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Tuesday, February 11, 2014
SPEAKING OF NICOLAS CAGE...
NBC'S 'COMMUNITY' CLASS SIGNS UP FOR "NICOLAS CAGE: GOOD OR BAD?"
Last month, NBC's Community returned to the network for its fifth season, and with creator Dan Harmon thankfully back in control of the series. In episode 2, titled "Intro To Teaching", several of the main characters sign up for a class called "Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?" The instructor, ensuring the class on day one that "there is no answer," gives them the task of watching five Nicolas Cage films, "no marathons-- space out your viewings." Abed, of course, goes on a marathon, and drives himself crazy trying to work out the answer that clearly does not exist. At one point, he has run wires in his apartment with the names of Cage's films clipped onto them in a seemingly endless flow of titles. Crazed, he tells his concerned friends, "If you watch closely at the seven-minute mark in Snake Eyes, you'll notice the moment where an alien arm could have come up and..."

[Annie interrupts] "Abed, it's not worth it! Maybe Nicolas Cage is just... crazy."

Abed responds, "All actors are crazy, Annie. Some crazy actors are good, some are bad, but none of them are neither. There's no such thing as both. Which one is Nicolas Cage, huh? Huh, oh--" [Abed ends in a Nicolas Cage-type spasm].

A year ago, after Harmon was ousted from the show (he missed all of season four), he had lamented at CommuniCon that he never got to do the Nicolas Cage episode he'd wanted to do.

Vulture quoted Harmon discussing the idea: "The thing about Nicolas Cage movies is … unless you’re a total cynical dick, you have to embrace the fact that Nicolas Cage is a pretty good actor. He's done a lot of weird, dumb movies, but that was supposed to be the point of the episode — that Nicolas Cage is a metaphor for God, or for society, or for the self, or something. It’s like — what is Nicolas Cage?"

Perhaps taking an obsessive cue from Abed, I captured the frame at the seven-minute mark of Snake Eyes... as well as every seven minutes after that. You can see the frames below:


Posted by Geoff at 11:02 PM CST
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013
DE PALMA OPEN TO RESTORING 'SNAKE EYES' CUT
"THE WHOLE IDEA AT THE END WAS DEUS EX MACHINA"
Drew Taylor's interview with Brian De Palma was posted today at The Playlist, and Taylor took the opportunity to ask De Palma about the lost ending of Snake Eyes. "The whole idea at the end of Snake Eyes was deus ex machina," De Palma told Taylor. "We were dealing with such a corrupt world that the only way to solve the problem is to have a hurricane come through and wipe it all away. That was my initial idea. And the problem is that people don't believe in that [laughing]. They don't believe in God looking down from above and saying, 'The only way to deal with this is a flood. There's so much corruption here, let's wipe it all away and get an ark out and start from scratch.' But it didn't work in the previews so we did this other ending which I don't think is as effective. We did shoot this big wave that swept through the casino but we ultimately cut it out."

Taylor then asked De Palma if he has ever thought about restoring the original ending either back into the movie, or perhaps as a special feature. "Well it was like when they made the special version of Casualties of War, I put in two scenes that were cut out from the initial release and I was very happy to put them back in. If they came to me and said, 'We're thinking about doing a new version,' I'd be happy to do it."

For more about the original ending for Snake Eyes, see this De Palma a la Mod post from 2011.

'STAR WARS', 'HAPPY VALLEY', & AN UNTITLED PROJECT TO BE SET IN FRANCE
Taylor also asked about De Palma's role in the opening crawl for Star Wars. "Well, you know, I find about these things that even my memory is beginning to dim a little bit. What I do remember is there was a crawl and Jay Cocks and I looked at it and said to George, 'I think we can make this better, because there's so many complex things going on here. Why don't you give us a shot at re-writing this?' And we did."

Earlier in the interview, Taylor said to De Palma, "Passion is a remake of a fairly recent French movie. You've been linked to another Untouchables and a Paranormal Activity sequel in the past. How do you feel about sequels and remakes, both in terms of your own work and what you choose to do? And how close did Paranormal Activity and Untouchables get?"

De Palma replied: "Well that's like ancient history, those two projects. The Untouchables prequel has all sorts of economic and legal problems wrapped up with Paramount. And the Paranormal situation was that they reached out to me and we had some discussions about it but that was many, many years ago. Right now I'm working on the Joe Paterno/Sandusky situation [Happy Valley, which De Palma also told Taylor is "a very serious movie about the whole Paterno/Sandusky situation"] and something that's set in France. So that's what's going on now."

SHOCKYA INTV - DE PALMA ON JEROME ROBBINS BALLET, DONAGGIO, & VOD RELEASE
Shockya's Karen Benardello posted a separate interview with De Palma yesterday. Here is an excerpt featuring the last three questions:

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SY: One of the film’s most ambitious sequences is when a murder is carried out while dancers perform Jerome Robbins’ modern staging of the classic Nijinsky-Debussy ballet ‘Afternoon of a Faun,’ which is based on the Mallarmé poem about dreams and desire. What was the inspiration in showing the murder and the ballet at the same time on a split screen?

BDP: Well, that’s a ballet I particularly like. I saw the Jerome Robbins choreography on the Internet, and it’s a black and white video that had to be taken in the ’50s. I thought it was a fantastic reimaging of this particular Debussy piece, ‘Afternoon of a Faun,’ and I’ve always wanted to put it in a movie. This gave me a perfect place to do it.

In the original film, she goes to the movies and slips out. **SPOILER ALERT** In this case, I wanted to put her in a ballet, so I could place the ballet against the murder at Christine’s house. By using that big close-up, you always think that Isabelle is at the ballet, and she couldn’t possibly be at the house. **END SPOILER ALERT**

SY: ‘Passion’ marks the seventh that you’ve worked on with music composer Pino Donaggio. Since the film is a crime mystery drama, what was the process of working with Pino to create the perfect score for the film, and capture the rivalry between Christine and Isabelle?

BDP: Well, I’ve worked with Pino on seven films together. He knows how to do these long violent sequences that I create. The last cue at the end of the film, when the last nightmare takes place, no one writes music like that but him. It’s exciting and suspenseful and scary and dramatic, and it’s completely unique to his talent.

SY: ‘Passion’ is set to be released on Thursday on VOD, with a theatrical rollout set to follow on August 30. What are your thoughts on VOD-do you think it’s the new release precedent for smaller, independent films?

BDP: Well, I’ve never done it this way before, and I’m interested to see how it plays. It was the choice of the distributor, and I’ve never had a movie released first On Demand, and then theatrically in a theater. But we’re looking at films all the time on smaller screens, so that’s the way it seems to be going.

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Posted by Geoff at 7:13 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 17, 2012
'SNAKE EYES' ESSAY AT A.V. CLUB
AS DE PALMA THRILLER SCREENS TONIGHT AT TORONTO'S BELL LIGHTBOX
TIFF is having an ongoing late night series called "Bangkok Dangerous: The Cinema of Nicolas Cage." Up tonight is Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, which has prompted A.V. Club Toronto to post a series of essays about the actor, called "Caged Wisdom." This week, John Semley posted an essay that delves into Snake Eyes' opening shot, the odd criticism of De Palma as a "stylist," and the film's intricate split screen sequence. Regarding the opening sequence, Semley writes, "It’s a persuasive, hypnotizing bit of film craft, ranking right up there with the director’s best. It’s not closed-off enough to function as a self-contained short film or anything. But as a piece of geometry, as an object lesson in what it is that Brian De Palma does as a filmmaker, it’s instructive—truly bravura. Oddly, it’s this sense of bravura, this virtuoso quality, that has earned De Palma so many detractors."

Posted by Geoff at 5:03 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2012 9:08 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 11, 2012
NICOLAS CAGE TALKS 'SNAKE EYES'
"THE TRACKING SHOT IS WHAT BRIAN WOULD CALL 'NO NET PRODUCTIONS'"

The past two issues of Fangoria have featured parts one and two of a terrific interview with Nicolas Cage, conducted by Chris Alexander. In the current issue (#311), the discussion leads to Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes:

FANG: You've worked with most of the living masters, including David Lynch in the wonderful Wild At Heart. But I must say, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes is woefully undervalued, both as a De Palma film and a Cage film. And that tracking shot...

CAGE: I don't watch my movies, but that one, if I catch it on television... I'll shut it off after two minutes, but I'll look at it and go, "Oh, wow, what did we get up to there?" That movie is remarkable, really. It has a style that's all its own, and the tracking shot is what Brian would call "No Net Productions." It was as if we were on a high wire and we'd go for five minutes, doing nonstop dialogue, movement, rehearsing all day long and if one line was blown, we'd have to stop, set it up and do it all over again.

FANG: How many times did you do it?

CAGE: I don't remember, but I know I was rehearsing it day and night, in my head all the time, even in the shower. Then on the day we were filming, we rehearsed well past lunch before we actually started to shoot. I often tell people I'm working with, if they are interested in tracking shots, to check out the beginning of Snake Eyes, because it is a standout, right up there with Touch Of Evil.

'SILENT HOUSE' CREATES ILLUSION OF SINGLE-TAKE FOR REAL TIME HORROR
Speaking of long tracking shots, this issue of Fangoria also includes an article about the just-released remake of Gustavo Hernández' The Silent House (the new version shortens the title to Silent House). Hernández' film stood out for its use of one long single-take to present its haunted house story in real time. In the Fangoria article, Open Water filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau describe how they worked hard to give the illusion that their Silent House is done in one long single-take, although it is made up of a string of very long continuous takes itself. (De Palma's opening 15 minutes of Snake Eyes also includes one or two well-designed cuts to present the illusion of a single take.) The pair also explains why, after showing the film at Sundance in 2011, they went back and shot a new ending. "We actually reshot quite a bit of the movie, like the last 15 minutes," Lau tells Fangoria's Michael Gingold, "and obviously one reason was that because it's a continuous take, it was not simple to change that film!"


Posted by Geoff at 10:33 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012 10:36 PM CST
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Friday, January 14, 2011
GUGINO ON SNAKE EYES' LOST ENDING
"WE SHOT IT ON VISTAVISION, SO IT LOOKED PHENOMENAL"
Carla Gugino was interviewed by Hollywood Outbreak's Greg Srisavasdi, who asked the actress about the original "tidal wave" ending of Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, which was altered prior to its 1998 release when test audiences did not respond positively. Click on the above link to hear Gugino talk about the sequence and the film-- but here is what she told Srisavasdi:

Oh, my gosh. I know, it’s so weird. I feel like that came about just before they started doing (much more often) alternate endings on DVDs, etc. Because I saw that ending, and it was awesome! I prefer that ending to the ending that’s in the movie now. But I know that there was a thing at the moment with Snake Eyes where they felt like it was a bit of, like a ‘70s conspiracy thriller, and then all of a sudden it became an action movie with that tidal wave sequence. But in fact, I kind of loved that about it. We shot it on VistaVision, so it looked, you know, phenomenal. I actually did get pneumonia while shooting that sequence, and I was like, ‘It’s okay, suffer for your art, it’ll be great.’ And then they cut the sequence out of the movie! But I love De Palma. I love Brian. I had a great time working on that movie. Nic was fantastic, and Gary Sinise. You know, that opening sequence of that movie I think is still one of the best opening sequences of any movie.

Yeah, needless to say, De Palma, I mean, you know, he pays homage to Hitchcock, and the visuals. But that was something interesting was that a lot of people had told me that he was such a visual director that he would really… that I would not get any acting direction. And he was absolutely a fantastic actor’s director, as well. I mean, Brian always said, he was like, you know, ‘All of my movies that now are considered classics were lambasted at the time.’ And he was like, “I’ve always been appreciated in looking back, never in the moment when it’s happened,’ you know. Which is interesting, how that is. And I’m a huge fan.

THE ORIGINAL ENDING
Back in 2001, "BWL," a member of the forum at Bill Fentum's currently defunct "Directed By Brian De Palma" website, was able to view an alternate version of the Snake Eyes ending on VHS, but with no sound effects or music soundtrack. Here is how BWL described that ending:

It starts off the same as we have all seen. Rick Santoro stumbles into the tunnel, bloodied and beaten up, with Kevin Dunne following from behind him, waiting to see where Julia Costello is hiding. Anthea and her cameraman are outside getting shots of the storm and Anthea says "I'd sure like to know what I did wrong to get all the shit assignments!" The cameraman yells "Just roll so we can get out of here!" Then Anthea goes into her countdown and says, "Well, it looks like tropical storm Jezebel just may be a hurricane after all!" Meanwhile, as Rick and Kevin approach the door to the area where Julia is locked inside, Rick sees the shadow of Kevin holding a gun. We cut to a shot from high atop the room where Julia is hiding and see rain seeping in (this is the first shot I recognized as different). Rick turns around and faces Kevin. With his face all beaten up Rick says, "Kevin, am I still pretty?" Kevin tells him calmly to unlock the door and have Julia come outside. Rick says, "No I won't tell her. I won't let you kill her" and covers the door with his body and his arms. Kevin loses his patience and says "TELL HER TO OPEN THE DOOR!"

We cut to Anthea and her cameraman outside on the boardwalk as the cameraman pans his camera off the boardwalk towards the water(not a POV shot) and then it cuts to a huge wave that is gathering steam and headed straight for the boardwalk. We cut back to Rick, who finally agrees to ask Julia to let him in since Kevin is seriously threatening him and yelling "OPEN THE DOOR!" Meanwhile, we cut back out to the boardwalk as the camera zooms in closely on Anthea who says "HOLY SHIT!" as the tidal wave smashes through a ferris wheel and amusement park on its way towards them. The cameraman grabs Anthea and pulls her inside the van. Rick tells Julia that it's him and she should open the door. Inside Julia says "Rick is that you?" and grabs the handle to the door. She fumbles with the door handle for a few moments but the door is not opening- it's stuck. Kevin loses his patience and fires off 6 or 7 shots right through the doorway. Julia recoils in fear and lets out a scream. Similar to the version we've seen, the shots manage to cause the outer doors that lead to the boardwalk to open up. Rick and Kevin rush inside the room where Julia is hiding. Rick covers Julia with his body to protect her from Kevin and she stands behind Rick scared out of her mind. Kevin says, "All right, Rick. I'll give you one more chance. Get out of the way or I'll shoot right through you." Rick looks outside and sees the gathering wave. He says to Julia, seemingly out of capitulation, "Sorry baby, I tried."

Then we cut to Kevin's henchmen driving in their van to "pick up the package on the boardwalk" (a scene referenced in the regular version when Kevin radios them and they respond while they're in the middle of putting the dead bodies into the concrete). The henchmen see the large globe detached from The Millennium rolling down the boardwalk by Anthea's news van. One of the henchmen says, "What the hell is that?" (which in the regular version was said verbatim by the emergency rescue personnel). The wave hits the boardwalk and washes over the news van and into the globe (this shot is also in the regular version). We cut back inside as Kevin is standing in the middle of the room about to shoot Rick, who is still covering Julia off on the side of the room. We see a wideshot of these three in the tunnel when all of a sudden the globe comes SMASHING through the tunnel wall and in an instant it rolls right over Dunne. The globe is followed from behind by a huge blast of water that rushes over Julia and Rick as they cling to each other and struggle to keep their footing. The water continues to rush in over them, filling up the tunnel, but after a few moments it recedes. Once it is safe the cameraman from the boardwalk comes running into the tunnel with his camera. As we pan down over the scene we see the large globe stopped dead in its tracks in the middle of tunnel with Kevin's crushed body and dangling from it, apparently impaled by a jagged piece of metal. Rick is lying on the ground coughing up water and still badly hurt from his beating. Julia comforts him by her side as the cameraman rushes over to them yelling to Anthea, "there's people in here!" But he says it less out of concern than out of opportunity. We then see from the POV of the cameraman's camera (as we similarly do in the regular version) a shot of Julia and Rick. Julia says with disgust "Would you just get away!" The cameraman zooms in on Rick's bloodied face and he stares blankly into the camera, and then the scene dissolves to the Mayor's awards ceremony (which is back the movie we all know).


Posted by Geoff at 1:17 AM CST
Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011 1:20 AM CST
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Sunday, September 26, 2010
NOÉ CITES DE PALMA, OTHERS AS INFLUENCES ON VOID
SPECIFICALLY NAMES SNAKE EYES
You may recall a year ago, when the Globe and Mail's Rick Groen reported that Gaspar Noé was excitedly asking around at the 2009 Toronto International whether anyone had seen Brian De Palma in the audience for Noé's Enter The Void. This weekend, Enter The Void has finally opened in select North American theaters, and Noé has been mentioning De Palma to interviewers as a key influence on his latest film, which he worked on for about a decade. Discussing his film with Filmmaker Magazine's Brandon Harris this past summer, Noé stated he had in mind Kenneth Anger's Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome "or some of Brian de Palma’s movies," adding, "I really like aerial shots and everything in the one with Nicholas Cage. Snake Eyes I think." Harris then confirmed the movie title, and added that "Snake Eyes also has a bravura long tracking scene," to which Noé replied, "A good one."

DE PALMA, ANGER, SCORSESE, VON TRIER, SCHRADER, SPIELBERG
Noé discussed his use of the camera as a point of view in the film with Prospect Magazine's Justin Villiers, explaining that Irreversible was a kind of experimental preparation for the new film:

I was working on Enter The Void many years before Irreversible, so I had been thinking about using such a free-flowing camera. It’s been done a lot before, but never in such an expanded way. There are many shots in Brian De Palma’s movies when the camera is flying over someone’s head, there is a similar shot in Taxi Driver, as well as in Lars Von Trier’s Europa or even in Mishima by Paul Schrader. There’s also, in Minority Report, one long shot that hangs above the set. I like those shots, but I’d always dreamed of having a movie where for one full hour you’d be flying above the sets. I’m happy that no one else did it before me.

LYNCH, RUSSELL, KUBRICK, KALATOZOV, LADY IN THE LAKE
When asked by IFC's Nick Schager where the central idea for Enter The Void came from, Noé laid out his influences from the beginning:

When I started studying cinema, I was watching “Eraserhead” over and over. I also discovered “Altered States” and I discovered maybe LSD and mushrooms at the same time. And I thought it would be good to do a movie from the perspective of the main character, like “Lady in the Lake,” but in which you would follow the guy and his hallucinations. Then I read these books about life after life, and the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” and I thought it could be even better if the guy dies and you see him floating above the living, like all these reports of out-of-body experiences. Also, I really, really like all those astral shots, which are often in Brian De Palma’s movies, where the camera is floating above people.

You don’t see many movies that really impress you during a lifetime, but “2001” was maybe my major cinematic shock. Then among the latest ones, “I Am Cuba” convinced me that the movie had to be shot with master shots. I saw it before shooting “Irreversible,” but “I Am Cuba” affected both “Irreversible” and this one.

Noé further elaborated to Schager on his inspirations for his use of point of view shots:

One day many years ago, maybe when I was in my late teens or early 20s, I took some mushrooms with friends, and then I went back home and they were playing “Lady in the Lake” on TV. That’s when I decided that the first part of the movie should be shot in first-person perspective. When it comes to the flashbacks, that doesn’t come from any other movie. I just thought that, in my own memories or in my dreams, I always see myself like a shadow on the right or left side, but I feel my presence. My dreams aren’t constructed like POVs, but that’s the way I perceive my own past or my own future or my own dreams. I’m sure that’s the same for most people, so I decided to leave it that way.

When it comes to the actual visions, I was just inspired by all these accounts of out-of-body experiences, as well as images -- like I said -- from Brian De Palma, and “Zentropa” [the U.S. title of Europa] by Lars von Trier, who had some aerial shots that were really pretty.

DESCRIBING THE VISUAL, AND ADDING CRONENBERG
Noé also mentioned De Palma while discussing the difficulty of describing in words the visual experience of art:

There are movies that are more cinematic and movies that are more narrative in a literal way. I guess it's easier to talk about "Irreversible" or about "I Stand Alone" than to talk about this one, because maybe the best parts of the movie are some visual aspects that are more difficult to transfer to words. For example, my father is a painter, you see his paintings in the movie. The painter pretends to paint paintings that actually were my father's paintings. Sometimes I read reviews about his exhibitions and think, "How can people describe abstract or expressionist painting?" and yet, this movie had many references. When I started shooting it, I was thinking of course of "2001: A Space Odyssey," of "Videodrome," of "Altered States," some shots in Brian De Palma's movies where the camera is floating above or "I Am Cuba" for the long master shots. But also, I had in mind Kenneth Anger's "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" and "Eraserhead," which are dreamy movies that are very hard to describe. You cannot describe colors, not when you have 20 colors, so you just say "it's colorful." I knew this movie should be more visual than the previous ones, but that's also why people are more pissed off, because for some people, it's too visual, too experimental. I got much better reviews than I've ever had in my life with this one, but I also got the worst reviews I've ever had with this one. One (critic) said, "This is the worst piece of sh*t that has ever been shown in the Cannes Film Festival" just because of the flickering effects, the out-of-focus effects, at a point make you feel very stoned. For people who don't like feeling stoned, then they refuse the experience and they feel as if they've been brought somewhere they didn't want to go.

You can see some of the shots being discussed above on a YouTube video put together by BUF, the company that did many of the visual effects in the film.

(Much thanks to Peet!)


Posted by Geoff at 9:20 PM CDT
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Friday, May 7, 2010
SNAKE EYES AT IFC THIS WEEKEND
"CAGE HEAT: NICOLAS CAGE AT MIDNIGHT"
IFC Center in New York has been running a series called "Cage Heat: Nicolas Cage at Midnight." Tonight and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday) at midnight, they will be screening a new 35mm print of Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, which features a great dynamic Cage performance that starts off ultra manic but also skillfully carries the weight of operatic pathos.

Posted by Geoff at 1:29 PM CDT
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