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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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(Blow Out)

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De Palma a la Mod

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Sunday, June 12, 2016
W Magazine's Ally Betker was at the DGA Theater screening of De Palma Thursday night, and posted an article the other day that started with a bit of Martin Scorsese's introduction:
“So I guess I’m the warmup,” said Martin Scorsese Thursday night at the Director’s Guild of America theater on 57th Street. That Scorsese was anything less than the main event speaks to the man he was introducing: Brian De Palma. The director of Body Double, Scarface and Carrie, among many, many others, was getting his own film treatment with a documentary on his oeuvre by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow.

Simply titled De Palma, the doc is a live motion version of the director’s IMDb page, filmed as one long interview spliced with clips of his films. Though he was known for his bloody psychological thrillers (he was constantly combating the ratings board, often ending up with an X-rating), De Palma also had quite the reputation as a mentor—which is how his relationship with Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America) and Paltrow first started. As well as with Scorsese: “Brian was the one who took my film, Who’s That Knocking at my Door, and me seriously, and sort of became a mentor in a way, supporting me all the time—arguing usually—but supporting, guiding me. And the biggest thing, introducing me to everyone he knew in Hollywood,” said Scorsese. “He would come in and help me edit Mean Streets; I was constantly having severe asthma bouts and he would come pick me up at the hospital, drive me home; he arranged for a mutual friend to introduce me to Rob DeNiro, which led to those films; he gave me the script to Taxi Driver.”

Hopefully more video of the introduction will pop up soon, but for now, Instagram user gabrielecapo posted a partial video in which Scorsese talks about De Palma being talked up to Scorsese's film class as a "big star," having won awards for his short film Woton's Wake. (De Palma was set to come to the school.) The audience laughs when Scorsese says the title, Woton's Wake, after which Scorsese stresses again that this was an award-winning film, and that De Palma was seen in the film school world at the time as a "big star."


Betker later talked with Jake Paltrow at the after party at The Russian Tea Room. When asked if he could recall the first De Palma film he'd ever seen, Paltrow replies, "It was Body Double, and I saw it on VHS. I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies and I talked my parents into letting me see it because I was a big Hitchcock fan. And I said, 'Oh, there’s this movie by Brian De Palma,'—who they obviously knew and liked—'it’s a little like Rear Window…' And then I was sort of scarred by it, I mean in a good way, it really stuck with me."

When asked if he and Baumbach had to direct De Palma at all while making the film, Paltrow replies, "In a movie like this, the editing is the directing. The filming of it is just an extension of these conversations you’re having at dinner. And trying to just maintain the same intimate thing where everybody feels comfortable to talk about things in a way you wouldn’t with an interviewer."

When asked if his own directing has been influenced by De Palma's, Paltrow responds, "More and more in a way. Brian’s feeling about visual storytelling, and this idea of making these movies in a sort of visual way first has become a stronger influence now as I get older. Even though he’s always been an influence, I think I understand what he’s talking about better now than I did before. When he talks about the Hitchcockian visual story telling, it’s related to that."

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
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Not to present a sort of "point/counterpoint," but the articles about the new documentary De Palma by Armond White at National Review and Michael Sragow at Film Comment provide a somewhat intriguing contrast in views of the film from two critics who have followed Brian De Palma's work in-depth throughout much of his career. White is no fan of the documentary, saying that it presents "the artist as celebrity," and at one point stating of Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, "They’re not counterculture; they are hipster culture." White then continues, "This film lowers De Palma’s reputation to the anti-intellectualism and insipid 'professionalism' common to today’s untutored filmmakers."

White's review carries the headline, "Taking the Politics Out of Movies"-- here's an excerpt (but defintely read the entire thing)...
Brian De Palma’s 1978 thriller The Fury is his greatest film. It has exemplary visual rhythm, emotional excitation tied to the concept of loyalty, and complex references to film history — plus, it has proven to be politically prescient. The Fury takes on the post-counterculture generation’s innocence (or naïveté) in its story of two psychically gifted teenagers, Gillian and Robin (Amy Irving and Andrew Stevens), who become pawns in government subterfuge and are pursued by a parental rogue agent (Kirk Douglas) and a sinister agency chief (John Cassavetes). The Fury’s unforgettable climax — the most cathartic ending in movie history — turned the post-Vietnam generations’ long-stifled, potentially dangerous energy into metaphor.

De Palma himself might be unaware of The Fury’s prescience; working from his Sixties-based affinity for youthful sexuality and suspicion of government, he was mostly conscious of creating a quasi-political satire, and so in the new interview film De Palma (released by the independent distributor A24), the now 75-year-old director underrates The Fury among other movies in his filmography. He fails to appreciate its astonishing accomplishment as a work of psychedelic emotional depth. (He prefers the conventional anti–Vietnam War cynicism in his 1989 Casualties of War.)...

...An artist’s work is its own defense. Otherwise, that’s what critics are for. But De Palma attests to the lack of critical thinking in contemporary culture. Tired, old complaints about De Palma’s kinetic, teasingly erotic, and often violent style become the basis of forcing the guy to say things like “I did grow up in an operating room; I saw a lot of blood.” Yes, De Palma was the son of a philandering New Jersey orthopedic surgeon (as depicted in his 1978 family comedy Home Movies), but, more importantly, he was the artistic son of several key filmmakers who were also fearless about bravura provocation.

This disappointing documentary never explores the inspiration De Palma drew from Orson Welles (flamboyant, self-conscious technique and Shakespearean morality); Fritz Lang (paranoid examination of social decadence); and Jean-Luc Godard (political wit folded into aesthetic examination). The confluence of their ideas is ignored in the documentary’s emphasis on De Palma’s unabashed parallels to Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense devices.

Aesthetics and political morality are rarely discussed in relation to De Palma’s movies (his hits Carrie, The Fury, and The Untouchables have notable resemblances to the work of Luis Buñuel, John Boorman, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Sergei Eisenstein as much as to that of Hitchcock). Instead, shallow critics and film buffs concentrate on his borrowing Hollywood narrative and so never appreciate him as a distinctive figure of late-20th-century filmmaking. This is proof of cultural illiteracy in our technically advanced, supposedly sophisticated age; as such, it’s a sociological problem. Too much time is wasted on De Palma’s defending his misunderstood movies and answering philistine charges about fame, sexism, and brutality.

Today, in “the Golden Age of Television,” filmmakers are no longer regarded as visual artists; neither are they respected for their social perception. De Palma demonstrates an even worse situation: celebrating a filmmaker as a celebrity. Emphasis on behind-the-scenes gossip (such as the story of De Palma bilking Paramount out of money before eventually turning down an offer to direct Flashdance) ignores the possibility of serious artistry. De Palma says: “You’re battling a very difficult system [in Hollywood], and all the values of that system are the opposite of what goes into making good original movies.”

Failing to clarify De Palma’s Godardian–Langian–Wellesian challenge to the politics and morality of the Hollywood system makes De Palma a documentary for political naïfs and fame-whore pseudo-cinephiles. It is conceived to please millennial careerophiles. Dubious hero worship ignores how De Palma was spurred by political and aesthetic curiosity. He recounts his career journey, yet never gets to the nitty-gritty of the genre revisionism that was the hallmark of his films and those of the Seventies directors he name-checks. (“There was Marty [Scorsese], and then there was George [Lucas] and Francis [Coppola] and Steven [Spielberg]. What we did in our generation will never be duplicated.”)

In his concluding paragraph, White brings it all back to The Fury, "an Expressionist thriller and much more: a potent distillation of the personal and political conflicts that define De Palma’s sensibility and linger in the social miasma of the new millennium. De Palma always works on his sexual and political subconscious. As with any movie artist, every film is political, every film is a public address. But De Palma offers a layman’s inquiry, not a critic’s nor an expert’s. That the makers of this documentary could let De Palma disparage The Fury proves they’re inadequate to appreciate his movies at all."


Michael Sragow, Film Comment

Happily, Baumbach and Paltrow’s quick-fingered succession of excerpts and the director’s running commentary explode conventional wisdom while conveying both his virtuosity and indelible engagement with his times. You can’t see this sampling without savoring how issues like race, political executions, and urban crime recur explicitly and implicitly in his work. Although De Palma’s movies may seem, at first glance, “dated,” they turn out to be enveloping and immediate—time capsules that go off like fireworks. Supreme entertainments like Carrie and Dressed to Kill contain unexpected resonances. Who would have guessed that in Carrie, [Piper] Laurie’s remarkable paradox of a performance—her passionate portrayal of a repressed and repressive religious zealot—would reverberate even more strongly in 2016 than it did in 1976?...

...De Palma creates a visual style so operatic and balletic that Dressed to Kill boasts the imaginative impact of surrealism, while remaining cunningly observant about life in New York circa 1980. What makes De Palma a master pop satirist is his refusal to preach and his utter lack of inhibition. When [Nancy] Allen runs into the subway to escape the killer, it’s a great out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire moment. Who would seek safety in the New York subways of the Mayor Koch era? De Palma captures the racial and social-political tensions of that moment without dilution or apology.

In De Palma, the director talks perceptively about his own influences. The documentary opens with De Palma’s memories of seeing Vertigo as a kid and coming to appreciate it as an adult. He says filmmakers love Hitchcock’s movie because it’s all about what directors do: Hitchcock creates a romantic illusion—and then kills it, twice. In the clips from the Master of Suspense, you can see everything De Palma learned from Hitchcock: his cunning use of subjective camera and his deployment of every tool at a director’s disposal, including blocking, lighting, cutting, and special effects to adopt his characters’ often dizzying perspectives. Hitchcock, though, rarely moved his camera as sinuously as De Palma, who drew on the work of many other directors, including Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick, to create his own simultaneously voluptuous and incisive style. De Palma never sounds more Hitchcockian in De Palma than when he says he starts with “a construction,” not characters, then engages the actors to fill them in and root them in reality—unlike, he says, “you guys” (Baumbach and Paltrow), who start with characters and build films around them. It’s remarkably similar to what Truffaut told Hitchcock: “Your point of departure is not the content but the container.” This stance explains perfectly why he would clash with a character-is-action filmmaker of equal stature, Robert Towne, on the screenplay for Mission Impossible.

This film definitively illustrates that with De Palma, as with any talented movie artist, the truth about his work is often richer and more elusive than his statement of intent. Blow Out stems from a plot De Palma sees as “a construction”: a movie sound technician (Travolta) uses the tools of his trade to prove that a governor’s fatal car accident was a political execution. Every scrap of that construction seems personal to De Palma and becomes a matter of life or death to us. It kicks off with a parody of soft-core horror porn but ends with a portrait of a man trapped inside his own technology. Blow Out is such a mind-blowing movie because it does the reverse of what De Palma says Hitchcock does in Vertigo. De Palma and his hero don’t spend the movie creating an illusion but uncovering a reality moviegoers recognize as a mash-up—not of movie thrillers, but of all the Kennedy tragedies, Chappaquiddick, as well as the assassinations. The central relationship is not an obsessive romance but a tender friendship between the soundman and a makeup counter girl and escort (Nancy Allen) who is sitting next to Pennsylvania’s governor when a tire blows out and his car goes into the Schuylkill River. When Travolta’s character turns the death throes of a murdered woman into the “good scream” he’s been seeking for an exploitation picture, the soundtrack for the movie-within-the-movie becomes the hero’s continuous loop of suffering. De Palma describes the underlying sting of Blow Out: its subliminal message is that even if we stumbled upon exactly what happened in the JFK assassination, nobody would care...

...All of De Palma’s movies contain patches of sublimity or inventiveness, including the much-maligned Mission to Mars (00) and The Black Dahlia (06). De Palma provides a one-of-a-kind filmmaker’s perspective on everything from the runaway costs and escalating burdens of big-studio moviemaking—he made Carrie for $1.8 million, Mission to Mars for $100 million—to the haphazard ways an American movie artist-entertainer must cobble together a career from mixed opportunities and accidents. At age 75, he ruefully admits that filmmakers are usually remembered for movies they make in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. He talks straight from the shoulder about his cave-in to commercial worries on the epochal calamity of The Bonfire of the Vanities (90), and about his inability to find a satisfying ending to Snake Eyes. He tells Baumbach and Paltrow that endings are always a problem, and that you’re lucky if you find two or three that hit the bull’s-eye in the course of a career.

De Palma has the best kind of ending for a director documentary: it leaves us wondering what’s yet to come from this protean and multifaceted filmmaker.

Posted by Geoff at 3:34 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 12, 2016 3:40 PM CDT
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Saturday, June 11, 2016

The picture above, of Jake Paltrow, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Noah Baumbach at Thursday night's DGA Theater screening of De Palma, was taken by Andy Kropa for Associated Press. It was previously mentioned that Scorsese "roasted" De Palma during his introduction for the screening. Today, The Huffington Post's Regina Weinreich reports that "Scorsese introduced the film speaking about their salad years as film students at NYU, coming of age in the era with Spielberg, Coppola, and others. Jake Paltrow and Noah Baumbach, from the podium at the DGA Theater, just let the film speak for itself, for an audience that included a high concentration of directors: Barry Levinson, J C Chandor, Paul Schrader, and more. Actors paid homage too: Amy Irving, Greta Gerwig, Carol Kane, Ellen Burstyn, Rupert Friend and Aimee Mullins, Jonah Hill, Fisher Stevens, and Broadway actors Alex Brightman and Lena Hall, who is about to start her two-week tenure at the Café Carlyle this Tuesday." In the last paragraph of the article, Weinreich writes, "The ensuing celebration at the Russian Tea Room was a microcosm of film world moving and shaking: Gay Talese urged Paul Schrader, Taxi Driver screenwriter, to write a memoir about his boyhood leading to his first ever film watched at age 19."

Jason Mann, who was the chosen rookie director of last year's season of HBO's Project Greenlight, also attended the DGA screening of De Palma.

Posted by Geoff at 12:46 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, June 11, 2016 12:48 PM CDT
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Friday, June 10, 2016
There's so much coming in right now, with the documentary De Palma released today, I'll be posting several round-ups this weekend-- reviews, lists, essays, and more interviews. Speaking of the latter, The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Riefe posted an interview with De Palma today, and in the final paragraph, stated the following: "De Palma is currently in pre-production on Lights Out, a thriller (independently financed with money from China) about a blind girl and a ring of assassins starring Chinese actor Christina Wu." If Riefe has the name correct, Christina Wu appears to be a newcomer, as I could find nothing about her specifically in online searches. When Variety's Patrick Frater reported last November that De Palma had joined Lights Out, he stated, "Casting is currently underway for top roles, including an A-list Chinese actress to star as the female action hero lead." We shall see...
(Thanks to Yorick!)

Posted by Geoff at 7:27 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 10, 2016 7:28 PM CDT
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Go to FilmLinc Daily to listen to a podcast of Brian De Palma, Noah Baumbach, and Jake Paltrow from this past Wednesday night's on-stage discussion, which was moderated by Kent Jones.

Posted by Geoff at 1:03 AM CDT
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Martin Scorsese introduced a screening of De Palma last night at the DGA Theater in New York City. According to a tweet from House of Nod (see below), Scorsese roasted Brian De Palma in his introduction. Also in attendance were the film's directors, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. (The photo at left was taken by Jim Spellman for Getty Images.)

Posted by Geoff at 12:51 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 9, 2016
Last week, as the Brian De Palma retrospective was beginning at The Metrograph, The New York Times' Stephen Holden took a moment to appreciate De Palma's "underappreciated" Obsession, which he calls a high point of the De Palma series. "As history begins to repeat itself," states Holden, "the film, based on an original script by Paul Schrader, takes extremely emotional hairpin turns that Hitchcock would never have dreamed of. A surging Wagnerian score by Bernard Herrmann, the composer for Vertigo, is the luscious icing on the cake."

Posted by Geoff at 10:49 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 6:32 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 10:59 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 11:04 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 10:16 PM CDT
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