Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod

E-mail
Geoffsongs@aol.com

De Palma Discussion
Forum

-------------

Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Are Snakes
Necessary?

De Palma & Lehman
thriller novel to be
published in France
May 16

De Palma Masterclass,
Casualties Of War,
and book signing
June 2 in Paris

Pics, quotes from
Tribeca Scarface reunion

Donaggio records
Domino score with
Massara in Belgium

Washington Post
review of Keesey book

-------------

Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

------------

AV Club Review
of Dumas book

------------

« June 2018 »
S M T W T F S
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Interviews...

De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


Enthusiasms...

De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site

Phantompalooza

No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags

Directorama

The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the
Guillotine

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema

LOLA

Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor

italkyoubored

Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds

EatSleepLiveFilm

No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod
site

Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
BAMcinématek
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities  «
Books
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Cannes
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Carrie
Casualties Of War
Cinema Studies
Columbo - Shooting Script
Cop-Out
Cruising
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dionysus In '69
Domino
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Fire
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Greetings
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Heat
Hi, Mom!
Hitchcock
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Lithgow
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Morricone
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Noah Baumbach
NYFF
Obsession
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parker
Parties & Premieres
Passion
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Predator
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Redacted
Responsive Eye
Retribution
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Sakamoto
Scarface
Sean Penn
Sisters
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Spielberg
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Sweet Vengeance
Tabloid
Tarantino
Taxi Driver
Toronto Film Fest
Toyer
Travolta
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Untouchables
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
TOM WOLFE DIES AT 88
AUTHOR OF 'BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES' REFUSED TO BLAME DE PALMA FOR FAILED ADAPTATION
Tom Wolfe, whose "novel of the 1980s", The Bonfire Of The Vanities, was adapted into the film directed by Brian De Palma, died Monday in a hospital in New York. He was 88.

Wolfe's novel, which had originally been serialized in Rolling Stone magazine, was published in 1987 and quickly became a well-loved, sensational bestseller. De Palma had recently had one of his biggest successes with The Untouchables, and signed on to direct the film version, which was to star Tom Hanks. The film was a high-profile endeavor, covered regularly in the New York and Hollywood press, and De Palma decided to allow Julie Salamon access to all of the goings-on as the film was being made. The resulting book, The Devil's Candy, stands today as a key text about the inside of an expensive Hollywood production. In her book, Salamon interviews Wolfe as the film is being made, and, later, after he has seen the film. Here's that first interview, from her prologue:
That morning the slender, contradictory man was eating grain cereal with stewed fruit and speaking in a thoughtful, slightly formal fashion about how the people from Hollywood were progressing with the movie version of The Bonfire of the Vanities. He mentioned diplomatically that they were being attentive to details.

"I must confess I get my shoes made at New & Lingwood," Wolfe said, dropping the name of the London fabricator of two-thousand-dolloar-a-pair men's shoes with his cultivated mixture of snobbery and modesty. "And the salesman was here in New York, and he said that Tom Hanks had arrived and wanted two pairs of shoes for the movie -- Tom Hanks or whoever was buying shoes for him -- and asked the salesman what kind should we get? And the salesman says, 'Well, in the book it says half-brogues,' and the movie person says, 'Okay, give us those.' I was rather impressed by that because, unless they make a point of it in the script to have the camera focus on the shoes, who's going to know? You have to have a very picky eye like myself to sit around and figure out where the shoes are from. They seem to be concerned with accuracy -- inn certain respects."

He wasn't willing to criticize the moviemakers -- just yet. "I think it's bad manners in the Southern sense to be sharp and critical of it," he said. "I did cash the check." However, with his good Southern manners the author had made it clear to the Hollywood people right after he accepted the $750,000 they paid him for the rights to his book that he didn't want to have anything to do with the making of their movie.

"To tell the truth, I've never wanted to write any script based on something I've done," he said. "From my standpoint it's too bad that movies don't run nine or ten hours. The way I constructed the book, almost every chapter was meant to be a vignette of something else in New York as well as something that might advance the story, and to me one was as important as the other."

The author paused briefly. "It's a fairly simple story. It's not a complicated story. But I wanted there to be all these slices, one after another. Not that I gave very much thought to how the movie could be made, but I never could see how you could do that."

 

In the final chapter of The Devil's Candy, Salamon again interviews Wolfe, who has just watched De Palma's film via a pre-opening day screening for the author and friends:

Tom Wolfe cringed over the movie, just as he'd cringed the first time he saw "The Right Stuff." He saw "Bonfire" two more times after that, hoping he might like it better. He didn't.
He never violated his rule of public silence on the subject of "Bonfire of the Vanities." He hinted that he didn't care for it much, but the worst thing he said was that "the great thing about selling a book to the movies is that nobody blames the author." Wolfe realized that in some way he was a collaborator in this venture, and that he was better off being polite about it all. He also recognized the fact that his books now had a bad track record in Hollywood and it was a good idea to be polite.
In private he confessed that he was dismayed by the picture, that he really disliked the writing in it. "My feeling is that Hollywood rules are always wrong," he said. "Everybody in Hollywood hates to think about writing. It's so uncompromisable in a sense. There's no easy way to improve it. It's so fundamental. You can't make it better with a better deal."
He sympathized with De Palma's dilemma and couldn't see any way to condense the book himself. He had liked the director's idea to use "Dr. Strangelove" as his model for "Bonfire of the Vanities." But Wolfe felt De Palma didn't pull it off. "Dr. Strangelove," he felt, was a bitter farce, with the emphasis on bitter. The director, Stanley Kubrick, had only one message and it was antiwar. In every scene Kubrick set the business of war against the idiocy of the people making the war.
Wolfe couldn't really understand what kind of farce De Palma wanted "Bonfire" to be. "It wasn't a bitter farce and it wasn't a bedroom farce and it wasn't a sweet farce or an agreeable movie," he said. "As far as I can tell they didn't take on a point of view and cleave to it. I'd be pretty hard put to tell you what the point of view is."
And though he understood that few people would believe it, Wolfe (the man who made up phrases like "Heh-heggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!") thought the film was too exaggerated. "It was as if Brian De Palma said, 'Well, I've got to do something extraordinary to pull this off in two hours, so I'm going to try all kinds of things. I'm going to try this "Dr. Strangelove" approach. I'm going to try the most extreme camera angles I've ever used.'"
Wolfe sighed. "If you're going to exaggerate, it has to be done just so, as in 'Dr. Strangelove.' The slightest false note can boomerang. I hesitate to find a great deal of fault with what was done because it was a tough problem to do this thing in two hours. De Palma took a chance. It really didn't pan out."

From today's obit by Rolling Stone's Tim Grierson:

Born in March 1931, Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. grew up in Richmond, Virginia, holding onto his genteel Southern accent all his life. Attending Washington and Lee University, he studied English literature – there was no writing major – and edited the school newspaper's sports section, along the way co-founding the college's literary magazine Shenandoah. After receiving his doctorate at Yale, he worked as a reporter in Springfield, Massachusetts before moving to The Washington Post and then landing at the New York Herald Tribune, whose brash reporting style was summed up by its motto: "Who says a good newspaper has to be dull?" While there, he wrote for the paper's Sunday magazine, which would later become New York magazine, an upstart rival to the more refined New Yorker.

But Wolfe's first major breakthrough came in 1963 with a piece he pitched Esquire about Southern California's world of custom cars. After doing the reporting, though, he panicked about how to write the piece. On the advice of his editor, he sent over his typed-up notes, and the vivid, stream-of-consciousness observations became "There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," one of the landmark documents in the formation of New Journalism — a flashy, giddy prose style whose champions, including idiosyncratic writers like Hunter S. Thompson, were charting the country's changing, turbulent mood during the Sixties.

The techniques Wolfe brought to "Kandy-Kolored" – you-are-there portraiture, inspired digressions, obscene amounts of exclamation marks and italics – would be his trademarks in subsequent works, perhaps most memorably in his 1968 nonfiction book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which didn't just profile Kesey but also the LSD counterculture at large. (Wolfe himself didn't partake in the hallucinogen. "I felt it was really far too dangerous to take a chance," he said in 2016, "and they didn't try to pressure me.")

Wolfe always dove into unique ecosystems in order to present a macro view of American life. 1979's The Right Stuff, which started as a series of pieces in Rolling Stone about the Mercury Seven astronauts, became a commentary on the country's can-do spirit and the breadth of its ambition. No matter the topic, Wolfe learned quickly that trying to blend in with his subjects actually hurt his reporting — pretending to know more than he did kept him from learning the basics of the worlds he was embedded in.

"People really don't want you to try to fit in," he said in a 1980 interview with Rolling Stone. "They'd much rather fill you in. People like to have someone to tell their stories to. So if you're willing to be the village information gatherer, they'll often just pile material on you. My one contribution to the discipline of psychology is my theory of information compulsion. Part of the nature of the human beast is a feeling of scoring a few status points by telling other people things they don't know. So this does work in your favor."

In that same interview, he mentioned that he was considering writing his first novel. "I'm doing something that I've had on my mind for a long time, which is a Vanity Fair book about New York, à la Thackeray," he offered, later adding, "[N]ovelists themselves hardly touch the city. How they can pass up the city, I don't know. The city was a central — character is not a very good way to put it, but it was certainly a dominant theme — in the works of Dickens, Zola, Thackeray, Balzac. So many talented writers now duck the city as a subject. And this is one of the most remarkable periods of the cities."

After years of research and reporting, Wolfe achieved his lofty goal by publishing The Bonfire of the Vanities, an epic, swaggering tome that began as installments in Rolling Stone. The book introduced the world to Sherman McCoy, a wealthy and morally corrupt bond trader who, in another lively Wolfe turn of phrase, was a "Master of the Universe" during Wall Street's giddy Eighties boom. Receiving glowing reviews and enjoying phenomenal sales, The Bonfire of the Vanities tackled not just New York but also racism, masculinity, economic inequality, a broken justice system and the tabloid press — all the while being wickedly funny and unexpectedly moving. It was quintessential Wolfe: knee-deep in the messy vibrancy of American life but sharply insightful about the country's contradictions and shortcomings.

"When I was writing that book, it was with a spirit of wonderment," he confessed later. "I was saying [excitedly], 'Look at these people! Look at what they're doing! Look at that one! Look at that one!' It was only after I finished and read it over that I see that there is a cumulative effect that leads to [a dark reading of the book]."


Posted by Geoff at 8:45 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 11:18 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
TWEET - BATTLEAXE VOICE
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetbattleaxevoice.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 11:36 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, October 16, 2016
'BONFIRE' SERIES IN DEVELOPMENT AT WB/AMAZON
CHUCK LORRE BEHIND 8-PART "REBOOT"; TOM WOLFE JUST FOUND OUT FROM COLUMNIST
On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg and Kate Stanhope reported an exclusive that Chuck Lorre is developing an 8-part event mini-series adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Lorre is "under a rich overall deal" with Warner Bros. Television, according to Goldberg and Stanhope, where the project stems from. It had been shopped to cable and streaming outlets, and has now been picked up for development by Amazon.

According to the report, which attempts to attach the buzzword "reboot" to the project, "Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire, Red Band Society) is set to pen the script and exec produce alongside Lorre. Author and political reporter David Corn will serve as a consultant. Amazon Studios, WBTV and Chuck Lorre Productions are the producers on it."

Meanwhile, according to Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman, Wolfe himself knew nothing of the new project until Friedman called him up to ask him about it. "I guess he’s calling his agents on Monday," Friedman surmises.

THE FILM STAGE: DE PALMA'S 'BONFIRE' DESERVES MORE RECOGNITION

Last month, The Film Stage's Jonah Jeng wrote an essay in defense of Brian De Palma's 1990 feature adaptation of Wolfe's book. "De Palma’s confident, hilarious polemic is a formidable achievement, hitting places that hurt in 1990 and, sadly, continue to hurt today," Jeng states. "That the film feels like it was made for the 2016 moment is a depressing testament to the state of race relations in America, but it is also precisely this continued relevancy that makes Bonfire necessary viewing."

A bit later in the essay, Jeng discusses how De Palma's style fits with the absurdity on display in the film:

"Some satire is subtle in its magnifications of reality. The Bonfire of the Vanities takes a different, more boisterous route, fitting De Palma’s florid directorial tendencies like a glove. Scenes turn to farce to convey the moral absurdity of the characters’ actions, whether in Abe’s wild gesticulations or in the way we are introduced to the Reverend via a very Spike Lee-esque, low-angle shot that imparts onto him the exaggeratedly looming presence of a cartoon villain. De Palma’s cinematographic stylizations, so generative of suspense in Sisters and operatic in Scarface, here serve a different but no less meaningful purpose. The camerawork is sometimes highly precise in its satirical function, such as when a dolly zoom is used to parody the experience of white fear. At other points, the cinematography creates the more abstract impression that the camera is emulating this film’s plot-level zaniness. Often, De Palma appears to be channeling the story’s ludicrous energy by way of his trademark visual acrobatics — weird camera angles, split diopter shots, long takes, etc. — which, in turn, intensify the energy that gave rise to them."


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2016 8:05 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
TWEET: 'BONFIRE' STAFF ASSISTANT

Posted by Geoff at 10:12 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, January 14, 2016
RICHARD LIBERTINI HAS DIED
Richard Libertini, who had a brief role as a high school teacher in Brian De Palma's The Bonfire Of The Vanities, died January 7. He was 82. According to the Associated Press, Libertini's ex-wife Melinda Dillon said he'd had a two-year long battle with cancer. According to an obituary in the New York Times, Libertini began his career as part of the Second City improvisational troupe in Chicago, and went on to have memorable roles in films such as The In-Laws and All Of Me, as well as many roles on Broadway and TV. "Richard Libertini is a master of what could be called the comedy of madness," wrote Mel Gussow in a 1986 New York Times review of Neapolitan Ghosts on stage. "His funniest characters are furious and at least on the borderline of delirium. Those of us who have been enjoying his performances since he and MacIntyre Dixon first created the 'Stewed Prunes' comedy team in the 1960's - through his appearances in films such as The In-Laws - have been waiting to see him play a leading role in a classic farce..."

Posted by Geoff at 3:50 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 14, 2016 3:52 AM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, November 1, 2015
TOM WOLFE SPEAKS AFTER 'BONFIRE' SCREENING
"IT TAKES A WHILE TO REALIZE... IT'S NOT GOING TO BE YOUR BOOK" -- VIDEO AVAILABLE
The photo at left (taken by Bruce Gilbert) shows Tom Wolfe, seated in between U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and moderator Thane Rosenbaum, discussing his novel The Bonfire Of The Vanities on stage following a screening of Brian De Palma's film adaptation. The screening, which took place this past Tuesday (October 27th), was part of the 10th Annual Forum on Law, Culture & Society Film Festival. A video of the discussion is available at LiveStream, and David Lot has posted a piece about the event at Above The Law (which is where the photo here comes from).

"I had low expectations for the movie," writes Lot, "generally regarded as a 'critical and commercial flop,' so I was pleasantly surprised by its entertainment quotient — I wouldn’t call it 'good,' but I would call it 'fun' — and by the amount of law it contains. Morgan Freeman chews the scenery as the benchslap-happy Judge Leonard White, Kevin Dunn does a fine job portraying defense lawyer Tom Killian (inspired by the real-life celebrity lawyer Ed Hayes), the plot turns on an evidentiary issue and the legality of recording conversations in New York, and the film concludes with a stirring courtroom oration by Judge White about the nature of justice.

"(It’s also a pleasure to see the younger versions of several high-profile actors — Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall — especially Hanks, who was quite nice-looking back when he had more hair and fewer pounds. His acting has improved over the years even if his physique has not. Watching him in Bonfire, I thought about how much better he is in the new legal thriller, Bridge of Spies."

TRANSCRIPT FROM BEGINNING OF VIDEO: TOM WOLFE ON BOOK VS. MOVIE

Here's a brief transcript from the beginning of the discussion (viewed at LiveStream), in which Wolfe discusses some differences between the book and the film:

Rosenbaum: It’s been, now, thirty years since the events of this novel—and the best-selling experience of this novel—how often do you watch the film? I know you and your wife sat in our audience and watched it. Was it miserable for you, are you happy to be here watching the film? What is it like when your novel is adapted into a movie—a critically-acclaimed novel—adapted into a movie that’s considered a flop?

Wolfe: It takes a while to realize that if someone makes a movie out of your work, it’s not going to be your book. It’s going to be something very different. And this was very… different. [Laughter] For example, at the end of the film, there’s a marvelous, heartfelt, sermon, really, from the judge. And it kind of sweeps your emotions away there at the end, it’s… everything is working out well. In the book, the judge and Sherman McCoy are running for their lives. [Laughing] They had the same mob in there. The outcome’s a little different. Also, this is an example of the changes: the studio was not happy, once they had the book, to see that the book ends with a white judge giving a lecture to a predominantly black audience. And they said, “wait, we can’t do that!” So that’s why they brought in Morgan Freeman, who’s a wonderful actor, but it completely changes the plot of the book. And not completely, but to a large part.

Rosenbaum: And Sherman McCoy, who you unsparingly made unsympathetic in the novel, once the part was given to Tom Hanks, he was treated much more favorably.

Wolfe: Oh, I think that wasn’t accidental, either. We’ve got this man born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and who’s going to have any sympathy for him? You can’t help but have sympathy for Tom Hanks, if he wants you to have sympathy. [Laughter]

Rosenbaum: You know, I was wondering, if you’re reading the papers nowadays, if, for you, whether the novel and the film are a déjà vu all over again. I remember in the novel, Reverend Bacon, it’s not in the film, at some point says, “Is a black life worth less than a white life?” And that sounds a lot like “Black Lives Matter.” Which is, as you know, a mantra of today. And the 2008 financial crises, we had Occupy Wall Street, and now we’re living in an era where there’s a great backlash against bankers, Wall Street insiders, there’s a great sense of wealth inequality, class divisions, and those feelings are precisely the way people responded to Sherman McCoy in the eighties. And it must be weird to you, as if things either haven’t changed, or this is really the sequel—we’re living the sequel of Bonfire Of The Vanities.

Wolfe: Well, one thing that has changed is that, in Bonfire Of The Vanities, there’s a… tremendous emphasis is put on Wall Street, for example. Well, we still know about Wall Street, but the Masters of the Universe are on their feet, they’re shouting as things go for sale, for bidding. Neckties are pulled down, coats and jackets are off. I happened to go through Wall Street twenty-five years after the book came out. You would not recognize the place! Nobody’s standing up and shouting. It’s mostly… at one point, what was known as high-speed trading was almost 75% of the market. And all of the great Masters of the Universe are now all clerks behind their computers, and if they have anything to say, they have to say it on… they have to tweet it. And that’s about it. That’s a huge change.


Posted by Geoff at 8:30 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 1, 2015 8:32 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, September 17, 2015
TOM WOLFE TO SPEAK AT 'BONFIRE' SCREENING
25 YEARS ON, AUTHOR TO REFLECT ON THE NOVEL & FILM AT 92Y IN NYC, OCT. 27
Thanks to Hugh for letting us know that Tom Wolfe will speak following a screening of The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Brian De Palma's film adaptation of Wolfe's most famous novel. The event will take place at 7pm October 27th, at 92nd Street Y in New York City. The screening is part of the 10th Annual Forum on Law, Culture & Society Film Festival, which presents "films that illuminate the moral dilemmas and dramatic moments of the legal system."

The 92Y web page offers this description of the event: "This comedy-drama starring Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis explores the mix of ambition, racism, politics and greed in 1980s New York, when being a Master of the Universe defined the very meaning of Wall Street excess and entitlement. Twenty-five years on, Tom Wolfe reflects on the novel and film, and United States Attorney Preet Bharata offers his view on its continued relevance."

In addition to Wolfe and Bharata, novelist and law professor Thane Rosenbaum will also be on hand for the post-film discussion.


Posted by Geoff at 12:04 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 18, 2015 11:14 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, July 4, 2015
JUST SAYIN'


"That was the first time I'd experienced a director shooting long takes like that. I think he was experimenting with the knowledge that he could edit them down or leave them if he wanted. He was shooting no coverage. I've been in long sequences but mostly in action movies, and I don't put Unbreakable in that category. These long takes were revelatory."

--Bruce Willis, discussing M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable (2000) in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (double-issue #1371/1372, July 10/17 2015).

Posted by Geoff at 3:16 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 4, 2015 3:18 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
HOLMES: 'BONFIRE' LACKED LOVE OF SOURCE MATERIAL
THOUGHTS AS SHE READ 'DEVIL'S CANDY' AND EXPERIENCED OTHER ART WORKS OVER WEEKEND
In a "Monkey See" essay for NPR, Linda Holmes discusses three pop culture activities she experienced last weekend, including reading Julie Salamon's The Devil's Candy, which details the making of Brian De Palma's The Bonfire Of The Vanities. One of the other two activities involved spending about five hours on Saturday at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art with a rented audio guide unit. The third is described by Holmes at the beginning of this excerpt from her essay:
----------------------

Saturday night at 8:00, I saw a live performance of The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker's "staged production in the style of old-time radio." It was packed with comedy podcast royalty and guests, including Paul F. Tompkins, Scott Aukerman, Scott Adsit, Paget Brewster, Wyatt Cenac, Busy Phillips, Zachary Levi, Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm, John Hodgman, Marc Evan Jackson, too many funny people to list if we're being perfectly serious as you can now see, and Dick "Yes, That Dick Cavett" Cavett. They performed radio plays about vampires, Martians, time travel, glamorous married people drinking to excess, robot hands, a succubus, and roving bands of invisible stupid wise men. The audience at Town Hall whooped and roared so unreservedly that a lady sitting near me kept sticking her fingers in her ears, overwhelmed.

In between, and all weekend, I read The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco, Julie Salamon's 464-page, more than 20-year-old book – dishy, sad, and fascinating – about the making and flopping of Brian De Palma's film The Bonfire Of The Vanities. In the book, a project that begins with the conviction that adapting Tom Wolfe's novel can only result in the rare film both admirable and popular suffers wound upon wound: an unrealistic schedule, unrelenting industry gossip, a cynical casting change, location debacles (one involving a scene that couldn't be shot as planned in the Temple of Dendur), resistance in the Bronx to stereotypical depictions thereof, enormous egos coexisting about as successfully as a family of elephants in a college dorm room, and the fact that from the beginning, Wolfe's acidic outlook seems utterly incompatible with the desire – and, given the money being spent, the imperative – to make a hit.

At the museum, there is an ivory comb from the Egyptian Predynastic Period. Roughly 3200 B.C., they say. They suggest it might have been part of the accoutrements of someone's funeral more than 5000 years ago; more than 20 times the entire history of the country the museum is housed in. More than 115 times as long as I've been alive. The teeth of the comb are broken off; what remains is a little more than two inches tall and a little less than two inches wide, and those four square inches hold more than 20 individual renderings of animals. The carvings have symbolic significance, but they're also carefully and elegantly done, particularly on a piece so small. The comb played a role, perhaps, in an important ritual, but it's also a beautiful object, like many of the drums and bowls and pieces of blown glass.

The piece was, then, meant to be an offering of the artist's skills, to convey a meaning, to evoke an emotion, and to bring pleasure. So was The Bonfire Of The Vanities. So was The Thrilling Adventure Hour.

Those aren't the only purposes to which these other works are being put: the film was also engineered to make money, of course, perhaps cripplingly so. The live show, while far less damned by its relationship to commerce, is part of the performers' livelihoods particularly in the broad sense, since many of them remain people whose projects might well be described using, at some point, the word "cult." It supports you, the cult, but only sometimes does it keep you in food and shelter. And it demands to be fed in return, of course.

The Bonfire Of The Vanities didn't just aspire to keep people in food and shelter; it aspired to keep people in mansions and private planes. What it doesn't have that The Thrilling Adventure Hour has is an animating love of the material. Everyone involved seemed to have assumed Wolfe's book was capital-G Great, whether or not they had read it, but they began excising its controversial elements – which in this case meant its essential elements – almost immediately. There was so much money, there were so many trailers, there was so much fake rain, there were so many gowns and extras ... but the way Salamon tells the tale, few of them were – maybe nobody was – there for love.


-----------------------

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:07 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, August 9, 2013
DE PALMA ON 'BONFIRE'
"LOOKING BACK, I FIND IT A VERY SUCCESSFUL PICTURE"
Bullett Media's Joshua Sperling asked Brian De Palma to discuss "5 of his most unforgettable films." Of course, one of the five is his newest, Passion, still pretty unforgettable. However, the most interesting portion of the article has De Palma talking about his adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire Of The Vanities, which De Palma had originally defended, but then in more recent years, seemed to have conceded to having made some mistakes with the film by altering the source novel. Now, more than 20 years after its release, De Palma tells Sperling that he finds his film successful, after all. Sperling himself states that Bonfire "now ranks as one of De Palma’s most underrated and exuberant studies of the absurd theater of American politics."

Here is what De Palma said to Sperling about the film: "The opening tracking shot was a very important way into the film. It took about 27 or 28 takes to get it right. The idea for the shot actually came from observing Truman Capote stumbling into parties completely drunk or drugged-up. I had been to a lot of those parties and I thought that’s how it should be for Bruce’s character: the voyage from the parking garage up through all the different strata of New York high society until his arrival at the huge palm garden of the World Trade Center. I started out making political comedies, caustic commentaries about the state of our society. The Bonfire of the Vanities felt like an extension of that. When I read the book I quite liked it. I thought it was an acerbic rendering of a particular madness going on in the ’80s. When I was adapting it I thought I should make the central banker character a little more sympathetic than he was in the book, and Tom [Hanks] was a good choice for that. But, of course, the film unnerved everybody because it wasn’t like the novel, which was, by then, a treasured icon of the New York literary scene. I changed things to make the film more palatable but they ended up upsetting a lot of people and it got very bad reviews. Looking back, I find it a very successful picture. It just isn’t the book."

M:I - "IT'S EXCITING TO HAVE A BLOCKBUSTER"
Another film discussed is Mission: Impossible. "This was the first film Tom [Cruise] ever produced," De Palma tells Sperling. "Because I’d produced a couple of pictures at that point, he and his partner Paula [Wagner] at times relied on my judgment. I remember that Tom was very responsive and straightforward. There were two very difficult scenes in the film: the CIA vault scene and the one atop the train. We had a jet engine creating the wind for the train sequence. You couldn’t stand up without being blown off. The shot where Tom does the flip, that’s really dangerous stuff for anyone to do. He did it twice for us, which was very brave. We were on top of that train for weeks and weeks. As for the CIA vault, that was my idea. I’d wanted to do an incredible action sequence that was completely silent. And then I had to think of all the things that could go wrong as the character tried to lower himself upside-down into this mythic vault. It was a sequence I thought about for months and months before I actually filmed it. Whatever people say, it’s always exciting to have a blockbuster. Everybody thinks you’re a genius for 30 seconds."

THE MEGALOMANIA OF AMERICAN SOCIETY
De Palma also talks about Carrie and Scarface. Of the latter, he tells Sperling, "Some people say this film is excessive—I disagree. The script was a direct report by Oliver [Stone] on the places he visited in Miami. He saw all the clubs, the coke on the tables. People were cutting each other up with chainsaws! We had a battle with the MPAA because they wanted to give it an X rating. We even had narcotics cops from Florida come to testify that people should see this film because it showed what was actually happening. On a deeper, thematic level, Scarface is about something that recurs in a lot of my films: the megalomania of American society that can lead to excessiveness, greed, and very cruel interplays between people who are desperate to stay on top. Wealth and power isolates you. Whether you’re Walt Disney or Hugh Hefner, you create a bubble around yourself. It’s that old cliché: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Pacino conveyed that perfectly. He kept his Cuban accent, on- and off-set. His sidekick in the film, Steven Bauer, was Cuban, so they were constantly speaking in that accent during the shoot. There are a lot of quotable moments in the film but my favorite is, ‘Every day above ground is a good day.’"


Posted by Geoff at 12:53 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 9, 2013 5:55 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink | Share This Post

Newer | Latest | Older