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One Way Or De Palma from Joe Ahearne on Vimeo.
Rob Dean at A.V. Club asked Joe Ahearne about the creation of the excellent video he posted on Vimeo recently, One Way Or De Palma, in which he masterfully edited images from the films of Brian De Palma, setting them to a soundtrack of Blondie's One Way Or Another. Here is what Ahearne had to say to Dean:
I saw my first De Palma film when I was 17—Dressed To Kill—and that film taught me what it was a director does. It was only on repeated viewings that I realised what was happening with the slow motion (so gripped was I, I didn’t even realise the film had slowed down), the music, the colour, the editing, the framing, the camera moves, the story-telling (later on of course I realised what a superb director of actors he was too). And I hunted down all his films before and since (almost—haven’t seen Get To Know Your Rabbit yet!). I grew up on spectacle like Star Wars but De Palma showed me how a director could invest human scale drama with even more extraordinary emotion and intensity. Anyone who’s seen any of the stuff I’ve done who loves De Palma will easily spot the influences.
For a long time I’ve wanted to use De Palma’s images against Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” They share a certain obsessive quality. It was so great viewing De Palma’s last 22 films and appreciating him like a great composer, enjoying the reworking and recapitulation and reframing of themes - hearing his voice, I suppose. What really came home to me this time (I’ve seen them all many times) was what a master of colour he is. I tried to reflect that in the cut.
"When I returned to Italy I was in college. I arrived in Rome with two friends and I bought a Lambretta. I will never forget the tours I made by Vittorio Emanuele... then I took a car and drove from Venice all the way to Paris. During the trip I saw the beautiful cities of Siena, Perugia, Florence with a sensation of how much beauty there is in this country."
"My experiences and my feelings are part of my films and the Italian cinema affected me very much. I remember Rossellini, Anna Magnani, and also the way in which Antonioni visually conceptualized his ideas. I will never forget movies like L’Avventura or Red Desert."
"In my opinion the best American film about Italy is The Godfather, and not because we talk about mafia, but because it tells us that the family is an integral part of Italian culture."
In a new interview posted yesterday by Variety's Jon Asp (from the Norwegian Film Festival at Haugesund), Trier is asked how he comes up with ideas. "I like working intuitively," Trier responds, "in what I call dirty formalism, or pop formalism. I jokingly say that our films should be like great albums with different songs. I am a big fan of Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now, which could be very specific conceptual things, but it was a warm formalism, it didn’t alienate you. I’m also a very big fan of Brian De Palma. I believe in the idea of doing a cinematic set piece, like Conrad’s diary, it’s like film in itself, or the car crash sequence with Isabelle, and the association of the son thinking of his mother and the last moments of her death, are whole set pieces, a film within the film. So it’s like an album. You have different songs, hopefully most of them are hits."
Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow, USA, 2015, DCP, 107m
Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s fleet and bountiful portrait covers the career of the number one iconoclast of American cinema, the man who gave us Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, and Carlito’s Way. Their film moves at the speed of De Palma’s thought (and sometimes works in subtle, witty counterpoint) as he goes title by title, covering his life from science nerd to New Hollywood bad boy to grand old man, and describes his ever-shifting position in this thing we call the movie business. Deceptively simple, De Palma is finally many things at once. It is a film about the craft of filmmaking—how it’s practiced and how it can be so easily distorted and debased. It’s an insightful and often hilarious tour through American moviemaking from the 1960s to the present, and a primer on how movies are made and unmade. And it’s a surprising, lively, and unexpectedly moving portrait of a great, irascible, unapologetic, and uncompromising New York artist. In conjunction with this film, we will also be showing De Palma’s masterpiece Blow Out. North American Premiere
Brian De Palma, USA, 1981, 35mm, 107m
One of Brian De Palma’s greatest films and one of the great American films of the 1980s, Blow Out is such a hallucinatory, emotionally and visually commanding experience that the term “thriller” seems insufficient. De Palma takes a variety of elements—the Kennedy assassination; Chappaquiddick; Antonioni’s Blow-Up; the slasher genre that was then in full flower; elements of Detective Bob Leuci’s experiences working undercover for the Knapp Commission; the harshness and sadness of American life; and, as ever, Hitchcock’s Vertigo—and swirls and mixes them into a film that builds to a truly shattering conclusion. With John Travolta, in what is undoubtedly his greatest performance, as the sound man for low-budget movies who accidentally records a murder; Nancy Allen, absolutely heartbreaking, as the girl caught in the middle; John Lithgow as the hired killer; and De Palma stalwart Dennis Franz as the world’s biggest sleaze. This was the second of three collaborations between De Palma and the master DP Vilmos Zsigmond. MGM Home Entertainment.
The director was also careful to separate the work environment from the home front, though he admits part of the appeal in working with Gerwig is that oft-permeable barrier. “Making a movie is all-encompassing. When I’m writing and casting and prepping and shooting, it’s a huge part of my life, so naturally I’m thinking and talking about it a lot, everywhere. But when we’re doing it together, it can be almost easier,” he says. “We both have the same thing in mind. Even when we have dinner, when we go off-topic, if something comes up that strikes us, we’ll be, ‘That’s good, write that down.’”
While the easy relationship was a boon for the film, working on a Baumbach film is never easy, with or without Gerwig. “There were very challenging days on set – Noah is a demanding filmmaker,” says [Lola] Kirke, a relative newcomer to the film world. “On IMDb, it says one scene was shot in 65 takes. No, all scenes were shot that way. I don’t think I ever did less than 30, even of something like my hand putting pasta down on a table. … Noah and Greta are very particular about saying the lines as they are on the page – you have to be word-perfect.”
If some intimidation and repetitiveness was the cost of the film, then it was well worth it. Mistress America is built on tight, twisty language and the almost inpercetible tics that make up a personality – not something easily captured on the fly. It’s also the rare film focusing on two strongly defined female characters, neither of whom is fighting over something so trivial as a man or money.
"Noah and Greta were intent on telling another narrative, something that’s been reserved for more, like, art-house films,” Kirke says. “This movie lends itself to a wider audience because it is a comedy, and that’s the thing that Greta brings to Noah’s already stellar work: pathos and heart.”
For his part, Baumbach isn’t quite ready to completely abandon his independent work. “We’re both going to do things separately, but it’s something we’d definitely like to do,” the director says of future Gerwig collaborations. Until then, he is putting the finishing touches on a project a world apart from Mistress America’s sunny humour: a documentary about thriller master Brian De Palma.
Now if someone could only get the three of them in a room together, we’d have something truly special.
The morning after this party, it was announced that De Palma would be honored with the Glory to the Filmmaker Award at next month's Venice Film Festival, with the world premiere of the Baumbach and Paltrow documentary on De Palma to follow immediately afterward.
A few days before the Baumbach premiere, Sonia Moskowitz snapped this photo (at right) of De Palma and an unnamed friend on August 8, at the Authors Night for the East Hampton Library.