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Sunday, November 2, 2014
NEW BOOK ON DE PALMA SCHEDULED FOR 2015
AUTHOR DOUGLAS KEESEY TO TAKE BIOGRAPHICAL APPROACH TO DE PALMA'S CINEMA
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
GREVEN'S 'PSYCHO-SEXUAL' EXCERPT ONLINE
ON "DE PALMA'S INTERTEXTUAL HITCHCOCK PROJECT" AT ROGEREBERT.COM
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
NEW GREVEN BOOK: 'PSYCHO-SEXUAL'
LOOKS AT INFLUENCE OF HITCHCOCK ON DE PALMA, SCORSESE, FRIEDKIN
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:
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"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
DE PALMA CHAPTER IN 'SHOCK VALUE'
UPDATE: NEW INTERVIEW WITH ZINOMAN AT COMPLEX

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.

UPDATE: ZINOMAN SOUGHT OUT INTVS WITH THE PEOPLE WHO KNEW THEM BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS
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
NEW BOOK LOOKS AT MODERN HORROR
'SHOCK VALUE' AUTHOR MAKES CASE THAT DE PALMA'S FILMS ARE HIGHLY PERSONAL
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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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
NEW GREVEN BOOK OUT TODAY
DE PALMA'S 'CARRIE' SEEN AS PRIME EXAMPLE OF FEMALE-CENTERED MELODRAMA DRESSED UP AS HORROR FILM
We all know that today is the day Criterion releases its highly-anticipated edition of Brian De Palma's Blow Out (which includes a newly-remastered version of De Palma's Murder A La Mod, as well as a new hour-long interview with De Palma, and... Oh, I could go on and on!). But there is another nice surprise today-- a new book from David Greven, author of the thought-provoking Manhood In Hollywood From Bush To Bush. While that book took a lengthy look at the masculine dynamics on display in De Palma's Casualties Of War, among other films, Greven's new book, Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema: The Woman's Film, Film Noir, and Modern Horror, takes De Palma's Carrie as the prime example of how horror movies are, according to Greven, "concealed woman's films," female-centered melodramas in horror guise. The book includes a chapter on Carrie, as well as a discussion on De Palma's The Fury. Other films Greven discusses in the book include Now, Voyager, The Heiress, Flamingo Road, the Alien films, and The Brave One. There is also a discussion of the slasher genre.

Posted by Geoff at 1:09 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 5, 2010
NEW DE PALMA BOOK DEBUTS AT VENICE
"THE WRITING OF THE GAZE: THE CINEMA OF BRIAN DE PALMA"
At the Venice Film Festival today, Historica Edizioni previewed the inaugural volume in its new series of books on cinema. The book is called The Writing Of The Gaze: The Cinema Of Brian De Palma, and it was unveiled today at the Info Point in front of the Venice Film Festival in the Movie Village. The Writing Of The Gaze is edited by Massimiliano Spanu and Fabio Zanello, who were each scheduled to be on hand at the Info Point today to take part in a video interview for Giuseppe Amodio and Deborah Farina's Italian program Venezia Pulp. Last January, Lankelot's Francesco Giubilei interviewed Zanello, asking him why they chose De Palma as the initial subject for the series, to be followed by a volume on Francis Ford Coppola. Zanello responded:

Yes, the title of this inaugural volume of the Historica Editions planned for April will be "The Writing of the Gaze. The Cinema of Brian De Palma." That one is being taken care of between myself and Professor Massimiliano Spanu at the University of Trieste. Spanu and I have assigned the essays that will make up the volume to a very competent working team: Leonardo Gandini, Massimo Causo, Edvige Liotta, Domenico Monetti, Elisa Grando, M.Deborah Farina, Andrea Fontana, Mario Gerosa, Carlo Griseri, Diego Mondella, Alessandra Montesanto, Davide Taro, Michele Raga, Michele Tosolini, Mario Molinari, Enrico Terrone, Luca Bandirali, Andrea Fontana, Piero Babudro, Fabio Migneco and Corrado Denaro.

The choice fell on Brian De Palma, because, besides being a leading exponent of the new Hollywood, from the outset he has pursued a continuous research and reflection on the image and forms of narrative genres, far from being exhausted themselves. He is a real investigator who has represented and continues to represent a model of artistic coherence, even when dealing with commercial films. Aware that we will not be neither the first nor the last to study the auteur of "Scarface," "Carlito's Way" and "Carrie" Spanu and I think that De Palma as a director is always "forward" and "young." So, because of this, there will never be enough written about him in subsequent years, I'm sure.

WONDERS WHY "MASTERPIECE" LIKE REDACTED WAS NEVER RELEASED IN ITALY, DESPITE WINNING AT VENICE
I moreover confess that I’d like to stir the consciences of those who have not distributed into the country a masterpiece like "Redacted" that, after winning the Venice Film Festival, was visible only on satellite TV. We'll see!

Asked why they chose Coppola for the second volume, Zanello replied:

Some of the adjectives that I spent on De Palma may also be applied to Francis Ford Coppola. As a notation I would add: bold and reckless. Only he could sign a formal masterpiece of elegance such as "Dracula", after the many film versions of the myth, and producers who taunted him for his idea to bring Bram Stoker’s creature to the screen, before the proliferation of vampire movies in recent years. Other movies like "The Conversation" and "One from the Heart" have foreshadowed issues such as wire tapping and high definition. Today everybody worships these films as they rightly deserve, yet at the time they were notorious flops at the box office. Coppola, therefore, provides another congenital ground on which to develop a 360-degree analysis.

ESSAY SEEKS TO "REHABILITATE" DE PALMA'S MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
Carlo Griseri posted on his blog today that he had the "privilege/burden" of writing the essay on Mission: Impossible, an image from which graces the sublime cover to The Writing Of The Gaze. Griseri's essay attempts to "rehabilitate" De Palma's film which, according to Griseri, is unanimously considered one of De Palma's minor works, and is "discreetly snubbed by purists and critics." All this despite French critic Luc Lagier's book-length study on De Palma's Mission: Impossible.


Posted by Geoff at 11:47 PM CDT
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