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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
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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Scarface: Make Way
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De Palma a la Mod

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pino Donaggio received a lifetime achievement award, presented to him by Dario Argento, as part of last week's La Chioma di Berenice in Rome, which honor the imagination and skills of craftsmen and artists of the Italian and international cinema: hairdressers, makeup artists, costume designers, set designers and music composers. Donaggio was interviewed by LoudVision's Donato D'Elia. The latter also separately interviewed Argento.

D'Elia was especially interested to ask both Donaggio and Argento about Brian De Palma's Raising Cain. "I speak about it with pleasure," Donaggio tells D'Elia. "My score is more atonal, more studied, and I'm also very attached to this work. De Palma, especially in our first collaborations, almost forced me to be close to the canon of Herrmann, with small variations and steps that maybe the untrained ear could not perceive, but then little by little I would always try to detach myself and to customize the job. In Raising Cain now the process had reached maturity, so I could afford to go back to a more classical score without overdoing those connotations, which can forcibly seem most derivative. But even in our latest collaboration, Passion, in the finale we return once again closer to that musical world."

Meanwhile, D'Elia was curious to hear Argento speak about the final shot of Raising Cain, which D'Elia tells Argento seems to "copy verbatim a famous sequence" from Argento's Tenebre. D'Elia asks Argento if he has ever confronted De Palma about the scene. "No, we never confronted the question," replies Argento, "but there was also no need, Brian is a friend. In his films he often cites Hitchcock, and this time also mentioned me, and I take it as a compliment."

Delving deeper into Donaggio's style, D'Elia tells the composer, "There is, in my opinion, a peculiar feature: the keyboard parts to introduce a serene, almost dreamlike atmosphere, and then precipitate tension with the arrival, in fact, of the strings. Am I correct in my impressions?"

"Yes, of course," Donaggio replies, "it is a process that I used from the start even, just to break away from Herrmann and exploit my knowledge as a pop arranger who had matured in the first part of my career. Herrmann communicated suspense right away, but I was trying to lighten and then give after the coup of suspense, so to speak. I saw people jump on their chairs at screenings of Carrie, because of these changes in tone: one of these was George Lucas, when Brian showed the film to him and a few others in a preview screening. I tried to create a peculiar style of my own, and I think I succeeded. As I said before, I used my Italian, come from the opera, the singing in the works already as a boy, twelve years of conservatory."

When D'Elia mentions that Donaggio's "Telescope" from De Palma's Body Double "became a big disco hit in the eighties," Donaggio replies, "It was the only piece that was always requested in record stores. That was an idea of Brian, immerse the film in those plasticky sounds, with synthesizers: everything worked properly, I think."

Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CST
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Sunday, November 1, 2015
The photo at left (taken by Bruce Gilbert) shows Tom Wolfe, seated in between U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and moderator Thane Rosenbaum, discussing his novel The Bonfire Of The Vanities on stage following a screening of Brian De Palma's film adaptation. The screening, which took place this past Tuesday (October 27th), was part of the 10th Annual Forum on Law, Culture & Society Film Festival. A video of the discussion is available at LiveStream, and David Lot has posted a piece about the event at Above The Law (which is where the photo here comes from).

"I had low expectations for the movie," writes Lot, "generally regarded as a 'critical and commercial flop,' so I was pleasantly surprised by its entertainment quotient — I wouldn’t call it 'good,' but I would call it 'fun' — and by the amount of law it contains. Morgan Freeman chews the scenery as the benchslap-happy Judge Leonard White, Kevin Dunn does a fine job portraying defense lawyer Tom Killian (inspired by the real-life celebrity lawyer Ed Hayes), the plot turns on an evidentiary issue and the legality of recording conversations in New York, and the film concludes with a stirring courtroom oration by Judge White about the nature of justice.

"(It’s also a pleasure to see the younger versions of several high-profile actors — Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall — especially Hanks, who was quite nice-looking back when he had more hair and fewer pounds. His acting has improved over the years even if his physique has not. Watching him in Bonfire, I thought about how much better he is in the new legal thriller, Bridge of Spies."


Here's a brief transcript from the beginning of the discussion (viewed at LiveStream), in which Wolfe discusses some differences between the book and the film:

Rosenbaum: It’s been, now, thirty years since the events of this novel—and the best-selling experience of this novel—how often do you watch the film? I know you and your wife sat in our audience and watched it. Was it miserable for you, are you happy to be here watching the film? What is it like when your novel is adapted into a movie—a critically-acclaimed novel—adapted into a movie that’s considered a flop?

Wolfe: It takes a while to realize that if someone makes a movie out of your work, it’s not going to be your book. It’s going to be something very different. And this was very… different. [Laughter] For example, at the end of the film, there’s a marvelous, heartfelt, sermon, really, from the judge. And it kind of sweeps your emotions away there at the end, it’s… everything is working out well. In the book, the judge and Sherman McCoy are running for their lives. [Laughing] They had the same mob in there. The outcome’s a little different. Also, this is an example of the changes: the studio was not happy, once they had the book, to see that the book ends with a white judge giving a lecture to a predominantly black audience. And they said, “wait, we can’t do that!” So that’s why they brought in Morgan Freeman, who’s a wonderful actor, but it completely changes the plot of the book. And not completely, but to a large part.

Rosenbaum: And Sherman McCoy, who you unsparingly made unsympathetic in the novel, once the part was given to Tom Hanks, he was treated much more favorably.

Wolfe: Oh, I think that wasn’t accidental, either. We’ve got this man born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and who’s going to have any sympathy for him? You can’t help but have sympathy for Tom Hanks, if he wants you to have sympathy. [Laughter]

Rosenbaum: You know, I was wondering, if you’re reading the papers nowadays, if, for you, whether the novel and the film are a déjà vu all over again. I remember in the novel, Reverend Bacon, it’s not in the film, at some point says, “Is a black life worth less than a white life?” And that sounds a lot like “Black Lives Matter.” Which is, as you know, a mantra of today. And the 2008 financial crises, we had Occupy Wall Street, and now we’re living in an era where there’s a great backlash against bankers, Wall Street insiders, there’s a great sense of wealth inequality, class divisions, and those feelings are precisely the way people responded to Sherman McCoy in the eighties. And it must be weird to you, as if things either haven’t changed, or this is really the sequel—we’re living the sequel of Bonfire Of The Vanities.

Wolfe: Well, one thing that has changed is that, in Bonfire Of The Vanities, there’s a… tremendous emphasis is put on Wall Street, for example. Well, we still know about Wall Street, but the Masters of the Universe are on their feet, they’re shouting as things go for sale, for bidding. Neckties are pulled down, coats and jackets are off. I happened to go through Wall Street twenty-five years after the book came out. You would not recognize the place! Nobody’s standing up and shouting. It’s mostly… at one point, what was known as high-speed trading was almost 75% of the market. And all of the great Masters of the Universe are now all clerks behind their computers, and if they have anything to say, they have to say it on… they have to tweet it. And that’s about it. That’s a huge change.

Posted by Geoff at 8:30 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 1, 2015 8:32 PM CDT
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Friday, October 30, 2015
Matthew Lawrence at Unicorn Booty posted an article this week titled, "The 5 Favorite Horror Movies Of Queer Studies Professors." Brian De Palma's Carrie was chosen by three out of the eight professors, which included our old friend David Greven. "There’s a zillion listicles about the best queer horror movies of all time," Lawrence states in the introduction, "but to be honest the films are often campy as hell, have laughably low-budget production values or just plain suck. So we asked some experts — LGBTQ academics who study film, media, queer studies and, in a few cases, queer horror films specifically. Their eight answers have a lot in common – note all the Hitchcock shout-outs – but it seems that there is clearly one reigning queen of the horror prom. Get your tampons ready."

Here are the three who chose Carrie, and what they had to say about it:

David Greven, Professor of English at the University of South Carolina

Hitchcock’s Psycho, with its sense of an essential bleakness at the heart of modernity, is the greatest horror movie ever made. But to choose my personal favorite, it is without question Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie and based on Stephen King’s novel.

The film has a mythic, fairy tale, revenge-plot narrative that speaks to timeless themes – the outsider, the ostracized, the pariah. “The Outcast of the Universe,” to use Hawthorne’s phrase. Carrie White, played so magnificently and poignantly by Sissy Spacek, is the the pariah we can all relate to. We get to know and understand her and like her and root for her so intimately that all of the pain and terrible abuse she suffers hurts us as well. The queerness of the film emerges in part from this shared experience of shame and abuse. Brian De Palma’s masterful, voyeuristic, deeply emotional filmmaking style makes the whole experience of watching this film uncannily, intimately personal. Carrie White’s emergent telekinetic powers are directly linked to the terrors and the pleasures of her emergent sexuality — and it is this dynamic that makes the film so queer. In addition, it has a dreamy, fantasy aspect in which we are put in the position of longing for but then – fleetingly –attaining a romantic ideal, in this case the blonde, charming, sensitive prince Tommy Ross (William Katt).

The other queer dimension, oddly, is that this is a film entirely dominated by female power. Carrie’s crazy, sensually passionate religious fundamentalist mother Margaret White (Piper Laurie) commands attention, but so do the gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), the would-be do-gooder Sue Snell (Amy Irving) whose misguided attempts to solve Carrie’s problems put the horror-plot in motion, and the smudgy-lipped teen villain Chris Hargenson, played with aplomb by Nancy Allen. Male power takes a decided back seat to these vivid, memorable women and the dark power they wield. Miss Collins, far from a blandly sympathetic character, is actually quite suspect. You wonder if she may indeed be laughing at Carrie at the prom! She certainly seems to have an overly intense need to punish Chris and may be the person that Chris really wants to punish.

As I argue in my book Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema, the movie retells the story of Demeter and Persephone. The famous prom sequence is justly celebrated, but the sequence at the climax – largely De Palma’s own invention – in which Carrie kills her mother by telekinetically impaling her with kitchen utensils, is just as brilliant. One thing about De Palma: you can be laughing, or feeling terrified, and then suddenly you’re emotionally wounded in a profound way. The keening cry that bursts out of Carrie when she realizes that her mother is dead and that she is now utterly alone – that’s the true moment of movie horror.

Darren Elliott-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at the University of Hertfordshire
I’m always reticent to say what my favourite horror film is, as you will probably appreciate there are so many. At the moment and regularly throughout my life, Carrie often thrusts its undead hand into my consciousness. Despite De Palma’s tendency to rip Hitchcock: the style of direction, use of colour and editing are often wildly excessive.

Excess I think is what appeals to the queer viewer, taking pride (and shame) in outrageous spectacle: the frenzy of split screen slaughter, the scenery chewing hysteria of Piper Laurie’s Margaret White, the pig’s blood spattered palette of the red, white and blue of the American dream. It is a nostalgically campy and cult film, it is genre-bending, it is a spectacularly made, classic teen-melodrama-horror. Empathising with the burgeoning sexuality of Carrie, her humiliation, the fantasy of revenge – the film speaks clearly to the queer spectator as a coming out tale. The shame Carrie experiences resonates with the queer spectator who fears that “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

Christopher Mitchell, lecturer at Rutgers University
It’s hard to pick one favorite, but if I had to it’s probably one that a lot of others will choose: Carrie. There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before about this film, but the real horror of the movie isn’t the supernatural stuff. It’s all the supposedly normal stuff in our everyday lives.

From a queer lens, in which the normal evokes horror, Carrie seems to have all of it, but I’ll follow the rule of three here and just point out the following three big observations, which, again, are hardly original: first you have the adolescent body that becomes an object of horror in the context of the American high school (the opening scene [of Carrie having her period] in the girl’s locker room), then there’s the violence latent in Christianity and its ability to transform parenthood into filicide (Carrie’s mother), and finally the bloody rites of a social hierarchy that stigmatizes outsiders (when Carrie is literally marked with pig’s blood).

The best part of this horror film is that it’s not really possible to identify a single villain: Chris Hargenson and Carrie’s mom are not really individual villains, they’re basically stereotypes and agents of the larger cultures (the church and the schoolyard) that they parrot. I would entice a friend to see it by either saying “It’s so good!” or, y’know, subtle intellectual shaming, because academics are trained to persuade people to consider media in this way.

Posted by Geoff at 8:46 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 29, 2015
Doug Cox, who played Freddy “The Beak” Holt in Brian De Palma's Carrie, will take part in a Q&A following a screening of the film tonight (Thursday) at 7pm at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, Illinois. The Belleville News-Democrat posted an interview yesterday, which includes a video (scroll through the photos to find it) in which Cox describes auditioning for the film, De Palma changing Cox's role on the first day of filming, and being called back to shoot the tuxedo scene, which De Palma thought up during the course of shooting the film, and which Cox says was all improvised. Here is my transcript of the video:
I can’t believe it was 39 years ago. Oh, man!

Carrie, my first film. I was lucky… a friend of mine, his wife was the casting director on it. So she got me an audition for it. And I got it. It was amazing. It was the first movie for a lot of us, and… it was just playing, we just had a great time. It took three weeks to shoot the prom scene, so there was lots of sitting around, and we just had so much fun, exchanging stories, and bonding, and then we just really became great friends from it. And I already had some friends who were in the film, too, so that was a lot of fun. You get to work with your friends. What’s better than that?

It was interesting, because at first we thought she was a little standoff-ish. And then we realized, no, she’s in character, because her character Carrie was different from the rest of the kids. And that was the way she got into her character. It was fun hanging out with Betty Buckley, who was the teacher. Was a great friend. She always had her little dog with her. John Travolta, it was terrific, and Nancy Allen, Amy Irving… because we were all around the same age. Like I said, it was the first film for a lot of us. We had no idea it was going to be a big film. It was just this low budget little horror movie. And we had no idea that it was going to turn into what it did. And the Academy Awards nominations that it got. We were shocked! It was so much fun, also, the first time I saw it. I went with a bunch of friends to a midnight show in Hollywood. And to see yourself on the big screen like that, and get laughs, that was the best part.

I played “The Beak” in Carrie. I was originally going to be the drummer at the prom, in the band, the drummer in the band. And we got to the first day of shooting, and Brian said, “Mmmm… I don’t know about that. Let’s give you a camera.” So I became the photographer. And I don’t know who’s idea it was to give me the T-shirt with the tuxedo printed on it. But it was a gift, believe me. Because it made me different from everybody else, at the prom. And I had this hat—I still have the hat. [Gets his hat] This is the hat I wore in Carrie—there’s even still some fake blood spots on here someplace. This is my own hat. I got this at Famous-Barr, and, I don’t know, I guess I wore it to the audition, and Brian, the director, said, “Keep it!” So it helped me make the character. And it was a lot of fun. I was really lucky, because I’d worked on the film, I’d been released, I was done shooting, and then like a week later, they called up and they said, “Brian’s come up with another scene. Are you available?” So that’s where we got the tuxedo shop scene, which was all improvised. And improv is what I do, so it was a lot of fun, just coming up with stuff. And a great time—me, and Bill Katt, and Harry Gold—we were the three guys in that scene. We spent a lot of time together, and really became great friends. It was a lot of fun. And here it is, almost 40 years later. Hard to believe that it’s still playing. And it plays every Halloween on TV all over the place.

Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Watch this on The Scene.

The New Yorker's Richard Brody posted the above "Movie Of The Week" video essay about Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars today on his blog. Here is the text he posted to accompany the video:

"The best thing in The Martian isn’t the science or the suspense but the strangeness of space—an element that its director, Ridley Scott, downplays and that Brian De Palma revels in, with gleeful inventiveness, in his 2000 feature, Mission to Mars, which I discuss in this clip. De Palma’s film is a story of rescue as well, in which Don Cheadle plays an astronaut marooned on Mars; Gary Sinise, Connie Nielsen, Tim Robbins, and Jerry O’Connell play his crewmates, who are making the return trip to Earth when they learn of his survival and head back to get him. The strangeness that De Palma conveys is as much psychological and even metaphysical as it is practical. Space is big and empty, stations are confined, weightlessness is baffling, durations are distorted, and relationships are skewed. The scientific angle of Mission to Mars is approached with wonder, but there’s also a supernatural angle that simultaneously tethers the movie to classic life-in-space fantasies and gives rise to a second layer of speculation (which I also discuss in this clip) that, while defying the letter of the plot, is entirely in tune with its spirit."

Posted by Geoff at 6:24 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:31 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 6:04 PM CDT
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Monday, October 26, 2015



Last week in the New York Times DVD column, J. Hoberman discussed Dressed To Kill, and mentioned Chris Dumas' Un-American Psycho in the process. Here's an excerpt: 


"Anyone seeking a trick-or-treat outfit that screams the ’80s could do worse than to study Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980), on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion, or Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983), new on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Blood and bling are part of the décor.

"Both are erotic horror films that flaunt their style and flirt with soft-core pornography. There is nudity, but costumes are de rigueur: Mr. De Palma’s monster is a razor-wielding cross-dresser, while Mr. Scott’s ultra-modish vampire couple (Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie), bloodsuckers who slash rather than bite, are shown several times to good advantage in 18th-century garb.

"Both movies employ lushly saccharine music, unfold in a scarily indifferent Manhattan and are enlivened by aggressively vulgar New York City police detectives. If Dennis Franz in Dressed to Kill is a far funnier embodiment of the reality principle than Dan Hedaya in The Hunger, it is because Mr. De Palma’s movie is a vastly richer, more entertaining movie than The Hunger — and also, for all the accusations leveled at Mr. De Palma of being a Hitchcock copycat, a more original one as well.

"However blatant its Psycho references (or parodies), Dressed to Kill owes as much to Luis Buñuel, another De Palma influence, as to Alfred Hitchcock. (Mr. De Palma borrowed the beyond-the-grave grab in Carrie from Los Olvidados; less obvious points of contact in Dressed to Kill include Belle de Jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.) As befits a semi-Surrealist work, Mr. De Palma’s movie is framed by two reveries imagined in the same bed — one a lascivious daydream, the other a scary nightmare — and is fraught with Freudian angles.

"The nominal protagonist, a frustrated suburban housewife (Angie Dickinson), fantasizes about steamy sex, playfully teases her adolescent son (Keith Gordon), complains to her well-to-do psychoanalyst (Michael Caine), and then, in the movie’s most extravagantly orchestrated set piece (an almost silent sequence with the camera in nearly constant motion), allows herself to be picked up by a mysterious stranger at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That the scene ends with a couple having relations in the back seat of a cab heading down Fifth Avenue is the signal for further, darker adventures.

"Full of logical inconsistencies, Dressed to Kill is best appreciated as a series of intersecting fantasies — those of the homemaker, her shrink, her son and the director, who cast his wife at the time (Nancy Allen) as a savvy call girl variously serving as surrogate mom, big sister and dream girlfriend for Mr. Gordon’s quasi-autobiographical character. (De Palma, a documentary portrait of the director, recently shown at the New York Film Festival, suggests that the scene in which, armed with a hidden camera, the boy stakes out the analyst’s office is based on an episode from Mr. De Palma’s past.)

"Mr. De Palma has made more coherent movies than Dressed to Kill (namely Carrie and Blow Out) during his long career, but few have been so technically accomplished, felt more personal or raised more hackles: Dressed to Kill had to be recut to avoid an X rating and, along with William Friedkin’s Cruising, which opened the same summer, was attacked for its stereotyping.

"The movie was also the site of a battle royale between critical factions headed by Pauline Kael (who loved the movie) and her rival Andrew Sarris (who did not). The fracas is well analyzed by Chris Dumas in his book Un-American Psycho, a study of Mr. De Palma’s work, which, because Mr. Dumas also accused cinema studies academics of dismissing his subject, roiled the surface of that particular pond as well.

"If Dressed to Kill is a primal scream, The Hunger is more like a finger snap. Mr. Scott didn’t invent vampire chic, but the movie’s opening few minutes — with Ms. Deneuve and Mr. Bowie resplendent in designer threads and expensive shades, cruising a haute, dungeonlike punk nightclub — seem like a prophetic parody of the ultracool undead in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.

"The Hunger was Mr. Scott’s sophomore feature, and it established his commercial-honed, MTV-friendly style, at once frenzied and soignée and often risible. Curtains billow, doves cry, the light is filtered and huge close-ups are ladled with a dollop of Schubert. Although the movie ultimately dissolves into a blood-feast zombie-fest, the performances are not without merit. Mr. Bowie’s brittle fury is effective. So is Ms. Deneuve’s practiced hauteur, as well as Susan Sarandon’s capacity to bring warmth as well as heat to a lengthy bedroom scene the actresses share.

"Mr. Scott, who took his own life in 2012, went on to make the most suave example of Reagan-era bellicosity, Top Gun (1986), and many more, increasingly mannered, movies. Although not a critical darling, he did have his defenders. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote a fond appraisal after his death. So did the film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who passionately praised Mr. Scott as an avant-garde filmmaker. A year after his death, other critics grouped Mr. Scott with several other déclassé genre directors, including Michael Bay and Paul W. S. Anderson, as part of a critical tendency that some called vulgar auteurism.

"Auteurs, according to Mr. Sarris, auteurism’s most influential American advocate, were those studio directors distinguished by a recognizable style, a consistent worldview and a certain je ne sais quoi. John Ford, Howard Hawks and, of course, Hitchcock were deities in the Sarris pantheon. Vulgar auteurism suggests that, with classic directors thus enshrined, a new generation of film critics needed to discover and champion a new of constellation of outré film artists. Back in 1980, Mr. De Palma would have been the prime example."

Posted by Geoff at 12:55 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 26, 2015 1:02 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 18, 2015


Zach Gayne, Twitch

"Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's documentary, De Palma, begins with its beloved subject discussing the first time he ever saw Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and the profound impact it had on his sense of storytelling and general cinematic philosophy. In discussing Hitchcock, an interesting point is raised; that for all the talk of the Hitchockian influence, Brian De Palma remains his only true disciple. Nowhere else in the cinema of suspense are Hitchcock's expressionistic lessons in anticipation so well heeded and stylistically expanded upon.

"But while there is a certain level of apparent inspiration at work in De Palma's evolution, what materialized from his admiration of Hitchcock is a thirst for originality so vivacious in its growing storytelling toolbox that, in Hitchcock's wake, grew one of the most dynamic filmmakers to shape the modern cinematic landscape. Whether your genre is suspense or not, De Palma's willingness to take risks, via his throbbing middle finger aimed at coverage-style shooting and general cliché, stands as an urgent call for outside-of-the-box thinking. 

"Even in De Palma's early screwball art films, which take a far stronger cue from Godard than Hitchcock, there is an expressionistically anti-norm playfulness at work establishing De Palma's artistic priorities from day one: to be singular. Take, for example, one of Noah Baumbach's favorites of De Palma's early work, Get To Know Your Rabbit, which stars former Smothers Brother, Tom Smothers, as a corporate leach who abandons his career path to become a magician. Though De Palma would undergo changes in genre in subsequent years, his trickster spirit unifies everything he touches. It involves making the audience stare at the rabbit while he pulls a cinematic fast one, through tactics like his split screen revolution which evolved into his custom split diopter lens, or his mastery of the choreographed mobile long take with a propensity for surprise.

"There are countless reasons to love Brian De Palma that may not necessarily become immediately apparent depending on which of his 40 or so films a first timer will choose to watch. Those who love him unconditionally do so because, though his filmography isn't flawless, his missteps are almost as admirable as his masteries, in their equally noble attempts to break new ground."


James Hancock, Wrong Reel:

"De Palma’s most important advice from my point of view was the value in building a network of fellow filmmakers both as professional comrades-in-arms and as personal friends who can understand the pain and torment most filmmakers will inevitably have to face. The best example of this at play was when De Palma and George Lucas teamed up to use the same casting calls for both Star Wars (1977) and Carrie (1976), a situation that worked to the advantage of both filmmakers. Now as an aging filmmaker, De Palma has thoroughly enjoyed developing relationships with the next generation of directors which is how this documentary eventually came to be made. What I loved most about the movie was De Palma’s brutal honesty about the realities of the film industry. De Palma has made so many movies both in and out of the studio system and each approach has its pitfalls to be avoided. On Phantom of the Paradise (1974), De Palma never bothered to get E&O insurance, consequently the film was hit with four massive lawsuits the moment they tried to distribute the film. While making The Bonfire of the Vanitiesa high profile production adapted from Tom Wolfe’s bestselling book, De Palma was inundated with so many notes from studio execs the end result was a movie that appealed to no one, least of all De Palma who had originally believed it had the potential to be the greatest film of his career. Then there are the actors to deal with such as Cliff Robertson deliberately sabotaging takes for other actors on Obsession (1976) or Sean Penn provoking his costar Michael J. Fox by whispering ‘TV actor’ in his ear during a take on Casualties of War (1989). Mission: Impossible turned into an absurd scenario where De Palma had to play referee in a civil war of screenwriters with David Koepp writing drafts in one hotel room and Robert Towne, the studio’s choice, writing in another. Somehow out of the chaos, a hit movie emerged. Dressed to Kill and The Untouchables were two of the rare cases where both the shoot and the reception of the film could not have gone better. If these stories sound bleak, not to worry, De Palma smiles and laughs throughout all of his anecdotes, but there is nothing at all sentimental about De Palma’s frank descriptions of the movie biz. Filmmaking is a tough, brutal industry where nearly every day on the set can break a director, the film, or as he experienced on Mission to Mars (2000), both. De Palma sadly admitted that his filmmaking is pretty much over. He now has trouble walking and as challenging as the creative and political battles in filmmaking can be, the physical demands of being a director can often be the biggest challenge of them all.


"One of the key takeaways from the film is how little control directors have over their own filmography. Contrary to the misconception of successful directors carefully picking their projects at just the right time, De Palma freely admits he often just had to go with projects that had a green light and were ready to go which is how he ended up directing Bruce Springsteen and the then unknown Courteney Cox in the music video ‘Dancing in the Dark’. There were times he would develop a screenplay for over a year like Prince of the City only to see it fall into the hands of another filmmaker like Sidney Lumet, a situation that was reversed when De Palma came on board Scarfacea film originally intended for Lumet. If there is one thing, however, that is consistent in his insanely unpredictable career, it is De Palma’s eye for framing a shot and staging action. One of his chief grievances against many directors is their inability to establish the geography of a scene leading to total confusion as the action begins to unfold. Whether he is filming a high school prank gone wrong in Carrie, his Odessa steps homage in The Untouchables, or the incredible chase through the subway in Carlito’s Way, few directors have ever managed to stage action in such a clear and powerful style quite like De Palma. But enough of my rambling."



Steve Kopian, Unseen Films:

"This is De Palma's story and if the details aren't always 100% true, they are the one's that he remembers. I say that because Baumbach in the post film screening at the New York Film Festival inferred that's the case. I haven't fact checked it but I suspect it's probably true because we all get things wrong, that doesn't mean it's not a great story.

"The film itself is a great deal of breezy fun as De Palma talks about the films he's made and the careers he started (say Robert De Niro). The film is full of great stories about how and why films were made and cast-DePalma takes great jot in making fun of Cliff Robertson in Obsession who was unnaturally tan and worked to derail his co-stars. The film is also a kick as primer on why some films work, some don't and why things get made or never see the light of day as De Palma explains why films went as they did.

"The problem  with the film is that he's made so many films over the years that there is a great deal left out. Some stories say some of the yelling over Redated is never mentioned and some films are barely mentioned. Passion is only noticed via a film clip (though to be fair the recording was done five years ago according to the Q&A so Passion wasn't made yet). I want to see the unedited material which I suspect has many hours of great-and probably unpublishable stories.

"This is a really good film about a great filmmaker. Its a really fun look at Hollywood via an outsider who is sometimes an insider. Definitely a must see for anyone who loves films."

Posted by Geoff at 6:59 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 18, 2015 7:03 PM CDT
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Saturday, October 17, 2015


Jesse Clark Tucker reviews Steven Spielberg's Bridge Of Spies at Beyond The Pale:

"While Spielberg’s best handling of this kind of heightened airport novel was in the mighty Munich, he achieves a more affecting conclusion than that film. On the subway after having success in the Berlin trade-off, Donovan looks out the window to see kids jumping over a fence, instantly causing him to remember the murdered Germans trying to climb the dividing cement wall during his sojourn there. Spielberg holds on a shot of Hanks staring dumbfounded out the window, recalling the framing device of De Palma’s Casualties Of War where, also on a train, Michael J. Fox saw a vision that brought the dread and terror of overseas malfeasance to our 'safe' shores. Bridge Of Spies is rich and wise, the work of a director gracefully entering his 'Old Master' years. Like Abel’s work, it is a self-portrait of its creator and his engagement with history, humanity and his own elevated art." 

Posted by Geoff at 7:29 PM CDT
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Friday, October 16, 2015


Grantland's Steven Hyden yesterday posted a piece about Steven Spielberg, and included the following discussion about the Movie Brats:

"To understand Spielberg’s 'I’m just a weird kid' self-mythology, it helps to know about the Movie Brats, the group of upstart filmmakers that invaded Hollywood in the late ’60s, fostered an unprecedented era of auteurism in the ’70s, and then ushered in the age of blockbusters that began with Jaws and has grown only more massive over the next 40 years.

"Along with countless other budding cinephiles, an obsession with the Movie Brats coincided with my first flash of serious interest in movies. It didn’t matter that most of these directors were well past their peaks by the time I discovered them in the ’90s. I dug everything that the Movie Brats stood for: self-conscious artiness, difficult genius, downer endings, rock and roll soundtracks, salt-and-pepper beards, fabulous scarves and/or ascots, and, like, bucking the system, man!

"The Movie Brats were like the cinematic version of classic rock — the art they created was infused with the faded idealism and decadent glamour of a bygone era. When I read Stephen Davis’s Hammer of the Gods as a teenagerthe book did the opposite of humanizing Led Zeppelin — it made Jimmy Page seem like a fictional demon with discomforting interests in heroin. It made these banana-stuffing Vikings seem larger than life. The coke- and sex-fueled antics depicted in Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — a defining account of the 'New Hollywood' that I reread even more times than Hammer of the Gods — planted similar illusions in my head about my favorite directors.

"This even applied to Spielberg, who initially didn’t want to make Jaws('I wanted to be Antonioni, Bob Rafelson, Hal Ashby, Marty Scorsese. I wanted to be everybody but myself,' Spielberg told Biskind.) With his rebel heart and populist instincts, Spielberg infused his early hits with antiauthoritarian overtones: You couldn’t trust Amity’s mayor in Jawsthe federal government in Close Encountersor the evil scientists in E.T. Spielberg even questioned movie authority: Why stage an elaborate fight sequence when Indiana Jones could just take out that swordsman with one bullet?

"So who were the Movie Brats? Here’s a roll call of important players:

"Steven Spielberg: The most famous of the bunch, his near-universally adored work would come to define the center of mainstream taste. Steven Spielberg is the Beatles.

"Martin Scorsese: Not as popular as Spielberg in the ’70s, he’s come to be viewed as the most respected (and coolest) director of his generation. Martin Scorsese is the Velvet Underground.

"Francis Ford Coppola: His early work was visionary and established a beachhead for those that followed, though by the early ’80s he seemed to have lost his mind. Francis Ford Coppola is Bob Dylan.

"George Lucas: Starting out as an experimental filmmaker on the fringes, he then reinvented himself as the epitome of mass-appeal space-themed entertainment. George Lucas is Pink Floyd.

"Robert Altman: Iconoclast to the end, he was also prolific to a fault, resulting in a filmography that varies wildly in quality. At his best, nobody was better at reflecting the sardonic cynicism at the heart of the ’70s. Robert Altman is Neil Young.

"Brian De Palma: He’s bombastic and derivative, but such a gifted stylist and technician that it scarcely matters. Brian De Palma is Led Zeppelin.

"Peter Bogdanovich: The early work is beautiful and tragic, but he’s ultimately stifled by limited range and nostalgic tendencies. Peter Bogdanovich is the Beach Boys.

"Hal Ashby: He’s a gentle poet whose work is imbued with a mix of bracing sweetness and clear-eyed bitterness over the decline of civilization. Hal Ashby is the Kinks.

"A few of these directors have since gone the way of AOR. But for the most part, we’re still living in a world that these guys created. While Jurassic World reigns as 2015’s biggest moneymaker, it might soon by supplanted by the Lucas-shepherded Star Wars: The Force AwakensLike Spielberg, Scorsese is virtually guaranteed a raft of Oscar nominations each time he puts out a movie — perhaps that’s why there’s never a shortage of Scorsese imitators in film (Black Mass) or television (Narcos) ready to lap up his residual prestige.

"Even lesser-known Movie Brats are having a moment this year: The 76-year-old Bogdanovich directed his first narrative feature in 13 years, She’s Funny That Waya screwball comedy with an all-star cast of ringers that includes Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Will Forte, Jennifer Aniston, and Kathryn Hahn. As for De Palma, 75, he’s the subject of a new documentary, De Palmathat’s garnered rave reviews after playing the festival circuit.

"Many of those critics — like DPalma’s directors, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow — grew up enthralled by the exploits of the Movie Brats. This childhood affection is now touched with a new sense of mortality. Spielberg turns 69 in December, which makes him the pup of his peer group. Lucas is 71. Scorsese turns 73 in November, and Coppola is 76. (Ashby died in 1988, and Altman died in 2006.) The New Hollywood directors have been entrenched longer than the studio-era legends they swept out nearly 50 years ago. But nothing lasts forever." 

Posted by Geoff at 1:46 AM CDT
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