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a la Mod:

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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Scarface: Make Way
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(Blow Out)

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De Palma a la Mod

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Friday, August 30, 2013
Karoline Herfurth has been acting in front of the camera since she was ten years old, when she appeared in the German television movie Holiday Beyond The Moon. After playing teenagers in several feature films, she gained international recognition for her role as "The Plum Girl," the initial victim in Tom Tykwer's Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer, which starred Dustin Hoffman, Ben Whishaw, and Alan Rickman. In 2008, she appeared with Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes in Stephen Daldry's Oscar-nominated adaptation of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader. That same year, Herfurth played dance student Lilli Richter in Caroline Links' A Year In Winter, a role which won her the Bavarian Film Award for best young actress. In 2010, Herfurth starred in We Are The Night, as a young woman drawn into a clan of female vampires.

In Brian De Palma's Passion, Herfurth plays Dani, the assistant who has a crush on her boss, Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). Dani is sort of the film's secret weapon, an inquisitive soul harboring an unrequited desire that quietly begins to boil over as the narrative twists and turns into an absurd surreality, and Herfurth portrays her with a captivating expressiveness. The actress graciously agreed to an e-mail interview with De Palma a la Mod, which was conducted last month through her publicist.

LaMod: How did you become involved with Passion?

Karoline Herfurth: I was simply asked by the casting agency that worked for Passion in Germany to audition for them. Then I was invited to come a second time to work with Brian De Palma himself on the scenes.

What were your thoughts upon reading the Passion screenplay? Were you previously familiar with the original French film by Alain Corneau?

No, I´ve never heard of it. But I loved the script and I was thrilled by the idea of working with Brian De Palma. Also working with such huge names like Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace was just overwhelming to me.

What was the rehearsal period like for this project?

We had a whole week to read the script and ask all the questions we have with the story and the characters. It was very intense and a special experience to me, to see Rachel, Brian and Noomi working. Very Inspiring. I learned a lot from these days.

Can you think of anything specific that was perhaps changed or altered after playing it out in rehearsals?

Brian is a Visionary. He knows exactly what he needs for his movie. And he sees every little thing you play for him. For me it was more about understanding what he wants me to do, not to change anything.

Was it a fun change of pace to be able to speak German in some of the scenes?

For me it is weird to switch between the languages. English is a whole other world. It´s like being in an phantasy already. Switching to German is mostly disturbing. It feels hard and dry. I love talking in English. It gives new possibilities of transformation to me.

I have to ask-- Was the "Ass Cam" commercial actually shot from a camera in your own back pocket?

Yes, partly it was :-)

What was it like to work with Brian De Palma on the set? Can you recall any specific direction he gave that stands out in your mind?

Yes. There is this moment, when my character sees through the window into the restaurant and watches her love Isabelle flirting with another man, and, in her eyes, betraying her. Brian wanted me to walk to a certain point, see the two, be hurt and then cry. He was very exact with the timing and I had to redo it certain times. When I finally had it done, he came to me and kissed my forehead without saying any more. He exactly knows, what it means to play those scenes for an actor. He demands everything from you as an actor, but if you give it to him, he sees it as a present and is thankful. He knows that it means giving a part of your soul. And that is very special.

You wrote and directed a short film, Mittelkleiner Mensch, that was well-received at some film festivals last year. How did that come about? And how was the experience of making the film?

In the beginning it was just a joke and to have a little fun with some friends. But after a while it became more serious and kind of developed its own dynamic. It was like a little monster that grew bigger and bigger and all I could do was feed it, because it was hungry. I think, mostly, making movies feels like that. But it is the greatest and most passionate thing to do in the world I could think of. And I loved it. For the first time I was never bored, not for a second. It was a very fulfilling experience.

Do you think you might direct a feature film someday?

I hope so. There is a movie planned for next year :-)

Did you learn anything new about filmmaking while working on Passion?

Yes. A lot. Brian is a director who is prepared to the very last bit. That is very important for a shooting day. Then he knows exactly what he wants without being closed to impulses. To me that is a very important skill and fine balance a director needs to have. Also, the professional way of working, and the script, and on the set watching Rachel and Noomi impressed me.

Was it fun working with Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace?

Yes, a lot. They are fine and very nice colleagues. We had a lot of fun and I loved working with them and learning from them.

Follow Karoline Herfurth on her Facebook page.

Posted by Geoff at 2:02 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 31, 2013 10:03 AM CDT
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Deadline includes Passion in its Specialty Box Office preview this week, informing that "Entertainment One will open it Labor Day weekend in 14 cities including New York and L.A. It will expand to the top 25 to 30 markets based on performance." Meanwhile, here are some more of the reviews that are coming in:

A. O. Scott, New York Times
"Its misogyny is the kind that can plausibly masquerade as feminism, and Passion is interesting precisely insofar as it succeeds in scrambling the distinction... Passion is often sleek and enjoyable, dispensing titillation, suspense and a few laughs without taking itself too seriously. Mr. De Palma, as he did in Femme Fatale, revels in a sleek, chic idea of Europe that is as far from reality (and as much fun to visit) as Woody Allen’s in Midnight in Paris.”

Armond White, City Arts
"Apparently nothing in this old-hat story of corporate skullduggery and female betrayal stimulated DePalma creatively as Hitchcock, Lang, Welles and Godard used to–so he also rehashes himself: Passion offers familiar DePalma tropes from multiple point-of-view imagery, T&A shots to an aggressive/seductive Pino Donaggio music score, even a split-screen sequence. Strangely, there’s no teasing slo-mo; a lack that suggests tepid enthusiasm."

Binx Bolling, City Arts
POSSIBLE SPOILERS-- "The final, overhead shot of Brian De Palma’s Passion twists to reveal an inverted diptych a la Masahiro Shinoda’s Double Suicide. The shot denotes two things: 1) one character waking from a nightmare and, then, 2) another character murdered. The shot also connotes two things: 1) guilt and 2) fear of punishment. It confirms the film’s relationship dynamics as based on authority and power...

"Later, in the events leading up to the murder and following in its investigation, De Palma and dp Jose Luis Alcaine use stylized lighting and wide-angle lenses to approximate a barbiturate p.o.v.—but this proves another red herring (aimed at fooling both the legal authorities and the movie audience).

"Finally, the appearance of a fictional twin (the return of the authority figure) begins the climactic nightmare. In it, the boss brings vengeance upon her subordinate in wild De Palma fashion: slow motion signifies dread inevitability in every impotent effort to dispose of evidence and regain control of the narrative."

Damon Houx, Screen Crave
"The Maestro is back! For those who’ve loved his thrillers like Sisters, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, etc. this is a delight. And though it’s disappointing that a great piece of film like this only gets a limited release and is mostly avaiable through VOD, it’s one of the best films of the year."

Lou Lumenick, New York Post
"Auterist critics have been raving about De Palma using a split screen to show a murder and a ballet performance simultaneously ever since this played last fall’s festival circuit. But really, exactly what narrative purpose does this serve?"

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"Passion, Brian De Palma's voluptuously ludicrous new thriller, features his buzziest cast in a while, and the presence of Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace seems to have rooted him — at least for the first half. The movie starts out as a reasonably contained satire of office politics. McAdams uses her sexy billboard smile and emphatic delivery to nail a certain type of troublemaker boss who embeds her aggression in pert 'sincerity.' And Rapace, who appears tremulous and servile but may be a more competitive head case, keeps you guessing.

"The women's sisterly bond teeters into romance and then treachery, but it's all just an excuse for De Palma to go wild with indulgence. Having kept his gliding-camera 'Hitchcockian' impulses in submission for close to an hour, he then gives in to them like a recovering alcoholic reaching for a shot of Wild Turkey. Why, for five minutes, does half the screen show McAdams walking through her house, tracked by camera movement that's less Hitchcockian than Halloween-ian, while the other half depicts the ballet performance Rapace is attending? Passion turns into vintage De Palma — which is to say, the film seems almost engineered to get you giggling at the extravagance of its absurdity. Any enthusiasm in the viewer is bound to be a shadow of the film's passion for itself."

Justin Craig, FOX News
"One of the great joys of any De Palma film is getting swept up in the cinematography, editing and music. Whether or not the acting or story work in any given De Palma film, you can almost guarantee a masterful aural and visual canvas. De Palma’s frequent composer Pino Donaggio’s noirish score fervently delivers seduction and suspense from start to finish. José Luis Alcaine’s cinematography is visceral and striking; shots pop like a sleek magazine ad and often lingers right on the edge of inclusion, as if the audience is watching a psychological experiment from behind a double mirror."

Posted by Geoff at 12:24 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 30, 2013 12:27 AM CDT
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 7:28 AM CDT
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Reviews of Passion are proliferating-- here are some samples:

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York
"The mood isn’t one of white-knuckle suspense so much as white-noise allure: Every element seems a little too perfectly placed, to the point that we’re always waiting, mesmerized and on edge, for the other shoe to drop. Murder is, of course, on the horizon, captured in a typically bravura split-screen sequence juxtaposing a masked stalker’s throat-slitting adventures with a performance of the Jerome Robbins–choreographed ballet Afternoon of a Faun. The film also seamlessly shifts between the antiheroines’ perspectives—throwing our allegiances off-balance, even moving in and out of the world of drug-addled dreams until we don’t have a leg to stand on. (A scene in which a high-heel model, shot enticingly from the waist down, takes an ankle-busting tumble is this mischievous movie in miniature.)"

Michael Koresky, Reverse Shot
"If it’s difficult to tell what’s business and what’s personal in the film’s intricate set-up, it’s even harder to separate reality from fantasy as the film slithers along to its boffo third act. Here is where De Palma breaks most drastically from Corneau’s film, plummeting down a rabbit hole of delirium that proves he was just using the original narrative as a basic skeleton to indulge in the ridiculous sublime. Whereas Corneau set his narrative up in a clinical and cold-blooded manner (perfectly acceptable for the sleek austerity of the setting), De Palma plunges into excess, positing the characters’ actions as dreams within dreams, and using nightmarishly canted frames and elegant split-screens to toy with both the audience’s perspective and his characters’ subjectivity (Pino Donaggio’s driving, tango-ish score begins to have an identity crisis of its own, starting to sample bits from Debussy’s 'Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune,' foreshadowing a thrillingly staged ballet scene). There’s an audacity to this that elevates it far above matters of style: De Palma is making pliable a rigidly established film that had clear emotional in and out points, reconfiguring its emotional makeup in a way that confuses, or even rejects, easy identification—with both character and reality."

Glenn Heath Jr., San Diego City Beat
"Brian De Palma's lustrous thriller Passion is one nasty parlor game. It constructs a sleek 21st-century world where fantasy is as pervasive as technology or sex. The desire to fulfill such urges drives us to befriend and betray, compete and consume.

"Hints of primary color populate the crisp modern architecture and décor, giving reality a dreamlike glow and infusing delusions with a scary sense of contorted normalcy. Sometimes, even hallucinations have hallucinations."

Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly
"Such are the vagaries of arthouse distribution these days that works by the masters now premiere on your cable box. Following in the footsteps of Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder and Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, Brian De Palma’s Passion opens this weekend in a scant few cinemas, but is already available via Video on Demand. I wish it were possible to see Passion on a big screen locally because it’s a kinky corker, the most gloriously lurid and downright De Palma-est Brian De Palma movie since 2002’s Femme Fatale, which I may have once watched twice in a row just to soak in all the sleazy, giddy abandon. (I might have done the same with Passion, but I’m not ready to admit as much in public just yet.)"

Marshall Fine, Hollywood and Fine
"Passion isn’t Brian De Palma’s first remake, but it may be his worst: an over-inflated, melodramatically hot-blooded version of what was a cool French thriller."

Drew C. Taylor, U.K. Film News
"A significant, and powerful change made by De Palma was in making the lead characters closer in age. The competitiveness has a more natural feel, like the kind that might arise between siblings. This shift in the interpersonal dynamic between Christine and Isabelle helps the film focus on the occasionally poisonous dynamic between women in the workplace without also bringing in the psychological baggage of age.

"With Rachel McAdams, De Palma attempts to give us a femme fatale we ultimately hate ourselves for desiring. So selfish, so self serving, so morally thin and sadistic, McAdams presents a Christine who fears – at any moment – she could be interchanged with any colleague, especially Isabelle. So hungry for power and recognition, Christine is the embodiment of everything a person could come to fear in a co-worker."

Posted by Geoff at 1:06 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Thanks to Randy for pointing out to us that Brian De Palma is scheduled to be on hand for Q&As at the Lincoln Center screenings of Passion at 6:45pm on both Friday and Saturday (this weekend). Passion opens there this Friday, August 30th. Meanwhile, EOne Films, via Facebook, has posted a list of theaters in the U.S. that will be showing Passion when it opens this Friday.

Posted by Geoff at 9:56 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 12:06 AM CDT
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At last week's Summer Talks discussion at the Lincoln Center, our old friend Brett was in the audience, and got to ask Brian De Palma a question about Happy Valley. Here is my transcription of the exchange from the video of the event:

Brett: I know you’ve worked with Al Pacino in Scarface and Carlito’s Way, and as I understand, you’ll be working with him again in a new film about Joe Paterno. And I’m just curious, the first two being sort of tragic American stories, do you see your next film as like the completion of a trilogy of tragic American stories? And maybe, can you tell us a little bit more about this new production?

De Palma: Well, it’s indeed a tragic story, and it’s a part Al wants to play. I mean, that’s how it all started. You know, and it’s a great honor to direct Al. He’s, you know, one of the greatest actors of his generation. So, in order to tell it in a fair way, I mean, it’s sort of like Lawrence Of Arabia. Everybody has a different view on what happened. So the idea of the script is to try and represent each view equally, and let the audience try to figure out what exactly happened and who’s culpable.

On August 29, Vanity Fair posted an interview with De Palma by Jason Guerrasio, who also asked De Palma about Happy Valley, and about working with Pacino again. "It’s a fantastic part for him," De Palma told Guerrasio. "It’s almost like a King Lear–type of part. When you look at something like Scarface you see the incredible performance he gives. It’s always exciting for a director to work with someone like that." Guerrasio then asked if he and Pacino had talked yet about how he's going to play Paterno. "Oh yeah," De Palma replied, "we've exchanged extensive e-mails. It has begun."

Posted by Geoff at 9:43 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:19 AM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 6:45 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 5:39 PM CDT
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Jacob Knight at Very Aware has posted a wonderfully-written ranking of 28 Brian De Palma features (he left Dionysus In '69 off the list).

Throughout the article, Knight keeps a running focus on autobiographical elements in De Palma's films, citing, for instance, Jason Zinoman's profile of De Palma for the book Shock Value in his entry on Dressed To Kill (#4). Knight's top three De Palma films are (#1) Blow Out ("the ending... solidifies Blow Out as De Palma’s bonafide masterwork"); (#2) Phantom Of The Paradise ("a careening bullet of pop art"); and (#3) Body Double (a "cinematic explosion meant to intoxicate those who are as in love with form as its director").

Also in Knight's top ten are a couple of surprises: Snake Eyes at number six, Mission: Impossible at number eight, and The Black Dahlia at number nine. De Palma's latest film, Passion, ranks at number 17. Of the latter, Knight writes, "There’s something to be said about De Palma’s choice of setting for the Berlin ad office — a towering building made entirely of glass. Not only does it feel like an on-the-nose visual representation of the 'ceiling' all female employees face as they navigate the current corporate climate, but also a metaphor for the lack of transparency all of these characters share. While we the audience can see through the walls of this crystal shrine to capitalism, each character holds up a shield of deception to stop the other from seeing their next move. It’s a brilliant bit of location scouting, as De Palma yet again finds a perfect way to convey an idea without using a single word."

At the bottom of Knight's list is Raising Cain, which Knight feels is hurt by De Palma's seeming lack of interest in that type of thriller at that point in time. And he has The Untouchables at number five, writing of the latter, "This is pulp on an epic, exciting level that takes both balls and chops in equal quantity to pull off."

Posted by Geoff at 1:15 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 5:40 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Several more interviews with Brian De Palma have posted between yesterday and today. Fandango's Robert B. DeSalvo asks De Palma what justifies a remake. "If it's a very good basic story," De Palma replies, "like when people do different versions of Shakespeare, why not interpret it many different ways? I've always thought that when you see something that is really done well, maybe it could be done again with a different viewpoint. This is something you see in all the other art forms. Whether it is an homage or whatever you want to call it, there are certain basic stories that can be retold over and over again. I'm not surprised that these movies are being remade, and the ones that I remade were because I could bring something new to the basic material."

When asked if he favors any of his own films over others, De Palma tells DeSalvo, "Well, take a movie like Wise Guys. It's not one of my favorites because nobody at the studio ever liked it. It was given a go by one administration and they left, and then another administration came in. It was a bastard child that no one wanted anything to do with, so that was not a pleasant experience. But I liked working with Danny DeVito so much that we managed to soldier through it."

De Palma brings up the Raising Cain Recut once again in response to DeSalvo's question about any films he would like to go back and change. "In Raising Cain," De Palma says, "I initially had thought to tell the story with the wife's story. But because John Lithgow was so fascinating playing these multiple characters, I started the movie with his story. Then some young director recut it and put the wife's story first. I looked at it and said, 'You're right. That's the way it should have been done.' So, yes, my initial instinct was correct."

DeSalvo asks whether De Palma would like to see any of his characters come back for a sequel. De Palma responds, "We were working on the prequel for The Untouchables, so a young Al Capone. But I guess they are doing that on television now [on Boardwalk Empire]. We were working on the prequel for many years, but it was under the former administration at Paramount."

DeSalvo asks De Palma, "What is a guilty-pleasure movie that you love that everyone else seemed to hate?"

"A movie I really liked that didn't do well was Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," replies De Palma. "It didn't do well at the box office, but I thought Shane Black did a fantastic job."

My favorite part of the interview is when DeSalvo says that "Passion is probably the first movie to feature someone using their toe to send a text." That leads into a discussion about how technology has changed the way we communicate with each other. When asked what is the "craziest criticism" he's ever read about him, De Palma replies, "That I'm a misogynist. I love women. I love working with women. I love to photograph them. I like stories where they are the principle characters. I'm interested in beauty and sensuality. That would be hard for someone who is supposed to be a hater of women."

The interview concludes with these two exchanges:


Fandango: Steven Soderbergh, who is 50, recently announced his retirement. Would you ever make an official announcement about your retirement like that?

De Palma: No, I would never make an announcement about that. I mean, who the hell cares?

Fandango: What movie would you like to make after Passion?

De Palma: I got interested about a year ago in the Joe Paterno case, and we're developing a screenplay for Al Pacino to play Joe Paterno. This is very distressing material, but I think we can make a really terrific movie from it. We're working on it now.


In a brief interview posted by Ned Ehrbar at Metro New York, De Palma discusses the sexuality at play in Passion: "I just let the girls go with the scene and just sat back to see what would happen. The way that Dani [played by Karoline Herfurth] offered herself to Isabelle [played by Noomi Rapace] — 'Kiss me!' — and then starts to undress her! [Laughs] All the girls, all their intimate stuff, was all improvised. They just play it. They make it as real as possible. If something’s not working, we try something else, but they were all fantastic, and it was just fascinating to watch them."

Slant's Fernando F. Croce yesterday posted his edition of a roundtable interview De Palma did at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. In discussing the viral ad in Passion's narrative, De Palma said, "I originally had thought of an incredibly more complicated commercial, all these dreams on top of one another. It got a bit too much like Inception. I showed it to a few director friends of mine, and they all said, 'What are you, crazy? Simplify!' [Laughs]"

At one point, De Palma is asked what his intention was with the split screen in Passion. He responds, "My intention? Now, what could that be? One interpretation is quite simple: Noomi is at the ballet. We're showing her watching the ballet at the same time somebody is stalking Rachel at her house. On the half of the screen where you see the ballet, we cut to a close-up of Noomi's eyes. [Mock-excited] Aha! Well, she must be at the ballet! She couldn't possibly be at the house, now could she? Meanwhile you see all these things going on back at the house, and when the POV shots start we don't see any more close-ups of Noomi's eyes. Viewers have become conditioned to expect A to lead to B, and accept it without question. The juxtaposition of the images on the screen seals a destination on viewers' minds, but do we go there or do we undermine it? Again, the important thing is to look actively at what's unfolding before us."

Asked how the screenplay influences him as a director, De Palma replies, "I tend to start with the camera. Some directors start with the characters and then proceed from that. Paul Thomas Anderson is a good example of somebody who builds his stories from the people on screen. Same thing with Noah Baumbach. They're very different from the way I do it, but that's why I like their movies. When I think of a scene, the people in it and what they're saying are just one element in a visual frame. And I like to use the entire frame instead of cutting from shot to over-the-shoulder shot, which I find very boring and TV-ish. I love when actors can play the scene continuously, the way you see in many films from the '40s or '50s. Maybe I'm becoming a bit anti-close-up in my old age. [Laughs]"

In discussing movie studios, De Palma mentions that Mission To Mars was affected by too many producer meetings. "As much as I want to think of myself as an outsider," De Palma says, "I've been able to work within the studio system for years. If your budget gets big, producers start to have too many meetings and chip away at the movie, which was the case with Mission to Mars. I guess it was around the time of Bonfire of the Vanities, the early '90s, when I started getting piles of notes, suggestions from the producers. In the beginning, in the 'day of the director' which is now long and far gone, you could make your movie and then preview it, say, in a theater in Texas and then be handed reports on audience reaction. You could still say, 'Sorry, that's it. I'm not changing a thing,' and get away with it. That's become harder and harder, and the directors of my generation just no longer have the stamina to deal with it. Hence our crotchetiness. [Laughs]"

When asked if he has any comments on Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, De Palma pauses, then chuckles before saying, "There's something very interesting about books like that. Here's my question: 'Who's talking to the writer?' Is it the unhappy ex-girlfriend? The bitter producer? The partner who got screwed out of some deal? They sure do a whole lot of talking, don't they? But the people who were actually making movies during that time period? They don't talk. Like me, for instance. You don't see me participating much in these books, which strikes me as very gossipy and reductive. You know, feeding into the whole sex, drugs, and rock n' roll myth."

And finally, yesterday Rooftop Films posted a "Filmwax Radio" podcast in which De Palma is interviewed by Adam Schartoff. The interview appears to be from about a year ago, when Passion was still playing film festivals and prior to having a U.S. distributor. There's discussion of Passion, as well as Redacted, and more.

Posted by Geoff at 8:24 PM CDT
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