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Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
AND DE PALMA'S "VISUAL POETRY" IN 'MISSION TO MARS'
Writing for National Review, Armond White reviews Ridley Scott's The Martian:
"Scott’s extravagant, hackneyed approach to genre overtakes The Martian’s drawn-out narrative. As Watney struggles, his crewmates atone, NASA watches, China lends a hand, and a diverse gathering of Earth-bound well-wishers wish each other well, the pile-up of clichés reminded me that all this has been seen and done before: Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, James Franciscus, Richard Crenna, and Lee Grant were more relatable at it in John Sturges’s conventional but effective Marooned. James Caan’s stranded yet ecstatic astronaut in Robert Altman’s Countdown was the purest expression of space-age aspiration. The distress metaphor was singlehandedly accomplished by Sandra Bullock in Gravity and Robert Redford in All Is Lost. Watney’s crew captain Jessica Chastain just endured a similar predicament in Interstellar. Best of all, Brian DePalma turned the dilemma into visual poetry with Mission to Mars (2000). It owed little to Kubrick’s 2001; instead it boasted DePalma’s exquisite languor, tension, and humor. Mission to Mars leapt beyond death to spiritual evolution in vibrant sci-fi hues. The ultimate disappointment of The Martian is Scott’s lackluster post-Alien style. He can’t disguise his detachment. Without highly aesthetic imagery, Scott’s just a low-NRG J. J. Abrams."
FRENCH TRANSLATION OF DWORKIN'S 'DOUBLE DE PALMA' IS THE BOOK; NEW NAPOLITANO SUPPLEMENT
According to the listing at Amazon.fr, the book part of Carlotta's upcoming Body Double Ultra Collector's Box is the first-ever French translation of Susan Dworkin's terrific Double De Palma, which is all about the making of the film. In addition, the collection will carry each of the four supplements that were included on the limited Twilight Time Blu-ray edition of Body Double, as well as the film's trailer.
Not on the Twilight Edition: There will also be an introduction from Samuel Blumenfeld, co-author (with Laurent Vachaud) of Conversations With Brian De Palma, as well as a 38-minute featurette called "Pure Cinema: Joe Napolitano Talks About Body Double." According to the Amazon description, "Joe Napolitano, first assistant and right-hand man to Brian De Palma on the set of five of his films in the 1980s, revisits Body Double shooting locations by analyzing not only the 'De Palma method,' but also the contributions of other collaborators, such as Stephen H. Burum (director of photography) and Ida Random (artictic director)."
Carlotta's Body Double collectors set will be released on December 2nd.
"DIRECTORS CLUB" IN ACTION
Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, Arnaud Desplechin, Brian De Palma, Jake Paltrow, and Kent Jones attend the "My Golden Days" screening during the 53rd New York Film Festival on October 2. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images) Posted at Yahoo News.
Meanwhile, the Principal Archivist at The Swan Archives attended last night's screening of the documentary, and reports on that site's news page that the Baumbach/Paltrow film includes "the original deus ex machina tidal wave ending from Snake Eyes, which, so far as we know, hasn't been seen publicly since the movie's ill-fated preview screening that resulted in the ending being removed and replaced with a far more conventional finale." The Archivist is right-- it is hard to believe no one seems to have even mentioned this. Earlier this year, screenwriter David Koepp had trouble even remembering what the original ending was.
Four years ago, Carla Gugino recalled the original ending rather clearly: "I feel like that came about just before they started doing (much more often) alternate endings on DVDs, etc. Because I saw that ending, and it was awesome! I prefer that ending to the ending that’s in the movie now. But I know that there was a thing at the moment with Snake Eyes where they felt like it was a bit of, like a ‘70s conspiracy thriller, and then all of a sudden it became an action movie with that tidal wave sequence. But in fact, I kind of loved that about it. We shot it on VistaVision, so it looked, you know, phenomenal. I actually did get pneumonia while shooting that sequence, and I was like, ‘It’s okay, suffer for your art, it’ll be great.’ And then they cut the sequence out of the movie!"
THE ORIGINAL ENDING
Back in 2001, "BWL," a member of the forum at Bill Fentum's currently defunct "Directed By Brian De Palma" website, was able to view an alternate version of the Snake Eyes ending on VHS, but with no sound effects or music soundtrack. Here is how BWL described that ending:
It starts off the same as we have all seen. Rick Santoro stumbles into the tunnel, bloodied and beaten up, with Kevin Dunne following from behind him, waiting to see where Julia Costello is hiding. Anthea and her cameraman are outside getting shots of the storm and Anthea says "I'd sure like to know what I did wrong to get all the shit assignments!" The cameraman yells "Just roll so we can get out of here!" Then Anthea goes into her countdown and says, "Well, it looks like tropical storm Jezebel just may be a hurricane after all!" Meanwhile, as Rick and Kevin approach the door to the area where Julia is locked inside, Rick sees the shadow of Kevin holding a gun. We cut to a shot from high atop the room where Julia is hiding and see rain seeping in (this is the first shot I recognized as different). Rick turns around and faces Kevin. With his face all beaten up Rick says, "Kevin, am I still pretty?" Kevin tells him calmly to unlock the door and have Julia come outside. Rick says, "No I won't tell her. I won't let you kill her" and covers the door with his body and his arms. Kevin loses his patience and says "TELL HER TO OPEN THE DOOR!"
We cut to Anthea and her cameraman outside on the boardwalk as the cameraman pans his camera off the boardwalk towards the water(not a POV shot) and then it cuts to a huge wave that is gathering steam and headed straight for the boardwalk. We cut back to Rick, who finally agrees to ask Julia to let him in since Kevin is seriously threatening him and yelling "OPEN THE DOOR!" Meanwhile, we cut back out to the boardwalk as the camera zooms in closely on Anthea who says "HOLY SHIT!" as the tidal wave smashes through a ferris wheel and amusement park on its way towards them. The cameraman grabs Anthea and pulls her inside the van. Rick tells Julia that it's him and she should open the door. Inside Julia says "Rick is that you?" and grabs the handle to the door. She fumbles with the door handle for a few moments but the door is not opening- it's stuck. Kevin loses his patience and fires off 6 or 7 shots right through the doorway. Julia recoils in fear and lets out a scream. Similar to the version we've seen, the shots manage to cause the outer doors that lead to the boardwalk to open up. Rick and Kevin rush inside the room where Julia is hiding. Rick covers Julia with his body to protect her from Kevin and she stands behind Rick scared out of her mind. Kevin says, "All right, Rick. I'll give you one more chance. Get out of the way or I'll shoot right through you." Rick looks outside and sees the gathering wave. He says to Julia, seemingly out of capitulation, "Sorry baby, I tried."
Then we cut to Kevin's henchmen driving in their van to "pick up the package on the boardwalk" (a scene referenced in the regular version when Kevin radios them and they respond while they're in the middle of putting the dead bodies into the concrete). The henchmen see the large globe detached from The Millennium rolling down the boardwalk by Anthea's news van. One of the henchmen says, "What the hell is that?" (which in the regular version was said verbatim by the emergency rescue personnel). The wave hits the boardwalk and washes over the news van and into the globe (this shot is also in the regular version). We cut back inside as Kevin is standing in the middle of the room about to shoot Rick, who is still covering Julia off on the side of the room. We see a wideshot of these three in the tunnel when all of a sudden the globe comes SMASHING through the tunnel wall and in an instant it rolls right over Dunne. The globe is followed from behind by a huge blast of water that rushes over Julia and Rick as they cling to each other and struggle to keep their footing. The water continues to rush in over them, filling up the tunnel, but after a few moments it recedes. Once it is safe the cameraman from the boardwalk comes running into the tunnel with his camera. As we pan down over the scene we see the large globe stopped dead in its tracks in the middle of tunnel with Kevin's crushed body and dangling from it, apparently impaled by a jagged piece of metal. Rick is lying on the ground coughing up water and still badly hurt from his beating. Julia comforts him by her side as the cameraman rushes over to them yelling to Anthea, "there's people in here!" But he says it less out of concern than out of opportunity. We then see from the POV of the cameraman's camera (as we similarly do in the regular version) a shot of Julia and Rick. Julia says with disgust "Would you just get away!" The cameraman zooms in on Rick's bloodied face and he stares blankly into the camera, and then the scene dissolves to the Mayor's awards ceremony (which is back the movie we all know).
Another aspect of the De Palma documentary that I hadn't seen mentioned before is that it contains Super 8 footage of Steven Spielberg from 1976. Vadim Rizov does mention it, though, in an NYFF Critics' Notebook piece for Filmmaker Magazine:
"Film writers (I’ve been guilty of this) often leap to conclusions about why directors take on assignments or make aesthetic choices; this practical, peer-to-peer chat is a useful reminder that keeping up with business movie journalism and thinking about production logistics is as useful a tool to understanding a body of work as any. The movie also helps slightly revise the now-beyond-ossified canon of the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls who either changed the world or crashed and burned, reminding us that extremes (the Lucas vs. Cimino binary) are overstating the case, that middle ground existed, and that past failures and successes only count for so many years. De Palma and George Lucas were both legitimately part of the underground before channelling their ambitions into more financable form. Another close friend was Steven Spielberg (seen calling De Palma from his early-adopter car phone in a Super 8 home movie from in 1976, a nice get); given different proclivities, it could’ve been an equally lucrative career.
"De Palma largely sticks to the numbers and production hassles, which is smart: really, what could he contribute to yet another formulation of Voyeurism And You, The Implicated Viewer? The film is edited at a lucid gallop, which makes it easier to connect the dots between De Palma’s recurring visual motifs as expressed and developed over time. E.g., you can see his aesthetic in early motion at MoMA in his 1965 op-art exhibition doc The Responsive Eye, in elegant but comparatively shaky handheld, and how he revisited his approach to the space with gliding Steadicam in Dressed To Kill. The doc is implicitly a work of critical advocacy for a currently somewhat unfashionable director, though it’s realistically for the already converted. It’s illuminating and edifying, if not precisely revelatory: the big Rosebud anecdote/thematic decoder key (about De Palma filming his cheating father’s partner entering his office from across the street, then charging in confront dad) has been told many times before. But it’s useful to be reminded how directors can think of themselves and their work: as conscious artists, of course, but also as endlessly badgered managers and worker drones, depending on where they are in their career."
"I saw the first-rate Noah Baumbach-Jake Paltrow documentary De Palma which unfolds as a virtually nonstop monologue by the filmmaker directly addressing the camera – and the audience – as he sits in what looks like his Fifth Avenue apartment. In chronological order Brian De Palma, now basically retired and a longtime mentor and friend to the two filmmakers, discusses every one of his films, interjected with what seems almost a stream of consciousness various clips of his movies – from the earliest student days with an unknown Robert De Niro to CARRIE, BLOW OUT, THE UNTOUCHABLES, BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE -- and to those many films he references which, yes, are mostly Hitchcock’s films. It’s a delicious immersion, often funny and enticing enough to make you want to go back and plunge into DePalma’s often violently grotesque landscapes again (or for the first time)."
"This is my fourth year covering the New York Film Festival, and one of my fondest festival memories, oddly enough, is seeing Brian De Palma’s Passion back in 2012. Hardly anyone would dare call it one of De Palma’s best; at very least, the blood isn’t richly liquid enough, and if you want to get more detailed, you might point out that the entire first half is kind of stilted and alien-sounding. But despite that tininess the whole audience seemed to identify it early on as a De Palma retro palate cleanser a la Raising Cain and Femme Fatale, and what at other screenings might have been mistaken for unintended laughter sounded, to me, like a collective acknowledgment of the very film-crit pleasures in observing a master filmmaker play around with his favorite tropes ('I didn’t know you had a twin' is not a laugh line, but it plays like a knowing joke to the De Palma faithful).
"It’s appropriate, then, that my first NYFF screening this year was De Palma, a documentary by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow that parlays their friendship with the director into a career overview.
"These kinds of docs are not uncommon, though they tend to run on PBS or HBO; Richard Linklater had one just last year with 21 Years, an affable look at his filmography that played a bit like a promo piece for Boyhood. But De Palma, culled from thirty to forty hours of conversations and pruned to only include De Palma’s voice, not his interviewers’, is more comprehensive and film-buffier than most. This is a full run-down covering every single movie he’s directed; Passion (which, sadly, remains his most recent fiction feature as of this writing) is the only one he doesn’t address directly, because the footage was filmed about five years ago, before that film was complete (Baumbach and Paltrow do include clips, though, as De Palma finishes up talking about how he’s returning to smaller indies after decades in and out of the studio system). If you’ve ever wanted to hear De Palma talk about Bonfire of the Vanities or Mission to Mars or Raising Cain alongside Blow Out and Dressed to Kill, this is your movie. And this is definitely my movie."
"But the doc transcends mere film-buff details for a fascinating, slowly emerging portrait of a pigheaded provocateur, maybe somewhere on the spectrum. Why did Body Double’s murder weapon, a model-impaling power drill, have to be so long and phallic? That’s only logical, of course: 'It had to go through the floor too.' Why does De Palma’s camera chase so many leggy female victims? 'I'd rather be following around a girl than a guy.' Why did his marriages end? 'My true wife is my movie, not you.' De Palma’s straightforwardness is often exhilaratingly impolitic.
"Even more absorbing than this defensiveness, though, is De Palma’s obvious fury at defeats that still sting. Cursed with a razor-sharp memory at age 70 (these interviews were shot in 2010), the director seems to recall every tiny dispute and major war, from arguments with 's script doctor Robert Towne over the ending, to the vast critical dislike for his Hindenberg version of The Bonfire of the Vanities: 'I understood the book perfectly,' he spits, clearly reacting to critical snubs from 25 years ago, while also allowing that it was a disaster.
"It all adds up to an exposure that goes well beyond appraisal, entering into rare realms of frustration, dysfunction, euphoria and cynicism. Baumbach and Paltrow do De Palma's work justice via intelligently selected clips, a string of which—dating from 1974’s Phantom of the Paradise and the now-classic Carrie, to daring ’80s triumphs like Blow Out and Casualties of War—should be a religious experience for fans. But this is hardly a sermon. It's more like confession, the director still seething and replaying Vertigo in his head, lost in the curves of his career. De Palma is a public therapy session that upturns all expectations."
"I’ve always been skeptical of the claims made by the late Pauline Kael and her followers that Brian De Palma is a great director, although I think he’s made a handful of major films. By enabling de Palma himself to speak in an uninterrupted flow, De Palma directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow allow him to make a case for his body of work, as well as admit the flaws of films like Snake Eyes and Mission to Mars. De Palma races through the director’s life and filmography, juxtaposing an interview (in which Baumbach and Paltrow’s voices are never heard) shot against a plain dark background with plentiful clips from the work of De Palma and other directors.
"De Palma has been criticized for ripping off other filmmakers, especially Hitchcock, and for misogyny. He openly admits to the former –– in fact, De Palma opens with a clip from Vertigo –– but attributes feminist critiques of Dressed to Kill and Body Double to ‘80s fashion. As De Palma recounts his discovery of his voice and ability to launch a career, the film has a real joy. That largely fades after the ‘80s –– de Palma is honest about the probability that his glory days are behind him. Still, De Palma makes a great case for the merits of films like Carrie and Blow Out and leaves one wishing for a De Palma retro."
"In February of 2014, we dedicated an entire issue here at Cinética to filmmakers who, once names of certain prestige in the business they helped reshape, were now relying on alternative modes of production to keep making films that were smaller, more personal and no less impressive. 'I make movies like you guys now', says Brian De Palma at some point to the directors, about his rediscovered independence. For Baumbach and Paltrow, choosing to make a movie about him is certainly a consequence of an unlikely friendship, but the gesture also carries, even if unintentionally, a genealogical undertone, as the two new indies underline a titan of a long gone industrial ethos that they might want to carry forth in their work. Not only a sophisticated stylist, Brian De Palma is also an embodiment of the history of modern Hollywood, from the challenge of climbing the highest of all cinematic walls (which just happened to be crumbling to dust at the time) from the independent back lot to the major studios, to the laurels and the misery of being eaten alive by the unreliable tides of awards, improbable hits, major box office failures and late critical recognition that just barely got him a spot in contemporary auteristic pantheon. He’s seen it all, and an artist who’s seen it all tends to have stories to tell.
"That’s when things start getting a little funny in this one sided conversation. When we chose to write about how the sun was setting over a certain Hollywood here at Cinética, De Palma was not only part of this more or less arbitrary group of directors we elected (with the likes of Paul Schrader, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Abel Ferrara, Joe Dante and Monte Hellman), but was actually the heartbeat at the root of our drive: his latest film, Passion (2012), had then been gravely overlooked by distributors and film festivals alike in Brazil, while modern loves like Baumbach’s own Frances Ha (2012) were received by audiences and young cinephiles and critics with disproportional fanfare. Forcing a connection between the two events is not a path worth taking, but the pages of general taste have been turned and the safety net of the major indies does not set up itself. While there is undeniable beauty in Brian De Palma’s passionate reaction in the film to the way blockbusters are pre-made today, compared to how he made Mission: Impossible (1996) or Mission to Mars (2000), there’s a statement of just as eloquent a silence bubbling under the snippets of Hi, Mom! (1970), Greetings (1968) or Murder à la Mod (1968): there’s very little room, if any, for such displays of cinematic confrontation in the american 'indies' of today.
"This lack of confrontation is just as much part of the choice of a question-less interview as the director’s respectful devotion to their older friend. There are many interesting problems waiting to be uncrumpled in De Palma’s self-narration – the most provocative one involving a source in Redacted (2007), which the movie quickly brushes off, despite the director’s relative serenity in dealing with a major ethical dilemma – but any possibility of taking things one step beyond a mere report is sabotaged by the film’s elegant passivity. In fact, whenever Baumbach and Paltrow risk a more interventional relationship with the material, it leads to awkward, if not downright embarrassing demonstrations of cinematic cluelessness – the illustration of a never made hip hop version of Scarface (1983), for example, is a rare moment when the editing willfully contradicts De Palma’s take on his own history, and one can only be glad it’s such an isolated incident. The fact that the documentary manages to come out relatively unscarred from tabloidian gossip might make it look slightly more serious than Robert B. Weide’s Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012), but it is just as shallow and personality-centered, and just as influenced by the paradigms of news broadcasts and talk shows. Everybody loves anecdotes, and there are certainly some gems here, but the true cinematic reflections are slim and, worse, patiently waiting to be found, excavated and brought up to the surface. 'It’s always the run-up to what happens that is interesting and of course in my movies the run-ups last forever' might be a great open door to De Palma’s mannerist take on hitchcockian grammar, but the movie is happy to keep its doors shut, and let such penchant for self-reflexivity die on the shore in the form of a punchline."
"Filmmaker Brian De Palma is an engrossingly frank talker whose terrifically entertaining movies sometimes take years to accrue the fandom they deserve (Scarface’s cultural impact didn’t peak until about a decade after its release, and the once-reviled Body Double is now remembered fondly by many cinephiles). So a retrospective documentary honoring his work seems overdue, but Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s De Palma is merely serviceable. Filmed over the course of five days in Paltrow’s living room, the film chronicles De Palma’s movies in order with copious clips over his commentary. That it holds your attention for its entire 107 minutes is testament to the director’s extensive filmography and its magnitude of impeccably composed thrills.
"Though De Palma occasionally goes deep—at one point, he explains that the basis of Keith Gordon’s Dressed to Kill character came from his teenage spying on his father when he was cheating on De Palma’s mother—he’s not particularly challenged here and is able to, for example, dismiss criticism of his movies’ perceived misogyny with just a few words. He isn’t distastefully arrogant, nor does he flinch when discussing his numerous flops, but I didn’t get the sense that Baumbach and Paltrow were able to extract much more from him than your average interviewer (he was similarly open with me, seemingly willing to take on whatever question I’d throw at him, when I spoke to him by phone a few years ago). Because of its softball-interview nature (aside from a few seconds of him walking down the street, we only see De Palma sitting in Paltrow’s living room), De Palma feels like one of those feature-length docs that ends up stuck on a DVD as a bonus—but a good one."
"Reveries of sensuality and blood-soaked violence mark the work of director Brian De Palma. In a new documentary, the filmmaker recounts a career which has known box office success and failures, and of being both a critical darling and a whipping post of attacks nearly as violent as his movies...
"We hear De Palma's intellectualization of cinematic language, sparked by his early screening of Hitchcock's Vertigo, which proved a career-long inspiration for him. He also explains why some tricks of the trade are or are not effective, such as the split-screen montages in Sisters (which worked) and Carrie (which didn't)...
"His use of Hitchcock's stylistic trappings was always a signature of his work, particularly his suspense films. But De Palma set himself apart by the blood, violence and sex which Hitchcock could only suggest. He rather casually regards the criticism of his portrayal of women as victims of violence or targets of the male gaze (and if you'd forgotten, the film's generous clips will remind you). And yes, he understands why the caustic ending of Blow Out (in which a dying woman's gut-wrenching scream is looped into a schlock horror movie) generated such ire. How could it not?
"What is more valuable about this documentary are the personal stories that colored De Palma's creative output, such as Keith Gordon's character in Dressed to Kill, a young student who spies on a psychiatrist's office in order to catch a criminal -- it is similar to the young De Palma who spied on, and caught, his philandering father with his mistress.
"We also get gossipy reminiscences of his colorful dealings with Hollywood stars. Cliff Robertson, the male lead in the romantic melodrama Obsession, comes off as a jerk who made acting difficult for costar Genevieve Bujold, while Sean Connery hilariously objected to all the bullet squibs for his Tommy gun death scene in The Untouchables. (De Palma is incredulous that Mr. James Bond had never before worn a squib!)"
TOUMARKINE: 'DE PALMA' A REMINDER OF STUDIO MENTALITY & EGO SYSTEMS THAT KEEP HOLLYWOOD ROLLING
Meanwhile, Film Journal International's Doris Toumarkine also posted an anticipatory piece about the fest yesterday:
"NYFF documentaries this year are tantalizing, especially a good many focusing on show-biz subjects. Housed mainly in the “Spotlight on Documentaries” sector but scattered beyond are several new and intimate in-depth close-ups of film personalities. Among these winners, and for unexpected reasons, are Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words, HBO’s Nora Ephron bio-doc Everything Is Copy, and filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s De Palma, a talky, humorless sit-down with their pal Brian De Palma intercut with clips from his films and some he admires (the better part of this doc).
As much as the Bergman and Ephron docs will be a joy to their admirers, the barreling look/listen blast of De Palma provides ammo to his detractors. Unexpectedly, the Bergman work—a trove of home movies (she loved cameras, hers and those of others), clips, and material from her letters and diaries (read by current Swedish-born star Alicia Vikander)—becomes an intimate exposé of what it really takes to be a great, enduring star. The De Palma close-up impresses as a reminder of the studio mentality and ego systems that keep Hollywood factories and their determined filmmakers rolling.
On the other hand, HBO’s portrait of the late writer/director/reporter Ephron is a celebration, not just of its beloved and no-nonsense subject, but of the talent, taste and intelligence that can sometimes bless mainstream product.