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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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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

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Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
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So Why This Movie?

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Nothing Is Written

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Dangerous Minds


No Time For
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De Palma a la Mod

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nancy Allen shared three pics from the set of Brian De Palma's Blow Out on her Facebook page today (the pics were originally posted to Facebook by Marc Olry). Allen then added a comment to her post, writing, "Wonderful reunion yesterday with John Travolta, Vilmos Zsigmond and Paul Hirsch. We were filming part of a documentary about the extraordinary talent and career of Vilmos Zsigmond."

Posted by Geoff at 5:22 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, January 18, 2015 5:24 PM CST
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Friday, January 16, 2015
Kevin Costner was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award last night at the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards, presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Following an introduction by Rene Russo (a longtime friend of Costner's, fighting laryngitis) and Storage Wars auctioneer Dan Dotson, a montage of clips from Costner's films was screened, which included several bits from The Untouchables, highlighted by Costner's "You're not from Chicago" line in the movie. During his acceptance speech, Costner said, "I'd like to thank the directors who took a chance on me early: to Lawrence Kasdan, Brian De Palma, Phil Robinson, and of course, Ron Shelton. There's really not enough words-- you handed me my career."

Posted by Geoff at 12:13 AM CST
Updated: Friday, January 16, 2015 12:14 AM CST
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Amazon link

Religious Imagery In The Films Of Brian De Palma
(blog post by Ryan M. Holt from February 28, 2014)

Posted by Geoff at 9:35 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kevin Costner will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, during the BFCA Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on Thursday, January 15th. According to Variety's Malina Saval, the ceremony will be broadcast live on A&E. Saval quotes BFCA president Joey Berlin: "The choice of Kevin Costner to receive the Critics’ Choice Lifetime Achievement Award was inspired by seeing his performance in Mike Binder’s terrific new movie, Black or White. Playing a grieving widower drawn into a custody battle over his adorable granddaughter, Kevin shows depth and range that reminds us of what a wonderful actor he truly is."

Posted by Geoff at 11:44 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 11:45 PM CST
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Sunday, January 11, 2015
Eurogamer's Graeme Virtue posted an article today about Ocean Software's video game adaptation of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, which he recalls came out a couple of years after the film. "Things only get confusing in the late 1980s and early 1990s," states Virtue, "when Ocean Software were licensing major Hollywood action films willy-nilly, then enthusiastically marketing their game tie-ins to consumers who were often too young to go and see the actual movie. In these cases, the experiences of game and movie sometimes become so entwined that it's impossible to separate the different memories." Here's an excerpt in which he provides details of the Untouchables game:
The Untouchables, which arrived on 8-bit and 16-bit almost two years after Brian De Palma's 1987 movie had been a sizeable critical and commercial hit, felt marvellous at the time: an expansive, polished Prohibition-era shoot-em-up that offered up six relatively distinct mini-games. Thankfully, none of them involved completing a sliding block puzzle of Sean Connery's scowling face as Irish beat cop Malone, although many included the illicit thrill of a bootleg liquor gauge, even if your dogged G-Man was mostly destroying the booze rather than imbibing it. My experience on the Spectrum should have been the most lo-fi of all the home computer versions, but it somehow seemed like the classiest - enviably crisp sprites rendered in a consistent palette of black and cool blue, accompanied by a series of digitised mugshots that kinda, sorta looked like at least some of the actors.

Intentionally or not, The Untouchables was also a system-seller, as the downside of having six completely different levels was having to load almost every single one of them separately. Ownership or access to a disk-drive-enabled Spectrum +3 was absolutely essential for maximum enjoyment. On old-fashioned cassette, the tussle for Chicago supremacy between Eliot Ness and Al Capone became a downtime-punctuated crawl. To exacerbate matters, the first level was actually the worst - a platform scramble round an anonymous warehouse, with you as Kevin Costner's dourly single-minded Ness, tasked with gathering evidence against the notorious crime boss through the time-honoured process of wasting gangsters, hopping between precariously-stacked pallets and picking up violin cases to access a Thompson sub-machine gun.

Even Ocean must have suspected that floaty platforming didn't showcase their game at its best, as they widely released the second level as a demo instead. This turned out to be a masterstroke, because that instalment - based on a bootlegger shoot-out on a bridge at the Canadian border - is the best of the lot. In the spirit of the arcade game Cabal, it's a thrilling shooting gallery where your character is also visible on-screen, rolling across the ground while firing off rifle rounds and destroying hooch barrels. A separate binocular scope nominally shows where you're aiming, but it's pretty easy to gauge from the trail of dustclod ricochets and trenchcoat-wrapped bodies you leave in your trigger-happy wake.

The third level, where you heft a shotgun in a tense alleyway shootout and swap between your four Untouchables to keep the mission-vital ones alive, is almost as good. But it's level four - where the action switches from side-on to top-down - that is especially memorable, as it recreates the most iconic scene in the movie, a haphazard shootout at a railway station that takes place while a baby's pram bumps through the crossfire. It was De Palma's celebrated, agonisingly drawn-out tribute to the Odessa Steps massacre in the silent movie classic Battleship Potemkin.

Just as BDP atomised and expanded what must have been a pretty sparse page of script - there's no dialogue, apart from a mimed scream of "my baby!" from the panicking mother - so the game extends it even further, charging you with managing the health of both Ness and the baby. Admittedly, it's another shooting gallery, albeit one that gives you the morally questionable option to use the pram as a temporary shield, safe in the knowledge that you can subsequently hustle it toward a restorative first-aid kit at the next landing. But 25 years on, another thought occurs: did The Untouchables accidentally invent the dreaded escort mission?

In the movie, the sharp suits for gangsters and G-Men alike were designed by Giorgio Armani. The score was just as lavish and lovingly tailored: a sumptuous, thrilling, Oscar-nominated suite by Ennio Morricone, It's unclear whether Ocean ever had the option to try and recreate the work of the Italian master, although 8-bit sound chips would certainly have struggled to recreate the querulous mouth organ and slightly detuned piano that characterise his soundtrack.

Instead, they opted for a very different but ultimately inspired route. Jonathan Dunn, Ocean's astonishingly talented in-house maestro, adapted the chirpy rags of Scott Joplin, imbuing the game with a bouncy, cheery energy that - while slightly at odds with the demands of mowing down dozens of wise guys - gives it an undeniable vim and vigour. It may have triggered a little cognitive dissonance in historians and cinephiles - ragtime was on its way out by the time Prohibition kicked in, and the syncopated style was also indelibly associated with The Sting, another sharply-tailored period piece - but it undeniably helped synthesise a cohesive identity for a potshot-pourri of a game. Deployed alongside the uniform colour scheme, it helped bind the disparate levels together, and make The Untouchables one of the most aesthetically successful video game movie adaptations of all time.


Posted by Geoff at 7:20 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, January 11, 2015 7:21 PM CST
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Saturday, January 10, 2015
On January 23rd, the Oscars will host a double feature with the title "Street Clothes: Contemporary Costuming in New Hollywood." The two movies that will make up the double feature are Bob Fosse's All That Jazz (at 7:30 pm, from DCP) and Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise (at 9:50 pm, in 35mm). The screenings will take place at the Bing Theater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Oscars web page description of Phantom includes a sentence about the costumes:

"Writer-director Brian De Palma remade Gaston Leroux’s classic novel The Phantom of the Opera as a horror-rock musical that has remained one of his most visually dazzling movies. Winslow Leach (De Palma regular William Finley) is a talented but naïve songwriter whose ambitious rock version of Faust is stolen by Machiavellian music mogul Swan (Paul Williams, who also wrote the Oscar-nominated song score). Driven mad by a disfiguring accident, Winslow faces off against Swan for the love of beautiful young singer Phoenix (Jessica Harper), culminating in a thrilling finale that shows off De Palma’s pictorial and editorial mastery. A box office disappointment at the time of its release (except in Winnipeg), Phantom has been elevated to cult status, and Rosanna Norton’s imaginative and eye-popping costumes – a direct influence on Daft Punk’s leather-bound, helmet-clad aesthetic – help bridge the film’s wildly disparate genres."

Posted by Geoff at 11:36 AM CST
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Friday, January 9, 2015

Thanks to Jordi for letting us know about an upcoming Brian De Palma retrospective, not in Brazil this time (see two recent posts here and here), but in Barcelona, Spain. The retrospective, titled "Under the Gaze of Brian De Palma," runs January 14-30, and takes place at a new cinema in Barcelona, Phenomena, which bills itself as "The Ultimate Cinematic Experience." The series kicks off Wednesday with De Palma's Scarface, followed by Carrie (Jan. 16), Dressed To Kill (Jan. 16), The Untouchables (Jan. 18), Phantom Of The Paradise (Jan. 21), Raising Cain (Jan. 23), Obsession (Jan. 23), Mission: Impossible (Jan. 25), Carlito's Way (Jan. 28), Body Double (Jan. 30), and closing with Blow Out (Jan. 30).

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 9, 2015 11:58 PM CST
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Thursday, January 8, 2015
The other day, I posted a belated entry about a Brian De Palma retrospective at Cine Lume in Brazil. That retrospective ended yesterday, but it turns out there has been a separate De Palma series going on at Sala Walter da Silveira. This one started January 2nd, and runs through January 14th-- that last day, there will be a screening of a surprise De Palma film. This series includes many of De Palma films, and sometimes pairs them up with a film that inspired De Palma: Rear Window and Body Double were screened back-to-back on January 5th; Battleship Potemkin and The Untouchables were back-to-back last night; and Fritz Lang's The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse and De Palma's Snake Eyes were back-to-back earlier tonight. Monday, January 12th, Dario Argento's Suspiria will follow a screening of the movie that introduced Jessica Harper, De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. Back on January 4th, both versions (Hawks' and De Palma's) of Scarface were screened back-to-back, and on Tuesday January 13th, De Palma's Scarface will screen again, this time following a screening of Jean Vigo's Zero For Conduct. I've never seen the latter, so if anyone knows how it may link to Scarface, please feel free to share. Which reminds me, all of these screenings are free.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 9, 2015 12:07 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Den of Geek's Tim George posted an article yesterday examining the unique ways in which each film in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise has been "clearly delineated by the vision and preoccupations of its particular director." For the first film, George focuses on the ways in which Brian De Palma utilizes suspense techniques learned from watching the films of Alfred Hitchcock:
It is a testament to De Palma’s technique that Mission: Impossible’s most memorable sequence involves Tom Cruise hanging from a wire, and is not dependant on more traditional set pieces. The midnarrative set piece would become a tradition in the sequels, with De Palma’s successors putting their own spin on an IMF mission. The most important aspect of Hitchcock’s style that De Palma has made his own is his use of an omniscient point-of-view. De Palma’s camera may appear to approximate the subjective view of the characters, but his directorial control dictates what the viewer can see.

An early example of this is the early sequence where Ethan Hunt witnesses his boss’s death by an unseen assailant via a camera in his glasses. All that Hunt (and by extension, the viewer) can see is a hand firing a gun directly at the camera. Later, when this scene is revealed to be staged, De Palma shows the action from a long shot to reveal what is really going on.

De Palma’s focus on suspense allows for other homages to Hitchcock, which are more decorative. Following his showdown with the villains, Ethan Hunt watches helplessly as a helicopter’s rotor blade spins toward him. This bit of action is reminiscent of a key moment from the climax of Strangers On A Train, where a technician sneaks under an out-of-control ferris wheel to switch off the mechanism, while the ride spins at high speed only a few inches above his head.

The introduction of the villain in the third act resembles the extended shot which identifies the twitching eyes of the killer in Hitchcock’s Young And Innocent. Starting from a long shot of a train, the camera pulls into a close-up of the killer’s hands through a window. This sequence also shows the influence of the Italian giallo, in De Palma’s use of mise-en-scene to conceal the villain’s identity. De Palma frames the character through a train compartment window, with his identity concealed by a half-closed blind. By framing the shot in this way, De Palma emphasises the character’s black gloves (a motif familiar from both the giallo genre and De Palma’s own Dressed To Kill) as he assembles a gun from the parts of a boombox.

De Palma is famous for his use of split screen to convey and build tension, and he integrates this technique into the opening action with a rather ingenious and subtle variation of the trope. As Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) directs his team, he watches their progress via cameras on their glasses. The respective point of views of these characters appear as a series of windows on his computer screen. In this way, De Palma renders his use of split screen as part of the mise-en-scene.

Sequences like this exemplify the degree to which De Palma is able to blend his style with the conventions of the genre he is working in.


George is not impressed by John Woo's follow-up to De Palma's film. "Indeed, aside from Newton’s role," states George, "everything in Woo’s film appears to be a pale re-hash of its predecessor, with the focus on action lacking the melodramatic heft of Woo’s best work. Mission: Impossible’s most memorable set piece - Hunt being lowered by a wire - is re-worked as the prelude to an extended shoot-out. This sequence, intentionally or otherwise, exemplifies the divergence between De Palma and Woo when it comes to the material and their respective styles."

With JJ Abrams making his feature film directorial debut on the third film in the series, George notes "a shift in the franchise away from visual stylists to filmmakers with a background in screen writing." George appreciates that the third film brings a deeper emphasis on characterization than the second film had done. "Dramatically, Mission: Impossible III is far more substantial and enjoyable experience than its predecessor," states George. "However, there is no disguising a certain cynicism to the focus on character development. Some of these arcs work, but help make Mission: Impossible 3 feel like the season of a TV show collapsed into two-and-a-bit hours." For George, the most recent film in the franchise, Ghost Protocol, is a more comedic, physical, and ironic entry that positively reflects director Brad Bird's background in animated film. He also likes that Bird's film solidifies the team aspect of the franchise. "By the end of Ghost Protocol," writes George, "Brad Bird has delivered the first instalment since Brian De Palma’s original that manages to include all of the elements of the original concept while playing to the strengths of the filmmaker orchestrating the action."


Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly columnist Darren Franich responded to a reader who asked, "In what universe is John Woo’s flaming mess of a Mission: Impossible 2 better than JJ Abrams’ totally and completely acceptable Mission: Impossible 3?"

Franich responded, "This is an important thing that we need to talk about. Because I have heard some variation of this argument constantly for going on nine years now. The conventional wisdom, in a nutshell: Mission 2 is an incoherent action film with a ludicrous plot and bad acting; Mission 3 is a solid Bourne-era shaky-cam spy movie with a good plot and a great villain. Some people even go so far as to say that Mission: Impossible 3 is their favorite of the franchise.

"Let’s throw out that chestnut right here. Ghost Protocol is the best Mission: Impossible movie. It’s arguably the least Tom Cruise-y of the bunch: By the fourth movie, Ethan Hunt is a semi-emotionless action-bot. But as directed by Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol is a film made out of one great setpiece after another. Bird has an animator’s gift for beautiful geometry: Cruise fighting his way down a corridor in the prison sequence, Cruise fighting his way through every level of a parking garage in the climax. But Ghost Protocol is also the only film in the franchise where the whole Mission squad matters; Cruise’s low-key performance leaves plenty of room for Simon Pegg as the comedy relief, Paula Patton as the badass, and Jeremy Renner as the Cruise-in-training.

"Nobody loves or hates the first Mission: Impossible, and nobody really talks about it anymore. Which is too bad. The first film deserves more credit for starting off with such a fakeout. You think you’re watching a movie about a squad of jocular superspies on a mission that requires cool makeup and subterfuge. And then by the half-hour mark, the whole squad’s dead. (They didn’t just kill Kristin Scott Thomas; they killed Emilio Estevez.) Director Brian De Palma always loved the first-act Psycho twist—see Sisters, see Dressed To Kill—and so the first Mission: Impossible has one of the great left-turns in any vanilla-blockbuster. As a bonus, Mission: Impossible turns one of the franchise’s most iconic characters into a bad guy—the kind of bold storytelling choice that franchises used to make before everyone got too scared of fanboy freakouts.

"Thus, Mission: Impossible 2. This is the movie where Tom Cruise has beautiful flowing long hair and climbs a mountain with his bare hands (just like Shatner in Final Frontier.) This is the movie where Tom Cruise falls in love with Thandie Newton, but then sends her undercover to spy on her ex-boyfriend, charisma vacuum Dougray Scott. This is the movie where the bad guy’s plot focuses on stock options, and the movie where Cruise defeats the bad guy by driving a motorcycle really fast.

"Or something: The plot doesn’t really matter, because the plot never really matters in Mission: Impossible movies, because honestly 'plot' is maybe the eighth most important part of a movie. (Things it’s behind, in no order: Characters, Casting, Dialogue, Cinematography, Music, Lighting, THEMES.)

"The Mission movies give good directors big budgets and let them explore their peculiar fascinations in the context of a boring spy thriller, and Mission is the last great gasp of John Woo in the John Woo Era: The period of time when the Hong Kong director was everyone’s favorite cult-action obsession. All of Woo’s movies are bonkers if you read the plot summaries, but Woo’s style is still sui generis even after everyone ripped off The Matrix ripping off John Woo. Woo is dude who loves dudes with guns, but he’s also a hopeless romantic who loves soft-focus shots of lovers in love, and he has a ludicrously precise aesthetic but he was making movies pre-digital so his precision isn’t antiseptic (like the Wachowskis.)

"So Mission 2 is ludicrous, and wonderfully so. Cruise and Newton flirt via car chase, and nothing isn’t in slow motion. There’s a central weirdness to the Cruise-Newton-Scott triangle: Scott is sort of an Evil Cruise, and sometimes he even puts on Cruise’s face, and there’s a weird sense that Scott and Cruise are both just using Newton as neutral territory where they can fight. (As played by Richard Roxburgh, Hugh is one of the great vaguely-homoerotic henchmen in action-movie history.) There are a couple of Meth Woo scenes, like when Cruise emerges from an explosion flanked by a dove because Catholicism. The final action sequence is a motorcycle chase that turns into a martial arts fight, except it’s 'martial arts' being fought by two identical-looking white dudes. Mission 2 was written by Robert Towne, and Towne basically just took Notorious and deleted half the dialogue." [A La Mod note: Woo has cited To Catch A Thief as his biggest inspiration for MI2.] "It’s not good but it’s completely unfiltered, and it’s a prime expression of Cruisedom at its peak: When Cruise dies eighty years from now, every obituary will mention Cruise climbing the Mission 2 mountain by the end of the second paragraph.

"Everything about Mission 3 makes more sense, and nothing about Mission 3 is remotely as fun. After a high-tension flashforward opening, the movie flashes back to an interminable first act. Cruise is getting married! To a boring nurse played boringly by Michelle Monaghan! Cruise has a boring squad—pre-Nikita Maggie Q looking great and pre-Tudors Jonathan Rhys Meyers looking angry—and they set off on a mission to rescue the only cool character in the movie, a pre-Americans Keri Russell. Russell dies immediately, but not before Abrams films a helicopter chase through a bunch of windmills that is one of the most incoherent action scenes not filmed by Michael Bay.

"This was Abrams’ first movie, and he hadn’t quite developed his style for the big screen. So there are a lot of visual choices in Mission 3 that feel TV-like in the worst way—close-ups and shaky cameras, the weird bluescale mid-00s monochrome that made every big-budget action movie looks like the Michael Douglas scenes from Traffic. The movie often suggests an episode of 24 with more explosions and zero moral ambiguity. The exception is the Vatican City scene, an excellent setpiece that also features the genuinely strange vision of Tom Cruise’s face being molded into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s face."

Franich concludes with his ranking of the films:

1. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
2. Mission: Impossible
3. Mission: Impossible 2
4. Joe Carnahan’s unfilmed Mission: Impossible 3, which would’ve co-starred Kenneth Branagh, post-Matrix Carrie-Anne Moss, pre-Match Point Scarlett Johansson, and would’ve apparently been the “punk-rock” version of Mission: Impossible. 5. JJ Abrams’ filmed Mission: Impossible 3, a.k.a. pop-punk version of Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 3:13 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 3:21 AM CST
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015
I'm a little late with this, but Cine Lume in São Luís, Maranhão, in Brazil, has been running a Brian De Palma retrospective since the first of January (2015). It winds down with a screening of Blow Out tonight (Tuesday), and Dressed To Kill tomorrow night (Wednesday). The other films in the retrospective are: The Untouchables, Carlito's Way, Scarface, Greetings, Carrie, and Body Double.

Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 6, 2015 12:51 AM CST
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