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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brian De Palma has been doing a ton of interviews the past few weeks as Passion gets ready for its official U.S. release next month. The first of these to surface was posted today at Gawker. "I could hardly believe how easy director Brian De Palma was to talk to when I spoke to him in advance of the release of his 29th feature film, Passion," writes Rich Juzwiak. "He was generous with his time and refeshing with his candor. He was relaxed, open to critique, and surprisingly humble for someone who's directed bonafide classics (Carrie, The Untouchables and Scarface) and cult favorites (Body Double, Dressed To Kill, Femme Fatale), alike. He was willing to discuss subjects that might make other directors bristle—the possibility of unintentional comedy in his work, or the idea that his films are 'camp.' He even came close to admitting that at 72, he's most likely peaked as a director."

One of the most interesting parts of the interview comes when Juzwiak delves into the use of the word "camp," which is sometimes used to describe the tone of a De Palma picture:



In some reviews, the word “camp” has been used to describe Passion. I read a really old interview with you, in which Variety's review of Carrie was brought up and that word was also used and you kind of bristled at it. Have your thoughts on this word changed?

I've been through this for so many years, it's hard for me to really pay much attention to it. I have my followers and then I have my detractors. You know, because I have a kind of very distinctive style and a very, cinematic way of approaching things, some people like it and some people don't. And there is not much to convince one side to come over to the other. Sometimes I find that perceptions… we've heard them all before. It sounds like they’re quoting some boiler-plate Brian De Palma, just put you to sleep.

The antagonistic dynamic between women in Passion is something you've long explored on screen. It's interesting that this movie comes at a time when that dynamic is so prevalent on television, specifically on reality TV. What’s the difference between your interest in the topic and what we see on trashy TV?

Women trashing each other reality TV is not something I'm too familiar with, but maybe [Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace] are because they really worked it.

They certainly did. There’s a distinct an element of fun in this movie.

Oh yeah! Absolutely. Demonic fun.

No matter how gruesome or serious your movies are, there is usually that element. That’s intentional, right?

It's the famous De Palma cackle I've been reading about for decades.

What do you think about people laughing at unintentionally funny elements of your work? Is that insulting to you as a director?

Well, you can go over the top. You can push something too far. I do very stylized stuff and sometimes it goes too far. In Body Double when, he's embracing her and I'm doing this delirious 360 degree tracking shot around her as they're kissing, the audience started to laugh. It was just too much. I was pushing it too hard.

Do you regret doing that?

You know, Body Double is the kind of movie that people always talked to me about. It got massacred by the critics when it came out, but I can't tell you how many people come up to me to this day and talk to me about Body Double. So who knows… times change.

I think part of appreciating De Palma is appreciating your willingness to go over the top, or to push it almost to the edge where it might over the top.

You're usually criticized against the fashion of the day. But the fashion of the day changes. And works that live on somehow transcend the fashion of the day. A movie that was so attacked, I don't know why everybody remembers it so well.



In the interview, De Palma says that he likes Passion a lot. He says they have a "very good script" for Happy Valley, "And now we're in the process of budgeting." When asked by Juzwiak what it is like to reunite with Al Pacino, De Palma replies, "Two old warriors going up the mountain one more time."

De Palma also discusses how he felt when watching Scarface in a theater a few years ago: "It's interesting, I was listening to an interview with Oliver Stone recently at Karlovy Vary, a festival somewhere in the Czech Republic. They showed Scarface and he was reflecting on not seeing it for many years and he had the same reflection that I did: He was amazed by the performances in Scarface. When they showed it at the 30th anniversary—who remembers, whatever anniversary it was—I hadn't looked at it in a movie theater in a long time, I thought, 'These actors are just unbelievable.' And as you've seen [your movies] through your life you have different feelings about them."

Check out the rest of this terrific interview at Gawker.

Posted by Geoff at 5:42 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 25, 2013 7:52 PM CDT
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De Palma a la Mod reader Chris Baker attended a screening of Edgar Wright's "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy" (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End) last Monday in San Francisco. Wright was on hand with the stars of the trilogy, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Chris tells us that in the post-screening Q&A, "someone asked a question which (paraphrased) was 'Given all the drinking in this film, I'm wondering what each of your favorite hangover remedies is? Also: I saw on Criterion.com where Blow Out was number one in your Top Ten list, and I'm wondering if you would ever do a film similar to one of De Palma's?'"

Wright (amused): "OK well really those are two very different questions"
Pegg": "Actually, my favorite hangover remedy is De Palma films"
Wright: "Scarface at full volume is my favorite hangover cure!"

As Chris tells it, "Wright then said that in fact his list to Criterion had been alphabetical and he didn't realize that numbers would be assigned. He said that he did love the film though, as well as others of De Palma's: saying he loved Carrie also, but that his favorite was probably Phantom Of The Paradise. He finished by saying that yes sometime he would like to do a 'straight thriller, or horror film'."

As he was making the rounds three years ago for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which was partially under the influence of De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise), Wright talked to The Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth about a screenplay he was working on called Baby Driver that had a strong De Palma influence: "Well, it’s something I’ve been meaning to write for ages. I really planned to recharge my batteries and get back into writing. I’m excited about doing something that’s almost purely visual, because I’ve done three films—and even though Scott Pilgrim is very visual, it’s very dialogue heavy as well, which is great. And music heavy. Yeah. I think I’d like to try something—I’m a big Brian De Palma fan, and I’ll sit and look at something like Carrie, and I like the fact that it starts to play out like a silent movie. There’s a point in Carrie in the last half hour where there’s no need for any more dialogue because the plot is in motion. Or something like [Jean-Pierre Melville's] Le Samourai, I look at something like that and think, wow, there’s hardly any dialogue in this film. Something like that can be enjoyed around the world. I’d really like the challenge of doing something where the dialogue is really stripped back and it’s all about the cinema."

(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:22 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 25, 2013 12:26 AM CDT
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The Portuguese weekly Sol posted an interview with Brian De Palma today. Passion opened in Portugal on July 11. Here is a Google-assisted translation of the interview:

In Passion we feel great respect for Hitchcock. What do you consider most inspiring in his work?

This is a question I've been answering for 40 years. I learned a lot from Hitchcock thrillers. He created a grammar of cinema that many of us use, but I have my own way of seeing things.

I seemed to detect references to movies such as Vertigo. Am I wrong?

Do you know how long filmmakers have been filming spiral staircases? This began in silent films, it is the best way to capture someone walking up stairs. Hitchcock used this trick in Vertigo but before that it had been used dozens of times.

One realizes that dreams have a key role in your films ...

The majority of my thoughts occur during dreaming. Our subconscious is always working ...

In Passion there is a smartphone that takes account of the action. Are you a technology fan?

When I was in high school, I built computers, so we already see that my love of technology comes back. Today we walk with iPhones and film everything. Even my kids force me to take pictures of people with whom I speak [pauses to take a picture of the interviewer]. It’s for them to see what their father is doing.

To what extent do you think that technological tools can influence the movies?

When I started we had to raise a lot of money to make a movie. My first feature film cost $100,000, which we got from a rich girl. My second film cost $50,000. It is clear that both were flops. For the third film we raised $20,000. And it was a success. Today people complain about not having money to make films, but anyone can make them. It's all digital, and they can be edited on a computer. And if you cannot get a cast and write a script, it is best to do something else. Today there are no longer those excuses.

Feel part of a generation of filmmakers who changed cinema?

Yes, I am part of a group of filmmakers who arrived when the Hollywood system was ending. We were a little crazy and created sort of strange films like Easy Rider, but they made a lot of money. Suddenly we were considered the leaders of the city.

You began by making a very experimental film. Would you like to have followed this route?

In the beginning we experience everything to realize what we can do. I made a series of documentaries and experimental films, and won several awards. But only with my third film, which was Greetings, did I begin to enter the Hollywood scheme. I made several independent films that nobody remembers. Carrie was my tenth film.

Is it true or is it a myth that you wrote the first lines of the script of Star Wars?

No, I did not write these lines. George Lucas had an intro that was too complicated and I just told him, 'George, I don’t understand anything of what's written here'. So me and a screenwriter simplified the text. I have been accused of being the sarcastic type that made fun of 'The Force' ... It is true that I was always the official 'clown' of that group, but I'm also a good friend of George’s, and was there to help. My biggest contribution was untangling the mess at the beginning.

But it is true that you discovered Robert De Niro. How did that happen?

He came to see me because of an ad I had placed in a magazine to find a person who could project the movies. And he turned out to audition for a film I was doing in a garage. He was just amazing and I hired him. After two films he did some plays with me.

Do you keep in contact?

Not really. I saw him recently at a dinner that George [Lucas] gave. He appeared with his wife.

You have won several awards, but have never been nominated for an Oscar. Is that important to you?

In America the awards are only television shows in which the stars on the red carpet parade. They end up selling clothing and jewelry.

Were you able to anticipate the success of any of your films?

Only with The Untouchables.

And Carrie?

Carrie. It was a cheap horror movie that was released on Halloween. Stephen King was not even known. The book did not sell very well and only during the production of Carrie did it become a best seller. But nobody knew who Stephen King was.

Scarface [1983] was another of your great successes. Were you expecting that?

No. When it was shown in Hollywood, people left the room. I thought it would be a massacre. It wasn’t until it reached audiences that I realized it was something that had never been seen before.

Are there any films of yours that are considered special?

Mostly the controversial films. There is much talk of The Godfather, but Coppola had a traumatic experience. He was supposed to be fired almost daily. Dressed to Kill was ravaged by the women’s liberation movement ...

Is it important to shock the audience?

It is important to catch them off guard. It's like taking the rabbit out of the hat and putting it back in the hat when they are not looking.

It's on television that we see some of the finest moments of current fiction. How do you see this?

Television is a medium dominated by producers and screenwriters. [The directors are the types that take the cables the way] ... Look at The Sopranos or Mad Men: they are almost like War and Peace. The characters are developed over years! That is unprecedented.

Posted by Geoff at 10:44 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 25, 2013 12:24 AM CDT
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival is currently underway in Montreal, and at least a couple of the films screening there this year are being mentioned as partially De Palma-esque. Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado's Big Bad Wolves will have its Canadian premiere there this Friday night. In the Fantasia press notes, co-director Mitch Davis writes, "The sophistication, audacity and sheer force of execution on display here announces them as leading talents on the world cinema stage and will have many declaring them the Israeli Coen Brothers — with shades of early Park Chan-wook and Brian De Palma! No wonder it ranked among the best-reviewed entries of this year’s Tribeca film festival, where it left audiences positively gobsmacked."

Davis also talked about the film to Brendan Kelly of the Montreal Gazette. "“Oh my God, the masterpiece of 2013, in my opinion... It’s riveting, it’s funny, it’s brilliant filmmaking. Imagine an Israeli version of the Coen brothers, mixed with early Brian De Palma, and Park Chan-wook. Also imagine Les Sept jours du talion re-imagined as the most sinister black comedy, but at the same time wickedly entertaining and funny. It’s just the perfect movie.”

Making its world premiere at the Fantasia fest on August 3rd will be Discopath, the feature debut of Renaud Gauthier, who sold his own home to finance the film, according to Marc Lamothe on the Fantasia web site. Gauthier served as director, screenwriter, art director, and music composer on Discopath, about a man who goes into a homicidal trance whenever he hears disco music. "Nostalgia is already [Gauthier's] stock in trade, his knack for evoking the smiles and styles of the ’70s, so it’s no surprise that his first feature is soaked in disco culture," Lamothe states in the notes. "But beyond the art direction, the mise en scene connects to the era by recalling the golden age of Italian giallo and lessons of masters like John Carpenter and Brian De Palma."

Posted by Geoff at 8:46 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 21, 2013 8:48 PM CDT
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Quartet Records is releasing Pino Donaggio's soundtrack to Dario Argento's TV movie Do You Like Hitchcock?, in an edition limited to 500 copies. The CD is available for pre-order, although the release date has not yet been confirmed. The site description mentions that the disc will include "the entire score, including Donaggio's unused tribute to Vertigo called 'Homage to Hitchcock' [a clip of which can be listened to on the web page]. Carefully mastered by Claudio Fuiano, the package includes liner notes by Gergely Hubai, who offers an introduction to the film and the score with comments from the composer - and including a track-by-track narrative discussion that will lead you to the end of the mysterious case!"

Meanwhile, Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives is now in theaters, and also available on VOD. In a review from last May's Cannes Film Festival, The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote that "composer Cliff Martinez again makes an indispensable contribution to Winding Refn’s defining aesthetic with a richly textured score that combines pounding martial arts drumbeats, bursts of ecclesiastical organ music, lushly romantic orchestral riffs that recall Pino Donaggio’s work for Brian De Palma, and obsessive techno beats that at times evoke the vintage electropop of Giorgio Moroder."

Posted by Geoff at 7:12 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 21, 2013 7:13 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Computer Chess director Andrew Bujalski includes Brian De Palma on a list of his cultural influences, as told to Vulture's Jennifer Vineyard. Here is what Bujalski said about De Palma: "De Palma will spend an hour of the movie whipping you into a frenzy, building the house of cards, and then end the movie gleefully knocking it down in a way that infuriates half the audience but is still commercially viable. And Lord knows I love his split screens. And I finally got to do them in Computer Chess, to put a few split screens in the movie. Not with the level of invention or meticulousness that he brings, but it was fun to pretend that I was De Palma for five minutes."

Computer Chess opened this past Wednesday in New York. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir calls it a "profound, peculiar work of genius."

Armond White writes of the film, "Mumblecore originator Bujalski has found the wit to break out from its conspicuous routines and make the genre’s most stylistically varied, artistically adventurous film with Computer Chess. Bujalski actually employs montage and style–idiosyncratic style–that goes past simply being unHollywood and creates its own uniquely nerd vision."

A. O. Scott of the New York Times calls it "peculiar and sneakily brilliant." And NPR's Ella Taylor writes, "The beguiling Computer Chess is about the dawn — one of many, but that's another story — of the tech revolution. It's also a reminder that you don't need state-of-the-art toys to make a formally playful comedy about man versus machine."

Posted by Geoff at 4:42 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 20, 2013 5:32 PM CDT
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Friday, July 19, 2013
Passion cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine will be on hand to receive the 2013 Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement at this year's Manaki Brothers International Cinematographers' Film Festival, which takes place from September 15th through the 21st. According to the press release, Alcaine "has put his signature on a truly record-breaking number of 145 films." Along with Passion, which is released in the U.S. next month, Alcaine recently shot Pedro Almodovar's I'm So Excited, currently playing in select U.S. theaters.

Posted by Geoff at 1:07 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 19, 2013 1:08 AM CDT
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The full interview segment of Brian De Palma's appearance on CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight last night is now available to watch on the program's web site. The segment with De Palma is at the start of the show, and lasts about six minutes or so. De Palma talks about Passion, plays around with the idea of texting during dates, discusses the lack of a current counterculture in film, Robert De Niro, and quotes from Scarface.

Strombo: "You came of age in the cinema when you guys were picking big fights with society, the counterculture movement was in fact not about just looks."

BDP: "No, no, no."

Strombo: "It was the opposite of that."

BDP: "And we had another war we shouldn't have been in: Vietnam."

Strombo: "Is that what it was, you think the war's..."

BDP: "Oh, absolutely."

Strombo: "Because then where are the countercultural films today, then?"

BDP: "That's the problem! Because you don't see many sort of political films other than the... I mean, obviously, you don't have to make political films all the time, but when you see a lot of stuff going out there that's annoying you, you would think that, you know, your blood would be stirred. That you'd go out and make a movie about it saying, 'This is not right'"

Strombo: "You obviously have to keep busy, but you also said there isn't enough anger in American cinema anymore."

BDP: "Well, I was very upset about the whole war, and what the Bush administration was doing, so that's why I made Redacted. Because I didn't think that they were telling us the truth. What else is new? Your government is lying to you, what else is new? But I felt we were doing some very bad things in far away places."

Strombo: "And you didn't think that was the right coverage of it."

BDP: "Oh, I knew-- an embedded reporter? That's like having somebody on the payroll."

Posted by Geoff at 7:40 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 19, 2013 6:56 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The above video is a clip from tonight's episode of CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. In the clip, Strombo shows a scene from De Palma's The Wedding Party, and asks De Palma about casting the 20-year-old Robert De Niro in his first film. Here is the transcript from the Strombo site, as well:

GS: The Wedding Party, 1963, Robert De Niro, 20 years old in that. Is that his first film?

BDP: Yes, that was his first film.

GS: When you saw him did you know that there is something special there?

BDP: He came in to an audition. We were in a loft in the Village and we put an ad in the Village Voice and we were just seeing one actor after another then this sort of timid kid came in, the last one in. We had him do a little improvisation and we thought 'Hey, this kid is pretty good' and he said ok, but there's something I've been preparing in my class can I show it to you. The kid had the part, I mean, okay. So he goes outside and we're sititng around and it's like 5, 10 15 [minutes], we figured he had gone home and then he came in a did this incredible scene from 'The Strike', the Clifford Odets play about the taxi strike . He was ranting and raving and [yells] and you think, holy mackerel. That's Bob De Niro.

Posted by Geoff at 8:05 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Brian De Palma is a scheduled guest for Wednesday's edition of CBC Television's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. The web site description states, "Director Brian De Palma is here to talk about his new movie Passion and his long career in the movie biz. From Carrie, his breakthrough feature which redefined 'prom night disaster' to the iconic Scarface, this is a director who keeps the audience's attention."

De Palma's appearance comes just two days after Steven Bauer appeared on the show (see video above). Bauer is making the rounds for his role on the new Showtime series Ray Donovan, but spent most of his interview talking about Scarface. Stroumboulopoulos asked Bauer, "Does the Manny from Scarface thing happen every day in your life?" To which Bauer replied, "Every single day is a Scarface day." In discussing his role on AMC's Breaking Bad, Bauer mentioned that, again, Scarface came through for him, because creator Vince Gilligan, a fan of De Palma's film, had the idea to basically take Manny and put him in the show.

Bauer was also interviewed by Parade's Joel Keller, and dicussed screenwriter Oliver Stone getting banned from the Scarface set: "There was so much disagreement on some points that Oliver Stone was banned from the movie. He was banned from the set. Brian [De Palma] didn’t want him around. For the most part, Al [Pacino] didn’t either, because Oliver would show up with a big fat script under his arm and he’d say ‘Have you shot this today?’ And he would always find me: ‘Steve. Steve. Come here. Have you shot this scene?’ And I’d say, ‘No. They cut it. We’re not doing it.’ And he’d go crazy and he’d run into Al’s dressing room and he’d be nuts. He would have a big battle with Brian De Palma and Brian was just like ‘You know what? You did your job. You let us make the movie.’"

Bauer also told Keller about the initial bad reviews: "Some of them were really horrible on Al, on his acting. They were like ‘Oh, he’s over the top. He’s become operatic. He should go back to acting school.’ It was really, really terrible, and it’s funny because he had prepared me for it. We were together all the time and I used to speculate. I used to drive him crazy and say, ‘What do you think? Can you imagine…’ because we’d finish a scene and it would be so out there, so crazy. He always kept me with him and I would make him laugh and stuff. We’d joke about stuff and I’d say ‘What do you think your fans are going to think of this Montana character?’ He used to say, ‘All I can do is do what I do every day and try not to think about their responses.’ He said ‘They’re either going to love it or they’re going to hate it. It’s not going to be middle ground.’ And that’s exactly what happened."

Posted by Geoff at 11:35 PM CDT
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