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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 9:25 PM CST
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Sunday, March 15, 2015
The March 2015 issue of EMPIRE magazine, on stands now in the U.S., includes a one-page C.V. in which John Lithgow discusses his signature roles. Under the heading, "His Biggest Challenge," is Brian De Palma's Raising Cain, with the characters listed as "Carter/Cain/Dr. Nix/Josh/Margo, deranged doctor and his brood." Of his role(s) in the film, Lithgow tells EMPIRE, "The most plot-heavy film I've been in. It was only two characters, and yet you wanted to fool people into thinking it was three or four. The rehearsal period was simply charting the crazy."

Posted by Geoff at 1:14 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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Saturday, October 12, 2013
The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg interviewed Gale Ann Hurd, who produced Brian De Palma's Raising Cain while the two of them were married. Of course, Hurd had previously been married to James Cameron, and produced some of his films, as well. Goldberg asked Hurd what she learned from working with each of them, and this is what she said:

"I collaborate best with people that others might call aggressive or assertive; they have a defined vision and can communicate it. It does mean that it tends to be a rather monomaniacal perspective. When we were doing Aliens, Jim knew in his mind every cut point in every scene and what look he wanted. Our initial DP was Dick Bush (Victor, Victoria), who was used to doing lighting, camerawork and the [duties of the] DP, and he didn't want to know what the director's vision was. He felt that was his domain. If Jim wanted something in the cooler tones backlit, he would do warmer tones front-lit. Two weeks in, he was fired. I learned it's really important that everyone on a set share the vision, and the vision really should be the director's."

Posted by Geoff at 9:19 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 12, 2013 9:21 PM CDT
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 5:59 PM CDT
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Saturday, February 16, 2013
Fangoria's Carrie issue (#321) has hit the stands. It includes an interview with Brian De Palma, as well as interviews with William Katt and P.J. Soles. There is also a terrific interview with Jorn Seifert, of the German FX shop Twilight Creations, which was called to create the mask resembling Rachel McAdams for De Palma's current film, Passion. The issue also includes a look at the work of Pino Donaggio, with quotes from Joe Dante, as well as a look at key murder scenes from De Palma's oeuvre. Fango editor Chris Alexander, who did this issue's interview with De Palma at last September's Toronto Film Festival, explains in the opening editor's letter that the issue was originally planned to coincide with the release of the Carrie remake. However, the release date for the remake got pushed back to October, so they expanded the De Palma element of the issue. The issue does include, nevertheless, and interview with Kimberly Peirce in which she mentions De Palma's help several times as she recounts preparing to direct the new film.

What we'll focus on right here is something that comes up in the De Palma interview. About a year ago, our old friend Peet Gelderblom put together Raising Cain Re-cut, in which, aided by a copy of the original screenplay for De Palma's Raising Cain, he pieced together as best he could what that film might have looked like the way De Palma had originally conceived it. De Palma talks about it in the Fango interview:

FANG: Have you ever thought of remaking one of your own films?

DE PALMA: Hmm... [Pauses] Well, as a matter of fact, somebody put RAISING CAIN together the way it was originally supposed to be done, and it gave me lots of food for thought. RAISING CAIN was originally supposed to start with the woman's story-- you'd follow her for the first 20 minutes-- and then Lithgow's doesn't start until you see him smother her. But when I was cutting the movie, I didn't think her story was interesting enough to sustain the long beginning, so I reversed it and put the Lithgow stuff firstand used the opening scenes as kind of a flashback. Somebody got ahold of the original script and put it back the way it was supposed to be, and I thought it could be really interesting to actually do it the way I always wanted to.

FANG: You mean re-edit, or go back and completely remake it?

DE PALMA: Redo it. It's a very good idea. It was based on an experience I had with a woman who was in the midst of a divorce. She used to come by my house after work, we would spend a few hours together and then she would go home. But she would fall asleep all the time because she had been working all day, and I would sort of watch her sleep, and I thought about what would happen if she slept through the night. That was the initial concept for RAISING CAIN: the fact that she's with her lover and we know she doesn't go home. It's a very good idea, but I just didn't think it was strong enough in relationship to the Lithgow stuff, and that may have been a mistake.

FANG: Isn't that concept an extension in many ways of Angie Dickinson's subplot in Dressed To Kill?

DE PALMA: Yes, to some degree. But we're not always so conscious of these things the way people who study these films and look for all the signs are. We do things intuitively, and then you remind us of the similarities, and maybe you're right.

Posted by Geoff at 8:43 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Over at Indiewire's Press Play blog, our old friend Peet Gelderblom has posted his Raising Cain Re-Cut, which is his "attempt to approximate Brian De Palma’s original vision of Raising Cain, before the director chose to compromise its structure in post-production." According to Gelderblom (the blog includes a video essay about the project), "The re-cut uses all of the scenes in the theatrical release and puts them back in the order they were intended, giving rise to a dramatically different viewing experience." To get a good idea of De Palma's original intent, Gelderblom researched interviews with the director, as well as an early draft of the screenplay, when it was still called Father's Day. Gelderblom explains at the blog how he overcame the problem of missing certain needed transitions for this version: "One transition in the re-cut proved particularly tricky. To make up for a lack of coverage, I deployed a technique De Palma repeatedly relies on in the second draft of his screenplay: repetition. By quickly playing back a key moment earlier in the film, the viewer is reminded of where the upcoming scene fits in the overall chronology. To soften the transition, I lifted an establishing shot from the epilogue."

While the re-cut version, which is available to view on the blog for a limited time, is intriguing for the way it shifts the focus of the film (mirroring a bit of the structure of Dressed To Kill), it nevertheless lacks a certain crazed vigor that De Palma's final cut has. It could perhaps be that I am so used to the released version, that I need to watch this one again to see how it sinks in. Either way, I'm very glad Peet has provided us with this version, so we can get a sense of what De Palma's original idea for the film may have been. Let's hear what you all think of the new version!

By the way, Peet has been directing some fine commercials, music videos, and his own short films. Here is a link to one of his latest commercials.

Posted by Geoff at 5:39 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 5:04 PM CST
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Starpulse's Jason Coleman sat down with Steven Bauer for a career-spanning interview, timed to the release of Scarface on Blu-Ray this week. Bauer talked about Brian De Palma's directing style, Oliver Stone's shocked reaction to being told that one of the scenes he had written for Scarface was not going to be filmed, and how De Palma restrained him for his role as Jack in Raising Cain. Here are some excerpts:

[Coleman] I’ve always wanted to know what De Palma is like as a director and specifically his filmmaking process when it come to working with the actors?

SB: Well, he was very, very hands off – he’s actually very trusting of the actors. He chooses great actors and let’s them do their thing. The most I ever saw him do was with Michelle. For us, he never said anything to us except ‘where are you walking in’ or ‘where do you want to do this’, you know? He let us play the scene and then he would move the camera. But with Michelle because she was so new, she was intimidated and it worked for the character and he kept her off balance I think. He wasn’t very nurturing and encouraging with her. She was having her issues of being the girl, the only girl, and us being in our own world and it worked for her. She explodes and she’s so angry and so done with Tony being such an ass and it was all about the boys. And that worked for her – she walked around like that. Really fragile and Brian didn't do anything to help that.

[Coleman] If screenplay writer Oliver Stone was on set a lot, were there any interesting discussions that came up between the two of you during shooting?

SB: Oliver was NOT on the set a lot – another news bulletin! Oliver was basically banned from the set after the second or third week out of seventeen weeks we shot. He was banned and the reason is because he had a lot to say about the scenes that he wrote and how they were played and what was said and everything. And once we started shooting it was like Oliver, please! Because he’d come around and he’d say, ‘What are you doing? What are you shooting today? What’s going on? What are you gonna do?’ And Brian would say, ‘Can you just relax and please let us do what we’re doing?’

[Coleman] Do you feel like it was that director side of Oliver coming to the surface?

SB: Absolutely! He was ready to go! He was ready to make his own movie! He couldn't help it! Put him on the set and he’s gonna tell you how to shoot the scene! It was just not a happy union - there was not a collaboration there at all. The collaboration was that he delivered this beautiful screenplay and we went to work with it. But his offerings were not welcome and eventually he was told in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome. And I think it really bugged the shit out of him – he was not a happy camper. One day he was standing outside the gates at Universal and I was pulling up and he called me over and he goes, ‘Hey, Steven! Steven!’ And I go, ‘What are you doing there?’ And he goes, ‘Well, they won’t let me on the set!’ So I said, ‘What?!’ And he goes, ‘Can you just tell me what your shooting today?’ (Laughs) And I remember this one moment – I can't tell you specifically, but the script was bigger then what we shot obviously and there were scenes we had to cut because they were to expensive. And I remember one day he found me and he goes, ‘Have you done the scene with the so and so...” and I said, ‘Uhhh...no, we’re not doing that scene.’ And he was like, ‘What do you mean you’re not doing that scene?’ And I’m like, ‘They cut it.’ And he goes, ‘Are you KIDDING me?!’ – like crazy! That’s another interesting thing that most people don't know.

[Coleman] "Raising Cain" was you second acting collaboration with De Palma – can you tell me what was both similar and different from working with him when you did "Scarface" vs. "Raising Cain?"

SB: "Raising Cain" is much more his comfort zone I think. "Scarface" was a tremendous undertaking and I’m one of those who really feel that no one could have done it like Brian De Palma. In that case I’m a Brian De Palma supporter and the way the film was made, the way the film is directed, "Scarface" is brilliant. The rhythm, tone and editing of it is perfect and a lot of that is him. Now that being said, I was sort of a skeptic before I met him and worked with him because the films that he made before "Scarface" always left me really frustrated. I was impressed by his technical and cinematic style, but I also felt manipulated always and I don't like feeling that as an audience member. I don't like feeling the director manipulating. So I wasn’t a big fan let’s just say, but when you get to "Raising Cain" after "Scarface," I’m a big fan. One more time he had me – I loved what he did with that movie. Loved the way it’s done, love the way it works on the senses and the surprises and I loved the acting in it. John Lithgow is amazing – he’s just so weird and goofy and beautiful. And he directed me really well too and he got a performance out of me I didn’t expect to deliver. I really thought of myself as much more active and he kept me really restrained, even in my physical appearance. I had to do everything possible to not fight him on it because it was like he wanted my hair combed all the time, he wanted the overcoat and he wanted me in a 3-piece suit. I said, ‘Why a 3-piece – why do I have to wear a vest?’ He goes, ‘Because I want you to be absolutely beautiful and gorgeous and I want you to be absolutely groomed perfectly in every scene – that’s who you are!’ (Laughs) He has these precepts and concepts on film visually that he imposes on the story and he’ll make it work, or not! In that movie it really works.

Bauer was also asked about his cameo in De Palma's Body Double ("It was just a cameo role that Brian put me in as a joke"), which he describes with just a bit of misremembrance (his cameo is actually during the "Holly Does Hollywood" commercial, not during the Frankie Goes To Hollywood segment), and several of his other films, including Steven Soderbergh's Traffic.

Posted by Geoff at 10:56 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 10:57 PM CDT
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Thanks to The Virtuoso of the 7th Art's Romain Desbiens for pointing us in the direction of a recent video posted at Steadishots.org, in which Steadicam operator Larry McConkey, who has worked with Brian De Palma numerous times, discusses the great police station shot in De Palma's Raising Cain, in which two police detectives listen to a doctor relate the backstory of the main character's father as all three of them travel down stairs, hallways, and elevators to reach the basement morgue. With the crazy angles and logistics involved, McConkey says he originally told cinematographer Stephen Burum that "you can't do that with a steadicam," but Burum made him try, anyway. McConkey describes how he followed the characters with a steady, moving extreme dutch angle that had to slowly be brought back as the characters moved through the space. All the while, McConkey had to keep his arms from twitching or bumping as he kept pressure on the tilt, as the slightest movement would have disrupted the shot. McConkey describes how his idea to have actress Frances Sternhagen keep walking in the wrong direction (so he could position his camera where it needed to go to change into a wide shot) led to her developing the movements as part of her character (the character is so focused on what she is saying, she just keeps walking in whatever direction she is going until directed by the detectives to backstep or turn and go a different direction). Other nice tidbits: McConkey talking about De Palma silently watching the shot on a monitor and tilting his head as the characters walk down the stairs and the camera tilts with them, then looking back at McConkey and Burum with his head still tilted, then looking back at the monitor (McConkey says "It was never discussed!"); McConkey decided to tilt the camera again inside the elevator, because Sternhagen is so much shorter than Gregg Henry, which meant that when he panned over to the other detective and back, he had to go back-and-forth again at an odd angle; the elevator ride was much shorter than it appears on screen, and Henry had to do a little shift in his body weight to hide the fact that the elevator was coming to a stop. McConkey describes two takes where everything was perfect: in one, he wishes he had kept it because after they move into the morgue and the camera swings around to look at the three characters, according to McConkey, "you hear Brian yelling, 'TILT!...DOWN!...NOW!!!'" In another take, everything was perfect ("We all nailed it," says McConkey), except when he moved the camera around the bed in the morgue, he ran into the toes of the body on the bed, less than twenty seconds from the end of the shot. "Brian goes, 'Do it again,'" says McConkey as he mimics De Palma's arm motion, signalling everybody to pick up and go back to the start.

Posted by Geoff at 12:17 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 12:21 PM CST
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Nicholas Rombes at The Rumpus has begun an experimental new approach to writing about film by choosing three arbitrary time codes of a film, freezing the frame, and then writing commentary based around each frame. The third film Rombes selected for this series, in which he freezes the frames at 10-minutes, 40-minutes, and 70-minutes, is Brian De Palma's Raising Cain. Of the frame pictured here, Rombes writes:

Lithgow, playing several characters, gives a wildly expressionistic performance, and the marvel of the film lies not in the usual De Palma trademarks (split and multiple screens, slow motion, long takes, extended tracking shots) but in prolonged shots like this, that allows the actors to act with their faces. There is nothing campy or ironic about Lithgow’s performance at this point. In nature, in the Garden, he witnesses the forbidden transgression, with sorrow, disbelief, voyeuristic curiosity, and lurking fury. In these moments, Carter is pitifully human, his combed hair, middle-class jacket, falsely-ordered life, none of this can compete with the perpetual crisis in his brain.

Posted by Geoff at 2:32 PM CDT
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