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Domino is
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
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final print."

Listen to
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Washington Post
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Friday, January 11, 2013

From the start, Gangster Squad, directed by Ruben Fleischer, has been a project in the shadow of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. The film finally arrives in theaters today, and critics left and right are comparing it to De Palma's film, with a couple even mentioning De Palma's Scarface in their reviews, as well as other gangster pictures. (In fact, Fleischer lists Scarface among his five favorite gangster films.) Here are some links to reviews, with quotes:

James Berardinelli, Reel Views
"There seems to be little doubt that Ruben Fleischer, the director behind the well-received Zombieland and the less well-received 30 Minutes or Less, is a Brian De Palma fan. How else to explain the kinship that exists between Fleischer's latest, Gangster Squad, and De Palma's classic The Untouchables (with a little Scarface thrown in for good measure)? The similarities go beyond the requisite plot points that exist in all gangland stories; Gangster Squad unspools almost like a remake of The Untouchables, albeit with a souped-up ending and a relocation from Prohibition Era Chicago to post-WWII Los Angeles. There's no Battleship Potemkin homage, but there is a nod to Sunset Blvd. Gangster Squad is an unashamedly pulpy thriller that borders at times on an exploitation flick but its determination to follow The Untouchables' template (without the benefit of a David Mamet script) makes it a little too predictable to be memorable.

"Steeped in blood, gore, and violence, Gangster Squad delivers what fans of the gangster genre expect from a movie of this sort. It's chock-full of 'guilty pleasure' moments. Sean Penn, playing real-life mobster Mickey Cohen, hams it up expertly, channeling Al Pacino's Tony Montana without the accent. The good guys are stolid, sturdy men - paragons of virtue up against a feral villain who is so vile that even the notorious Chicago mob can't stand against him. Despite the talent of the cast, Gangster Squad isn't a 'prestige' motion picture and its release date shift from September 7 to January 11 didn't damage its nonexistent Oscar chances. It's an inferior Untouchables knock-off and proud of it."

Nick de Semlyen, EMPIRE
"Is The Untouchables untouchable? Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer has set out to prove not. His slick, all-star film takes the same dynamic as Brian De Palma’s Chicago classic — law-enforcers go off the books to battle a gangster on his own dirty terms — and transplants it to LA, aiming for something bigger, glitzier, nastier. But while it’s not lacking in visual razzle-dazzle or blood, story-wise it rarely manages to shock or excite.

"Where it does succeed, though, is with its villain. In The Untouchables, De Niro’s paunchy Al Capone put a baseball bat to foul use, but Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen has even more lurid enthusiasms: dining on roast peacock, quoting Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, world-class swearing (he arrives at a raided brothel snarling, 'My whole crop of cunt is ruined.' Penn, wearing a prosthetic beak, has the time of his life. Behold as Cohen, in full view of the Hollywood sign, commands dogs to feast on a slain man’s innards. That’s the LA way...

"Gangster Squad is perfectly decent entertainment: it possesses a frequently witty script, a roster of likable, cool-looking stars, fizzy choreography and Sean Penn out-hamming Mr. Pricklepants. Yet there’s the lingering feeling that this is a safe studio film as opposed to a story that was burning to be told. Every beat is hit with mechanical efficiency, rather than taking risks and roaring with ambition. Not something you’d say about a Brian De Palma film."

Peter Debruge, Variety
"Opening with a scene in which Cohen chains a rival between two cars as a message to his Chicago bosses, this macho genre homage lands closer to The Untouchables than to L.A. Confidential as a self-aware gloss on old gangster pics...

"In the good guys' corner, there's Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick and Michael Pena (a refreshingly mixed-race bunch, despite the period). Opposite, there's Penn's larger-than-life performance as Cohen, a feat of unbridled entitlement. He fumes and storms like some kind of Cro-Magnon monster who just stumbled from the cave to claim what is rightfully his, feral intensity amplified to a pitch not to be dwarfed by Al Pacino's Tony Montana, Robert De Niro's Al Capone or Harvey Keitel's own spin on Cohen in Bugsy."

Marshall Fine, Hollywood & Fine
"Calling it 'derivative' implies someone else having done this kind of thing before – and done it better. Well, gee, where to start? If you were to call this a West Coast version of The Untouchables, you wouldn’t be far off the mark, right down to a machine-gun fight on a large public staircase.

Oh wait, that’s right: Brian De Palma was quoting yet another film, Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin with his shoot-out in Chicago’s Union Station. I won’t accuse Fleischer of mimicking De Palma, because it seems obvious. Young filmmakers have been sampling Scarface on a regular basis for almost 30 years."

Siobhan Synnot, The Scotsman
"There are plenty of shootouts, slashings and the occasional bloody amputation, but little variety or thought to the script. Whenever a kingpin appears to shrug off some major cock-up in his empire, surely any self-respecting henchman realises this is his cue to flee, or at least pack a bulletproof vest? Not if you are a henchman in Gangster Squad. And while Penn attempts to bully his way through the film, his Cohen has none of internal subtleties of, say, Robert De Niro in The Untouchables."

Bill Goodykoontz, AZ Central
"The film is somewhat similar in structure and temperament to The Untouchables, Brian De Palma’s far superior 1987 film about Eliot Ness going after Al Capone. The head-on approach can only work for so long, so other methods must be found. As with De Palma’s film, despite being the good guys, O’Mara and his men must resort to unsavory, extra-legal means to level the playing field.

"There is a really good story in here somewhere. Cohen is a fascinating figure, operating in an interesting time. Here he’s a cardboard cutout, prone to hilarious bouts of rage (and bouts, period; he was a boxer). Think of any gangster cliché you’ve seen or heard, and Penn delivers. He is nothing if not thorough. Usually that’s a good thing. Here, not so much."

Chris Tilly, IGN
"Another film in whose shadow Gangster Squad will undoubtedly exist is The Untouchables, for while that film is set in a different city some 20 years earlier, their storylines are remarkably similar. Yet Brian De Palma’s Oscar-winner trumps Fleischer’s effort on pretty much every front, managing to entertain and excite while at the same time making the agents who eventually brought down Al Capone three-dimensional characters."

Nick Pinkerton, OC Weekly
"It's obvious, however, that [screenwriter Will] Beall is mostly drawing on his experience with other movies, particularly the previous generation of revisionist period crime dramas, such as Brian De Palma's 1987 The Untouchables, which Gangster Squad's plot hews close to, and Curtis Hanson's 1997 L.A. Confidential. Unlike Hanson's film, which had a shoe-leather realism, Gangster Squad looks as if all its details—each shiny Packard and bottle of Orange Nehi—have been scrupulously 'placed,' still warm from the art department, while panoramic shots recall no terrestrial city so much as the virtual environments of Rockstar Games' LA Noire."

Alonso Duraldi, The Wrap
"With its gleaming roadsters, sexy dames and swanky nightspots, Gangster Squad is clearly meant to summon fond memories of post-WWII-era noir films, not to mention more recent retro valentines like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. But you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’re watching The Untouchables II.

"Like David Mamet and Brian De Palma’s reboot of the classic crimebuster TV show, this new movie offers a stalwart cop with a devoted, red-headed wife, putting together a crew of renegade cops (including an old-timer and a bespectacled nerd) to take down a powerful and sadistic mobster played by a Method-fueled scenery chewer."

Dann Gire, Daily Herald
"I liked the Chicago version of Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad much better. It was titled The Untouchables.

"Will Bealls' screenplay to Gangster Squad, based on the book by Paul Lieberman, appears to have appropriated the American western conventions in Brian De Palma's 1987 Chicago-shot thriller, right down to the good guys' lovable, nerdy mascot purchasing the farm to cement our emotional opposition to the villains.

"It's all about a straight-shooting law man and dedicated family guy assembling a crack team of peace officers to wage a street war against a ruthlessly murderous, megalomaniac, big-city mob boss with most of the government in his back pocket.

"Gangster Squad throws in an extra romantic subplot and a climatic bare-knuckles boxing match, but nonetheless prompts comparisons to The Untouchables, right down to Sean Penn's recreation of mob boss Mickey Cohen as the raging Al Capone of L.A.

"Fleischer's Gangster Squad sidesteps the Chicago mythology of The Untouchables and the gritty realism of L.A. Confidential, preferring a sensationalistic, almost graphic novel approach, one exploding with flashy visuals peppered with blood-red lipstick, monochromatic nocturnal cityscapes, smartly tailored suits and blazing guns."

M. Faust, ArtVoice
"Not much beyond the title remains for this movie, which essentially reprises Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables for a Boardwalk Empire audience. Instead of Al Capone, the bad guy is Mickey Cohen, played ferociously by Sean Penn in a performance that you wish were in a better movie: The real Cohen was a lot more interesting than this one-note hoodlum. Josh Brolin has the Kevin Costner part (by way of Boardwalk’s Michael Shannon) of Sergeant John O’Mara, the straight arrow enlisted to assemble a band to work on the outer edges of the law.

"You can play this game all day if you want: Nerdly Charles Martin Smith is played by Giovanni Ribisi, ethnic outsider Andy Garcia by Michael Pena, etc. There’s even a moment of rage by Cohen, vowing vengeance on O’Mara, that is so similar to Capone’s rant in the De Palma movie ('I want him dead! I want his family dead!') that it has to be intentional.

"Gangster Squad gets high marks for its production design, recreating post-war LA as a riot of art deco glitz. It’s a great movie to look at, but blandly directed and photographed."

Cornish Guardian, This Is Cornwall
"Disappointingly, Fleischer's film lacks the finely detailed characters and dramatic tension of Brian De Palma's Prohibition-era drama."

Jeremy Kirk, First Showing
"The inevitable 'I want them all dead' tirade Penn's Cohen goes on is nothing as powerful or as memorable as Robert De Niro as Al Capone vowing vengeance against Kevin Costner's Elliott Ness, and the moments of violence against the Gangster Squad would be riveting if they weren't so familiar. By the time the film turns towards a shoot-out around an elaborate staircase and hotel lobby, you can't help but think it would be just as easy and a whole lot more fun to watch Brian De Palma's film and be done with it."

Mark Naglazas, The West Australian
"Gangster Squad was pulled after the cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado, during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises and its climax, which originally took place in a movie theatre, reshot so that it now resembles the ending of Brian de Palma's Scarface."

There are plenty more reviews-- I'll post more links tomorrow.

Posted by Geoff at 6:02 PM CST
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The above shot is from a tense split-screen sequence on last night's episode ("Spilt Milk") of American Horror Story: Asylum. The episode was stylishly directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and was so full of surprises it felt like a season finale-- and the finale is still a couple of weeks away.

In any case, any time anyone these days does a split-screen sequence, Brian De Palma's name comes to mind, and this one is no different, with Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen and Zap 2 it's Geoff Berkshire, among others, mentioning De Palma in their recaps of the episode. And of course, we know that Ryan Murphy has said that this season of AHS pays homage to De Palma, so it seems entirely likely that the split-screen was a nod to him.

The split screen happens on the stairs inside the asylum, and the technique allows Gomez-Rejon to create and milk a good amount of suspense between three characters as one tries to slip past another, and the third tries to distract.

In the first episode of this season, Pino Donaggio music from De Palma's Carrie was used in several scenes. This week's episode utilized music from Bernard Rose's Candyman, composed by Phillip Glass, during several sequences, including the split-screen sequence.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, New York, begins a new midnight series this weekend called "The Works," which "pays special attention and homage to the people and concepts who inspire a closer look," according to the Nitehawk website. "As Nitehawk’s extended series, The Works highlights a director, actor, composer, genre, or influencer on select midnight screenings over a three-month period."

The series will launch with Brian De Palma as the initial subject, beginning with midnight screenings of Dressed To Kill this Friday and Saturday (January 11 and 12). Five more De Palma films will continue the series over the next couple of months: Femme Fatale (February 1 & 2), Blow Out (February 8 & 9), Obsession (February 15 & 16), Raising Cain (March 1 & 2), and Body Double (March 15 & 16).

Nitehawk is an 18-and-older cinema that serves food and beverages, including specialty dishes and drinks inspired by the films being featured. "The Cinema also presents thirty-minute 'Pre-shows' tailored to each movie that feature local filmmakers and clips curated by our cinema department," according to the Nitehawk website.

Posted by Geoff at 10:33 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 10:34 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
TF1 News Film Critic Romain Le Vern posted a review today of Brian De Palma's Passion, calling it De Palma's "best film since... a long time." Le Vern echoes the review posted yesterday by Jean-Baptiste Morain, each with the suggestion that De Palma has made a personal film that stands among his finest works. Below is a Google-assisted translation of Le Vern's review:

"Two women engage in a perverse game of manipulation within a multinational corporation. Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) is fascinated by her superior (Rachel McAdams), Christine. The latter takes advantage of her influence over Isabella to drive into a game of seduction and manipulation, domination and servitude.

"On paper, this new feature by Brian De Palma presents itself as an American remake of the French Love Crime, the last film by the late Alain Corneau and far from the best. A project that a priori portends a controlled movie replay, sterile or impersonal. Surprise: it's not. From Dressed To Kill to Obsession, from Body Double to Snake Eyes, Brian De Palma has always been fascinated with the questions raised by the cinema and could never help but tell (almost) all his stories in the form of mise-en-scène.

"Although we thought he had broken his own obsessions with objects bordering on pastiche (Femme Fatale) and uninspired (his very unsuccessful adaptation of the cult novel by James Ellroy, The Black Dahlia, a very soft sci-fi Mission To Mars) and been ostracized from the system after taking the risk of anti-war Redacted (YouTube version of Casulaties Of War), Brian De Palma has regained form and his Passion marks a return with great fanfare to the overwrought cinema of the 70s Mannerist, reflecting the ambition of a system of manipulation by illusion.

"Hitchcock's ghost still haunts

"This manipulative maze-like film could be terminal like Mulholland Drive, David Lynch, fed self-citations (a lot of Sisters, a little Raising Cain), themes (voyeurism, fetishism, manipulation, schizophrenia, alienation), Biblical symbols and stylistic figures allow the auteur to settle scores. With himself. With his appetite for evil. Hitchcock with his superego.

"In search of beauty in vulgarity - the vulgarity of time exacerbated by the emergence of new media and new ways of espionage (sex tape, YouTube) such as social networks - De Palma films the grimey dreams of innocent girls, probes the impossibility of desire in a world of phallic metal towers in which women make war to seduce men and uses the original frame of Corneau to talk about what has always been connected: the truth rigged, optical illusions, false pretenses, artifice to describe subjectivity (the distortion of time, split-screen, the deformation of reality).

"Above all, we have to see the pleasure of Brian De Palma, simple pleasures and communicative, filming for the beauty of movement, especially in the operatic last half-hour amplified by the music of Pino Donaggio, reviving the best suspensions of disbelief from his past films such as, at random, the suspenseful sequence of the prom in Carrie. The final shot is both climax and nod to De Palma’s aficionados, causing a jolt.

"De Palma directed both actresses (Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams, impeccable) like lionesses, savoring the slow devouring of praying mantises. For a long time we do not know who the brunette or blonde, Hitchcock heroine or De Palma-esque bitch, proves the most toxic. But one thing is sure: dream into nightmare, nobody has been innocent."

Posted by Geoff at 10:35 PM CST
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Les Inrockuptibles critic Jean-Baptiste Morain has just posted a review of Brian De Palma's Passion, which opens in France on February 13. Morain calls it one of De Palma's finest films. Below is a Google-aided translation of the review:

"Funny idea on paper: the new De Palma is adapted from the last film directed by Alain Corneau, Love Crime, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier, a game of manipulation that goes wrong between employees of the same company. What was the interest in this rather easy-going French thriller? He draws from it a film in his own way, the one that we prefer, a mixture of Hitchcock and Lang, erotic and morbid fever in an atmosphere where the baroque and fantastical reality and imagination are blurred constantly, where the characters are manipulated, to humiliate each other without really knowing who prevails over the other.

"No realism in Passion, but formalism at all costs. No plausibility either, but suspense, pitfalls, daydreams or nightmares that seem to fit into each other. Passion is also a film of women, mostly bisexual, a film where the one man band will leave pale and deceived like a rookie. Who is nice: blonde, brunette or redhead? Mystery. And if they were one? The twists succeed more twists in a game of mirrors where revenge leads the dance. Passion is nearly a genre film. De Palma returns to his 70s Hitchcockian vein, a period when he amused himself by making variations on the themes of the old master, to draw his own cinema, both haunted by the model and its ability to give life and day to a very personal film.

"De Palma said one day, in a bonus DVD: 'Hitchcock, I know very well of what he speaks.' Another way of saying acquaintances between fantasy filmmakers of Catholic formation, where sex is at the same time a horrific vision and completely exciting. Filmed with great precision, uncluttered, with a knife, with a mastery of every second, Passion is undoubtedly one of the finest films of Brian De Palma."

Posted by Geoff at 9:18 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2013 9:20 PM CST
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 3:18 PM CST
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Saturday, January 5, 2013
Our old friend David Greven has a new book, Psycho-Sexual, now available. Greven tells us that the book "is about Hitchcock and masculinity, and the influence of Htichcock on New Hollywood directors like De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin. I have two chapters on De Palma, whom I call the greatest of the New Hollywood directors in the book. The first is a revised, expanded version of the essay I wrote on the early Vietnam War-era comedies. The other is a new piece, a reassessment of Dressed To Kill. My effort in this book is to pay close attention to what critics often ignore, even supportive De Palma critics: the aesthetic and ideological aspects of De Palma's reworking of Hitchcock."

We look forward to reading the book. Below is the official description from the University of Texas Press website:

"Bridging landmark territory in film studies, Psycho-Sexual is the first book to apply Alfred Hitchcock’s legacy to three key directors of 1970s Hollywood—Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and William Friedkin—whose work suggests the pornographic male gaze that emerged in Hitchcock’s depiction of the voyeuristic, homoerotically inclined American man. Combining queer theory with a psychoanalytic perspective, David Greven begins with a reconsideration of Psycho and the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much to introduce the filmmaker’s evolutionary development of American masculinity.

"Psycho-Sexual probes De Palma’s early Vietnam War draft-dodger comedies as well as his film Dressed to Kill, along with Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Friedkin’s Cruising as reactions to and inventive elaborations upon Hitchcock’s gendered themes and aesthetic approaches. Greven demonstrates how the significant political achievement of these films arises from a deeply disturbing, violent, even sorrowful psychological and social context. Engaging with contemporary theories of pornography while establishing pornography’s emergence during the classical Hollywood era, Greven argues that New Hollywood filmmakers seized upon Hitchcock’s radical decentering of heterosexual male dominance. The resulting images of heterosexual male ambivalence allowed for an investment in same-sex desire; an aura of homophobia became informed by a fascination with the homoerotic. Psycho-Sexual also explores the broader gender crisis and disorganization that permeated the Cold War and New Hollywood eras, reimagining the defining premises of Hitchcock criticism."

Posted by Geoff at 4:26 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2013 4:27 PM CST
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Friday, January 4, 2013
Brian De Palma's Greetings and its sequel, Hi, Mom!, will play as a double feature on Tuesday, January 15 as part of the series "New Yawk New Wave," which runs from January 11-31 at the Film Forum in New York. The series was conceived by J. Hoberman, and programmed by Bruce Goldstein and Jake Perlin. A New York Times article by Nicolas Rapold states that the series includes more than 50 New York-centered films spanning from 1953 to 1973 (the two De Palma films were released in 1968 and 1970, respectively). Most of the films were independent features filmed on the streets of New York.

"The selection is multifaceted," writes Rapold. "Here are Brian De Palma’s pre-Carrie counterculture trips Hi, Mom! and Greetings, starring a young Robert De Niro; the smart-aleck culture jam Putney Swope of Robert Downey (father of Hollywood’s Iron Man); and the first feature by the avant-garde godfather and exhibitor Jonas Mekas, a founder of the movement called the New American Cinema."

Also included in the series are Jim McBride’s David Holzman’s Diary, John Cassavetes' Shadows, and two early films from Martin Scorsese, Who's That Knocking At My Door and Mean Streets. Hoberman tells Rapold, "One of the ironic things about Mean Streets is that it’s mainly shot in Los Angeles. But the New York stuff is so vivid that he’s really able to make it feel like it’s completely a New York film."

De Niro recently referred to this period of independent filmmaking in an interview with The Wrap's Brent Lang. "There are so many more independent films than there were when I was in my 20s or 30s," De Niro said in response to a question about the state of the movie business. "You had Brian De Palma, Robert Downey and some other people, but the independent films being made then were a different type of thing. They were done on a Super 8, not a feature like they are today, and they didn’t get studio distribution in the same way."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2013 12:02 AM CST
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Thursday, January 3, 2013
Several sources noted yesterday and today that Kimberly Peirce's remake of Carrie will not be released this March, as previously announced, but has been pushed to October 18, 2013, to take advantage of the Halloween season. The Hollywood Reporter's Pamela McClintock notes that the remake will hit theaters 37 years after Brian De Palma's version, which was released just after Halloween (on November 3) in 1976.

Posted by Geoff at 6:17 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Swan Archives has just added two photographs to its production page, each one showing Brian De Palma on the set of Phantom Of The Paradise. One of the photos shows De Palma in a "bosun's chair," which "is suspended from the ceiling, and counterbalanced with a 50 gallon oil drum filled with water," according to the Principal Archivist. The Archivist states that De Palma shot some of the wedding scene from this chair with a handheld camera, and "probably including the shots from the assassin's point of view." The other added photo shows De Palma on the balcony of the theater.

Posted by Geoff at 12:42 AM CST
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