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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

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The Black Dahlia 2006


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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
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(Blow Out)

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De Palma a la Mod

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Friday, July 31, 2015

I'll get to posting a ton more of those Rogue Nation-related links this weekend (and see Harry's comment in yesterday's post for a quick review of the new film). For now, here's a nice insightful look back at De Palma's Mission: Impossible from The Film Stage's Ethan Vestby--
"For not just trafficking in the de-sexualized PG-13 rating (the very first of his career) but also having the pressure of a tie-in N64 game, U2 song on the soundtrack, and likely soda / potato chip / fast food promotion of some sorts, the easy narrative would be to say the subversive artist of Hi, Mom! took a necessary paycheck gig coddling a star’s ego to bide time until his next passion project. Yet one locates in Mission: Impossible not a tension or subservience between director and star, but rather a synchronicity. Rather than subvert Cruise’s movie-star image, De Palma’s typically intense formalism situates him in his natural habitat.

"De Palma is fully aware that Cruise is too big a star to really disappear into a role. He may don a latex face for portions of the film, but he never disguises his iconic voice. Simply put, Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise: a perfectly poised image (some may say cipher) pirouetting around other perfect images of architecturally stunning European locales or fortress-like CIA headquarters.

"In Cruise having his own James Bond, the film had to jettison the ensemble-based narrative of the original Mission: Impossible television series, leaving only one carry-over from the original: mentor / team leader Jim Phelps, who’s killed off early, anyway. While the Phelps / Hunt dynamic is only briefly established and not really imbued with heavy psychological or emotional weight, its place in the narrative represents a key De Palma theme: the man who fails to save someone. The difference is that this typically hinges on a romantic or sexual angle: John Travolta holding the bloody body of Nancy Allen at the climactic Fourth of July celebration in Blow-Out; Michael J. Fox haunted by reminders of the young Vietnamese girl he was bullied out of protecting from rape and eventual murder in Casualties of War; or, in Body Double, milquetoast Craig Wasson spiraling into the porno underbelly of Los Angeles to avenge the brutal killing of the beautiful neighbor he peeped on.

"Hunt witnesses Phelps’ death on his watch-screen (a spy gadget reconfigured into a De Palma-esque tool of surveillance) and is then later paid a visit in an expressionistic dream sequence — one made bizarre by its canted angles, but even moreso through the exaggerated acting of Jon Voight as a ghost. Yet both instances point to a kind of unreliability affirmed by the later reveal of Phelps as a mole. The presence of a fake image ready to be reconfigured makes it most comparable to Body Double, another film that sees itself changing locations, introducing new characters, and shunning a typical dramatic coherence for the modern cinema of attractions. Who can forget the narrative grinding to a halt for a Frankie Goes to Hollywood music video?

"The difference being that whereas Body Double is a film about Hollywood, Mission: Impossible simply is Hollywood. Although they both take place within a liquid-like world and adhere to a dream logic, the megastar can easily navigate it while the not-quite-in-on-the-joke Craig Wasson gets hopelessly lost. While De Palma still manages to undercut Body Double’s snark with a somewhat melancholic tone, Mission: Impossible is free of anything resembling excess drama. The film may set itself up as something of a revenge picture — Hunt wants to clear his name, and both he and Phelps’ wife also have the intention of getting even with those responsible for the death — but he also remains the life of the party throughout (and in many instances at the expense of the hapless Jean Reno). It’s refreshing, especially compared to how J.J. Abrams’ mostly decent third installment stumbled in the literalness of its romantic subplot, something a melodramatic maximalist like John Woo could at least pull off through sheer force in his sequel.

"The film certainly hasn’t been considered an example of streamlined storytelling, its impenetrable plot becoming the stuff of notoriety. (For one of many examples see a joke made at its expense in a Billy Crystal-digitally-added-into-Jerry Maguire Oscar spoof.) Yet, if to again use De Palma’s film as a cudgel with which to whack contemporary blockbusters, the film feels liberated of the exposition and origin stories that clog up so many franchise affairs. The audience confusion arose from the fact that the film doesn’t hesitate to have every plot line collapse and swallow each other whole. It gives into a pure pop filmmaking desire for where the director wants to stick the camera and how the star will look best in it.

"From the cold open, throwing us in the middle of a mission, we get a sense of the professionals to which this is all old hat (masks are just part of the job, etc.), as well as the film’s most important motion, in that it doesn’t conclude with an action beat (like the Bond openings), but rather the disassembling of a film set. Besides just the 'film about filmmaking' analogy, what Mission: Impossible finds just as (if not more) important than a stunt is the plasticity of a situation and its location."

Posted by Geoff at 7:35 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2015 9:32 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 30, 2015
Thanks to Rado for sending along the poster at left, which is part of a series of Saul Bass-style posters put together by Paramount's Rogue Nation promotional team that depict key stunts performed by Tom Cruise throughout the film series. You can see the rest of the posters here.

Christopher McQuarrie has been saying that the new film is a sort of "Greatest Hits" of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, and reviews have been noting that, as well. In Entertainment Weekly, McQuarrie mentions that Casablanca was also a key influence on Rogue Nation. There are a million and a half links to reviews of the new film, reviews of De Palma's film, best-stunt articles, podcasts, etc. I'll just start listing the links here-- check back here for updates throughout the day.

The Missions Improbable Podcast
A podcast where John Leavitt and Sydney Bernstein discuss the Mission: Impossible movies as if they matter. "Mission Impossible or 'Brian De Palma directed this?!' John and Syd discuss the surprisingly tight and retro thriller and what rebooting Mission Impossible for the 90s meant. Also discussed: Vanessa Redgrave, when is a twist not a twist, and computers, are they magic?"

Matt Perri, The Workprint
"The movie is very stylish. Having Brian De Palma at the helm does that to a film. Seriously, whether you want it or not, you’re getting style. If you were a family member and you handed the camcorder to your cousin, Brian De Palma, the part where you exchange vows with your S.O. would be really intense. But his style works. The claustrophobic camera work and angular shots add a nice dimension to the paranoid mood of the film and Danny Elfman’s score is very much old school, brilliantly mimicking the tackiness of a 60’s spy show with heavy militaristic drums and horns — and the occasional bongo drum to smooth it all out because spies are hip, baby."

Russ Fischer, /Film, The Best ‘Mission: Impossible’ Action Scenes
"Brian De Palma‘s first Mission: Impossible film wasn’t packed with action setpieces — there are only three, really, but those three are all top-tier action filmmaking, and one of those three defined the series for years to come. In the two decades since, the series has been tackled by a variety of directors — John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and now Christopher McQuarrie — each of whom with a slightly different balance of action and espionage."

Joe Walsh, Cine Vue
"The opening scene with a 53-year-old Cruise clinging to the side of a military plane as it takes off (whilst managing to say his lines) is a sight to behold. McQuarrie and his team have cherry-picked the most enjoyable elements of the previous four instalments and attempted to generate a hybrid Mission: Impossible film. We have a cat and mouse chase through London echoing De Palma's street scenes in Prague and a motorcycle chase through Morocco, near mirroring John Woo's Mission: Impossible II (2000)."

Scott "Movie" Mantz, Access Hollywood
"The fact that Rogue Nation triumphs as an action film with a tightly-plotted screenplay should not come as a surprise, since it was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for writing 1995's The Usual Suspects and has been on something of a roll with Cruise ever since he co-wrote 2008's under-seen suspense thriller Valkyrie. McQuarrie also co-wrote last year's flat-out brilliant sci-fi epic Edge of Tomorrow, and he wrote and directed 2012's underrated Jack Reacher. (He also did an uncredited script polish on the aforementioned Ghost Protocol.)

"But the key to the success of Rogue Nation is that it moves the Mission: Impossible series forward while also looking back on the staples that made it so great in the first place. The highly publicized stunt with Cruise hanging from the side of an airborne cargo jet is an envelope-pushing nod to his hair-raising climb outside the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol. There's also a gripping underwater break-in scene that brings to mind the dangling heist scene that Brian De Palma directed in the first installment, and that's followed by an exhilarating motorcycle chase that harkens back to what many regard as the best scene from director John Woo's Mission: Impossible II."

Posted by Geoff at 1:41 AM CDT
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DVD Beaver's Gary Tooze compares three Blu-ray versions of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill: MGM, Arrow Films, and the new Criterion. Most striking are the screen shot comparisons reproduced in the post, showing that the new De Palma-supervised Criterion transfer is radically different from the previous two Blu-ray editions. "Wow," states Tooze in the DVD Beaver post. "The Criterion is advertised as a 'New, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma’s preferred unrated version, supervised by the director...'. It is extremely different from the other two Blu-rays (both with max'ed out bitrates). It shows more information the frame - mostly on the side edges - and seems vertically stretched (or the other two or horizontally stretched. This makes the criterion faces thinner and taller and the Arrow and MGM faces fatter. It is also more faded and has a yellow/green tinge to it. The Criterion has a less robust technical transfer for the film - with a decent, but lower bitrate. I never saw this theatrically so its hard for me to categorically state this Criterion transfer is not accurate. The Criterion transfer skin tones are cooler. I will say it gave me a new viewing experience. It is also the unrated-cut of the film. NOTE: The round (?) lamp behind Michael Caine (below capture) is oval in the Criterion 1080P, but strangely, at times, the Criterion ratio looks more 'right' to me - at other times the Arrow and MGM appear more natural. The more I look at it though - the more the Criterion appears correct to me."

The Criterion Blu-ray of Dressed To Kill is set to be released on August 18, 2015.

Posted by Geoff at 1:00 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2015 7:22 AM CDT
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Some surprising news hit this morning as the Venice Film Festival announced its line-up. Among the non-fiction films revealed is a 109-minute documentary called De Palma, co-directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. Variety's Nick Vivarelli notes that the film marks "the first time the somewhat reclusive Brian De Palma talks in-depth about his life and career." Baumbach and Paltrow are friends of De Palma's, of course, and Baumbach has interviewed De Palma on camera twice now for separate Criterion releases: Blow Out, and the upcoming Dressed To Kill. The pair (De Palma and Baumbach) have also appeared on stage together at the New York Film Festival.

Also announced for Venice is a 16-minute short by Martin Scorsese, The Audition, starring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Scorsese himself, according to Vivarelli.

The Venice Film Festival this year runs September 2-12.

Meanwhile, speaking of Baumbach and De Palma, Ari Gunnar noted last month that Charles Grodin, who plays a legendary filmmaker in Baumbach's While We're Young (pictured here), was "cosplaying" in that film as Brian De Palma.

Posted by Geoff at 11:35 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2015 9:33 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 5:30 PM CDT
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Monday, July 27, 2015


Posted by Geoff at 7:47 PM CDT
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Recapping last night's sixth episode of the second season of HBO's True Detective, JoBlo's Chris Bumbray begins with a summary of the episode's plot: "Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) goes undercover at a drug and sex fueled party to find a missing woman with info on Caspere's blackmail tape." Later in the recap, Bumbray writes, "Things get insane in the second half when Ani goes undercover at Mayor Chessani's son's sex party, where the mob imports girls for the town's richest men to have their way with. This whole sequence is amazing, with director Miguel Sapochnik (director of Repo Men) expertly staging the Brian De Palma-style set-piece at the party, with the tension being ramped up to an almost intolerable level. I was literally on-the-edge of my seat, helped by McAdams' wired performance as Ani's drugged and starts to hallucinate that the man who molested her as a child is stalking her, while having to fight off armed bodyguards (with some nifty knife work). The shooting, editing and – especially – the T. Bone Burnett soundtrack here deserve top marks, and I think I even preferred this set-piece to the shootout in episode four. It was absolutely masterful."

Posted by Geoff at 1:00 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, July 27, 2015 7:36 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 2:29 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 26, 2015 2:30 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 25, 2015
In the new film Trainwreck, written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, Schumer plays Amy, who makes it clear right from the start that she enjoys casual sex, drinking, and various drugs. Early in the film, she awakens from one boozy night in a bed that is not her own. As she opens her eyes, we see her look around the room, from her point of view, and the first thing she sees is a Scarface poster (from the 1983 film) hanging on the wall. The camera briefly pauses on the poster, in the center of the frame. She verbally notes the Scarface poster and begins muttering to herself as her eyes continue to dart around the room, "Please don't be a dorm room... please don't be a dorm room." It's a quick gag that got a lot of laughs at the packed theater in which I viewed Trainwreck the other night.

Posted by Geoff at 1:45 AM CDT
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Friday, July 24, 2015

The "Everything Wrong With" series looks at Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible in the video above. After two quick "Movie Sins" right at the beginning, the narrator (Jeremy Scott) says, "I'm going to go ahead and knock off five sins because Brian De Palma shows how you can tell a story visually without having to cut to a new shot every second-- he uses the anamorphic format beautifully in this movie, and if you pay attention, you're rewarded." And there's another subtraction of "sins" later on. Also, make sure to watch the end of the video-- after going through the movie, there are some mash-ups of Mission: Impossible with other films, such as Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
(Thanks to James!)

Posted by Geoff at 1:26 AM CDT
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