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a la Mod:

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
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

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a la Mod

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

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De Palma a la Mod

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Friday, June 3, 2016
Two terrific interviews with Brian De Palma popped up yesterday. One is yet another conducted by Jim Hemphill, this time focusing on De Palma's work with actors, for Filmmaker Magazine (see yesterday's post linking to Hemphill's joint interview with De Palma, Noah Baumbach, and Jake Paltrow). In this Filmmaker article, Hemphill calls De Palma "quite simply the greatest film about filmmaking that I’ve ever seen." Hemphill adds that the documentary "led me to reflect on how underrated De Palma is as an actor’s director; he’s been so heavily praised, critiqued, and analyzed as a visual stylist that people seem to overlook the consistent excellence of the performances in his films."

And so Hemphill begins by asking De Palma about his background in terms of performance and acting. "Well, I did some acting myself in college," De Palma replies. "When I went to graduate school at Sarah Lawrence, I studied with a very influential theater director, Wilford Leach, who went on to win a couple of Tonys. I acted in some of the plays that he directed and attended a couple of classes where I observed things that I later used in the acting class scenes in Body Double. I saw how the teacher worked with the actors, and I’m talking about people who went on to have great careers – Diane Keaton was in the class, Betty Buckley was in the class. Acting myself, being directed, and taking those classes really gave me a lot of direct experience and taught me that actors will either save your movie or ruin it."

Meanwhile, IndieWire's Eric Kohn posted an interview with the headline, "Brian De Palma: Why He’ll Never Work in Hollywood Or on Television Again." When Kohn asks De Palma is he's done with the Hollywood system for good, De Palma replies, "I can’t imagine making a studio movie now. The whole system’s changed so much because of the effect of cable television and all the cable stations making their own series. They’re really into writers and producers, which is like the old studio system. The directors came in, directed, and were sent off. That’s what you’re getting with all these television projects."

Kohn follows up by asking about the Joe Paterno movie:

We couldn’t get it set up as a movie and it was finally set up at HBO. But I’ve never seen such studio interference. I mean, I would get stacks of notes, over and over again, from multiple sources. It’s changed. They want to be included on everything. I remember throwing executives out of the room during a reading for “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Are you kidding? I can’t have these actors performing in front of studio executives during the first reading! They claimed they wouldn’t say anything, which was nonsense. I had the same thing with the Paterno project. I said, “This is the first time Al has heard this material. I can’t have executives sitting here.” They were offended beyond belief — sulking, tense. I finally walked away from it.

If you’ve seen HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” the HBO executive on that show, Len Amato — that was the guy I was dealing with. On the show, there’s Len in the editing room, making suggestions. That’s like my worst nightmare. I have never dealt with a producer in the editing room. And you can’t get final cut on television. Can you believe that Martin Scorsese doesn’t have final cut on television? I’m going to ask Marty if he does.

Later in the interview, De Palma discusses how the actors that are wanted for serious movies are all flocking to television, making such films difficult to cast. "I’d like to make Retribution with Pacino," he tells Kohn, "but it depends on whether we can get it cast. Everybody’s out there trying to get those four financeable actors to get their movies made. When you don’t get them, it can go on for years."

Go read the entire interview (it's great), but here's one more excerpt:

[Kohn:] Who’s going to make the great movie in response to this year’s election?

[De Palma:] It’s crazy. I was watching George Clooney’s movie “Ides of March,” and it got me thinking. You have all these political people on television interviewing actors. When is George going to run for president? Is there anyone to stop him now?

He’s obviously very politically oriented, and he’s got this great wife. When you look at these movies, and the way they get George interviewed by Charlie Rose, or Chris Matthews — well, we can’t tell the difference anymore. That’s the situation with Trump. There is no difference between the theatrics of media and the movies. People ask how Trump could exist. Well, we live in a reality TV world, where if you can show juxtapositions of the guy saying opposite things right next to each other, nobody cares! He lied, so what? I remember when that was a bad thing.

Posted by Geoff at 1:46 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 2, 2016
Looking to offer a more thorough Brian De Palma retrospective, The Metrograph in New York has added screenings of De Palma's The Wedding Party (Saturday June 4th) and Home Movies (Sunday June 5th), each to be screened from VHS.

Posted by Geoff at 11:41 PM CDT
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Jim Hemphill, who wrote the program notes and article for American Cinematheque's upcoming Brian De Palma series, posted an interview yesterday with De Palma, Noah Baumbach, and Jake Paltrow. Here's a little excerpt:
Hemphill: The movie follows a very clear line from the beginning of De Palma’s career to his most recent work…was that structure there in the interviews themselves, or did you piece it together that way in the cutting room?

Baumbach: It was always designed to go from beginning to end. There were digressions – we’d be talking about The Wedding Party and that would lead to a point about Mission: Impossible – but we wanted a chronological account of his career. And we didn’t want to make a movie about what other people thought of him, which is why there are no other interviews – we wanted to document Brian telling it his way. In that sense it’s not a work of journalism or even analysis – it’s just about Brian sharing his story.

Paltrow: Those kinds of decisions and selections are where what you might consider the “directing” really comes in. You have this visionary director who you happen to be friends with, so that’s what you’re trying to channel – you don’t want to affect it with other people’s opinions. That’s something else.

Hemphill: Brian, was it different being interviewed by filmmakers as opposed to journalists or critics?

De Palma: Absolutely. There’s a big difference, because they've been through the same experiences and have the same concerns and therefore have a better understanding of what you’re talking about. I would encourage other directors to always have directors conduct their interviews! [laughs]

Hemphill: Did looking back at your career while shooting the documentary, and then again when looking at the finished film, change your opinions about any of your films?

De Palma: Not really. You know, some of the ones that got really negative reviews, like Bonfire or Mission to Mars…they’re skillfully put together. Maybe they didn't fit what the critics wanted from them at the time, but they kind of stand on their own.

Baumbach: Brian’s personality is so much a part of all of his movies, so even in the less well received ones there are always amazing De Palma sequences – you can watch any of his films and find things that are exciting in them.

Hemphill: Did you find your appreciation of any of the films increasing after making the documentary?

Baumbach: I think both of us found a deeper affection for Carlito’s Way. In the documentary Brian tells a story about the movie coming out in theatres and doing okay, and then him watching it at the Berlin Film Festival and thinking, “I can’t make a better movie than this.” I know exactly what he means, because from a filmmaking standpoint that is a great director harnessing all his power in one movie. It’s remarkable that way, and undeniably impressive.

Posted by Geoff at 7:55 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2016 1:48 AM CDT
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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 5:51 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 5:52 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

At Taste Of Cinema last week, Andrew Gunn posted "The 10 Best Scenes in The Movies of Brian De Palma." Choosing scenes from Mission To Mars (a film which, he suggests, doesn't really kick in until about a third of the way in), Snake Eyes, Carrie, and seven others, Gunn's article begins at number 10 with "The Sundial in Raising Cain." Although he calls it a "schlocky thriller," Gunn has some interesting things to say about the film, which he also refers to as "brilliant"...
Before Nicolas Cage there was John Lithgow, whose own brand of “mega-acting” sets the tonal barometer for this demented, schlocky thriller. Raising Cain is a series of rugs being gleefully pulled out from under your feet by a filmmaker who has just made Bonfire of the Vanities and has nothing to lose. It’s brilliant.

Lithgow has a ball playing a child-kidnapping madman whose evil twin is really a split personality, and whose dead father split personality is really his still-alive actual father, who’s also mad. Meanwhile Lithgow 1.0’s wife (Lolita Davidovich) has an affair with her old flame (Steven Bauer), a hunk in a sleeveless V-neck cardigan, and her vivid dreams-within-dreams give her a slippery grip on this tenth-year-of-a-soap-opera version of reality.

The climactic sequence begins with the line “You’re gonna kill somebody with that sundial!” and is structured according to the Mouse Trap formula (the board game, not the play). Disparate elements are wittily introduced – scalpel, bystanders, pram. Geography is established – motel walkway, elevator, parking lot. Characters’ objectives are set – patricide, rescue, escape. And when the trap is sprung, the perfectly choreographed chaos unfolds in glorious slow motion.

At times Raising Cain plays like a TV movie directed by its own main character(s) but that’s only to trick you into forgetting that it’s directed by Brian De Palma.

This is summarised by a four-minute Steadicam shot in which Frances Sternhagen leads a walk-and-talk through a police station – she keeps taking wrong turns while the cops steer her in the right direction. Throughout the film, De Palma points your expectations, sympathies and fears one way only to head off in another, but despite the madness on display he’s always in complete control.

By the end we’re primed for anything, and the thrill of the climax comes from De Palma’s precise timing and orchestration as he resolves the film’s myriad conflicts in a single scene.

After Casualties of War underperformed (despite critical praise) and Bonfire of the Vanities flopped (having received none), Raising Cain was De Palma’s conscious return to the twisty-turny thrillers that made his name. He did the same thing ten years later, following a lukewarm response to Snake Eyes and the summary dismissal of Mission to Mars.

2002’s Femme Fatale is Raising Cain’s sexier stepsister, sharing a delight in frustrating and subverting audience expectations, and building to a similar Mouse Trap-style showdown.

Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CDT
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Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Huffington Post's Todd Van Luling captured some terrific anecdotes from Henry Czerny about filming his role in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. "Besides launching a series that continues to have box-office success," writes Van Luling, "the movie featured a sort of strange way to present intensity for a blockbuster: squeezing actors very, very close to each other and the camera."
“I’d never acted with a camera that’s basically hooked under my chin,” Czerny told The Huffington Post in a conversation for the 20-year anniversary. “I didn’t know what to do with it, but Brian was at the monitors and if he didn’t get what he wanted I’m sure he would have told me.”

The most extreme close-up Czerny experienced was when his character accused Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt of being a mole. The two sat in a restaurant surrounded by aquariums. Czerny wasn’t sure, but he thinks De Palma’s desire to feature those trapped fish led to the memorable camera angles. “He didn’t want the [viewers] to forget about the fish tank,” said Czerny. “So by putting the camera below, you have the character in close-up and the fish tank in the background hovering if you will.”

So, did Czerny worry about how he’d look with a camera so close to his face?

Czerny laughed in response to the question. He didn’t even know the camera would be there.

“If they’d told me, I would have paid more attention to those nose hairs. Maybe the hair department or the makeup department knew what was going to go on and then did that for me. [But] I had no idea.”

Czerny also recalled a scene when De Palma told him to get almost impossibly close to another actor.

After Hunt breaks into the CIA, Czerny’s character is telling an intelligence co-worker (played by Dale Dye) that they should send the CIA employee responsible for the mishap to Alaska.

De Palma apparently told the actors, “I need you a little closer,” so they shot again. Then, De Palma said something like, “No, no, closer! Like you’re almost kissing!”

“I just remember thinking, ‘I hope I brushed my teeth thoroughly,’” Czerny laughed.

Although Czerny thought it was sometimes “weird” to work within this method, he enjoyed being a part of what’s now considered De Palma’s signature style. “He’ll do a long tracking shot and then jump in for close-ups. It doesn’t allow you to leave the scene.”

In the article, Czerny also talks about how Cruise would regularly take members of the cast and crew out to a "cool establishment" in whatever big city they were filming in, to help release tension. One night in Prague, Czerny tells Van Luling, "I found myself sitting on a piano bench singing show tunes with Nicole [Kidman]. That was not something you normally get to do."

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CDT
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 8:13 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 26, 2016
Screenwriter/director Jim Hemphill has posted an article in anticipation of the American Cinematheque series on Brian De Palma, which begins next week. "It takes a lot of confidence to begin a movie with a clip from perhaps the most famous film noir of all time," begins Hemphill in the article, "as Brian De Palma does in the first scene of his 2002 erotic thriller Femme Fatale. That film’s opening scene, which unfolds via a virtuoso long take in which we're introduced to the lead character and major themes of the film without a cut, begins with an image from Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity on a television and ends with a hotel room curtain being pulled aside to reveal the Cannes Film Festival red carpet. Inviting comparison with Wilder and referencing the most prestigious film festival on earth makes a bold statement right off the bat, but De Palma doesn’t merely invite the comparisons he’s making – he earns them, and then goes beyond Wilder’s influence to create a film that is both a superb example of the film noir form and a commentary on it, as well as an evolutionary step forward in terms of the tradition’s approach to women. While it would be a stretch to call Femme Fatale a feminist manifesto, in its own sly way it answers the charges of misogyny often leveled against film noir by setting in motion a gleefully complicated puzzle of a plot in which one commanding man after another finds his sense of order disrupted by the female jewel thief at the movie’s center. It’s not just that Laure (Rebecca Romjin) undermines the guys and their world; De Palma himself subverts a century of established cinematic 'rules' to place the audience in the position of the bewildered men stripped of their power – and he does it with so much pizzazz that we’re grateful to have the rug pulled out from under us."

Below is the closeing paragraph from Hemphill's article, and you can read the whole thing at American Cinematheque.
De Palma’s career is all the more remarkable for his ability to adapt to changing circumstances – both his own and those of the film industry at large. Regardless of the size of his canvas, the potency of his vision is undiluted, whether he’s working in the low-budget experimental realm (as in Redacted or early apprentice efforts like Murder a la Mod and Dionysus in ’69) or on the kinds of big-budget tent-poles that stifle less robust personalities. When De Palma takes a studio assignment on a film like The Untouchables or Mission: Impossible, he fuses his own preoccupations with the demands of the material in a way that serves both; his stylistic and thematic obsessions expand to broader dimensions thanks to their expression in a new form, and the films’ escapist set-pieces are more entertaining and charged with energy because of the artistic drives motivating them. There’s never any sense of De Palma following the old “one for me, one for them” (them being the studio) formula in his career – they’re all for him, and they’re all for us. It’s hard to think of a director whose work yields more rewards on repeat viewings, or whose dense visual representations and allusions gain more from being experienced on the big screen –making the Cinematheque’s retrospective one of the essential repertory events of 2016 thus far.

Posted by Geoff at 7:54 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"So, how was prom?"

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 12:12 AM CDT
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Monday, May 23, 2016

Haleigh Foutch, Collider
Mission: Impossible 20 Years Later: How An Uneasy Spy Thriller Became a Blockbuster Franchise

"In a prime example of the way De Palma subverted the standard action format, the film’s most iconic set piece is a silent moment of acute accuracy and stillness. When Cruise repels down into that vault, surrounded by a gleaming white light that showcases his figure, form and every minute movement with exclusive intent, it’s not a matter of spectacle, it’s a matter of tension. It’s not about explosions or fisticuffs, it’s about control and technique, and a small-scale demonstration of the physical command that would come to define Cruise’s later career."

Thai Students Caught Cheating with Mission Impossible Spy Glasses

"A top Thai medical college has caught students using spy cameras linked to smartwatches to cheat during exams in what some social media users on Monday compared to a plot straight out of a Mission Impossible movie. Arthit Ourairat, the rector of Rangsit University, posted pictures of the hi-tech cheating equipment on his Facebook page on Sunday evening, announcing that the entrance exam in question had been cancelled after the plot was discovered. Three students used glasses with wireless cameras embedded in their frames to transmit images to a group of as yet unnamed people, who then sent the answers to the smartwatches."

Posted by Geoff at 8:21 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, May 23, 2016 8:22 PM CDT
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