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Monday, March 3, 2014
TRULY EXCEPTIONAL

Posted by Geoff at 12:56 AM CST
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013
RARE SCREENING OF 'REDACTED' IN ITALY
TONIGHT AT PALAZZO STROZZI
Brian De Palma's Redacted had its world premiere at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, yet never opened there theatrically. It gets a rare public screening tonight at the Palazzo Strozzi's Strozzina in Florence, where it will play for free, in its original version with Italian subtitles. The Strozzina website describes Redacted as "an ingenious, uncomfortable and difficult work, in which the director takes up the American war in Iraq not from the objective perspective of the camera, but by making the 'images' speak directly."

Posted by Geoff at 6:14 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:15 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 18, 2013
DE PALMA/STROMBO FULL EPISODE IS UP
SEGMENT LASTS ABOUT 6 MINUTES OR SO


The full interview segment of Brian De Palma's appearance on CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight last night is now available to watch on the program's web site. The segment with De Palma is at the start of the show, and lasts about six minutes or so. De Palma talks about Passion, plays around with the idea of texting during dates, discusses the lack of a current counterculture in film, Robert De Niro, and quotes from Scarface.

Strombo: "You came of age in the cinema when you guys were picking big fights with society, the counterculture movement was in fact not about just looks."

BDP: "No, no, no."

Strombo: "It was the opposite of that."

BDP: "And we had another war we shouldn't have been in: Vietnam."

Strombo: "Is that what it was, you think the war's..."

BDP: "Oh, absolutely."

Strombo: "Because then where are the countercultural films today, then?"

BDP: "That's the problem! Because you don't see many sort of political films other than the... I mean, obviously, you don't have to make political films all the time, but when you see a lot of stuff going out there that's annoying you, you would think that, you know, your blood would be stirred. That you'd go out and make a movie about it saying, 'This is not right'"

Strombo: "You obviously have to keep busy, but you also said there isn't enough anger in American cinema anymore."

BDP: "Well, I was very upset about the whole war, and what the Bush administration was doing, so that's why I made Redacted. Because I didn't think that they were telling us the truth. What else is new? Your government is lying to you, what else is new? But I felt we were doing some very bad things in far away places."

Strombo: "And you didn't think that was the right coverage of it."

BDP: "Oh, I knew-- an embedded reporter? That's like having somebody on the payroll."


Posted by Geoff at 7:40 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 19, 2013 6:56 PM CDT
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Friday, June 1, 2012
TARYN SIMON & BRIAN DE PALMA IN CONVERSATION
IN SUMMER ISSUE OF ARTFORUM

ARTFORUM's summer issue includes a conversation between Brian De Palma and Taryn Simon, the photographer who created the staged photo, seen above, that comprises the final, devastating image of De Palma's Redacted. Zahra Zubaidi, the Iraqi actress in the photo, has had to seek political asylum in the United States, because her family accused her of participating in pornography (she portrays Farah, the girl who gets raped in the movie), and she was receiving death threats as a result. In the article, Simon and De Palma discuss this photo at length. De Palma tells Simon that "Zahra’s story is fascinating because she comes to audition in a movie. She plays the character of a girl who is raped and killed and set on fire, which sort of dramatizes the whole involvement of America in Iraq, and the penalty she has to pay for it is she is a pariah in the Muslim world. They want her dead because of the fact that she portrayed this character." Simon has presented the photograph at the Venice Biennale, and included three progressive annotations as its context was altered. Each of these annotations is presented in full in the ARTFORUM article. Simon explains it this way to De Palma:

The photograph began as a fictionalized rendering of a real event. The resulting image of Zahra, an Iraqi actress, playing the role of this young girl led to the second annotation associated with the image. That text highlights the response to Zahra’s portrayal—the death threats from family members; the criticism from friends and neighbors, who considered her participation in the film to be pornography. The photograph was completely recontextualized by these accusations. It became evidence of a new reality—a reality in which Zahra had to pursue political asylum in the United States. In the third and final annotation, written in 2011, I cite her legal defense, which used the international exhibition of this photograph at the Venice Biennale as a factor contributing to her endangerment. The photograph and its exhibition were used to reveal a continued threat and, at the same time, to support Zahra’s case for political asylum, which was granted in 2011. She couldn’t go home because of the images. You could see an image’s very real influence on an individual life from start to finish: from a casting call with you in Jordan to ending up in the United States and receiving political asylum.

DE PALMA ON RETURNING TO FILMMAKING AFTER SEVERAL YEARS
The conversation begins with Simon asking De Palma if he thought his aesthetic was conscious or unconscious as he shot his early documentary The Responsive Eye. This leads De Palma into an illuminating discussion of his process, as well as his recent work on Passion...

BDP: Look, the hard thing—I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too—is that once you have a project, you think about how you’re going to photograph the scene until you actually do it. I have always felt that the camera view is just as important as what’s in front of the camera. Consequently, I’m obsessed with how I’m shooting the scene. When you’re making a movie, you think about it all the time—you’re dreaming about it, you wake up with ideas in the middle of the night—until you actually go there and shoot it. You have these ideas that are banging around in your head, but once you objectify them and lock them into a photograph or cinema sequence, then they get away from you. They’re objectified; they no longer haunt you.

TS: The haunting can be torturous. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the making of my work. It’s a labor. Do you find pleasure in getting to that point of objectification?

BDP: You know, there is no rest. That’s the problem. I haven’t directed a movie in several years, and I’ve forgotten what it’s like. Now I’m doing a remake, a film based on Crime d’amour [2010], which was directed by the late Alain Corneau and written with Natalie Carter and starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier. It’s about two executives fighting for power. One humiliates the other, and one kills the other. It’s basically a murder mystery. In the new version, the two leads are Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace. They are extremely formidable characters. It’s all about the women—the guy is just manipulated by them, like a trained animal.

So I have basically been in this hotel room in Berlin since, I don’t know, January 6, working on this shoot. I don’t go anywhere except when I go to the set or when I have to look at a location or work with an actor.

I’m a very solitary figure on set—I just walk in. I don’t want to say hello and kiss everybody. I’m completely uninterested in that because—I’m sure you have the same feeling—when you go to shoot a movie, you’ve assembled hundreds of people waiting for you to tell them what to do. For the first time, you’ve got the actors. You have the location. You have the cinematographer. You have the weather, the light, the emotional stance of the various people around you, and it’s catching lightning in a bottle. You’re there to maximize the moment on film. And you’d better be very alert and watching everything constantly, because once you shoot it, it’s gone forever. If you make a mistake or haven’t thought everything through correctly, you will look at that mistake for the rest of your life.

TS: Yes—there’s enormous pressure on the day of shooting. And photography’s history is bound to the mistake, to the accident. But I’ve never been one to embrace surprise. I think the invisible lead-up to the point of actually taking a photograph is, in many ways, my medium. Years of research, accessing, organizing, and writing are behind the construction of a single piece. But no matter how prepared and calculated the details of the shoot days are, its imagined form always seems to crumble and mutate.

BDP: I guess a lot of people shoot alternatives. I never do that. I spend months planning it all out, and then we actually edit as we shoot. I know exactly where the camera should be and how all the film fits together.

TS: Yeah, me too.

BDP: But if something happens on the set that’s different, I immediately accommodate it. You don’t want to go in with such a rigid idea that this is the way it should be. You have to see what is there. These are living creatures in front of you.

TS: But accommodation can be dangerous. It’s important to remind yourself of what you want and not get lost in the noise of it all. Sadly, one has to do a lot of interacting, which I find distracting. I avoid lunch and conversation as much as possible. There is no time or space for anything other than the work. But there’s a perceived cruelty in that focus.

BDP: I’m exactly the same way. I never talk to my driver while going to work. I never eat lunch with anybody.

AMBIGUOUS PHOTOGRAPHS, REDACTED IMAGES, MAINSTREAM MEDIA, CONSUMERISM, SPLIT SCREENS, MARS & MORE
All of the above are discussed in this fascinating conversation, which is best read from start to finish-- click here to read the whole thing.


Posted by Geoff at 9:40 PM CDT
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Friday, September 2, 2011
FRANKFURT SHOOTER DID NOT WATCH 'REDACTED'
JIHADIST PROPAGANDA VIDEO APPROPRIATED CLIPS TOWARD AN ALTERNATE NARRATIVE
There is a lot of misinformation going around the web right now regarding a trial that began Wednesday in Germany for the man who attacked American soldiers at the Frankfurt International Airport in March of this year, killing two and injuring two others. Several reports are citing other sloppy reports that claim that the Frankfurt shooter, Arid Uka, told a court in Germany yesterday that he was motivated to kill American soldiers heading to Afghanistan after he watched the movie Redacted. However, this is not what Uka said at all. What he said was that prior to the attack, he had been influenced by radical Islamic propaganda online. According to Stars And Stripes, Uka told the court that the night before the crime, he followed a link to a video posted on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. According to a New York Times report from last March, Uka believed the video took place in Afghanistan. The video he viewed carried the title, “U.S. soldiers raping our sisters, wake up oh Ummah!” The video appropriated clips from Brian De Palma’s Redacted, sometimes with extraneous chanting and other audio over the clips. After the shootings, YouTube pulled the video from its site, but someone was able to capture it before it was pulled. It can be viewed at The Daily Caller.

According to German reporter Florian Flade, Uka, “a 21 year-old born in Kosovo, was member of a Facebook group spreading Islamic content.” It was on that group’s website that he found the link to the video described above. Campusblog captured parts of Uka’s Facebook page before it was taken down back in March. The blog claimed that Uka’s friends list “reads like a Who's Who of the German Islamist scene.” A separate New York Times article by Souad Mekhennet states that Uka had posted a link on his Facebook page to a jihadist battle hymn: “I can no longer stand this life of humiliation among you. My weapon is ready at all times.” The same article (from last March) states that “a German security official who is involved in the investigation but not authorized to speak about it said that Arid Uka had been friends with men known for their radical interpretation of Islam.” Mekhennet’s March 5th article mentions another video on Uka’s Facebook page:

On his Facebook page, Mr. Uka had a link on February 15 to a 4:42 minute-long Youtube video, with pictures of detainees in Guantanamo, chanting in Arabic with German subtitles: "I can not stand this life of humiliation." The video also features pictures of fighters and the clattering of machinegun fire.

THE FACTS
German authorities believe that Arid Uka acted alone in the attack on March 2, 2011, and was not part of any terrorist organization, nor did he have any accomplices. A New York Times article by Jack Ewing and Souad Mekhennet from July 6 lays out what happened that day:

Mr. Uka, who had a temporary job sorting mail in the airport complex, went there armed with a pistol and two knives on the afternoon of March 2, prosecutors said, as they provided additional detail on the attack.

Authorities said that Mr. Uka spotted two airmen emerging from a baggage claim area in Terminal 2 of the airport, and followed them to an exit where a United States Air Force bus was waiting. Mr. Uka watched as 16 American military service members gradually arrived, then, shortly after 3 p.m., asked one of them for a cigarette and where the soldiers were heading.

After the airman confirmed that they were on their way to Afghanistan, Mr. Uka turned around, reached into his backpack and loaded a magazine into the pistol concealed there, authorities said.

Mr. Uka waited until almost all the airmen had boarded the bus, then shot one of them, 25-year-old Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, in the back of the head from about five feet away, prosecutors and Air Force officials said. Airman Alden died at the scene.

Boarding the bus, Mr. Uka then fatally shot 21-year-old Airman First Class Zachary R. Cuddeback in the driver’s seat and — repeatedly shouting “God is great” — seriously wounded two other men standing in the aisle of the bus, prosecutors said. One of them was blinded in one eye as a result.

The Air Force identified the two wounded men as Senior Airman Edgar Veguilla and Staff Sgt. Kris Schneider.

Mr. Uka next aimed the pistol point-blank at a 22-year-old airman who was trying to hide behind a seat, but the weapon jammed, prosecutors said. Mr. Uka then fled, pursued by an airman. He was captured by two German police officers in the terminal.

AT THE TRIAL
An Associated Press report about the trial, while not as detailed as the Star And Stripes report, stated that the clip Uka viewed from a Facebook link the night before the attack turned out to be “a scene from the 2007 anti-war Brian De Palma film Redacted, taken out of context.” The AP report was carried by most American media outlets. However, a BBC report simply stated that the video Uka viewed was “a scene from Brian De Palma's anti-war film, Redacted,” with no mention of context. This BBC report is used as the main source in a Daily Caller post with the headline, “Terrorist credits Hollywood for his recruitment.” This post by Neil Munro is blatantly inaccurate. It opens with the following statement: “A Balkan Muslim who killed two U.S. Air Force servicemen in March has told a German judge Wednesday that he was motivated after seeing the movie Redacted, made as a political statement in 2007 by Hollywood director Brian De Palma, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and several high-profile movie industry producers.” So now, all of a sudden, Uka had actually watched Redacted, in context and all? Definitely not.

That same paragraph is copied verbatim at the beginning of a Washington Times article, which in turn is linked to in an opinion piece by Yahoo’s Mark Whittington, who apparently thinks he is sourcing from the Washington Post (his link goes to the Washington Times article). With the headline, “Did Redacted Cross the Wrong Line Between Art, Life?”, Whittington seems to think that a man named “Arid Uki” was “one of the few” people in the world who “saw an anti-American, anti-war movie called Redacted.” Whittington stretches it again by stating that “a Muslim terrorist is citing an anti-American, anti-war movie directed by a famous American director as the motivation for his crimes.” (Redacted may be anti-war, but it is certainly not anti-American.) Meanwhile, Breitbart’s Christian Toto went back to the Daily Caller’s citing of the BBC article, which led him to state that Uka “saw the film [Redacted] and went on to kill two U.S. Air Force servicemen in March.” Toto continues, “Uka told a judge this week he was inspired by ‘the movie’s graphic depiction of U.S. soldiers raping a girl in Iraq,’ says The Daily Caller citing a BBC report.” As we have seen above, the video Uka watched was a video clip that appropriated clips from Redacted. These guys are suggesting that Uka watched De Palma’s movie in full and in context, which is so far from the truth it is incredibly embarrassing. Another one who sourced from the BBC article is Adam Martin at the Atlantic Wire, who posted the misleading headline, "Kosovo Man Says He Shot U.S. Airmen After Watching Redacted."

’REDACTED’ PRODUCER KLIOT RESPONDS TO DAILY CALLER:
In any case, The Daily Caller’s Munro did get ahold of Redacted producer Jason Kliot, although he unfairly asked Kliot questions based on its own stretched truth (that Uka actually viewed Redacted). “I honestly had not heard about it,” Kliot told Munro. “I’m terribly sorry to hear that, but I don’t understand how my movie would impel anyone to commit murder. The real culprit here is the tragedy of war, it is not Brian De Palma’s brilliant film. I don’t see how people would be made to commit acts of violence [after watching Redacted], any more than they would for watching Fox News,” Kliot is quoted as saying.

KLIOT: ‘REDACTED’ IS ABOUT ENDING WARS, NOT STARTING THEM’
Later in the article, Kliot is quoted again:

“War movies… show the nature of war,” Kliot said. “There is nothing more incendiary about telling the truth of what is happening in war.”

“Do Americans kill people in wars? Yes … [but] this is pro-American film, this is a pro-troops film… [because it shows the consequences] when soldiers are put in an impossible position,” Kliot said. “Right-wing nut-jobs” criticized the movie even though they had not watched it, he said.

Kliot said his movies show many sides of warfare, and cited his 2005 movie, The War Within, which shows a Pakistani preparing to murder Americans in New York’s Grand Central Station after he was radicalized by U.S. counter-terrorism policy. “Redacted is about ending wars, not starting them,” he said.

UKA TRIAL TO LAST UNTIL JANUARY
The Stars And Stripes article describes Uka’s confession on Wednesday (the first day of a trial that will take ten days, spread out on select Wednesdays between now and January). Here is the Stars And Stripes account of Uka’s confession (written by David McHugh and David Rising):

No pleas are entered in the German system, and Uka confessed to the killings after the indictment was read, telling the court "what I did was wrong but I cannot undo what I did." He went on to urge other radical Muslims not to seek inspiration in his attack, urging them not to be taken in by "lying propaganda" on the Internet.

Uka, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a crisp white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, smiled at his attorneys as he was brought in and his handcuffs were removed. But he wept repeatedly as he recounted the attack and watched the jihadist videos he said motivated him.

"To this day I try to understand what happened and why I did it... but I don't understand," he said, at times speaking so softly that court officials had to bring in a microphone and put it directly in front of him.

Cooperating with authorities and confessing can help reduce a defendant's sentence - but Uka refused to tell the court where he obtained the 9mm semi-automatic pistol he used, which Presiding Judge Thomas Sagebiel said meant his confession was incomplete.

Uka described becoming increasingly introverted in the months before the attack, staying at home and playing computer games and watching Islamic extremist propaganda on the Internet.

The night before the crime, Uka said, he followed a link to a video posted on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. It turned out to be a scene from the 2007 anti-war Brian De Palma film Redacted, taken out of context.

He said he then decided he should do anything possible to prevent more American soldiers from going to Afghanistan.

"I thought what I saw in that video, these people would do in Afghanistan," he told the court, his voice choking with emotion as he wiped away tears.

Uka conceded when asked by prosecutor Jochen Weingarten that the airman driving the bus had not been going to Afghanistan. On the bus on the way to the airport to look for victims, he said he listened to Islamic music on his iPod while nursing doubts that he'd be able to follow through with his plan.

"On the one hand I wanted to do something to help the women, and on the other hand I hoped I would not see any soldiers," he told the court.

He says he now does not understand why he went through with the killings.

"If you ask me why I did this, I can only say ... I don't understand anymore how I went that far."

Prosecutors introduced evidence from Uka's laptop, cell phone and iPod, which included hundreds of files containing jihadist videos, literature, sermons and songs.

One song went, "Mother be strong, your son is on jihad," and "do not mourn for me." A video showed rifle-toting Islamic fighters in Pakistan, and a bullet-holed target with "Obama" scrawled on it.


Posted by Geoff at 12:10 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 5, 2011 6:34 PM CDT
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Thursday, February 3, 2011
REDACTED PART OF 'FOUCAULT AT THE MOVIES'
WILL SCREEN FEB 11 IN SERIES PRESENTED BY YOUNG PHILOSOPHERS
The association "L'ECLAT" will present three cycles of motion pictures, plus one full day of screenings, devoted to the philosopher Michel Foucault. The events will take place at the Villa Arson in Nice, France. The first cycle begins next Friday, and Brian De Palma's Redacted will be presented by philosopher Dork Zabunyan to close out the series' opening day on February 11th. Redacted will be screened as part of a study taking an archaeological approach in which the designated philosopher will consider each film's history and transmission, questioning that film's ability to capture, understand and represent history. The series is separated into four groups of films: "With Foucault," featuring archival, documentary, and other filmed Foucault appearances; "Of Foucault," featuring films that Foucault himself commented on; "Before Foucault," featuring films that reflect Foucault's thinking; and "After Foucault," which includes De Palma's Redacted and Peter Watkins' Punishment Park as contemporary films that seem to develop Foucault's thinking.

Posted by Geoff at 12:41 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 5, 2011 12:37 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011
DE PALMA IN THE 2000S
SUMMARIES OF DECADE LISTS COMING THIS WEEK


The first decade of the 2000s have been over for a year now, and while it seems a long delay at this time to discuss Brian De Palma’s cinema of that decade, the truth is that, as film lovers have contemplated and gone over their favorites, decade lists have continued to be posted on the internet all year long. Each of De Palma’s four films from the 2000s has made someone’s decade list, and over the next week, I will be posting summary links to these lists with a post for each film.

After De Palma signed on to direct Disney’s Mission To Mars, he immediately asserted to his team of creators that the mysterious spherical artifact on Mars should be the Face on Mars, as it had become a part of popular culture. He told the design team he wanted it to look like a “sleeping goddess.” As can be seen in the montage of stills above, variations on the sleeping goddess would turn out to be the key visual motif of De Palma’s cinema for the decade.

As the decade began, the figure was an intimidating wonder, inspiring hope amidst its alluring aura of danger. By the end of the decade, she came to represent the tragic soul of the repressed, the redacted—her dead eyes open as if to remind us that our own eyes have been wide shut. In each film, the sleeping goddess silently calls out like a spiritual siren. The astronauts in Mission To Mars are initially and fatefully drawn to her anomalous mystery before learning how to communicate with her, ultimately to find that she has been lying in wait for them to arrive. In Femme Fatale, her sleep becomes a premonition to the dreamer, herself the sleeping goddess of her own dream, taking on the angelic form of the drowned, sleeping Ophelia to help guide the waking femme fatale to a less fateful moral decision. She appears again as Bucky sleeps during a stakeout in The Black Dahlia, the camera making a dreamlike move over the building he and Lee are watching to reveal that off in the distance, the dead, mutilated, posed-in-the-grass figure of Betty Short seems to summon Bucky’s subconscious. The shock of the sleeping Dahlia’s return at the end of that film was turned up to eleven one year later in Redacted, which powerfully concludes with a staged photo of the violated figure, her tortured sleep exacting a furious plea to the conscience of the mind’s eye. The film ends, the music quietly fades away, and De Palma leaves us with the terrible silence of death—a death that had been covered up. With its staged photo representing (imagining?) an image that might only exist in the mind’s eye of someone who was there, Redacted demonstrates that nothing stays buried forever…


Posted by Geoff at 2:18 AM CST
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Monday, June 14, 2010
HOW ARE THE "MOVIE BRATS" TODAY?
CRITIC SAYS COPPOLA & DE PALMA ARE REINVENTING

In an article about Francis Ford Coppola posted today at The Telegraph, critic Sheila Johnston offers a brief assessment of Coppola's fellow "movie brats": "Today some of his peers are making gaudy, hollow baubles (Martin Scorsese); some (George Lucas, Steven Spielberg) are busily tending to their merchandising franchises; others (the Johns Milius and Landis) haven’t directed a feature for years. With the partial exception of Brian De Palma (with his controversial Iraq drama Redacted), Coppola is the only one to have entirely reinvented himself." I'm not sure how Landis wound up included in there (he was never really lumped in with the "movie brats" per se), although he is among their generation. While I do not necessarily agree with her assessments of Scorsese and Spielberg, it is true that De Palma and Coppola are doing the most interesting work of their generation right now. Lucas has talked about going back to making the personal, experimental cinema he's always wanted to make, but doesn't seem to know how to get started.

Johnston's article centers around Coppola's latest release, Tetro, which, along with his previous film, Youth Without Youth, marks his return to personal, independent filmmaking. "I am an amateur filmmaker now," he told Johnston. "They don’t have to pay me to work on a film like Tetro because the payment is just to participate in the cinema, which is a magical medium and one you can keep learning about. That’s my reward. I don’t make films for money. Or for my career." Johnston also offers some very interesting notes on the press release for the film:

Instead of the usual selective litany of career triumphs – and Coppola has enough of those to boast about: The Godfather films, Apocalypse Now, five Oscars, two Palmes d’Or – his official biography in Tetro’s press notes kicks off by describing his “financial hardship” and “years of 'work for hire’ – the disdainful legal term for those who serve at the pleasure of others”.

Meanwhile, I recently found this Premiere.fr interview with De Palma about Redacted that I don't believe I'd seen before.


Posted by Geoff at 11:07 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 13, 2010
REDACTED IN ARGENTINA
RETITLED AS "SAMARRA"
Brian De Palma's Redacted was released today in Argentina under the title Samarra. One particularly insightful review of the film was posted by Martin Stefanelli at ¡Esto es un bingo!. Stefanelli, who states that Redacted is the best movie on the invasion of Iraq, also states that the film hasn't even the slightest intention of telling the truth, suggesting instead that through its "classic" De Palmian gestures, the film constructs a narrative that is no truer than any news coverage. The narrative De Palma constructs, however, reunites images from scattered screens "with the intention of holding its own account of the war," according to Stefanelli. Above all, Stefanelli concludes, the film displays an enormous will to let roar an otherwise unheard voice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 28, 2010
GREENGRASS ON GREEN ZONE
WANTED TO MAKE FILM WITH BROADER APPEAL THAN DE PALMA'S
Paul Greengrass's Iraq-themed Green Zone was released a couple of weeks ago to indifferent critical reception. Some felt the film tried to turn a non-fiction story into a Jason Bourne-type action/adventure and played too loosely with facts, while some appreciated Greengrass turning the subject of the Iwaq war and the search for mysterious WMDs into something audiences could ingest. Prior to the film's release, Greengrass himself discussed with Coming Soon's Edward Douglas why he wanted Green Zone to be something different than his United 93, and how his three most recent films developed from an interesting continuum:

In actual fact what happened was, after I made "[Bourne] Supremacy" which was summer 2004 I actually went out to lunch with Stacey Snider, who's been running head of Universal. She said, "What do you want to do next?" I said, "Well, I don't know, but I definitely want to be between 9/11 on the one hand here and the war in Iraq here." I wouldn't have called it the war in Iraq 'cause bear in mind, we're only a year after (it started). I made that film throughout that whole thing. I started it just as they invaded really. I said, "I don't know quite what the story (will be), but I'll find a story that I want to make. Maybe it'll be a true story, maybe it'll be a fictional story. I just don't know, but I'll go off and I'll figure it out and I'll come back." She said, "Oh great, okay, off you go."

Well, one thing happened and another thing happened. As it turned out, though I didn't know that then, it became two separate films 'cause the following early summer I decided to make "United 93," one film about a true story, very scrupulously kind of fact-driven about that central event of 9/11. I always knew I was then gonna go and make "Bourne Ultimatum." As soon as I made that, it all seemed to make sense, because I went, "Oh, okay, I get it now. I'm gonna do '93' then I'm gonna go and do a big 'Bourne' movie and then I'm gonna do something about Iraq, I don't know quite what." So I'm doing "[Bourne] Ultimatum" and I'm puzzling away what that film beyond "Ultimatum" was gonna be. I'm talking with Brian Helgeland who's a mate of mine; we'd worked together on "Bourne Supremacy" and he's a fantastic writer, and I said, "If you don't want to come and do this with me," and he said, "Sure." We're going back and forth, and to both of us, it was very obvious, several things that were at the heart of this film. Firstly, the whole point of doing the film really only worked if you were making a film that had broad appeal. In other words, to follow it up by making another "United 93"-type film didn't feel quite right 'cause I'd sorta done "United 93." I did think about it. I did think about doing a small film, but it felt to me like other people were doing that.

"THAT AUDIENCE WAS EXACTLY THE AUDIENCE THAT WAS BEING ASKED TO FIGHT THIS WAR"
Douglas then interjects, "Right, I was curious about that, because there were a lot of people making Iraq movies – Brian De Palma for instance." And then Greengrass continues:

Exactly and I sort of thought that to me, that didn't feel right. I wanted to make a film with broad appeal. Why? For this simple reason that you couldn't make a "Bourne" film--and this was my second one--without being very aware that there was a big audience of particularly young people who were coming out and really loved those movies. Of course, that audience was exactly the audience that was being asked to fight this war. The young boys who were being asked to go and fight this thing, were going to see "Bourne" movies. On the other hand, right around the other side of the spectrum, the young kids who were most opposed to this war were also going to see "Bourne" movies, see what I mean? They're not going to see small art house movies about Iraq, so to me it was like I want to make a film that those people are gonna want to go and see. It's a broad audience film, okay? Next, the whole point about the "Bourne" films was that when you distill a "Bourne" film down, what is it? Obviously, it's a conspiracy action thriller, which is a genre everybody loves.

Greengrass discusses his rationale that Green Zone needed to be somewhat recognizable as the very thing he and Matt Damon are known for. "So here's the question," he says to Douglas, "if you liked Bourne Ultimatum, will you be disappointed with this film?" Douglas then replies, "I don't know. It's hard for me to say because like I've said, I've seen far too many Iraq movies." To which Greengrass stresses...

It's nothing to do with Iraq movies. If you saw "Bourne Ultimatum" and liked it, would you be disappointed with this? 'Cause that's the prism through which people are gonna come to this, not through Brian De Palma's film 'cause they're never gonna have seen it. No disrespect to those movies, but that's the issue here. In "Bourne Supremacy" and "Bourne Ultimatum," I tried to push the envelope with those movies as close to the real world. "Ultimatum" felt like it was ripped out the headlines, didn't it? With the water boarding and the war on terror and all that stuff in there, and the journalism and the source and it felt very, very strongly contemporary.


Posted by Geoff at 2:29 PM CDT
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