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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
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and their consumption,
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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
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De Palma/Lehman
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"a horror movie
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in the news"

Supercut video
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edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brian De Palma's Carrie will screen Saturday night as part of the Film Society Of Lincoln Center's "Scary Movies 4" series in New York this weekend. In the meantime, the film has been mentioned in numerous top horror lists the past couple of weeks, so here is a rundown:

As part of its Film Season 2010, The Guardian has chosen Carrie as the 24th best horror film of all time. The paper's Phelim O'Neill states, "Thanks to [Sissy] Spacek and De Palma, this is one horror film that's as likely to make you cry as it is to make you scream (and it will definitely make you jump, no matter how many times you rewatch that scene)." Wired asked the gang from Fangoria to name the 25 best horror films of all time, and of course Carrie made the un-numbered list. Here is what they said about De Palma's film:

Chris Alexander: Sad, stylish and shocking Brian De Palma-directed melodrama improves upon Stephen King's novel and offers a revelatory performance by Sissy Spacek as a tormented teen cursed with telekinesis. Moving Pino Donnagio score and a head-spinning last reel (and final shot!).

Michael Gingold: Thanks to King and De Palma, countless people don't feel so bad about how their own proms went.

Bekah McKendry: This movie offered a shockingly real depiction of what it is like for girls to come of age in sexually repressive environments ... minus the telekinesis, which, if I had possessed it during my teen years, I would have used to mentally smack up bitches left and right.

Sam Zimmerman: I've always been oddly attracted and emotionally drawn to tales of damaged female protagonists, and that can probably be traced back to my extreme love of this film. (P.S. You should see its contemporary spiritual soul mate, May, starring Angela Bettis and directed by Lucky McKee. It's marvelous.)

Greatbong includes Carrie on his list of top 10 horror movies, opining, "What makes Carrie for me a cut above the more famous Exorcist is that while the latter’s shock value lies in its depiction of religious blasphemy (personally which left me cold), Carrie is unique in the way it brings out the horror of school life, the relentless cruelty shown by the cool kids to those socially awkward, a reflection of the essential sadism of human nature." And finally, Obsessed With Film's Dan Owen places Carrie at number 8 in his top 10 horror movies list, stating that "Brian De Palma’s seminal horror is a brilliant piece of work, probably because it takes its time getting you into the mindset of the bullied Carrie."

One of the best of the recent essays about Carrie was posted by Bryce Wilson at Things That Don't Suck. Wilson writes, "One of the things that has always set De Palma aside from his New Wave contemporaries like Scorsese, Coppolla, Friedkin and even Altman, is here is a man with absolutely no love nor nostalgia for the Catholic Church. It’s not the last bastion of moral clarity; it’s a breeding ground for lunatics." Wilson adds that "never before or since has De Palma’s virtuosity blended so unobtrusively with his subject matter," and uses the split screen sequence as an example:

Take the infamous split screen finale. What has to be the best use of split screen in De Palma’s career (and thus by extrapolation, maybe the best use of the split screen ever). Here he turns it into a kind of cinematic meat grinder. A meat grinder that runs on for a subjective eternity before it finally ends. Perhaps the finest thing I can say about it, is that I always forget that it is inter cut with non split screen shots until I actually watch it.

Daniel Montgomery, apparently viewing the film for the first time, states, "At the outset I expected a revenge fantasy, but the film surprises by how sad it is. There is no vicarious thrill in watching Carrie take her revenge after being humiliated at the prom, because wee see that not all of her victims are guilty. Some were trying to help her. Two classmates seem to have been involved in the plot all along but are revealed to have been sincere, which compounds the tragedy. Their act of kindness was one act too late."

Clint Morris at Australia's What's Playing interviewed Sean Byrne, the writer/director of The Loved Ones, who says he was inspired by De Palma's film, among others (including Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre). "The horror films from the 70’s and 80’s are just balls to the wall fun," Byrne told Morris, "and I just wanted to recreate that experience. I was especially inspired by Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Brian De Palma’s Carrie, as well as Misery and Tarantino and Lynch." Discussing the Australian humor of his new horror film, Byrne told Morris, "I think it’s got its own distinctly wild Australian sense of humour," but then added that "its roots definitely lay with the classic American Cabin in the Woods and Prom movies."

Posted by Geoff at 3:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010 5:20 PM CDT
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According to Gulf News, Tom Cruise held a press conference in Dubai today, where he was getting ready to begin shooting scenes for the fourth Mission: Impossible film with director Brad Bird. Cruise announced that the title of the new film will be Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. "One of the things I always wanted for the franchise was for it not to have a number afterwards," Cruise said, according to Gulf News. "I’ve never done sequels to films and I never thought of these films as sequels. Paramount has done a great job in coming up with a title, so it’s not going to be MI2, 3, 4: it’s going to be Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I always felt it should have a title."

Posted by Geoff at 2:50 PM CDT
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Rocksploitation w/Citizen Midnight- | Movies & TV | SPIKE.com

Last July, we posted about the Rocksploitation midnight movie series at San Francisco's Bridge Theatre, where the band Citizen Midnight played songs before a screening of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. In the video above, you can hear the band performing an original song they wrote about the film (called Phantom Of The Paradise). In the video, Citizen Midnight's Rob Goblin explains that they took the main riff from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera and turned it into a story about the De Palma film. In the video, you can also see the band perform Somebody Super Like You from Phantom Of The Paradise.

Posted by Geoff at 2:13 AM CDT
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Monday, October 25, 2010
Slant critic Simon Abrams on Paranormal Activity 2, which was directed by Tod Williams:

As ridiculous as the rumor may have seemed at the time, all the talk about how Brian De Palma was being sought out to direct Paranormal Activity 2 makes sense now. It is, after all, an overtly meta-textual narrative about the representation of violence on film. If nothing else, Paranormal Activity 2 directly grapples with the potential conceptual uses for the franchise's defining narrative strategy of combining security camera footage and video shot on handheld digital cameras by the film's protagonists in ways that Paranormal Activity didn't even attempt. We're frequently reminded that we're watching edited footage (i.e. a narrative that only looks like raw documentary footage), as with the massive Kubrickian intertitles that tell us the date at the start of every night of recorded footage.

Anyone watching Paranormal Activity 2 closely enough will see that the transitions between different cameras in the film isn't motivated by any internal logic but rather a narrative one. For instance, loud late night banging coming from outside a front door isn't explicitly shown, though there's a security camera present to document the event. That scene is cut in such a way that we can only see through that camera after the fact, confirming that we only get to see what the implied documentary filmmakers, as omniscient storytellers, want us to see in order to make their narrative spookier. In that sense, unlike its predecessor, Paranormal Activity 2 doesn't even look like a video report on unexplained events anymore: It's footage of a fake haunting transformed into a film-within-a-film.

Posted by Geoff at 8:15 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 25, 2010 10:52 PM CDT
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Monday, October 18, 2010
[The reimagined poster for Dressed To Kill pictured here was created by Mikael Kangas. More of his illustrations can be seen at Anna Goodson Management.]

Michael Cain's latest autobiography, The Elephant To Hollywood, was published earlier this month. In the book's photo section, a caption next to an image of Bobbi in a blonde wig from Dressed To Kill has Cain wondering, "Is this me or my body double?" Cain devotes about three and a half paragraphs to Brian De Palma's film, writing, "Who would have thought that the role that would rescue my career at that point would be that of a transvestite psychiatrist turned murderer? You couldn't make it up... but Dressed To Kill became a huge box-office success. It was an opportunity for me, too, to show the versatility of my acting skills, not to mention a first outing for me in women's clothing. It had to be the most uncomfortable costume I ever wore. I hated the tights, couldn't walk in the high heels, found that the lipstick got all over my cigars and stubbornly insisted on wearing my own underpants." Despite all of that, Cain writes, "In the end, many of the long shots in the film were actually played by a double-- a real woman-- who was as tall as me, but needed a bit of padding out. It was she who played the most notorious scene in the film when my character slashes Angie Dickinson's character to death with a razor. It is a horrifying scene-- one that I only saw later on-- and it caused a lot of trouble at the time. Brian De Palma-- who is one of the most technically proficient directors I've ever worked with-- was insistent that it was the right thing to do. It was the only death in the entire movie and he wanted maximum impact: he got it, all right."

Meanwhile, Todd Gilchrist interviewed Angie Dickinson last week for the Wall Street Journal, on the eve of the Warner Archive on-demand DVD release of Roger Vadim's Pretty Maids All In A Row (the first batch of orders received copies autographed by Dickinson herself, and sold out quickly). Gilchrist asked Dickinson whether nudity was "a necessity for continuing to work" on films in the 1970s. Dickinson replied:

If I’d had a choice, I would have said, oh no, let’s do it under the covers and stay covered up. That would be my favorite way to do it. But I also was grown up enough to know, “this is how we’re doing it now.” On “Big Bad Mama,” I said, “do we have to have so much nudity?” and the director said yeah (laughs). So it’s hardly my favorite position, but I was an actor, and this is what movies were doing [then], so I did it.

The conversation turned to Dressed To Kill when Gilchrist asked Dickinson if she sees "a difference in the filmmakers who were working then and who are working now":

I haven’t worked on any of those big movies where they make you do the blue screen and all of that, so I don’t really know. The ones that I’ve done have still been the kind where once you’re on a set, you’re on a set; I can’t speak to the ones that have all of the blue screen, where you’re not really in Egypt, you’re in Burbank. The last big picture I made was “Dressed to Kill,” and it was a big budget made by a director who has great attention to detail –- Brian De Palma -– and that was very hard. Because he wanted everything exactly the way he wanted it, and rightly so -– which is hard to do sometimes. But in that, and of course that was 1980, he had to have, again, the nudity. That was just a given.

Gilchrist then asked Dickinson, "Are there any other films you made during your career that you feel like are unappreciated or deserve to be rediscovered by audiences today?"

You know, “Dressed to Kill” might be one, come to think of it. Because by those who have seen it, it’s quite admired, because it is scary as hell — but I don’t think it was actually the hit that it would be today. But that comes to mind, and I did a television series called “Pearl,” and that was a great series about Pearl Harbor on the outbreak of WWII with Robert Wagner, Dennis Weaver, Leslie Ann Warren and myself. I always loved myself in that, and that’s always been, let’s say, shoved under the rug. But “Point Blank” is already in DVD, and that one is my favorite.

Earlier this month, San Francisco's Castro Theatre featured a double bill of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and De Palma's Dressed To Kill, the former having been released 50 years ago, and the latter having been released 30 years ago. Kelly M. Hudson attended, and wrote on his blog that "there were a couple of sequences that made the audience I was watching it with erupt into enthusiastic applause and those were the attack in the subway and the finale in the doctor's office and the final dream sequence. And those people were right: they were brilliant." Dan at Dan's Movie Blog was also at the screening, and similarly stated, "I will say that a few scenes where Blake is menaced by the woman ratchets up the suspense to unusually tense levels. I'm specifically thinking about the scene in Michael Caine's office and in the bathroom at the end." Dan also recalls the "teenage boys in his clique" in the early 1980s talking "about the infamous opening scene featuring Angie Dickinson taking a shower." Dan notes that Dickinson's body double in the opening shower scene was Victoria Lynn Johnson "(August 1976 Penthouse Pet of the Month)."

Posted by Geoff at 5:14 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 18, 2010 5:14 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Rock music critic Dave Marsh reviewed the stage version of American Idiot on his blog last week, and recalled a quote from Brian De Palma from some years ago regarding musicals:

Walking out of Sweeney Todd years ago, I asked Brian De Palma why I hated such shows. He said, “Well, you love stories and you love music. In musicals, story is compromised by having to stop for the songs, and the music is compromised because it has to tell the story.”

Marsh used the quote to help illustrate his point about how the Green Day musical "trusts the music"-- meaning that the original Green Day album told the story just fine on its own, and the new show keeps the volume loud and trusts the music's rock roots by slurring the lyrics like a rock'n'roll show should (according to Marsh).

Posted by Geoff at 12:09 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 7, 2010
The other day, the New York Times' Patrick Healy posted an article that served to officially announce that the revamped stage version of Carrie has been acquired by the MCC Theater, which plans to open the show Off Broadway as "a major production at the Lucille Lortel Theater during the 2011-12 season." Healy interviewed the show's director, Stafford Arima, who said he was actually in attendance for the orginal preview of Carrie on Broadway on April 30, 1988. "I had never seen a crowd go wild like the ‘Carrie’ crowd did, the infectious and almost hypnotic quality to some of the songs, the absolute roar from the audience at the end as Carrie dies,” Arima told Healy. “Personally, too, as a theater geek who had been bad at gym, I related very much to the archetype of the misfit. How many of us can remember being made fun of in high school because we were too smart, too shy, too awkward?” Arima told Healy that about half of the songs in the new show will be different than the original show, which was a notorious flop. "Among the songs already jettisoned," states Healy, "is the notorious Act II opener, 'Out for Blood,' in which high school mean girls and boys work themselves into a state of murderous rapture as they seek pigs’ blood for a cruel prom-night prank against Carrie, a character best known from Sissy Spacek’s portrayal in the 1976 film adaptation."

Lawrence D. Cohen, who adapted Stephen King's novel for both the film and stage versions of Carrie, was quoted in an official MCC announcement yesterday. "From our perspective," explained Cohen, "we had no interest in seeing a new production of the exact same show that closed on Broadway." Composer Michael Gore added, "We've revisited the material extensively and embarked on what we're terming a ‘re-imagining' of the musical." The announcement also quotes Arima regarding how the story takes on increased resonance today. "As our society finally begins to take a serious look at the intense stressors placed upon teenagers and the often tragic consequences of bullying and social ostracism within our schools," stated Arima, "the message of Carrie has only become more timely and resonant."

Posted by Geoff at 7:42 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:48 PM CDT
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Friday, October 1, 2010
Armond White is not impressed with Matt Reeves' Let Me In, which opened this weekend at U.S. theaters. "This perverted fairy tale about Owen’s guardian vampire degrades the vampire genre simply to exploit adolescent sappiness," White states in his review at the New York Press. White goes on to contrast Reeves' film with "the all-time great adolescent horror movie," Brian De Palma's Carrie. Here are the two concluding paragraphs of White's review:

The 2009 Swedish film Let the Right One In originated this confusion. Its title—borrowed from a 1993 Morrissey song that expressed adolescent longing— sentimentalized moral ambiguity. Abby cannot enter her friend’s home without being invited, requiring his acceptance of evil. Bringing teen anguish to vampire lore (M. Night Shyamalan-style rather than Buffy-style) was lamely nihilistic—and inferior to the vampire romance Twilight that opened the same season. But critics preferred Let the Right One In for its selfpitying view of adolescence. That’s also the sell point of this American remake—add on trite political commentary by setting the story in the nuclear test site Los Alamos, N.M., during the 1980s and frequently cutting to TV broadcasts of President Reagan as a right-wing ghoul warning: “America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good…” So teen anguish gets smashed-up with facile politics, America-hatred and routine Christianity bashing. (Owen’s mother is a grace-saying, Bible-reading drunk whose estranged husband complains about “more of your mother’s religious crap.”) Meanwhile, vampirism—though freaky— gets idealized. But when Abby’s father (Richard Jenkins) mutilates himself after fouling-up a blood-raid/murder-spree and she goes on her own feeding frenzies— including neighborhood lovers and the only cop in town—the gruesome bloodletting lacks the beautiful moral symmetry of the all-time great adolescent horror movie, Brian De Palma’s 1976 teen classic Carrie. Apparently, neither Reeves nor critics remember De Palma’s part-satiric, part-melodramatic demarcation between Carrie’s pathetic need to belong and her tragic acts of revenge.

True to millennial faithlessness, Let Me In rejects Carrie’s complexity, emphasizing both Abby and Owen’s misery. Young scholar Jesse Tucker wrote a brilliant essay describing De Palma’s final twist (where Carrie’s hand grasps her schoolmate’s) as a forgiving gesture toward commiseration. Reeves flips that beautiful motivation in the scene where Owen ignores a reach for help from one of Abby’s victims. It’s an obscene devolution of the genre. Children should not be exposed to this lurid display of helplessness and pessimism—and adult viewers should be wary of the nihilistic indulgence.

In November of 2007, Jesse Tucker wrote a review of Carrie in which he presented the intriguing metaphysical interpretation (mentioned by White above) of the final scene in De Palma's film:

A dreamlike sheen hangs over the ending. Sue, the only survivor, sleeps, while in her subconscious she lays flowers on the charcoal pit where Carrie's house used to be. Everyone knows the ending, with Carrie's hand reaching to grab Sue's from another world. It's a shock many people experience come October. But De Palma doesn't use it merely to send us away from the film with a jolt. The gesture is a final, failed attempt to connect. Throughout the film we see the secret pain of abuse, the shock in Chris' face when her boyfriend slaps her, Carrie flinging her advancing mother across the room. Briefly, we see the happy domesticity of Sue's home life. Carrie, beyond the grave, is trying to forge a bond between these girls who exists on the opposite spectrum of life. It fails as Sue wakes up screaming. The other girl is regulated back into the darkness.

(Thanks to John!)

Posted by Geoff at 9:25 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 1, 2010 9:28 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Since last week's post about the steadicam shot in Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas, and how he had wanted to try to make it one minute longer than the elaborate steadicam shot in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, I've located a bit from a Cahiers du Cinéma interview in which Scorsese discusses that Untouchables scene. In 1996, Cahiers du Cinéma celebrated its 500th issue by inviting Scorsese to guest-edit the issue, and devoting it to Scorsese's "passion for cinema." The translated interviews/essays were published in Projections 7, edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue, in 1997. In the issue, Scorsese refers to De Palma as his "pal," and a member of his own extended family, which also includes, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Joe Pesci, Francis Ford Coppola, and Jay Cocks, among others. Here is what Scorsese had to say in 1996 about De Palma as a filmmaker:

Brian is a great director. Nobody can interpret things visually like he does: telling a story through a lens. Take the scene in The Untouchables where Charles Martin Smith is shot in the elevator. Look at that steadycam shot; he's not just moving the camera to show you that we can go longer because we have the steadycam. Francis used to tell me, "Marty, we can start a shot and go up to the Empire State Building and come back down. Anybody can do it. You have to know how to move a camera a little bit, that's all." A lot of people use the steadycam and don't know what they're doing. What Brian does with it is tell the story, progressing the story within the shot. That's just one example. Then in Carlito's Way there's a scene entering a night-club and the camera tracks up. It's extraordinary, his visual interpretation. He deals with stories that enable him to do that sort of thing. So when you get a real De Palma picture like Raising Cain or Body Double, you're getting something really unique. He's provocative. He goes, "I'm going to do this again. Hitchcock did it - so what? Who cares? I'm doing it this way." Brian knows. We always talk about that together.

Posted by Geoff at 2:01 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:05 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Spanish filmmaker Miguel Ángel Vivas's Kidnapped won the award for Best Horror Feature at this year's just-concluded Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. Fest goers began tweeting about the film after seeing it on Saturday, with several comparing it to the work of Brian De Palma. Matthew Kiernan tweeted that "KIDNAPPED is Brian De Palma's wet dream of a movie. Non-stop extended takes and split screen. Works pretty well." Giles Edwards tweeted that Kidnapped is the "best film the new and modern Brian De Palma never made. Sorta." Cinematical's John Gholson hated it, however, writing, "Funny Games meets Brian De Palma would be an apt description for the gimmicky Kidnapped, the harrowing tale of an affluent family forced to turn over all of their cash to violent hooded thugs. Vivas treats his characters (and the audience) rough, unleashing a tiresome feature-length onslaught of relentless tears, screaming, and sobbing amidst occasional bursts of queasy shock-value violence." Gholson goes on to describe what he sees as the film's notable technical achievement, even if it is used in what he finds a "reprehensible" manner:

The most reprehensible part of the affair is that it forces you to suffer along with the family for one single, remarkable technical moment; a split-screen camera move that is the film's centerpiece and the only real pay-off for so much rampant ugliness. Vivas himself seems immediately disinterested in his own film after he pulls off his De Palma trick, and concludes the movie with such obvious disregard for his own characters and his audience, that the only natural response, whether you like the film or not, is to leave the theatre completely shell-shocked.

Ain't It Cool's Capone, however, has a different take on Kidnapped, writing that he found the flow of the film rather engaging. "By keeping edits to a minimum," states Capone, "Vivas makes this ordeal feel like it's unfolding in real time." Capone concludes that:

KIDNAPPED is a film that takes a familiar sub-genre of horror and somehow manages to both class it up and degrade it. The occasional use of split screen to show what's going on in two different places (either within rooms of the house or showing us activity in the house and on the road with the father) is never used as a gimmick; it's only brought in to enhance very specific events that I won't spoil. I won't lie, KIDNAPPED is rough at times, but the way director Vivas allowed the action to unfold almost organically is astounding. This is easily one of my favorites of this year's Fantastic Fest.

Posted by Geoff at 11:49 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:01 PM CDT
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