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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Carlotta Films posted the image above on its Facebook page today, with this caption:
One of the new Hollywood cult filmmakers in an exceptional interview book! Published in 2001 and very quickly exhausted, the mythical book of Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud will be released on November 11 in a new revised version and updated with unprecedented interviews with the director, on his films made since then! Also included in the box: 6 film star films in DVD (Phantom of the Paradise, The Fury, Dressed To Kill, Blow Out, Body Double and Scarface).

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 22, 2017 12:03 AM CDT
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Friday, June 16, 2017

The end of 2017 will see publication in France of an updated edition of the book, Brian De Palma: entretiens avec Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud. The new edition will be published by Carlotta Films. The original edition was published in France just as De Palma was releasing Femme Fatale, which received only a brief mention at the end of the book. The new edition will include new interviews covering the four features De Palma has made since then (including Femme Fatale), as well as additional interview material to some of the previous films, according to Vachaud. We are very much looking forward to this one!

Posted by Geoff at 7:52 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 16, 2017 7:44 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015
On Monday, The Washington Post's Dennis Drabelle posted a review of Douglas Keesey's recent book, Brian De Palma's Split-Screen: A Life In Film. Here are some excerpts:
Keesey has taken an unusual approach to his subject. Rather than lay down a biographical foundation at the outset, he introduces elements of De Palma’s private life as they crop up in his movies: 29 in all, which Keesey summarizes and analyzes in chronological order. (To avoid plot spoilage, save Keesey’s chapter on a given film until after you’ve seen it.) This works better than one might expect because, more than most directors, De Palma pours his psyche into his work. “When you’re making a movie,” he has said, “you think about it all the time — you’re dreaming about it, you wake up with ideas in the middle of the night — until you actually . . . shoot it. You have these ideas that are banging around in your head, but once you objectify them and lock them into a photograph or cinema sequence, then . . . they no longer haunt you.” De Palma has also written the scripts for many of his films, but Keesey could have done a better job of helping us keep track of who did what. The book cries out for a filmography.

As it turns out, De Palma has a highly charged past to draw on. When he was in his late teens, his father, an orthopedic surgeon in Philadelphia, allowed the boy to watch him in action. “I was standing right next to him in front of the operating room table,” De Palma recalled of one episode. “He cut off a patient’s leg and then gave it to me!” When Dr. De Palma had an extramarital affair, Brian found out about it, sided with his mother and got busy gathering evidence on her behalf with a tape recorder and a camera. And for all his eventual success, Brian was not the standout among the offspring. That honor went to his mathematically gifted older brother Bruce, with whom Brian had to compete as a kid. (Bruce later descended into what Keesey calls “a kind of hubristic madness.”)

De Palma works out that sibling rivalry in Sisters, in which the eponymous women — both played by Margot Kidder — were born as conjoined twins and then surgically separated. De Palma’s harrowing experience in that operating room helps account for the dismemberment in Body Double. As for using a tape recorder to gather incriminating evidence, look no further than Blow Out...

One more thing about Blow Out. Although it obviously owes something to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (as even the titles suggest) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, I think Blow Out outclasses both forerunners in sheer entertainment value. In any case, that seems to be the way with De Palma: He is one of those artists whose forte is spinning variations on themes pioneered by others. And what’s wrong with that? What contemporary mystery writer hasn’t been strongly influenced, at least indirectly, by Wilkie Collins and James M. Cain? What writer of romances doesn’t owe a big debt to the Brontë sisters and Daphne du Maurier?

Hollywood has shamefully neglected De Palma; he’s never even been nominated for a best director Oscar. Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen announces that it’s time for a reassessment of his unjustly slighted oeuvre.

Posted by Geoff at 1:15 AM CDT
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Thursday, May 28, 2015
I just received my copy of Douglas Keesey's new book, Brian De Palma's Split-Screen: A Life In Film. I'll have to write more after I've read it, but upon initial browse-through, it appears to be a thoroughly-researched examination of De Palma's cinema, and an interpretation of each feature film (each one has its own chapter) as it relates to De Palma's personal life and career.

There is also a nice bit in the Acknowledgments: "No accounting of intellectual indebtedness would be complete without recognizing the key role that Geoff Beran and his website, De Palma a la Mod, have played in keeping viewers informed about all things directly or even tangentially related to De Palma. Beran's site is an endless treasure trove of facts, interpretations, opinions, and Web links, and it would be impossible for me to count how many times I visited it during the writing of this book." In the same paragraph, Keesey goes on to thank Bill Fentum, Romain Desbiens, and Ari Kahan.

Posted by Geoff at 12:45 AM CDT
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Amazon link

Religious Imagery In The Films Of Brian De Palma
(blog post by Ryan M. Holt from February 28, 2014)

Posted by Geoff at 9:35 PM CST
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Sunday, November 2, 2014
Amazon has a new book about Brian De Palma listed for publication on June 1, 2015, from University Press of Mississippi. The book, Brian De Palma's Split-Screen: A Life in Film, is by Douglas Keesey, who has previously written books about several filmmakers and actors, including Taschen books on Paul Verhoeven, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, and the Marx Bros., as well as books covering the films of Peter Greenaway and Catherine Breillat. He has also written two books about erotic cinema, and one about Neo-Noir, which focuses on directors such as the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino.

Here is the description of the book from the Amazon listing:
Over the last five decades, the films of director Brian De Palma (b. 1940) have been among the biggest successes (The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible) and the most high-profile failures (The Bonfire of the Vanities) in Hollywood history. De Palma helped launch the careers of such prominent actors as Robert De Niro, John Travolta, and Sissy Spacek (who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress in Carrie). Indeed Quentin Tarantino named Blow Out as one of his top three favorite films, praising De Palma as the best living American director. Picketed by feminists protesting its depictions of violence against women, Dressed to Kill helped to create the erotic thriller genre. Scarface, with its over-the-top performance by Al Pacino, remains a cult favorite. In the twenty-first century, De Palma has continued to experiment, incorporating elements from videogames (Femme Fatale), tabloid journalism (The Black Dahlia), YouTube, and Skype (Redacted and Passion) into his latest works. What makes De Palma such a maverick even when he is making Hollywood genre films? Why do his movies often feature megalomaniacs and failed heroes? Is he merely a misogynist and an imitator of Alfred Hitchcock? To answer these questions, author Douglas Keesey takes a biographical approach to De Palma's cinema, showing how De Palma reworks events from his own life into his films. Written in an accessible style, and including a chapter on every one of his films to date, this book is for anyone who wants to know more about De Palma's controversial films or who wants to better understand the man who made them.

Posted by Geoff at 10:13 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 2, 2014 10:17 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 15, 2014
RogerEbert.com published an excerpt today about Brian De Palma from David Greven's book, Psycho-Sexual. Here's the closing paragraph of the excerpt:

De Palma was one of the first film directors to treat Hitchcock as an established film grammar, a genre unto himself. By treating Hitchcock as a school rather than merely as a predecessor or competitor whose works could provide an example for commercial success, De Palma forced audiences to reconsider and relive the traumas and implications of Hitchcock’s cinema. The “proper” way to use a predecessor is, apparently, to evoke certain effects and instances of technique, but not to dwell on them. Steven Spielberg’s "Jaws" (1975) famously opens with a highly effective and disturbing variation on Psycho’s shower-murder sequence—the skinny-dipping girl’s nighttime swim and murderous attack from the shark—but then proceeds to camouflage all of its borrowings from Hitchcock. If Spielberg makes use of Hitchcock, he does so only sparingly, such as, to give another example, his evocation of the Mount Rushmore sequence in "North by Northwest" in his "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977), when the hero and his female ally try to scale Devil’s Mountain surreptitiously. De Palma’s use of Hitchcock certainly isn’t sparing; it’s the whole meal. He recreates Hitchcock’s major effects and then languorously, disturbingly distends them. In so doing, De Palma solicits criticism, but he also forces us to rethink Hitchcock and the work of the cinematic past generally. De Palma’s metatextual meditations are not ends to themselves but, instead, tethered to much larger political and social concerns. And these concerns are with the gendered and sexual logic of patriarchy and what happens to individuals when they attempt to challenge and, much more threateningly, break free of the social order.

Posted by Geoff at 11:56 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 11:58 PM CDT
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Saturday, January 5, 2013
Our old friend David Greven has a new book, Psycho-Sexual, now available. Greven tells us that the book "is about Hitchcock and masculinity, and the influence of Htichcock on New Hollywood directors like De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin. I have two chapters on De Palma, whom I call the greatest of the New Hollywood directors in the book. The first is a revised, expanded version of the essay I wrote on the early Vietnam War-era comedies. The other is a new piece, a reassessment of Dressed To Kill. My effort in this book is to pay close attention to what critics often ignore, even supportive De Palma critics: the aesthetic and ideological aspects of De Palma's reworking of Hitchcock."

We look forward to reading the book. Below is the official description from the University of Texas Press website:

"Bridging landmark territory in film studies, Psycho-Sexual is the first book to apply Alfred Hitchcock’s legacy to three key directors of 1970s Hollywood—Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and William Friedkin—whose work suggests the pornographic male gaze that emerged in Hitchcock’s depiction of the voyeuristic, homoerotically inclined American man. Combining queer theory with a psychoanalytic perspective, David Greven begins with a reconsideration of Psycho and the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much to introduce the filmmaker’s evolutionary development of American masculinity.

"Psycho-Sexual probes De Palma’s early Vietnam War draft-dodger comedies as well as his film Dressed to Kill, along with Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Friedkin’s Cruising as reactions to and inventive elaborations upon Hitchcock’s gendered themes and aesthetic approaches. Greven demonstrates how the significant political achievement of these films arises from a deeply disturbing, violent, even sorrowful psychological and social context. Engaging with contemporary theories of pornography while establishing pornography’s emergence during the classical Hollywood era, Greven argues that New Hollywood filmmakers seized upon Hitchcock’s radical decentering of heterosexual male dominance. The resulting images of heterosexual male ambivalence allowed for an investment in same-sex desire; an aura of homophobia became informed by a fascination with the homoerotic. Psycho-Sexual also explores the broader gender crisis and disorganization that permeated the Cold War and New Hollywood eras, reimagining the defining premises of Hitchcock criticism."

Posted by Geoff at 4:26 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2013 4:27 PM CST
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

After getting my hands on a copy of Jason Zinoman's new book, Shock Value (see earlier post here), I immediately skipped to the chapter on Brian De Palma, which is titled "He Likes To Watch." This chapter makes the book an essential read for anybody interested in De Palma's work. The chapter is put together with the help of new interviews with De Palma, William Finley, Jared Martin, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon (pictured here from De Palma's Home Movies), Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Lawrence D. Cohen, Tina Shepard, and, if I'm not mistaken, Steven Spielberg, and perhaps Stephen King (having not read the entire book yet, I skimmed but could not find any official acknowledgment of who provided new interviews for the book, but based on the way they're worded, I'm pretty sure Zinoman uses a couple of brand new quotes from Spielberg).

In this chapter, De Palma says that he couldn't see before what he sees clearly now: that the reason his films repeatedly feauture a character who fails to save somebody is because that was how he felt when his little brother, Bart, was all torn up over their parents marital woes. De Palma helped his mother get a divorce by spying on and eventually catching his father in the middle of a tryst with his nurse (De Palma later called the photos he snapped his first film). But he could not save his brother from the pain of the situation. And it is De Palma who sees now that this is the source of the heroes' consistent plight in his own films.

Hence, Zinoman argues, De Palma's films are much more invested in autobiographical elements than most (critics and fans alike) have given them credit for, and he points out the irony that De Palma's most confessional film, Home Movies, is hidden as a zany comedy that hardly anyone has seen or even heard of. Zinoman goes so far as to show how De Palma himself relates to the character Kate Miller in Dressed To Kill. While it may be a stretch when Zinoman tries to link to the above De Palma narrative by suggesting that Kate is a character who tries to save herself from a dead-end marriage, he is spot on that Kate goes to the museum and does essentially what De Palma used to do at museums: pick up a member of the opposite sex. Zinoman concludes that, far from the usual misogynistic reading of Kate Miller (who has an adulterous affair and symbolically "pays for it" with her death), De Palma is quite sympathetic to the character. Zinoman stops there, but I would add that by designating Kate's son, Peter (again played by Gordon), as De Palma's obvious surrogate in the film, the sympathy toward Kate is corroborated.

The chapter's main focus is on De Palma's Carrie adaptation, although Zinoman nicely leads up to that film by moving from the aforementioned divorce story, through De Palma's formative college years, and his early film work. Through descriptive passages, Zinoman relates how an experience De Palma had while sitting in the audience at a performance of Dionysus In ‘69, which he was preparing to film in split-screen, led to an idea for the key prom sequence in Carrie. Zinoman also delves into how the film departed from King’s novel, and a volley between Buckley and Irving over which of their characters should survive Carrie’s massacre (throughout filming, it was not known who would be the one to survive).

All in all, a terrific chapter full of new information that fills in some major pieces of the De Palma puzzle. I said that this book is essential to any research on De Palma, and in that respect, I would put it on a shelf along with The Film Director As Superstar by Joseph Gelmis, The Movie Brats by Michael Pye and Lynda Myles, Brian De Palma by Michael Bliss, The De Palma Cut by Laurent Bouzereau, Double De Palma by Susan Dworkin, The Devil’s Candy by Julie Salamon, Brian De Palma: Interviews, edited by Laurence F. Knapp, Brian De Palma, entretiens avec Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, and Les mille yeux de Brian De Palma by Luc Lagier. There are other great books out there that feature insightful analyses of De Palma’s work, but the books mentioned above include interviews and provide priceless bits of information useful to anyone studying the films of Brian De Palma.

Today (Monday, July 11 2011) Complex posted Matt Barone's interview with Zinoman, who says he wanted to get the stories behind these films that haven't been told before:

The biggest challenge for me, though, was…. There’s a really excellent and dedicated sect of horror press that covers every single one of these movies all the time. There are so many wonderful blogs, and, seeing the response to my book, it’s hard not to be impressed by how smart all these people are. So one of the biggest challenges was: Wes Craven has been interviewed thousands of times, so how do you get him to recreate what it was actually like in the early ’70s to make The Last House On The Left, in a way so that it’s not him repeating the same stories that he’s told over and over again?

So, my goal with this book was to root it in reporting. There are definitely criticisms in it, and I have a strong point-of-view, but I wanted to really tell a story. I wanted it to read like a narrative, with these horror directors and writers as the main characters. and I wanted it to be rooted in original reporting. I found that spending long periods of time interviewing them was very helpful. Talking to a lot of people who don’t usually get interviewed was also key, like supporting actors, family members, people who went to school with these directors, childhood friends.

I tried to really look at sources from back in that time; I didn’t want to talk to people who are higher-level fans or made movies starting in the ’90s or later. I looked at it more as, “Who knew Brian De Palma before he was famous? Who went to college with him?”; Wes Craven’s wife from back before he made The Last House On The Left. Those people I found were excellent sources; they had firsthand knowledge of what was going on, that wasn’t informed by the fact that they’ve been telling the same stories for thirty years. Often times, I got a fresher perspective talking to those people, and once I talked to those people I went back to Craven and De Palma, joggled their memories with the stories I’d heard, and then I got all-new memories from these filmmakers.

Posted by Geoff at 11:17 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, July 11, 2011 7:19 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011
A new book on modern horror films that officially comes out tomorrow (Thursday, July 7th) has been getting quite a bit of pre-release web publicity this week. In the book, Shock Value, New York Times writer Jason Zinoman looks at the way horror movies changed in the 1960s, moving through the early 1980s, and, according to reviews, blasts several myths about these films and their makers along the way (notably citing "the problem with Psycho," and how these filmmakers responded to that "problem"). See reviews from Drew Taylor at the Playlist, Joe Meyer, Bookgasm's Rod Lott, and Johnny at Freddy In Space, who says he'll never look at a De Palma film the same way again. That's apparently because Zinoman begins his discussion on De Palma by relating the story about how as a teenager who wanted to impress and help out his mother, De Palma spied on his father (a doctor), and caught him cheating with his father's nurse. Zinoman, it is said, links this story to De Palma's films in a way that he argues makes them highly personal, and not the cold exercises in pure style they are often mistaken for. NPR's Fresh Air posted an audio interview, as well as an excerpt from the book.

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 8, 2011 6:50 AM CDT
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