INTERVIEWED BY SAM FRAGOSO - 'BLOW OUT', CARLITO, ETC., PORTRAIT BY KRISHNA SHENOI
In a Zoom interview that runs just over a half hour, Brian De Palma is interviewed by Sam Fragoso for the latest episode of the podcast Talk Easy. Centered around the 40th anniversary of Blow Out, Fragoso kicks off the conversation with a quote from Pauline Kael's 1981 review of that film in The New Yorker: "For the first time, De Palma goes inside his central character, and he stays inside. He has become so proficient in the techniques of suspense that he can use what he knows more expressively. It's as if he finally understood what the technique is for. This is the first film he has made about the things that really matter to him." Fragoso then asks De Palma, "How does that description land with you?"
De Palma: It's very perceptive. I don't know if it's the first time I've made a film about things that matter to me, but it came from a very interesting idea, and I developed it into a whole scenario with characters that were full-blown. So it had a kind of emotional depth to it.
Fragoso: If she is right about making a film about the things that matter to you, I'm curious, what were those things?
De Palma: I'm obviously very interested in visual storytelling, and this lent itself to tell a story, a lot, with just pictures. And not relying on dialogue to explain everything. The whole idea of this film came from a couple of things. One was when I was cutting a soundtrack for footsteps -- I think it was for Murder a la Mod, there's a lot of footsteps in the graveyard -- I realized what we were using to separate the sounds, which is known as "fill," was Lawrence Of Arabia. Here, one of the greatest films of all time, is now "fill," in the footsteps of the mix I'm preparing for Murder a la Mod. So that irony stayed with me. And the other thing, which starts the whole film off, is when I was mixing Dressed To Kill, and I talked to my sound mixer. I said, "That effect of wind in the trees-- I've heard this!" I mean, I'd been working with the same sound guy for years, and I kept on hearing the same wind in the trees.
Fragoso: This is Dan Sable.
De Palma: Yeah, Dan Sable. And I said, "Dan, get me some new wind in the trees!" So that gave me the whole beginning of the movie, and this sort of ironic twist at the end. You know, the fact that the scream becomes just an effect to be used in a kind of tawdry horror film.
And that's just the start-- here's the podcast description of the episode:
Legendary filmmaker Brian De Palma joins us this week! In celebrating the 40th anniversary of Blow Out, we discuss how the project came to be (4:17), the casting of John Travolta (7:49), a post-production mishap (8:48), and the film’s initial reception in 1981 (10:27). Growing up in ’40s Philadelphia, De Palma reflects on his complex childhood (11:06), his Quaker education (12:54), the moment he knew he wanted to direct (15:42), and the chaos of his early documentary work (20:44). Then, before we go, we revisit his masterpiece, Carlito’s Way (27:44), the end of “the director-as-superstar” era (33:16), and the enduring power of a childhood favorite, The Red Shoes (37:09).