(THANKS TO ALEXANDRE FOR POINTING US TO THESE TWO YOUTUBE VIDEOS)
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
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.
Years ago, when I was working at Production Arts Lighting, we got a call from Brian De Palma's people. De Palma (who I had encountered before on The Untouchables when working for Bran Ferren) was shooting Carlito's Way, and he wanted a scene entirely "illuminated" by the flash of a (blank) gun. They did some tests, and, if I remember correctly, the gun flash wasn't bright enough, and too short to be adequately exposed on the camera. They wanted to take a big 5K fresnel, and have it respond to the sound of the gunshots. We didn't have a lot of time, so we borrowed a pitch-MIDI converter, ran it through Bars and Pipes on an Amiga, and then I wrote some filters there that would generate MIDI messages for a lighting console, that would fire a dimmer which would then light up the 5K. It was very reliable, but with all that early 90's technology, very slow. We did some gun shots, and by the time everything was captured and processed, and the 5K heated up, it was like a second late. It looked pretty cool but was too slow in general to achieve the desired effect.
I have been working on something for the Blog-A-Thon that nevertheless was not finished in time-- my piece grew after I discovered some things about the films I was writing about that I hadn't picked up on before. As a result, I had to do a little more research (i.e. watch more films), which is great, but I was not able to complete my essay before the Blog-A-Thon ended. But I do thank Tony for giving me the incentive to write this piece in the first place, and I hope to have it completed and posted by early next week.
POLL RESULTS: RANKING DE PALMA'S FILMS
The last big survey of De Palma fans' favorite De Palma films was done in 2002 by Carl Rodrigue at Le Paradis de Brian De Palma (Romain at Virtuoso of the 7th Art also has one going right now through October 4th). As the Blog-A-Thon ended, so did the Cinema Viewfinder poll, which ended up with 168 votes tallied from users voting for their three favorite De Palma films, in no particular order. Amazingly, the top four titles are the same as the 2002 poll, with the exception that Dressed To Kill was number 2 back then (at Cinema Viewfinder it switches with Carrie and takes the number 3 spot). While Femme Fatale was number 5 all on its own back when it was brand new, it remains number 5 today, although now Body Double has jumped up to tie for the position (the latter was number 9 in 2002). The top ten are further filled out by The Untouchables, Scarface, Phantom Of The Paradise, and Sisters. Here is the entire list:
1. Blow Out
3. Dressed To Kill
4. Carlito’s Way
5. Femme Fatale/Body Double (Tie)
7. The Untouchables
9. Phantom Of The Paradise
11. The Fury/Mission: Impossible (Tie)
13. Casualties Of War
14. Raising Cain
15. The Black Dahlia
17. Hi, Mom!/Snake Eyes (Tie)
20. Mission To Mars
21. Dionysus In ‘69
22. Murder a la Mod/Greetings/Get To Know Your Rabbit/Home Movies/The Bonfire Of The Vanities (each received one vote)
27. The Wedding Party/Wise Guys (each received zero votes)
We will see how these votes stack up against Romain's poll in October.
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