DE NIRO AFTER PACINO / SCORSESE AFTER DE PALMA
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
Renée Camus, Reel Life with Jane
"Full disclosure: I’ve never read [Stephen] King’s book, or seen the movie; either the classic 1976 Brian De Palma film, or the recent remake. I generally don’t watch horror films—yet my favorite musical is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the brilliant and hugely successful horror musical by Stephen Sondheim. So why not a musical based on Carrie?
"...The show starts with Carrie’s classmate, Sue Snell (Kayla Parker), under a harsh spotlight, being questioned about the events that happen at the end of the musical. We know we’re headed for badness—but most of us know that going in anyway (the ubiquitous pictures of Sissy Spacek dripping red told me this without seeing the film). Lights brighten as the cast joins her for the opening number, which dissolves into Carrie in the gym shower discovering that she’s bleeding. Not knowing this part of the story, I was surprised to see the women all stripping down to their underwear, and I wondered why it was necessary. Then I noticed Carrie off to the side, directly in front of a single line of audience members at the back of the space, completely nude.
"Apparently the story calls for at least a reference to nudity, with its close association of sex and sinning, but I didn’t feel it was completely necessary for the cast to strip down (they probably could have hid it or made it less obvious). Having the audience so close to the action made it that much more uncomfortable. Especially given Margaret’s warnings to Carrie not to shower at school, it’s surprising that she would.
"Director Brady Schwind and producers Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman set out to create an interactive, immersive experience by transforming La Mirada Theatre into Carrie’s high school. Audience members get wristbands that separate them into freshman, sophomores, faculty members, or other school delineations, based on their seating assignments. They’re then taken into the 'assembly' by class, passing by beat-up lockers and graffitied desk-chairs, and seated in bleachers built onto the stage. Despite the attempts at emersion and interaction, the staging didn’t add much. The four sections directly on the floor are pulled and moved around, which perhaps put those audience members more in the thick of it, but for those of us further back on the immovable bleachers, it wasn’t quite such an interactive experience. Well, except for the pain in our buttocks from the vastly uncomfortable seats (make sure to bring a cushion with you when you go)."
David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times
"Never underestimate the power of stagecraft. Case in point: Carrie: The Musical, now receiving a mind-blowing immersive production at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts...
"However, Carrie is a better musical than before, but it's still not a great one. Gore’s tunes are pleasant but, barring Carrie and Mom's songs, not very individuated, Pitchford’s lyrics are prosaic, at times prolix, and [Lawrence D.] Cohen’s book doesn’t explore its All Teens Are Alienated theme beyond surface considerations.
"That will scarcely matter to audiences craving a full-throttle theatrical experience -- Cirque du Soleil meets Disneyland, with pig’s blood -- and musical theater cultists should flock."
Eric Marchese, Orange County Register
"Lawrence D. Cohen, who wrote the screenplay for the 1976 film version, has crafted a book that gets at the heart of the story’s characters and themes. Composer Michael Gore’s gorgeous music and lyricist Dean Pitchford’s powerful, poetic lyrics express from-the-heart emotions, but without being sappy or trite.
"Director Brady Schwind’s immersive production unfolds on the venue’s stage, where roughly 200 patrons are positioned amid the cast. The movable front sections of seats are pushed and rolled to and fro, making the experience all the more intimate.
"Schwind and choreographer Lee Martino make full and brilliant use of the play itself and of a superb cast of 19. To top it off, illusionist Jim Steinmeyer’s special effects make Carrie’s telekinetic powers real, as objects move, levitate or fly at her command.
"At every turn, Carrie the Musical puts the angst of teendom on full display, its climax a stunning, bloody explosion of chaos and mayhem. La Mirada’s intimate staging is at once gripping, horrifying and beautifully moving. It’s also one of the best shows you’ll ever see anywhere – one not to be missed."
Steven Stanley, Stage Scene LA
"Suffice it to say that King/De Palma fans won’t be disappointed...
"The La Mirada Theatre has found its dream Carrie in Emily Lopez, who not only gives us the heartbreaking, deeply-felt portrait of a troubled teen discovering strengths she never dreamed she had, she sings with gorgeous power pipes and makes us believe in Carrie’s transformation from ugly duckling to exquisite swan."
Don Grigware, Broadway World
"The stage is the back part of the regular theatre stage and it has been cordoned off, serving as the high school gymnasium. Audience sit in the three-quarter and watch the action literally a few feet away from them. There are seats on two levels. The first group of seats called the pods are level with the stage. There are levels above for audience through which cast members make entrances and exits and sometimes play/sing and then there is a third level playing area above for only actors. Those sitting in the pods are moved at various intervals to the left and to the right, sometimes mirror imaging each other and other times, not. Hardly your ordinary seating arrangement, but it definitely puts you smack dab in the middle of the playing field. You are there, feeling what the characters are feeling, almost a part of the action.
"I sat in the tier above the pods so I had the advantage of looking down at the action on the stage and also up to what was transpiring on the third level. One scene in particular in Act One involves Carrie praying to Jesus on the cross within a room of her house. Jesus literally comes down off the cross and while this is happening, on the third level, Tommy Ross (Jon Robert Hall) and his girlfriend Sue Snell (Kayla Parker) are making torrid love. Quite the contrast as blatant sexuality and spirituality clash in full force right before our eyes! In Act Two what served as the back wall of the gym with basketball scoreboard opens up and becomes the dance floor for the prom. Stephen Gifford's scenic design for the entire show is awesome as is Schwind's staging of the actors, who are literally everywhere within the space, putting audience at arm's length for every experience, good and evil."
Pepe Serna arrives carrying a big bag. Inside is a treasured bit of movie history: his prop arm from Brian De Palma's 1983 gangster masterpiece "Scarface."
Though he's been in some 100 films, Serna is best known as Angel, Tony Montana's (Al Pacino) cohort in cocaine crime in the memorable thriller. Angel meets a grisly demise when his arm and leg are dismembered by a power tool.
"They tied me up," recalls Serna. "It was a real chain saw but with rubber. When they went to my face, they shot blood at me with a pressure gun. The editor said when they shot me with blood in the eye, I didn't flinch. I was so into the moment. At the time, it was the goriest scene in history."
Serna, 70, flashes a wide smile and puts the arm back in the bag.
The role of Angel has paid unexpected dividends for him. Serna, who has done motivational work with kids for 50 years, has found that these young students are thrilled to meet him because of "Scarface." "We are all the writer-director-star-producer of our own life," says the energetic Serna, dressed this overcast afternoon in a vibrant purple sports jacket. "We see life through our own eyes. That is my lesson to these kids. That is how I always look at everything."
MORE 'SCARFACE' NOTES: PACINO SUPPORTS REMAKE; MICHELLE PFEIFFER AS POP MUSE
Last week I linked to a Hollywood Reporter story about Universal's upcoming remake of Scarface. The Hollywood Reporter's Hilary Lewis followed that up a day later, having caught up with the actor at the New York premiere of his new film Danny Collins. Asked about the new remake, Pacino responded, "Oh, it's fine... It's part of what we do. We remake things... I may remake a movie I saw recently. I can't say what it is. It's about 50 years old."
Meanwhile, the number one song in the U.S. for the past five weeks or so (according to Billboard) is Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk. The song's first line is "This shit, that ice cold/ Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold." As USA Today's Carly Mallenbaum speculated back in December, the line, with its apparent cocaine reference, "seem[s] to be describing Pfeiffer’s feisty Elvira Hancock from Scarface." Mallenbaum's article also notes that Pfeiffer's name pops up in another recent top ten hit, Vance Joy's Riptide. In the latter case, however, Joy has said in interviews that the mention was inspired by Pfeiffer's role as Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman Returns.
"DAMAGED Viewing, inspired by the absolute litany of Louis Fowler’s DAMAGED outings (DAMAGED Magazine, the DAMAGED Hearing radio show and the DAMAGED Viewing movie podcast), is a fun and funny live version of the absolutely insane world of trash and cult cinema, presented without pretension or prejudice.
"Hosted by Fowler and Patrick Crain, two cinema obsessives whose love of obscure film goes far beyond the realms of the silver screen and into the dumpster behind it, DV’s mission is to bring these classic (and not-so-classic) movies out of obscurity and present them, warts and all, for a public eager for something they’ve never seen before. DAMAGED Viewing explores a world of wild cinema that only the dark and dirtiest of us even knew existed."
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.