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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
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Carrie...A Fan's Site


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Scarface: Make Way
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De Palma a la Mod

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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Sunday, June 5, 2016
Two more retrospectives, centered around the release of De Palma, have been announced for June. Independent Film Festival Boston will have a four-day series called "The World Is Yours: Brian De Palma On Film," June 13-16. The series will consist of a 70mm screening of The Untouchables (June 13), 35mm screenings of Scarface (June 14) and The Bonfire Of The Vanities (June 15), and will conclude with the documentary De Palma, projected from DCP.

In Seattle, De Palma will open June 24 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. In conjunction, SIFF will present a three day series, Obsessions: Classic De Palma, featuring seven films over three days (June 24-26). The films are Carrie, Blow Out, Phantom Of The Paradise, Obsession, Body Double, Carlito's Way, and Scarface.

Posted by Geoff at 9:11 PM CDT
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In case you missed this before, Brian De Palma's The Untouchables will screen in 70mm at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago on Wednesday, June 22nd, at 7:30pm. The Music Box had built a 40-foot screen in anticipation of the 70mm release of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight this past December, and have subsequently been screening a series of films in that format. The screening is also part of the Music Box's De Palma retrospective, which runs that entire week (June 17-23).

A 70mm print of The Untouchables will also screen at the Somerville Theatre in Boston on Monday, June 13th (7:30pm). This will kick off a four-day series called "The World Is Yours: Brian De Palma on Film," which is presented by the Independent Film Festival Boston in partnership with A24, and ends with a free screening of the De Palma documentary.

Posted by Geoff at 8:42 PM CDT
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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Yesterday, Business Insider's Jason Guerrasio posted an interview with Brian De Palma. At one point, Guerrasio asks De Palma whether there was ever a competitiveness with the other directors he was friends with. "People have always asked that," replies De Palma, "but even with our group in the '70s, as successful as those directors were, there was never a competitiveness. It's kind of odd. We were young directors trying to get into the Hollywood system on some level and we all basically met at Warner Bros., and all had disastrous experiences, which I guess bound us together for life. We used to hang out together in Hollywood. We were young men. Going out to dinner together. I miss that. I remember going to the premiere of Goodfellas, so that was the '90s, and by then we were beginning to disperse. We were going into different areas and weren't that close anymore, in the sense of calling each other up and saying, 'Let's go have dinner.' I missed that and that's when I went and assembled this next group."

When asked if Francis Ford Coppola ever wanted De Palma to get involved with Zoetrope, De Palma replies, "Marty and I went and saw Zoetrope. I remember seeing the flatbed editing machines. Marty and I went because Marcia Lucas was editing Marty's movie. She edited Taxi Driver. So we went up and stayed with George. But what Francis was doing wasn't for me."

Late in the interview, De Palma explains why he wished he hadn't gone forward with Wise Guys: "The studio changed their minds and didn't want to make it. They just wanted us to go away. I should have just taken my money and walked instead of dealing with a studio that didn’t want to make the movie."

And then the interview ends with this excerpt:

BI: Legend has it you were very hard on George the first time he showed you guys "Star Wars."

De Palma: That is not correct. [Laughs] I am sarcastic. I am considered the class clown, but a sarcastic clown. So I would make fun of certain things. Because everyone would take this stuff too seriously.

BI: So you were just messing with him about not liking the opening crawl?

De Palma: No, the crawl didn't make any sense at all. And I kept kidding him about the Force. I was like, "What is the Force?" [Laughs] But you have to understand, we used to look at each other's movies in order to be helpful. We might say some things that weren’t nice. You know, I remember reading an account where Marcia [Lucas] was very upset with me. And I don't remember this, but there was an account where Marcia told me, "You've hurt George's feelings and you should be gentle with him." I don't remember that. I really don't know what they're talking about. I was basically myself. The thing the guys could always count on with me is I would say what I thought. I wasn't holding back. I remember having a big discussion with Steven about “Close Encounters.” There were some sections I thought didn't work. And this was considered a crowning success of his career. And I was like, "I don't know, this doesn't really work for me." [Laughs]

BI: Do you remember a part that didn't work for you?

De Palma: I don't remember. But I remember going to a screening up on 55th street and afterward going to him and saying, "I don't know, Steven." But I think we have to do that, and I do it with Noah and Jake and these directors. If they are going to show me something or I'm going to show something to them, I want them to say what they think and not what will make me feel better.

Elsewhere, De Palma explains why he was curiously absent from two specific events that invloved his fellow "movie brat" friends, including presenting Martin Scorsese his first Oscar: "I was always the anti-establishment member of the group. I've never been nominated for an Oscar. I've never worked within the Hollywood establishment on any level. I made a lot of people very mad."

And in this final excerpt, De Palma talks about seeing a movie with his father, which leads into a question about Home Movies:

BI: One thing that grabbed me in the documentary was your openness about your relationship with your father. [Who was never around during De Palma's youth and, the director says, cheated on his mother with other women.] Do you think the stories you tell are based on your feelings toward him?

De Palma: Well, we're all a product of our upbringing to some extent. But my older brother was very influential too because he sort of represents that egomaniac that appears in many of my movies. My father was basically a very hardworking orthopedic surgeon, very much involved in his work. Whatever happened between he and my mother by the time I was born, they were at odds with each other and just hung in there until I went to college, basically. So it's interesting, the times I spent with my father I can count on one hand. I remember going to see a John Wayne Western with him.

BI: Which one?

De Palma: “The Horse Soldiers.” That's about it.

BI: But in “Home Movies,” the character Denis peeps on his father, which you say is based on you confronting your father with a knife and accusing him of adultery. Did doing that scene close a chapter in your relationship with him?

De Palma: I actually approached it as a comedy. A bizarre comedy. It all happened, but by the time I made the movie I saw the absurd aspects to it.

Posted by Geoff at 3:37 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, June 4, 2016 3:39 PM CDT
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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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