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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
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma a la Mod

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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Patrick Billingsley, a charismatic University of Chicago mathematics and statistics professor who also acted on stage, television, and film, died April 22nd following a brief illness. He was 85. Billingsley made his film debut as a CIA agent in Brian De Palma's The Fury, and also played a bailiff in De Palma's The Untouchables (both were filmed in Chicago). Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune obituary (written by Margaret Ramirez):

Mr. Billingsley joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1958 as an assistant professor in statistics, attaining the rank of professor in statistics and mathematics five years later.

He started acting as a hobby in 1969 and performed in numerous plays for the Court Theatre. In 1977, while performing in a production of "The Lover" in 1977, he was spotted by a talent scout who asked if he would like to audition for a film. To his surprise, he got the part.

In "The Fury," Mr. Billingsley played a bad guy with a simple objective: Kill Kirk Douglas.

In a 1978 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Billingsley commented on the similarities between teaching and acting.

"Teaching has a little bit of show biz," he said. "When you teach, you perform in front of an audience. That's much like acting. As a teacher you're used to being onstage."

Posted by Geoff at 12:16 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The above digital short, which was feautured on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, shows the Lonely Island teaming up with Michael Bolton, who dresses up in the video as several movie characters: Jack Sparrow, Forrest Gump, Erin Brockovich, and Tony Montana. Bolton tells Entertainment Weekly's Clark Collis about the ongoing negotiation between himself and the group regarding the language used in the video:

But they were sending me lyrics and I was reading them and I was thinking, “This is funny.” Then I’d get to another line that I really wish I could share with you right now, but I just can’t. I would say, “Nope, I don’ t think I could be intoxicated enough to read this line.” It kept transforming. And they really wanted me to do it. Because they could have just said at any point, “Nah, you’re going to take the funny out of it, you’re going to take the shock value out of it.” Finally, I said “This is great. But can we still take a look at some of this language, because I’m still not comfortable. Scarface is Scarface. He can say pretty much anything. As my own character, I just have a rough time wrapping my head around it.”

Collis later asks Bolton to elaborate about the Scarface parody:

There’s also a scene where, as Tony Montana, you’re surrounded by what I assume is fake cocaine.
I assure you that—aside from the fact that I don’t think any one of us would be around a pile of coke—that they didn’t have it in the budget for that to be anything but some sort of baking powder. But it was pretty funny. And that’s one of my favorite movies. That’s one of my favorite characters Pacino ever brought to life. It was another one where you knew you were going to get hard laughs, especially once my head got dropped into that pile, that mountain of cocaine.

How on earth can you sing along to lines like “Davy Jones!” or “Giant Squid!” while keeping a straight face?
You have to, that’s the whole thing. During the rehearsals, there were times when nobody could keep a straight face. But the whole thing only pays off if you keep a straight face and deliver from a seriously committed place, which was not a problem at all with Jack Sparrow and Scarface. With Erin, I just kind of wanted to get those clothes off and take a shower.

Posted by Geoff at 11:26 PM CDT
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Monday, May 9, 2011
During a bonus interview on Criterion's recent release of Brian De Palma's Blow Out, Nancy Allen laments that the film's original release just didn't seem to have the right timing. A bleak movie released in the summer when everybody is looking to have some fun. Well, thanks to Criterion, thirty years later, Blow Out's time seems to have finally arrived. Widely regarded by De Palma fans and cinephiles alike as one of De Palma's best films, Blow Out currently seems to be cementing its place in the mainstream as the best representation of De Palma's cinema. The Criterion release is a big hit, introducing Blow Out to a wide new audience, and turning the heads of even some of De Palma's harshest critics.

When I was a kid, I had a friend who wrote a song (we were writing songs in the sixth grade) about some advice he had received from his dad. The hook of the song was, "Before you buy anything, it has to be a wow!" I can't say I've always followed this advice, but I can say without a doubt that Criterion's release of Blow Out is nothing less than a wow. Everything from the film transfer, supervised by De Palma himself, to the disc extras (three great interviews, and I never thought I'd see De Palma's Murder A La Mod on a Criterion release!), to the beautiful booklet that includes a reprint of pages from the magazine prop cut-up by John Travolta in the movie, is a treat in and of itself. To have all of this in one package is extraordinary.

Randy Miller III at DVD Talk
Blow Out is unquestionably a fantastic film that, commercially and (perhaps) critically, was released at the wrong time. In the last 30 years, however, it's aged remarkably well and stands as an underrated career highlight for all those involved. Combining equal parts paranoia thriller, black comedy and tragic love story, Blow Out should enthrall those new to the film and delight those that haven't seen it in years. Criterion's Blu-Ray does a perfect job of maintaining the film's tone and spirit, pairing a rock-solid technical presentation with a handful of thoughtful, appropriate bonus features. While it's a bit on the pricey side (even for a Criterion disc), Blow Out is a top-tier effort and this Blu-Ray is worth every penny. Very Highly Recommended.

Travis Crawford at Filmmaker Magazine
The ending of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out hits you in the chest like a hammer. It’s not supposed to be this way; American studio movies don’t end like that. But of course it’s the heartbreaking denouement that has partially helped to make the film endure in the 30 intervening years since its commercially disastrous release, though one can certainly fathom how it alienated audiences at the time (for the record, some critics were passionate defenders; it’s just that most viewers don’t savor being implicated in the spectacle of violence as it is quickly transformed into tragedy).

Bryant Frazer at Film Freak Central
Blow Out is usually considered critically, at least in part, as an investigation of filmmaking processes. It's true that De Palma spends some time with the mechanics of film, depicting the laborious process of synching sound to picture or opening up a Bolex to expose the camera's inner workings. In another funny joke, he has Jack slip Sally out of the hospital and into a motel room where, rather than snuggle up under the covers with her, he sits up all night with his Nagra tape deck. But the element of filmmaking that really matters here is deception, by which I mean performance. Sally, for instance, fancies herself a make-up artist, and it turns out that the face she presents to Jack isn't entirely an honest one. There's the duplicitous Manny (Dennis Franz), who uses a studio-photography business as a front for a blackmail operation. There's the murderous political operative Burke (John Lithgow, in an early rehearsal for his role on "Dexter"), who is so skilled at altering his voice that he sometimes talks as though there's a soundman inside his head, overdubbing the words in real time. De Palma even takes a moment late in the film to slyly depict the negotiation between customer and prostitute as a fundamentally phoney transaction on both sides.

Amid these actors, these practitioners of pure fiction, Jack is a documentarian. Once his boss insists that he bring new wind FX to bear on Coed Frenzy's soundmix, it's Jack's sense of professionalism that sends him wandering around in the middle of the night, recording the breeze rustling through leaves. That work ethic gets him embroiled in the mystery surrounding the governor's death. When the individual frames of a film showing McRyan's car driving into the river are published in a newsmagazine, à la the Zapruder film, Jack finds a way to turn them into a movie he can synch with his sound recordings in order to reconstruct the accident. At one point, he tells someone on the police force that he can't simply let it go because he was there for the real events, which don't correspond with the official story. "I was there, she was there," he argues. "Who gives a damn that you were there?" comes the devastating reply. More than filmmaking, per se, Blow Out is about the tale-spinning power of modern media--the efficiency of well-told lies.

Posted by Geoff at 11:05 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 8, 2011
Okay, it has been a while since the last post, and it's not due to a lack of activity in the De Palma-sphere. I've just been busy (although had there been any news news it would have been posted right away). With that said, don't be startled to see a flurry of posts in the next couple of days as I try to put up everything I've been keeping my eye on.

And what better way to kick off that flurry than to get us grounded with De Palma's current project, Passion, the remake of Alain Corneau's Love Crime. Corneau's film will be hitting U.S. theaters this summer (July 1st in New York, and August 26th elsewhere). It will also play as part of the International Showcase at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. Producer Saïd Ben Saïd has been promising that the main cast of De Palma's film will be announced at this year's Cannes Film Festival, which begins this Wednesday, so here we go. There has been no writer mentioned yet for this project, which leaves room for the possibility that De Palma himself is writing the screenplay. It could also mean that they've hired someone. Perhaps they might address that information at Cannes, as well. The film is to be shot in Cologne, Berlin, and London beginning this August. De Palma has been in Paris working to cast the picture.

At New York's "Rendez-vous with French Cinema" last March, Ludivine Sagnier was present for a Q&A following a screening of Love Crime. According to Beast McGuffin, Sagnier said that for many years, Corneau had been obsessed with making a movie about "the perfect crime," and "this was the end result." McGuffin adds that the working title for the film was "The Perfect Woman." McGuffin continues:

The film is competent, spare (even down to the evocative saxophone soundtrack, which reminded me of the spate of American neo-Noir movies of the 90s), and entertaining, but what in a weird way, after the crime is committed you begin to feel that the movie is about, really, not 'the perfect crime' but instead, how to write the screenplay about 'the perfect crime'. This is hard to explain without giving away elements of the film's plot... But if you see the film, or the remake, I think you'll see what I mean

Erica Abeel at indieWIRE
The wickedly entertaining “Love Crime,” the last film of the late Alain Corneau, brings on the mother of all catfights. Kristin Scott-Thomas is perfectly cast as a ruthless exec in some vague multinational, more serpent than warm-blooded mammal. She both caresses and exploits her ambitious young assistant (Ludivine Sagnier), tossing off such lines as “You have a great talent and I made the most of it.” After humiliating Sagnier at a company event, the assistant doubles down for an elaborate revenge. The scenes of company business, filled with mumbo-jumbo, hardly bother to appear authentic; and hey, what happened to the lesbian vibe in the early scenes? But the bitchery is a hoot, the chilly chrome color design is an extension of the characters’ inner world and the final sting in the tail a nasty surprise. You can bet that in his remake Brian De Palma will pick up on that lesbian motif.

Doris Toumarkine at Film Journal International
A much-anticipated offering that offered less than anticipated was the late Alain Corneau’s corporate-crime melodrama Love Crime, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as dueling, fired-up execs at a multinational agro giant. Part soft-core tease (Scott Thomas hits persuasively on Sagnier, who utters “I love you,” but it’s all gratuitous), part executive-suite close-up of Machiavellian scheming, and part murder intrigue, the film—slick, ballsy, silly—fails to deliver one frame of authenticity or emotional tug. But, hats off to the cast, it does entertain. Reportedly, Brian De Palma has remake rights for a U.K. shoot.

Stephen Holden at the New York Times
In this vicious psychological cat-and-mouse game, Kristin Scott Thomas plays the chief executive of the Parisian branch of a multinational corporation who does lethal battle with her protégée (Ludivine Sagnier). The movie plays like an entire season of “Damages” compressed into about 100 nasty minutes.

Edmund Lee at Time Out Hong Kong
Whilst remaining thoroughly cold and precise, Love Crime then unveils a ludicrous revenge plot, so matter-of-factly presented that the audience may be forgiven for expecting a little more passion from the proceedings. This, incidentally, looks to be exactly where Brian De Palma plans to enter the equation himself: for better or for worse, the thriller veteran of Dressed to Kill, Scarface and Femme Fatale is all set to direct an English-language remake of the film, titled, well, Passion. It’s surely something the original could have done with a lot more of.

Posted by Geoff at 8:45 PM CDT
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
We all know that today is the day Criterion releases its highly-anticipated edition of Brian De Palma's Blow Out (which includes a newly-remastered version of De Palma's Murder A La Mod, as well as a new hour-long interview with De Palma, and... Oh, I could go on and on!). But there is another nice surprise today-- a new book from David Greven, author of the thought-provoking Manhood In Hollywood From Bush To Bush. While that book took a lengthy look at the masculine dynamics on display in De Palma's Casualties Of War, among other films, Greven's new book, Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema: The Woman's Film, Film Noir, and Modern Horror, takes De Palma's Carrie as the prime example of how horror movies are, according to Greven, "concealed woman's films," female-centered melodramas in horror guise. The book includes a chapter on Carrie, as well as a discussion on De Palma's The Fury. Other films Greven discusses in the book include Now, Voyager, The Heiress, Flamingo Road, the Alien films, and The Brave One. There is also a discussion of the slasher genre.

Posted by Geoff at 1:09 AM CDT
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Arrow Films has posted a page for its Blu-Ray edition of Brian De Palma's Obsession, with a stated June 27 release date. However, it does not say anything about a standard DVD version (perhaps that may be released in August?). In any case, we now know that the short films included in the package will be De Palma's Woton's Wake and The Responsive Eye. Also included will be Paul Schrader's original uncut screenplay "in a perfect bound booklet," and a two-sided fold out poster.

Meanwhile, with the De Palma Suspense series going on at BAM, the New York Post's Lou Lumenick has declared his obsession for Obsession, even though he dislikes most of De Palma's other films. Lumenick thinks Obsession is one of the greatest films of the '70s, but was afraid that, watching it again after so many years, it might not hold up. To his delight, it did indeed:

Why does "Obsession'' stand out? I think it's because of screenwriter Paul Schrader, who shared DePalma's obsession with "Vertigo'' and wrote this movie just before his other '80s masterpiece, "Taxi Driver'' (which had Bernard Herrmann's final score). DePalma and Schrader sadly never worked together again. Reportedly, they had a falling out when DePalma, on Herrmann's advice, decided to scrap an epilogue set a decade after the main story (Schrader's original script, "Deja Vu,'' can be found on the French Blu-ray edition, which hopefully will be released in the U.S. by Sony).

The film's theatrical distributor, Columbia Pictures, understandably had some reservations about the movie's incest angle. DePalma brilliantly decided to turn Robertson and Bujold's wedding (their cake is a brilliant visual gag) and wedding night into a dream sequence. Subtlety is a not a term that can often be applied to DePalma's other work, but it's this uncharacteristic restraint that helps make "Obsession'' his masterpiece. The only time I met DePalma -- at a junket for his 1986 comedy "Wise Guys'' -- he seemed puzzled that someone would love what he considered one of his less successful movies.

Posted by Geoff at 9:22 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, April 11, 2011 6:37 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 7, 2011
Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf posted a three-way telephone conversation with Brian De Palma and Noah Baumbach a few days ago, in anticipation of the Baumbach-presented BAMcinématek series on "De Palma Suspense" that begins tomorrow. Baumbach explains that his parents (film critic Georgia Brown and novelist Jonathan Baumbach) were huge De Palma fans. "That was my initial experience of him," said Baumbach. "They would talk about his movies in a visceral, emotional way. So when I finally saw the films, I felt like I was being invited into a mysterious world that was scary and sexy and strange." De Palma met Baumbach about 15 years ago at a birthday party for Paul Schrader. "I was putting together Mr. Jealousy and he was writing Snake Eyes," Baumbach said. "It was a birthday party for Paul Schrader. The girl I was dating knew Paul, so I went along. And Brian was there. I think I got pretty loaded. I remember spewing out my entire knowledge onto him."

For his part, De Palma responds to Rothkopf's question about his "ripping off" of Hitchcock: "Look, it’s part of what I do," De Palma explained. "I build upon what I’ve seen throughout the history of cinema, which is really what everyone does in every other art form. For me, it’s somehow taken on this tone of stealing or plagiarism, but all art builds upon the past, whether it’s painting or writing or music. You want to use the best of what there is, and take it further."

De Palma was on the phone from Paris, where, Rothkopf mentions, he is currently prepping Passion, his remake of Crime d'amour. The conversation by this time had delved into feminism and De Palma's depictions of women, leading the director to once again explain, "It’s just a simple element of the form. Plus, like many artists, I like photographing women. They’re beautiful and empathetic." That context is called back when De Palma says near the end of the conversation, "I’m in the process of getting ready for Passion. And there are going to be a lot of beautiful women in it." Asked to provide more information, De Palma continued: "It’s based on a French film called Love Crime with Kristin Scott Thomas. It has an extremely complex relationship between two women executives who are basically destroying each other—plus it has a murder in the middle. It’s great material to visualize and make erotic and fun."

Posted by Geoff at 8:42 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 7, 2011 8:43 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Ed Pressman and William Finley will take part in a Q&A at a screening of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise this Saturday (April 9) at New York's BAMcinématek. The screening is part of the series "De Palma Suspense," which is presented by BAM Cinema Club Chair Noah Baumbach, who will introduce the series' opening night film, Sisters this Friday (April 8) at 7:30pm. The Pressman/Finley Q&A will take place during the 6:50pm screening on Saturday-- Phantom Of The Paradise will play again at 9:30 that night. Finley's name was just added to the schedule within the past couple of days, so it is possible some more surprises are on the way at BAM... stay tuned. In anticipation of the series, the New York Press' Craig Hubert and the Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton have each posted articles summarizing these key De Palma films.

Criterion is set to release De Palma's BLOW OUT April 26th, and Baumbach's hour-long filmed interview with De Palma is being touted as a worthwhile special feature in early reviews. Check out the reviews at MovieMan's Guide To The Movies and Big Picture Big Sound.

Posted by Geoff at 1:44 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 1:46 AM CDT
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Monday, April 4, 2011
Source Code wasn't the only film that opened this past weekend whose director discussed Brian De Palma as an influence. Last week, IFC's Stephen Saito talked with collaborators James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (screenwriter/actor) about their new movie, Insidious. The discussion turned to camera moves, mentioning Steven Spielberg's Jaws and Duel, Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, and Roman Polanski. Here is an excerpt:

Speaking of twisting, it seemed like the camera was always moving, which seems like a break from other films like this where there might be long panning shots, but the camera still might be shooting from a stationary position.

JW: Even though the camera moves a lot, I think it's there to slowly build the tension and they're not fast camera moves at all. They're very controlled. I definitely wanted to make a very classical, old fashioned horror film based on very classical, old fashioned filmmaking. If you go back and see what Spielberg did with the first "Jaws," it's all very controlled camerawork - or "Duel."

LW: I read one review that said your direction was very reminiscent of "Dressed to Kill." That's pretty cool. Is that something you noticed at all [with the camerawork]?

JW: I look back at my body of work and I definitely see things that excite me in the same way that excite Brian De Palma for sure.

LW: The way he loves to move the camera in...

JW: It's not just that. He moves his camera, but he does it in a really interesting way.

LW: That opening shot of "Insidious," to me, is a very De Palma-esque shot. [The camera] comes in upside down and then twisting around.

JW: I was very inspired by someone like [Roman] Polanski as well, [in how] he takes slow, brooding movies that are made in such confined spaces and just builds on that and builds on that and builds on that. That's what we want to do. But instead of paranoia that we're building on, we're building on supernatural things.

Posted by Geoff at 1:32 PM CDT
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Friday, April 1, 2011
Back in January, Comingsoon.net's Silas Lesnick posted an interview with Duncan Jones from the editing bay of his new film, Source Code, on which Paul Hirsch served as editor. In one section of the interview, Jones discusses having Hirsch on set during filming, and also cites Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma as two big influences on Source Code, which he says he took on "to have a project which gave me some real scope to try things visually." Here is the excerpt involving Hirsch and De Palma:

CS: Can you comment a little on the editing? It seems like a time jumping plot like this lends itself specifically to filmmaking which is literally that.
Well, as I mentioned, Paul Hirsch is the editor on the film and Paul Hirsch -- who I keep calling Paul Hirsch every time, even though it's so informal. I call him Paul -- was with us on the shoot. So while we're there, he might say, "Can you grab this, because it's going to be really useful later on." There a lot of little details that, I have no problem saying, his experience is just so vast that any advice on coverage or on what things could be really useful to him, we went with. He was downstairs in the studio all the time. We were at the big studio in Montreal and he was putting an assembly together while we were shooting. There was a constant loop of feedback from him as I was shooting.

CS: There's a common theme in science fiction of perspective and of returning to an event time and again. What films jump to your mind as having inspired you in the making of "Source Code"?
It's strange because they're not really obvious ones. Certainly not ones that directly reference that sort of mechanic. There's a lot of Hitchcock and De Palma. We were trying to have the sensibilities of old Hitchcock movies.

CS: Hirsch has a very classic editing style. Is that something you went after very consciously?
You know, one of the things that people loved about the making of "Moon" was that we went with model miniatures and what's not known is that we actually went with a good split of models and CG work. I had a background in both doing commercials. In this film, there are definitely a few moments of showy CG work. For me more than anyone else. Hopefully we kept it very light where we could because, otherwise, it could get quite grim with the train explosion. I think we've got the mood right that allowed me to get a little surreal at moments. I think it's really good fun and I hope that people will feel that way. But yes, Paul has a real simplistic elegance to the way he works. But for him as well, he also has a huge amount of experience on effects. He knew that I wanted to have these little beats where it got a little bit surreal and a little bit weirder. I think we got that.

CS: You mentioned Brian De Palma, who also has, while it's not science fiction, a lot of characters unsure of their identities.
In this case, it wasn't really about films I had seen in the past that made me want to see this film. I think it was about the opportunity to be a bit surreal. To do something where some of my influences were Lucien Freud and a certain period of Picasso cubist paintings. I wanted to create visuals of things that I hadn't seen in film before. I wish I could show you some of the stuff later on because it does get really weird. It was more visual things that I wanted to do. When I was reading the script, I guess I did sense that there were certain scenes reflective of "Moon," but it was really about getting an opportunity to do something visually where I otherwise may never have the chance to do that. So I think, for me, that was the really fun bit.

CS: There are certainly, though, with a lot of filmmakers themes that directors tend to revisit.
It's weird. Hearing you ask me questions about that and knowing what I'm going to do next, you're right. There is something there. I don't know why... I haven't analyzed myself well enough to know that.

CS: Is the next thing something else that was brought to you?
No, the next one is something I originated.

After Source Code premiered at SXSW last month, The Playlist's Drew Taylor posted a mostly positive review of the film. "And while the movie is very much a suspense piece," wrote Taylor, "with prolonged sequences of edge-of-your-seat tension that bring to mind what would have happened if Brian De Palma had directed a script by Richard Kelly, it has an incredibly romantic heart—one that is perhaps a little hokey at times, but a heart nonetheless."

Posted by Geoff at 2:40 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, April 1, 2011 2:42 AM CDT
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