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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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Carrie...A Fan's Site


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Sunday, December 18, 2016
The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York began a series on Friday (December 16th) titled "Going Steadi: 40 Years of Steadicam." Brian De Palma's Raising Cain screens tonight at 8:45 as part of the series, and again on Friday December 23rd, at 4:30pm. On Friday, you can make it a De Palma double feature by sticking around for the 6:30pm screening that day of Carlito's Way, also part of the series.

"Combining the freedom of a handheld camera with the stability of a dolly," reads the series program description, "Steadicam made its groundbreaking debut in Hal Ashby’s 1976 film Bound for Glory, which won the Oscar for best cinematography. Since then, it has become an essential tool of filmmaking and has allowed cinematographers to execute some of their most iconic, astonishing camera movements. And while Steadicam has left an indelible mark on Hollywood filmmaking (especially in the films of Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brian De Palma, and Quentin Tarantino), it has also been used to striking effect in works by international filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Béla Tarr, Bertrand Tavernier, and many others. Steadicam enabled the camera to move with the same grace as the bodies, objects, and spaces that it films, expanding the medium’s visual possibilities in ways that many of the key filmmakers of the past four decades have found indispensable. The Film Society is proud to celebrate 40 years of Steadicam’s usage, with Steadicam inventor and cinematographer Garrett Brown appearing in person."

Here is the program description of Raising Cain:

"Brian De Palma’s darkly comic, hall-of-mirrors thriller stars a deliciously deranged John Lithgow in a diabolical double role: as a mild-mannered child psychiatrist and his evil twin brother, who both take to kidnapping and murder in order to procure toddlers for a bizarre psychological study. Out-of-left-field plot twists, electrifying set pieces, and Hitchcockian doubles (and triples and quadruples) abound, while the film’s labyrinthine plot and disorienting, dreamlike tone are enhanced by the intricate, maze-like Steadicam shots."

I'll do a couple more brief posts centered around this fest in the next couple of days.

Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CST
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Thursday, December 15, 2016
io9's Katharine Trendacosta posted an excerpt today from Carrie Fisher's new book, The Princess Diarist, in which she writes about her experience making Star Wars. The excerpt is about the dual auditions for Star Wars and Carrie, including a few exchanges between Fisher and Brian De Palma, as well as George Lucas, of course:
George Lucas held his auditions for Star Wars in an office on a lot in Hollywood. It was in one of those faux-Spanish cream-colored buildings from the thirties with dark orange-tiled roofs and black-iron-grated windows, lined with sidewalks in turn lined with trees—pine trees, I think they were, the sort that shed their needles generously onto the street below—and interrupted by parched patches of once-green lawns.

Everything was a little worse for the wear, but good things would happen in these buildings. Lives would be led, businesses would prosper, and men would attend meetings—hopeful meetings, meetings where big plans were made and ideas were proposed. But of all the meetings that had ever been held in that particular office, none of them could compare in world impact with the casting calls for the Star Wars movie.

A plaque could be placed on the outside of this building that states, “On this spot the Star Wars films conducted their casting sessions. In this building the actors and actresses entered and exited until only three remained. These three were the actors who ultimately played the lead parts of Han, Luke, and Leia.”

I’ve told the story of getting cast as Princess Leia many times before—in interviews, on horseback, and in cardiac units—so if you’ve previously heard this story before, I apologize for requiring some of your coveted store of patience. I know how closely most of us tend to hold on to whatever cache of patience we’ve managed to amass over a lifetime and I appreciate your squandering some of your cherished stash here.

George gave me the impression of being smaller than he was because he spoke so infrequently. I first encountered his all-but-silent presence at these auditions—the first of which he held with the director Brian De Palma. Brian was casting his horror film Carrie, and they both required an actress between the age of eighteen and twenty-two. I was the right age at the right time, so I read for both George and Brian.

George had directed two other feature films up till then, THX 1138, starring Robert Duvall, and American Graffiti, starring Ron Howard and Cindy Williams. The roles I met with the two directors for that first day were Princess Leia in Star Wars and Carrie in Carrie. I thought that last role would be a funny casting coup if I got it: Carrie as Carrie in Carrie. I doubt that that was why I never made it to the next level with Carrie—but it didn’t help as far as I was concerned that there would have to be a goofy film poster advertising a serious horror film.

I sat down before the two directors behind their respective desks. Mr. Lucas was all but mute. He nodded when I entered the room, and Mr. De Palma took over from there. He was a big man, and not merely because he spoke more— or spoke, period. Brian sat on the left and George on the right, both bearded. As if you had two choices in director sizes. Only I didn’t have the choice—they did. Brian cleared his bigger throat of bigger things and said, “So I see here you’ve been in the film Shampoo?”

I knew this, so I simply nodded, my face in a tight white-toothed smile. Maybe they would ask me something requiring more than a nod.

“Did you enjoy working with Warren?”

“Yes, I did!”

That was easy! I had enjoyed working with him, but Brian’s look told me that wasn’t enough of an answer.

“He was . . .”

What was he? They needed to know! “He helped me work . . . a lot. I mean, he and the other screenwriter . . . they worked with me.” Oh my God, this wasn’t going well. Mr. De Palma waited for more, and when more wasn’t forthcoming, he attempted to help me.

“How did they work with you?”

Oh, that’s what they wanted to know! “They had me do the scene over and over, and with food. There was eating in the scene. I had to offer Warren a baked apple and then I ask him if he’s making it with my mother—sleeping with her—you know.”

George almost smiled; Brian actually did. “Yes, I know what ‘making it’ means.”

I flushed. I considered stopping this interview then and there. But I soldiered on.

“No, no, that’s the dialogue. ‘Are you making it with my mother?’ I asked him that because I hate my mother. Not in real life, I hate my mother in the movie, partly because she is sleeping with Warren who’s the hairdresser. Lee Grant played my mom, but I didn’t really have any scenes with her, which is too bad because she’s a great actress. And Warren is a great actor and he also wrote the movie, with Robert Towne, which is why they both worked with me. With food. It sounded a lot more natural when you talk with food in your mouth. Not that you do that in your movies. Maybe in the scary movie, but I don’t know the food situation in space.” The meeting seemed to be going better.

“What have you done since Shampoo?” George asked.

I repressed the urge to say I had written three symphonies and learned how to perform dental surgery on monkeys, and instead told the truth.

“I went to school in England. Drama school. I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama.” I was breathless with information. “I mean I didn’t just go, I’m still going. I’m home on Christmas vacation.”

I stopped abruptly to breathe. Brian was nodding, his eyebrows headed off to his hair in something like surprise. He asked me politely about my experience at school, and I responded politely as George watched impassively. (I would come to discover that George’s expression wasn’t indifferent or anything like it. It was shy and discerning, among many other things, including intelligent, studious, and— and a word like “darling.” Only not that word, because it’s too young and androgynous, and besides which, and most important, George would hate it.)

“What do you plan on doing if you get one of these jobs you’re meeting on?” continued Brian.

“I mean, it really would depend on the part, but . . . I guess I’d leave. I mean I know I would. Because I mean—”

“I know what you mean,” Brian interrupted. The meeting continued but I was no longer fully present—utterly convinced that I’d screwed up by revealing myself to be so disloyal. Leave my school right in the middle for the first job that came along?

Soon after, we were done. I shook each man’s hand as I moved to the door, leading off to the gallows of obscurity. George’s hand was firm and cool. I returned to the outer office knowing full well that I would be going back to school.

“Miss Fisher,” a casting assistant said.

I froze, or would have, if we weren’t in sunny Los Angeles. “Here are your sides. Two doors down. You’ll read on video.” My heart pounded everywhere a pulse can get to.

The scene from Carrie involved the mother (who would be memorably played by Piper Laurie). A dark scene, where the people are not okay. But the scene in Star Wars—there were no mothers there! There was authority and confidence and command in the weird language that was used. Was I like this? Hopefully George would think so, and I could pretend I thought so, too. I could pretend I was a princess whose life went from chaos to crisis without looking down between chaoses to find, to her relief, that her dress wasn’t torn.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
Updated: Friday, December 16, 2016 12:26 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Brian De Palma spoke for two hours during a class made up of filmmakers and students yesterday at the Festival of New Latinamerican Cinema of Havana. The photo above is one of several credited to José Raúl Concepción that can be seen at CubaDebate. Meanwhile, Lourdes Elena García Bereau at ACN provides the text (translation via Google):
Surrounded by Cuban filmmakers and students, the American film director Brian De Palma spoke in Havana about the challenges of making films, his stories and the elements that, in his opinion, directly influence the psychology of characters and interpreters.

Special guest of the 38th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, the creator of such films as Scarface (1983), Casualties of War (1989), Dressed to Kill (1980), and The Untouchables (1987), among others, discussed during the two hours his conceptions as an artist, in an atmosphere of continuous exchanging of ideas.

"Young people have no excuses not to make art-- the digital era is conducive to less production costs, they only need a camera and a laptop to start creating," said the director of Redacted, a highly acclaimed film during the year 2007.

"Although it is good to tell our own stories, we must try to direct the materials of others, to get in touch with their way of creating, to think, to structure the characters," said this eternal admirer of the work of Alfred Hitchcock, well-known wizard of suspense.

On the violence in his films and the treatment of women, De Palma confessed smilingly that "the history of cinema is the history of men photographing women"; Which is why he does not hesitate to interfere with women in their films, even if they contain an exaggerated nuance of action.

He also commented to those present the need to pay attention to elements such as sound and music during the processes of conception of a work, since these intervene as an actor more within the plot and psychology of the film.

Finally, when asked about his expectations with the Havana Festival, he exclaimed: ¡Viva Cuba !, aware that for more than two decades the locals have been anxiously awaiting this visit.

Brian De Palma is passionate about the seventh art, focusing on the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and Jean-Luc Godard.

The thriller was its standard for several years, although it is two works of fantastic genre The Phantom of the Paradise (1974) and above all, the enormous success of the first adaptation of a novel of Stephen King, Carrie (1976), that placed him as one of the most interesting authors of the new Hollywood cinema, which emerged in the 1970s.

Prensa Latina (arc/apc) has the following report (again, translated via Google):
The era of new technology and communications means opening young filmmakers to an unlimited universe of ideas to be developed, US director Brian De Palma said here Thursday.

Before an audience of mostly filmmakers and students from different latitudes, De Palma meant the cost of production of any film, a reason enough for young people to develop the projects they want.

However, warned the director of films such as The Untouchables (1987) and Scarface (1983), [they] should endeavor to give meaning to the film resources employed in terms of a story that, in this context and repeated so much, become clichés.

De Palma explained that with the new possibilities of technology, shots are often used without apparent reason for the development of the plot, to the detriment of the seventh art.

From their experience, the young directors must worry about writing a good story or working with someone who knows how to do it, choose the actors with criteria, assemble it and present it to the different film festivals, where, surely, they will find financing for their completion and distribution.

More focusing on himself, Brian De Palma acknowledged that sometimes it is important to escape his own stories and tell others, while sharing some of his most relevant creative experiences in the production of films such as Casualties of War and Redacted.

Influenced by the world of cinematography, De Palma detailed in passages of his films that are a clear evocation to the genius of the suspense Alfred Hitchcock, or the great innovator, the Soviet follower Eisenstein.

On the latter, he remembered the scene of the stroller with the baby that descends alone on the stairs in the middle of a shooting, which he then readapted for The Untouchables: 'it's very good, why do it only once,' he joked.

Held back from previous editions, the renowned filmmaker was finally able to attend the Festival of New Latin American Cinema, with the purpose of imparting a master class and to visit the International School of Cinema and Television of San Antonio de los Baños, to whose anniversary of foundation is dedicated this 38 edition.

Posted by Geoff at 12:34 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 12:53 AM CST
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Friday, December 9, 2016

Kirk Douglas turns 100 today. Yesterday, Sam Irvin posted the following on his Facebook page:

"KIRK DOUGLAS' 100th BIRTHDAY! Friday, December 9, 2016! Thirty-nine years ago in 1977, I had the great privilege of working as a production assistant and extra on Kirk's supernatural thriller THE FURY directed by Brian De Palma. I was also lucky enough to interview him for CINEFANTASTIQUE magazine as part of my journal on the making of that film. Then, the following year, I associate produced and production managed De Palma's HOME MOVIES starring Kirk who was also an investor on the film. He was a powerhouse -- full of ideas, excited by the entire process of film-making. He made it a point to learn every name of every actor and crew member by Day 2, a respectful tradition that I adopted and religiously practice to this day on my own films. CONGRATULATIONS, KIRK!!!!"

Nancy Allen then posted a comment on Irvin's post: "We sure had some fun making Home Movies. Kirk was wonderful! How fortunate we were to work with him."

Meanwhile, this past Sunday, Live Mint's Uday Bhatia posted a tribute looking at five of Kirk Douglas' most memorable scenes, and included one from The Fury:

Last action hero

Along with George Miller’s The Man from Snowy River (1982), The Fury represents the best of late-period Douglas.

In this 1978 film by Brian De Palma, he plays Peter Sandza, an ex-CIA agent who survives an assassination attempt and resurfaces years later in search of his telekinetic son, who has been kidnapped by a shadowy intelligence organization.

Pursued by his son’s captors, he takes two bumbling beat cops (one of whom is played, hilariously, by Dennis Franz, the future NYPD Blue star) hostage and commandeers their vehicle. De Palma, master of the elaborate chase, wasn’t fond of cars, a possible reason why the sequence is played mostly for laughs.

De Palma gave impetus to several fledgling actors—John Travolta, Robert De Niro, Margot Kidder—in his early films, but this was the first time he worked with a huge star.

Douglas is very much the old-school pro in the film, and in this scene. He deadpans through most of it, which only serves to make the panic of his co-passengers more hilarious; his sideways glance when one of them says, belatedly, “Somebody’s after you, is that it?” is a minor classic. Few actors over 60 would have consented to ending a big action sequence with their pants around their ankles. That Douglas does this without looking ridiculous is testament to his willingness to subvert his own virile image, and belief in his own star quality.

Posted by Geoff at 10:59 AM CST
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2016 11:00 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Vulture's Kevin Lincoln talked with Mackenzie Davis about her role in Sophia Takal's Always Shine:
Watching Always Shine, I thought a lot about a male director, Brian De Palma.
But the gaze feels very different. I really like De Palma, but his gaze is aggressive and undressing and voyeuristic. I’m very aware of being a spectator in De Palma’s movies, especially of the female body.

Whereas the voyeurism in Always Shine seems to come much more from a female perspective, like when Anna is watching Beth speak to the man at the bar.
Female friendships are so emotionally intense and rewarding and invasive — they’re my favorite friendships, but there is this extrasensory perceptiveness about betrayal, and also there’s just always a competition in women because we’ve been told that there’s a scarcity of opportunity. So there’s always this sense of like, Who’s being hit on? Who’s getting that job? I’m not saying that every woman feels that all the time, but I definitely felt it — a way that we’re raised culturally where it behooves us to beat the other girl, and you can see when you’re losing in a situation. I always grew up thinking that being undesirable is a mortal sin.

Always Shine Director Influenced by Hi, Mom!, More

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2016 12:06 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Peet Gelderblom posted the above video to Vimeo last week. In it, he examines, in very precise side-by-side split-screen detail, just how deeply the entire shower sequence from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has embedded itself within the cinematic sensibility of Brian De Palma. Be warned that when the blood comes in this video, it does so rather prolifically, as Gelderblom spins out the sparks of stabbing violence from various De Palma films like a DJ spinning fireworks. And he does it expertly as one who has studied the shots from De Palma's films, as well as from Psycho. I myself have looked at De Palma's Mission: Impossible literally dozens of times, and have never before made the connection between this shot (below) and Psycho:

At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz posted Peet's video today, as well, writing, "Gelderblom's piece clarifies the relationship between the two directors by showing just how completely De Palma absorbed particular bits of Hitchcock's artistic DNA into his own body of work. Not content to rework the plots and themes of particular Hitchcock films ("Vertigo" as "Obsession" and "Body Double," for instance, or "Psycho" as "Dressed to Kill"), he has integrated discrete stylistic tics into his own directing, cherry-picking individual shots that run as short as one or two seconds into scenes in De Palma films where you might not necessarily expect to see them. And yet these appropriations are transformed into something uniquely De Palma; this becomes much more clear via Gelderblom's use of split-screen, a technique that Hitchcock didn't lean on with the same geometric playfulness as his most famous disciple has displayed in fifty years' worth of his own work."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 12:02 AM CST
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Scott Patterson, who plays Luke on the TV series Gilmore Girls, was a guest on last week's Vulture TV Podcast. At about the 47:26 mark of the podcast, Patterson talks about the day Brian De Palma visited the Gilmore Girls set with his daughter, Lolita:
Vulture: I wanted to ask, we were talking before about the scene in the kitchen that you guys did for "A Year In The Life," and what a great experience you said that was. Looking back at the original seven seasons, is there an episode that is your favorite, either because it challenged you in some way, you have fond memories of working on it, or it just turned out really great? Are there certain moments from the original seven that stand out in your mind?

Scott Patterson: Oh, there’s one. Ah, yes, there is.

Vulture: Okay.

Scott: Well, it was the day that Brian De Palma, the famed director, came to visit the set to bring his daughter by—Lola, who was a big fan of the show. And, I came off the diner set, into the back area, because they were taking a little break for them to set some lighting. And somebody said, “Scott, I’d like you to meet Brian De Palma” [starts laughing]. And I went, “Holy crap!” So, anyway, I know a little bit about him. He’s a Philadelphia boy, we share a birthday, I knew a little bit about how he grew up, why he got into the film business, and why he got into the gory, gory, gory Carrie side of the film business to begin with. And, so I was quite pleased to meet him and chat with him a little bit.

And then we were in the diner shooting—Lorelei and I were shooting a scene in there, and it was a really, really daunting scene for both of us, because she comes in to the diner in this real rush and huff, spitting out all kinds of dialogue, and I didn’t have a lot of lines. But that’s even, maybe, harder, because you don’t want to screw up the other actor by missing a cue, and like, she’s got a big chunk of dialogue, and then you go, “Huh?” Or, “What?” Well, I didn’t, you know, it’s all timing, right? So, the pressure was on me not to screw up her timing, because she had such a daunting monologue to do. And so De Palma came in, on the set—no, no, he didn’t come on the set, he was in video village watching her side of it. Then when they turn the camera around—and she, you know, she executed flawlessly—and we were both pretty nervous, because Brian De Palma’s like watching us on a monitor—so we’re thinking, God, if we do really well, you know, we could be in, like, you know, we could be in a big movie, you just never know. So when they turned the camera around to do my coverage, and do my close-ups, Brian De Palma, the famed director, the Oscar-nominated-winning director, decided to come in and sit right next to the camera, where I’m supposed to look. [Starts laughing] So it was Brian De Palma’s head next to the camera lens, and Lauren’s head right above his. [Laughing some more…] And I had to try not to look at Brian De Palma while I was doing my six or seven little lines while she was spitting out all of this dialogue. It’s hysterical. After it was done, he gets up and waits and he goes back to video village, and Lauren looks at me, and she goes, “How did you possibly get through that?” I said, “I don’t know, I was scared shitless” [laughing].

When the Vulture host asks Patterson if he recalls which season that might have been (when De Palma visited), he said it might have been season 5 or 6, but he really couldn't remember.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Monday, December 5, 2016 12:03 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 8:53 PM CST
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Sunday, November 27, 2016
Paul Sylbert, the production designer on Blow Out and many other classic films, died November 19, at his home in Jenkintown, Pa., according to William Grimes at the New York Times. He was 88. Sylbert was the identical twin brother of production designer Richard Sylbert, who passed away in 2002. Richard had worked with De Palma on The Bonfire Of The Vanities and Carlito's Way. Both brothers began their careers working on Elia Kazan films, Baby Doll and A Face In The Crowd, while in between those two films, Paul Sylbert also worked on Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man.

Here's an excerpt of interest from the New York Times obituary:
The film critic Vincent Canby, in an essay on production design for The New York Times in 1981, noted Mr. Sylbert’s chameleonlike ability to summon up entirely different visual worlds even within similar genres. For Brian De Palma’s suspense film “Blow Out,” he evoked Philadelphia in realistic terms, but the New York in the horror thriller “Wolfen,” released on the same day as “Blow Out” in 1981, was, Mr. Canby wrote, something entirely different.

“Mr. Sylbert’s Manhattan is a fantasy island under siege by some sort of superwolves,” he wrote. “Its South Bronx is dominated by the shell of a church that seems to have been blitzed during months of air raids.”

In his review of the film, Mr. Canby praised its “otherworldly look” and wrote, “Not since Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now’ has there been such a beautifully mounted and designed scare movie.”

Mr. Sylbert received an Academy Award for his work on “Heaven Can Wait” and was nominated for a second Oscar for Barbra Streisand’s 1991 film “The Prince of Tides.” In 2009, the Art Directors Guild presented him with a lifetime achievement award.

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 28, 2016 12:19 AM CST
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Thursday, November 24, 2016
Brian De Palma's Body Double will be paired with Krzysztof Kieślowski's A Short Film About Love this Friday (November 25) and Sunday (November 27) at Anthology Film Archives in New York. The screenings are part of the series, "Voyeurism, Surveillance and Identity in the Cinema." Here's the website's description:
This summer we inaugurated an ongoing collaboration with the International Center of Photography (now located in close proximity to Anthology, at 250 Bowery) with a film series inspired by the exhibition, PUBLIC, PRIVATE, SECRET. The ICP’s debut show in their new home explores the concept of privacy in today’s society and studies how contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility. The film series expands on this idea by gathering a selection of films that engage the themes of voyeurism, surveillance, and privacy, and that demonstrate the various ways that media is used to fashion a sense of identity. Combining narrative films like De Palma’s BODY DOUBLE and Kieslowski’s A SHORT FILM ABOUT LOVE with experimental films, documentaries, and video art, the series demonstrates how central these ideas have been throughout the history of the cinema.

Brooklyn Magazine's Kenji Fujishima previews the screenings, as well:
Perhaps it’s best to view the much-maligned Body Double not as a serious thriller, but as a deadpan comedy with thriller elements. So overtly derivative are the Hitchcock homages here that one can’t help but laugh at how ridiculously blatant De Palma’s being this time around. But the joke’s not just on us, but also on Jake Scully (Craig Wasson), with much of the first half playing as a lampoon of the struggling-actor hero’s professional, personal and sexual inadequacies. De Palma reserves his most amusing meta-movie conceits, though, for the second half, with Jake playacting a porn producer in order to get close to adult star Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), his descent into the hardcore-porn underground depicted as a hedonistic music video set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” In the end, it’s Jake’s own re-imagining of the film’s opening scene—his claustrophobia-induced failure while playing a vampire in a low-budget exploitation flick—that helps him finally achieve the potency he so desperately seeks throughout. With the film’s central mystery pretty easy to guess if you know Vertigo well, one is free to simply enjoy Body Double as an endlessly playful lark from a filmmaker interested in gratifying himself and daring us to watch.

Posted by Geoff at 10:25 AM CST
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