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Monday, September 18, 2017

Nate Lam, Before The Cyborgs
Brian De Palma’s Carrie Remains a Horror Classic

Where more traditional horrors films will frame the villain as monsters out to cause destruction or fulfill some psychopathic urge, Carrie sees the villain as human with redeemable qualities. As the film progresses and Carrie's telekinetic powers become increasingly violent she adopts more of an anti-hero persona than one of an actual monster. In essence you almost want her to exact her revenge on her bullies. Selling this capacity to cheer for Carrie is essential to how well the film plays out; a trait that is not as well conveyed in the 2013 remake resulting in an inferior film.

Watching this film in 2017 (40+ years after its initial 1976 release), many of the Carrie’s more graphic scenes will seem tame by today’s standards (just compare the prom scenes) but it is not the graphic horror that makes Carrie a cultural touchstone rather it is a product of its progressiveness and De Palma’s sheer brilliance behind the camera. For one, Carrie puts female characters at the forefront - something today’s films still struggle with in their representation of women - and two - Carrie addresses adolescent issues in regards to bullying and identity long before John Hughes would popularize the teen genre in the 80s.

Stephen King would go on to write many more stories after Carrie, many of which would also be adapted for the screen to varying results. He would even return to explore themes of growing up and the challenges associated with that process in works like It and The Body (the basis for Stand By Me) but Carrie stands alone as the work that showcased the beginnings of a world renowned author and what a Stephen King movie could be.

Scott Beggs, Nerdist
Every Stephen King Film Ranked

3. Carrie (1976)
The world’s introduction to King as a writer became the world’s introduction to his stories as films. Before he was a brand, he was an author with a hit, and the success of Brian De Palma’s almost surely set the blood-covered stage for King’s long career in cinema. As the castigated girl with telepathic powers, Sissy Spacek plays Carrie to squirrelly perfection, and Piper Laurie embodies irrational fury as a mother who instills a terror of natural things into the heart of her supernatural daughter. Every scene is mined for discomfort and thematic exploration, finding the nooks and crannies of a girl offered no safe haven from her life. The prom gives us the memes, but the confrontation with her mother afterward is the scene of the film, exorcising all the tiny and gargantuan demons whispered into this young woman’s soul since she had her first period in the locker room showers. That’s two riveting, appalling finales for the price of one.

Parker Bowman, Visalia Times-Delta
Ranking the best and worst Stephen King movies

“Carrie” (1976) — Sissy Spacek was nominated for an Oscar for her titular role in this film about an awkward teen tormented by schoolmates by day and by her religious zealot mother by night. She realizes she can use her psychic powers for revenge, resulting in the split-screen prom climax scene that is synonymous with the film and is one of director Brian De Palma’s finest moments.

Anthony Breznican, Entertainment Weekly
How Stephen King scared a generation of storytellers into existence

There were legitimately great films made from King’s novels in the early days. Brian De Palma’s sleek and stylish 1976 adaptation of King’s first novel, Carrie, helped boost the author’s profile; David Cronenberg blended his brand of psychological dread with King’s in 1983’s The Dead Zone; and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is arguably one of the finest horror films in history. (Arguing against that claim is King himself, who strongly dislikes the movie.)

Kubrick was dismissive of King in return, telling an interviewer shortly after the movie debuted that he found the novel’s ending “a bit hackneyed,” although earlier in the same conversation he had called the book “one of the most ingenious and exciting stories of the genre.”

This seemed to be the attitude of most sophisticated filmmakers toward King’s early works. There was a stiff-armed approach, an acknowledgment that something meaningful was there, but a crippling condescension toward the horror or supernatural elements, as if the directors were slumming it with material undeserving of serious thought, unless, perhaps, they could elevate it.

King’s work literally scared many good directors away. Those who fully embraced his horror tales, like the makers of TV movies and some of the schlockier pictures, often responded to King’s visceral properties but missed the cerebral.

Manuela Lazic, little white lies
Every Stephen King film adaptation, ranked

1. Carrie (1976)
It seems inevitable that De Palma and King would work together. While King the writer tends to express overblown anxieties about more or less mundane problems through grotesquely exaggerated stories, DePalma the director employs cinematic language to evoke the visceral intensity of such fears, however absurd they may seem.

When adapting Carrie, De Palma understood that King’s far fetched story of periods paranoia needed to be translated into simple yet striking images of pure horror in order to bypass ridicule. Using visual style, performance, editing, and a gorgeous soundtrack by regular collaborator Pino Donaggio, De Palma managed to introduce Carrie’s untamed magical powers into the tacky, often amusing but cruel world of high school rivalries, with shocking vigour. Carrie’s outburst is made not only terrifying, but also heartbreaking by the fact that the director let his audience get attached to her suffering at the hands of her classmates, her mother, and her puberty, before unleashing her revenge in a wordless sequence of unforgettable bloodshed.

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Matthew Chernov, Variety
The Best and Worst Stephen King Adaptations Ranked

1. Carrie (1976)
Like a fairytale passed down for countless generations, King’s deceptively simple story about a lonely, mistreated teenage girl who unleashes her inner rage during the senior prom is so elemental and universal, it feels as though it’s been part of our collective consciousness forever. Miraculously, Brian De Palma’s dazzling film version only heightened the novel’s inherent strength. In the very first Stephen King adaptation, Oscar nominees Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie capture every tragic nuance of Carrie and Margaret White, while up-and-comers like John Travolta, Amy Irving and Nancy Allen shine in colorful supporting roles. But it’s De Palma’s unsurpassed mastery of the medium that pushes “Carrie” to the top of the list. From the languidly erotic locker room title sequence to the electrifying final jolt, “Carrie” is in a class by itself.

Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
30 Minutes on: "It" (2017)

The sense of the creature's being intimately connected to the history of Derry doesn't come through as strongly as it might, though. That tends to sever the main characters from their town, minimizing the sense that an entire community has a stake in the outcome of the tale and turning it into more of a small-scaled, personal story about individuals conquering their demons by conquering an actual demon. The film treads lightly over his role in a racially motivated incident of arson in Derry's past—the burning of The Black Spot, a club frequented by black soldiers, by The Maine Legion of White Decency—and the gang of white bullies that regularly terrorizes our heroes never uses any slurs when harassing the lone black member of the Loser's Club (Mike Hanlon, played by Chosen Jacobs), leaving racial animosity more implied than stated. The movie also fails to connect particular horrific visions to the characters that inspired them in ways that would might them truly pop, as great setpieces in the Stephen King filmography do (the only girl in the group, Sophia Lillis' Bev Marsh, gets drowned in blood a la "The Shining" elevator not long after buying tampons in a drugstore, a vision worthy of Brian De Palma's original "Carrie," but there's little sense of the incidents being symbolically connected, a conspicuous failure for a horror movie of this type). At two hours and fifteen minutes, the movie also starts to develop a monotonous rhythm, serving up regular jolts at the ends of scenes where characters have a freaky/mysterious experience, almost always ending with Pennywise getting up in their faces or chasing them out of the room, his body shimmering and spazzing like a ghost in a Japanese horror movie.

Jordan Raup, The Film Stage
Review of It

With a more ceremonious unveiling than the other Hollywood adaptation of a Stephen King property this year, It is slickly calibrated to please its spook-hungry audience. Functioning more as a roller coaster ride of frights and humor than a dread-inducing exercise in terror, Andy Muschietti’s Mama follow-up doesn’t have the inspired vision or thematic complexity to join Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick in the pantheon of the (very few) masterful cinematic retellings of the celebrated author. However, for a Halloween precursor, there is a respectable amount of carnivalesque mischief to be found in this cinematic equivalent of a deranged jack-in-the-box.

Henry Bevan, The Flickering Myth
Remembering Carrie, the best Stephen King adaptation

The camera glides through the girls’ locker room. The girls are in various states of undress; steam from the shower creates a dreamlike quality, shrouding the scene, fogging up the lens. The camera pushes in on Carrie (Sissy Spacek) as she rubs herself with soap. It focuses on various parts of her naked body, before settling on a close up of her thighs. It lingers for longer than is comfortable as water trickles between her legs. Then, the water turns to blood.

Pino Donaggio’s sensual score starts screeching as Brian De Palma perverts the male gaze, slashing the male fantasy of female representation by showing them something they will never fully understand: menstruation. The scene becomes horrific and is indicative of Carrie, Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel, a film whose horror lies in the director’s repeated attempts of rupturing film fantasy.

With It seemingly scaring up a massive opening weekend, it is an ideal time for articles on Stephen King adaptations (timeliness equals hits, normally) and Carrie remains one of the best adaptations because of how it grounds fantasy in reality. We are not scared of Carrie because of what she can do. We are scared of Carrie because we could be her. Everyone fears being picked on, being ridiculed, and everyone dreams they’d hit back at their bullies. Carrie, with her telekinetic powers, has the power to fight back, but she chooses not to. She massacres the student body only when the bullying gets too much.

At the Prom De Palma interrupts Carrie’s, and our, dreams. The soft lighting when she becomes Prom Queen turns sharp as she kills everyone in her path, even the “nice” gym teacher gets chopped in two. The murderous rampage shies away from gratuity, and, whether or not this is because of the limitations of the time, it helps makes the film feel real. The car crash looks like something you’d see on the news, it looks mundane.

While comparing films is a cheap form of criticism, Kimberly Peirce’s adequate 2013 re-imagining leans heavily into fantasy. Her car crash is a drawn out experience, captured in slow motion with more blood, and that’s saying something. It’s overt popcorn horror actually makes the film less scary, and even though 2013 Carrie’s powers are more empowering as she actively hones them and enjoys her revenge, it lacks the emotional resonance of someone exploding when they’ve been pushed too far. Peirce’s third-act horrors are how we think we would act in her situation. De Palma’s restrained third-act horrors are how we would act.

Carrie is as grounded in reality as a film featuring telekinesis can be. Carrie’s telekinetic bursts are surprising because they are not the story, they are the fantastical punctuation marks in her toxic reality. The story is concerned with bullying, sex education (lack of), and patriarchal domination; timeless themes and problems we still haven’t solved in the 41 years since the film entered cinemas. De Palma shows a filmmaking intelligence missing from most horror movies. He creates a terrifying film from skipping blood and jump scares, instead focusing on twisting fantasy moments and film language. The male gaze, a staple of most movies, is amped up to softcore porn levels before reality interrupts the fantasy with a trickle of blood.

Posted by Geoff at 8:05 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 3, 2017
With a new adaptation of Stephen King's It opening this Friday, there have been many articles of late discussing the many adaptations of King's works. A couple of days ago, Scott Tobias posted an article at the Washington Post with the headline, "The secrets to making great Stephen King movies"...
Some have stuck to the page, letter by letter, and others have only a casual relationship to the text — neither approach is a guaranteed winner.

But there are some connections to be made among the strongest King adaptations. The first is counterintuitive: King characters are best understood from the inside out. That goes against conventional wisdom, because the most adaptable books tend to be short on interior monologue and long on external action, which is why a sledgehammer narrative such as James M. Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice” has been adapted multiple times in English, in Italian (“Obsessione”), in German (“Jerichow”) and in Chinese (“Ju Dou”), and the novel’s murderous love triangle has been resonant every single time. Finding some visual analog for a character’s thoughts is a trickier proposition.

Yet the true horror of films such as “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “The Dead Zone” and “Christine” has to do with transformation, of ordinary stresses escalating into supernatural possession. In Brian De Palma’s hands, “Carrie” turns a teenage girl’s coming of age into a tale of profound isolation and sexual repression, with her desire for womanhood thwarted by her cackling peers on one side and the shame of her fanatically religious mother on the other. Even when her extrasensory powers torch the high school and beyond on prom night, it’s as heartbreaking as it is horrific, a manifestation of pain she can no longer manage.

In Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and John Carpenter’s “Christine,” there’s a chicken-and-the-egg quality to the relationship between the lead character and the sinister object of their obsession. Perhaps the Overlook Hotel or that snarling 1958 Plymouth Fury would wreak havoc without them, but human weakness and temptation are animating forces in both films, to the point where a symbiosis develops between those forces. We might fear the goings-on in Room 237 or the animal roar of a sentient muscle car, but the source of each fear is so deeply connected to one man’s ravaged psyche, we can’t get a distance from it. David Cronenberg’s “The Dead Zone” makes a curse out of a gift, martyring a man who can see the future at the price of his life.

The other common thread is filmmakers who refuse to act as stenographers and invent or embellish beyond the page. Despite all the misbegotten adaptations of his works, King is most famous for detesting what Kubrick did with “The Shining,” a film many would rank among the scariest of all time. But at the center of that animus is King’s perception of creative disrespect: He wrote a deeply personal horror novel about alcoholism and authorship, only to have Kubrick strip it for parts with the ruthlessness of a chop-shop mechanic. Yet it was Kubrick’s prerogative as an artist to reimagine the novel and make the film a separate entity.

Although other filmmakers haven’t been as dismissive of the source material, they’ve benefited from their own invention. Frank Darabont had to expand on novellas to turn “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Mist” into full-bodied features, but the former now trades places with “The Godfather” as the top user-rated movie on IMDb, and the latter concocts an ending of astonishing darkness. A little creativity was also necessary to turn King’s novella “The Body” into “Stand By Me,” but director Rob Reiner honors the nostalgia and ache at the heart of King’s coming-of-age story, even as it was impossible to write to the letter. When Reiner later took on King’s “Misery,” about an author held captive by his biggest fan, he favored psychological violence over the physical brutality of the novel, but he makes one thwack to the ankles count.

Carrie will be screened at midnight showings this Friday and Saturday at Gardena Cinema in California, as the first of "two of the best Stephen King feature film adaptations," according to the flyer partially seen above. The other film is Cronenberg's The Dead Zone, which will play Fri/Sat midnight the following weekend.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 4, 2017 12:11 AM CDT
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Brian De Palma's Carrie will be the Late Night Grindhouse feature this Friday and Saturday (April 28 and 29) at the Moolah Theatre & Lounge in St. Louis. The film will begin at midnight both nights, with a Psychotronic Pre-Show at 11:30, including a "Horror Prom Photo Booth." Tickets are $7.

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CDT
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Saturday, February 4, 2017

In Michael Reich's autobiographical She's Allergic To Cats, Mike Pinkney plays a character whose dream project is a remake of his favorite horror film, Carrie, done with live-action cats. The film also stars Sonja Kinski, the daughter of Nastassja Kinski and granddaughter of Klauss Kinski. It is by most accounts a bizarre, surreal, and yet warm experience. It is playing tonight (February 4th) and February 9th at the SF Indie Fest, having played the Fantasia Fest last summer (watch the trailer on Vimeo). "Simultaneously bizarre and conventional," wrote Birth. Movies. Death.'s Andrew Todd last summer, "She’s Allergic is a paradox and a miracle: a film informed by (and part of) a dirty VHS aesthetic, without being subsumed by it, filled with surreal humour that’s not there by accident." Here's a bit more from Todd's Fantasia review:
The performances are aided by a directorial eye that lasers in on things most directors would gloss over. Mike’s job as a dog groomer is explored in lurid detail, his boss waxing poetic over lathering techniques and engaging in a lengthy diversion into the need for expressing dogs’ anal glands. A significant portion of the film’s running time is made up of investigations into the logistics of Mike’s Cat Carrie production. Another lengthy sequence involves the dissection of a stranger’s DVD collection, with prominent shout-outs to Congo and Howard the Duck that ride waves of audience laughter with ease. Even ordinary dialogue exchanges are frequently given subtle, unexpected twists that push them into the realm of the absurd.

Shot in 4K on Red cameras and downgraded through DVD players, MiniDV, and VHS tapes, She’s Allergic To Cats is a lo-fi fever dream that is at once grungy and conventionally well-shot, with a warmth to the image you don't see often in digital indie features. But while the film’s full of tracking errors and abstract video art, Reich doesn’t use VHS artifacts as an affectation, as many of his contemporaries do. Instead, it’s expressive, appearing at times of high emotion, representing Mike’s increasingly inner turmoil over his decidedly low-stakes situation. Scenes become degraded to varying degrees because of what the scenes need, not to satisfy some desire for retro-aesthetic wankery. Reich’s background in video art lends him a smart sense of when to use it and why.

(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 2:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 4, 2017 7:40 PM CST
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Thursday, January 12, 2017
Piper Laurie will be on hand at the Orinda Theatre in Orinda, California this Saturday, January 14th, for a double feature of two of her greatest films, Brian De Palma's Carrie (5pm), and Robert Rossen's The Hustler (8pm). According to Diablo Magazine's Pete Crooks, Laurie will appear for a Q&A with the audience following each film.

Meanwhile, the other day, Armond White mused on D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms for Out, and mentioned De Palma's Carrie:
Film buffs esteem Broken Blossoms for its artiness — dreamlike, fuzzy images project us into the exoticism of other states of being. It heightens our response to effeminacy while critiquing Battling Burrows’s masculine threat. Crisp’s macho sneer is on a behavioral continuum with Gish’s fragility (her fright hiding in a closet was repeated in Brian DePalma’s modern sexual gothic Carrie) and Barthelmess’s ethereal, idealized compassion. The man and girl’s idyll is crushed (“The spirit of beauty breaks her blossoms all about his chamber”), and no contemporary gay-bashing would be more heartrending.

Posted by Geoff at 8:01 PM CST
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Thursday, December 15, 2016
io9's Katharine Trendacosta posted an excerpt today from Carrie Fisher's new book, The Princess Diarist, in which she writes about her experience making Star Wars. The excerpt is about the dual auditions for Star Wars and Carrie, including a few exchanges between Fisher and Brian De Palma, as well as George Lucas, of course:
George Lucas held his auditions for Star Wars in an office on a lot in Hollywood. It was in one of those faux-Spanish cream-colored buildings from the thirties with dark orange-tiled roofs and black-iron-grated windows, lined with sidewalks in turn lined with trees—pine trees, I think they were, the sort that shed their needles generously onto the street below—and interrupted by parched patches of once-green lawns.

Everything was a little worse for the wear, but good things would happen in these buildings. Lives would be led, businesses would prosper, and men would attend meetings—hopeful meetings, meetings where big plans were made and ideas were proposed. But of all the meetings that had ever been held in that particular office, none of them could compare in world impact with the casting calls for the Star Wars movie.

A plaque could be placed on the outside of this building that states, “On this spot the Star Wars films conducted their casting sessions. In this building the actors and actresses entered and exited until only three remained. These three were the actors who ultimately played the lead parts of Han, Luke, and Leia.”

I’ve told the story of getting cast as Princess Leia many times before—in interviews, on horseback, and in cardiac units—so if you’ve previously heard this story before, I apologize for requiring some of your coveted store of patience. I know how closely most of us tend to hold on to whatever cache of patience we’ve managed to amass over a lifetime and I appreciate your squandering some of your cherished stash here.

George gave me the impression of being smaller than he was because he spoke so infrequently. I first encountered his all-but-silent presence at these auditions—the first of which he held with the director Brian De Palma. Brian was casting his horror film Carrie, and they both required an actress between the age of eighteen and twenty-two. I was the right age at the right time, so I read for both George and Brian.

George had directed two other feature films up till then, THX 1138, starring Robert Duvall, and American Graffiti, starring Ron Howard and Cindy Williams. The roles I met with the two directors for that first day were Princess Leia in Star Wars and Carrie in Carrie. I thought that last role would be a funny casting coup if I got it: Carrie as Carrie in Carrie. I doubt that that was why I never made it to the next level with Carrie—but it didn’t help as far as I was concerned that there would have to be a goofy film poster advertising a serious horror film.

I sat down before the two directors behind their respective desks. Mr. Lucas was all but mute. He nodded when I entered the room, and Mr. De Palma took over from there. He was a big man, and not merely because he spoke more— or spoke, period. Brian sat on the left and George on the right, both bearded. As if you had two choices in director sizes. Only I didn’t have the choice—they did. Brian cleared his bigger throat of bigger things and said, “So I see here you’ve been in the film Shampoo?”

I knew this, so I simply nodded, my face in a tight white-toothed smile. Maybe they would ask me something requiring more than a nod.

“Did you enjoy working with Warren?”

“Yes, I did!”

That was easy! I had enjoyed working with him, but Brian’s look told me that wasn’t enough of an answer.

“He was . . .”

What was he? They needed to know! “He helped me work . . . a lot. I mean, he and the other screenwriter . . . they worked with me.” Oh my God, this wasn’t going well. Mr. De Palma waited for more, and when more wasn’t forthcoming, he attempted to help me.

“How did they work with you?”

Oh, that’s what they wanted to know! “They had me do the scene over and over, and with food. There was eating in the scene. I had to offer Warren a baked apple and then I ask him if he’s making it with my mother—sleeping with her—you know.”

George almost smiled; Brian actually did. “Yes, I know what ‘making it’ means.”

I flushed. I considered stopping this interview then and there. But I soldiered on.

“No, no, that’s the dialogue. ‘Are you making it with my mother?’ I asked him that because I hate my mother. Not in real life, I hate my mother in the movie, partly because she is sleeping with Warren who’s the hairdresser. Lee Grant played my mom, but I didn’t really have any scenes with her, which is too bad because she’s a great actress. And Warren is a great actor and he also wrote the movie, with Robert Towne, which is why they both worked with me. With food. It sounded a lot more natural when you talk with food in your mouth. Not that you do that in your movies. Maybe in the scary movie, but I don’t know the food situation in space.” The meeting seemed to be going better.

“What have you done since Shampoo?” George asked.

I repressed the urge to say I had written three symphonies and learned how to perform dental surgery on monkeys, and instead told the truth.

“I went to school in England. Drama school. I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama.” I was breathless with information. “I mean I didn’t just go, I’m still going. I’m home on Christmas vacation.”

I stopped abruptly to breathe. Brian was nodding, his eyebrows headed off to his hair in something like surprise. He asked me politely about my experience at school, and I responded politely as George watched impassively. (I would come to discover that George’s expression wasn’t indifferent or anything like it. It was shy and discerning, among many other things, including intelligent, studious, and— and a word like “darling.” Only not that word, because it’s too young and androgynous, and besides which, and most important, George would hate it.)

“What do you plan on doing if you get one of these jobs you’re meeting on?” continued Brian.

“I mean, it really would depend on the part, but . . . I guess I’d leave. I mean I know I would. Because I mean—”

“I know what you mean,” Brian interrupted. The meeting continued but I was no longer fully present—utterly convinced that I’d screwed up by revealing myself to be so disloyal. Leave my school right in the middle for the first job that came along?

Soon after, we were done. I shook each man’s hand as I moved to the door, leading off to the gallows of obscurity. George’s hand was firm and cool. I returned to the outer office knowing full well that I would be going back to school.

“Miss Fisher,” a casting assistant said.

I froze, or would have, if we weren’t in sunny Los Angeles. “Here are your sides. Two doors down. You’ll read on video.” My heart pounded everywhere a pulse can get to.

The scene from Carrie involved the mother (who would be memorably played by Piper Laurie). A dark scene, where the people are not okay. But the scene in Star Wars—there were no mothers there! There was authority and confidence and command in the weird language that was used. Was I like this? Hopefully George would think so, and I could pretend I thought so, too. I could pretend I was a princess whose life went from chaos to crisis without looking down between chaoses to find, to her relief, that her dress wasn’t torn.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
Updated: Friday, December 16, 2016 12:26 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The above BBC movie by Adam Curtis, HyperNormalisation, uses news and documentary footage from the BBC's archives, as well as clips from films and other sources, to tell "the extraordinary story of how we got to this strange time of great uncertainty and confusion," according to Curtis' own description, "where those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed - and have no idea what to do." Included in the climactic few minutes is the key scene from Brian De Palma's Carrie in which the blood is dumped on Carrie, and the gymnasium full of onlookers stands in shock, unsure of how to react. The clip is used effectively in Curtis' movie to illustrate the shock, uncertainty, and confusion of our recent times. Shortly after the Carrie clip, the movie moves into a concluding montage which uses some of the split-screen sequence from De Palma's film to further illustrate (again, rather effectively) the use and state of confusion, which can come from any side. "And," Curtis' description of his movie continues, "where events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control - from Donald Trump to Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, and random bomb attacks. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening - but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them."

Note: the above version of the movie on YouTube is missing a minute or two (you'll notice an obvious edit around the 9:15 mark). Curtis' posted the unedited version on his YouTube page, but that version is in a smaller frame within the video. So I suggest watching the bulk of it in the above version, but catch those two minutes in Curtis' smaller version.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 12:27 AM CST
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Friday, November 4, 2016

Yesterday, Birth. Movies. Death.'s Chris Eggersten posted part one of a terrific "Oral History" of the prom scene in Brian De Palma's Carrie, which was released in theaters 40 years ago today. Part two of the oral history was posted today.

"On the occasion of Carrie’s 40th anniversary," Eggersten writes in the intro to part one, "I spoke with close to a dozen individuals who helped bring the sequence to life, including cinematographer Mario Tosi, art director Jack Fisk, screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, editor Paul Hirsch, associate producer Louis A. Stroller and stars Nancy Allen and P.J. Soles. De Palma, ever the elusive figure, was not made available for an interview despite multiple attempts, but if you care to know his thoughts on prom night, remembrances from the director are widely available elsewhere, including in the excellent Noah Baumbach/Jake Paltrow documentary De Palma released earlier this year.

"Here, I’ve pulled from a range of sources both above and below the line. Some, like stuntwoman Mary Peters and camera operator Joel King – who both risked and even sustained physical harm to fulfill De Palma’s vision – have rarely if ever been heard from before. Their participation is a direct testament to the collaborative nature of filmmaking itself, whose disparate elements rarely come together with such combustible force and synchronicity as they did in Carrie."

Posted by Geoff at 8:27 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, November 4, 2016 10:28 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Thanks to Alex for sending along the link to the above video, which shows the on-stage discussion that took place following the 40th anniversary screening of Carrie two weeks ago. The Q&A was moderated by Bryan Fuller, on stage with Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, Doug Cox, Terry Bolo, and Paul Hirsch. Below are some transcripted moments from the video:


Hirsch: Honestly, Brian would bring me his storyboards that he had drawn himself. They’re not like storyboards as we know them today. So then he would show me these drawings he’d made, and I couldn’t make head or tail of them. [laughter] And I said [nodding], “That looks great, Brian. That looks great.” [more laughter] And then, I would just react to the footage. But, you know, watching the film tonight, the first time I’ve seen it in 40 years [“wow” reaction from the audience]… ‘cause, you know, when you get to the end of a film, and you’ve seen it so many times, you never want to see it again [laughter], which is the Faustian bargain that editors make. But watching it tonight, I was struck by how interestingly every scene was shot: the angles, the lighting. And nothing was done conventionally. Every choice was very interesting, with a point, and an attitude. And I thought the scenes between Nancy and John were so rich in chemistry, and you could really feel the feeling between them—the dance of the eyes, as they say. And then the scenes between Piper and Sissy were like operatic duets. They were just fabulous. I just had a great time watching the picture tonight.


Fuller: Speaking of Nancy and John Travolta, you have such a strange relationship with him in this film, as in other films, and it has this BDSM sort of quality to it. So, you were kind of John Travolta’s first cinematic dom.

Allen: And I’m proud of it. [laughter]

Fuller: Can you talk a little bit about filming that scene? Because it’s interesting to watch it with a modern audience, where he’s slapping you, you slap him, you have this very physically-abusive relationship, and on screen, then you look at your chemistry in Blow Out, which is so dynamic… What was it like, doing those two different [audience applauding] – Blow Out, people, I mean, let’s come on. [applause] Also edited by Paul Hirsch.

Allen: Well, first of all, John and I had a ball in the movie, and we really did have tremendous chemistry together. He’s a lot of fun to work with. He’s a very funny guy. But, the scene in the car, as you know, I was slapped earlier by Betty Buckley, and she was really slapping me, a lot, and John was so sweet. I mean, he would [touching her hand to her face repeatedly] barely touch me with his hands. And the fact that I was so bitchy with him—in the original storyboards, when Brian showed me, before we shot the film, he was supposed to rip my shirt off in the scene in the car. And he said, [waving her hand] “Yeah, that would not work with her. We’re not going to shoot that. She’ll kill him if he does that.” So, you know, we also thought that we were the comic relief in the movie. We had no idea everyone was going to hate us, because the crew laughed at us so much. So, we had a great time on that, and when we came together in Blow Out, it was so very different. He had had tremendous success in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, and I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and I had no idea if he had changed, or what he was going to be like. But when he walked in for rehearsals, he said, “Hey, let’s order a pizza.” We ordered pizza, we started working, and started to do some improvisation together to make the script work for us, because it was very, very different. And to me it was always magical working with him, because you never knew what he was going to do.


Fuller: Now, Mr. Hirsch, in the middle of that tuxedo shop scene, you just fast-forwarded for a while. Were you just like, “Let’s get this moving along,” or… what sort of choice was that?

Hirsch: Well, it was an interesting problem, because the scene was constructed on jump cuts, and the middle segment was too long. And I didn’t want to throw in another jump cut, because the jump cuts were… I was saving them for more significant moments.

Fuller: Like when you blow up a car…

Hirsch: No, no, no, I mean like in that scene, there were two very definite time cuts. I didn’t want to throw another one in the middle of one of the scenes. The three little scenes. So I had seen this film directed by Agnès Varda, and edited by a friend of mine, Robert Dalva. [note: Dalva also later worked on editing De Palma’s Raising Cain, as did Hirsch.] And he had done that. They had this long scene, I remember two characters on the bed, and they just sped-up—like the boring parts—they just sped-up. And I thought, well, that’s a great way to shorten the scene, so I thought I’d try it. And then, I think Pauline Kael called it “a stupid editor trick,” or something, you know. [laughter]

Fuller: Oh, Pauline.

Hirsch: You win some, you lose some. But it worked to preserve the pace of the scene, and not have to throw in a jump cut where I didn’t want one.


Later on, P.J. Soles asks Hirsch how the split screen was decided on for Carrie’s rage at the prom. Hirsch explains that split screen is “a passion of Brian’s,” and how he had used it initially for Dionysus In ’69. “And he was always fascinated by split screen,” Hirsch explains, “because he thought, well, it expands your perception of what’s going on.”

Hirsch then continues, “There are certain situations where it works very well. It’s not ideally suited for an action sequence because the fact that you’re looking at a split screen is a distancing device that keeps you from identifying with the characters the way you would when the image is full screen. It’s an intellectual fascination as opposed to an emotional connection.”

Posted by Geoff at 7:53 PM CDT
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