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a la Mod:
Norris' own Bio states that she was Scorsese's research assistant on Raging Bull, and quotes Richard Schickel's 2010 "Making of Raging Bull" article:
De Niro suggested a period of total isolation and immersion—no phones, no distractions of any kind. They chose the La Samanna resort, on St. Martin, in the Caribbean—a complex of separate villas. They shared one of them and installed a young assistant in another nearby. She was Gloria Norris, a recent Sarah Lawrence graduate who had worked with Scorsese’s pal Brian De Palma on his early picture Home Movies. Better still, her grandfather had been a fight promoter in New England, so she was no stranger to the boxing world. She brought “tons” of books along to help them with research. She remembers De Niro rising early to run along the beach. She remembers him and Scorsese talking out the script scene by scene in the mornings. She remembers Scorsese writing up the new material on yellow legal pads in the afternoons. She remembers “his handwriting was bad, so he’d have to read some of it out to me. It was full of profanity, and he’d get embarrassed saying those words to me.”
After that, Norris would retreat to her typewriter, and De Niro and Scorsese would sometimes head out in their Jeep to dinner in one of the several extremely good restaurants on the island.
"How much money will you make writing this article?" he asks. I answer that when I do journalism, I take no payment. I could see that, to him, the idea of doing any kind of work without payment is a fool's game. Unlike the gangsters we're used to, the John Gotti's who claimed to be simple businessmen hiding behind numerous international front companies, El Chapo sticks to an illicit game, proudly volunteering, "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."
He is entirely unapologetic. Against the challenges of doing business in such a clandestine industry he has ––built an empire. I am reminded of press accounts alleging a hundred-million-dollar bounty the man across from me is said to have put on Donald Trump's life. I mention Trump. El Chapo smiles, ironically saying, "Ah! Mi amigo!" His unguarded will to speak freely, his comfort with his station in life and ownership of extraordinary justifications, conjure Tony Montana in Oliver Stone's Scarface. It's the dinner scene where Elvira, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, walks out on Al Pacino's Tony Montana, loudly assailing him in a public place. The patrons at the restaurant stare at him, but rather than hide in humiliation, he stands and lectures them. "You're all a bunch of fucking assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me. So you can point your fucking fingers and say, 'That's the bad guy.' So what's that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide...how to lie. Me? I don't have that problem. Me?! I always tell the truth even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy. C'mon. Last time you're gonna see a bad guy like this again, lemme tell ya!"
But what about movies in which people are often indoors, talking? Zsigmond could put his subtle mark on those, too, as he did with the three films he shot for Woody Allen, Melinda and Melinda (2004), Cassandra’s Dream (2007), and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010). But among Zsigmond’s finest work are the four movies he did with [Brian] De Palma, Obsession (1976), Blow Out (1981), The Black Dahlia (2006) and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). Zsigmond had the technical skill to handle the elaborate tracking shots and split-screen effects so beloved by De Palma, but just as significantly, he could effectively key into the director’s particular brand of bleak romanticism and political mistrust. He gave Obsession—in which Cliff Robertson plays a man who becomes obsessed, Vertigo-style, with a woman who resembles his dead wife (Geneviève Bujold)—a look that balanced the coolness of old marble with the textured warmth of a peeling fresco, suitable for a love story wrapped in its own cozy little crypt. Zsigmond earned an Oscar nomination for his work on The Black Dahlia, a flawed picture whose visual magnificence is almost enough to hold it together. Zsigmond doesn’t just give the movie, set in the late 1940s, a period look; he lends it a burnished immediacy that unifies past and present, making whatever stereotypical sense we have of tawdry old Los Angeles seem as clichéd, and as wrong, as last year’s crushed hat.INDIEWIRE: REMEMBERING VILMOS ZSIGMOND IN 9 ESSENTIAL SHOTS
Zsigmond also left his signature, paradoxically both vivid and translucent, on one of the greatest of De Palma’s movies, Blow Out. John Travolta is a movie sound-effects guy who inadvertently captures audio evidence of an assassination when he witnesses a car driving off a bridge; Nancy Allen is the young woman he rescues (and falls for), a pawn in the plot. This is a quietly shimmering movie about disillusionment and doomed romance, and Zsigmond’s nighttime exteriors, both alluring and vaguely spooky, foreshadow despair rolling in like like fog.
Yet that thing we so casually think of as movie magic is really, when you boil it down, the even more magical summation of what happens when people know how to do their jobs. Zsigmond talked a little about Blow Out in in The Devil’s Candy, Julie Salamon’s superb study of the making of De Palma’s Bonfire of the Vanities: “There we were in the middle of the winter and there was this huge canyon and we were shooting a frog in the foreground and the river beyond and the trees and bridge above, and [De Palma] just walked up to it and said, ‘Light it. I don’t care how long it’s going to take. Light it.’ ” Zsigmond laughed in the story’s retelling. But also—damned if he didn’t light it.
Meanwhile, Indiewire's Zack Sharf posted nine essential shots by which to remember Zsigmond. Choosing the climactic shot of Jack holding the lifeless body of Sally as fireworks go off in the sky, Sharf writes, "Climaxes don't get more gorgeous than this one. As John Travolta's Jack Terry races through Philadelphia's Liberty Parade in order to save an escort (Nancy Allen) from the hands of an assassin, fireworks begin exploding in the sky as Zsigmond captures these blasts of color on their faces like bombs in a hectic war zone. Only when Terry holds Sally's lifeless body in his arms does the camera spin to reveal the actual display exploding in the sky —it's a moment of pure visual and emotional opera."
"A CLEVERLY CONTRASTING DOUBLE BILL THAT BOTH VENERATES THE GENRE AND PUNKS IT"
The Artery's Sean Burns previews the double feature with fine insight:
Things kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 6, with the dynamic duo of “Body Heat” and “Body Double,” a cleverly contrasting double bill that both venerates the genre and punks it. A case can be made that “Body Heat,” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 directorial debut, kick-started this entire noir revival, updating old-timey 1940s tropes for Ronald Reagan’s America by adding a healthy hunk of R-rated eroticism. Riffing on Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” Kasdan’s picture stars William Hurt as a dim-bulb, ambulance-chasing lawyer who finds himself head-over-heels and in way over his head with Kathleen Turner’s man-eating Matty Walker. “You aren’t too smart, are you?” she notes upon their first meeting, “I like that in a man.”
Turner, then just 27, commands the screen with the brassy presence you’d expect from a Stanwyck or Bacall or any of the bygone icons in whose period fashions Kasdan has Matty rather anachronistically dressed (during the rare scenes when she’s wearing clothes). The hilarious Hurt has an awful mustache and the self-satisfied smirk of a man not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. She’s constantly touching him, keeping the schmuck in a slack-jawed state of arousal while he stumbles through her nefarious plan. Check out where Turner’s hands are just beneath the frame-line during a crucial scene and you can see she’s literally leading him around by the you-know-what.
Amusing as this may be, there’s something a bit studious about “Body Heat.” Kasdan’s ceiling fans and, yes, Venetian blinds often come across as film school affectations. Much of the film’s second half is the inelegant dispensing of information crucial to the plot. It’s rescued by loosey-goosey performances from the supporting cast, most famously a brief, star-making turn from Mickey Rourke as a gentle-hearted arsonist lip-syncing to Bob Seger. But watching the film again I was even more taken with Ted Danson’s ballroom-dancing prosecutor. His job is basically to stand next to Hurt and provide exposition, and yet the future Boston bartender is tirelessly toying with props and putting unexpected spins on unexciting lines. These original side characters break through Kasdan’s hermetic homages and references. They keep the movie from feeling too much like a museum.
You’ll see no such reverence in Brian De Palma’s “Body Double,” a spectacularly sleazy send-up that finds the puckish, thin-skinned director confronting his critics and, if you’ll forgive the term, doubling down on everything that upstanding, respectable people hate about Brian De Palma films. In his New York Times review, Vincent Canby described the director as “someone at an otherwise friendly dinner party who can’t keep himself from saying the one thing that will infuriate everybody. It’s as if he were daring the host to ask him back.”
Chafing at the then-widespread complaints that he was just a misogynistic Hitchcock knock-off obsessed with graphic violence and nudity, De Palma concocted this hilarious mash-up of “Rear Window” and “Vertigo” that just so happens to be chock full of graphic violence and nudity. Middle finger aloft, he cast the daughter (Melanie Griffith) of one of Hitch’s iconic blondes (Tippi Hedren) as a porn star and has the villain penetrating helpless women with a massive power drill held at crotch-level as the most unsubtle phallic symbol in the history of cinema.
If you can get on its perverse wavelength the film is screamingly funny — one of the more playful entries in De Palma’s filmography, boasting one of his rare happy endings. “Body Double” teases and explodes those old noir conventions that Kasdan and “Body Heat” hold so dear, simultaneously coating every sinuous camera movement with a slick sheen of totally ’80s gloss. The notorious centerpiece sequence is a dialogue-free porno movie shoot scored with Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” that doesn’t look anything remotely like any porno movie ever made, but it’s a pretty good excuse for some cheeky virtuosity and dirty jokes.
As you might imagine, “Body Double” was not warmly embraced by audiences upon its theatrical release in 1984. (It opened the same day as “The Terminator” and was gone in three weeks.) But the film found a second life on late night cable, where Melanie Griffith became an object of considerable fascination for a generation of pubescent boys. Indeed, one of the nice chances afforded by the Brattle series is to finally see these films in an actual theater, instead of sneaking around the house watching with the volume turned down low after your parents or the babysitter have gone to sleep.
While his work with Spielberg and Cimino is his most acclaimed, Zsigmond’s greatest partner in crime was Brian De Palma, the most purely cinematic filmmaker of the last half-century, for whom the cinematographer did some of his finest, most innovative work. De Palma’s films are not governed by the rules or laws of reality; they adhere to a consistent, internal logic that favors excitement over emotion. Zsigmond extrapolated De Palma’s deep-rooted love for genre and exploitation, and helped the auteur construct his homage-laden films using the visual language written by earlier filmmakers. Together they were like a jazz duo drawing inspiration from their forebears, carving out of pulp scenes of brilliance and brutality. They employed an arsenal of in-camera tricks, from split-diopters to long Steadicam shots and meticulous use of zooms. Zsigmond shot Obsession [(’76)], a fervid Hitchcock homage, and Blow Out (’81), a contender for De Palma’s Best Film. For Blow Out, Zsigmond and De Palma deconstructed the art of filmmaking, reveling in the minutiae of filming and editing and spinning a story of paranoia and murder out of so many reels of celluloid.
Zsigmond’s final masterpiece, and one of his most impressive achievements, is also one of De Palma’s most maligned films: The Black Dahlia (’06), which Zsigmond considered the last good film he worked on. A mostly faithful adaptation of James Ellroy's serpentine novel (it retains the terse dialogue while carefully uncoiling the notoriously difficult-to-follow plot), there's nary a shot here that doesn't get the De Palma touch: the camera looms and moves with purpose, zooming in, pulling out, hovering above a dead body splayed on a slab before slowly descending to a low-angle of our heroes framed against effervescent lights, or a crane shot showing the Zoot Suit riots sprawling across streets lined with burning cars and sprinkled with so much broken glass. The narrative is, admittedly, of minimal importance here, as is De Palma's and Zsigmond’s wont; the director fixates on the mood which his DP captured with stunning, sepia-steeped photography. If that isn’t a fine encapsulation of Zsigmond’s endearing legacy, then nothing is.