"RESTORED" VERSION INCLUDED ON BLU-RAY FROM ELEPHANT FILMS
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
At the film's TIFF premiere, Larraín told Vanity Fair's Julie Miller that when producer Darren Aronofsky suggested the project to him, Larraín responded that he would only direct the film if Portman portrayed the title character. "I didn’t see anybody else playing her,” he told Miller. "It was a combination of elegance, sophistication, intelligence, and fragility. Beauty and sadness can be something very powerful in our culture."
Here's a further excerpt from Miller's article:
At the time, Larraín did not really love the script for the project; did not feel a personal connection to Kennedy; had never made a film about a female character; and honestly did not like traditional biopics. But he was certain of one thing he would do if Portman agreed to star.
“I told her, ‘Look, I have not talked to the writer—but if I were to do this movie, I would take out all of the scenes you are not in.’”
The result is a fragmented retelling of the four days following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, told through the feverish prism of post-traumatic stress disorder. Larraín takes the same artistic liberty with Neruda, which doesn’t tell a linear life story so much as it gives viewers an original, entertaining experience that encapsulates the subject’s persona. In Neruda, Larraín does so by using the poet’s love of crime novels to fashion the film into a detective story, starring Gael García Bernal, about an inspector trying to track down his exiled title subject.
“When you make a movie about a poet from the 40s, my biggest fear is to make a boring movie,” Larraín explains. “We create a fiction over a non-fiction. I don’t expect these to be used as educational tools. I remember I was an exchange student in the U.S. for half a year, and I would go to high school and they would show movies about the Civil War, movies about Abraham Lincoln. And all of those movies were terrible. . .We worked hard not to make [these films] entertaining just to be entertaining, but there are a lot of interesting, fun elements there, and they are beautiful and very simple but sophisticated. They are character studies about a very specific time in these people’s lives, and being fascinated by the characters. What I've learned with cinema is you really have to be fascinated by the characters.”
Before making Jackie, though, Larraín—who did not grow up in the U.S.—had to find his personal connection to Kennedy.
As he told Aronofsky, who urged him to make the project, “I don't know why you are calling a Chilean to make a movie about Jackie Kennedy—but that’s your call.” And after his initial meeting with Portman, the filmmaker realized that his personal connection to Kennedy was still missing.
“I went home and I was like, there’s something else in here. I started Googling and on YouTube I found this White House tour from 1961 that I had no idea existed,” explains the director. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. . .She actually raised private money, and what she did was a restoration, going with a team of people all over the U.S. to find furniture that at some point was in the White House but was sold for different reasons. I thought it was just so beautiful the way she did it, and I fell in love with her watching that program—just the way she moved, the fragility, the way she explained things, how educated she was. This idealism that she had. It sounds naive, this Camelot thing to me, but once I got into it I found it very interesting and beautiful and deep even though I’m not American.”
The series page includes the following description from Nashville Scene managing editor D. Patrick Rodgers:
For many years, Nashville Scene editor and Middle Tennessee native Jim Ridley was a constant fixture at the Belcourt. A true talent, Jim was an exceptionally gifted journalist and critic, respected for his work with the Scene, where he was a writer and editor for well over two decades.
In April, Jim died suddenly at the age of 50. But his passion for film, a passion that drove our arts community to greater heights and very directly played a role in saving the Belcourt from the brink of demise lives on in those of us who knew him and those of us who read him.
For the Belcourt’s Jewels and Jim series—named for François Truffaut’s 1962 masterpiece JULES AND JIM, one of Ridley’s longtime favorites—several of Jim’s friends, family members and fellow Belcourt-frequenting cinephiles picked out films that pay homage to the man. These are films that Jim loved, that you may have found him discussing as he held court in the Belcourt’s lobby late at night after a screening.
From Martin Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS to Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert documentary STOP MAKING SENSE, from Chuck Jones’s classic animated short “Duck Amuck” to Chia-Liang Liu’s 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, the Jewels and Jim series, like Jim himself, is all over the map. Some of these films are funny, some are dark, some are hopeful, and some are technically astounding. But every last one of them is an absolute treat, a gem picked by Jim, begging to be shown on one of the Belcourt’s screens.
Stone’s Snowden is cynical without wisdom — just righteousness. Falling for the contemptuous line “You’re only protecting the supremacy of your government” doesn’t jibe with his supposed interest in protecting the U.S. after 9/11. Stone indulges this specious optimism then teases with it when geeky Snowden chooses the Internet as his “sin of choice” and CIA brass tell him, “You’ve come to the right whorehouse.”
Stone confuses sexual exploitation with the idea of the U.S. as a Super Spy nation that rapes its own citizens. This resembles the disillusionment that Brian De Palma displayed in his anti–Iraq War movie Redacted. A scene in which Snowden is reprimanded by a wall-size video projection of his boss — he’s symbolically dwarfed by the looming Big Brother government — is so over-obvious that it made me wish De Palma were applying his voyeuristic, techno-geek satire to this story (and to the sexual complicity of Snowden’s relationship with his ambitious girlfriend Lindsay, an anti-American fellow traveler played by Shailene Woodley).
When De Palma and Stone collaborated on Scarface (1983), they were more politically challenging. Unfortunately, both De Palma and Stone have since succumbed to political clichés and liberal nostalgia. They no longer challenge themselves. In Scarface, it was always clear that Al Pacino’s Tony Montana, the drug-dealing illegal immigrant, was a criminal; his gangster “hero” had slipped in through the cracks of U.S. diplomacy and capitalism. Yet here, Snowden’s betrayal of his employer — which might be considered criminal in the private sector — is justified as virtuous. “You’re running a dragnet on the whole world!” Snowden petulantly objects. (Stone then cuts to footage of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez as an example of an “ousted Third World leader who would not play along.”)
In Stone’s 2013 drugs-sex-class feature Savages, home-grown criminality was thrillingly understood as a warped version of American values. Perhaps Stone needs to work from fiction in order to be a dazzling artist — as he was in making JFK, Any Given Sunday, and Alexander. But when borrowing semi-documentary style in Snowden, Stone forgets he’s telling a story of sedition, and he loses both his sense of human nature and his cinematic dazzle. The smug final image of Snowden taking asylum in Russia (“I’ve gained a new life”) shows him in heroic profile, completely overlooking the fact of his (and Poitras’s and Greenwald’s) seditious radicalization. Stone abets these traitors’ pride. His skill as a filmmaker and his virtue as a disgruntled American are the immediate casualties.
Stone talked through some of his filmography with the Los Angeles Times' Josh Rottenberg. Here's what he said about Natural Born Killers:
“That hurt. Warner Bros. never really supported the film. When I showed it to them, I had never seen such shock on the faces of the execs. It was like, ‘How are we going to release this movie?’ I think they never got their hands around it.
“That was a depressing time for me because the attacks were mean-spirited. It’s a unique picture, I think. It’s not normal. It’s a sensory overload. It was going back to my ‘Scarface’ days. It was, ‘OK, let’s ramp up the coarseness and the vitality.’ It’s a love story wrapped in a horror film.”
"The murky world of betrayal and counter-betrayal is reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Melville's magnum opus Army of Shadows, but the masterful orchestration of tension also shows the influence of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. The use of music throughout is excellent with a percussive score mixing with period pieces of jazz and a concluding scene uses Bolero to stunning effect. The Age of Shadows is a bloody and breathtaking piece of filmmaking which confirms that Kim can do pretty much anything."
"Because this is an action movie and no mistake, the only difference being that where most films so described usually build to a single massive setpiece, The Age of Shadows has about seven — maybe ten, if you consider that the whole train section (and of course there’s a train section) is a setpiece that contains about three other setpieces inside itself. Each one of these sequences is delivered like the climax to a Brian de Palma movie (indeed there’s a shootout in a train station that seems to deliberately echo The Untouchables) but there’s also such knotty spy-jinks intrigue going on that at other times it plays like Betrayal on the Orient Express."
(Thanks to Rado!)
Also of note is the release today of The Oliver Stone Experience, the massive new book put together by Matt Zoller Seitz, who interviewed Stone for it extensively over the past two or three years. Also, watch for Seitz to do a segment about the book sometime this week as he fills in for The Charlie Rose show.
I'll be posting more this week about all three of these items.
"Nocturnal Animals” though is the Big Deal. Ford, the designer of ridiculously overpriced fashion, made one other film, “A Single Man,” a few years ago. It was a gorgeous debut, and quite unexpected. “Single Man” was also incredibly stylized. One wondered if all Ford’s films — if more were to come– would look the same.
This one does, and it doesn’t. With a heavy nod to Douglas Sirk (and to Todd Haynes, who already saluted Sirk in “Far from Heaven”) Ford mixes that same cool, minimalist feel with what is essentially pulp fiction– a revenge movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon (each doing their best work) within a modern soap opera starring Adams and Armie Hammer as desperately good looking and unhappy rich people. And just so we get it, Amy’s art gallery features a black and white painting of the word REVENGE. Does Ford have to paint us a picture?
Ford is as devoted to Sirk as Brian de Palma is to Hitchock– in fact, I was thinking of “Body Double” a lot during the screening because Ford mimics dePalma’s cool veneer. Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski drives the Sirk reference home and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey manages to make the 50s come alive in 2016.
Although Ford says you can’t compare his two worlds of fashion and moviemaking, the keen eye he has for both is quite apparent in this dazzling movie mix that seems to have all sorts of cinematic influences. It’s a very different kind of film from A Single Man, but the love of classic filmmaking is there in all departments. Movie fans will love it and reaction here in Toronto , as earlier in Venice, has been extremely strong overall. It is not just a movie-within-a-movie, it’s a movie movie suggesting work from some of the great directors in a mix that becomes pure Ford, especially in style and design.
Fortunately, his sometimes acidly funny screenplay is a substantial one as well, crossing genres. “This one is obviously very Hitchcock, Brian DePalma, people keep telling me Douglas Sirk. People keep comparing it to David Lynch too. I love David Lynch but that was certainly not in my mind. I think it’s because we have the nude (very obese) women dancing in the beginning,” he says when I asked for names that might have inspired this film. “I think Kubrick was pretty great at a thriller, but I can’t say one particular person. I have different favorite directors for different genres. My heart, which you really couldn’t tell from this, was from the 1930’s and George Cukor. That’s where it really is. If I am designing a collection it’s often Fassbinder. So depending on what type of movie we are talking about, I have absolutely different frames of reference. They go into any filmmaker’s head. They become part of your hard drive. You don’t even necessarily realize they are coming out. I wasn’t thinking about Douglas Sirk when I made this film, but I love him and the comparison is there, so great. Hitchcock’s humor was purposeful because I think if you can scare the audience you sometimes need the relief of making them laugh. And if you can make them cry, all the better. Scare them, make them cry, make them laugh, give them a roller coaster.” And that Tom Ford has done in Nocturnal Animals.
Passion was treated as minor De Palma, and fair enough for a thriller built from an array of elements—doppelgangers, split-screen murders, music by Pino Donaggio, voyeuristic sexuality—that De Palma had used, more memorably, decades earlier. Still, it has something that so many mainstream American movies today are lacking: an appreciation for cinema’s irrational power over its audience. And De Palma, old-school enough that he closes Passion with a title card reading “The End,” made a film that’s best understood through the psychodramatic lens of classic noir, while at the same time working a twist on his own formula.
In discussing Passion as a dream narrative, one must be careful, because that’s a game that can keep the audience guessing. The heroine goes to bed at the beginning of the film, and subsequently is shown falling asleep and suddenly waking up nearly half a dozen times. De Palma adapted his script from a French thriller called Love Crime (Alain Corneau, 2010), from which Passion gets its Euro-chic setting, the framework of its murder plot, and a battle of feminine cunning that should appeal to anyone who feels the word “bitch” may be used admiringly. But Love Crime plays the material relatively straight, with a very different ending. The feverish dream angle belongs to De Palma’s version alone.
So the best place to start is the one sequence I can say with confidence is “real,” the opening scene. Isabelle (Rapace) and Christine (McAdams), two coworkers at an ad agency, are meeting at Christine’s apartment after hours to discuss the latest campaign. As they share a drink and a few laughs, it’s instantly clear which of the two is dominant. Christine has perfect confidence, perfect style, perfect taste, a perfect apartment. Isabelle is much more timid and repressed. Buttoned-up in an asexual black pantsuit (which she’ll wear for most of the film, despite Christine’s many colorful costume changes), Isabelle is clearly in the thrall of her mentor, and thrilled that such an alpha-female would keep her as a confidante. She admires Christine—is it just professional, or something else? Then Christine’s perfect boyfriend arrives, and Isabelle, sensing that she’s become a third wheel, excuses herself and goes home. We see Isabelle drifting off to sleep, and then the story begins in proper: a tale of intrigue and murder as convoluted as any of Alfred Hitchcock‘s—and much clammier than Richard Wanley’s.
As a thriller, Passion has too many implausible twists to name. But as a glimpse into Isabelle’s psyche, it’s a hypnotic clash of identities. Isabelle competes with Christine. She sleeps with Christine’s boyfriend. Christine suddenly kisses Isabelle—a moment they scarcely dwell on—then teaches her to undo her top buttons to hook a male client. (“You’re more like me than you think,” Christine teases her.) And throughout this, the film’s style tilts towards insanity. Rapace plays Isabelle as a perpetually stunned figure, acting for most of the film like a helpless spectator, even to her own actions. The script is often daftly illogical; in one scene, Christine goes from threatening Isabelle to inviting her to a dinner party within a few seconds. Midway through, the film suddenly shifts into full-blown noir expressionism, with wall-to-wall canted angles and Venetian-blind shadows. The plot mechanisms by which someone may or may not get away with murder are as complex as they are irrelevant. Passion is more a series of anxious fantasies: to be Christine, to fuck Christine, to kill Christine. Though of course, in a nightmare, can you count on someone to stay dead?
The crowning moment, where Passion adds something valuable to De Palma’s canon, is the final set piece. This scene is De Palma in overheated form, the sort of ludicrous sequence that gets excruciating suspense from being so drawn out, and it involves a murder taking place in Isabelle’s apartment late at night, just as a police inspector drops by to “pay his respects.” There are numerous things that are logically “off” with this scene, not the least of which is why the inspector, who by this point in the contorted plot has been thoroughly fooled, would choose to pay a social visit in the middle of the night. But the sequence builds to a fever pitch, and then climaxes with the money shot: Isabelle convulsing awake, in the same bed she’d drifted off to sleep in after that opening scene—only now with a crucial, impossible detail.
De Palma is self-aware filmmaker, not above referencing himself as well as his predecessors. The final shot of Passion, a high-angle view of the heroine waking up from a nightmare, is nearly identical to the shots that closed Carrie and Dressed to Kill. But here, De Palma adds one of his most mischievous touches: When Isabelle wakes up, the murder victim is still there, lying on the floor next to the bed, perfectly preserved from the prior sequence. As a finale, it’s a bonkers paradox: the construction of the editing means that this final sequence (if not the entire plot of the film) simultaneously must be a dream and can’t be a dream. There is no logical explanation, nor can there be, nor should there be.
This kind of gamesmanship may turn some audiences off, as if the chain has been yanked a little too hard. But for such a modest, apparently trashy film, it’s also a sophisticated touch, and it relies on an audience willing to be subservient to the pure sounds and images that envelope them. It goes back to Richard Wanley’s epilogue, regaining his bearing after his feature-length nightmare; or to the hero of Caligari, confronting his horror back in real life; or to anyone who’s seen a scary movie late at night and finds it difficult to shake the unease. What De Palma’s Passion toys with, in a modern, old-fashioned way, is an idea both dreamlike and quintessentially cinematic: the fear (or hope) that what you’ve seen will be waiting for you on the other side.
Here is where De Palma, formerly so sedate and conventional, throws off his cape to reveal the cinematic mad genius underneath. The first act’s rote dramatics melt away, leaving behind a mad dancing skeleton that begs to be witnessed. In line with Isabelle’s deteriorating sense of security and mental stability, the film morphs into an elaborate and expert exhibition of neo-noir and Old Hollywood tropes, both stylistic and thematic. Canted angles, deep shadows, split screens. What began as a tired retread of ’90s-style potboilers becomes what only De Palma can make: a stirring melange of modern edge and classical styling.
This is the power of De Palma and the thing that makes him, for all the world, one of the most interesting American directors. Most of what he does is nothing that hasn’t been done before. He’s using techniques that have permeated the history of cinema from the very beginning. But he employs these tricks with so much skill and nonchalance in execution that their very being within a movie becomes bold. Unlike Tarantino, who trucks in homage that verges on parody (to great effect), De Palma works entirely in earnest creation. He isn’t doing these things to signal his cinematic bona fides, but to more eloquently get across his point. The point, in this case, being that Isabelle has completely broken mentally.
Passion‘s mounting dream logic is almost Lynchian, bizarre things occurring and resolving with seemingly no impact on narrative. The bafflement of the audience rises with the paranoia and franticness of the protagonist. It’s an operatic, arch transposition of mental state onto aesthetic presentation. It is, as previously stated, Lynchian in narrative, but more akin to Irving Rapper in terms of tone and aesthetic, making it at once seemingly more accessible while also forging an even deeper wedge between the film and a more modern audience.
Forty years ago, visionary filmmaker Brian De Palma helmed the ultimate coming-of-age horror film with Stephen King’s CARRIE, a story both celebrated and revered by cinephiles and ultimate horror fans alike. To celebrate this landmark anniversary of the movie, non-profit cancer support center weSPARK and Theatre at The Ace Hotel, along with home entertainment brand SCREAM FACTORY, will mount a once-in-a-lifetime cast and crew reunion and screening of the brand-new restoration of the film, paired with a 1970s prom-themed party, at the historic Ace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles on Friday, October 14, 2016.
The star-studded cast and crew reunion is set to include Carrie stars Academy Award-nominated Piper Laurie (The Hustler), Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill, RoboCop), William Katt (“The Greatest American Hero”), P.J. Soles (Halloween), Academy Award-winning editor Paul Hirsch (Star Wars: Episode IV), and casting director Harriett B. Helberg (The Jazz Singer). The cast will participate in a live Q&A moderated by Bryan Fuller (the creative genius behind NBC’s “Hannibal,” ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” and the upcoming Starz series “American Gods”).
In an effort to raise critical funds for weSPARK Cancer Support Center, of which Carrie’s Nancy Allen is Executive Director, the event will see the Ace Theater transformed with prom-themed decor, during which attendees are encouraged to dress in their best 1970s formal attire or favorite character from the film for an opportunity to pose for a photo in a special photo booth and win a Best Dressed “Carrie” character costume contest.
“I want a recount! I can’t believe Carrie is celebrating its 40th Anniversary! This movie changed my career much like weSPARK has changed my life, and to bring these two worlds together for good only adds to the specialness of this celebration.” – Nancy Allen, Carrie’s Chris Hargensen
Tickets to the star-studded screening and Q&A will start at $25, with higher ticket tiers to include Scream Factory’s brand new 2-disc Carrie (Collector’s Edition) Blu-ray release with nearly 3 hours of bonus material, a specially commissioned original poster from a local artist, access to a private VIP pre-reception, and opportunities for photos with cast and crew.
$25 – General Admission including Prom-Themed After Party
$75 – Preferred Seating + Exclusive Carrie Poster + New Scream Factory Blu Ray + Photo Op including Prom Themed After-Party (Limited availability)
$125 –VIP seating + Exclusive Carrie Poster & Blu-ray + Photo Op with cast/crew including After-Party + Private Pre-Party (Limited availability)
All proceeds will directly benefit weSPARK’s cancer support programs.