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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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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 11:03 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:13 AM CDT
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Tom Seymour at Ideas Tap posted a terrific interview with Brian De Palma yesterday, focusing on aspects of filmmaking such as preparation, improvisation, and motivation. When asked by Seymour how much preparation he does before he shoots a film, De Palma replies, "Pre-production is extensive. For Passion, I spent years laying out the whole movie with computer architectural programs. I scouted the locations myself and storyboarded every shot in the movie. I spent a lot of time working out the lighting for the surrealistic aspects of the film.

"Every film I make, I try and incorporate new technology in order to pre-visualise the movie from beginning to end, and modern programmes allow you to do practically everything. So I designed each storyboard, and when it came to printing them out, I had these huge stacks of the whole movie; I knew exactly what I wanted minute from minute on set."

Seymour then asks if De Palma believes in improvisation on the set. "Yes," De Palma replies, "you have to adjust your vision for the film according to what happens on the day. I focus really intently when I’m on set. I’m always looking for emotional shifts, for little interactions between the actors, for what’s happening to the weather or the light. If you have a plan to return to, it affords you the ability to freestyle a little bit. Filmmaking is like catching [lightning] in a bottle; you have to be adept at looking at what’s going on at that moment, because if it’s on the film it will be there forever."

When Seymour asks what motivates him as a director, De Palma replies, "I’m motivated by big cinematic ideas and broad canvasses. I believe deeply in the big screen. A lot of independent films now are walking and talking movies, which hold little interest to me, while the top of the industry is dominated by comic books. There’s a lot of opportunity for people to explore the boundaries of cinema still – even if they’re working on a $2,000 budget – and I’d encourage anyone to do that."

Seymour concludes by asking De Palma for his advice to young filmmakers. Read the answer to that, along with the rest of the interview, at Ideas Tap.

Posted by Geoff at 8:41 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 15, 2013
A couple of interesting Passion reviews were posted the other day. Michael Ewins begins his review with this paragraph:

"If there’s a more definitive auteurist statement put to film this year than the dazzling split-screen centrepiece of Brian De Palma’s Passion – a close-up on trembling female eyes and puckered lips; a showering blonde; an elegant ballet; black gloves and a giallo mask – I’ve yet to see it, and frankly I don’t want to. A lithe, luscious and serpentine thriller, varnished and executed to perfection, Passion is equivalent to Cocteau’s Orphée (1950), Fellini’s City Of Women (1980) and even Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) as a summation, examination and evolution of the aesthetic and thematic motifs of a director’s cinema – it is a rare item of authorial perfection, even if the experience itself is not perfect."

Ewins states that, "like the best of De Palma, Passion evokes such a precise feel through framing, light and editing that you could follow the story just as well with the sound off," adding that "the fever-pitch finale is a wordless, cross-cut masterstroke." He concludes with the following two paragraphs:

"A final note – watch it twice. A first viewing will find you figuring out the tone, nodding toward the references and enjoying the ride as it picks up traction. The second time around those initial twenty minutes sit more comfortably – a whirlwind of office politics, sexual betrayal and callback setups (it threatens us with a doppelgänger motif and then holds it back for the duration), it plays more self-aware in the knowledge of what follows, and you gather that the slightly undisciplined structure is all in service of a greater good – those juicy auteurist cues.

"Passion is an extraordinary return to form for De Palma, and its presumed (not to mention expected) awfulness turns out to be gleeful, self-aware genre abandon – this is a mucky, perverse world full of ludicrous twists and turns, flashbacks, lesbian trysts and pill-popping anti-heroes. If you’re not having fun, you’re just not doing it right."

Keith Uhlich posted a Letterboxd review of Passion, in which he states, "I'm totally with this movie right from the moment Rachel McAdams chokingly says, 'It's organic.'" Uhlich loves how Passion "is a tri-perspective thriller that moves from the cold, calculating blonde to the all-in vengeful brunette to the haunt-you-even-in-death redhead. The surfaces are so enticing, and the depth emerges from the collision of emblems—not just hair color but zeitgeisty products (Mac computers; Panasonic cell phones; an ill-fated Coca-Cola machine) and strata of art (an ass-cam advertisement that goes YouTube viral and the Jerome Robbins version of Afternoon of a Faun, which may or may not have actually been witnessed)."

Uhlich concludes, "The key scene for me is the one in which McAdams tearily talks about her twin sister (who of course appears subsequently with bloody scarf—this film's Hermès handbag—in murderous hand), if only because it brings me back to that great Mission: Impossible exchange between Jean Reno and Emmanuelle Béart, which concisely and poetically sums up the polarizing De Palma project: 'Is he serious?'/'Always.'"

Posted by Geoff at 1:09 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:10 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
A new 35mm print of Brian De Palma's The Fury will screen at 7pm Thursday night as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cinematheque series tribute to Roger Ebert. The series summer opened July 12 with Carol Reed's The Third Man. Cinematheque director Jim Healy told Madison.com that with the series, he "wanted to showcase the sheer range and eclecticism of Ebert’s tastes, from the great movies he loved to the guilty pleasures he enjoyed to the little-seen underdogs he championed," according to the article by Rob Thomas. A sidebar with Thomas' article includes a quote from Ebert about The Fury: "I'm not quite sure it makes a lot of sense, but that's the sort of criticism you only make after it's over. During the movie, too much else is happening."

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 12:14 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 12:36 AM CDT
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Monday, August 12, 2013
Cine Vue's John Bleasdale interviewed Brian De Palma at the Venice Film Festival last September, and posted the article today, as Passion is released on DVD and VOD in the U.K. and Ireland. Back when talking about Passion was still quite fresh for him, De Palma compared it to The Women (a film he mentioned briefly in a more recent interview), and also answered a question about the giallo genre his films are often compared with. De Palma tells Bleasdale that with Passion, "I set out to make what I thought was a clever mystery even cleverer. Redacted is completely driven by men and so making this we're doing the opposite. It's a bunch of conniving business women who are passionately entwined, and it's like George Cukor's The Women. It's all these women manoeuvring."

When asked by Bleasdale about the idea that Passion uses many giallo tropes, De Palma responds, "That's a genre I've heard a lot about, but I'm completely unfamiliar with. Martin Scorsese talks about them all the time. He's shown me a few movies a long time ago, but I've never connected with it."

Bleasdale brings up the split screen sequence in Passion, which leads De Palma to discuss his love of silent pictures. "In my whole career, I've been fascinated by long, silent periods which are punctuated and scored by music. I should have been a silent movie director. I just love that form. And I'm probably one of the few directors who's still practising it. Whenever I do a sequence in a film everyone says 'Yikes! What's that?' Why isn't everybody talking all the time. Everybody is brought up on television. All you have is heads talking to each other. It's very easy to shoot - a close-up here, a close-up there - but for me this is boredom. We have a big visual screen here, we can do all kinds of things with the camera, so I try to find material which lends itself to that."

De Palma also talks to Beasdale about how screens are getting smaller and smaller, how the "big spectacular movies" on IMAX are basically kids movies, and how at 71 years of age, Marvel superheroes don't interest him anymore. When asked if he worries about the future of serious cinema, De Palma replies, "No, because there's a whole independent cinema. It's cheaper to make movies. You can make a film with your high definition camera and edit them on your Mac, so you can make personal movies that cost nothing. Whether you write a novel or paint a painting, it's always difficult to get anyone to look at it." The interview concludes with De Palma contrasting his early days working for studios with today: "When you're making a big studio picture there are a lot of meetings and you're getting a stack of notes on your script. I grew up in the era when the director was the superstar and said, 'Fuck you, take your notes and throw them out the window.' And we got away with it for a while."

Posted by Geoff at 8:21 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:38 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 11, 2013
Issue 90 of Cineaction, available now, carries the theme of authorship. To that end, David Greven has written a terrific essay about Brian De Palma's Obsession for the issue. Titled, "De Palma's Vertigo," Greven starts out by stating that he thinks Obsession "is one of De Palma's finest" films. Greven suggests that instead of playing down the ties to Hitchcock in De Palma's work, as is the tendency of De Palma's supporters, "we should do the opposite." Throughout the article, Greven notes echoes of Hitchcock in Obsession, from, obviously, Vertigo, but also from Rebecca, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho, Dial M For Murder, Suspicion, and Marnie.

Along the way, Greven makes some keen observations about Obsession, such as this one about Courtland:

"The ostensible hero of this film, Courtland is quite an ambivalently rendered character. While the movie sypathetically evokes his pain over the death of his wife and daughter, it also frequently invites us to regard him skeptically. He is a dark, brooding, disturbing figure, and De Palma's treatment of him is characteristic of the director's critical disposition towards American masculinity in his work generally. In my view, this is the most important political dimension of De Palma's work.

"A telling example of the film's detached position toward Courtland is the brilliant pure-cinema sequence in which he makes the drop-off of the fake ransom money, as a French-accented detective urges him to do, during the first kidnapping. Herrmann's score charges the entire sequence with grandiloquent portentousness. As he journeys on the ferry the 'Cotton Blossom' (which evokes images of the Old South), its huge red wheel churning in the water like the tragic gears of fate, Courtland, in dark sunglasses and dark suit, macabrely tapping his wedding-ringed finger on the black suitcase full of blank paper, seems more like the villain, a coldly impassive hired assassin on his way to a hit. If the sequence can be read as a critique of normative masculinity, an entirely incongruous but also richly symbolic detail reinforces this critique. A troupe of Boy Scouts scamper aboard the Cotton Blossom as it departs. We pull back to see, from a distance, the stoic, impassive, opaque image of Courtland standing on the deck as the Scouts board the ship. Later, after Courtland has hurled the suitcase on the wooden planks of the drop-off point, we see only the ghostly shadows of the Scouts. Here is the payoff of the Boy Scout motif, an eerie dream-image of boyhood and lost promise, suggesting that adult masculinity derives from a corruption of a former state of innocence. Even stranger is the shot of Courtland after he has dropped off the money, standing alone in a passageway, dark sunglasses and dark suit intensifying his dark-haired appearance, as the brown waters beneath the ferry churn. Discordantly, this shot further conveys the sense that he is a dubious, even frightening figure, far from the sympathetic male lead on the verge of losing everything."


In the final paragraphs, Greven discusses potential allegories that can be applied to the climax of Obsession, and suggests that De Palma's chief identification figure in the film is not Courtland, but Sandra/Amy. Greven argues that Courtland should be read "as an allegorical figure of the Hollywood machine, the movie producer and studio head figured as the dark, dubious specter of male power." He's the one who finally "comes up with the money." Hitchock, then, fittingly, aligns with the dead mother. According to Greven, "Hitchcock is... the figure of the dead mother whom Sandra [De Palma's identification figure] obsessively copies but also strives to surpass, of whom she attempts to become the new and desired and, most importantly of all, living version."

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:37 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 10, 2013
The Skinny's Paul Houghton from the U.K. posted an article about Brian De Palma yesterday. In discussing Passion, De Palma tells Houghton, "I've always been controversial. I’m not like my peers that went to Hollywood in the 70s. They became the establishment, but I’m not liked in certain quarters of the industry because I’ve always tried to do things on my own terms. I see myself as an outsider."

Houghton discusses Metrodome's decision to skip theatrical and release Passion straight to DVD (it comes out on Monday; Houghton includes a quote from the distributor), and this moves into a discussion about Redacted and political filmmaking. Here's an excerpt:

Metrodome, the film’s UK distributor, have deemed the film a non-starter for the cinema, instead sending it straight to DVD and video on demand. They said in a statement to The Skinny: “Brian De Palma has an in-built fan base, but a genre like this can be difficult to release theatrically. It’s a turbulent theatrical market and we felt this was the best way to launch the film to UK audiences.”

It’s a marked decline for a director who deserves to be considered an A-lister. Years before Martin Scorsese was on the scene, De Palma was giving Robert De Niro his breaks on the streets of New York with anti-Vietnam films Greetings and Hi Mom!, and comedy of errors The Wedding Party. In the mid-70s, he handed Scorsese the Taxi Driver script. In his first Hollywood gig, Get to Know Your Rabbit, De Palma directed Orson Welles. He was the man George Lucas turned to when he got stuck on the Star Wars "A long time ago…” prologue. He was selected by Tom Cruise to kickstart the Mission: Impossible franchise, creating the iconic image of Cruise hanging suspended above a neon-white, touch-sensitive room, a bead of sweat hanging from his glasses. Now he’s pinning his hopes on the whims of iTunes, Sky Box Office and Tescos.

It seems a strange decision, but Metrodome have crunched their numbers. De Palma, though, is sanguine about the release: “I made this film, as I’ve made all my films, to be seen on the big screen,” he says. “But I’m in my seventies now, and I see my daughter watching most of her films on her laptop. Technology will continue to change everything, so what are we going to do about it? Anyway, the cinema to me seems more about pre-sold franchises, and that has absolutely no interest to me whatsoever.”

This isn’t the first De Palma film to scale the murkier depths of British film releasing. Femme Fatale never saw the inside of a British cinema while Redacted, [2007]’s deeply controversial “fictional documentary” about human rights abuses – on both sides – of the Iraq war, got a brief and limited theatrical run before disappearing from view. “Redacted did something that no film has ever done; it criticised the American troops,” he says. “That’s unheard of in America. You just can’t question the boys. But the film came from stories soldiers were sharing of their experiences and posting online. I still find it gob-smacking – disgusting –that we tried to claim victory in that country.”

Redacted, he concedes, may have impacted on his ability to find funding for his films. But he doesn’t regret making the film, seeing it as a return to his formative years. The young De Palma consciously positioned himself as “America’s Godard,” spending the 60s independently making angry liberal firebrand films on the East Coast before Hollywood called as he hit 30. It is, he says, the great failing of the generation of filmmakers that will follow him: “I’m confounded by the lack of political films out there by young directors. The corruption that exists in the circles of power, be it in Washington or Hollywood, remain industrial. It hasn’t changed since I was young. But where are the political filmmakers? Where’s the outrage? The public relations people are in control of the media now.”

Posted by Geoff at 6:13 PM CDT
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Friday, August 9, 2013
Bullett Media's Joshua Sperling asked Brian De Palma to discuss "5 of his most unforgettable films." Of course, one of the five is his newest, Passion, still pretty unforgettable. However, the most interesting portion of the article has De Palma talking about his adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire Of The Vanities, which De Palma had originally defended, but then in more recent years, seemed to have conceded to having made some mistakes with the film by altering the source novel. Now, more than 20 years after its release, De Palma tells Sperling that he finds his film successful, after all. Sperling himself states that Bonfire "now ranks as one of De Palma’s most underrated and exuberant studies of the absurd theater of American politics."

Here is what De Palma said to Sperling about the film: "The opening tracking shot was a very important way into the film. It took about 27 or 28 takes to get it right. The idea for the shot actually came from observing Truman Capote stumbling into parties completely drunk or drugged-up. I had been to a lot of those parties and I thought that’s how it should be for Bruce’s character: the voyage from the parking garage up through all the different strata of New York high society until his arrival at the huge palm garden of the World Trade Center. I started out making political comedies, caustic commentaries about the state of our society. The Bonfire of the Vanities felt like an extension of that. When I read the book I quite liked it. I thought it was an acerbic rendering of a particular madness going on in the ’80s. When I was adapting it I thought I should make the central banker character a little more sympathetic than he was in the book, and Tom [Hanks] was a good choice for that. But, of course, the film unnerved everybody because it wasn’t like the novel, which was, by then, a treasured icon of the New York literary scene. I changed things to make the film more palatable but they ended up upsetting a lot of people and it got very bad reviews. Looking back, I find it a very successful picture. It just isn’t the book."

Another film discussed is Mission: Impossible. "This was the first film Tom [Cruise] ever produced," De Palma tells Sperling. "Because I’d produced a couple of pictures at that point, he and his partner Paula [Wagner] at times relied on my judgment. I remember that Tom was very responsive and straightforward. There were two very difficult scenes in the film: the CIA vault scene and the one atop the train. We had a jet engine creating the wind for the train sequence. You couldn’t stand up without being blown off. The shot where Tom does the flip, that’s really dangerous stuff for anyone to do. He did it twice for us, which was very brave. We were on top of that train for weeks and weeks. As for the CIA vault, that was my idea. I’d wanted to do an incredible action sequence that was completely silent. And then I had to think of all the things that could go wrong as the character tried to lower himself upside-down into this mythic vault. It was a sequence I thought about for months and months before I actually filmed it. Whatever people say, it’s always exciting to have a blockbuster. Everybody thinks you’re a genius for 30 seconds."

De Palma also talks about Carrie and Scarface. Of the latter, he tells Sperling, "Some people say this film is excessive—I disagree. The script was a direct report by Oliver [Stone] on the places he visited in Miami. He saw all the clubs, the coke on the tables. People were cutting each other up with chainsaws! We had a battle with the MPAA because they wanted to give it an X rating. We even had narcotics cops from Florida come to testify that people should see this film because it showed what was actually happening. On a deeper, thematic level, Scarface is about something that recurs in a lot of my films: the megalomania of American society that can lead to excessiveness, greed, and very cruel interplays between people who are desperate to stay on top. Wealth and power isolates you. Whether you’re Walt Disney or Hugh Hefner, you create a bubble around yourself. It’s that old cliché: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Pacino conveyed that perfectly. He kept his Cuban accent, on- and off-set. His sidekick in the film, Steven Bauer, was Cuban, so they were constantly speaking in that accent during the shoot. There are a lot of quotable moments in the film but my favorite is, ‘Every day above ground is a good day.’"

Posted by Geoff at 12:53 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 9, 2013 5:55 PM CDT
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