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Thursday, August 18, 2016
Last night's episode of USA's Mr. Robot (season 2, episode 7, "eps2.5h4ndshake.sme"), which was created, written, and directed by Sam Esmail, opened with a flashback set to Pino Donaggio's theme from Brian De Palma's Blow Out. The theme is the first significant sound heard in the episode (after a couple of footsteps), runs over the opening title and beginning of the credits, and includes a direct homage to De Palma's Carrie, a film which was also scored by Donaggio.

The episode opens with a hint of the way Donaggio's music brings us into Kate Miller's world in the first part of De Palma's Dressed To Kill. The Blow Out theme, lush and melancholic, is accompanied by a camera (us, the viewer, a.k.a. Elliot's "friend") consistently pushing in toward Joanna Wellick, the wife of Tyrell Wellick, a character we are so far led to believe is no longer alive. The flashback is centered on a gift, earrings, that Tyrell had given to Joanna just before a social gathering. As the camera gets closer to Joanna, and Donaggio's music offers sad reflection, Tyrell appears, and even when the scene shifts to the gathering (which includes the woman Tyrell murdered last season, leaving us without a doubt that we're in a flashback), the movement keeps moving from wide shot and, with help of a dissolve, into Joanna's face, seemingly moved by the earrings, the camera eventually providing the viewer a close-up view of an earring in Joanna's ear which, via a match-cut, takes us out of pre-Tyrell's disappearance and into a more present-day, post-Tyrell flashback, where Joanna is tending to her baby in a stroller on the street.

Donaggio's theme here enters into its sparse piano portion (the part that Tarantino used for a tender texting moment in Death Proof), as the episode's opening credits also begin. An older woman is walking by, and Joanna smiles at her, but the woman turns out to be one of the many angry members of society walking around the city in the wake the E Corp hack. Targeting Joanna (and while we as viewer are still focused on the fact that she is wearing the expensive earring gift), the woman suddenly throws a bucket of what appears to be red paint onto Joanna, while shouting, "Capitalist pig!" The use of the word pig, a bucket, and the color red (whether actual pig's blood or red paint) mark the moment as an overt homage to De Palma's Carrie, as does the way Joanna then begins to scream out at the world while splattered in red, yet we can't hear her screams, only the quiet piano of Donaggio's theme from Blow Out, as the title "Mr. Robot" starkly appears overlayed upon Joanna's screams.

As Donaggio's theme trails off to its poignant final notes, the scene shifts once again into present day, as Joanna is now gazing upon a new gift set on top of her kitchen counter: a framed ultrasound sonogram of the baby she and Tyrell created. Joanna has been receiving gifts that seemingly come from Tyrell, who may be dead, and as the camera looks up from the countertop to Joanna sipping on a glass of wine as she looks down at the gift, we hear Elliot's voice ("I see you"), and for a moment, juxtaposed against Joanna's face, we sense that Elliot has been sending the gifts, and perhaps watching Joanna, until we realize Elliot is addressing us, his "friend," the viewer. Or is he...?

In any case, it is a brilliantly-conceived opening sequence by Sam Esmail. Looking forward to seeing how it all fits in once we know the truth about everything that is actually going on.

Posted by Geoff at 8:20 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 19, 2016 8:14 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Scarface Poster A Key Part of Trainwreck Joke

Posted by Geoff at 9:10 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 9:13 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Bloody Disgusting's Chris Webster posted an article a couple of weeks ago in which he extracts five interesting facts from the audio commentary track of the newly-released Blu-ray edition of Karyn Kusama's The Invitation. One of those facts is that "Kusama was inspired by 70’s thrillers"...
While All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor and the early work of Brian De Palma don’t share a similar narrative to The Invitation, they set the stage for Kusama’s approach to the style of her film. Even The Invitation‘s simple title card, which Kusama describes as 'spare and offset,' gets attributed to All the President’s Men and other films of the era that she says took a radical approach at the time.

Back in 2009, Kusama introduced her film Jennifer's Body at the Toronto Film Festival, naming De Palma's Carrie as an inspiration, along with Heathers and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 10, 2016 12:11 AM CDT
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Sunday, August 7, 2016

The juxtaposition above comes from a video assembled by Ulysse Thevenon, titled "References to 70-80’s movies in Stranger Things." Stranger Things is Netflix' latest series, which has become a hit since premiering on the streaming site last month. Several have noted an obvious nod to Brian De Palma's Carrie, as well as a thematic similarity with De Palma's The Fury. Here are some links to explore:

Brian Lowry, CNN

"Press materials describe the series as a 'love letter to '80s supernatural classics that captivated a generation.' Clearly, there are touches of Poltergeist and The Goonies baked into the idea, as well as The Fury, Brian De Palma's 1978 psychic thriller. Still, Stranger Things ultimately has to stand on its own. And too often the pacing just limps along -- spooning out story in a way that practically demands bingeing, and even then never really disgorging all its secrets."

Scott Tobias, Vulture

Every Major Film Reference in the Show, From A–Z

Body Double (1984)
Brian De Palma’s deliciously pervy riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window plays with voyeurism and murder, casting Craig Wasson as a house sitter who uses a telescope to spy on a beautiful woman and witnesses a murder. In Stranger Things, Jonathan scours the woods with his camera in search of his missing brother, Will (Noah Schnapp), but pauses to catch some shots of his crush, Nancy, as she’s partying at her boyfriend’s house. The image of Jonathan peering through the blinds with telephoto lens as Nancy is about to lose her virginity recalls Body Double and its poster."

Carrie (1976)
Elle is a hybrid of two Stephen King stories about girls with telekinetic power, Carrie and Firestarter. Of the two, Stranger Things owes a little more to Carrie, if only because Elle and Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) have a broader range of skills and a similarly sheltered upbringing. Though Carrie’s age feeds into a more meaningful and excruciating story of her coming-of-age as a woman, the two characters are products of needy, controlling parents — Piper Laurie’s religious zealot in Carrie; Matthew Modine’s experimental scientist in Stranger Things — who don't allow socialization with other kids. And while Elle and Carrie are fundamentally sweet-natured, they’re capable of startling violence when provoked. (When they’re flashing trance-like stares, look out.) Stranger Things also includes a nice homage to the famous stinger that closes Carrie: Just as Carrie’s hand reaches through the soil at her gravesite — Nancy’s hand punctures through the goo when she climbs out of the Upside Down in episode six."

Vulture's Scott Tobias on Episode 6

"The Monster" makes a hard shift toward supernatural horror, with two serious jump-scares in the pre-credits sequence alone, so I'm going to make a hard shift toward talking about Stephen King, whose influence on Stranger Things I haven't mentioned to this point. The shot of Nancy's outstretched hand puncturing through the portal to the netherworld is a nod to the closing scene in Brian De Palma's adaptation of King's Carrie, one of the all-time-great stingers in movie history. And both are premised on reversing the same false assumption: Once you cross over to the Great Beyond, there's no coming back.

Yet the differences between the two are telling. In Stranger Things, the outstretched hand is a simple misdirection, shocking the viewer into thinking the creature is grabbing at Jonathan when, in fact, it's Nancy emerging from the portal. In Carrie, it's a nightmare, fueled by a teenager's guilt over her role in ostracizing one of her fellow students. One is an effective scare that dissipates; one is an effective scare that lingers. And that, in a nutshell, is the significant flaw in this otherwise entertaining series. There's nothing in the Duffer brothers' nostalgia trip that's uniquely resonant or built to last. It's a temporary endorphin rush.

Consider the biggest King connection here: Eleven, or Elle, whose telekinetic powers bring her in line with the heroines in King's Carrie and Firestarter. I haven't read Firestarter — which, given the girls' ages, may be the more appropriate comparison — but Carrie is essentially a coming-of-age scenario tweaked into a horror novel, expressing the dramatic swings of adolescent emotion as a violent flurry of psychic activity. Carrie becomes dangerous when she no longer has control of her feelings, and thus, no longer has control over her powers. It's an extreme version of the growth that confuses and torments all teenagers: Our bodies betray us at the most vulnerable time, and for Carrie, that betrayal is devastatingly complete.

There are flashes of Carrie's third-act aggression in "The Monster," which finds a distressed Elle turning her stress and anger on the manager of a grocery store and the bullies who force Mike to jump off a cliff. We've seen it before, in the flashback where Elle fatally smashes one handler into a tiled wall and snaps the neck of another like a twig. In the last episode, she knocked Lucas unconscious while trying to break up a fight, which led to a temporary rift between close friends. Elle's power is always a lingering threat, particularly when she gets upset or feels under attack.

But Elle's telekinetic abilities aren't really a metaphor for anything. They're a storytelling device — an effective one, to be sure — meant to recall the childhood stolen from her. Stranger Things doesn't register the trauma of that as much as it should, but "The Monster" does explain how she got to this point, far enough to make you marvel that she has a shred of humanity remaining. It turns out that Elle has been property of the Department of Energy since birth, when Dr. Brenner and company swiped her from her mother, then claimed the baby had died in the third trimester. The show has consistently doled out scenes from Elle's childhood under Brenner's watch, which has required a push-and-pull between emotional manipulation and ruthless weaponization. She's been built to fight the Soviets. And she has, improbably, remained an empathetic child, if not a joyful one.

Sean Hutchinson, Inverse

"Netflix’s newest hit, Stranger Things, is a treasure trove of 1980s genre references, but what separates it from a fan film that simply makes Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter references is the way it incorporates those nods into the texture of the show itself. These references go deeper than just superficial winks to some of the most iconic books and movies of the decade.

"Sure, it’s a nice visual callback, Nancy Wheeler’s outstretched hand from the Upside Down giving us a flashback to Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie, but more importantly, Matthew Modine's sinister government scientist in Stranger Things is in the same vein as the similarly controlling parent played by Piper Laurie in De Palma’s film. And while it’s obvious that the main characters tearing around their suburban neighborhoods on BMX bikes with a supernatural being in tow is a shout at E.T., the truly important aspect they borrow is that Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) is the same single mother trying to make ends meet as Dee Wallace’s parent in the Spielberg classic. It’s not just that a group of kids go on a huge adventure like in The Goonies, it’s that the adventure tests and strengthens their friendship in the movie and the Netflix show as well."

Ashley Hoffman, TIME

"In the movie Carrie based on the Stephen King novel, Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) has telekinetic powers that she sometimes uses for violence. Sound familiar? Carrie and Eleven are both total goody two shoes who wouldn’t harm a fly. Unless they’re provoked, in which case they would totally harm several flies, household objects and people. But it’s the sixth episode that has the most blatant Carrie callback when Nancy’s hand bursts through the portal to the Upside Down. It resembles the scene when Carrie’s hand pops out of the dirt covering her grave."

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 8, 2016 12:21 AM CDT
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Thursday, July 21, 2016
Thanks to Patrick for translating the following passage for us, from the June 2016 issue of Cahiers du Cinéma-- it's Cyril Béghin writing about Nicolas Winding Refn's Neon Demon:
Only God Forgives was already searching for a collage of archetypal or primal scenes, but Refn goes further this time, yielding only very little to the sirens of the genre and instead crystallizing clear and solitary visions that coexist and create a sequence of heterogeneous spaces for Jesse to circulate through. Thus the distant sensation his film owes even more to Carrie than to Mario Bava or Valley of the Dolls: when Jesse appears to float in the air, at the edge of a diving board, she recalls the omnipotent levitation of De Palma's adolescent, which is at the same time the invention of an image, aerial statue or demon of neon.


Posted by Geoff at 8:06 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 24, 2016 2:23 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Corey Craft, Arts Bham

"Earlier this week I saw the documentary De Palma, a feature length interview with the great director Brian De Palma, whose many films [include] Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables. It’s a terrific watch for film fans, but most notably, one is struck by De Palma’s detail-oriented craft and complete control. Every shot, camera movement and actor’s blocking is motivated by a larger artistic purpose, even as his films delve into some outright sleazy subject matter from time to time.

"Now readers are probably wondering what this all has to do with the latest provocation from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. I saw The Neon Demon right after De Palma. They seemed to be appropriate bedfellows: a movie about a filmmaker who walks the fine line between art and trash, and then a movie that hopefully does that itself. Instead, the deficiencies of The Neon Demon were thrown into stark relief. Nicolas Winding Refn, it turns out, is no Brian De Palma."

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

"I’ll be the first to admit that I am drawn to filmmakers who use cinema as a way of pushing buttons, and I am a fan of the outrageous and the extreme. When I saw De Palma, the new documentary about Brian De Palma and his filmography, it sent me scrambling to watch a number of his older films again. They are so familiar at this point, so well-worn, that it surprised me to see how new they still feel when I took a step back. The next day, I went to a screening of the latest film from Nicolas Winding Refn, and the back-to-back timing of the two films made me laugh. More than anything, this feels like Refn working in the genre that De Palma had largely to himself in the late ’70s and early ’80s before getting relegated to mere late-night Cinemax fodder."

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

"Any number of movies have been made about the depravity of Los Angeles and the moral vacuum of the illusion industries at that city’s heart. It’s virtually a genre of self-loathing all to itself, from Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard to Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. Nicolas Winding Refn’s fashionista horror film The Neon Demon, which is something like the bastard offspring of Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg, with a dollop of David Lynch on the down-low, definitely belongs to that tradition. But The Neon Demon is a striking and unusual L.A. story in several respects, not least because most of it occurs indoors."

Stephen Silver, Splice Today

"The Neon Demon is a tale of jealousy and bitterness set in L.A.’s fashion world, and has more than a little bit in common, thematically and stylistically, with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. There are continuing motifs involving blood, large panthers, stylized violence and skinny models with visible ribcages. I could see Brian De Palma watching The Neon Demon and thinking the director should’ve taken it down a notch."

Edward Douglas, New York Daily News

"Over the past few years, Refn has been given a lot of free reign as a cinematic craftsman in the vein of David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick and Brian De Palma. But viewers will quickly realize that the real stars of Refn's film are his cinematographer Natasha Braier and composer Cliff Martinez, whose beautiful shots and ambient score are often the saving graces of The Neon Demon. (Even Martinez's synth noodlings start to get tiring once you realize the movie isn't going anywhere you may have any interest in going.) As with many supermodels, The Neon Demon is gorgeous to the eye but ultimately quite vacant and shallow."

Beth Accomando, KPBS

"I love Refn’s work and seeing The Neon Demon right after seeing the documentary De Palma was perfect. Brian De Palma was a filmmaker dedicated to a particular vision and he crafted his film with great care. Refn has that same obsession with that sense of cinematic craft. Both directors make films that at their core also seem to be about the act of making a film."

Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press

"While the film has components of sex and violence, do not expect some kind of Brian De Palma-esque thriller. Refn is one for long, lingering takes and slow buildups, steeping the audience in the existential horror of it all. But as unsavoury as the material is — be warned there is a necrophilia scene that makes the pervy 1996 Canadian movie Kissed look like a Disney film — one can’t deny the sheer potency of Refn’s painstakingly composed images, even if the cumulative impact of it all leaves one feeling as empty as the glamourous amazons populating the screen."

Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Our host site, Lycos, was down for three days due to some kind of major data transfer that took longer than they expected. We'll get back on track this weekend with the documentary and related roundups, but first, something kind of special: yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter posted a guest column from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (several episodes of American Horror Story, feature film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), titled "Why Brian De Palma Is My Cinematic Hero." Gomez-Rejon's column opens with him fighting with his producers to keep all of his split-diopter shots in an unnamed early film (which may or may not have been his remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown). "I did my best to explain the power and psychological effect of a split diopter," he writes. "The paranoia I was trying to convey in this particular scene. How the entire film was an homage to the movies. How a film had defined a town and fictionalized it’s pain -- how those particular shots were an homage to my hero, Brian De Palma, and Blow Out, specifically. You can’t approach a split diopter shot intellectually; it’s a feeling."

Definitely go to the link above and read the entire column-- here's an excerpt:

Filmmaking has been my obsession since growing up in Laredo, Texas. I woke up thinking about movies. I fell asleep at night watching them. For me, De Palma was the apostle of cinematic technique. Delivering his sermons through the VHS tapes in my video store church. Pointing me in the direction of my own projection light. Bridging the gap between my cinematic fantasies and cinematic reality. This is how I watched Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Scarface and Body Double. De Palma’s camera was a character; he embraced it -- these were works of art that were defining the medium and moving it forward. He was breaking and reinterpreting the form. There was constant strategic and spectacular movement. There was color, sexuality, absurdity. He was literally directing you, telling you where to see. Everything seemed to be at the service of the movie. The images were alive. Iconoclastic works of energy that inspired cinematic curiosity. This first film of his that I watched in the theater was The Untouchables. I was 14 or 15 and went back with my father half a dozen times. I found myself mesmerized by the production design, the lighting, the score -- the great spectacle. Another monolith arose from the ground and I realized that cinema was also a collaborative enterprise.

My first week at NYU in the fall of 1990, while walking in the Village, I saw Brian De Palma walking on the opposite side the street. We were on Sixth Avenue. He turned on to 8th Street towards Fifth Avenue. And I did the natural thing: I followed. There he was, walking like a regular person. Propelling himself forward, one foot in front of the other, like any other mortal. Movies stars always looking smaller in the flesh, but De Palma was even bigger. I felt like a small-time mobster casing a target, or a De Palma steadicam shot. This was my secret, privileged moment.

Here was the man who taught me about storyboarding in a Premiere Magazine article that published his early Macintosh boards for Casualties of War. He opened me up to the actual craft. The engineering. The planning -- skills that would later lead to a tiny career of me boarding my way through college for extra money, working on independent and graduate thesis films.

Once in New York, I practically lived at Bobst Library, going through their video library, discovering films my local video store didn’t carry. Dionysus in '69, Sisters, The Fury, Blow Out and Phantom of the Paradise. And then, of course more Hitchcock -- and then there it was, De Palma’s playful relationship with the past and nod to the masters that shaped him. Studio films with a Hollywood scope that defied and maybe even played the system. He was exploring the past but remaining a trailblazer that energized me in the present. Although I was an intensely shy kid, I found myself in full-on attack mode when a classmate would dismiss one of his films. The Untouchables and Scarface could never be contested. But if someone would dismiss Blow Out, I’d pounce. There was an innate sense that I needed to protect the masters and their extraordinary vision, especially those who I felt were under-appreciated. It was my duty.

A couple of years later, he was shooting Carlito’s Way down the street from my dorm in the West Village. They were working nights and I would just watch from the sidewalk -- as close as a PA would let me get. Pacino. De Palma and Stephen Burum. Fake rain. The biggest set I had ever seen. It was quite literally the realization of my dreams; an extraordinary sensation that overwhelmed me and cemented that I had chosen the right career ... however long and however painful that journey might be. This search for an identity that had always plagued me because of the nature of where I was from, went away. I only needed to be defined by my dreams and hopefully, resilience, not unlike what -- from the outside -- De Palma has shown throughout his career.

Posted by Geoff at 11:15 AM CDT
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Sunday, May 22, 2016
Some of the films at Cannes the past week and a half have reminded critics of Brian De Palma, with Body Double mentioned specifically in regards to two of them. Here's a roundup:


Screen Daily's Lee Marshall

"In some ways, Personal Shopper feels like a Gallic cineaste’s attempt to recapture some of the freewheeling, kooky genre-drama of a 1980s Brian De Palma movie – and there’s more than an echo of Body Double here – but what’s missing is the latter’s style and verve. The lack of glamour in [Kristen] Stewart’s introverted, depressed personal shopper character leaches into the visual style of a film that, with the exception of a couple of scenes set in a scary old house and a spoof period movie reconstruction, often feels flat and conventional."

Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

"There are, at a conservative count, four different movies inside Olivier Assayas' new film, led by his Clouds of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart, and two of them might even be quite good. There’s the full blown ghost story, complete with creaking floorboard, haunted house, CG-phantasms-hanging-out-of-chandeliers-spewing-ectoplasm, which is unexpected. There’s the straight-up grief movie, in which a twin mourns the recent death of her brother while the others in his life circle around her anxiously, which is promising but underdeveloped. There’s the Brian De Palma-esque elaborate and illogical murder mystery with added modern tech aspects (texting), which is twaddle. And there’s the fashion industry/celebrity satire part which is a lot of fun, because we get to see Kristen Stewart topless and trying things on, looking at jewellery, sneaking a go in her employer’s haute couture, forking over thousands for perfectly unremarkable handbags and generally purchasing the clothes that, at least half the time with Personal Shopper, the emperor isn’t wearing."

Allan Hunter, The List

Personal Shopper is "an awkward fusion of ghost story, celebrity culture satire and half-baked Brian De Palma-style thriller. There are enough intriguing elements to keep it watchable but it never manages to gel into a coherent whole...

"...Assayas heads off the rails when he attempts to shoehorn way too many other elements into the story. We also spend time following Maureen on her day job among the haute couture houses and Cartiers of Paris, choosing items for her demanding celebrity boss Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Perhaps part of Maureen even wishes she was Kyra and that is what leads to the De Palma-inspired secret stalker, who acts like a refugee from Scream and urges Maureen to give in to her secret desires. Unfortunately, their cat and mouse games are played out in exchanges of text messages, which makes for deadly dull cinema. In some respects, Personal Shopper is rather stylish, with hints of Polanski and even Kieslowski in the execution, and Stewart’s nervy, edgy performance nearly manages to keep everything on track. Almost but not quite is the final verdict."

No De Palma reference in this next one, but interesting as a counterpoint to the negative reviews above:

Guy Lodge, Time Out London

"Among the many things that appear to be on Assayas's mind is the disembodied – and disembodying – nature of modern-day communication and social media, which makes ghosts of us all to those with whom we text far more than we talk. Perhaps no film has ever made the mobile phone quite such an instrument of tension: the on-screen iPhone ellipsis of an incoming message takes on a breath-halting urgency here.

"For the preservation of enjoyment, no more should be revealed about the film's gliding, glassy sashay through multiple, splintered genres and levels of consciousness – except to say that Assayas, working in the high-concept, game-playing vein of his Irma Vep and demonlover, is in shivery control of it all. And he's found an impeccably attuned muse in Stewart, who wears the film's curiosity with the same casually challenging stride that she does – in a key scene of sensual self-realisation – a jaw-dropping silk-organza bondage gown."


Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

"Not unlike Brian De Palma, another filmmaker who likes to skirt the boundaries of good taste, Verhoeven has inspired no shortage of gender-based arguments over the years: Whether his female characters are misogynist constructs or avatars of empowerment is a topic open to continual debate and reappraisal. That seems unlikely to change with his latest work, Elle, a breathtakingly elegant and continually surprising French-language thriller that brought the 69th Cannes Film Festival competition to a rousing close on Saturday."

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

"Michèle also finds herself curiously attracted to Patrick (Laurent Lafitte), her married neighbour across the road – and in a sequence worthy of Brian De Palma, she pleasures herself while peering at him through a pair of binoculars from her study window, while he sets up an outdoor nativity set."


Rodrigo Fonseca, Omelete

"It's a gory, bloody, and erotic thriller that evokes David Lynch (in Mulholand Drive) and Brian De Palma (in Body Double), making direct reference to Under the Skin (2013), with Scarlett Johansson."

Luca Celada, Golden Globe Awards

"What starts out as a glossy, Brian De Palma-style thriller soon veers sharply into David Lynchian territory and finally into surrealist horror. It turns out this is not All About Eve, nor Star 80 after all, but another Refn taunt which embraces camp and revels in horror to the extreme. And there is nothing like cannibalism and necrophilia to set Cannes tongues wagging."

Neon Demon Press Conference

Journalist asks Refn if the film was inspired by Brian De Palma at all, because it reminded him of De Palma's Dressed To Kill. Refn responds, "Well, I love Brian De Palma. I mean, who doesn't love Brian De Palma?"

Posted by Geoff at 4:19 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 2:29 AM CDT
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 10:52 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 21, 2016
Sophia Takal's Always Shine (the followup to her 2011 debut, Green) had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last week. "The early reviews have been positive," states Tasha Robinson at The Verge, "and occasionally rapturous. Like Green, Always Shine deals with jealousy and competition between two women. But where Green is a loose mumblecore drama, Always Shine is a nervy thriller that owes as much to Single White Female as it does to deliberate touchstones like Ingmar Bergman’s Persona."

In a review of the film for The Playlist, Kimber Myers writes, "Always Shine has echoes of Brian De Palma, David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman, though it simultaneously maintains a presence all its own. While the work of those filmmakers often focuses on female characters, a woman director brings a unique perspective to its story of friendship, jealousy and obsession, framing it within the larger concerns of feminism. While it does explore current issues, you’re not getting handed a syllabus in Women’s Studies 101. Instead, its energies are focused toward showcasing the environment its characters reside in and how that shapes who they are and their actions. Even though Takal was likely influenced by the aforementioned auteurs, her directorial vision is still distinctly her own. Always Shine is a film with plenty of style, from its title sequence with an '80s font and frenetic pace to its final cut to black."

Going back to Robinson's article at The Verge-- she interviews Takal, at one point asking about her influences:

You’ve cited Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under The Influence, and Lynn Ramsay’s Morvern Callar as major influences on this film. What did these films bring to the table?

All the movies from the 1970s with slow zooms were visual influences. With my director of photography, Mark Schwartzbard, we watched Robert Altman’s 3 Women and Images, and I really wanted to build suspense through slow zooms and a moving camera like he does. Theme-wise, 3 Women was also a big influence, as was Cassavetes’ Opening Night. The idea of the ghost that becomes more and more threatening to Gena Rowlands’ character was something we wanted to incorporate. And with Morvern Callar — Larry showed me that movie, because a lot of the feedback we were getting from traditional financiers, when we were trying to make this movie in a more traditional way, was that the main character wasn’t likable, and it was unclear why she was doing these things. Larry said, "There’s this great movie you need to see, where the protagonist’s motivations aren’t really explained in a way where everything ties up neatly, and with a character who’s flawed." That really opened things up for me.

I don’t know if this is true, but I feel like female directors are better able to understand the complexity of a female character without needing to explain everything, and without needing to make the character "likable." Likability to me is such a frustrating thing. I think there’s more awareness around this now, but in general, male characters can be so flawed, but if a woman is mildly annoying, "She’s not likable!" It mirrors this box of femininity in the real world, too, where you have to be this one narrow, certain way, and if you’re not, you’re intolerable.

Who do you consider the main character? One of the interesting things about the film is that there’s such a balance between Anna and Beth, in terms of perspective and sympathy.

Psycho was also an influence, in that you start off being in one character’s psychology, and then it shifts. Anna is based on me, so I always thought of her as the main character. But I did want to start with Beth and have that shift, so you understand both characters’ point of view. I think you transition into Anna’s headspace around that scene at the bar with the handsome older dude. If we were aping Psycho, that was our shower moment, our transition moment.

Brian De Palma also feels like an influence here, given how much you’re looking at voyeurism and sex and the film industry, and questions of identity and escape. Was he part of the mix?

I’ve loved the films I’ve seen of his, and I’m sure he was an influence for Larry and my DP, but I’m not so familiar with his movies. I saw Body Double and a really good one with Robert De Niro called Hi, Mom! which was also an influence, because it’s not experimental, but it’s just totally wild, and it narratively goes off on these wild diversions, which I did in the scene here with Jane Adams. It’s just a diversion that may have been inspired by the diversions in Hi, Mom! I love that movie.

But I’m not that well-versed in cinema. Zach Clark, my editor, he knows so much about movies, and I’ve had so many collaborators who know so much more about movies than I do that they were able to infuse in choices I might not have thought of. They just have a bigger cinematic vocabulary.

Posted by Geoff at 11:34 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 21, 2016 11:36 PM CDT
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