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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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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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Tuesday, March 17, 2015
VICTOR BRUNO ON 'DE PALMA'S SYMMETRY'
ALL OF HIS FILMS "HAVE IN SUCH A PROFOUND WAY A STRUGGLE WITHIN THEMSELVES"
At Desistfilm, Victor Bruno uses the film art of Brian De Palma as an example to help explain what it is that makes a good film good. Stressing in the intro that films are not about their plots, Bruno delves into what he calls the symmetry of Brian De Palma. "How does [this symmetry] come to reality?" Bruno asks. "When do we detect it in his work? The first thing we have to understand is that it is not only visual, but also thematic and spiritual. Like any good filmmaker, he is concerned about bringing ideas into images. I will use two of his films to try to illustrate a little of this idea. The films are Obsession (1976) and Body Double (1984), made almost a decade apart but with common themes and visual logics.

"Both films are primarily about the perception of the truth and truth itself (and here the term 'truth' stands for reality itself). De Palma’s camera is the mediator, the howling beast on the borderline that separates the deception from the ecstasy of the discovery. De Palma is interested in halves. In short, dichotomy: past and future; truth and lie; damnation and forgiveness; me and you; life and death.

A SPIRITUALIST APPROACH TO THE SYMMETRY
"Of course, the most obvious feature he presents to display this interest in halves is the split-screen. Unlike some say, the split-screen is not a 'fetishist' interest that he has; it is not a gimmick. There are, of course, things that it is: It is a heritage from Alfred Hitchcock (the viewer knows everything in advance and thus he suffers more than the unaware character of the film). But it is, also, a spiritualist approach to the symmetry. When the screen is parted in two diametric halves, De Palma is trying to put the viewer in an omniscient position, a place in which we can receive all the information the film has on hand. We assume two perspectives: the one of the victim and the one of the hero (and/or of the villain). When the screen is in a single piece, the maximum the film can present to us is a medley of feelings, emotions and interests (as presented in the long takes), but it lacks a fundamental feature in a Brian De Palma picture: organization. The greatest struggle of a DePalmian character is to understand what he is living and the situation he is in and in order to do it he has to organize the facts and the feelings he is experiencing.

"But until he gets to the organization (and it does not mean you will survive in this world), the character still have to discover what is truth and what is deception. These are the themes of Obsession and Body Double. Early on the former we get what perhaps is the best shot of the career of Brian De Palma: with the left and the right sides of the screen separated by a wall, on the former we see Cliff Robertson’s character reaching for a gun and on the latter we see John Lithgow’s character trying to get information from a little kid who may or may not know anything about the kidnapping of Robertson’s daughter and wife.

"Of course, De Palma is not Wes Anderson: the screen is not split pin-point on the middle. Of course, later in his career he would be more demanding about the way he symmetrically splits his screen (more pronouncedly in Blow Out with the split diopter). But right now it doesn’t matter—it is a split screen. We have to different actions happening in two different places. Both are acts of violence—Robertson’s mind is going to crack and he is considering to kill someone; Lithgow is making pressure on a young kid. But there is a third layer, the layer that separates truth and lie: Lithgow is not interested at all in helping his friend—the truth is that he wants to drive Cliff Robertson crazy and he wants his money. So there you have it: the borderline of reality and deception. Truth and lie. Friendship and betrayal. Good intentions and bad acts. (And it’s a brilliant use of CinemaScope, don’t you agree?)"

That is just an excerpt-- go to Desistfilm to read the whole thing.


Posted by Geoff at 7:55 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:09 PM CDT
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Monday, March 16, 2015
CHARIOTS OF FIRE

Posted by Geoff at 6:29 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 15, 2015
LITHGOW ON 'RAISING CAIN' - BIGGEST CHALLENGE
"THE REHEARSAL PERIOD WAS SIMPLY CHARTING THE CRAZY"
The March 2015 issue of EMPIRE magazine, on stands now in the U.S., includes a one-page C.V. in which John Lithgow discusses his signature roles. Under the heading, "His Biggest Challenge," is Brian De Palma's Raising Cain, with the characters listed as "Carter/Cain/Dr. Nix/Josh/Margo, deranged doctor and his brood." Of his role(s) in the film, Lithgow tells EMPIRE, "The most plot-heavy film I've been in. It was only two characters, and yet you wanted to fool people into thinking it was three or four. The rehearsal period was simply charting the crazy."

Posted by Geoff at 1:14 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 12, 2015
MORE FROM MITCHELL ABOUT 'IT FOLLOWS'
"I'M A BIG DE PALMA FAN—I THINK THERE'S PROBABLY A LOT OF DE PALMA IN THERE"


Earlier this week, I posted a link to a New York Times video in which David Robert Mitchell narrates the opening shot of his new film, It Follows, which opens in theaters tomorrow. Today, A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd posted an interview with Mitchell in which the filmmaker discusses the film and some of its inspirations. Here's an excerpt:
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AVC: There’s a lot of vintage John Carpenter in this film, especially in the music and the use of space. Was he a big influence, and were there other filmmakers whose work you studied when bringing the movie to life?

DRM: Of course, I totally love Carpenter—Halloween, and his version of The Thing is a favorite of mine. I’ve definitely watched his movies a million times. I’m a fan of his blocking and his staging and his compositions. For me, it wasn’t just about saying, “This particular shot is a Carpenter homage.” I’ve watched his stuff enough that’s probably going to come out in the filmmaking. But there’s a ton of other filmmakers that factored in, too. I also love Cronenberg, I’m a big De Palma fan—I think there’s probably a lot of De Palma in there as well. Hitchcock, too. Rear Window is my favorite movie of all time. I love Creature From The Black Lagoon. I could go on and on about all the people that I love. And then there are other elements of the movie that are not necessarily the horror elements. Some of the inspiration for that comes from a lot of different places, few of them having anything to do with horror.

AVC: Do you have rules about how you write teenage characters? One of the interesting things about It Follows is that it features kids who don’t talk in references or relate everything to something they’ve seen.

DRM: Yeah, there’s an avoidance of certain aspects of pop culture, but then I like to embrace other parts of it. It’s tricky, because I’ve only made these two films, but I have a million different scripts and a million different things that I want to make. The two that I’ve done have just been about teenagers, but I have stories about many different characters at many different stages of life.

It more has to do with my general belief that film doesn’t have to operate within the world we live in. The ground rules of the film world don’t have to be how we understand the world. And something doesn’t have to be fantasy to take some elements from fantasy. Movies are very much dreams, in a way, and you can use that to your advantage.

AVC: The time period of the movie is fascinatingly indeterminate. One of the girls has this mobile device, but otherwise we could be watching a movie set in 1990.

DRM: There are production design elements from the ’50s on up to modern day. A lot of it is from the ’70s and ’80s. That e-reader cell phone—or “shell phone”—you’re talking about is not a real device. It’s a ’60s shell compact that we turned into a cell phone e-reader. So I wanted modern things, but if you show a specific smartphone now, it dates it. It’s too real for the movie. It would bother me anyway. So we made one up. And all of that is really just to create the effect of a dream—to place it outside of time, and to make people wonder about where they are. Those are things that I think happen to us when we have a dream.

AVC: Plenty of people have read the “It” of It Follows as a metaphor for a sexually transmitted disease, but that doesn’t entirely scan, as you can’t get rid of an STD by sleeping with someone else.

DRM: [Laughs.] Right, exactly. I was totally aware of that connection when I wrote the script, but it wasn’t necessarily the driving force in terms of subtext. There are a lot of other aspects. I tend to shy away from explaining it, but I’m happy to have the conversation.

AVC: Of course, you don’t need to unpack your own film. That’s for us to do.

DRM: [Laughs.] But I would agree with you that even if you read it that way, it’s much more complicated than that.

AVC: You mentioned Brian De Palma earlier. He’s a director who builds his film around set pieces, and I feel as though the scary moments in It Follows are essentially set pieces, too. Did you write all of them into the script or were there any moments born when you were on location?

DRM: Oh, no, it’s all in the script. There are small elements that we worked out on set. But we didn’t have a ton of money, so it was about having a really solid plan and going in and doing everything in our power to get it done. There was very little time to change things once we got going.

So I worked those [set pieces] out in my head beforehand. Most of that stuff was probably in the first draft of the script. A few things changed. Some set pieces became smaller because of budget. There were a couple of really cool ideas from the first draft that would have been really fun to do, but we would have just needed a lot more money and people. I had a lot of ideas of ways you could use the rules of this monster to generate suspense and create some really interesting set pieces. And I only got to do a few of them in the film, really.

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MANY EXTREMELY LONG TAKES
Also today, The Playlist's Drew Taylor posted about Mitchell and his film:

"This week's superb chiller It Follows (read our review) has been frequently described as a 'throwback,'" Taylor begins. "This probably has to do with the film, which concerns a teenage girl (Maika Monroe from the similarly wonderful The Guest) who is stalked by a ghoul following an untoward sexual encounter, feeling like it's from another era. The synth-heavy electronic score (check out a few cuts here) is straight out of the '80s, while other aspects feel eerie and timeless in a way that few modern day horror films do. We sat down with director David Robert Mitchell and talked about the five biggest influences on It Follows, and some are as surprising as the movie itself.

"Throughout the course of our conversation, we talked about a number of influences that come to bear on the film — from the French New Wave to the stylized camera trickery of Brian De Palma (Mitchell says he didn't tell his financiers about his intention to shoot so many extremely long takes), from the hollowed-out city of Detroit to the suburban horror of Poltergeist. But the following five influences are the most significant to Mitchell —these were the films that he first referenced and had no problem elaborating on. Some of the films' DNA is easy to spot in It Follows, while others function more as spiritual successors. But all of it enhances Mitchell's work, and it's easy to think that in a few years some young director of the next horror sensation will cite It Follows as a reference."

The five main influences on It Follows, according to the article, are Creature from the Black Lagoon, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead," John Carpenter (and Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World), Wes Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street, and Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.


Posted by Geoff at 10:27 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015
'IT FOLLOWS' DIRECTOR MENTIONS DE PALMA
WHILE NARRATING OPENING SHOT OF THE FILM FOR THE NY TIMES


In the New York Times video linked to above, David Robert Mitchell narrates the opening shot of his new movie, It Follows:

"So this is the opening shot of the film. We’re starting with this sort of slow, kind of calm, objective shot of this middle class neighborhood. And we see this girl running in fear. We’re not really sure what it is that she’s running from, or what she’s scared of. Maybe a play on a bit of a cliché, some of this is, right down to the wardrobe is… she’s in high heels, which I’ve had some people point out, questioning, ‘does that make a lot of sense?’ And the answer is no. It’s definitely a bit of a play on the conventions of horror, all the way back to referencing women in peril, from even De Palma movies, for instance. You’ll notice throughout this sequence… we did this in… it’s in one shot. It’s playing on this idea of us being sort of colder observers of this terrible thing happening, and we’re on the outside of it."


Posted by Geoff at 11:24 PM CDT
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Monday, March 9, 2015
VIDEO: BRIAN DE PALMA - VIEW FROM ABOVE

Posted by Geoff at 10:21 PM CDT
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VIDEO: 'THE 20 GREATEST SLOW-MO SCENES'
ONE MAN'S OPINION, SURE, BUT EDITED QUITE NICELY; INCLUDES 'UNTOUCHABLES'

The video above, called "The 20 Greatest Slow-Mo Scenes," was posted to Vimeo four days ago by Invenire Films, with the description, "The 20 greatest, or most powerful, uses of slow-motion in film, based solely on my personal opinion." Off the top of my head, I can think of some obvious things that probably should have been included, such as Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, and The Godfather, as well as so much more De Palma. But this video is so well-edited, and apparently personal to its maker, it's hard to complain.

Posted by Geoff at 8:09 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 9, 2015 8:12 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 8, 2015
MCQUARRIE ANSWERS RADO'S 'MI5' QUESTION


MovieWeb: Mission: Impossible 5 Details Revealed

Posted by Geoff at 6:52 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 8, 2015 7:00 PM CST
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Thursday, March 5, 2015
NY TIMES ON THE EROTIC POWER OF THE NY TAXI
NOW SANITIZED BY RIDE-HAILING APPS LIKE UBER & LYFT


The New York Times' Alex Williams wrote a style piece with the headline, "Taxi Flings Take a Back Seat to Uber." The article uses the image above from Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill to help illustrate "the strange erotic power of the New York taxi." Here's the opening few paragraphs of Williams' article, which appeared in today's print edition of the newspaper:
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It started innocently enough: Rachel Rabbit White, a journalist in her 20s who writes about sex, was hailing a taxi with her boyfriend at the time and a female friend after a Lower East Side party.

But “as soon as we got into the cab,” Ms. White said, “it became clear that this was going to be a threesome.” Within moments, the taxi ride turned into Plato’s Retreat on wheels, a montage of hair pulling, collar tugging and bodies writhing in darkness.

Far from being an impediment to passion, the unglamorous setting was an enabler. “It was as if being in the space of the cab decided it for us,” Ms. White said.

Ah, the strange erotic power of the New York taxi. On the surface, these utilitarian urban people movers that sometimes smell like old gym socks would seem about as sexy as a Yankee Stadium bathroom. But for countless reasons, some New Yorkers long considered the taxi back seat a pay-by-the-hour love shack.

But that illicit tradition is under threat of late, as ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft sanitize yet another dark corner of New York night life. Unlike traditional taxis, where anonymity is the rule (and the attraction), these services know exactly who has been naughty or nice in their back seats. Not only do drivers know a passenger’s name and mobile number, but they are also asked to review a passenger’s behavior.

These customer reviews, which function like a credit score that is based on conduct rather than financial standing, have put a damper on back-seat shenanigans. Indeed, acting out under those circumstances is a bit like streaking through Grand Central Terminal with a “Hello, My Name Is ______” tag plastered to your chest.

With some users feeling motivated to limit their back-seat behavior to job-interview politeness, the raunchy back-seat hookup — immortalized in films like “Dressed to Kill” and shows like “Taxicab Confessions” — suddenly looks like a vestige of a Lost New York, doomed to go the way of peep shows, streetwalkers and Al Goldstein’s “Midnight Blue.”

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Later in the article, Williams writes, "While 20-somethings might regard such four-wheeled misadventures as just another instant-gratification indulgence of the Tinder generation, cab hookups have a storied legacy in the city, a point made clear in countless movies. Perhaps the most famous taxi sex scene is in Dressed to Kill, the 1980 Brian De Palma thriller, in which Angie Dickinson’s character, a sexually frustrated middle-aged woman dressed in virginal white, unfurls herself across the queen-bed-size back seat of a Checker cab with a sideburned stranger she picked up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her shrieks of pleasure drowned out by blaring horns as they roll down Fifth Avenue. In the free-for-all ‘70s, it seems, back-seat sex occurred nightly, at least if Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro’s hollow-eyed hack driver character in Taxi Driver, from 1976, is to be believed."

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2015 11:56 PM CST
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015
COSTUME DESIGNER PATRICIA NORRIS DIES
DESIGNED COSTUMES FOR 'SCARFACE', ALSO PRODUCTION DESIGNER ON 'SINGING DETECTIVE'
Patricia Norris, the costume designer for Brian De Palma's Scarface, passed away February 20 of natural causes, Variety reported today. She was 83. Norris was nominated for Oscars six times in her lifetime. She worked regularly with David Lynch, and was both the production designer and the costume designer on Keith Gordon's 2003 film adaptation of The Singing Detective. A year ago, around the time of her Oscar nomination for costume design on Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, Norris told The Film Experience's Nathaniel R that on Scarface, De Palma and producer Martin Bregman "knew exactly what they wanted." She added that Michelle Pfeiffer helped make the costumes iconic. "She's a beautiful girl and it was perfect for the character."

Norris is quoted several times about the making of Scarface in Ken Tucker's 2008 book, Scarface Nation:

ON FILMING IN MIAMI, AMIDST THREATS FROM LOCAL COMMUNITY
"I did think they'd have killed us if we'd stayed in Miami. There were members of the community who hated us because they thought we were doing a pro-Castro movie, which was absurd, but their anger was very serious. And then there were real drug people around. Colombians who came on the set. The day a fellow sat down in the chair next to me, and crossed his legs, and I saw a gun strapped to his ankle, I knew I wanted to get back to Los Angeles. Thank God we did, within two weeks."

ON STAR AL PACINO
"Pacino was very nice. I had been told he was going to stay in character and all that, so I was prepared for it." Tucker writes that Pacino spoke to Norris with his Cuban accent, even through his wardrobe fittings.

REGARDING THE TENSION, EGO CLASHES ON THE SET OF 'SCARFACE'
"Let me put it this way. After Scarface, I almost didn't want to work in the movies again. You're making a movie that's not about nice people, being made by people many of whom aren't nice people... It was tense, pretty distant. I don't like being condescended to. I worked with David Lynch for over twenty-five years because he was a nice person and an artist, and he appreciates the artistry other people bring to their work.

"I didn't get that feeling with De Palma. He was tense a lot of the time; he could be cold and rude, dismissive. I don't think he liked clothes. I shouldn't say that-- the only clothes he was interested in were the women's clothes, Michelle's clothes. He and Marty Bregman both. They wanted a lot of input in how she should look-- it was more than a little creepy, if you ask me. I'd overhear them arguing about how she should be dressed, how sexy, how much skin they wanted her to show."


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2015 11:58 PM CST
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