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Wednesday, July 1, 2015
When the show begins with one of the hosts saying that De Palma's first feature, The Wedding Party, was "such a clunker" he didn't even bother watching it prior to the podcast, and another host says he "took one for the team" in watching it, you wonder why you're even listening to this clunker of a podcast. The team then moves quickly past De Palma's early films, because they are "pretty rough"-- really? Come on, guys, do your homework. Anyway, if you can stick with it past all that, they then begin discussing Sisters (and host Alex Jowski justly insists that De Palma is doing much more than simply aping Hitchcock), Phantom Of The Paradise (which Mister X calls "a glorious train wreck," while Mike White gets passionate, telling the others, "I dig it so much"), Carrie (which is one of Jowski's favorite films of all time-- he wrote about it a couple of months earlier, comparing it with Kimberly Peirce's recent remake), and just about everything up through Body Double. The discussion about Home Movies ("the most awkward" in De Palma's filmography, according to one of the podcast hosts) is typically lazy, even with one noting the very autobiographical nature of the film's plot. Moving on to Dressed To Kill, well, give it a listen and see what you think. They also cover Blow Out (which they loved a lot more than Dressed To Kill) and Scarface. Part 2 should be up later this week.

Posted by Geoff at 12:26 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 12:28 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 11, 2015
Christopher Lee died over the weekend at the age of 93. In 2001, at the age of 79, when he was in the midst of making films with George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton (among others), Lee talked to The Guardian's Will Hodgkinson about the Gothic Hammer Horror films he'd made between the 1950s and the 1970s. "Hammer was an important part of my life, and generally speaking, we all had a lot of fun," Lee said at the time. "Fun seems to be a three-letter word these days, although with directors like Tim Burton and George Lucas, it's fun, fun, fun while working yourself to death. But if you compare those Hammer movies to what has been made in the last 20 years, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Wes Craven, Tim Burton and Peter Jackson have all said the same thing to me: 'We were brought up on your movies.' And it certainly shows in theirs."

Posted by Geoff at 7:26 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has partnered with Milan Records to create a line of deluxe vinyl soundtrack LPs, curated by Refn himself. NWR editions of Oldboy and It Follows are now joined by the soundtrack to Refn's own Bronson, which was released yesterday. July 14 will see the release of Basil Poledouris’ score for Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop.

In an interview with Noisey's Joseph Yanick, the following exchange takes place:

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.

Posted by Geoff at 3:00 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 3:02 AM CDT
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 11:01 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, April 27, 2015 11:03 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015
At the 2012 New York Film Festival, Brian De Palma and Noah Baumbach appeared on stage together, along with moderator Scott Foundas, to discuss their films. That discussion was summarized at the time by The Playlist's Cory Everett, and video clips have been posted to YouTube, but now we have full audio of the on-stage discussion, presented along with Baumbach discussing his new film, While We're Young. The new discussion is first, as it has been posted as a promotional item for Baumbach's new movie, and then the second part is the Baumbach/De Palma discussion. I cannot embed the audio here, but you can play it and listen on SoundCloud.

Posted by Geoff at 11:02 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2015 12:13 AM CDT
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015
At Desistfilm, Victor Bruno uses the film art of Brian De Palma as an example to help explain what it is that makes a good film good. Stressing in the intro that films are not about their plots, Bruno delves into what he calls the symmetry of Brian De Palma. "How does [this symmetry] come to reality?" Bruno asks. "When do we detect it in his work? The first thing we have to understand is that it is not only visual, but also thematic and spiritual. Like any good filmmaker, he is concerned about bringing ideas into images. I will use two of his films to try to illustrate a little of this idea. The films are Obsession (1976) and Body Double (1984), made almost a decade apart but with common themes and visual logics.

"Both films are primarily about the perception of the truth and truth itself (and here the term 'truth' stands for reality itself). De Palma’s camera is the mediator, the howling beast on the borderline that separates the deception from the ecstasy of the discovery. De Palma is interested in halves. In short, dichotomy: past and future; truth and lie; damnation and forgiveness; me and you; life and death.

"Of course, the most obvious feature he presents to display this interest in halves is the split-screen. Unlike some say, the split-screen is not a 'fetishist' interest that he has; it is not a gimmick. There are, of course, things that it is: It is a heritage from Alfred Hitchcock (the viewer knows everything in advance and thus he suffers more than the unaware character of the film). But it is, also, a spiritualist approach to the symmetry. When the screen is parted in two diametric halves, De Palma is trying to put the viewer in an omniscient position, a place in which we can receive all the information the film has on hand. We assume two perspectives: the one of the victim and the one of the hero (and/or of the villain). When the screen is in a single piece, the maximum the film can present to us is a medley of feelings, emotions and interests (as presented in the long takes), but it lacks a fundamental feature in a Brian De Palma picture: organization. The greatest struggle of a DePalmian character is to understand what he is living and the situation he is in and in order to do it he has to organize the facts and the feelings he is experiencing.

"But until he gets to the organization (and it does not mean you will survive in this world), the character still have to discover what is truth and what is deception. These are the themes of Obsession and Body Double. Early on the former we get what perhaps is the best shot of the career of Brian De Palma: with the left and the right sides of the screen separated by a wall, on the former we see Cliff Robertson’s character reaching for a gun and on the latter we see John Lithgow’s character trying to get information from a little kid who may or may not know anything about the kidnapping of Robertson’s daughter and wife.

"Of course, De Palma is not Wes Anderson: the screen is not split pin-point on the middle. Of course, later in his career he would be more demanding about the way he symmetrically splits his screen (more pronouncedly in Blow Out with the split diopter). But right now it doesn’t matter—it is a split screen. We have to different actions happening in two different places. Both are acts of violence—Robertson’s mind is going to crack and he is considering to kill someone; Lithgow is making pressure on a young kid. But there is a third layer, the layer that separates truth and lie: Lithgow is not interested at all in helping his friend—the truth is that he wants to drive Cliff Robertson crazy and he wants his money. So there you have it: the borderline of reality and deception. Truth and lie. Friendship and betrayal. Good intentions and bad acts. (And it’s a brilliant use of CinemaScope, don’t you agree?)"

That is just an excerpt-- go to Desistfilm to read the whole thing.

Posted by Geoff at 7:55 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:09 PM CDT
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 6:29 PM CDT
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 10:21 PM CDT
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Friday, February 20, 2015
As Fifty Shades Of Grey was released in theaters last weekend, several outlets posted articles discussing histories of sex scenes and sex thrillers in movies. Also making the rounds was a MovieMaker article from 2013: Things I’ve Learned: Brian De Palma’s Golden Rules of Shooting a Sex Scene. The article had appeared on the last page of the print edition of MovieMaker's 2014 Complete Guide To Making Movies (which came out in 2013), and was posted online in August of 2013. The article is by Brian De Palma, as interviewed by K.J. Doughton.

In the article, De Palma provides seven key things to think about when creating sex onscreen. Quoting the article here would mean truncating too much to do anything much justice, but some interesting notes include: "In Body Double, I spent a lot of time searching for the right cinematographer. I actually did screen tests for different DPs. I had these incredibly attractive women, and I wanted to make sure they were lensed correctly. That’s when I discovered Steven Burum, and I used him for many films after that."

Item #4 - "Don’t underestimate the power of a kiss. Watching Alfred Hitchcock, the first thing you learn about kissing is that you have to see the actor’s faces. You have to see them reacting to the kiss. Watch Cary Grant kissing Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. A lot of filmmakers think that just showing people kissing each other, and having a very good time, is enough. But so often their eyes are closed, and you can’t see their faces. The audience is completely shut out. In Hitchcock movies, you can see that they are kissing each other on the neck, and talking. They’re kissing lightly on the lips, and you can see their eyes. You see how they’re reacting. That’s what creates the eroticism of the scene."

And item #7 - "Watch Ryan’s Daughter. There’s one great lovemaking scene in Ryan’s Daughter. She finally has a rendezvous with a military man. It’s exquisitely well done. You really feel the sense of nature surrounding the eroticism. Because [director David] Lean had an idea! Take a girl in a field and make love to her. The feel and the sensuality of the nature around them as they’re getting into the lovemaking—it’s quite good." [When De Palma says that Lean had an idea, it's a callback to his point #3 - "You need some kind of conceptual idea."]

Prior to the release of 50 Shades Of Grey, Calum Marsh wrote a piece for the National Post with the headline, "Fifty Shades of Grey’s eroticism won’t deliver the thrill of the genre’s predecessors." That's an interesting statement being projected prior to seeing the actual film, but the point of the article echoes something De Palma states in the MovieMaker article above: "The cultural climate is too permissive, too inured, for people to be shaken by a bit of BDSM," Marsh surmises. In the 2013 MovieMaker article, De Palma had said, "Today, there’s such an incredible amount of lovemaking and nudity on cable television, and in pornography on the Internet. You see bodies photographed from every conceivable angle, doing every conceivable thing, so you really have to think hard to approach eroticism with a fresh idea. Just showing people kissing, people fucking—it’s of no interest to me."

In the National Post article, Marsh runs through a quick, brief history of the increasing permissiveness of mainstream cinema between the '60s and '70s. "Thrumming deep beneath these developments," writes Marsh, "was the bass line of the exploitation film. And it would be this strain, with its extravagant vulgarity and sensationalism, that would eventually bring sex to the popular imagination. Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, released in 1980, was indebted in many conspicuous ways to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and especially Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, both from 1960. But unrestrained by the strictures of the period, De Palma was free to adopt the format and amplify the sex and violence — to remake Psycho, in essence, with the lurid panache of a liberated age.

"Dressed To Kill was a hit: it earned nearly $32-million against its slender $6-million budget, suggesting to financiers around Hollywood that this sort of risqué genre film — owing in large part to the scandal it invariably aroused — could be hugely lucrative, so long as they were marketed in such a fashion to exaggerate, rather than downplay, their more disreputable qualities. Thus the erotic thriller was born."

On February 6th, The Toronto Sun's Liz Braun posted a mostly-annoying article looking at "erotic fails on the big screen," featuring a list of "The Top 20 Unsexy Sexy Movies." Paul Schrader's The Canyons topped her list, followed by Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls at #2. Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut was listed at #11. De Palma made her list twice, albeit near the bottom: #17 - Body Double - "The usual: a peeping Tom, the porn industry and construction tools used to ventilate people. Or maybe not. Brian De Palma challenges you to question what you see in this thriller, a challenge made tougher by all the naked breasts in your face. Just sayin'." And then she lists Femme Fatale at #19 - "A diamond thief (Rebecca Romijn) who seduces men and women alike in her line of work swaps identities with a wealthy French woman, takes a bubble bath, meets Antonio Banderas and discovers the whole thing was a dream. What the — ? Funny how often director Brian De Palma's name turns up in detritus like this."

The New Zealand Herald's Dominic Corry posted a similar article on February 11, but his mention of De Palma was positive. Discussing Showgirls, Corry writes, "Verhoeven famously later said that in retrospect, he believes he should've put a serial killer plot into Showgirls to distract the audience from the film's crude commentary on the American dream. Which is about as awesomely cynical a thing as you could imagine a director saying, and I love it. Ahead of seeing the film, I already feel like this kind of thinking may have suited Fifty Shades of Grey. A knife-wielding murderer can justify a lot of lovey-dovey cheese. Hire Verhoeven or Brian De Palma to direct it, and we might actually have something interesting."

And finally, in the wake of the box office results from the opening weekend of Fifty Shades, Entertainment Weekly's Nicole Sperling has posted an article with the headline, "Dirty Money: 11 Highest-Grossing R-rated Erotic Dramas of All Time." She starts off with Dressed To Kill at #11 - "This erotic crime thriller from Brian De Palma stars Michael Caine as both a New York City psychiatrist and a deranged transgender patient and is best known for the brutal elevator murder scene—which DePalma calls the best he’s ever done. The movie generated great reviews and became an inspiration to filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino. The original version was trimmed after the MPAA gave it an X-rating and the film earned $32 million at the box office."

Posted by Geoff at 2:56 AM CST
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Saturday, February 14, 2015
Discussing his lead role in American Sniper with Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr., Bradley Cooper contrasted the "no frills" style that Clint Eastwood was going for (which included the absence of music until the use of an old Morricone piece at the end) with a more theatrical style, and he mentioned Brian De Palma as an example-- a sort of shorthand to describe the type of camera move he wants to suggest. Here's the exchange:
DEADLINE: As you build your production company now with Todd Phillips, how has this philosophy of stripping down to the core influenced how you look at a piece of material?
COOPER: It’s there. But I’ve been very lucky to be brought up by great storytellers, starting with JJ Abrams initially on Alias. I’m from the East Coast and got planted out there in LA and it was like a self-imposed grad school for film. I’d go to the end of the room every day and get everybody’s dailies on videotape and watch them. I learned so much there just about the mechanics of it. Then I learned more on this movie The Midnight Meat Train. With Limitless I really got to work on story, and that brings me to David O. Russell, who is all about that. Where’s the f*cking heart, where’s the f*cking heart, give me the real thing, drop the bullsh*t. He loves to celebrate life and nostalgia and comedy, but there is no bullsh*t. And when you’re working with him, you better not f*cking act.

DEADLINE: He’s not a fan of theatrics?
COOPER: No. He wants to see your soul. I’ve had it jammed in me for so long that by the time I landed on Sniper, I was ready for the way Clint operates. It’s always about, what are we getting at here? There it is, there’s the f*cking mitochondria, this is the sh*t right here, that’s the powerhouse. So, we were on the same page, me and Clint, and that meant no frills, let’s just tell a simple story. We knew that character was charismatic. The guy’s amazing. He’s fucking huge. He’s got this amazing voice. He’s got this levity about him. He has this way of thinking about the world that I’ve never seen on film, quite frankly. When the psychiatrist asks him about himself and how he’s doing, you’re not expecting that answer. I wasn’t. But that’s real to him and you’re looking in his eyes and thinking, what’s going on there? That’s interesting to us, that’s an interesting enough character to fill the frame. You don’t have to come up on a f*cking Brian De Palma thing or come overhead like…no, that’s it, right here.

DEADLINE: Or having the shrink comment that his eyes betray the fact he’s not right?
COOPER: Yeah, well, that’s just Jason Hall making it real, but we were all on the same page. Chris led the way.


Posted by Geoff at 10:41 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 14, 2015 3:17 PM CST
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