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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
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No Harm In Charm

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Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Saturday, February 21, 2015
'BODY DOUBLE' AT ALAMO IN KANSAS CITY SUNDAY
BADASS DIGEST: "ONE OF THE MOST REWARDING FILMS OF DE PALMA'S CAREER"
If you're in Kansas City on Oscar night tomorrow, you can catch Brian De Palma's Body Double at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at 6pm. In preparation for screenings at multiple Drafthouse locations across the country, Badass Digest's Jacob Knight has written rather lovingly about the film. "The choice to make Scully as vanilla pudding as possible is deliberate," Knight states of the main character played by Craig Wasson, "and it’d feel like an insult to Wasson if the actor weren’t so knowingly game for the entirety of the movie’s near two-hour runtime. Yet there’s an almost impish glee Wasson conveys as he goes from helpless Peeping Tom to gullible murder suspect to undercover porn hustler in a mere matter of Acts. To criticize Scully for being a schmuck is missing the point entirely, for we are all dopey, doe-eyed adventurers in this cum-stained playground just looking for something to get off on.

"But even if a viewer can’t get over Wasson’s jokingly willful naïveté, it’s hard to imagine anyone who truly loves cinema dismissing the virtuoso display of craftsmanship De Palma yet again employs in service of creating this sticky jungle. As Scully stalks, De Palma yet again unleashes his love of the Steadicam, transforming a California shrine to consumerism (The Rodeo Collection at 421 Rodeo Drive) into a veritable maze through which his camera can cruise. Later, De Palma stops the entire film dead in its tracks in order to stage an elaborately choreographed song and dance number set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s 'Relax,' all of which ends in a round of softcore pawing. Had De Palma been allowed by the studio to execute his original concept (he wanted Body Double to be the first big budget picture to sport unsimulated sex scenes), it would’ve resulted in the most cinematically daring act of onscreen sex ever created. All the while, Pino Donaggio’s twinkling pianos, shimmering synths and soft drums add a playful sheen of eroticism, as the composer (and longtime BDP collaborator) seems most at home in this den of misdeeds.

"None of this would matter if it weren’t for Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), the gyrating soul living in the movie’s black heart. De Palma initially cast Annette Haven, but Columbia Pictures made the director rethink the role once they discovered that she was an actual porn queen, having starred in numerous classic fuck films since 1973. But Columbia’s pearl-clutching became a blessing in disguise for the director, as Griffith ends up giving the greatest performance of her entire career. Holly Body is a marvel of a character, completely sexy while never once relinquishing control to her male counterparts. When propositioned to star in the fake movie Scully’s producing, she rattles off a litany of lewd acts that decimates the impotent actor’s confidence. The woman is a professional, direct and to the point, and no man is going to dictate what she does with her body just because he’s offering a paycheck. Griffith straddles the line between pixie dream girl and art rock ass-kicker with such command that it’s impossible to look away from her whenever she’s on screen. Casting a real life porn star in the role would’ve been a great gimmick, but we would’ve never been graced with such a scene-stealing performance."

Near the beginning of the article, Knight writes about one of the movies De Palma had picked for his "Guilty Pleasures" article in a 1987 issue of Film Comment. "Amongst the apologetics," Knight writes, "was a 1981 slice of smut titled Nightdreams, directed by FX Pope. In reality, FX Pope doesn’t exist. The name was a nom de skin, belonging to commercial photographer and artist Francis Delia who, along with partner Stephen Sayadian, designed ads for everything from Hustler magazine to key art for major motion pictures. Included in their portfolio of immaculately designed one sheets (which also boasts John Carpenter’s The Fog and Escape From New York) was the iconic image for De Palma’s own Dressed to Kill. The admiration wasn’t one sided; in Nightdreams, Delia and Sayadian recreated the image from the piece of art they invented to help sell De Palma’s infamous murder mystery, repurposing it into one of the most harrowing scenes in the history of hardcore."


Posted by Geoff at 9:12 PM CST
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THERE WAS A TIME
WHEN DE PALMA'S 'HOME MOVIES' WAS SHOWN ON THE MOVIE CHANNEL

Posted by Geoff at 7:41 PM CST
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Friday, February 20, 2015
SEAN PENN RECEIVES HONORARY CESAR
SCENES FROM 'CASUALTIES OF WAR' & 'CARLITO'S WAY' INCLUDED IN TRIBUTE


Sean Penn received a standing ovation tonight at the 40th César Awards ceremony in Paris, as Marion Cotillard presented the actor/director with an Honorary César. Prior to handing him the award, Cotillard delivered what a journalist at La Parisienne describes as "a long love letter to Sean Penn, 'a free man who rebels, who questions'." A rundown at Pure People says that Cotillard was brought to tears by the tribute. Speaking in English as he accepted the César, Penn said, "I've always had an affinity for French cinema, it maintains, in my opinion, all of these virtues and encourages the dreams of actors, actresses, and directors. A refuge when things got too cynical. (...) the French artists were able to wear the colors of cinema." According to other tweets from viewers watching the ceremony, there was some sort of montage included in the tribute that included some of Penn's scenes from Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War and Carlito's Way, among many others.

Posted by Geoff at 5:40 PM CST
Updated: Friday, February 20, 2015 6:39 PM CST
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DE PALMA'S 'GOLDEN RULES OF SHOOTING A SEX SCENE'
AND OTHER ARTICLES UPON THE UNLEASHING OF 'FIFTY SHADES OF GREY'
As Fifty Shades Of Grey was released in theaters last weekend, several outlets posted articles discussing histories of sex scenes and sex thrillers in movies. Also making the rounds was a MovieMaker article from 2013: Things I’ve Learned: Brian De Palma’s Golden Rules of Shooting a Sex Scene. The article had appeared on the last page of the print edition of MovieMaker's 2014 Complete Guide To Making Movies (which came out in 2013), and was posted online in August of 2013. The article is by Brian De Palma, as interviewed by K.J. Doughton.

In the article, De Palma provides seven key things to think about when creating sex onscreen. Quoting the article here would mean truncating too much to do anything much justice, but some interesting notes include: "In Body Double, I spent a lot of time searching for the right cinematographer. I actually did screen tests for different DPs. I had these incredibly attractive women, and I wanted to make sure they were lensed correctly. That’s when I discovered Steven Burum, and I used him for many films after that."

Item #4 - "Don’t underestimate the power of a kiss. Watching Alfred Hitchcock, the first thing you learn about kissing is that you have to see the actor’s faces. You have to see them reacting to the kiss. Watch Cary Grant kissing Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. A lot of filmmakers think that just showing people kissing each other, and having a very good time, is enough. But so often their eyes are closed, and you can’t see their faces. The audience is completely shut out. In Hitchcock movies, you can see that they are kissing each other on the neck, and talking. They’re kissing lightly on the lips, and you can see their eyes. You see how they’re reacting. That’s what creates the eroticism of the scene."

And item #7 - "Watch Ryan’s Daughter. There’s one great lovemaking scene in Ryan’s Daughter. She finally has a rendezvous with a military man. It’s exquisitely well done. You really feel the sense of nature surrounding the eroticism. Because [director David] Lean had an idea! Take a girl in a field and make love to her. The feel and the sensuality of the nature around them as they’re getting into the lovemaking—it’s quite good." [When De Palma says that Lean had an idea, it's a callback to his point #3 - "You need some kind of conceptual idea."]

'DRESSED TO KILL' AS THE FATHER OF THE EROTIC THRILLER AS WE KNOW IT TODAY
Prior to the release of 50 Shades Of Grey, Calum Marsh wrote a piece for the National Post with the headline, "Fifty Shades of Grey’s eroticism won’t deliver the thrill of the genre’s predecessors." That's an interesting statement being projected prior to seeing the actual film, but the point of the article echoes something De Palma states in the MovieMaker article above: "The cultural climate is too permissive, too inured, for people to be shaken by a bit of BDSM," Marsh surmises. In the 2013 MovieMaker article, De Palma had said, "Today, there’s such an incredible amount of lovemaking and nudity on cable television, and in pornography on the Internet. You see bodies photographed from every conceivable angle, doing every conceivable thing, so you really have to think hard to approach eroticism with a fresh idea. Just showing people kissing, people fucking—it’s of no interest to me."

In the National Post article, Marsh runs through a quick, brief history of the increasing permissiveness of mainstream cinema between the '60s and '70s. "Thrumming deep beneath these developments," writes Marsh, "was the bass line of the exploitation film. And it would be this strain, with its extravagant vulgarity and sensationalism, that would eventually bring sex to the popular imagination. Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, released in 1980, was indebted in many conspicuous ways to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and especially Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, both from 1960. But unrestrained by the strictures of the period, De Palma was free to adopt the format and amplify the sex and violence — to remake Psycho, in essence, with the lurid panache of a liberated age.

"Dressed To Kill was a hit: it earned nearly $32-million against its slender $6-million budget, suggesting to financiers around Hollywood that this sort of risqué genre film — owing in large part to the scandal it invariably aroused — could be hugely lucrative, so long as they were marketed in such a fashion to exaggerate, rather than downplay, their more disreputable qualities. Thus the erotic thriller was born."

On February 6th, The Toronto Sun's Liz Braun posted a mostly-annoying article looking at "erotic fails on the big screen," featuring a list of "The Top 20 Unsexy Sexy Movies." Paul Schrader's The Canyons topped her list, followed by Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls at #2. Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut was listed at #11. De Palma made her list twice, albeit near the bottom: #17 - Body Double - "The usual: a peeping Tom, the porn industry and construction tools used to ventilate people. Or maybe not. Brian De Palma challenges you to question what you see in this thriller, a challenge made tougher by all the naked breasts in your face. Just sayin'." And then she lists Femme Fatale at #19 - "A diamond thief (Rebecca Romijn) who seduces men and women alike in her line of work swaps identities with a wealthy French woman, takes a bubble bath, meets Antonio Banderas and discovers the whole thing was a dream. What the — ? Funny how often director Brian De Palma's name turns up in detritus like this."

The New Zealand Herald's Dominic Corry posted a similar article on February 11, but his mention of De Palma was positive. Discussing Showgirls, Corry writes, "Verhoeven famously later said that in retrospect, he believes he should've put a serial killer plot into Showgirls to distract the audience from the film's crude commentary on the American dream. Which is about as awesomely cynical a thing as you could imagine a director saying, and I love it. Ahead of seeing the film, I already feel like this kind of thinking may have suited Fifty Shades of Grey. A knife-wielding murderer can justify a lot of lovey-dovey cheese. Hire Verhoeven or Brian De Palma to direct it, and we might actually have something interesting."

And finally, in the wake of the box office results from the opening weekend of Fifty Shades, Entertainment Weekly's Nicole Sperling has posted an article with the headline, "Dirty Money: 11 Highest-Grossing R-rated Erotic Dramas of All Time." She starts off with Dressed To Kill at #11 - "This erotic crime thriller from Brian De Palma stars Michael Caine as both a New York City psychiatrist and a deranged transgender patient and is best known for the brutal elevator murder scene—which DePalma calls the best he’s ever done. The movie generated great reviews and became an inspiration to filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino. The original version was trimmed after the MPAA gave it an X-rating and the film earned $32 million at the box office."


Posted by Geoff at 2:56 AM CST
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Thursday, February 19, 2015
'CARRIE' IN MANCHESTER, ENGLAND THURSDAY
PROJECTED FROM BLU-RAY, PART OF STEPHEN KING SEASON
Brian De Palma's Carrie will be projected from Blu-ray Thursday night, as part of Grimm Up North's Stephen King Season, at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester, England. The other films in the series are Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot, the anthology Creepshow, and Mary Lambert's Pet Sematary.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015
CRITICWIRE LOOKS AT 'BLOW OUT'
"CLASSIC OF THE WEEK"
IndieWire's "Criticwire Classic of the Week", posted earlier today, is Brian De Palma's Blow Out. "John Travolta is presenting at the Oscars this weekend," writes Max O'Connell, "no doubt in an attempt to make fun of that 'Adele Dazeem' slip-up that stopped being funny about a week after it happened. Before he became an irrepressible ham and punchline with questionable taste in scripts, however, Travolta was one of the most exciting stars to emerge in years, and he got the best showcase for his talents in Brian De Palma's masterpiece Blow Out. Mixing the hooks of Antonioni's Blow-Up (murder mystery caught via photograph) and Coppola's The Conversation (murder plot uncovered via sound recording), De Palma made his best film about the power and the limits of film and voyeurism, as well as his most emotionally devastating work." O'Connell writes a bit more about the film, and then includes excerpts from several reviews of Blow Out over the years.

Posted by Geoff at 11:46 PM CST
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'SNAKE EYES' - A NICOLAS CAGE ACTIVITY BOOK
NOVELTY FROM EAST LONDON PUBLISHER COMES TO AMERICA MARCH 6
Snake Eyes: A Nicolas Cage Activity Book, from Haunt Me Studio, was published in the U.K. in December, and will make its way to the U.S. on March 6th. The description of the 32-page book at Amazon goes like this:

"Nicolas Cage? What a guy. Whether he's kidnapping children, boosting jazzy cars or fighting brutal criminals on a plane, up in the skies - He does it in a unique style which is so, well, Cage-ian. Snake Eyes is our illustrated homage, an activity book full of puzzles, games, colouring in pages, amazing illustrations and the best of times."

The original Haunt Me Studio description goes a little further:

"Nicolas Cage, what a guy. He truly is one the weirdest characters of Hollywood cinema. Whether he's boosting cars, fighting criminals in the skies or generally just kickin' ass - he's our guy! Snake Eyes is our dedication to Nic. You get the chance to Uncage him from mazes and draw him a new face if [his] has been stolen off. Oh, don't forget to dress him up real slick or let him chat girls up at a seedy bar."

(Thanks to Matthew!)


Posted by Geoff at 2:34 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 2:35 AM CST
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015
'LES VAMPIRES' & 'CARRIE'
CLICK ON IMAGE BELOW TO SEE FULL SCREEN SHOTS TWEETED BY ALEX HELLER-NICHOLAS

Posted by Geoff at 12:05 AM CST
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Monday, February 16, 2015
'PASSION' ON MORE TOP 10 LISTS FROM 2013
CAHIERS DU CINEMA INDIVIDUAL CRITICS' LISTS

I thought I had covered all of the 2013 top ten and best-of lists that included Brian De Palma's Passion with three posts from about a year ago: January 2, 2014, January 8, 2014, and February 6, 2014. However, I should have known to check the individual lists of the critics from Cahiers du Cinéma. Even though Passion did not make the magazine's final top 10 for 2013, De Palma's film did appear on three of the individual lists. Here they are:

Nicolas Azalbert

1.  Educação sentimental
2.  La Vie d'Adèle
3.  L'Inconnu du lac
4.  Spring Breakers
5.  Frances Ha
6.  La fille de nulle part
7.  Passion
8.  La Fille du 14 juillet
9.  Camille Claudel, 1915
10. No  

Jean-Sébastien Chauvin

1.  Lincoln
2.  Shokuzai
3.  La fille de nulle part
4.  Les Rencontres d'après minuit
5.  Passion
6.  L'Inconnu du lac
7.  La jalousie
8.  Cloud Atlas
9.  Gravity
10. La Vie d'Adèle  

Stéphane du Mesnildot

1.  The Immigrant
2.  L'Inconnu du lac
3.  Shokuzai
4.  Passion
5.  The Grandmaster
6.  Les Rencontres d'après minuit
7.  Gravity
8.  La Vie d'Adèle
9.  Django Unchained
10. Le Congrès  

Posted by Geoff at 12:10 AM CST
Updated: Monday, February 16, 2015 12:26 AM CST
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Sunday, February 15, 2015
'WILD TALES' HAS ECHOES OF DE PALMA, SPIELBERG
OSCAR-NOMINATED FILM OPENS IN U.S. FEBRUARY 20


Damián Szifrón's Wild Tales is one of the five movies Oscar-nominated this year for best foreign-language film. And according to the New York Times' Larry Rohter, "In Argentina, Wild Tales has become both the country’s all-time box office champion and a genuine social phenomenon that has made folk heroes of some characters." Rohter adds that the Spanish-language title of Szifrón's film is actually closer to "Savage Tales," and notes that "the opening credits unfurl against a backdrop of tigers, sharks, wolves and other predators in their habitats."

The film is made up of six episodes, each with a different cast and characters, in which someone goes into a vengeful rage. Building on the imagery of the opening credits, Szifrón explains to Rohter, "What differentiates us from animals is our capacity to restrain ourselves. An animal can’t, and is condemned to its instincts. In contrast, we have a fight or flee mechanism, but it comes with a very high cost. Most of us live with the frustration of having to repress oneself, but some people explode. This is a movie about those who explode, and we can all understand why they do. Any time I read about someone who has committed a supposedly irrational or barbarous act, that person doesn’t feel foreign to me." Szifrón later adds that while the six stories may be stylistically different from each other, "they are vital organs of the same body" and "to sustain itself, the movie needed all of them."

A CINEPHILE WHO SAW ALL THE CLASSICS AT A VERY EARLY AGE
In this excerpt from the end of Rohter's article, he discusses Szifrón's influences, which include Brian De Palma:

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Born in the suburbs of Buenos Aires into a Jewish immigrant family with roots in Poland and Russia, Mr. Szifrón was a cinephile as a boy. His father dealt in electronic equipment, and his son early on acquired a VHS player and a digital camera. As a result, Mr. Szifrón said, “I saw all the classics at a very early age.” He began making his own shorts at the age of 9, and before Wild Tales, he had written and directed two movies and a pair of television series that were hits in Latin America.

Wild Tales contains echoes of some of his childhood favorites, among them Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma, as well as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But in the end, the movie is a very personal distillation of “themes that are in the collective unconscious,” Mr. Szifrón said.

“There are a lot of different things from daily life being processed and given free rein in Wild Tales, violence and vengeance among them,” he continued. “But at its core, what stands out is this pleasure of losing control and the desire for liberation. This is a movie about the desire for freedom, and how this lack of freedom, and the rage and anguish it produces, can cause us to run off the rails.”

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Godfrey Cheshire reviews the film at RogerEbert.com, and concludes that "with a confident, coolly elegant visual style somewhere between Demme and DePalma, Szifron emerges from Wild Tales an international auteur to be reckoned with."

Posted by Geoff at 5:16 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 21, 2015 4:21 PM CST
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