors, McFeely mentions Brian De Palma, suggesting a possible influence, at least for a scene. Here's the interview excerpt:

Den Of Geek: What’s your interaction been like with the Russos? Is it interesting for you guys to work with a co-directing team?

Markus: It’s been really great, very collaborative. It is interesting to work with another team, because I think when there’s two versus one on either side it can feel unintentionally like ganging up. But when there’s four people it just becomes this very free flowing exchange where, you know, one of us and one Russo can side against the other Russo and the other writer.

McFeely: That happens a lot.

Markus: It’s like whole new teams have developed. It’s a different Marvel team-up.

Den Of Geek: Right.

Markus: But seriously, we had a draft before they came in and they saw everything we were trying to do and, you know, took it to another level and it had all the right reference points.

McFeely: When directors come in and say this scene should be like early Brian De Palma, we go, oh yeah, of course it should.


Screen Daily's Mark Adams has an early review for Captain America: Winter Soldier in which he says it "is closer to a 1970s conspiracy thriller than a muscle-bound superhero effects-driven romp." Adams adds that the casting of Robert Redford "helps consolidate" this link, evoking films such as Three Days Of The Condor.

Posted by Geoff at 7:51 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014 4:38 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

According to The Oregonian's Marc Mohan, on the DVD audio commentary track for Adrián García Bogliano's Here Comes The Devil, Bogliano cites Brian De Palma and Lucio Fulci, among others, as influences on the film. "With its incestuous intimations, over-the-top violence and sometimes brazen sexuality, Here Comes the Devil isn't for the faint of heart," states Mohan, "but Bogliano's alternately tense and disorienting 1970s style works as more than an affectation. On the disc's audio commentary track, he cites influences including Richard Stanley's Dust Devil, the Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci and Brian De Palma. Fans of any of those should find much to appreciate here."

Posted by Geoff at 11:35 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 11:37 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 7:18 PM CDT
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Monday, March 17, 2014
Ennio Morricone recently talked to the New York Times' Robert Itomarch about several of his best-known film scores, including The Untouchables:

THE UNTOUCHABLES, directed by Brian De Palma (1987). The composer said he enjoyed Mr. De Niro’s "dramatically comic” take on Al Capone in this factually squishy retelling of that mobster’s takedown by Eliot Ness. In the film, Capone takes a baseball bat to the noggin of an employee who doesn’t put team first, and scenes like that didn’t put off Mr. Morricone. “He killed people in a very spectacular way,” he said.

Mr. De Palma had already finished the film when he showed a cut to Mr. Morricone, asking him specifically to come up with something for the “triumph of the police” at the end. The two got on well, but the director originally wasn’t keen on the music Mr. Morricone created for one of the film’s best-known scenes, a two-minute sequence in which a baby carriage, complete with a sweet-faced child, rolls down the steps of Union Station in Chicago in the middle of a heated gun battle.

“He didn’t want that music,” Mr. Morricone recalled. “Later he gave an interview and said that he thought that the music for that scene was perfect, so he must have rethought the whole idea.”


Posted by Geoff at 11:46 PM CDT
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