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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Below The Line's Mark London Williams reports that, at a recent Los Angeles press conference for the release of his new film The Handmaiden, Korean director Park Chan-wook was asked about the directors who had inspired him:
He mentioned Hitchcock’s Vertigo as the film that made him want to be a filmmaker. He also talked about other “visualists,” as he called them — a list ranging from Fellini to Renoir to the also Hitchcock-inspired Brian DePalma, and more — and surmised, through a translator, that among the reasons we don’t have more such “visualists” among today’s directors might be multifold: For one, “young people don’t watch a lot of classic films,” he said. Or perhaps, even if they do, “they’re watching on a small screen. I’m not sure.”

Though he was surer about his next point, which was, “to make ‘visualist’ cinema, you need money.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:46 AM CDT
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Danny McBride, co-creator of HBO's Vice Principals, talked to Uproxx's Steven Hyden about the show, mentioning Brian De Palma in regards to the upcoming second season. Here's the excerpt from Hyden's article:
Even by the insane standards of the HBO comedy’s inaugural season, Sunday’s Vice Principals season finale was, well, very insane. Over the course of nine polarizing episodes, in which co-creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride walked the razor’s edge between pitch-black comedy and disquieting psychological drama, Vice Principals followed the efforts of school administrators Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) to overthrow their new boss, Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert). Along the way, there were some extremely uncomfortable moments, including an act of arson at Brown’s home and a horrifying night of destruction prompted by a bottle of gin.

And then there was Sunday’s episode, in which [SPOILERS AHEAD] Gamby and Russell finally succeed in getting rid of Brown. Better yet, they’re appointed co-principals of the school. But just when everything appears to have worked out for the show’s protagonists/villains, Gamby is gunned down in the school’s parking lot by a mysterious masked figure, and apparently left for dead.

Vice Principals ended its first season as it began — uneven, erratic, and yet also thrillingly unpredictable and unique. It wasn’t perfect, but Vice Principals was a welcome oddity amid an increasingly conformist television landscape. As the conventions of “Good TV” are codified and reduced to formula — with an established set of clearly defined storytelling perspectives and moral objectives — Vice Principals stubbornly went against the grain, never letting the audience off the hook by telling it how to feel about its deeply flawed characters.

Initially conceived as an 18-episode limited-run series, Vice Principals already has its second and final season in the can. “Everyone could watch it now if HBO would just release it. It’s ready. It’s there for you to see,” McBride told us Monday in a phone interview.

As for what viewers should expect from Vice Principals moving forward, McBride says “we were channeling a lot of John Hughes and ’80s teen comedy in the first season, and I feel like in the second season we start channeling a lot of Brian De Palma.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:22 AM CDT
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Kim Jee-woon's thriller The Age of Shadows played out of competition at the Venice Film Festival, and at least two reviews have mentioned Brian De Palma's The Untouchables as inspiration for a train station shootout. And after Femme Fatale, one can't help but wonder if a thriller sequence using Ravel's Bolero isn't also inspired by De Palma. Here are a couple of links, with quotes:

John Bleasdale, Cine Vue

"The murky world of betrayal and counter-betrayal is reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Melville's magnum opus Army of Shadows, but the masterful orchestration of tension also shows the influence of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. The use of music throughout is excellent with a percussive score mixing with period pieces of jazz and a concluding scene uses Bolero to stunning effect. The Age of Shadows is a bloody and breathtaking piece of filmmaking which confirms that Kim can do pretty much anything."

Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

"Because this is an action movie and no mistake, the only difference being that where most films so described usually build to a single massive setpiece, The Age of Shadows has about seven — maybe ten, if you consider that the whole train section (and of course there’s a train section) is a setpiece that contains about three other setpieces inside itself. Each one of these sequences is delivered like the climax to a Brian de Palma movie (indeed there’s a shootout in a train station that seems to deliberately echo The Untouchables) but there’s also such knotty spy-jinks intrigue going on that at other times it plays like Betrayal on the Orient Express."

(Thanks to Rado!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 15, 2016 12:07 AM CDT
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Monday, September 12, 2016

In a post about Amy Adams, Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman calls Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals a "masterpiece" that reminds him somewhat of Brian De Palma's Body Double...
"Nocturnal Animals” though is the Big Deal. Ford, the designer of ridiculously overpriced fashion, made one other film, “A Single Man,” a few years ago. It was a gorgeous debut, and quite unexpected. “Single Man” was also incredibly stylized. One wondered if all Ford’s films — if more were to come– would look the same.

This one does, and it doesn’t. With a heavy nod to Douglas Sirk (and to Todd Haynes, who already saluted Sirk in “Far from Heaven”) Ford mixes that same cool, minimalist feel with what is essentially pulp fiction– a revenge movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon (each doing their best work) within a modern soap opera starring Adams and Armie Hammer as desperately good looking and unhappy rich people. And just so we get it, Amy’s art gallery features a black and white painting of the word REVENGE. Does Ford have to paint us a picture?

Ford is as devoted to Sirk as Brian de Palma is to Hitchock– in fact, I was thinking of “Body Double” a lot during the screening because Ford mimics dePalma’s cool veneer. Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski drives the Sirk reference home and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey manages to make the 50s come alive in 2016.

Nocturnal Animals was awarded the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival this past weekend. Today, Deadline's Pete Hammond posted an article about the film in which Ford discusses some of his influences:
Although Ford says you can’t compare his two worlds of fashion and moviemaking, the keen eye he has for both is quite apparent in this dazzling movie mix that seems to have all sorts of cinematic influences. It’s a very different kind of film from A Single Man, but the love of classic filmmaking is there in all departments. Movie fans will love it and reaction here in Toronto , as earlier in Venice, has been extremely strong overall. It is not just a movie-within-a-movie, it’s a movie movie suggesting work from some of the great directors in a mix that becomes pure Ford, especially in style and design.

Fortunately, his sometimes acidly funny screenplay is a substantial one as well, crossing genres. “This one is obviously very Hitchcock, Brian DePalma, people keep telling me Douglas Sirk. People keep comparing it to David Lynch too. I love David Lynch but that was certainly not in my mind. I think it’s because we have the nude (very obese) women dancing in the beginning,” he says when I asked for names that might have inspired this film. “I think Kubrick was pretty great at a thriller, but I can’t say one particular person. I have different favorite directors for different genres. My heart, which you really couldn’t tell from this, was from the 1930’s and George Cukor. That’s where it really is. If I am designing a collection it’s often Fassbinder. So depending on what type of movie we are talking about, I have absolutely different frames of reference. They go into any filmmaker’s head. They become part of your hard drive. You don’t even necessarily realize they are coming out. I wasn’t thinking about Douglas Sirk when I made this film, but I love him and the comparison is there, so great. Hitchcock’s humor was purposeful because I think if you can scare the audience you sometimes need the relief of making them laugh. And if you can make them cry, all the better. Scare them, make them cry, make them laugh, give them a roller coaster.” And that Tom Ford has done in Nocturnal Animals.

Posted by Geoff at 12:39 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2016 11:57 PM CDT
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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 directed by the show's creator, 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 rage.

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 26, 2016 6:17 PM 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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