Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod


De Palma Discussion


Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

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
rapport at work
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
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


« July 2009 »
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31


De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema


Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor


Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod

Entries by Topic
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.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Casualties Of War
Catch And Kill
Cinema Studies
Clarksville 1861
Columbia University
Columbo - Shooting Script
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dick Vorisek
Dionysus In '69
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
George Litto
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Ghost & The Darkness
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Hi, Mom!
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Newton 1861
Noah Baumbach
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parties & Premieres
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Peet Gelderblom
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Responsive Eye
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Rotwang muß weg!
Sean Penn
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Sweet Vengeance
Taxi Driver
The Tale
To Bridge This Gap
Toronto Film Fest
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jamie from London wrote about Brian De Palma's Obsession as compared with its inspiration, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, today at the Rituals and Dreams "towards the front, please" blog. Here is a notable excerpt:

The most crucial allusion, however, is the brilliant soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann that envelops the film and contributes so much to its atmosphere. He reprises chunks of the unforgettable Vertigo score; the Wagnerian Tristan chords, low, sombre organs, swirling strings and swishing harps. A recurring choral part is a little like Debussy’s Sirenes. The music brings you back to Vertigo like Robertson’s fixation brings him back to his wife’s death, always mulling things over and wanting to retrace his steps.

The camera movements have their motifs too; very slow tracking shots where the camera approaches locations of import, as if nervously, until the buildings loom over you; particularly in the opening credits as we ascend steps to the facade of San Miniato, the church atop Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence. The famous 360-degree rotation from that chilling scene in Vertigo, where Kim Novak bleaches her hair and pins it up to “be Madeleine again”, is employed at key moments- when Bujold breaks into her predecessor’s bedroom, kept up like a shrine; when the pair have their reconciliation at the end. One nice scene has Robertson and John Lithgow eat breakfast in a café looking onto Piazza della Signorina; as each speaks the camera moves as a pendulum, Neptune and the other statues moving into focus, then out, the camera sent back and forth like a tennis ball.

Posted by Geoff at 9:43 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
John Lithgow, pictured here from Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, appeared in that film along with Keith Gordon in 1979, right around the time Brian De Palma was working with Gordon on Home Movies and Dressed To Kill. Lithgow had already had his first big role in De Palma's Obsession (1976), and would soon appear in De Palma's Blow Out (1981), and later on, in De Palma's Raising Cain (1992). Lithgow, who is currently filming the fourth season of Showtime's Dexter, tweeted today that Gordon is directing the episode they're filming this week (Gordon has filmed several episodes of the series throughout its first three seasons). "Small world: Keith Gordon directs this week. We have ALL THAT JAZZ and lots of Brian De Palma in common," Lithgow states on his Twitter page. Shades of his work with De Palma, Lithgow portrays a serial killer on the upcoming fourth season of Dexter.

Posted by Geoff at 6:34 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 16, 2009 11:18 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, July 11, 2009
In the shadow of Brian De Palma's Scarface, the director's other collaboration with Al Pacino, Carlito's Way, has its own cult growing. That cult will get a boost this summer when Fabolous releases his new album, Loso's Way, July 28, which features a heavy lineup of guest stars, including Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and Ne-Yo. Fabolous told Billboard in March of 2008 that he wanted to make a concept album that would be similar to what Jay-Z did with his tie-in to Ridley Scott's American Gangster. Without naming the film at the time (keeping it a secret), Fabolous explained his idea to Billboard:

I always wanted to touch on this particular movie musically because I felt some of the things in the movie related to me and to lots of other people. A lot of scenarios and situations in the movie are relatable. Plus, I always wanted to use a theme for my album, like how Jay[-Z] used American Gangster because he saw a character that was relatable to him. I want to take scenarios and turn them into records, and vice versa.

With the final product finally being released more than a year later, Fabolous now tells Billboard about how his own personal stories link with Carlito's Way:

To help tell his story, Fabolous looked for inspiration in Carlito's Way, the 1993 movie in which an ex-con pledges to shun drugs and violence despite the pressure around him.

"The concept of the album came from me watching Carlito's Way and seeing how he was a guy who came from jail and wanted to do something bigger and better," he says. "I didn't come from jail, but I came from the hood, and in many ways I felt just like Carlito, because even though I'm still connected to the streets, I wanted to do bigger and better things too. There were a lot of parallels between his story and mine."

Fabolous says the lead single, "Throw It in the Bag," produced by Tricky Stewart and featuring his labelmate the-Dream, doesn't fit in with the theme, but he explains that "it was so contagious and catchy that we just had to go for it." The motivational "It's My Time," featuring Def Jam newcomer Jeremih and produced by the Runners, which was released in conjunction with "Bag" and appears in a TV ad for the NBA draft, is an example of how Fabolous' and Carlito's stories coincide.

"This song is about how I generally feel about my life and my career, and it's relatable to people because it's the type of song that motivates you to do whatever it is you have to do, just like Carlito," Fabolous says. "Throw It in the Bag" and "It's My Time" recently entered Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Pop 100 charts at Nos. 94 and 99, respectively.

Created with help from producers like Jermaine Dupri and DJ Toomp, other tracks on the album include "Stay," featuring Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry, about a son asking his father not to go. "It's a personal record for me because in between the last album and this album I had a son, and so on this track I talk about my relationship with my son and with my father," says Fabolous.

"Last Time," finds collaborator Trey Songz singing, "'this is the last time but I gotta see my baby,' but it is a metaphor for him having to see the streets one last time, just like Carlito on his last run," says Fabolous.

But the record that plays off the movie the most is the stand-out track "Pachanga," named after Carlito's right-hand man, who betrays him at the end of the film. "A thug changes and love changes, friends become strangers, pachanga," Fabolous rhymes, sampling Nas' "The Message."

Posted by Geoff at 3:52 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 11, 2009 4:00 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Untouchables isn't the only Brian De Palma film feeling the love from critics amidst the heat of Michael Mann's Public Enemies. Pauline Kael stated that Scarface was "a De Palma movie for people who don't like De Palma movies." David Thomson fits that bill perfectly, as he hates most De Palma films, but loves De Palma's Scarface. Thomson, generally unimpressed with Mann's Public Enemies, offers his list of ten great gangster films, courtesy of the Irish Times. Listed chronologically, De Palma's film is number nine, right before Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas. Here's what Thomson wrote about Scarface:

Howard Hawks’s Scarface (1932), in which Paul Muni played a version of Al Capone, is a deserved classic, but the 1983 remake, written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian De Palma, is even better. For a start, shifting the action to Miami and making Tony Montana an outlaw from Castro’s Cuba is very clever, and it allows Al Pacino to play with a Cuban accent the way a cat teases a dying bird. It was as if all the restraints Pacino had respected to play Michael Corleone were tossed aside. Beyond that, this Scarface is a modern opera (with music by Giorgio Moroder) that builds from the first bloody job on Miami Beach to the assault on Tony’s cocaine palace by Colombian thugs. Along the way, we get deliciously sleazy performances from F Murray Abraham, Harris Yulin and Robert Loggia as low-lifes for whom Tony finds appropriate executions. Then there is the young Michelle Pfeiffer as the bad-tempered prize Tony craves, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as the sister he can share with no one.

Meanwhile, sparked by Mann's latest, Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker (author of Scarface Nation) is offering an "EW University" gangster movie class all week long. In today's lesson, Tucker discusses the role of women in gangster movies, with a focus on Pfeiffer's Elvira:

Who’s the most famous, most recognizable female character in the gangster-film genre? I’d have to say Elvira Hancock, wife of Tony Montana in the 1983 Scarface. Since a lot of gangster movies are period pieces set during the Prohibition Era, it’s not surprising that women have been largely relegated to being gold digger girlfriends – “molls” -- or innocent companions or mothers of the male protagonists. It wasn't until the World War II era, when there were more women sitting in movie-theater audiences, that the female roles were made more substantial. There are enough exceptions to this rule, however, to make women in gangster films an intriguing area of EW University study. Most immediately, Marion Cotillard, as John Dillinger’s famous real-life moll Billie Frechette, is more of a presence than your average gangster accompaniment in the new Public Enemies; director Michael Mann didn’t cast this excellent actress (La Vie en Rose) to have her stand around and simper.

But let’s go back to Elvira in Scarface. This was Michelle Pfeiffer’s star-making role. Director Brian De Palma gave her one of the most spectacular entrances in movie history: dressed in a slinky dress that hugged every curve, Elvira descends slowly from a glass elevator, with Pacino’s Tony momentarily speechless, in awe. Wearing a blonde pageboy hairdo and talking tough, Elvira ends up matching Tony curse for curse and, as their cocaine consumption increases, toot for toot. This is a far cry from the original 1932 Scarface’s femme fatale, Poppy, played by Karen Morley. She’s little more than a pretty trinket Paul Muni’s Scarface Tony Camonte wears on his arm; the real woman in this movie is Scarface’s sister, Cesca, portrayed by Ann Dvorak. She’s so loyal, she grabs a gun and stays by her brother’s side for the film’s final shoot-out. The clear implication throughout the film, although this could never be stated outright, of course, is that Scarface’s sister loves him more — is more like a faithful lover or wife — than his girlfriend is.

Warren J. Cantrell's top ten list of movie montages, posted at Scene Stealers, is not specifically related to gangster films, but it does feature Scarface up there in the top five. Here is what Cantrell says about the montage:

Money. That’s not only a description of this montage, but the image that kicks it off and sweet-Christ, is there a lot of it! After solidifying his position as the go-to man for cocaine imports and distribution in Miami, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) goes to work maximizing his power base in the vacuum left in Frank’s absence. Wisely moving through what looks to be as many as six months of expansion and growth, director Brian De Palma gives the audience not-so-subtle hints regarding the extent of Tony’s ascension. We watch the spread of the protagonist’s influence through multiple business ventures, a chic wedding (that showcases a fucking domesticated tiger), lines of men marching into a bank with duffel bags full of money, and a good-for-nothing junkie wife that is in it for the gravy. The montage has been parodied before, and for good reason, as it is absolutely dripping with cheese (the background track rivals Bloodsport’s in sheer awesome-per-square inch), yet isn’t that the point? The film is a salute to the possibilities of life in the United States for any person with balls solid enough to take what is there. In Tony Montana, America found a willing taker, a victim of this country’s lop-sided promise who, while tough as nails and quite willing, did not understand the basic necessity of freedom: restraint. A microcosm of the thematic elements of the film at large, the montage represents both Tony at the peak of his power, yet in the midst of what will ultimately ruin him. It is Tony’s blind embrace of the American dream (and the idea that one must keep reaching for more) that will doom him, for he doesn’t understand (nor will he ever) that balls might be what it takes to get to the top, but that brains are needed to stay there. The song here is “Take It To the Limit,” and for good reason, as the montage demonstrates Tony doing what he does best, mainly chewing through everything and everyone to get higher up the social ladder (the tragic inevitability, of course, is that once to the top, to keep trying to climb will mean a terrible fall).

Posted by Geoff at 1:29 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 11, 2009 1:42 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, July 3, 2009
Hüsker Dü member says he shows De Palma film to bands
Bob Mould, of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame, was the guest editor at magnetmagazine.com last week. Mould's initial editor's desk column was all about Phantom Of The Paradise. Mould incorrectly states that Winslow Leach was played by Gerrit Graham (Leach was, of course, played by William Finley), but his enthusiasm for the film is obvious. Here is what Mould wrote:

Phantom Of The Paradise is a Brian De Palma spectacle that combines The Phantom Of The Opera, Faust and glam rock. The film was released on Oct. 31, 1974. Paul Williams is cast in the role of Swan, the svengali of Death Records, who is auditioning musicians for the opening of a revolutionary new club called The Paradise. Winslow Leach, a nerdy songwriter (played by Gerrit Graham), manages to get his song heard (and then stolen) by Swan. Classic rock ‘n’ roll insanity ensues. There is a brilliant scene that depicts Leach in a recording-studio control room, seated at the keyboard, working feverishly to complete his cantata for the opening night of The Paradise. Leach is wearing his owl-like Phantom helmet/mask, speaking through a vocoder/oscillator, surrounded by pills and sheet music. For some reason it reminds me of—or maybe foreshadows—Daft Punk. It is also surely a coincide that the cantata is written for, and about to be sung, by Leach’s love interest, whose name is Phoenix (played by Jessica Harper). Hmm.

The original title of the film was to be Phantom, but it was changed at the last-minute, to avoid potential legal conflict with the copyright holders of The Phantom comic strip. In addition, almost all references to Swan Song Enterprises, the ubiquitous media concern that was headed by Swan, were removed from the film. The instigator of said removal was Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin, who had created Swansong Records (an actual label) just prior to the release of the film. Grant was a major thorn in the side of 20th Century Fox, and his threats to block the release of the film forced De Palma and 20th Century Fox to mask or recut major portions of the film. The original theatrical release was met with the sound of no hands clapping, except for, inexplicably, the city of Winnipeg, where the movie and soundtrack were enormous successes. In the intervening years, two Phantompalooza events have taken place in Winnipeg. I love showing this movie to bands on the eve of recording sessions. It’s a great way to get everyone, including myself, to unwind a bit before the big day.

Posted by Geoff at 12:13 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Mann's Public Enemies opened today in North America, with many critics referencing Brian De Palma's The Untouchables in their reviews of the new film. Here are some samplings:

Marshall Fine at Hollywood & Fine:
As I said, this movie is all about the action: There’s very little that could be construed as scenes of Dillinger planning his heists. The bank jobs themselves are brief – the shoot-outs and get-aways afterward take up more time. There’s little of the flashy melodrama, for example, that made Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables so operatically enjoyable.

James Berardinelli at ReelViews:
Obvious candidates for comparison are Arthur Penn's 1967 touchstone, Bonnie and Clyde, and Brian De Palma's 1987 The Untouchables. Public Enemies lacks the fire and energy of the former and the operatic grandeur of the latter. Mann's approach to this story is businesslike and low-key; he's not trying for something epic. His goal is to demythologize Dillinger - something at which he is only partially successful...

...The director's objective is to emphasize drama over suspense and, as a result, the kind of fast pace and narrative momentum often associated with a thriller is absent here. However, there are individual scenes in which Mann ratchets up the level of tension. The most apparent of these is a seemingly throw-away sequence: after escaping from the Crown Pointe jail, Dillinger and his pals sit at a red traffic light in the stolen car in plain view of everyone in town, including law enforcement officials. It seems that the light will never turn green; endless seconds tick by. Passersby turn to look at the car. The scene, intentionally drawn-out for maximum effect, is as agonizing as De Palma's famous homage to The Battleship Potemkin's Odessa Steps in The Untouchables.

Liam Lacey at The Globe And Mail:
From his first feature, Thief , through his TV series Miami Vice and Crime Story to the epic cops and robbers duel in Heat , Mann has shown himself a poet of shoot 'em up mayhem. Public Enemies should have been his grand opus. Instead, the film feels restrained and pictorial. Compared with the convulsions of Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather or Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, or the raging gangster flicks of the Thirties, it's a coffee-table book.

Armond White at the New York Press:
Public Enemies tries to out-grandiose De Palma’s lavish The Untouchables but pop-satirist De Palma understood genre. Mann’s just a dilettante. There’s no narrative pulse; this is a show-offy, contemplative crime movie, which means the genre is deadened from the get-go. Long sequences of Dillinger’s heists and breakouts contrast G-Man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) in drawn-out pursuit sequences. Even the shoot-outs seem desultory rather than urgent. Not good guys vs. bad guys, but equalizing crime and virtue, chaos and order. Mann’s decision to delete music from the combat scenes (intended to win critical plaudits) creates a dull pretentiousness. Technical flamboyance meets spiritual aridity. Mann’s B-movie cool is never as hip or craftsmanly as Tarantino’s. Mann takes emotion out of gangsterism. His no-hope gunfights avoid a rooting interest; we’re put in a cynic’s position watching history play out— even though Mann’s J. Edgar Hoover–bashing (portrayed by Billy Crudup) rewrites history with smug hindsight. Every scene’s strangely aestheticized, not dramatically involving, as if Mann was stepping back and observing his own masterly canvas.

J.R. Jones at the Chicago Reader:
The liberties Mann takes with the facts are reminiscent of Brian De Palma’s in The Untouchables, where Eliot Ness decides to get tough with Capone by policing outside the lines. Mann has Hoover (Billy Crudup) ordering Purvis to “take off the white gloves.” Subsequently Purvis’s men torture a suspect in his hospital room by applying pressure to a wound and try to beat a confession out of Dillinger’s loyal gun moll, Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard).

Elliott J. Gorn at Slate:
Ultimately, Mann fails to capture the essence of the Dillinger story because Public Enemies is a gangster movie. The clothes the men wear, the scenes they inhabit, and the language they speak all resonate with that genre. Most of the action takes place in director Michael Mann's hometown, Chicago, and Mann again and again makes references to other gangster films. One can't look at his scenes shot in the lobby of Union Station or at the old financial district on La Salle Street and not think of The Untouchables.

Stephen Schaefer at the Boston Herald:
But what is Public Enemies trying to say really? Unlike Bonnie and Clyde which blatantly and effectively romanticized a pair of Depression era bank robbers as doomed young lovers, Public Enemies presents John Dillinger as too brutal and flawed to be heroic yet hardly a figure of evil. The great Thirties gangster update remains Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables precisely because it was a classic example of the good cop – Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness – determined to bring down the very bad gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Mann and company have muddied the waters too much – or not enough – making the good guys slightly sinister and creepy and the bad guys not worth cheering, much less crying over.

Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times:
Mann often wants to do traditional films but do them differently, do them better, enabling the audience to feel both the newness and the tradition. With Public Enemies, he has made an impressive film of great formal skill, one that inescapably has a brooding dark-night-of-the-soul quality about it.

Simultaneously an art film and a crime film, Mann's latest work (he shares screenplay credit with Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman) may not give you a ton to hang on to emotionally, but the beauty and skill of the filmmaking keep you tightly in its grasp...

...The story Mann and company set out to tell is in part the traditional one of the doomed love of outsiders on the run and in part a newer, more socially aware interpretation of gangsterdom, the story of lone criminal wolves, in Mann's words, "being pressed on both sides by twin evolutionary forces -- on the one hand J. Edgar Hoover inventing the FBI, and on the other, organized crime evolving rapidly into a kind of corporate capitalism." We're a long way from The Untouchables here.


Sean Burns at the Philadelphia Weekly:
In Mann’s boldest, most controversial stroke, form becomes content in Public Enemies . Dillinger has reemerged into a modern alien landscape he can’t understand, and thus Mann shoots the entire film in handheld hi-definition video. There’s not an establishing shot to be found, or any of the pretty period niceties we expect from pictures like this. The movie looks raw, aggressive and sometimes awfully ugly. 

It also looks wrong —1930s icons are in period dress, yet they’re also in overlit, trembling CNN video, surrounded by inconsistent color-timing and strange blurs from the popping light sources. Somehow this insane choice lends a freakish immediacy to Public Enemies, as if it’s happening right now instead of in the distant past. I spent the entire movie on the edge of my seat even though we all already know everything about John Dillinger at the Biograph Theater and the ending is a foregone conclusion.

Matt Zoller Seitz at IFC:
[Mann is] virtually unique among A-list auteurs shooting in high-def in that not only does he not try to make it look like film, he goes out of his way to call attention to the fact that it’s video. Why? A theory: besides indicating a true artist's respect for the properties of the medium he’s chosen (painters don’t break their backs trying to make watercolor resemble oil paint), Mann is looking to amp up immediacy and shatter the usual subliminal reassurances that we’re watching a movie and it’s not “really” happening. Film is about things that happen to other people, usually people who are a lot richer and prettier than we are. Video is about what happens to us, at a birthday party or memorial service, in line at the bank, on the sidelines at a news event. The video-ness of the video in Public Enemies is discombobulating in a good way; when we look at all these handsome men and women in their period clothes, driving their period cars and speaking their period slang, we’re not seeing something that happened long ago, something safely removed from our own experience. It’s happening right now, live, right in front of us. Not many big summer films help us see familiar situations through fresh eyes. Public Enemies is one such movie: perhaps not minor Mann at all, but something major, a work that needs to be seen, absorbed and argued about more than once.

Manohla Dargis at the New York Times:
Michael Mann’s Public Enemies is a grave and beautiful work of art. Shot in high-definition digital by a filmmaker who’s helping change the way movies look, it revisits with meticulous detail and convulsions of violence a short, frantic period in the life and bank-robbing times of John Dillinger, an Indiana farm boy turned Depression outlaw, played by a low-voltage Johnny Depp. Much of what makes the movie pleasurable is the vigor with which it restages our familiar romance with period criminals, a perennial affair. But what also makes it more than the sum of its spectacular shootouts is the ambivalence about this romance that seeps into the filmmaking, steadily darkening the skies and draining the story of easy thrills.

Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times:
This is a very good film, with Depp and Bale performances of brutal clarity. I'm trying to understand why it is not quite a great film. I think it may be because it deprives me of some stubborn need for closure. His name was John Dillinger, and he robbed banks. But there had to be more to it than that, right? No, apparently not.

Posted by Geoff at 11:39 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nick Leshi posted today about his experience working as an extra on the set of Carlito's Way-- here are some excerpts:

Even though you can't see a glimpse of me in the final film, it's still one of my fondest memories.

I had done some stage work before and had just finished a stint as an extra on Law & Order, so to me this was the big time. I first had to go to Kaufman Studios in Astoria to get fitted for my costume. This was a period gangster film, so they had me decked out in platform shoes, bell-bottom pants, a polyester shirt like the kind Larry used to wear on Three's Company, and big framed slightly tinted glasses. Gotta love the disco era!

The film shoot took place at the Palladium, the old night club in Manhattan. It seemed like there must have been over 200 other extras for the scene in which Carlito Brigante and his lawyer were celebrating his release from prison. Even though I was one of many, I was thrilled to be on the same set as actors Al Pacino and Sean Penn, and director Brian De Palma...

...I was one of the lucky ones chosen to be near the principle actors. They had me walk behind the table where Pacino and Penn were doing their scene. I did it a bunch of times, and each time I strutted like I was the king of the world.

I stayed professional and focused while cameras were rolling. At one point between takes, I made eye contact with Pacino and I couldn't resist giving him two big thumbs up and a goofy grin. (I swear, I was still in character as a goofy nightclub patron!) Al Pacino just rolled his eyes at me. Correction -- Carlito Brigante rolled his eyes at me!

Months later, I went to see the movie and I wasn't surprised to see no trace of my brilliant strut on the silver screen. It didn't bother me too much. It was still a wonderful experience that I'll never forget.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 12:04 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, June 29, 2009
Get To Know Your Rabbit, which was mostly directed by Brian De Palma (see my post from last week), will be made available as a Warner Bros. Archive title beginning July 7th. You can place pre-orders right now at the Warner Archive shop (thanks to Ryan for the heads up!). So it doesn't look like Warner Bros. is planning a wide DVD release of the title, but we do get to own a widescreen edition of this rare and overlooked work from De Palma. Looking forward to it.

Posted by Geoff at 6:55 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Armond White reviews Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker in this week's New York Press, and the second word of his review is "Brian De Palma"--

Although Brian De Palma lost his artistic bearings on the anti–Iraq War bandwagon, director Kathryn Bigelow found her perfect subject. That’s the difference between De Palma’s confused, preachy Redacted and Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. Bigelow (working from a script by Mark Boal) stays focused on the personalities of soldiers during Bravo company’s last 39 days of rotation in 2004 Baghdad. An early reconnaissance jest (“It’s my dick.”) between Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Sgt. Thompson (Guy Pearce) recalls De Palma’s ribaldry, but it also indicates Bigelow’s erotic view of masculine endeavor—here defining the propensity for violence and bravery during war.

It's nice to know that White is chalking up his dislike of Redacted to De Palma "losing his artistic bearings" because he supposedly jumped on the anti-Iraq war bandwagon, but I would counter that with Redacted, De Palma had just begun to discover new artistic bearings that were compromised even within that film's already meager budget. In the introduction for this interview with the British artist Legofesto, writer Andy Carling describes how De Palma had wanted to use Legofesto's recreation of the rape and murder of a Mahmudiya family by soldiers in Redacted. He quotes De Palma discussing the things he had to leave out of his film:

It started with small things, like the Legofesto site for example. Here’s a site that actually reconstructs the incident with Legos, shows a Lego figure being raped, blood on the floor, etc. and is critical of the event, but the lawyers come and say, we can’t use it because it has a brand name - Lego. Not that they are to blame. If you put it in its real context - an Internet blog using Lego figures to illustrate an event, I could not see the problem, but legal vetting is set to safeguard and in that respect, who wants the possibility of going to war with Lego?

De Palma did not even originally plan to have a screenplay for Redacted, but was forced to write one and to follow it by the studio. He must have realized he would need one to get financing for a future movie in the same vein as Redacted, so he wrote a script tentatively titled Shoot The Messenger, a project which would have used a form similar to that of the purposely fractured yet streamlined Redacted. It is a shame that financing could not be found for a more radical project such as Shoot The Messenger, which purported to use another internet-like web of sources to delve into the way stories are invented and sold to the public as a way of distorting the truth.

In a double-review of Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure and Nick Broomfield's Battle For Haditha, Phil Nugent delved into a discussion of De Palma's war films:

In Haditha, as in some of the Vietnam war movies such as Full Metal Jacket, war puts decent young men into situations where they're temporarily driven insane, which means they cannot be judged. Some reviewers--and, it seems, the director himself--have taken the opportunity to use Broomfield's movie as a club against Brian De Palma's Redacted, just as De Palma's Vietnam movie Casualties of War was denounced by the critics who'd hailed Full Metal Jacket and Platoon as realistic and morally tough-minded. Part of De Palma's message in both his war movies was that atrocities happen when there's an instigator there to get the ball rolling. The other Vietnam movies were part of a culture that sought to make peace with Vietnam vets who felt they'd been maligned and even demonized as part of the overall effort to criticize the war when it was going on, and they did that in part by saying that "war" is so deranging that those who'd done bad things in the field shouldn't be held responsible for anything at all, though they did have the option of feeling sorry for themselves. The ball somehow gets itself rolling. Haditha, portraying American soldiers going batshit psychotic for a brief bloody spell and then switching back to their normal selves, like the Hulk turning back into Bruce Banner, just in time to deliver a climactic soul-searching speech to the bathroom mirror, is a continuation of that trend, and it may seem a very comforting approach for people who want to express horror at what goes on in Iraq but who are terrified that if they seem to criticize any individual soldiers, they'll be accused of not "supporting the troops." What's missing from this attitude is any awareness of, let alone respect and sympathy for, the soldiers who don't go batshit and manage to hang onto their moral bearings, such as the soldier who reported the actual abduction and rape that formed the basis for the story told in Casualties of War, or the helicopter pilot who broke up the My Lai massacre, and all the numberless members of the military who go through just as much hell as anyone in war but resist the urge to run amok. One of the most resonant interviews in Standard Operating Procedure is with a guy who explains that he didn't break up the fun at Abu Ghraib and who agreed to take some pictures because, "Me being the kind of person I am, I try to be friends with everybody. I'm a nice guy, so I took [the picture]. I try not to have anybody mad at me." (This sap goes on to say that the fact that he got in trouble for his actions proves that "being a nice guy doesn't pay off," and then laments, or boasts, that since he got home, people say he's not as nice as he used to be.) The Iraq war was unnecessary, and served no good purpose, but once the president decided that he really, really wanted it, it didn't take too much work from the government to sell the media on making it seem that if you wanted to be a nice guy, if you didn't want anybody mad at you, you had to want this war too. The heroes of My Lai and the Casualties of War rape case and other nightmares were the ones who were willing to be disliked, who thought it was more important to do the obvious right thing than to be thought of as nice guys, and who, by their very existence, show the "War makes you crazy and absolves you of responsibility" school of thought for the self-protective, buck-passing line of horseshit that it is. The people at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere did unforgivable, monstrous things for the best and worst of reasons: they didn't want to be thought of as troublemakers.

Posted by Geoff at 12:19 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, June 21, 2009
When Warner Bros. opened up its archive vault last March, making many of its overlooked films available via on-demand DVDs for $19.95 each (or $14.95 for a digital download version), I put in a request for Brian De Palma's Get To Know Your Rabbit, a 1972 WB release that has never been available on DVD. Looks like we won't have to go the on-demand route after all-- according to a posting on GreenCine's Twitter page, Warner Bros. plans to release Get To Know Your Rabbit on DVD this summer (and, mind you, today is officially the first day of summer). If true, this will complete the availability of each of De Palma's feature films in the DVD format, in one country or another (Dionysus In '69 has only been released on DVD in France).

Get To Know Your Rabbit was made right after De Palma's Hi, Mom! in 1970, but, after the studio fired De Palma and completed the film with another uncredited director, it sat on a shelf until Warner Bros. dumped it into theaters in 1972 as part of a double bill. De Palma ran afoul of the studio when he suggested a new ending which would see star Tommy Smothers' tap-dancing magician escape the dual traps of conformity and commodification by appearing to make a bloody mess of a live rabbit on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Smothers also got nervous about De Palma's direction, and since the whole project was conceived as a vehicle for the star, De Palma was locked out. Despite the compromised vision, though, what remains in the bulk of the film is a comedy that flows with De Palma's sardonic sense of the absurd, as a continuation of the countercultural indifference on display in Greetings and Hi, Mom!. There are some nice recent evaluations of the film by Daniel Kremer at conFluence Films and (from 2006) Nicolas Rapold at Reverse Shot.

Posted by Geoff at 9:32 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 22, 2009 1:45 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post