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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
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in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
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edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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De Palma a la Mod

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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Armond White on Fast & Furious in the New York Press:

[The] closest [director Justin] Lin gets to bliss is the hokey moment Dom psychically imagines a road incident involving his ride-or-die lovematch, Michelle Rodriguez. Lin spins the camera 360 degrees as the past envelops Dom’s consciousness. It updates Brian De Palma’s breathtaking Vision on the Staircase sequence in The Fury, yet nothing else in Fast & Furious justifies such an hallucinatory leap.

Posted by Geoff at 9:48 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Okay, so I promised a couple of additional posts about Greetings for the weekend-- I guess for me, the weekend is still blobbed into this week. Anyway, two Sundays ago, MovieMan0283 posted a very nice essay about Greetings, which he said "presents us with a fully-formed vision, however different from the vision [Brian] De Palma later cultivated." MovieMan0283 feels that De Palma's early film was a different animal than the mumblecore stylings of the average independent film from young directors of recent years. And while De Palma would go on to make films that were more deliberately planned and shot, MovieMan0283 nevertheless sees that "there are signs that the filmmaker behind Scarface and Carrie is also the mind behind Greetings"...

For one thing, despite some intentionally sloppy stagings (De Palma sees Godard's jump cuts and raises him a jump cut in which the background and positions of the characters also changes) there's an obviously gifted eye behind the camera. One sequence is particularly striking: as the tired trio parade in Central Park, trying to keep one potential draftee awake so that he'll flunk his examination the next morning, one of the scruffy group breaks away to chat with a street personality, a photographer displaying his increasingly fuzzy blow-ups of a single photograph, interpreting their aesthetic while simultaneously acknowledging the debt to Antonioni's Blow-Up (a constant reference for De Palma here; particularly in relation to the examination of the Zapruder film). Meanwhile, as the zoom lens moves in closer and closer the two remaining buddies, punch-drunk from a night of staying awake, continue to cavort in the background, De Palma holding them in the increasingly tight shot as the heady dialogue continues in the foreground. Here and elsewhere, he's able to balance multiple elements for a dizzying kinesthetic effect.

The artist in the scene mentioned above (and in the Greetings shot above) is Richard Hamilton, who is considered one of the fathers of the "pop art" movement (a movement that is satirized in Greetings when Robert De Niro's Jon labels his voyeuristic project "peep art"). At left is the piece Hamilton is showing to Gerrit Graham's Lloyd, titled "A Postal Card for Mother," in which a series of blow-ups of a beach scene are folded out accordion-like from the source photograph. The same year that Greetings was released, Hamilton designed the famous-iconic cover for the Beatles' "White Album," as well as the poster inserted inside the double-LP package, for which he asked for and was given hundreds of unpublished photos of the band to sort through.

MovieMan0283 goes on to discuss how Greetings seems to capture a moment from the 1960s when "new" and "old" coexisted:

The movie opens and closes with a television set, clearly situated in some unseen person's kitchen, on which LBJ gives a crowing, preening speech about the war. Greetings' compulsive references extend outside of the cinema (which is already more than most contemporary movies can manage) to the outside world and its frantic, apocalyptic, painfully immediate zeitgeist, something which contemporary Hollywood had more or less walled off (though fissures were beginning to appear in that particular wall). Indeed, Greetings seems to be broadcast from an alternative history: one in which American cinema was as engaged with political and cultural reality as European cinema or American music. The movie hits all the 60s touchstones, which works only because it takes them all for granted: there's the jingle-jangle folk rock of the title track, the cinematic array of Jules et Jim-esque tricks which De Palma employs, frank sexuality and nudity which earned the film an "X" rating (coupled with a sexism often crossing over into misogyny which, joined by constant reference to "fags" and a cavalier attitude towards racial epithets, reminds us that the 60s rebellion was not as PC as preachy leftists, not to mention preachy conservatives, would have us believe).

The 60s - and Greetings - are close enough to the 50s for some macho, un-PC social attitudes to remain (even as the movie's characters mock social conventions and Establishment politics). The film is so close to the clean-cut Camelot of '63 that the Kennedy references seem au courant, yet it is also close enough to the 70s to employ the stylistic range and adult content which that decade would make de rigeur. This, to me, captures the fascination of the 60s in a nutshell: not so much that the era represented the "new" as that it represented the crosshairs of "new" and "old" where World War II was something people in their thirties remembered while schoolchildren would grow up to found dot-com companies, where the traces of classical black-and-white cinema still lingered but the wide-ranging possibilities of the movies' future was just barely over the horizon. The changes happened so fast that for a brief moment, "new" and "old" co-existed - it was modern America's adolescence and Greetings captures that moment beautifully.

Posted by Geoff at 2:29 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2009 11:29 PM CDT
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Friday, March 27, 2009

This is the full cover of the bestseller seen in the woman's apartment (with a bookmark hanging out the top) in Greetings. As a bestseller, the book and its cover were widely known at the time of Greetings' release. The Boston Strangler earned author Gerold Frank the Edgar Allen Poe Award in 1967 for Best Fact Crime Book from the Mystery Writers of America. It can be surmised that the juxtaposition (see the first photo in the post from yesterday) of the naked woman waiting and the cover of this book would have been a jolt to the average viewer in 1968 (even if they had not read the book, being a bestseller, most would have been familiar with the cover all over store shelves everywhere). A bookmark hanging out of the book in the still from Greetings indicates that the woman is reading the book, yet, via a computer date, she trusts a virtual stranger, letting him into her own apartment and allowing him to roam around freely.

Posted by Geoff at 2:32 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2009 11:33 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

After reading David Greven's terrific new essay on male bonding in Brian De Palma's Greetings, Hi, Mom!, and Get To Know Your Rabbit (published in the current issue of Genders), I noticed that Greven somehow had seemed to overlook a key plot point in Greetings that I would love to see him riff on (more on that later). Curious, I pulled out my DVD of the film to check on said plot point, and discovered something rather astonishing-- namely The Boston Strangler, paperback edition of the Gerold Frank true crime book, dead center in the frame from Greetings as shown above. Astonishing, of course, because De Palma is currently preparing to film Susan Kelly's more recent investigation of the case as presented in her book, The Boston Stranglers, and because I don't recall noticing this title in Greetings before. However, you can bet that De Palma did-- check out the countershot below:

Note some key differences between the two reverse shots, beginning with the way the three books are angled in the second shot, so that the viewer can clearly see the cover of The Boston Strangler. Also notice how in the first shot, there appears to be a long row filled with books behind Strangler, while in the reverse shot, there are only three key books and what looks like a glass jar to the left of those. Keeping in mind that De Palma edited as well as directed Greetings with a decidedly loose, freewheeling style, the lack of proper continuity in the shots echoes the purposely off-kilter jump-cuts used in various scenes throughout the film (Greven's essay delves into one of these scenes, where a patron in a clothing store switches places back-and-forth with the store's proprieter via these sort of surreal jump-cuts). Frank's account of the Boston Strangler case was first published in 1966, two years before Greetings was released. Richard Fleischer's film, based on Frank's book and starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda (and featuring plenty of split-screens), was released a mere two months prior to Greetings.

One can guess that the Boston Strangler case was still a fairly frenzied affair in 1968. Placing that book square in the center on the big screen, next to a naked woman who has left her bedroom door open, allowing total access to a man she's only just met through a computer dating service, must have been a howl of a joke in the movie theater in 1968 (especially with the film version about to hit screens). It would have been key to the joke to have the book still noticeable from the front cover in the reverse shot, as Paul (Jonathan Warden) looks in, gazes upon the woman's naked body, smiles and then decides not to bother with her. In the second shot above, De Palma has placed two other key books on the shelf: Naked Came I, which directly comments on the scene at hand, in which the woman, who has just berated Paul for not being prepared for anything other than sex, retreats to her bedroom and humbles (compromises) herself by taking off all of her clothes and lying in wait (the book's title indirectly echoes the Book of Job, which would figure prominently in De Palma's Mission: Impossible when Ethan Hunt pulls the Holy Bible off the book shelf); and, among the many film-themed books and magazines diligently placed throughout Greetings, I Lost It At The Movies, the first collection of film reviews by Pauline Kael (in the shot at right is another key film book placement within Greetings).


So on to the plot point that led me to rewatch this sequence in the first place, which appears to have gone overlooked in paragraph #38, below, of Greven's essay (I have emphasized two key phrases in bold):

At one point, Paul goes to the home of a woman with whom he has a computer-dating-arranged assignation. During their conversation, he reveals that he doesn't own a car and that he's already eaten; he makes it clearly obvious that he is only there for sex. Brassy and demanding, she upbraids him for being ill-prepared for their date. Like a general describing the battle-readiness of his troops, she points to specific elements of her romantic-evening-ready attire: "You see these shoes? 'Socialites'!" He wilts visibly under the glare of her scorn. She storms off. Yet when Paul goes to check in on her, she is lying in her bed, silent, naked. He walks off, and away. More than any other, a profound sense of loneliness, of a lack of connection, permeates this scene. This sense of cold isolation also tinges the scene in which Lloyd, feverishly pontificating over the JFK assassination and his multiple conspiracy theories, uses the silent, naked body of the woman he is in bed with as a living canvas, turning her over, and back again, drawing strategic sites of the grassy knoll upon her body. Like a cadaver, her body mutely complies with his feverish demands and doodling. The necrophiliac quality of this scene provides further evidence for the lack of relatedness between men and women, even in a scene that establishes physical intimacy between them. (The necrophilia here is too half-hearted to vie for the status of perversity.)

What Greven seems to have overlooked is that it is the same woman in each scenario he describes above-- Paul leaves the woman lying naked on the bed, and goes outside to call Lloyd from a payphone. Paul tells Lloyd that his computer date did not seem like a good match for him, but that "since you're one of my best friends," maybe she would be a good match for Lloyd. The film then cuts to a shot of another strategically placed piece of literature: the cover of Film Comment...

The camera slowly pulls back to reveal the film magazine, with its cover story about the JFK assassination, covering the pelvis of the woman as Lloyd can be seen manipulating her stiff, motionless, and otherwise naked body. A viewer (especially one watching in 1968) might at first imagine that a Boston Strangler type of situation is in process here as the camera pulls back and sees that the potential strangler has been replaced by Lloyd's JFK obsessions. But instead of a lifeless corpse, we eventually find that the woman is merely sleeping, apparently having already been sexually satisfied (in her slumber, when Lloyd needs her to turn around to put a shirt on her, he kisses her once or twice on the neck until she dozingly complies). What is implicit in this sequence of scenes is that Paul has left the woman in her apartment, and allowed his friend Lloyd to take over (did Lloyd have to knock, or did Paul leave the door unlocked?). What makes it a key point for Greven's highly insightful essay is that it may further complicate his central questions of male bonding and the treatment of women within the homosocial sphere.

I have a couple more things to post about Greetings-- watch for two more posts this weekend...

Posted by Geoff at 3:13 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 27, 2009 12:15 PM CDT
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Monday, March 23, 2009
In an article in yesterday's Guardian, Eva Wiseman looks back at Michael Lehmann's Heathers, and links it to Brian De Palma's Carrie as a film about a teenage girl with issues, in contrast to typical films about teenage misfits (such as The Breakfast Club). Wiseman quotes Dr Catherine Grant, "an art historian and specialist in the representation of female adolescence in art," about Carrie. "She represents the potential of repressed sexuality that is often attributed to teenage girls," Grant told Wiseman, "and the conflict that occurs between being a 'nice girl' and a sexual adult. She literally explodes with her repressed teen powers." Wiseman then writes, "While Carrie White's budding telekinesis and eventual breakdown are a little way removed from our own secondary school experiences, we share her issues: self-hate, female destruction, sexual frustration, awkward hair."

Wiseman also quotes feminist theorist Kate Random Love, who states that the teenage girl on film "is a wonderful barometer for measuring a culture's fantasies and anxieties about femininity at the time. For example, it's surely no coincidence that in the 1970s - the decade that began with the second wave of feminist uprisings - the most notable representations of female adolescence were in horror films such as The Exorcist and Carrie. Femininity itself became a monstrous force rising up with the potential to destroy everything."

Posted by Geoff at 11:38 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 23, 2009 11:39 PM CDT
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A few more shots of Brian De Palma and, separately, Paul Williams, have been posted on the production page at the Swan Archives. Click on any of the photos to see a larger version. The pics show De Palma sitting in his director chair, observing and thinking, and others show Williams looking lighthearted as he sits and talks with others on the set.

Posted by Geoff at 11:00 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


In the YouTube video posted above (which we found thanks to Akahan!), you can see Edgar Wright introducing Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise Sunday night at Toronto's Bloor Cinema. As part of the intro, Wright read an e-mail message that Paul Williams composed specifically for the audience that night. The e-mail from Williams read, in part, "Mr. De Palma and I are about to begin work on the stage version of Phantom Of The Paradise at last, and it will be ready for viewing… God knows, not I." In December of 2007, at an Edgar Wright presentation of the De Palma film in Los Angeles, Williams revealed that a stage version of Phantom was in the works, and that De Palma and producer Edward Pressman were involved. Pressman is developing a remake of the film, and it is speculated that the film remake would follow a successful stage version.

Williams has been trying to get a stage version together with De Palma since the 1980s, and De Palma had even discussed the project earlier this decade with Antonio Banderas, who had just appeared in De Palma's Femme Fatale, and had just had recent success on Broadway with the musical Nine. De Palma was set to direct a workshop for a stage version at the beginning of 2007, but then got involved in making Redacted instead. The news that Williams and De Palma are getting set to delve into the project is exciting, but note also that the halls of Valhalla Motion Pictures are currently buzzing with preparation for De Palma's next film project, The Boston Stranglers, which is due to go into production late this spring.

De Palma a la Mod reader Ryan Clark discovered a YouTube clip of Williams singing Phantom's closing number, The Hell Of It, on a Halloween episode of the 1970s TV show The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. The clip has also long been available for viewing as an "Easter Egg" at The Swan Archives by clicking any of the site's "Death Records" logos at the bottoms of most pages. Another startling find was made last week by Vinnie Rattolle: a clip of Williams singing The Hell Of It on an episode of the long forgotten The Brady Bunch Hour. In the clip, Williams gets to menace Peter and Greg Brady, and sings the song amidst a chorus of female dancers in costumes that could have come right out of Phantom Of The Paradise. Hearing Williams sing lyrics like, "Good for nothing, bad in bed, nobody likes you and you're better off dead" on such a cheery family variety show is somewhat surreal. Special bonus link: check out Vinnie Rattolle's unearthing of a couple of Carrie-era commercials featuring Betty Buckley and P.J. Soles.

Posted by Geoff at 4:54 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 4:31 PM CDT
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Monday, March 16, 2009
Today's Chicago Tribune featured letters to the editor debating the newspaper's interview last week with Gary Sinise, in which Sinise criticized Brian De Palma as having been "out to get the troops" by making 2007's Redacted. All three letters printed today expressed support for Sinise's general backing of U.S. soldiers, but the first one, written by Chicago's Roger Shiels, took a dismissive swipe at De Palma, linking him and his film to Jane Fonda's controversial protests of the Vietnam war in the early 1970s:

Hats off to Mr. Sinise. As for director Brian De Palma, no wonder he had no comment. He was probably sequestered in his basement watching Jane Fonda workout videos.

The third and final letter, from Terry Green, president of Strata Productions, suggested that Sinise was hurting his own cause by "bashing Hollywood war films":

If Mr. Sinise had seen Redacted, he would know that it's a reminder of the cost of war and that its director, Brian De Palma, doesn't "hate the American military," but is highly critical of the system of government that created the situation that is the subject of his film.

And while I think almost all war movies today are anti-war propaganda films and many of them exploitative, they're essential because they create a dialogue, which hopefully leads to solutions.

I don't want Mr. Sinise to stop using his celebrity to shed light on the heroic efforts of our soldiers, but bashing Hollywood war films only hurts his cause.

The story is the death and destruction of war.

Anything less is a distortion of the truth.

Posted by Geoff at 5:12 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Exactly nine years ago today, Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars was released in theaters. It was the second time De Palma worked with actor Gary Sinise, who had appeared in De Palma's Snake Eyes just two years earlier. It doesn't look like the pair will be making any films together anytime soon.

Sinise, who has been performing with his band, the Lt. Dan Band, for troops in Iraq through USO tours since 2003, is executive producer of a new documentary about the current Iraq conflict, Brothers At War. The film is directed by Jake Rademacher, who took his camera to Iraq to follow around his two younger brothers, who are U.S. soldiers. Sinise is interviewed about the film in today's Chicago Tribune by Robert K. Elder, who mentions that Sinise has also made a documentary covering his own time in Iraq for Fox News. Sinise, who told Elder that he has "a profound respect for people who serve," also said that Brothers At War "is not going to be your typical blood-and-guts, negative, depressing thing about Iraq. What's great about this film is there's a personal investment, because the filmmaker is making it about his family."

However, Sinise was fuming to Elder about De Palma, saying that with Redacted (which, shades of Fox News, Sinise has not even seen!) the director "was out to get the troops, to depict them as child rapists. That's the truth he wanted to tell. That's one particular, horrible episode that happened by, clearly, some criminals who happen to be in the American military." Sinise continued...

"There are 150,000 people serving honorably, but Brian De Palma didn't care to show those stories," Sinise says.

His venom catches me off guard, not only because De Palma directed Sinise in both Mission to Mars and Snake Eyes, but also because Sinise says he never saw Redacted.

"I wouldn't see that film. I knew he had a very political agenda with making that film to make the American military look really, really horrible," he says.

"Brian De Palma hates the American military."

[De Palma a la Mod editor's note: Sinise may or may not be drawing some insight here from working on De Palma's Snake Eyes, in which Sinise's Navy Commander character is in charge of a conspiracy to assassinate the Secretary of Defense over the impending cancellation of a missile project that Sinise's character is deeply in favor of, as he feels the project is important to the protection of his fellow soldiers.]

Elder's article continues... 

A call to the office of De Palma's agent for a response elicits this: "Mr. De Palma has no comment. Thanks."

Sinise says he has never discussed Redacted with the filmmaker, but it doesn't appear the two will be working together any time soon.

Sinise's criticism didn't stop there. Brothers at War, he says, is "not a journalist going out there looking for the story he's trying to tell. There are many, many points of view and many sides. Unfortunately, you have to dig deep to find a balanced perspective."

I suggest that the military may have credibility problems, especially after it twisted the otherwise heroic stories of former prisoner of war Pvt. Jessica Lynch and Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who was shot and killed by fellow soldiers. The military lied to the country and their families for public-relations purposes. "I don't think the truth wins out in either case," I say.

After a pause, Sinise says, "You're right," then counters: "And for every one of those, you have 50 other [positive] stories. Unfortunately, bad news sells. If two houses are standing there, and one of them is on fire, the reporter is going to write about the one that's on fire—not the peaceful house that's nicely painted."

"Because that's not news," I offer. The news, in part, provides cautionary tales, such as how to keep your house from burning.

But we're in a war where people are serving honorably, Sinise says. "Those stories need to be told."

In the article, Elder describes Redacted as "an award-winning but divisive drama about soldiers who raped a young Iraqi girl." Of course, the idea that De Palma was "out to get the troops" is utter nonsense. In Redacted, De Palma makes no bones about the idea that the soldiers who performed these criminal acts had no business being in the military in the first place. He places an individual soldier of integrity at the heart of the movie who attempts to stop the crimes from being committed, and is wracked with guilt over the incident, which comes to represent for him the senselessness of the killing all over Iraq. De Palma's stated purpose with the film was to end the war, plain and simple. While I respect Sinise and what he does for the troops, his criticism of this film he refuses to see is blind and hollow.

Posted by Geoff at 10:35 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2009 1:00 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's been a great week for writing about specific Brian De Palma films. First up, a most insightful piece about De Palma's latest, Redacted, from The Celluloid Liberation Front, courtesy Vertigo Magazine:

Departing from the contemporary paradigm of technological convergence, whereby every observer is at the same time an observed subject, De Palma illustrates the spread of a culture of exhibitionism as the potential telematic evolution of cinematographic voyeurism. Terrorism is, occidentally rather than accidentally, gaudy and voyeuristic...

Redacted is a film that we could (and perhaps should) have made ourselves in front of a computer. In the You Tube era we are the editors of our own ongoing works, that we constantly assemble through the potentially meaningful intersections offered by the net whenever we connect to it. As Baudrillard had provocatively warned us during the first Gulf War, the practice of warfare is indivisible from its narrative and representational strategies, with the latter indeed retroacting with the actual forms of war according to the given cultural situation.

That is why Redacted is a masterpiece of congruency between form and content. For De Palma, Redacted represents a sort of return to the subversive insolence characterising his early films such as Greetings or Hi, Mom, where he would mix super-8 family footage and the fleeting lightness of underground comics with the anarchic structure of the freest ‘nouvelle vague’, always stimulating The Responsive Eye (the title of one of his early shorts about an optical art exhibition) that needs to know what is happening (in Iraq).

Next up, Drew McWeeny posted an essay Tuesday about De Palma's Blow Out as part of his Motion/Captured Must-See series:

The film opens with a truly hilarious movie-within-the-movie called "Coed Frenzy." Oh, god, how I wish De Palma had really made "Coed Frenzy," because it looks like the sleaziest film ever made. And at the end of this five minutes of uber-slasher footage, De Palma pops the balloon with a joke. But that joke has two punchlines, and the other one's not delivered until the closing frames of the film, where it's finally deployed to devastating effect...

Obviously, this film draws on influences like the Chappaquidick tragedy involving Ted Kennedy and the JFK assassination and the French '60s hit Blow-Up, but De Palma mixes all of these elements into a paranoid thriller that feels original, and not just like a bunch of pieces jammed together. Setting it in Philadelphia during "Liberty Day," a patriotic holiday that bathes the whole world in red, white, and blue, De Palma uses this simple thriller plot to peel back the entire subtext of the post-Watergate '70s. There were any number of "don't trust the government" thrillers made after Richard Nixon and his army of clowns bungled the break-in and shattered America's trust in its leaders permanently, but this film raises the stakes by suggesting that absolutely no one is to be trusted.

And just today, Scott Tobias posted a wonderful essay about De Palma's Femme Fatale as part of his weekly A.V. Club series, "The New Cult Canon":

Every year at the Toronto Film Festival—and quite possibly at other festivals around the world, major or minor—director Brian De Palma can be spotted shuffling around with the rest of the press and industry folks, slipping inconspicuously into one screening after another. If he weren’t a semi-celebrity (at least among nerdy cineastes like me), he’d fit the prototypical profile of a festival critic: Bearded and schlubby, outfitted in comfy jeans and old running shoes, bleary-eyed from dragging himself through four to six screenings a day. Point being, he remains a voracious cinephile, and what’s more, he as much as any filmmaker alive sees the world through the prism of other movies. Detractors like to tar him as a vulgarian and a hack, someone who cribs ideas from masters like Hitchcock and updates them through modern-day explicitness and empty formalism. But he’s really more like his badge-wearing brethren at the film festival, a critic who happens to work behind the camera, commenting on the medium’s history, devices, and tropes while taking a jaundiced view of the world at large. If there’s such a thing as a “wonky” director, De Palma fits the bill better than anybody.

Even by De Palma standards, Femme Fatale is about as wonky as it gets, and if that isn’t apparent enough in its movie-movie title, there’s also the opening shot of De Palma’s femme fatale, an icy blonde played by Rebecca Romijn (while she was still Stamos-ed), watching the noir classic Double Indemnity on television, perhaps to pick up pointers from Barbara Stanwyck, cinema’s reigning double-crosser. And this is before the curtains open on a magnificent setpiece at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, the same festival where Femme Fatale itself would première a year later. It hurts the brain to consider the many layers of artifice De Palma is piling on just in the first few minutes, but for what’s essentially an academic exercise, the film is an awful lot of fun...

At the moment that Laure/Lily seems to meet her maker in the Seine, we’re suddenly thrust back in time seven years ago, when Laure met Lily, and Lily’s suicide set her fate on the track we’ve followed. Suddenly, the movie itself has a doppelgänger, except now Lily can take Laure’s path, and the world can change in the minor but crucial ways that will set everything right. It seems crazy for De Palma to cast Laure’s adventures as an extended dream of what might have been (“I’m your fucking fairy godmother,” she tells Lily. “I just dreamt your future, and mine too”), but he’s been preparing you for it the whole time, from little details like the “Deju Vue” posters rolled out on the Paris streets to the general feeling that you’re watching a movie about movies. And as you know, in movies, anything can happen.

Also of note, courtesy of the Atlantic Film Festival Association's Ron Foley Macdonald: Dionysus In '69, the film of the Performance Group theatre production that De Palma made with Robert Fiore and Bruce Rubin, can now be watched on the web (but not downloaded) for educational purposes via the NYU HIDVL website. To see the video, you have to go to the main page first, and then do a search for Dionysus In '69. Macdonald provides some interesting information about the film, including the following tidbit:

Dionysus In 69’s bracketing orgy scenes, however, are still pretty shocking to watch. They were originally done with the actors completely naked; for De Palma’s filming the men donned black jockstraps while the women wore flimsy and torn--but still skimpy--short tops and bottoms.

Posted by Geoff at 10:53 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2009 10:56 PM CST
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