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Monday, October 20, 2014
Damien Chazelle, who wrote and had originally planned to direct the De Palma-esque Grand Piano, is getting consistently great reviews for a new movie for which he is the writer/director, Whiplash. Chazelle tells RedEye Chicago's Matt Pais that Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma are among the directors who inspired Whiplash. "In a sense," Chazelle tells Pais, "obviously the influences in this movie are a lot of old filmmakers and Scorsese and De Palma, but the people who actually really get me off my ass and actually motivate me to, ‘All right, [bleep] it, I gotta do some work’ are the young people, the people in my generation who are doing great [bleep]." The two younger directors Chazelle mentions by name are Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

Meanwhile, in a review of Whiplash, Screen Invasion's Mel Valentin writes, "Credit also extends to Chazelle’s cinematographer, Sharone Meir, who lights both interiors and exteriors like ’70s-set urban dramas and crime-thrillers popularized by Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, and Brian De Palma (among others)."

Posted by Geoff at 1:21 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 18, 2014
Edge On The Net's Brian Shaer
on Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

"The film will be of particular interest to theater aficionados for its spectacular recreation of backstage at the St. James Theater on Broadway. Watching the film, with Iñárritu's gorgeous long takes and tracking shots that would make Brian De Palma salivate, one sort of has the feeling that he or she is in rehearsal with these folks and anticipating the curtain rising on opening night as much as they are. The milieu of Times Square and the Broadway theaters is essential in bringing this story its authenticity and in capturing the feel of a play in production."

Edgar Wright
"Go see 'Birdman' on the big screen ASAP. An astoundingly executed movie. Has a 'Phantom Of The Paradise' vibe, which from me is HIGH PRAISE."

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 18, 2014 11:55 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Posted by Geoff at 8:24 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 9, 2014
Earlier today, I posted about last night's season premiere of American Horror Story, and how the opening scenes appeared to pay homage to Brian De Palma. The show's creator, Ryan Murphy, who also directed last night's episode, discussed the episode with Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack. Stack to Murphy: "The style is so different. The use of split screens really reminded me of Brian De Palma—was he your inspiration?"

Murphy replies, "Well, I mean, I’m always influenced by him, and yes, that is sort of an homage to him in some weird way. But I think this season is unusual in that it’s sort of like a weird cross between Douglas Sirk and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Stack then says, "I’m guessing you brought the Douglas Sirk." Murphy replies, "I did! If you watch this season as compared to last season, the camera barely moves this season. It’s a much more still cinematic exploration, which means our brilliant director of photography, Michael Goi, had a lot longer time to light. Everything had to be much more spot on because you don’t move the camera. But I really wanted it to be wider frames, bigger frames, stiller frames. And I really put much more of an emphasis this season on the production design and the costumes than ever before because it has that sort of Douglas Sirk ‘50s thing to it."

In my earlier post, I also mentioned that the music reminded me of Bernard Herrmann. Murphy mentions a different composer as he responds to Stack's question about how this episode seemed to use less jump cuts and a slower pace overall. "Yeah," Murphy tells Stack, "we’re using some George Antheil music who was a big composer from back then and whose music was used in a lot of ‘50s and ‘60s horror movies. I like paying homage to the early ‘50s and horror movies and back then they didn’t have Steadicam and they didn’t have jump cuts. So we don’t do as much as that. I felt like I wanted it to be in a more eerie world as opposed to a more startling abrupt world."

Later in the article, Murphy talks about how he ended up directing the episode, and the immense work Sarah Paulson put in to portray the twin sisters. A lot of great discussion in there, definitely worth checking out.

Related Posts:
American Horror Story: Freak Show Tips Hat to De Palma
Murphy Says AHS Season Under the Influence of De Palma
Carrie Cues & Echoes of Sisters as American Horror Story Begins Its Second Season

Posted by Geoff at 8:55 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 9, 2014 9:02 PM CDT
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Ryan Murphy has once again directed the season premiere of American Horror Story: Freak Show, and once again he pays homage to Brian De Palma. In the opening sequence of last night's premiere episode, we are introduced to conjoined twin sisters Bette and Dot Tattler, played by Sarah Paulson. The scene features heavily Bernard Herrmann-esque music, and split screens that sometimes show the two sisters' viewpoints side-by-side, but also switches them up in rapid-fire AHS tradition, sometimes showing one twin's face on one side, and what she is looking at on the other. Of course, with conjoined twins, split-screens, and Herrmann-esque music, one thinks of De Palma's Sisters, and that film's Jennifer Salt is one of the producers through all four seasons of American Horror Story.

Two years ago, the premiere episode of American Horror Story: Asylum used actual prominent excerpts from Pino Donaggio's score for De Palma's Carrie, while the story itself had echoes of Sisters (I posted about it here). Murphy specifically told the press that year that the Asylum season was, partly, an homage to De Palma. This year, he has mentioned wanting to pay homage to Baz Luhrmann by having musical numbers throughout that aren't necessarily from the time period in question (the early 1950s). In that vein, tonight's episode included a David Bowie song sung by Jessica Lange.

Posted by Geoff at 1:34 AM CDT
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Posted by Geoff at 7:39 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Posted by Geoff at 10:53 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 5, 2014 10:58 PM CDT
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Saturday, October 4, 2014
Richard Crouse, Canada AM
"Affleck is a bright light but Pike burns a hole in the screen. The former Bond girl and An Education star has never been better. Cold and calculating, terrified and terrifying, she puts the femme in fatale. A star in the Brian De Palma mode, she’s capable of almost anything except being ignored. It’s a bravura performance and one that will garner attention come Oscar time."

Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
"Like a lot of Hitchcock—and like certain domestic nightmares by such filmmakers as Brian De Palma and Luis Bunuel—each scene in the movie refers, however obliquely, to real fears, real emotions and real configurations of love or friendship. But at the same time, not single frame is meant to be taken literally, as a documentary-like account of how people are, or should be, or shouldn't be. It's working through primordial feelings in the manner of a blues song, a pulp thriller, a film noir, or a horror picture...

"I'm not saying the film is genuinely clever throughout (though it is always fiendishly manipulative) or that every twist is defensible (a few are stupid). I'm saying that Gone Girl is what it is, that it knows what it is, and that it works. You know how well it's working when you hear how audiences laugh at it, and with it. Their laughter evolves as the film does. They laugh tentatively at first, then with an enthusiasm that gives way to a full-throated, 'I endorse this madness!' gusto during the final half-hour, when the story spirals into DePalma-style expressionism and the picture becomes a maelstrom of blood, tears and other bodily fluids. There are allusions to the O.J. Simpson case, Macbeth and Medea, and the ending is less an ending than a punchline that's all the more amusing for feeling so deflated."

Sasha Stone, Awards Daily
"A good comparison of Gone Girl is how Stephen King’s work has been adapted over the years. If you read The Shining you will discover an entirely different story in every possible way than what [Stanley] Kubrick put on screen, much to King’s own personal disappointment. But Kubrick made it cinema where it was horror fiction before (I think literature but hey, that’s me). Kubrick made it funny. It wasn’t funny. It was nowhere near funny. The Shining, as written by Stephen King is terrifying. Wendy is being hunted by her haunted husband and Danny has a power that makes the Overlook want to absorb him for it. Kubrick’s version did not delight critics in the least bit, and it certainly pissed off a lot of King fans. But Kubrick’s film is a cinematic masterpiece because it is about CINEMA. It’s about the color red. It’s about Jack Nicholson’s wildly off the wall performance. It’s that giant hotel swallowing up the skinny Wendy and tiny Danny. It’s about tracking shots and it’s about evoking terror. It’s about showing, not telling.

"When Brian De Palma made King’s wonderful first book, Carrie, it was a similar kind of transformation. It was kind of funny. It is different from the book in so many ways – for one thing, in the film Carrie is not repulsive. She is pretty, though freaky as Sissy Spacek realized her. This is what we talk about when we talk about the language of cinema – showing an audience a story that is meant to give you an experience over a two hour period sitting in a dark theater – it is not about the isolated wonder of making a book come alive in your imagination. Even films like the Shawshank Redemption or Stand by Me or Misery or Dolores Claiborne completely alter what was written on the page. They have to. They’re movies, not books. Vive la difference.

"It is therefore very telling how different people interpret Amy in Fincher’s film. Here is a director like Kubrick or De Palma who has taken a familiar book with familiar characters and found a new way to tell that story using the language of cinema, not the language of fiction. He found in Gillian Flynn a writer who understands both. So that this attempt to find the goodness in Amy, or to want to see one’s own definition of a “cool girl” is to want the movie you made in you head rather than the one these artist’s rendered. People seem so urgent about making Amy somehow good. Perhaps, while reading the book, they were able to remake Amy as a more palatable person. But Amy, fully fleshed out on screen, is the collaboration of an actress, a director and a writer who found this cinematic Amy, quite different from the Amy as written on the page."

Lou Lumenick, New York Post
"Enter a celebrity lawyer named Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), as well as tabloid journalists loosely modeled on Nancy Grace (Missi Pyle) and Barbara Walters (Sela Ward). Not exactly biting satire or social commentary. Fincher is on more solid ground with trashy thrills — including an artfully staged (and gory) murder reminiscent of Brian De Palma."

Andrew Parker, Dork Shelf
"Following a recent string of prestigious films that established filmmaker David Fincher as someone who always gets talked about during awards season whenever he makes a film (and a side trip to direct the English language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), he has seemingly returned to his gleefully nasty, more culturally misanthropic roots with Gone Girl. It’s an absolute blast to watch blending sly wit, campy theatricality, perfect casting, and Fincher’s uniquely controlled style of direction. People who yearned for the day where Fincher would make another film like Fight Club or The Game have gotten their wish. Gone Girl is the best Brian De Palma film that Brian De Palma never made."

Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly
"It may not be fair to judge a movie by who didn’t direct it, but watching David Fincher’s meticulous, sterile adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s nasty pulp novel Gone Girl made me wish that someone with a little less restraint were behind the camera.

"We’ll never find out what Brian De Palma’s or Oliver Stone’s or Eli Roth’s Gone Girl would have looked like, and it’s not as if Fincher does a bad job with the material, aided by a screenplay from Flynn herself. Indeed, Fincher’s Gone Girl is often riveting, and the movie streamlines some of the novel’s most excessive elements, with brisker pacing (even at nearly two and a half hours) and greater narrative momentum. It’s a solid, sometimes seriously unsettling movie, with a number of very good performances, but it’s still second-tier Fincher, a faithful literary adaptation along the lines of his last film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, without the larger resonance of movies like Zodiac and The Social Network."

Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"Gone Girl is David Fincher’s Eyes Wide Shut. As Stanley Kubrick did in his final film, Fincher lifts the lid off the black box of marriage. He reveals the core of unredressed resentment, unfulfilled desire, inescapable duplicity, unrelieved anger, unresolved doubts, unrevealed secrets, and relentless self-abnegation on which the life of a couple depends. But Gone Girl goes a step beyond Kubrick’s film, by rooting the action in the particulars of the digital age. The new public realm—the intentional representation of private life in public view and the way that those representations quickly get out of hand—is at the center of Fincher’s movie. And it’s from here that the movie’s modernity, immediacy, and urgency arise.

"Fincher is the exemplary digital artist of the contemporary cinema. For him, the world of modern media is far more than a source of information. It’s a new realm of mind, and it comes with its own myths and symbols, angels and demons. The power of Gone Girl isn’t in its plot alone. Though I started out warning about spoilers, there isn’t much temptation to analyze the movie’s plot in detail. This is no mere avoidance of spoilers; it’s a reflection of the movie itself, in which the plot quickly melts into the ideas that sustain it.

"In its simplest form, Gone Girl is a story of revenge. The marriage of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliott Dunne (Rosamund Pike) is a troubled one. The sources of conflict are simple and clear: money difficulties; a sexual cooling-off; unease with the in-laws; Amy’s sacrifice of city life for Nick’s home town in Missouri, where they move so that Nick can care for his ailing mother. But there’s worse: Nick is an adulterer, and has been violent to Amy, not with weapons or fists, but crossing the line nonetheless, breaching her trust and instilling fear with the implicit threat of worse to come. The law doesn’t get involved with adultery, and in this case it doesn’t get involved with assault, either. What’s left is personal vengeance and divine or karmic retribution.

"Nick is no angel, but the revenge that follows seems somewhat disproportionate to his offenses. Fresh from a screening, I mentioned on Twitter that I saw equal measures of misogyny and misandry in the film, and that they join in a 'tender misanthropy.' It takes a jaundiced view of the human condition to judge the institution of marriage on the behavior of its inmates. If Fincher’s view of marriage seems similar to that of Eyes Wide Shut, his view of Nick seems derived from Alfred Hitchcock’s vision of the amiable family man as played by Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man: he’s certainly guilty of something, and it will come out if his life is scrutinized—which it is, when Amy disappears and he’s accused of her murder.

"But the hidden crime would also come out if Nick looked deeply or closely enough at himself—if he subjected himself to the infamous Jimmy Carter standard of candor. (It’s oddly apt that Gone Girl is opening on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.) Ultimately, the evils that are being redressed in Gone Girl aren’t one husband’s indifference or cruelty but all men’s crimes through the ages. What could easily have devolved into a bunny-boiling melodrama turns into the ultimate #YesAllMen drama becomes a version of Medea and The Bacchae dressed in the shopping-mall garb of uneasy and struggling suburbanites. In the course of Nick’s travails—his subjection to televised character assassination, police interrogation, and street harassment—he speaks the movie’s key line, with its Euripidean wink: 'I’m so sick of being picked apart by women.'

"Fincher’s not offering an essentialist view of gender but rather slicing and stretching Nick and Amy at their particular points of sensitivity. What’s gendered isn’t the world at large but the life that Nick and Amy have chosen. And it’s that life, not the biology of gender but their chosen social roles, that erupts with a violent mythological force through the neutrality of the media. With a digital prestidigitator’s swiftness, Fincher keeps the action moving forward even as the real action is happening offscreen—in the past or in the future, in memory or fantasy or fear, somewhere else or even, for that matter, nowhere. (That’s the moral essence of the digital age: people staring at their screens, for whom whatever is in their presence is less important than what is happening somewhere else.) Gone Girl is as much of a revelation and an artifact of digital life as Zodiac, Benjamin Button, and The Social Network.”

Chris Fyvie, The Skinny
"The brilliance of Gone Girl cannot be overstated, nor can it really be elucidated without diluting its many, many pleasures. This is a contradiction, a quandary, of which David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (adapting her own bestseller) would no doubt approve. Unspooling from the suspicious disappearance of outwardly icy and unlovable Amy Dunne (Pike), both in flashback, to the beginning of Amy and husband Nick’s (Affleck) relationship, and in the present, as Nick somewhat half-heartedly attempts to recover her, there is something not quite right about everything on screen; a strangeness maintained in no small part by the leads’ mesmerising, layered performances.

A tricksy mystery, an ironic, bat-shit crazy erotic thriller of the type Joe Eszterhas and Brian De Palma in their pomp might think too lurid, and a sharp satire of pervasive tabloid media and the parasitic communal grief it fosters in times of personal crisis, the picture hinges on and delights in its ambiguity. And its artifice; while Fincher and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s frosty, voyeuristic gaze is deliberately incongruous, the excellent, subtle supporting turns from talented TV actors (Dickens, Coon, Harris) and a shameless tack-merchant (Perry) both subvert and compliment the tawdry subject matter. It’s gloriously deep, with a despair at humanity typical of the director's work, but Gone Girl also succeeds purely on its gorgeous, thoroughly entertaining surface. One of Fincher's finest, and certainly his most playful."

7 Films To Watch Before Seeing Gone Girl
Nick N., The Film Stage

(the 7 films chosen by the staff: Basic Instinct, Body Double, Dressed To Kill, Eyes Wide Shut, Psycho, Vertigo, The Vanishing)

"Although I come to you as a man who’s not yet seen Gone Girl, I do consider myself something of a Brian De Palma expert, and knowing what I know about David Fincher’s latest film allows me to say you’ll probably get a bit more out of it if Dressed to Kill and Body Double are experienced beforehand. That this is tiptoeing around spoilers would both acknowledge the need to preserve some surprise and also tip the cap to De Palma, whose immense formal talent can make the bombastic and stupid utterly sublime — a trait one might apply to Fincher himself. Even if you have no desire to check out his 2014 offering, at least allow another director to give you some slick sleaze."

Posted by Geoff at 12:49 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 5, 2014 2:10 AM CDT
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Monday, September 22, 2014
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
"But above all, it’s is a delicious exercise in audience-baiting: what begins as a he-said, she-said story of mounting, murderous suspense, lurches at its fulcrum into the kind of hot mess Brian De Palma might have cooked up 20 years ago in his attic."

Graham Fuller, Screen Daily
"Psycho is a touchstone (as is Body Heat), though Fincher utilises suspense as a smokescreen for social critiquing. As it traces what went wrong in the marriage, Gone Girl simultaneously evolves as a mordant satire of the mediating of domestic violence as mass entertainment."

Michael Nordine, Indiewire
"Fincher likely prides himself on turning coal into diamonds at this point, but Flynn's script can feel so retrograde at times that one wonders whether it might have been better served by a De Palma, Bigelow, or even a Verhoeven — which is to say, a filmmaker less concerned with making the lascivious seem prestigious. (It's doubtful anyone else could have filmed a certain blood-soaked scene with such unsettling verve, however.)"

Xan Brooks, The Guardian
"In the meantime the film keeps changing costumes, covering its tracks. It’s nodding freely to everything from Fatal Attraction, to Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion, to The War of the Roses; all but tripping over itself in its rush to the climax. Thank heavens for Fincher, who keeps the tale so coiled and intense that we are prepared to stick with it, even as it pitches towards outright hysteria. He whips up a bracing, scalding sketch of a marriage in meltdown; a banner-headline study of the domestic hell that we make for each other."

Justin Chang, Variety
"Among other things, “Gone Girl” functions as a wickedly entertaining satire of our scandal-obsessed, trash-TV-addicted media culture; this is a movie as conversant with the tawdry true-crime sagas of Scott Peterson and Casey Anthony as it is with classic thrillers of domestic entrapment like Rebecca, Diabolique, Rosemary’s Baby and Fatal Attraction.”

Jake Wilson, The Sydney Morning Herald
"Thematically, the film can be seen as a sequel to Fincher's Facebook origin story The Social Network, engaging rather more directly with the contemporary reality of social media. Once news of the disappearance goes public, TV pundits and everyday folk are equally quick to take sides – Team Amy or Team Nick? – even as the viewer is made to suspect that both parties have plenty to hide.

"As narrators of the book, Nick and Amy address the reader directly, commenting on the distance between their public and private selves. While Fincher can't replicate this effect on film, he achieves an equivalent kind of irony simply by putting the naturally smarmy Affleck in a role that capitalises on the unbelievability of his good-guy screen persona. Other instances of stunt casting are comparably astute, from Tyler Perry as a purring defence attorney to Neil Patrick Harris as the kind of well-spoken nutcase John Lithgow used to play for Brian De Palma."

David Ehrlich, Badass Digest
"Working from a script by Flynn herself, Gone Girl is a domestic horror show that grows more discomfortingly familiar as it balloons to a national scale. As if Brian De Palma remade Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith and set it inside of the wettest dream that Nancy Grace has ever had, Fincher’s latest is perhaps most remarkable for how it exceeds the sum of its parts."

Posted by Geoff at 8:27 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 29, 2014 2:19 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rose McGowan is doing what she really wants to do now, which is to direct films. Her short film, Dawn, is getting positive reviews, and to qualify the short for Oscar consideration, she's been hosting the Dawn Festival at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles. The fest, which began Friday, runs for seven nights. Each night begins with a screening of the 18-minute Dawn, followed by a Q&A with McGowan, who then introduces a feature film in which women are given a strong voice. One of those features is Brian De Palma's Carrie, which will be introduced by McGowan this Wednesday night. (The other films are Ridley Scott's Thelma And Louise, John Hughes' Sixteen Candles, Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Jonathan Demme's Silence Of The Lambs, Hal Ashby's Harold And Maude, and David Swift's The Parent Trap.


In an interview with Under The Radar, Austin Trunick tells McGowan, "You’ve worked with some great directors across your career, in particular ones who have been known to sometimes handle dark subject matter – such as Wes Craven, Brian De Palma, even Quentin Tarantino to a degree. Was there anything you learned from watching or working with those directors that you brought to your own directing style?"

McGowan replies, "I think De Palma, out of any of them, for sure. I love his tracking shots. I’ve just been inspired by him, as a filmmaker. Even some of his later movies. It’s so hard to make a movie come out right, or do anything like that. But the actual art of what he does is really, really inspiring to me.

"For me, I probably lean more on things from the past than things from the present. People, I should say." When pushed to name some of those older directors who inspired her for Dawn, McGowan replies, "I would say Douglas Sirk, Charles Laughton, Jacques Tourneur … For me, art is a really big part of it, as well. The loneliness that I wanted to capture is what I feel when I look at certain Edward Hopper paintings. The life of an artist should be rich and encompass many different art forms. It can all coalesce into one piece; all of your random bits of knowledge. For me, I hosted a show on TCM for a year, and I’m on the board of the Film Noir Society with Dennis Lehane and [James] Ellroy, people like this. I’m really steeped in the classics, but I love modern film as well, obviously." (Speaking of Ellroy, of course, McGowan appeared in De Palma's adaptation of the author's The Black Dahlia.)

McGowan similarly tells Ain't It Cool's Papa Vinyard, "It's like when you're, I'd imagine, a [sculptor]. Every chip off the block is what you don't want until it's what you do want. And there have definitely been- I worked with De Palma, and I was really inspired by some of his tracking shots, and certain people like that. But by and large, most of the stuff I did as an actor wasn't [incredibly] inspirational to me as a director."


In a Rotten Tomatoes Podcast, host Grae Drake tells McGowan, "Carrie is actually a note that I made while I was watching [Dawn], because Dawn’s mother is like a less-aggressive Piper Laurie to me. And even in a very short amount of screen time, and a very kind of realistic portrayal of a mom, it wasn’t over-the-top. I went, ‘Oooh, she's gonna be lockin’ Dawn in a closet at some point during this movie.’ [Laughter] Like, this is not going to go well. And so without revealing too much, I thought it was a really good way of foreshadowing what was going to go on, and the kind of world that this poor young girl is finding herself in."

McGowan then replies, "Yeah, [she's] trapped. And I really did it for women. You know, my mom is 60, she just turned 60. And I’m kind of fascinated by that era, and that they were raised to be pleasant and da-da-da, and essentially your goal is to take care of a man and his children. And then I’m fascinated by the fact that later in the ‘60s, the sexual revolution happens, and they’re supposed to be loose and free. But you’re actually programmed to please a man. It was just a really interesting era, and my mom was raised by a very similar mother to Dawn’s, and I wanted to bring that to the screen. Ironically, or, oddly enough, I had Piper Laurie cast in the original short I was planning on doing... Except, she’s 86, I had her in the woods, sub-zero temperatures, getting killed by… it was an adaptation of a Flannery O’Connor piece. Which is a heavy, you know, some great material. So well-written. But I think it all turned out for the best."

The Flannery O'Connor piece sounds likely to have been A View Of The Woods.

Posted by Geoff at 10:33 PM CDT
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