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Domino is
a "disarmingly
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and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
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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
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De Palma/Lehman
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in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
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De Palma developing
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"a horror movie
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in the news"

Supercut video
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edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 6:21 PM CST
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Friday, November 13, 2015
In a Hollywood Reporter article by Clifford Coonan, posted from the Cannes Film Festival this past May, Jon Chiew, head of international film for Huace Pictures (the company co-producing Lights Out), said, "We believe Lights Out is shaping up to be a Chinese female superhero franchise that the market has never seen and we are happy to be onboard this ride with Arclight Films, a company that has a real understanding of the Chinese marketplace." Coonan's description of the film from that article goes like this: "Lights Out follows the plight of Emma Mitchell, a woman in her 20s forced to fight for her life when her dilapidated, Louisiana, plantation-styled home is inexplicably targeted by a crew of international gangsters."

Meanwhile, in a blog post with a curious typo in its headline (considering that it is for a Forbes blog), Cherry Hong suggests that a big-name director such as Brian De Palma heading to China to make a film is the start of a trend. "China is putting emphasis on rejuvenation and protection of its culture as global force able to hold its own," writes Hong. "Recognizing that the competition with the West is fierce, Xi [Jinping] aims to control the trend of globalization in the film industry within China, and to raise the quality of domestic films for greater competitive power. With these goals on agenda, China is in the forefront of seeking talents for its film industry revolution."

Posted by Geoff at 7:34 AM CST
Updated: Friday, June 10, 2016 6:30 PM CDT
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

John Travolta, pictured above by Nancy Allen from the set of Brian De Palma's Carrie, is the guest of honor at the Napa Valley Film Festival this week, and will receive a career award at a Celebrity Tribute on Friday, November 13th, according to The San Francisco Chronicle's G. Allen Johnson. Johnson writes, "Although he became a star with three music-oriented films in quick succession — in addition to Saturday Night Fever, there were Grease and Urban Cowboy — Travolta was also quick to credit director Brian De Palma, who cast him in his first major film role in the Stephen King shocker Carrie. They worked together again in Blow Out, one of Travolta’s best (and most underrated) performances."

On Saturday at the Napa Film Fest, Travolta will be on hand to present the world premiere of David Hackl's Life On The Line, in which Travolta "plays a lineman working with his crew to fix an electrical grid as a powerful storm approaches," according to Johnson.

Posted by Geoff at 2:35 AM CST
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Monday, November 9, 2015
Variety's Patrick Frater posted an exclusive this morning, announcing that Brian De Palma is currently in pre-production on a new thriller, Lights Out, which previously had Xavier Gens attached to direct. "The film is the story of a blind Chinese girl unknowingly caught in a plot to expose a top-secret assassination program," writes Frater. "Although blind, she is able to use her other heightened senses to fight back and become a hero." Deadline's Patrick Hipes adds another element to that description, writing that the film "centers on a blind Chinese girl unknowingly caught in a plot to expose a top-secret assassination program, and who raises unsettling questions about government secrecy and what can and can’t be seen." A year ago, when Gens had been attached, The Hollywood Reporter's Clifford Coonan described the film as a "female superhero movie" that "tells of a young blind girl who lives alone with her seeing eye dog in her family’s secluded mansion after the suspicious death of her father during a Secret Service operation. Russian gangsters break in, and she is forced to make use of the fighting skills taught to her by her father."

According to Frater, "Casting is currently underway for top roles, including an A-list Chinese actress to star as the female action hero lead." According to Frater, the film will be "the first to be made by Aurora Alliance Films the joint venture banner between Huace, one of China’s leading TV producers, and Sydney- and Los Angeles-based Arclight. The joint venture company was announced in September with a $300 million slate of high concept action pictures."

Aurora Alliance's Ying Ye is quoted in the Variety article: "De Palma is a proven master of suspense; in the hands of the legendary director, Lights Out promises to be a thriller for the ages, full of empowering messages, harrowing plot turns and great action sequences."

The film was written by Lamont Magee and Jeff W. Byrd. De Palma's Redacted producers, Jennifer Weiss and Simone Urdl of the Film Farm, are listed by Frater as co-producers, along with Huace Media Group; Ye of Aurora Alliance; Gary Hamilton, Mike Gabrawy, and Elliot Tong of Arclight.

Posted by Geoff at 11:38 AM CST
Updated: Monday, November 9, 2015 5:10 PM CST
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In an article posted this past Friday, Variety's Malina Saval talks with Robert De Niro, with a focus on 1968, the year he was first mentioned in Variety, for his role in Brian De Palma's Greetings. That review (ot the first column of it) is included in the article as a separate jpg. Below is an excerpt from the De Niro interview:
Did you audition for “Greetings”?

I auditioned for “The Wedding Party,” which was Brian’s first movie, which he co-directed with Wilford Leach. That was my first movie too. And then he asked me if I wanted to (do “Greetings”) … I don’t think I read for “Greetings.” And then we did “Hi, Mom!” And then we did “The Untouchables.” So we did a big jump.

When you filmed “Greetings,” did you have high hopes, or were you just hoping for distribution?

In those days, I wasn’t even sure how it worked, distribution. I forget who did pick it up, it was so long ago. But I do remember “Greetings” did somewhat well.

Do you remember reading the “Greetings” review?

I was aware of Variety, but it must have been pointed out to me.

You were busy in those days.

I also had done something in-between (the De Palma films) called “Sam’s Song” (directed by Jordan Leondopoulos), which Cannon Prods. took at the time. They sort of twisted it into a kind of quasi-porno film, because I had some nude scenes with a girl; at that time, films would be done with whatever sex or nude scenes. But it was all made with the most … with the highest artistic intent. There was a very genuine, sincere intention of the writer-director.

1968 was a tumultuous time. Do you have any memories that stand out?

Well, the Vietnam War was going on and President Johnson, so that was really … There was a lot going on.

Posted by Geoff at 1:21 AM CST
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Friday, November 6, 2015
Tonight (Friday), The Castro Theatre in San Francisco screens a double feature of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho at 7pm, followed by Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill at 9:05. Both will screen in 35mm. "Upon its release back in 1960, critics did not know what to make of Alfred Hitchcock’s macabre masterpiece," reads the Castro's description of Psycho. "Now, revisit (or see for the first time) the film that broke all the rules of horror films and set new ones for the next generation. A bloodcurdling Anthony Perkins stars with Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Bernard Herrmann’s dissonant score.

For Dressed To Kill, the Castro description reads, "Twenty years after Psycho, Brian De Palma applied his dazzling technique to Hitchcock’s psychological cinemascape with a hefty dose of eroticism, split-screen and well-placed dabs of black humor."
(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 2:45 AM CST
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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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