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a la Mod:
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the screening, Film Comment's Violet Lucca interviewed Pankow last week, and posted it online yesterday. In this terrific interview, Pankow talks about editing two great set pieces in Carlito's Way: the pool hall scene, and the Grand Central sequence. He discusses working with actors such as Pacino, being attuned to their subtle nuances and physicality. He talks about how the split screens in Snake Eyes and Femme Fatale were very carefully planned beforehand. He talks about working with De Palma as the ideal working method, and De Palma's skills as a visual sotryteller. He talks about getting the right sound for the crowbar to the head wielded by Sean Penn's character in Carlito's Way ("That’s very giallo," jokes Lucca). He talks about working with Jerry Greenberg, and how he really came into his own during the editing of The Untouchables-- and how he made De Palma laugh with his initial cut of Sean Connery's death scene. Go read the interview now-- it's great stuff.
Cartel then states in the article that he disagrees, adding, "De Palma often calls attention to himself like some mad Roman emperor sitting atop a crab dolly." A bit later, Cartel discusses Sean Penn, writing that "Penn is the superb standout in this tedious melodrama." And Cartel shows disdain for the ending of the film: "David Koepp adapted the books into a script and swiftly got stuck for an ending. Producer Martin Bregman worked with Koepp for two years on this project and decided to tie up the denouement by having a mysterious character reappear and perform an unbelievable solution for the production company.
"Script analyzers for literary agencies are unpublished scriptwriters with jealous, heartless souls. But they do keep film stories with gaping holes from going further than their own desks. Apparently the messenger was shot in Bergman's office before she could escape with the bad script news."
While Cartel felt at the time that "Carlito certainly won't be Pacino's defining role," he predicted that "Sean Penn will garnish several awards for his performance in this film."
Mazursky, of course, did end up acting for De Palma about a decade later, portraying Judge Feinstein in Carlito's Way. In Richard Sylbert and Sylvia Townsend's book Designing Movies: Portrait of a Hollywood Artist, Gregory Bolton, who was the art director on Carlito's Way, recalls shooting the courtroom scene. "It was interesting," he tells Townsend, "because there was Brian De Palma, Paul Mazursky, and there was Al Pacino, all those people in that room, all powerful forces, all directing the scene. And Dick (Sylbert) sat back and we all sat back and watched each person direct the scene, wondering who was going to win." Bolton tells Townsend that after "going all different ways," De Palma's was the way it ended up.
Writing in 2003, Movie City News' Leonard Klady relayed a story from the fall of 1990 in which "Brian De Palma arrived for breakfast and greeted [Farmers] Market regular Paul Mazursky with a query about Disney's decision to postpone the release of Mazursky's upcoming movie. A rather vague story had appeared in the trades the prior week announcing that Scenes from a Mall would open in early 1991 rather than in the fall of 1990.
"It was clear that Mazursky had been exhausted by the process of finishing the comedy with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, screening and test screening it, tweaking it and arguing the finer points with senior production executives at the studio. He let out a sigh and told De Palma and the table that the film had scored well with audiences. It was testing in the high 70s but the folks at the studio wanted it to score in the 80s.
"When he finished, De Palma let out a hardy cackle (he has a very distinctive laugh) and when he recovered said, 'you're lucky.' He went on to explain that his new picture, according to the marketing people at Warner Bros., had scored the lowest of any major release in the studio's history. He said it tested at about 55% and didn't see how any amount of tinkering would ever significantly boost audience response. Though likely tinged with hyperbole, that picture was the subsequently infamous Bonfire of the Vanities."
Among Mazursky's other films is An Unmarried Woman, which starred Jill Clayburgh, for which she earned an Oscar nomination for best actress, while Mazursky earned best screenplay and best picture nominations. Other films include Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Harry And Tonto, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Enemies, a Love Story.
Mazursky's first acting role was in 1953, as a psychopath in Stanley Kubrick's first feature film, Fear And Desire. Twelve years later, Mazursky and Larry Tucker wrote the original pilot for the TV series The Monkees. Mazursky and Tucker have cameos in the episode.
“I don’t know, maybe there’s a mis-fuckin’ understanding here, I don’t know man. Maybe you don’t remember me. My name is Benny Blanco…”
“Maybe I don’t give a shit. Maybe I don’t remember the last time I blew my nose either.”
I chuckle at those moments but the language feels real, has slang and street color that’s both dangerous and funny. No surprise at their mixed effectiveness given that writer [Edwin] Torres walked those streets, he lived them, and channelled through screenwriter David Koepp (“Panic Room”) the dialogue seems honest. Nothing as iconic as, “Say hello to my little friend!” but “Here come da pain!” has a special place in many hearts, I’m sure. The cast is solid. From the majors to supporting players Viggo Mortensen and Luiz Guzmán as Pachanga, there’s not a loose brick in the wall. Leguizamo plays Benny like a knife with a slimy handle; if he can’t schmooze you with one end, he’ll stick you with the other. [Sean] Penn, not surprisingly, is a wonder as Kleinfeld, nothing less than mutated into the frizzy haired, deliciously corrupted lawyer that earned him Golden Globe and Chicago Film Critics Association acting nominations. Of course, in the hands of Brian De Palma, presentation is personality.
Like Spielberg and his often-assumed mentor, Hitchcock, the New Jersey born director De Palma (“Sisters,” “Mission Impossible”) is known for his visual style. Canted angles, 360-degree pans, extended takes ~ they’re ever present in “Carlito’s Way,” along with an Odessa Steps sequence that rivals his “Potemkin” shootout in “The Untouchables,” this time on the escalators of Grand Central Station. It’s here, in the club, and in the excellent (kick ass) pool-hall scene that you know exactly who is calling the shots. De Palma has a singular stamp. Given his earlier Pacino vehicle, “Scarface,” the director no doubt has experience delivering this world, of mansions and period style, of lives fueled by booze, drugs, narcissism and dreams. His technique is immersive and operatic, completely suited for these bold characters.
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