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Friday, September 7, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 1:07 PM CDT
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De Palma working with Passion screenwriter on remake of Heat with Jason Statham


(Thanks to Jochen!)

A press screening of Brian De Palma's Passion this morning at the Venice Film Festival reportedly "drew jeers after it was screened to the press." A report out of Italy states that there were whistles and laughter at the screening, although a German review of the film says it is deliberately funny, with direct and indirect Hitchcock quotes, De Palma quotes, but also "great scenes" with nightmare effects. "Games, surprises, plagiarism, stairs and masks and fetishes are the leitmotifs of the film," writes Rüdiger Suchsland, who adds that "the production had far too little money" for De Palma to flaunt his visual prowess.

Indiewire's Italian film critic Tommaso Tocci writes, "If it weren’t for 2007’s Redacted, Passion would be a neat, coherent follow-up to both Femme Fatale and The Black Dahlia in Brian De Palma’s filmography, in addition to being a rehashing of many of the director’s themes and trademarks." He later adds, "At times it feels like a parody, like a self-conscious, deliberate repetition of old solutions to new visual problems. Constantly pulling away from the characters, the camera traces sinuous trajectories in the air with no noticeable result. Everything feels stiff, as if each shot were only a stripped-down placeholder. The more visceral experimentalism of Redacted, however problematic, felt comparably much more lively (bagging a Best Director award in the process, right here in Venice). That was a new direction; this film is a retracing of the director’s footsteps, albeit without quality in mind. The latter part of the movie proves that De Palma is still perfectly able to engage his own legacy and put a spin on it, but it’s also proof that the preceding part is simply unworthy of his talent. An anticlimactic conclusion for the Venice Competition, but hopefully yet another step in the evolution of a great director."

The Hollywood Reporter's Neil Young calls Passion a "convoluted Euro-thriller" that "represents a disappointingly anaemic stab at a comeback from Brian De Palma." Young suggests that while the star presence of Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace should garner distribution in the U.S., the film is likely headed for cult status. Regarding Karoline Herfurth's character, Young writes, "the emergence of Dani in the picture's second half ranks alongside the script's few welcome surprises." Young adds, "By this point, however, proceedings have taken a wayward turn down some unfortunate dead-end alleyways. A grisly murder, the ensuing police investigation - featuring some blundering but impeccably Anglophone cops - and the questionable mental state of a key character are cues for De Palma and his veteran Spanish cinematographer José Luis Alcaine to unleash all manner of distorted lighting-effects and camera-angles." Young finds the Pino Donaggio score to be "heavy-handed," and highlights the film's split-screen sequence: "The director does get to deploy his trademark split-screen technique in one attention-grabbing sequence juxtaposing ballet and murder that achieves the desired confusion in terms of narrative sleight-of-hand." However, Young felt the film indulges in a sort of "greatest hits." However, a review I have heard from a discerning critic who is very familiar with De Palma's work found the "greatest hits" factor of the film to be quite a bit of fun, harkeing back to De Palma's Raising Cain.

Screen Daily's Lee Marshall feels that "De Palma glues together what feel like two different films in the remake [of Love Crime]: a female rivalry drama-thriller, and a murder mystery. And although the exercise carries an undertow of tongue-in-cheek pastiche, this is so inconsistently applied that if feels like an escape clause." Marshall appreciates Donaggio's score, "with its nods at seventies and eighties Italo genre fare," but is unimpressed with the split-screen sequence, calling it "a waste of the technique, as there is little dramatic or thematic connection between what we see on each side of the split." Marshall also writes that some of the dialogue provoked bursts of laughter during the press screening.

Variety's Justin Chang gives Passion an enthusiastically mixed review, writing, "Clearly, Passion means to be a hoot, a wet-dream thriller for cinephiles. But by the time it reaches its overwrought final act, the picture has generated neither the tension of its forebears nor the audacity that would allow it to transcend its silliness, a la De Palma's 2002 tour de force, Femme Fatale. Yet even in the absence of stellar material, the leads remain compulsively watchable: McAdams may lack Scott Thomas' hauteur, but more than makes up for it in cool, svelte malevolence, while Rapace provides an energetic counterweight, lending her more naive but also more unpredictable Isabelle an edge of dark desperation."

The Hollywood Reporter also caught up with Kristin Scott Thomas, who is at Venice to promote her role in Pascal Bonitzer's Looking For Hortense. HR's Alexandra Zawia asked Scott Thomas about De Palma's remake of Love Crime, which she starred in: "I had no idea, in fact. But isn’t Brian De Palma the king of remakes? Or maybe we should rather call them 'tributes.' I really like Brian De Palma, in a twisted way. He gave me the most outrageous acting direction once on Mission: Impossible. I was acting away, and he says 'Cut, cut, cut! You are in [Albert] and you are a spy. You look like you are surveying your estates in Russia.' Stop acting, right? I should write a book: 'Pieces of directing I have loved.'”


De Palma, Rapace, and Donaggio were all in Venice this morning for a Passion press conference, and all seemed in good cheer. The below is a rough translation of a transcript found at News Cinema. Thanks to Maurizio Rossi (and Google translator) for help with some of the translation.


You have made many thrillers but it's been so long. How did you come to this project?

Brian De Palma: There are two great characters of women and I was lucky because Noomi and Rachel already knew each other. I thought I'd better alter the film, concealing the identity assassin and I could still put my signature.

 In the final scenes the woman with red hair puts the phone to the laptop and says it is trackable, but bought one just to call the inspector. So it sounds as if no one has the number?

De Palma: It 'a dream :)

You were six years away from the set and the film world. What did you do in the meantime?

De Palma: I tried to do the film.

Why did you shoot the film in Berlin?

De Palma: The majority of the funding came from Germany. The film was to be shot in London, but with the producer we found location in Germany so why not? The German crew was fantastic and the film was shot in 39 days ending well in advance.

Lots of people criticize you for an 80s kind of cinema, but the movie opens with a smartphone under water. Is this a way to relate it to our time? And how did you develop the original Courneau screenplay? The two main characters already know each other here, while in the original screenplay they do not.

De Palma: Phooey (laughs).

Noomi how did you prepare for the role?

Noomi Rapace: Every role that I accept I have to find a way to understand it 100% and I have to understand and translate myself in this person. Isabelle has been difficult because it's different from what I did in the past. It’s a break in the past within herself but has a delayed reaction. Her thoughts run in a particular psychological landscape and to understand it best I talked to a doctor of psychosis and Brian to figure out how to do it. We discussed a lot to deeply understand the character.

You said in the press release that it is a film for women and not only about women?

De Palma: Yes, the characters are women, they do things together that surprised me and I was lucky because they know each other well and the kiss of death was ... wow

Noomi Rapace: I wanted so much to work with Rachel. I was lucky because it is a chance to live this competitive relationship. The two women always raise the stakes and it all becomes a spiral that spins quickly, even though they are similar, but in different ways. I got into her soul, with crazy dreams and I had a dark side inside of me for a few days.

The language of new media can be felt in some of your works. Are you a prophet?

De Palma: When I made the film Hi Mom! in the late 60's, I talked about the TV and reality and I wondered what could come out of this. In Redacted I tried to see how to use stories to build a narrative.

As for the music, the film seems to consist of two scores for two different movies?

De Palma: Working with Pino since Carrie and I thought a lot about music selection to find the right one for each scene, I have given him some ideas and he made the final choice. At first the girls prepare new ideas, and they begin their growth. Then everything becomes twisted and takes a left turn, and then the music ... very special for the final scene.

Pino Donaggio: I followed the tone of the film’s changing events, accompanying images and increasing the tension. I just followed the work of Brian. Initially milder and then increasingly complementing the suspense until the final crescendo.

What is your idea of a thriller?

De Palma: A thriller is the ability to tell the story from the point of view of visual images and music. This story helped me to expand these capabilities in two key sequences, with great interaction between the two actresses and the ability to build the visual image.

Noomi Rapace: We found our parts in the shooting, there was not much in the scripts. Some scenes were more sexually oriented, others less so.

Why the choice of split screen in the scene of the ballet?

De Palma: I like that ballet rendition of Afternoon of a Faun and I have seen several videos from the 60's. I liked the choreography and the idea behind it. There's a line of Noomi’s, "I went to see the ballet," and so I tried to draw the audience into the dance so they will not focus on the murder that takes place at the same time. Directors are looking for good scripts, this came from France, I lived in Paris and while there I did Femme Fatale. Mission: Impossible was filmed worldwide. There are beautiful places in the world and it would be nice to shoot a film exclusively in different countries, each with its own star.

Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann are associated with music/cinema, as are Donaggio and De Palma. What are the requirements for a good soundtrack?

De Palma: I worked with Pino but also with other great composers. Depending on the type of film I choose the person, even for the photography etc ... I'm not afraid of change. I'm fortunate with Pino to have put together films made in our own way and that we are happy with.

What is the role of fashion in the movie?

De Palma: I do not pay much attention to what I wear, but I have a keen eye on others. I see that Noomi is very good but I do not know who made this dress ...

Noomi Rapace: Brian knows everything at once, something is okay or goes wrong. We had testing of clothes from big names and he saw at once what was wrong or right. What happens to the character alters her clothes, and the director helped me a lot to understand the transformation, when she moves or plans things in advance, etc. .. The clothes are a uniform for these women and changes in the little details say a lot.

In your films, it seems that everything is about to collapse. You are always asking 'what comes next'. Do you achieve this effect more from directing or from the script?

De Palma: I had a very good movie, good characters and a 'good fiction. I brought ideas for a sexy thriller.

Posted by Geoff at 8:58 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 11, 2013 5:50 PM CDT
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The last time Brian De Palma brought a film to Venice, five years ago, he won the director's prize, the Silver Lion, for Redacted. Jury member Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu presented the award to De Palma, who in accepting it, said, "Prizes are always great because it helps your film to be seen. But critics and prizes just tell you what the fashion of the day is. We don't make movies to get prizes." The jury that year was made up completely of film directors, headed by Zhang Yimou, and featuring, along with Inarritu, Paul Verhoeven, Jane Campion, Catherine Breillat, Ferzan Ozpetek, and Emanuele Crialese. It was great to see De Palma and Redacted recognized by an international jury of fellow film directors.

The winning film that year was Ang Lee's sexually-charged espionage thriller Lust,Caution. The decision had come as a surprise to critics and media that had been following the festival, as nobody seemed to think that Lee's film had caused much of a stir. However, the jury members had obviously been in their own world the entire time, and chose the film they thought was best.

As the current edition of the Venice Film Festival winds down, many journalists have abandoned Venice for the Toronto International Film Festival, which opened yesterday (Thursday). Several articles were posted earlier this week trying to gauge the feel of the films, and what the frontrunners are at the Venice midway point. Several have mentioned, however, that with De Palma's Passion yet to screen, it is very difficult to guess what the jury will go for. The awards ceremony will take place Saturday, the day after Passion premieres.

This year's jury president is Michael Mann, who was heavily influenced by the look of De Palma's Scarface as he was creating the TV show Miami Vice in the 1980s. The other members of this year's jury are Italian director Matteo Garrone (whose Gomorrah partially deals with the influence of De Palma's Scarface on real life), Waltz With Bashir director Ari Folman (from Israel), Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, British actress Samantha Morton, French actress Laetitia Casta, Argentine director Pablo Trapero, Swiss director Ursula Meier, and Hong Kong director Peter Ho-Sun Chan.

On Monday, Deadline's Nancy Tartaglione stated that a festival poll of 20 critics gave the best score of Venice films that had screened so far to Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. She added that "Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Faith, an absurdist look at religion, has its fans as do Russian infidelity story Betrayal by Kirill Serebrennikov and Israeli family drama Fill The Void by Rama Burshtein. Indiewire's Matt Mueller, who had left Venice by Tuesday, posted that his pick of the festival (at least, the half of the festival that he attended), was Sarah Polley's nonfictional Stories We Tell. Italian film critic Tommaso Tocci was impressed by Olivier Assayas' After May (which is the literal translation of its French title-- the given international title is Something In The Air), a look at the "second-hand struggle" of the next generation of French teenagers in a post-60s revolutionary landscape.

By Wednesday, a German news source was reporting that Assayas' film had "unanimous support", and also indicated praise for The Master, as well as Paradise: Faith. The report added, however, that with Michael Mann heading the jury, and De Palma's Passion still remaining, it was difficult to predict the upcoming awards ceremony. The report suggested that Mann, whose own films show "a propensity for action and sophisticated camera work," may push for either The Master or Passion rather than the "meandering" Apres Mai or the biting dark comedy Paradise: Faith.

And then there is Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, which Screen Daily's Lee Marshall calls "visually ravishing – indeed, at times cinematographer Benoit Debie’s camerawork, done on a dizzying array of filmstocks and formats, with slow-motion used to good effect in certain sequences, brings Terrence Malick to mind (if you can imagine Malick remaking a Russ Meyer film, that is)."

And speaking of Malick, his To The Wonder had its world premiere at Venice this past Sunday, followed by a (mostly-expected) mixed reaction. As Deadline's Tartaglione says, To The Wonder should not be counted out when trying to predict what the jury will select.

Posted by Geoff at 12:13 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 12:20 AM CDT
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Thursday, September 6, 2012
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips filed a report from the Toronto International Film Festival tonight, which includes his brief initial thoughts on the opening night film, Rian Johnson's Looper. "Writer-director Rian Johnson's ambitious action picture," writes Phillips, "co-stars a hardscrabble and convincingly Kansas-located Emily Blunt as the guardian of a mysterious young boy who clearly has an old VHS copy of Brian De Palma's The Fury stashed someplace."

Posted by Geoff at 9:32 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 9:33 PM CDT
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According to a Marketwire press release, Brian De Palma is one of several guests scheduled to appear on "Ortsbo and Variety Live from Toronto," which will broadcast on the internet and TV from TIFF at 7pm eastern daily, and Sundays at 8pm eastern. The program will run from September 8-16. More guests will be announced as the festival continues. The program can be viewed online at Variety.com and Ortsbo.com.

Posted by Geoff at 6:19 PM CDT
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Thanks to reader Jord for alerting us to the fact that Wild Bunch has made the press kit for Brian De Palma's Passion available to download. The kit includes a great new interview with De Palma, discussing many aspects of the film, such as: the split-screen murder scene; the inspiration for the commercial Noomi Rapace's character creates with Karoline Herfurth's character; how Rachel McAdams went all out and had fun playing "a very evil woman"; the reason "Afternoon Of A Faun" seemed appropriate for this story; how placing "boring procedural stuff" in a stylized dream world allows it to become "kind of fun"; and how McAdams and Rapace were so comfortable with each other, they were willing to go to dangerous places together. De Palma says that while Alain Corneau's film "tip toed around the sexual attraction between the characters," Rapace and McAdams "played it straight out. I did not say to them: 'kiss each other and be erotic'. They just did it. And it was quite effective." De Palma also says that while he had three women who were "not afraid of nudity," Passion is a film about women, and also for women, "which is why I wanted to make it more elegant and refrained. The same goes for violence: I did not make it too explicit because women are turned off by it."

De Palma also praises the way cinematographer José Luis Alcaine photographs women, and how he made noir images look "terrific" in color, something that is not so easy to do, according to De Palma. The director also said he called on Pino Donaggio because "he knows how to write the kind of terror-dream music I needed for this film... The last sequence is essential and had to be absolutely right. Even though we had not worked together in 22 years, he knows me very well and once I gave him a temp suggestion, he came up with incredible stuff."

De Palma is expected to arrive in Venice today (Thursday) ahead of Friday's world premiere of Passion.

The entire interview can also be read at Rachel McAdams Online.

Posted by Geoff at 1:53 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 6:20 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Brian De Palma and "to-be-determined special guests" will participate in a discussion of De Palma's Passion on Monday, September 10, from 4-4:30pm, as part of Indiewire @ The TIFF Filmmakers Lounge, running September 8-11. Passion will screen at the festival one day later, on September 11. The Monday discussion will be moderated by Anne Thompson, and is open to TIFF pass holders.

Posted by Geoff at 8:44 PM CDT
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Monday, September 3, 2012

David Koepp's action-packed thriller Premium Rush finally opened in theaters last week. The film takes off from a terrific opening slow-motion shot set to The Who's Baba O'Riley, and never lets up from there, with a great soundtrack by David Sardy. The dialogue is rapid, matching the speediness of the bike messengers at the center of the film. Koepp and John Kamps have written a screenplay that manages to connect all of the characters in ways that sometimes seem too coincidental to be true, but it all moves so fast that it is easy to let go and just go with it.

Premium Rush jumps back and forth in time, somewhat like Brian De Palma's Murder A La Mod, showing certain scenes from different characters' perspectives. Koepp also did a bit of this with De Palma on Snake Eyes, although in that film, the jumps in time were presented as flashbacks. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good as the lead, and Michael Shannon has a role that allows him freedom of explosion, and he seems to have fun following that muse. (Also of note: Koepp cast his screenwriter friend Brian Koppelman as a mostly dialogue-free loan shark. Koppelman co-wrote the original draft of the as-yet-unmade Untouchables prequel, Capone Rising.)

This is Koepp's fifth feature, and all have been inventive works of well-crafted entertainment, from the horror-tinged thrillers he started off with (The Trigger Effect, Stir Of Echoes, and Secret Window), to the comedy Ghost Town, and now this action thriller. Hopefully it will be sooner than four years before we get another one.

Posted by Geoff at 3:06 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 3:07 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The New York Film Festival today posted its film schedule, along with new stills from Brian De Palma's Passion. Also posted is a mind-warpingly tantalizing description of Passion, which will screen at the fest on Saturday, September 29 at 9pm, followed by screenings on October 6 and October 11. Here is the NYFF description:

"Brian De Palma exhibits great panache and a diabolical mastery of frequent, small surprises in his cinematically most ingenious movie since his magical comedy-of-coincidences, Femme Fatale. With tongue planted in cheek, or maybe not—it’s up to you to decide—De Palma turns French director Alain Corneau’s 2010 Love Crime into a droll, erotic tale of female competition. Noomi Rapace more than matches her performance in the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the assistant to an unscrupulous advertising honcho (Rachel McAdams), who steals her ideas and acts as if it’s all good sport. It’s great fun until De Palma zeros in on the fury in Rapace’s eyes. The De Palma trademarks are all present and deployed with coolly calculated abandon: a brilliant use of split screen; a confusion of identical twins; dreams within dreams; and shoes to die for."

Posted by Geoff at 6:49 PM CDT
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Monday, August 27, 2012
Brian De Palma and Noah Baumbach will be on stage to discuss each others' films and influences October 7th, as part of the New York Film Festival's "On Cinema" series of master classes. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this will be the first time this event will feature two directors sharing a stage. Baumbach interviewed De Palma on a special feauture of last year's Criterion edition of Blow Out, and the pair attended films together at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. At NYFF, they will discuss their films and influences, show clips, and take questions from the audience, according to the Hollywood Reporter. De Palma's Passion and Baumbach's Frances Ha will each be screened at the festival.

Posted by Geoff at 8:03 PM CDT
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