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One Way Or De Palma from Joe Ahearne on Vimeo.
Rob Dean at A.V. Club asked Joe Ahearne about the creation of the excellent video he posted on Vimeo recently, One Way Or De Palma, in which he masterfully edited images from the films of Brian De Palma, setting them to a soundtrack of Blondie's One Way Or Another. Here is what Ahearne had to say to Dean:
I saw my first De Palma film when I was 17—Dressed To Kill—and that film taught me what it was a director does. It was only on repeated viewings that I realised what was happening with the slow motion (so gripped was I, I didn’t even realise the film had slowed down), the music, the colour, the editing, the framing, the camera moves, the story-telling (later on of course I realised what a superb director of actors he was too). And I hunted down all his films before and since (almost—haven’t seen Get To Know Your Rabbit yet!). I grew up on spectacle like Star Wars but De Palma showed me how a director could invest human scale drama with even more extraordinary emotion and intensity. Anyone who’s seen any of the stuff I’ve done who loves De Palma will easily spot the influences.
For a long time I’ve wanted to use De Palma’s images against Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” They share a certain obsessive quality. It was so great viewing De Palma’s last 22 films and appreciating him like a great composer, enjoying the reworking and recapitulation and reframing of themes - hearing his voice, I suppose. What really came home to me this time (I’ve seen them all many times) was what a master of colour he is. I tried to reflect that in the cut.
"When I returned to Italy I was in college. I arrived in Rome with two friends and I bought a Lambretta. I will never forget the tours I made by Vittorio Emanuele... then I took a car and drove from Venice all the way to Paris. During the trip I saw the beautiful cities of Siena, Perugia, Florence with a sensation of how much beauty there is in this country."
"My experiences and my feelings are part of my films and the Italian cinema affected me very much. I remember Rossellini, Anna Magnani, and also the way in which Antonioni visually conceptualized his ideas. I will never forget movies like L’Avventura or Red Desert."
"In my opinion the best American film about Italy is The Godfather, and not because we talk about mafia, but because it tells us that the family is an integral part of Italian culture."
"With Passion, De Palma is on more familiar ground, using the world of the erotic thriller to note how Skyping, sexting, and tiny pocket cameras are changing behavior, putting everyone in the spotlight and distracting the eye. That’s ultimately what makes Passion a more effective film than the one it’s remaking. While Corneau and Carter were telling a story about what their characters do and don’t see, De Palma is more engaged with what the audience sees. There’s always something to look at in the background of Passion, from the erotic paintings on the walls of Christine’s flat to the video billboards posted around Berlin, and always something eye-catching in what the characters wear, or how they’re posed. The movie is one long game of misdirection, playing tricks on viewers from scene to scene, and showing how easy it is to steer a crowd into missing something important. That’s the real De Palma touch, even more than the operatic overtones and excess."
The Dissolve: Does it frustrate you as a filmgoer to see the language of a film employed less carefully than that? All that work is elided in a lot of movies.
De Palma: Yes, I would agree. I’m astounded by—whether you’re making a science-fiction movie, a zombie movie, a Star Trek, a Marvel Comics Spider-Man movie—these action sequences that seemingly go on endlessly, without any type of shape or form. So much in action has to do with choreography, and orienting the viewer in where everything is. And I’m amazed all the time that nobody seems to pay much attention to that. So you basically get action and reaction, and it’s like an endless drumming without any shape.
The Dissolve: It seems like they’re trying to make up in sheer, visceral force things that could be done much more elegantly.
De Palma: And obviously, in order to have a crescendo, you have to have some silence. It’s just so simple, but nobody seems to pay much attention to it. They’re basically banging at you constantly. And then in a movie, it’s two hours, too, and then everybody says, “My God, when is this going to be over?” [Laughs.]
"Brian De Palma’s Passion starts out as a fairly flat and faithful adaptation of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime, but then after about half an hour, De Palma loosens up and starts making his most visually expressive and delightfully delirious movie since Femme Fatale. In Passion’s best sequence—and one of the best setpieces of De Palma’s formidable career—a ruthless businesswoman played by Rachel McAdams is stalked by a killer on half the screen, while the other half shows her protégée (Noomi Rapace) watching a performance of The Afternoon Of A Faun. The score rises to a peak, and the dancers look directly into the camera, underlining Passion’s theme of misdirection. De Palma keeps pulling viewers’ eyes back and forth, while heightening the tension to the point of distraction. He also calls back to some of his earliest films, like Dionysus In ’69 and Hi, Mom!, where the theater played a central role. Passion isn’t one of De Palma’s top-tier films, but it’s playful and creative, and the Afternoon Of A Faun sequence is a model of how to layer images and move characters with a multiple frames."
"Regardless, it became a weekly ritual for young Winnipeggers, playing into May of the following year, and encouraging repeat visits. A columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press claimed he had met many people who had seen it 13 or 14 times. 'In many ways, it was almost like a big rock ’n’ roll party for us,' says Carlson. 'At that age, the most subversive thing we might have seen would have been Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo or something.' Perhaps the permissiveness of Winnipeg parents played a role in Phantom’s success, but the film may have also been a generation’s introduction to rock ’n’ roll. For this audience, Williams’ glam rock played as the real thing, their first introduction to 'adult' music, a ripe starting point for a film and musician whose reputation within the city grew with nostalgia and age."
(Thanks to Drew!)
Noisey: What are some other films and/or filmmakers that have soundtracks that particularly inspire you?
Refn: There are a couple of films that define the combination of music and images. The greatest achievement in that collaboration is, of course, Once Upon a Time in the West. That is the most consequential, orgasmic arena of music and images. That’s where it’s like, ‘Fuck. How the hell do you do that.’ And then you have Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo and Ennio Morricone. There’s Psycho with Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann and, even though North by Northwest, Rear Window, and Vertigo have better soundtracks, Psycho is really where it comes together in a different way. Of course you have Fellini and a lot of Dario Argento’s early films, especially his work with Goblin. Suspiria is wonderful. You also have, of course, Martin Scorsese’s ability to use music in his films. I remember when I saw Mean Streets when I was nine years old, and I still remember the scene when Robert DeNiro walks in to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (Rolling Stones), and being like, ‘fucking hell, now I know how it works.’
Noisey: Absolutely, Scorsese kind of transformed the use of pop music in cinema.
Refn: Yea, it’s unique but you know what is weird, for everyone (whether it is Kubrick or Scorsese, or even like the work that Pino Donaggio did with Brian De Palma — and of course, we are not even touching the whole Asian world. All of the Japanese filmmakers that use composers well) all lead back to one movie…Scorpio Rising by Kenneth Anger. That was the first time that a filmmaker would use pop music of its time to underscore the emotion with the images. Its very interesting that it all leads back to that film.
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