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Domino is
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Listen to
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Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 6:08 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:13 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chloë Moretz tweets:

"Never been so happy in my life! Thank you Kim Pierce and thank u MGM for the chance of a lifetime i will never forget!" Deadline: "Moretz didn’t meet with Peirce until last weekend. She got the job immediately... Insiders said that once they make Moretz’s deal, they will focus on landing the psycho mom and supporting cast and they will shoot this year." Remake will be filmed in and around Toronto. Planning for July start date.

Posted by Geoff at 4:28 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 1, 2012 12:22 PM CDT
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Joe Aisneberg's in-depth study of Brian De Palma's Carrie is a must-read, must-have for any De Palma fan, and a paperback version is now on sale for $17 at Centipede Press. The 100-copy limited edition hardcover, signed by Aisenberg and Carrie screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, is also still available.

As I reported before, the book features extensive interviews with De Palma and Cohen that alone would be a must for De Palma fans, but Aisenberg's deep analysis into every shot of Carrie makes the book a joy to read. Aisenberg has read just about everything written about Carrie, and offers a critical look at those writings, while also gleaning from them useful perspectives on the film. He offers an exhaustive account of Stephen King's conceptualization of and writing of his original novel, as well as King's alternating views of Carrie (both book and film) throughout the years.

This naturally leads into a chapter on how the movie was made from the novel, with Cohen and De Palma providing key details, such as how producer Paul Monash had originally hired a young woman (no one seems to recall her name) to write the screenplay. After her first draft made Monash very nervous (because, as Cohen says in the interview, "it just wasn't good"), Cohen, having loved King's book and having a very strong idea about what the film of it should be, went on a three-week marathon in which he did nothing but eat, drink, and sleep Carrie. There is also a well-considered background on De Palma leading up to the making of Carrie, even quoting the interview De Palma did with the now-defunct web site "Le Paradis de Brian De Palma" to illustrate what Aisenberg calls "a rare romantic insight into De Palma's notion of film":

"The great movies that I remember are the ones that went right into my subconscious, and I don't know why they obsess me, or why I keep thinking about them, or why in a postmodern way I keep trying to recreate them, like Vertigo, for instance. It's just something that's inexplicable. These images have taken seed in your subconscious, and you can't get them the hell out... There are a few great directors that have been able to do it, and that's why we never forget those movies. Aisenberg allows insights such as this to color his analysis of Carrie throughout the study.

These initial chapters are well-researched and fascinating, and then the book really takes off when Aisenberg begins his scene-by-scene analysis, illustrated with black-and-white frames from the film itself. Incorporating an author interview with Betty Buckley in addition to the others mentioned, Aisenberg weaves his research in with the fabric of his analysis, producing a text that is as entertaining as it is insightful. Aisenberg deftly illustrates how the opening volleyball scene establishes Carrie’s theme of competition, which is presented most prominently by the film’s ongoing juxtapositions between Sue and Chris, but also between Margaret and Miss Collins, with Carrie (and, perhaps, “the boys”) stuck in the middle. Like the film itself, Aisenberg keeps moving forward, stopping to consider moments such as when Sue walks into the background of the scene in which Margaret pays a visit to Sue’s mother, and giving that moment just the right touch of curious investigation before linking the scene directly to Orson WellsCitizen Kane:

As Mrs. Snell hands over a contribution of ten dollars to be done with Margaret, which clearly annoys the religious woman, a further visual detail complicates the dramatic tension. Through the doorway behind them beyond the pink hallway where Mrs. Snell answered the phone is a sliver of another doorframe (frames-within-frames [Aisenberg highlights these throughout]) in which Sue appears and silently hovers. While most films would probably cut around at this point to make all the characters’ stakes obvious, De Palma expertly stages things on the cheap so that viewers can connect the dramatic dots between things for themselves, imparting to Sue hints of guilty feeling that will shortly lead her to atone for her actions.

When I asked De Palma about this scene, as well as other moments in which he makes use of background and foreground actions, or places things independent of one another on the left- and right-hand sides of the screen, De Palma described the effect in musical terms as “contrapuntal,” with roots in the deep-focus arrangements of Citizen Kane, a film that also lets scenes run on without too many cuts. Indeed, the staging here recalls an early moment in Kane specifically, wherein little Charles’s mother transfers legal custody of the boy to a lawyer. Up front, Kane’s mother (Agnes Moorehead) sits at a table signing over guardianship of the boy to her cold attorney, despite her husband’s protest, while deep in the background, through a window, the boy can clearly be seen playing in the snow enjoying a childhood which has already slipped away. Carrie reverses the terms: the child figure hidden in the faraway depths of the frame is the guilty party, while those near at hand are still “innocent” of life-changing events that have taken place (thus Sue’s image is appropriately blurred and ambiguous).

Later on, in his analysis of the prom scene, Aisenberg lays out very nicely Carrie’s deliberate echoes of David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai, and elsewhere delves into the film’s inspirations from John Boorman’s Deliverance and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne Of Blood. Regarding the moment of shock just after the pig’s blood spills over Carrie, and the film shows Carrie’s viewpoint in a kaleidoscope effect, Aisenberg states that it recalls “some of the overdone visual distortions and expressionistic devices of silent movies, such as in F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), whose themes, incidentally, parallel Carrie’s enough to compare them, I think.” Aisenberg also compares this moment in Carrie to a similar subjective visualization of shock from the 1958 version of The Fly.

I stated above that Aisenberg has read just about everything related to Carrie, and, well, he has listened to just about everything, too. The book includes bits of information throughout from the very rare Criterion laserdisc edition of Carrie, which included audio commentary by Cohen and Laurent Bouzereau. At one point, Aisenberg also serves up a quote from a recent Raising Cain-focused episode of the online radio show Movie Geeks United, in which editor Paul Hirsch discusses the music for the final dream sequence of Carrie:

The temp score for the nightmare was Albinoni’s Adagio for Organ and Strings, which was the saddest music I could find for Amy Irving laying the flowers on Carrie’s grave. And then I found a deliberately arrhythmic moment. I mean I lined the music so there was an arrhythmic moment when the hand shoots up out of the ground, and for that I used the main title from Sisters, which starts with an anvil strike, a sharp metallic sound just at the moment when the first rock is dislodged, you know, starts to move, and the hand comes shooting out. So you have this soft sweet, sad organ and strings interrupted at a very unexpected moment by a loud anvil strike guaranteed to startle anyone. So Pino [Donaggio] just copied that.

Aisenberg’s Carrie expertise makes for an eye-opening book, and provides a necessary credibility when he goes for the gusto and declares that both De Palma and Hirsch are wrong when they insist that the split-screen section at the prom does not work. “The scene is thrilling, marvelously realized,” states Aisenberg, adding that “the use of split-screen serves several purposes.” After quoting De Palma explaining his original rationale for conceiving the sequence in split-screen as a way to avoid simply cutting from Carrie to things moving around, Aisenberg explains why he thinks the sequence works so well:

Indeed, [De Palma’s] solution seems an ingenious way to dramatize Carrie’s power in action—she looks here, she looks there, and on the other side of the screen objects do her bidding. The effect is heightened by the stunning way Carrie’s face, at one point, slides from the right side of the screen to the left. De Palma’s frames and expertly montaged juxtapositions throughout the movie suggest irrational lines of influence hard at work between things; the split-screen liberalizes it. Also, from a practical point of view, this device makes the most of relatively little in the way of special effects-induced chaos, since all that’s really happening during the first part of the sequence is that the lights change and a fire extinguisher hose stands up like a penis-snake and starts spraying everybody. As with the volleyball game, where a single unbroken take was employed by the director so that the audience could see it being played in real time, De Palma may have instinctually hoped that by combining as many images on screen as possible he could trick viewers into thinking they were seeing al the destruction happen before their eyes.

Split-screen has stylistic-thematic significance as well. Throughout the film characters have been shown acting on several contradictory levels in bifocal shots, that oppose but mirror one another. Once the split perspectives come together in Carrie’s ultimate degradation, the traumatic force literally breaks the image itself in half, and a new doubling of the viewer’s experience sets in. The audience sees exactly how Carrie is misperceiving the situation in her crazed state, believing there to be a much bigger conspiracy at work than there really was—one including everybody, even Miss Collins.

Other tidbits from the book's De Palma interview include: a brief discussion about the two songs written for the film, one of which producer Paul Monash (whose wife wrote the lyrics to both) wanted to run over the opening credits (De Palma says he fought tooth and nail against that); De Palma switching cinematographers after initial filming around the school because he did not like the way Isador Mankofsky was lighting the girls (De Palma didn't like the way they looked); and how after figuring out how Margaret would be killed, they decided to go back and shoot scenes of Carrie in the closet, for which set designer Jack Fisk created the haunting Saint Sebastion figure "with all the arrows in it."

There are at least two more books about Carrie in the works, including a monograph by British critic Neil Mitchell, and a making of. These will undoubtedly be marvelous additions to the ongoing dialogue about this great film, but will in no way displace Aisenberg’s book. Aisenberg’s personal take on Carrie, informed by his exhaustive research, combined with the exclusive interviews with De Palma, Cohen , and Buckley, should make this a permanent fixture of any De Palma fan’s (and movie fan’s) bookshelf.

Posted by Geoff at 12:56 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 1:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 25, 2012
A Berliner Morgenpost article about Rachel McAdams getting a beauty salon pampering, followed by a yoga class, mentions that she probably needed the relaxation Saturday afternoon after filming scenes for Brian De Palma's Passion until four o'clock in the morning at the DZ Bank Building, located at Berlin's Pariser Platz. At left is the view of the bank's atrium from the lobby. The building was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, and appears to offer stunning interiors for the film's scenes.

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012 6:51 AM CDT
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As filming on Brian De Palma's Passion enters its fourth week tomorrow, the IMDB has added some more names to the project's credits. Pictured at left is German model/actress/stuntwoman Janine Theisen, who, according to the IMDB, is working as a stunt double on Passion. Theisen, who speaks six different languages including English, can also sing and dance, which has come in handy for some of the television commercials she has appeared in. Also recently added to the IMDB's Passion credits is visual effects designer Frederic Moreau, who has worked regularly with Roman Polanski for decades, as well as with Luc Besson. Henning Brehm, a graphic designer who has worked on big Hollywood films such as Mission: Impossible III and The Bourne Ultimatum, has also joined Passion. Like so many others on the Passion crew, Brehm has previously worked on several Wachowski-brothers projects, including V For Vendetta, Speed Racer, and Cloud Atlas, which is currently in post-production. He also did the graphic design for Zettl, which stars Karoline Herfurth and is currently playing in German theaters.

Posted by Geoff at 1:49 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 25, 2012 1:51 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 24, 2012
According to Vulture's Claude Brodesser-Akner, Kimberly Peirce has narrowed her choices down to two actresses for the lead in her remake of Brian De Palma's Carrie: 15-year-old Chloë Moretz (who made a splash in Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, and also appeared in Martin Scorsese's Hugo) and the 24-year-old Haley Bennett, who played the title role in Mickey Liddell's The Haunting of Molly Hartley. In the latter film, according to The Toronto Star's Tony Wong, Bennett gave a performance that was "evocative of Mia Farrow's turn in Rosemary's Baby, in a role that is more demanding than most teen horror flicks." Wong further stated that the "verse-spewing mother" in Molly Hartley was "straight out of Carrie." Speaking of the mother character, Brodesser-Akner suggests that Peirce is taking a tip from the Oscar nods previously thrown to Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie for their work in De Palma's Carrie and going after Oscar-winning actresses for the part of Carrie's mother. For that role, the Vulture article states that "Peirce has approached Jodie Foster and is interested in Julianne Moore." Shock Till You Drop's Ryan Turek notes that the latter two actresses have each portrayed Clarice Starling on film.

Meanwhile, Broadway.com reports that "Prom Night is Over." Carrie: The Musical, which had been extended through April 22, will instead close early off-Broadway on April 8. According to Broadway.com, "The production officially opened on March 1 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and will have played 34 previews and 46 regular performances at the time of closing."

Posted by Geoff at 1:50 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2012 10:53 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 18, 2012
Gestalten, a Berlin-based company that, according to its web site, "specializes in developing content for aficionados of cutting-edge visual culture worldwide," tweeted on Friday that "our books are going to make a cameo appearance in Brian De Palma's film Passion."

One day earlier, on Thursday, Karoline Herfurth posted on her Facebook wall about the "insanity" of the paparazzi at Tuesday's cemetery set of Passion:

Insanity! We actually had a Paparrazzi on the set. A genuine paparazzi. We're shooting a scene at the cemetery and suddenly I see a man on a roof with a giant lens! Is that not crazy? And at one point he suddenly shoots over the cemetery wall! This is something I've never seen! Fortunately, this is a rare exception in Germany. That would make me so mad!

Posted by Geoff at 5:04 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 1:07 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 17, 2012
TIFF is having an ongoing late night series called "Bangkok Dangerous: The Cinema of Nicolas Cage." Up tonight is Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, which has prompted A.V. Club Toronto to post a series of essays about the actor, called "Caged Wisdom." This week, John Semley posted an essay that delves into Snake Eyes' opening shot, the odd criticism of De Palma as a "stylist," and the film's intricate split screen sequence. Regarding the opening sequence, Semley writes, "It’s a persuasive, hypnotizing bit of film craft, ranking right up there with the director’s best. It’s not closed-off enough to function as a self-contained short film or anything. But as a piece of geometry, as an object lesson in what it is that Brian De Palma does as a filmmaker, it’s instructive—truly bravura. Oddly, it’s this sense of bravura, this virtuoso quality, that has earned De Palma so many detractors."

Posted by Geoff at 5:03 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2012 9:08 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BZ published an article with pictures from Tuesday's set of Passion at the St. Matthew's cemetery in Schöneberg, where they were filming a funeral scene. Pictured above is Brian De Palma, Noomi Rapace, and Karoline Herfurth on the set. The article by Bea Peters says that while the scene was serious, in between takes Rapace and Herfurth could be seen laughing and joking around with each other. The article mentions that while Rachel McAdams was not there, the actress has been seen flitting around Berlin on her bicycle in between takes.

Posted by Geoff at 7:20 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2012 5:05 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

The past two issues of Fangoria have featured parts one and two of a terrific interview with Nicolas Cage, conducted by Chris Alexander. In the current issue (#311), the discussion leads to Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes:

FANG: You've worked with most of the living masters, including David Lynch in the wonderful Wild At Heart. But I must say, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes is woefully undervalued, both as a De Palma film and a Cage film. And that tracking shot...

CAGE: I don't watch my movies, but that one, if I catch it on television... I'll shut it off after two minutes, but I'll look at it and go, "Oh, wow, what did we get up to there?" That movie is remarkable, really. It has a style that's all its own, and the tracking shot is what Brian would call "No Net Productions." It was as if we were on a high wire and we'd go for five minutes, doing nonstop dialogue, movement, rehearsing all day long and if one line was blown, we'd have to stop, set it up and do it all over again.

FANG: How many times did you do it?

CAGE: I don't remember, but I know I was rehearsing it day and night, in my head all the time, even in the shower. Then on the day we were filming, we rehearsed well past lunch before we actually started to shoot. I often tell people I'm working with, if they are interested in tracking shots, to check out the beginning of Snake Eyes, because it is a standout, right up there with Touch Of Evil.

Speaking of long tracking shots, this issue of Fangoria also includes an article about the just-released remake of Gustavo Hernández' The Silent House (the new version shortens the title to Silent House). Hernández' film stood out for its use of one long single-take to present its haunted house story in real time. In the Fangoria article, Open Water filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau describe how they worked hard to give the illusion that their Silent House is done in one long single-take, although it is made up of a string of very long continuous takes itself. (De Palma's opening 15 minutes of Snake Eyes also includes one or two well-designed cuts to present the illusion of a single take.) The pair also explains why, after showing the film at Sundance in 2011, they went back and shot a new ending. "We actually reshot quite a bit of the movie, like the last 15 minutes," Lau tells Fangoria's Michael Gingold, "and obviously one reason was that because it's a continuous take, it was not simple to change that film!"

Posted by Geoff at 10:33 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012 10:36 PM CST
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