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

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

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
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


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De Palma a la Mod

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

One key interview figure missing in Playboy's "Making of Scarface" article last December was Michelle Pfeiffer, who played Elvira in the 1983 Brian De Palma film. The June 2012 issue of Empire features an interview with Pfeiffer that fills in that gap quite nicely. In contrast to the odd bit in the Playboy article in which an unnamed source claims that De Palma "manipulated her brutally" during filming, Pfeiffer says herself in the Empire interview that De Palma "was really lovely." The interview covers Pfeiffer's entire career, and after discussing the actress' early role in Grease 2, the interviewer segues into Scarface...

Empire: [Grease 2] almost stopped you getting the part in Scarface. Brian De Palma was reluctant to see you because of that film, right?

Pfeiffer: He was. I knew that. The casting director, Alixe Gordin, if it weren't for her, Brian wouldn't have seen me.

Empire: How did you win him over?

Pfeiffer: It was just one of those days where I happened to give a good reading and I think he was so shocked because I don't think he expected anything good to come out of my mouth. So Brian was on my side, but Al (Pacino) was a little tougher.

Empire: So how did you get Al on side?

Pfeiffer: I think it was my screen test. It was a tremendously long audition process. It went on for months. I had to keep coming back and back and back. The more I came back the worse I got because I was so nervous and I was inexperienced. Fear is the most destructive thing for an actor. So I don't blame Al for being unimpressed with me, because I kept getting worse every time I came in. Finally I think Brian had to say, "It's not going to work," because I was just bad. But he was really lovely and I was sort of relieved because they were putting me out of my misery and I just couldn't go through it anymore. So I went about my merry way and then got a call: they wanted to screen test me. And I was like, "Oh no." I was so convinced I didn't have a shot at it that I just let go and I relaxed and showed up and it went really well -- much to everyone's surprise -- and I could tell it went well. Also I made Al Pacino bleed. I cut his hand smashing [a plate].

Empire: That's a way to make sure you're remembered.

Pfeiffer: Exactly. Although, of course, it wasn't deliberate.

Posted by Geoff at 10:15 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 3, 2012 10:18 PM CDT
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Friday, June 1, 2012

ARTFORUM's summer issue includes a conversation between Brian De Palma and Taryn Simon, the photographer who created the staged photo, seen above, that comprises the final, devastating image of De Palma's Redacted. Zahra Zubaidi, the Iraqi actress in the photo, has had to seek political asylum in the United States, because her family accused her of participating in pornography (she portrays Farah, the girl who gets raped in the movie), and she was receiving death threats as a result. In the article, Simon and De Palma discuss this photo at length. De Palma tells Simon that "Zahra’s story is fascinating because she comes to audition in a movie. She plays the character of a girl who is raped and killed and set on fire, which sort of dramatizes the whole involvement of America in Iraq, and the penalty she has to pay for it is she is a pariah in the Muslim world. They want her dead because of the fact that she portrayed this character." Simon has presented the photograph at the Venice Biennale, and included three progressive annotations as its context was altered. Each of these annotations is presented in full in the ARTFORUM article. Simon explains it this way to De Palma:

The photograph began as a fictionalized rendering of a real event. The resulting image of Zahra, an Iraqi actress, playing the role of this young girl led to the second annotation associated with the image. That text highlights the response to Zahra’s portrayal—the death threats from family members; the criticism from friends and neighbors, who considered her participation in the film to be pornography. The photograph was completely recontextualized by these accusations. It became evidence of a new reality—a reality in which Zahra had to pursue political asylum in the United States. In the third and final annotation, written in 2011, I cite her legal defense, which used the international exhibition of this photograph at the Venice Biennale as a factor contributing to her endangerment. The photograph and its exhibition were used to reveal a continued threat and, at the same time, to support Zahra’s case for political asylum, which was granted in 2011. She couldn’t go home because of the images. You could see an image’s very real influence on an individual life from start to finish: from a casting call with you in Jordan to ending up in the United States and receiving political asylum.

The conversation begins with Simon asking De Palma if he thought his aesthetic was conscious or unconscious as he shot his early documentary The Responsive Eye. This leads De Palma into an illuminating discussion of his process, as well as his recent work on Passion...

BDP: Look, the hard thing—I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too—is that once you have a project, you think about how you’re going to photograph the scene until you actually do it. I have always felt that the camera view is just as important as what’s in front of the camera. Consequently, I’m obsessed with how I’m shooting the scene. When you’re making a movie, you think about it all the time—you’re dreaming about it, you wake up with ideas in the middle of the night—until you actually go there and shoot it. You have these ideas that are banging around in your head, but once you objectify them and lock them into a photograph or cinema sequence, then they get away from you. They’re objectified; they no longer haunt you.

TS: The haunting can be torturous. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the making of my work. It’s a labor. Do you find pleasure in getting to that point of objectification?

BDP: You know, there is no rest. That’s the problem. I haven’t directed a movie in several years, and I’ve forgotten what it’s like. Now I’m doing a remake, a film based on Crime d’amour [2010], which was directed by the late Alain Corneau and written with Natalie Carter and starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier. It’s about two executives fighting for power. One humiliates the other, and one kills the other. It’s basically a murder mystery. In the new version, the two leads are Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace. They are extremely formidable characters. It’s all about the women—the guy is just manipulated by them, like a trained animal.

So I have basically been in this hotel room in Berlin since, I don’t know, January 6, working on this shoot. I don’t go anywhere except when I go to the set or when I have to look at a location or work with an actor.

I’m a very solitary figure on set—I just walk in. I don’t want to say hello and kiss everybody. I’m completely uninterested in that because—I’m sure you have the same feeling—when you go to shoot a movie, you’ve assembled hundreds of people waiting for you to tell them what to do. For the first time, you’ve got the actors. You have the location. You have the cinematographer. You have the weather, the light, the emotional stance of the various people around you, and it’s catching lightning in a bottle. You’re there to maximize the moment on film. And you’d better be very alert and watching everything constantly, because once you shoot it, it’s gone forever. If you make a mistake or haven’t thought everything through correctly, you will look at that mistake for the rest of your life.

TS: Yes—there’s enormous pressure on the day of shooting. And photography’s history is bound to the mistake, to the accident. But I’ve never been one to embrace surprise. I think the invisible lead-up to the point of actually taking a photograph is, in many ways, my medium. Years of research, accessing, organizing, and writing are behind the construction of a single piece. But no matter how prepared and calculated the details of the shoot days are, its imagined form always seems to crumble and mutate.

BDP: I guess a lot of people shoot alternatives. I never do that. I spend months planning it all out, and then we actually edit as we shoot. I know exactly where the camera should be and how all the film fits together.

TS: Yeah, me too.

BDP: But if something happens on the set that’s different, I immediately accommodate it. You don’t want to go in with such a rigid idea that this is the way it should be. You have to see what is there. These are living creatures in front of you.

TS: But accommodation can be dangerous. It’s important to remind yourself of what you want and not get lost in the noise of it all. Sadly, one has to do a lot of interacting, which I find distracting. I avoid lunch and conversation as much as possible. There is no time or space for anything other than the work. But there’s a perceived cruelty in that focus.

BDP: I’m exactly the same way. I never talk to my driver while going to work. I never eat lunch with anybody.

All of the above are discussed in this fascinating conversation, which is best read from start to finish-- click here to read the whole thing.

Posted by Geoff at 9:40 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 31, 2012
Brian De Palma's The Bonfire Of The Vanities will screen at 6:30pm Thursday June 28th, as part of the film series, "All the News That's Fit to Screen." The series, which celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, will be presented every Thursday from tonight through June 28 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Journalist Julie Salamon, author of the book The Devil's Candy, which details the behind-the-scenes happenings during the making of Bonfire, will participate in a Q&A after the screening. The series kicked off tonight with Billy Ray's Shattered Glass. The other films are George Stevens' Woman Of The Year (June 7), Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success (June 14), and Marina Goldovskaya's A Bitter Taste of Freedom (June 21).

Posted by Geoff at 8:13 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Mark Isham, who scored Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia in 2006, was interviewed for the recent book, Soundtrack Nation, by Tom Hoover. Hoover asked Isham if he could name a few personal favorites out of the "vast portfolio of scores" he has composed over the years. Here is Isham's reply, from pages 4-5 of the book:

Well, there are lots of reasons for having favorite moments in scores. Crash, I have to say, still has a fond spot in my heart, because I felt that it was the right choice of genre for that film, and I think it did everything and more that you could ask a score to do for a film, under "interesting" budgetary constraints, which seems to be more and more a part of the equation these days. Having said that, the opportunity to score a Brian De Palma film with a large symphony orchestra still remains one of my high points, simply because as a composer, that's a great opportunity-- the large orchestral scores are a hell of a lot of fun! That particular one, because it had the jazz influence and I played the solo trumpet parts myself-- I have a lot of fond memories of that one.

Posted by Geoff at 11:44 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:48 PM CDT
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Monday, May 28, 2012
The Hollywood Reporter's Eric J. Lyman reports today that Alberto Barbera, the newly installed artistic director of the Venice Film Festival, talked to Italian reporters over the weekend about possible directors who may be bringing their new films to the festival this year. Among those he mentioned were Brian De Palma, Terrence Malick and Paul Thomas Anderson. De Palma's two most recent films, Redacted and The Black Dahlia, each had their premieres at the Venice Film Festival. De Palma received the director's prize (the Silver Lion) for Redacted at the fest in 2007. This year's festival runs August 29-Sept. 8, which means there is a possibility Passion may have its premiere a mere three months from now.

Posted by Geoff at 8:37 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, May 28, 2012 10:58 PM CDT
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A press screening for Ridley Scott's Prometheus was held in Paris Monday, and according to a couple of Twitter postings, Brian De Palma was in attendance. Christopher Ramoné tweeted that De Palma was there with Paris Match film critic Christine Haas. Journalist Bertrand Rocher tweeted that he was seated beside De Palma at the screening. The screening full of French critics surely provided De Palma an early sense of how Noomi Rapace will be talked about as Prometheus makes its way around the world. While early reviews from critics at the screening seem to be mixed about Prometheus, there seems to be a consensus that Rapace is very good in the film. Ecranlarge's Simon Riaux gives the film four out of five stars, and says that "Michael Fassbender quickly steals the show from the impeccable Noomi Rapace." Riaux later states in the review that while both Rapace and Fassbender are "brilliant," the rest of the cast are stuck in mechanical roles. A negative review from CloneWeb's Marc complains about cardboard characters at the script level, but says that Rapace "comes out honorably." Another blog review from a disappointed Céline at Just Cinema mentions that Rapace and Fassbender are, again, the best of the cast.

Posted by Geoff at 1:23 PM CDT
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Friday, May 25, 2012
Noomi Rapace is the cover story of this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, in anticipation of the release of the upcoming Ridley Scott film Prometheus. For the article inside, Karen Olsson visited Rapace in Berlin while the actress was filming Passion, and the article ends with some very intriguing happenings on the set of the film, where Rapace was working on a post-sex scene with Paul Anderson. Here are the Passion-related excerpts:

When I met Rapace in Berlin this spring, the 32-year-old actress was filming “Passion” with the director Brian De Palma, and her focus on the tasks at hand seemed to distract her from the approach of the tidal wave that is “Prometheus,” a big summer movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Rapace. The film, Scott and 20th Century Fox insist, is not so much a prequel to Scott’s 1979 landmark film “Alien” as it is one that “shares DNA” with “Alien” — make what you will of that distinction. Regardless, Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, as the lead of an “Alien”-type film, will assume the place of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. The significance, on-screen and off, is slowly sinking in for her. “Some people in London came up to me on the street and said: ‘You’re Noomi Rapace? Oh, my God, you’re the new Ripley, is it true?’ ” she says. “I started to realize this can actually be quite big in a way that I hadn’t really expected.”

During my visit to Berlin, the weather was improbably balmy, and a youngish, well-turned-out set found its way to the rooftop pool and bar at the Soho House Berlin, a hotel and club in a restored Bauhaus building that at one time was the headquarters of the Hitler Youth and before that a Jewish-owned department store. There among the sunbathers, paddling around the small pool, was a cheerful, toothy boy wearing a mask and a snorkel: this was Rapace’s son, Lev, age 8. In February he came with his mother to Berlin, where he attended a Swedish school. He would spend the latter part of the spring in Turkey to be with his father, Noomi’s ex-husband, Ola Rapace. (An actor himself, Ola had gone to Turkey to play a villain in the next James Bond movie, “Skyfall.”) Noomi joined Lev in the water for a while, and later she warned him not to splash too much, for the sake of the people in the poolside loungers, though privately she grumbled that people who can’t abide a splash or two shouldn’t sit next to the pool.

She was a restless, willful girl — “I was always running and climbing and building things” — and her parents, fearing she wouldn’t be well served by the local public school in Iceland, moved back to Sweden, to a small town in the south. At 11, she started taking judo lessons, and for a while she was devoted to that sport. She was also bewitched by Hollywood movies with violence in them — “True Romance,” “Thelma and Louise,” “Alien,” “The Terminator,” “Scarface,” “Rambo” — as well as “La Femme Nikita” and kung fu movies...

In anticipation of each part she plays, Rapace chooses a training regimen (or, sometimes, a lack thereof) not simply to get in shape but to adjust her relationship with her body. To become Lisbeth Salander, she Thai-boxed and kickboxed, because she wanted to awaken her fighting spirit. Before appearing in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” Rapace’s first Hollywood movie, she stayed away from the gym, which she said would have been wrong for her Victorian-era-gypsy role, but she studied with a gypsy-dance expert. And for “Passion,” the film she came to Berlin to do, she decided on Bikram yoga, because she felt that its regimented sequence of poses would appeal to her character, Isabelle — “a control freak,” she called her.

Regarding her future projects, “she’s very filmmaker-driven,” [Rapace's manager Shelley] Browning says. “And she laments the same thing that all female actresses lament, that there are rarely great roles for women.” Rapace is at low risk for being typecast, because she conforms to no recognizable type. Her face is arresting, with large, alert eyes and cheekbones that seem poised to burst, “Alien”-style, out from beneath her pale skin. She won’t show up in a romantic comedy any time soon, Browning says — “I just don’t know that she responds to those kinds of characters” — but she is not ruling anything out. After I spoke with her in Berlin, Rapace was reunited with [Niels Arden] Oplev, the director of the first “Millennium” movie, to shoot a thriller in Philadelphia co-starring Colin Farrell, in which she portrays a woman who was disfigured in an accident. She also plans to play opposite her ex-husband in a biopic directed by Catherine Hardwicke, about the romance between the boxer Bo Hogberg and the singer Anita Lindblom.

On my last morning in Berlin, I accompanied Rapace to the “Passion” set, inside an apartment building in a fashionable neighborhood. The set itself was a Euro-creepy bedroom, with scaly black curtains, a round, black bed in the middle, a stuffed bird on a dresser and an open bathroom. Because of the room’s small size, most of the crew huddled in the hall, while De Palma and the cinematographer José Luis Alcaine sat in chairs in the back of the room, near the camera and monitor. It was a post-sex scene that Rapace was performing, with the actor Paul Anderson, and after she changed into her costume — a man’s dress shirt — and her hair and makeup were adjusted to look tousled and slightly sweat-dampened, they read through the dialogue.

In the film, based on a French thriller, Rapace’s Isabelle suffers at the hands of Christine, her manipulative boss, played by Rachel McAdams, then seeks revenge. During this scene, Isabelle, who has just slept with Christine’s lover (played by Anderson) at his apartment, discovers a trove of sex toys. These include a ghostly mask of Christine herself, with white skin and long blond hair, which Isabelle holds up to the light and then addresses.

During the read-through, Rapace questioned De Palma about a couple of lines in which Isabelle talks to the mask, suggesting they weren’t consistent with how she played an earlier scene. She substituted another line, mimicking something Christine has already said: “I used to want to be admired, now I want to be loved.”

As they started filming, Rapace adjusted her performance slightly with each take — more smiling in one, more solemn in the next. And when it came time to shoot her close-up, Rapace and De Palma started analyzing the line again. “Maybe I should just do it more simply,” she said. It was a strange declaration — “I used to want to be admired, now I want to be loved” — to hear Rapace-as-Isabelle make, over and over, after having listened to Rapace-as-Rapace tell me how much she hoped not to fall prey to those desires. She went on to try a few different phrasings, cooing each one to the mask of Rachel McAdams, and finally pared it down to this: “I wanted to be admired, but now I want to be loved.”

Posted by Geoff at 9:30 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 26, 2012 9:39 AM CDT
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The image at left shows the partial cover of last week's Variety, Cannes Market edition, featuring a full-page paid advertisement for Brian De Palma's Passion. This copy is currently for sale on Ebay. Variety reported today that, according to Wild Bunch's Vincent Maraval, aside from a pending U.K. deal, the company has sold all of its portion of the Passion territories. These include Scandinavia (sold to Scanbox), Russia (to Top Film), and Brazil (to Playarte). Screen Daily reported earlier this week that Wild Bunch had sold Passion to Gussi for Mexico. Wild Bunch is splitting sales on the De Palma film with SBS Productions, which is headed by Passion producer Said Ben Said. SBS already sold theatrical and DVD/VOD rights for Germany and Switzerland to Ascot Elite at last February's Berlin fest market. Also at the Berlin market, SBS sold Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) to Lumiere, and France to ARP Sélection. SBS is also selling rights for the U.S., Spain and Italy.

Posted by Geoff at 9:01 PM CDT
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 7:33 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rutanya Alda is briefly quoted about working on Brian De Palma's Greetings in Brian Kellow's Pauline Kael: A Life In The Dark, his recent biography of the influential film critic. In the following paragraph from page 119 of Kellow's book, one senses the origins of De Palma's "No Net Productions"...

Although Pauline definitely had her favorites among directors, her New Yorker reviews were, from the beginning, full of surprising reactions. She went out of her way to praise a movie that few saw, Greetings, directed by a twenty-eight-year-old filmmaker named Brian De Palma. Greetings wasn't in the macabre vein of the later films that made De Palma famous but was an off-kilter comedy about three young New Yorkers trying to keep from being drafted, and it had been shot in two weeks for very little money. Rutanya Alda, who played a supporting role in the film, recalled how the tiny budget made it essential to work fast and accurately: "Brian would say, 'I've got only three minutes of film-- we've got to get the scene in three minutes.'" Locations were snapped up wherever they could arrange them cheaply: one sequence in a bookstore was shot at three in the morning without the owner knowing about it. Pauline acknowledged that some of Greetings was a mess, but she also recognized a vibrant, original talent; Greetings went on to win the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and Pauline noted De Palma as a talent to watch.

44 years later, De Palma is hoping his latest film, Passion, will be accepted for the Berlin fest next February. Nancy Allen is also quoted in Kellow's book, in regards to Kael's enthusiastic response to De Palma's Carrie...

If her elevation of De Palma's "persistent adolescent kinkiness" into some kind of major achievement baffled many of Pauline's friends as well as her enemies, it was her review, in the end, that carried the day for De Palma and his cast. Nancy Allen, who played the movie's chief villainess, remebered vividly the day that Pauline's review appeared. "I think that Brian was just thrilled," she said. "And disgusted at the same time, because the studio wasn't treating it like it was anything better than a slasher picture." De Palma quickly became one of the directors Pauline felt compelled to promote. Allen remembered that she had the reputation for being a bit chilly toward her pet directors' wives and girlfriends, but she found Pauline warm and friendly. "She liked Brian a lot and there I was, the girlfriend. I didn't know if I would be accepted or not. She was very pleasant and said hello and smiled sweetly. I remember thinking, Okay, that was all right. She was possessive. They were her guys."

Kael and Greetings are both mentioned within a chapter on Martin Scorsese in Roger Ebert's recent memoir, Life Itself. In this excerpt, Ebert recalls meeting Scorsese for the first time:

That first time we met in New York, he took me to visit his job, as an assistant director and editor on Michael Wadleigh's Woodstock. The footage from Woodstock was being edited by a team headed by Thelma Schoonmaker, later to become the editor of Scorsese's features, and Walter Murch, a tall young man with a mustache who would later reinvent the strategy of sound design. In a top-floor loft in Soho, reached by a freight elevator, a headquarters had been cobbled together with a skylight and a lot of little rooms off the big one. "You know what picture was cut in this loft?" Scorsese asked me. "They made Greetings in this loft." That was the De Palma movie with Robert De Niro in his first role. So much was still ahead. The loft was a crazy, jumbled place, with earnest young editors bending over their Kellers. "The Keller Editing Machine," I was told. "The finest editing machine in the world, and the only one you can use to cut three-screen footage with eight-track synch sound, with thirty-five-millimeter and sixteen-millimeter film on the same machine at the same time."

A couple of paragraphs later, Ebert recalls going out to dinner with Scorsese, Kael, De Palma, De Niro, and Paul Schrader...

Marty mailed me screenplays titled Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Season Of The Witch, which was later to become Mean Streets. One night during the New York Film Festival he and I and Pauline Kael ended up in my hotel room, drinking and talking, and his passion was equaled by hers. Pauline became urgent in her support of those filmmakers she believed deserved it. She sensed something in Scorsese. Her review in the New Yorker of Mean Streets would put him once and for all on the map.

Her connections were crucial. One night we met in the lobby of the Algonquin and went out to eat with Brian De Palma, Robert De Niro, and Paul Schrader. De Palma and De Niro had made two low-budget films. Did Marty, De Palma, De Niro, and Schrader know one another at that time? Certainly. Did anyone guess Raging Bull would result? Pauline must have sensed the mixture was volatile. We went to an Italian restaurant. Pauline was then between her jobs at McCall's and the New Yorker; De Niro and De Palma were unemployed; and Schrader was a hopeful screenwriter. Thinking I was the only person at the table with a paycheck, I picked up the tab. "You dummy," Pauline told me. "Paul just sold The Yakuza for $450,000." She always knew about the deals.

Posted by Geoff at 8:15 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:34 PM CDT
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