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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In the trailer (above) for Daniel Raim's new documentary, Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, there is a brief tease featuring Lillian Michelson, Hollywood researcher, recalling what it was like telling her husband, storyboard artist Harold Michelson, that she was going to Ecuador "in a drug king's airplane" to do research for Brian De Palma's Scarface. I haven't seen this documentary yet, but here are some review excerpts mentioning the Scarface anecdote:
Andrew Wright at The Stranger
Utilizing celebrity interviews and cute (but-not-overly-so) cartoony sketches, the film tells the story of the late storyboard artist/production designer/Hitchcock fave Harold Michelson and his wife Lillian, whose dissatisfaction at being stuck at home led her to become the go-to researcher for filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, and Stanley Kubrick. Tom Waits liked to hang out with them, which speaks multitudes.

Director Daniel Raim doesn’t neglect the couple’s sometimes chaotic home life, including their struggles with raising an autistic son. Still, the focus here is largely on The Movies, offering fascinating looks throughout at how Harold’s illustrations helped create the look of classics such as The Birds and The Graduate, as well as the intriguing suggestion that his experiences in the nose of a World War II bomber made him uniquely suited for the job.

The film’s real ace in the hole, however, proves to be Lillian, an endlessly quotable interview subject whose pixyish presence can’t mask the sense that she knows exactly where all of the industry bodies are buried. (A brief aside about contacting a Bolivian drug lord while researching Brian De Palma’s Scarface demands a 10-hour miniseries, at the very least.) Together, the stories of this unlikely Power Couple make for a terrific corrective of the idea of filmmaking being a singular vision. Orson Welles’s quote about the movies being the world’s biggest electric train set gains even more resonance when you consider the folks who keep the transformers humming.

Monica Castillo at The New York Times
Their behind-the-scenes influence on filmmakers was far-reaching. Mr. Michelson’s storyboards show sketched versions of memorable scenes, like the parting of the Red Sea in “The Ten Commandments” and Anne Bancroft’s raised leg overshadowing Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” Mrs. Michelson excitedly recalls interviewing women at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles about traditional costumes for “Fiddler on the Roof” and questioning a drug kingpin for “Scarface.”

Scott Tobias at NPR
Though well-known and beloved by their peers, Harold and Lillian Michelson had the sorts of jobs that are often so far below the line that they're not credited at all. As a production designer and art director, Harold would eventually earn Academy Award nominations for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Terms of Endearment, but for the bulk of his career, dating back to an apprenticeship at Columbia Pictures in the late '40s, he worked the art department as a concept illustrator and storyboard artist. Despite a passion for books and a formidable intellect — she was a spelling bee champion in her youth — Lillian stayed home and raised their three children until the early '60s, when Harold was brought onto the lot at Samuel Goldwyn. He helped land her a volunteer position in the research library across the street, and a second career was born.

Only the most hardcore cinephiles have heard of the Michelsons, but even casual viewers are familiar with their work. Harold's talent for adjusting his storyboards for different camera lenses and telling stories shot-by-shot is readily apparent in sword-and-sandal epics like The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Spartacus, and he worked side-by-side with Alfred Hitchcock on The Birds and Marnie, two of the master's most strikingly composed films. One of the most famous shots in cinema history — Benjamin Braddock framed by Mrs. Robinson's leg in The Graduate — appeared first on Harold's sketchbook before it was immortalized on screen. He wouldn't start collecting more prominent credits until later, when he worked in production design and/or art direction for filmmakers like Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito.

For her part, Lillian toiled in the research department, where she quietly unearthed the specific period details and bric-a-brac that would lend real-world authenticity to Hollywood fictions. In Harold and Lillian, she describes the extraordinary lengths she would go to get things right, like querying old Jewish women at a deli to find out what 1890s bloomers looked like for Fiddler on the Roof or pressing ex- (and current) drug lords and DEA agents for information relevant to Scarface. When asked the impossible, like getting photos from inside CIA headquarters, she could deliver. She talks about research as a "time machine" that allows her to access other worlds, much as she did as a five-year-old orphan in Miami Beach.

Lillian's voice carries the documentary — Harold died in 2008, though he left a wealth of interview footage behind — and collaborators like DeVito (who also executive-produced), Brooks, and Francis Ford Coppola offer themselves as talking heads, along with other researchers, storyboard artists and technicians in the field. Harold's extensive illustrations of their lives together — including a marvelous tradition of homemade birthday and anniversary cards, adorned by sweet poems and artwork — give Harold and Lillian all the visual panache it needs, much like a real-life version of the side-by-side comparisons between his storyboards and a finished sequence.

Posted by Geoff at 1:07 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 1:18 AM CDT
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

The world premiere of François Ozon's new thriller, L'Amant Double, caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival the other day. Reuters' Robin Pomeroy (courtesy the New York Daily News) reported, "The story of a young woman who has an affair with her psychiatrist and then his twin brother delivers lots of sex and even more Freudian symbolism in a film that Ozon said borrowed some of the styles of Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg." According to Pomeroy, Ozon "said he had fun pushing the boundaries of the erotic thriller genre that he has visited before in films such as the 2003 movie Swimming Pool that also competed at Cannes." Pomeroy then quotes Ozon: "I love the way De Palma deconstructs the thriller and how he has fun playing with the codes of the genre."

Here are links and excerpts from some of the reviews:

Renan Cros at Cinema Teaser

Over-symbolic, the film descends into a completely sterile sexy-chic bad trip that is dreadfully threadbare. A haphazard amalgamation of Polanski’s neurotic cinema, De Palma’s twisted voyeurism and Cronenberg’s freak shows, L’Amant Double is an ersatz 80's movie corseted by the auteur of the 2000s. That is to say, in fact, a crazy film that looks at itself, always more theoretical than dynamic and embodied. Thus, Ozon unfolds his little supposedly perverse and eloquent program without ever succeeding in getting his salutary ideas and bad taste off the ground to anything other than an intellectual device. The intra-vaginal plane that opens the film is surprising. One smiles, one settles for the roller-coaster. But in the second, Ozon is mired in a worn-out metaphor, a nerdy symbolism that sees the vagina turn into an eye of the heroine - a heavy nod to the Story of the Eye of George Bataille, an essential work on eroticism. And the whole film works thus, in a painful back and forth between a falsely provocative (but rather funny) first degree and an over-intellectualization that ruins all pleasure. A hysterical film, L’Amant Double then becomes a frigid film that never succeeds in enjoying and making its audience enjoy its supposed excess. In vain multiply the effects and push the taboo, we remain impassive in front of a film devoid of intensity that looks more like Fifty Shades Of Grey than Body Double. Where De Palma embraces bad taste, nourishes him with his obsessions and his romanticism, Ozon makes a film brain where excess is only a clinical sign, a metaphor to decode. Disembodied, the film painstakingly follows its specifications, accumulates the clichés on the fantasy representation of female sexuality and sloughs in a climax that falls flat. Above all, and perhaps the most unpleasant, the film does not go anywhere, merely packing his little mystery in a long awaited resolution that finally extinguishes the fire that could have gushed out. Too bad, because the nagging disorder at the heart of this dual story, combined with the rather amusing performance of Jérémie Rénier, could have given, with a little more letting go and inventions, a thriller more shaking and endearing than this pale copy of a pupil too wise.

Robbie Collin at The Telegraph
The films of François Ozon operate on a heightened plane that should really be called the Ozon Layer – a realm of thin air, light heads and giddy views where the French provocateur has carved his niche. His latest, which drew screeches of delight from critics at the Cannes Film Festival last night, is an erotic thriller based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel Lives of the Twins, in which an initially sexually inhibited psychiatric patient (Marine Vacth) embarks on simultaneous affairs with her therapist (Jérémie Renier) and his twin brother (Jérémie Renier again, with his hair combed differently), who is also a therapist. Shiveringly sexy and slippery as satin, with its tongue stuck everywhere including its cheek, it’s like the wildest Frasier episode they never made, and hits all the parts – sometimes literally – the Fifty Shades of Grey films couldn’t hope to reach.

Before going further, it’s worth a cautionary word about what can only be described (even though it follows a brief prologue) as the film’s opening shot, which involves a certain female body part, an engaged speculum, and one of the most jaw-dropping camera pull-back-and-reveals in cinema history. The pale pink part in question belongs to Chloe (Vacth), an ex-model whose persistent stomach pains since puberty have baffled medics, so she enlists a therapist called Paul (Renier) to get to their possibly psychological root.

In their first session he’s clearly smitten within minutes of her breathy monologuing – as, in all likelihood, will be half the audience. Like her schoolgirl nymphet in Ozon’s 2013 film Jeune et Jolie, Vacth’s role here is a stock male fantasy character – the beautiful but frigid woman who just needs a good you-know-what – which she and the director go on to teasingly turn on its head. Wearing androgynous jumpers and sharp trouser suits and with her hair in a boyish crop, Chloe by no means conforms to the sugar, spice and all things nice template, and her sex scenes have an androgynous quality which the script goes on to push to ever-kinkier heights.

It begins with Chloe’s discovery of Paul’s estranged twin brother Louis, who runs a rival psychiatric practice across town – and who carries out his “applied techniques” on a fur-covered bed in his clinic, for €150 a session (she pays him). Unorthodox they may be, but they’re also undeniably effective: poor old Paul, who’s long since transitioned from medical caregiver to live-in boyfriend, can hardly compete. During one orgasmic gasp, Ozon’s camera slips between Chloe’s parted lips like an endoscope, before rushing through her insides to reveal various membranes appreciatively fluttering.

This arrangement isn’t exactly viable in the long term, but Paul and Louis are both harbouring secrets that make it extra shaky – and as Chloe pries into their pasts, she senses her own life may be at risk. (The film’s French title, L’Amant Double, The Double Lover, is a pun on L’Agent Double, The Double Agent.) Mirror images are everywhere: there’s barely a room in the film without a reflective surface somewhere, and Ozon stages his scenes so that characters seem to fracture into multiple versions of themselves before coalescing with a turn of the camera. During the therapy sequences, mirrors and split screens are deployed to make consultations look whisperingly intimate, shortening the space between his characters until they’re close enough to kiss – while a scene on a spiral staircase looks like a Saul Bass hallucination in architectural form.

Ozon’s Alfred Hitchcock influences have never been hard to spot. His previous film, Frantz, was an elegant rethinking of Vertigo in postwar Europe. But here he tears his shirt off and goes full Brian De Palma, with sinuous tracking shots, shattering glass and mad narrative gambits in which the lines between reality and illusion are deviously blurred, and certain objects are piled up with absurd degrees of metaphorical significance: just wait for the stuff with the cats. During one showpiece sex scene involving multiple partners, Chloe unfolds down the middle like a Rorschach print, all the better to simultaneously satisfy all participants. It’s a fantasy not of sexual satisfaction but sexual accomplishment, and perhaps no director other than Ozon would have the imagination and panache to carry it off.

Stephanie Zacharek at TIME
But if many of the movies at this year’s Cannes struck a somber or thoughtful chord, there was joy to be found too. In Francois Ozon’s rapturously twisted, Brian De Palma-style thriller Amant Double, a young woman suffering from possibly psychosomatic stomach pains (Marie Vacth) falls in love with her therapist (Jeremie Renier), whose secret life draws her into a web of deceit and kinky sex. Yet more proof, should you need it, that the French really know how to live.

Kyle Buchanan at Vulture
You would think, then, that there would be few taboos left to shock a Cannes audience, but at tonight’s screening of the new film from French director Francois Ozon, L’Amant Double, there was one nude moment so audacious that the press gasped, laughed, and ultimately applauded. The entirety of L’Amant Double is pretty sex-soaked — Ozon basically channels Brian De Palma as he tracks troubled Chloe (Marine Vacth), who’s carrying on some awfully explicit affairs with twin psychiatrists (both of whom are played by Jérémie Renier, who’s game to make out with himself and get pegged) — and Ozon signals his gleeful intent with the very first shot after the opening credits.

That shot, dear reader, is a close-up of Chloe’s vagina spread open by a speculum.

Now, it’s always a little startling when you’re greeted with surprise vagina so early into a movie, and if you’re used to comparatively tame American films, it’s certainly novel to see that female orifice projected onto an IMAX-size screen as the whole audience gasps and titters. Still, even though I’m a gay man, I’d like to think I’m a veteran of surprise vagina at Cannes: Just last year at the festival, a tender lovemaking sequence in Staying Vertical suddenly smash cut to a baby’s head messily protruding from a woman in labor. (And that, kids, is how I met your mother.)

What I’m saying is, while L’Amant Double’s lovingly photographed close-up of a vagina certainly sent a jolt through the audience, it wasn’t just the vagina that made this moment an instant classic. It’s what Ozon did next that sealed the deal: The director match cut from one oval shape to another, dissolving from Chloe’s vagina to a shot of Chloe’s eye, the folds of skin around each matching up almost exactly. And then, just as the audience thought to themselves, He really did that, huh? Ozon took things one step further: A single fucking tear fell out of the eye.

It was so ridiculous, so earnest, and so beyond the beyond that the audience had to applaud. That is a serious chutzpah cut, to match a woman’s spread vagina with her crying eyeball, and I can’t imagine the level of commitment it requires to script such a thing, let alone to explain it to your actors, shoot it, and not laugh every single day in postproduction. I would say Ozon has some serious balls, but I’m not sure that’s the right anatomical metaphor to use when we’re discussing a scene with surprise vagina.

Fionnuala Halligan at Screen Daily
You’ve got to hand it to a film which takes a speculum-eye shot of a cervical examination as one of its opening images. Like Elle last year, and playing almost in the same timeslot, Francois Ozon’s Amant Double is gleefully flashy, trashy fun. Paying homage to Brian De Palma — and, indeed Elle’s director Paul Verhoeven - it was a big surprise from a director whose last film was the sober and mysterious black-and-white World War I drama Frantz. And it’s such good fun to see a Ozon, who also wrote, enjoying himself like this, even if the film verges towards the hilariously lurid with its stuffed cats and sidelong glances. (Jury president Pedro Almodovar might have glimpsed some of his own influence at play here, in particular Cannes competitors Broken Embraces or The Skin I Live In. All roads lead back to Hitchcock, of course).

Body doubles, shattered glass and jagged mirrors are Ozon’s currency in this story of an emotionally unstable woman (Marine Vacth) who forms a relationship with her therapist (Jeremie Renier) and discovers he has a violent twin brother with whom she also becomes sexually entangled. It’s all rather salacious and determinedly frivolous, moving from cervix to strap-on in a most agile fashion. Renier is smooth in both parts, Vacth is riveting, if a little bug-eyed on occasion, Jacqueline Bisset lends gravitas.

Sam Gray at The Up Coming
At this point in the festival, when spirits are flagging and sleep is but a fond memory, a dose of unadulterated craziness is required to see critics through the final stretch. Step forward François Ozon. After a few attempts at mainstream success, he’s reverted to his craziest, most sexually charged instincts with L’Amant Double – which is basically Dead Ringers by way of Brian De Palma, with a dash of Rosemary’s Baby thrown in for good measure.

Beginning with a match cut so outrageous it prompted a round of applause, Ozon settles into the story of Chloé (Marine Vacth), a woman who starts attending therapy in the hope of curing the pains in her stomach. Her therapist Paul (Jérémie Renier) is so handsome, though, that they soon end up violating the ethical code of conduct, in several different rooms and positions. Along with Chloé’s sassy cat, they move into an apartment together, and all is apparent bliss – until she begins to visit a different therapist, who looks an awful lot like her beau… He’s also played by Renier, and he’s revealed to be Paul’s twin brother. Representing two different sides of masculinity, Chloé obviously starts screwing them both, while trying to uncover the reason behind their animosity towards each other.

And that’s just the start of it. Overripe and ridiculous, L’Amant Double is so filled to the brim with pure cinematic imagery and knowing irony, with innuendo and gleeful violations of taste, that it’s hard to resist its barrage of hilarious filth. Cats, mirrors and foetuses are mixed into a heady brew of double-crossing and sex – so much sex, including a memorable sequence involving “pegging”. (If you don’t know it, look it up in private.)

De Palma’s name has been mentioned once, but it demands to be summoned several times over, so clear is this film’s purpose in pushing the boundaries of taste in the name of not-so-guilty entertainment. It’s nonsense, of course – while based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, Ozon has only a passing interest in the identity issues of twins, instead devoting his time to titillating, shocking and amusing his audience. It might suffer outside the festival environment, but it’s almost certainly the most fun this critic’s had at Cannes so far.

Jon Frosch at The Hollywood Reporter
"Loosely based" on the Joyce Carol Oates novel Lives of the Twins (written under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith), this gloriously trashy, shamelessly derivative mashup of David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, Brian De Palma's Sisters and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby should have no problem finding an audience in European and North American art houses. Its reception in France's psychoanalytic and psychiatric circles may be less assured; the film is like a feature-length PSA against Gallic shrinks.

The story opens with Chloe (Marine Vacth of Ozon's Young & Beautiful), a quintessential Parisian beauty of 25, whom we see glowering into the camera as she gets her hair cut; the resulting pixie 'do recalls Mia Farrow's Rosemary, just the first in Ozon's giddy parade of cinephilic winks and nods. We then find Chloe in a gynecologist's examining room, where the doctor tells her that the abdominal pains she's been suffering from are surely anxiety- or depression-related. Chloe asks for a psych referral: "I think I'm ready," she says rather gravely.

Cue her first appointment with Dr. Paul Meyer (Dardenne brothers regular Jeremie Renier), a blond, boyishly handsome therapist whose sweater-and-spectacles look is as reassuring as his professional manner. Chloe immediately takes to their sessions, certain moments of which Ozon presents via split-screen placing the two characters in an intimate face-to-face formation. "When I see you, I feel like I exist," Chloe confides at one appointment, noting that her melancholy and ennui — as well as her stomach symptoms — have lifted.

Peter Debruge at Variety
While its grasp of human nature (especially that of the fairer sex) seems hopelessly dated, L’amant double nostalgically evokes such naïve psychological thrillers as Spellbound and Basic Instinct, suggesting some kind of mutant love child hatched between Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Verhoeven, though its fingerprints are undeniably Ozon’s.

The director announces his outré intentions from the get-go, opening with the unfamiliar sight of a gynecological exam, an extreme closeup of which fills the screen: pink, moist, and distorted just enough that it takes a moment to register what we’re looking at. By match-cutting from this ultra-intimate POV to that of a blinking eye turned sideways, Ozon intends to shock — although Lars Von Trier got there first, in Nymphomaniac, a movie whose playful perversity may well have made this project possible.

This peekaboo moment belongs to a 25-year-old ex-model named Chloe, who complains of stomach aches (to extend the Nymophomiac connection, she’s played by Vacth, who looks like Stacy Martin, and sounds like Charlotte Gainsbourg). Her doctor advises that she see a shrink, and so the timid young lady finds herself in the office of Dr. Paul Meyer (Renier), a tweedy, somewhat conservative therapist who listens quietly while she seductively over-shares. Ozon has fun with these sessions, framing them via split-screens and other Brian De Palma-esque visual tricks that serve either to double the characters, or else to push them in closer to one another, till they appear as familiar as lovers.

David Ehrlich at IndieWire
“What the hell am I looking at?” That’s the question most viewers will likely ask themselves during the opening moments of François Ozon’s (Swimming Pool) latest film. Following the opening credits sequence, in which a severe young woman’s face is revealed as her bangs are snipped away from over her face, Ozon cuts to an extreme close-up of something pink and fleshy and soft as gauze. Is it the soft tissue of a human brain? The camera begins to zoom out. The inside lining of an open mouth? The camera zooms out even further, until… the young woman’s clitoris comes into focus at the top of the frame, as do the gynecological devices that are prying her vagina open.

It’s a hilariously explicit way of starting a movie, even before Ozon punctuates the moment with a match-cut to the girl’s eyeball, cementing the relationship between her sex and her psychology.

Welcome to L’amant Double (The Double Lover), a fitfully amusing erotic thriller in which nothing is what it seems, anything could happen, and everything is at least a little ridiculous. Much sillier than anything Ozon has made before — it unfolds like an overcorrection to the prolific French filmmaker’s staid and serious Frantz — but still lubricated with his usual psychosexual Euro-sleaze, this kinky story of jealousy and obsession feels like it’s been genetically engineered from the D.N.A. of Dead Ringers and Possession with a little bit of Brian De Palma thrown in for good measure. Or maybe it’s just the horniest movie that Alfred Hitchcock never made? Or maybe there’s simply no precedent to a Cannes Competition film in which someone yells “Just get your fetus out of here before I kill you!”

John Bleasdale at Cinevue
Nothing here is supposed to be taken all that seriously and Ozon cheerfully piles on the weird: a quirky neighbour (Myriam Boyer) with a stuffed cat lurks next door and Jacqueline Bisset shows up though who she is will remain unclear until the end. Brian De Palma is an obvious influence and through him Alfred Hitchcock, though Ozon has credited a Joyce Carol Oates short story as his direct inspiration for L'Amant Double's story.

Tomris Laffly at Film Journal International
François Ozon can always be trusted to shake things up a bit at a film festival. During last year’s Telluride, his gorgeous, black-and-white period melodrama Frantz became a sleeper, word-of-mouth hit among festival-goers. It’s hard to believe the same artist is behind L’Amant Double, which charged the audience with a jolt of energy on top of the festival’s final weekend after more than a week of mostly heavy and serious competition titles. A sexy, deliciously silly and twisty thriller that laughs in the face of commonplace reason and ecstatically dials up its weirdness at every plot turn, Ozon’s film was a welcome reminder of the possibilities of cinema and its ability to fiendishly pull the rug from under a viewer. Everyone in Cannes was mesmerized by the presence of Twin Peaks at the festival, but those who mostly prioritized the competition section titles got a generous taste of Lynch with toppings reminiscent of Hitchcock and De Palma in L’Amant Double.

Jordan Farley at Games Radar
Opening with the most outlandish match cut of the festival – a gynaecological, frame-filling close up of a vagina that transitions into a weeping eye – François Ozon’s psychosexual thriller L’amant Double (The Double Lover) starts silly, and only gets more outrageous from there. Like De Palma directing Joe Eszterhas, it’s a film without a subtle bone in its immaculately sculpted body and, in its own self-consciously trashy way, is great fun.

A.A. Dowd at A.V. Club
L’Amant Double (Grade: B) is delirious premium trash, like Brian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven remaking Dead Ringers from the Geneviève Bujold character’s perspective. It’s ludicrous, sleazy, and silly—perhaps better suited to the beach down the street from the Palais, tucked within the pages of a paperback you purchased in the Nice airport, than in the theater itself. But Ozon stages it with a slumming Hitchcockian verve, and I confess that its pulp pleasures were just what the doctor ordered this late into the festival. The programmers knew what they were doing saving it for the homestretch.

Nikola Grozdanovic at The Playlist
Loading up Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski on three jukebox machines, and pressing play on all at the same time while running around the room with his pants down, Francois Ozon serves up L’Amant Double on a soiled platter. The provocative Frenchman is having a lot of fun with his new sexy thriller, and while you may hear some deriding it for its uncouth treatment of the central female character, or calling it sensationalist trash, you can still join Ozon’s party by putting your convictions and politics on the side and let the film surprise you with its eye-widening shocks and pitch-black humor. And besides, it is sensationalist trash and that’s OK. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a twisted riff on the age-old doubles motif (the French title literally translates to Double Lovers) and a lavish spectacle of style.

Within the first few seconds, Ozon already divides half the audience. An opening (emphasis on opening) that signals the film’s shameless attitude towards sex introduces us to distraught and stressed out 25-year-old Chloe, played by Marine Vacth (who previously starred in Ozon’s Young and Beautiful). Her stomach pains are diagnosed as a psychological symptom and she gets referred to psychoanalyst Paul (Jeremie Renier) to find out what’s really going on. We learn about Chloe’s lonely life: she doesn’t have many friends, lives alone with her cat Milo (reprising his role from Elle, apparently), is an only child, doesn’t have contact with her parents, and only recently just got a job. This job of hers becomes an outlet for Ozon, cinematographer Manu Dacosse and set designer Sylvie Olive to give L’Amant Double a chillingly absurd look. She’s a part-time security guard at a post-modern museum of Lynchian proportions; disturbing images of organs and installations of twisted trees, among other oddities, abound in this otherwise synthetically-white space. As Paul says at one point: charming.

After a few sessions, which Ozon’s screenplay rushes through with a montage of quasi-split screens and perplexing angles, patient and therapist fall in love. “When you look at me like that,” she says, “I feel I exist.” The meshing of identity is, of course, the film’s central theme and Ozon frantically uses all sorts of techniques with image to present it visually and pump the film with extra pulp. They move in together in a new condo (on the 13th floor, naturally), Chloe meets her new nosy neighbor who’s her own breed of cat person, and then, one day, she sees Paul talking to a woman on the street. Paranoia sets in, the stomach pains return, and with Paul in full denial, she does some investigating. The man she saw is, in fact, Louis (also played by Renier), Paul’s mysterious alpha-twin who is also a psychoanalyst but a much more virile one.

That’s when L’Amant Double switches gears and goes to full-on berserker mode, so divulging anything else from the plot would be taking away half the fun. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is one of the film’s greatest advantages; Ozon creates wrought tension in the atmosphere as the unreliable and fragile Chloe seems to be reacting more than acting to situations. Spiraling down the rabbit hole, our Alice is seen through a cracked looking glass throughout most of the film. The mirror is the primary visual motif here, often magnifying and duplicating Chloe in a visual language that immediately recalls De Palma’s affinity for playing with reflection. Adding to the unhinged atmosphere is Vacth’s unrefined and seductive performance; she never seems calm and truly at peace, as if something from within is looking to rip out of her skin at any given moment. Philippe Rombi’s sinister score metamorphoses L’Amant Double into a horror film somewhere around the middle mark, once the danger gets closer to the front door, and our suspicions of Chloe’s depersonalized state continue to rise while the laughs continue to pile up.

Borrowing heavily from films like Sisters, Obsession, Rosemary’s Baby and Dead Ringers, Ozon’s film has the appropriately sleazy touch of camp and bat-shit wonky direction to become a cult twin-thriller. The cinematic trickery on display – lurid dissolves, off-kilter juxtapositions, and bizarre dance numbers bouncing around Chloe’s brittle mindscape – compensates for the skin-deep thematics, and keep the rhythm of the film popping. As the shocking twists and ludicrous scenarios escalate, the tale twists towards a satisfying conclusion, and the lascivious tone becomes more and more humorous as the film’s thrifty pace slinks along. Ozon even manages to accelerate the momentum of the film’s most powerful animal motif – cats are tied into the film’s fabric of sex, twins, voyeurism and horror in a surreal and fundamentally creative way.

Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema
Ozon’s twin leitmotif recalls the obsessive erotic thrillers of Brian De Palma, a garbled barrage of doppelganger red herrings which casts doubt on Chloe’s psychological state. The possibility we’re merely existing in the mire of her repressed sexual fantasies is always hovering on the periphery. But if De Palma comes to mind, so does a slew of other 70s era genre stalwarts, and Amant Double seems to have been influenced by the body horror of Cronenberg, most obviously Dead Ringers (1988) and The Brood (1979).

Alejandro G. Calvo and Eulàlia Iglesias at Sensacine
The opening sequence of L'amant doublé, the return of François Ozon to the Cannes competition after presenting Young and Beautiful in 2013, is already a declaration of intentions: a close-up of a vaginal cytology that warns that this is going to be anything but an accommodating film. Almost as a tribute to the master Brian De Palma - both the early, Sisters (1973) and the late, Femme Fatale (2002) - the Ozon film delves into the high voltage psychological thriller, following the steps of a young woman (Marine Vacth, with a haircut reminiscent of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby (1968)) caught between two men who are also twin brothers (and psychiatrists). With David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988) as the most direct point of reference, Ozon has become a pirate, taking the dimensions of the girl's nightmare and his own discourse (recycled from many titles before) to a visceral level on the fragile and perfidious balance that exists between the strong brother and the weak brother in a pair of twins.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 28, 2017 7:14 AM CDT
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Friday, May 26, 2017

Jared Martin, who was Brian De Palma's college roommate and longtime close friend, passed away Wednesday at his home in Philadelphia. He was 75. His son, Christian Martin, told the Hollywood Reporter that his father died of pancreatic cancer.

Martin met De Palma and William Finley at Columbia University in 1960, when the three of them participated in the Columbia Players' annual varsity show. Martin had a bit part, while Finley had the lead in A Little Bit Different. Martin told Justin Humphreys, author of Interviews Too Shocking To Print!, that De Palma was acting at that time, but not really "an actor"-- "he was one of the producers-- he was around." Martin and De Palma became roommates, and when Martin returned from a summer break, De Palma and Finley had also become close friends. While Finley still lived at home, the three of them hung out together often, with De Palma "always the centerpiece," according to Martin.

De Palma and Martin would spend most of their time, however, at Sarah Lawrence College, where, along with Finley, they appeared in Wilford Leach's production of Jean Giraudoux's Ondine. According to Humphreys, "Finley played an old man, Martin played the lead, a knight, and De Palma played various roles. De Palma's then-girlfriend, Kristina Callahan, played Ondine. Finley, as usual, also designed some of the sets." The show was a "major success," states Humphreys, and they followed it up over the next year with two more: The Italian Straw Hat, and A Soldier's Tale.

Of course, when De Palma began making films, Martin and Finley were usually involved. De Palma has said that Martin appeared in several of his short films, including Woton's Wake (1962). In that film, Martin appears holding a candelabra "and leading the procession in this mock Dolce Vita scene"...

Martin also appears in Woton near the climax, wearing a helmet and peering up at Finley's Woton, mock-King Kong:

In 1963, De Palma and Finley were groomsmen at Martin's wedding, and that event was the basis for The Wedding Party (1964-65), De Palma's first feature (officially "A Film by" Brian De Palma, Cynthia Munroe, who put up the money, and Wilford Leach). Martin plays one of the wedding guests in that film, but he would go on to star as an independent film director in De Palma's Murder a la Mod (1967).

In 2016, Martin co-directed The Congressman with Bob Mrazek. "Bob is producer, co-director, fund raiser, post-production supervisor and chief cook and bottle washer," Martin told Portland Monthly. "The production company that made the film was created by him, just as the actual story has parallels in his life. As a former five-term representative from Long Island, he knew the practical and emotional core of the main character, Charlie Winship. The moods and pulls, the waiting in airports, the strain on normal relationships, the devastating effect on more intimate relationships. He experienced the emotional triage that comes with ignoring something important in order to pursue something essential. The Congressman was basically his story and could not have been written by anyone else.

When asked if De Palma had seen the film, Martin said, "We matriculated at Columbia but spent more time at Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville which had a fully outfitted film and theater department plus female actors hard to come by at Columbia. We made a series of short films. He directed, I acted. My directing came later. We worked with primitive equipment like a crank reel Bolex with a 100-foot magazine and reflector boards. From the start Brian gathered special talent around him such as Bob DeNiro, Jill Clayburgh and William Finley. Brian saw and liked The Congressman, thought it was well filmed and solidly acted. At that time we were getting a lot of over-the-top advice from folks in Hollywood who wanted to see more explosions and love scenes. Brian advised us to believe in what we’d done, cautioning us that everyone in the business wants to load you down with ideas that never seemed to work for them when they made their films. Words like this from a famous director helped steady the ship at an important time in post-production."

Posted by Geoff at 8:23 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 26, 2017 7:22 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw on Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

"As in all his best work, Lanthimos is brilliant at summoning up a whole created world and immersing us in it. But its weirdness has a double meaning: it has a stylised element of absurdism and it is also a plausible expression of denial. It is intriguing to imagine John Carpenter or Brian De Palma or Richard Donner directing this script. Perhaps it would not look so very different, although De Palma or Carpenter might want the ending to be accelerated, or even rewritten to accommodate the twist that appeared to be promised by the protagonist’s interesting theory that the surgeon is never to blame for a failed operation, and that it is always the anaesthetist’s fault. What Lanthimos does is lead us into his own kind of eerie forest clearing in which this deer is to be horribly slain."

Flickering Myth's Sara Hemrajani on Taylor Sheridan's Wind River

"Wind River marks Sheridan’s first time behind the camera for a major feature – and it’s a confident debut. The Sicario and Hell or High Water scribe clearly understands what it takes to produce a muscular, gripping thriller. The story is raw, upsetting and socially astute. Sheridan offers a glimpse into the fringes of the American West, where ordinary people struggle to live among their barren surroundings, and where the Native American population is often plagued with crime, drug abuse, unemployment and discrimination. Any online searches on the Wind River reservation reveals a plethora of gloomy news articles and reports...

...If Sheridan continues with films of this calibre, he could certainly grow into the next Brian De Palma or Denis Villeneuve. A talent to watch."

Posted by Geoff at 3:32 AM CDT
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer visited Jimmy Fallon on NBC's The Tonight Show on Thursday, May 11th. Pfeiffer described how she eventually won the role of Elvira in Scarface, after Fallon asked her if Al Pacino "was intense" during the making of the film:
Michelle Pfeiffer: Well, he was probably more intense back then, or at least, I think it was maybe the nature of the project. And he didn’t particularly want me for the part.

Jimmy Fallon: He didn’t?

MP: No.

JF: Really?

MP: Look, my last credit before that was Grease 2—can you blame him?

JF: Well, no—Scarface could’ve been a fun musical, who knows? We’ll see, it’s going to be on Broadway once and we’ll be laughing. We’ll look back on this and laugh—yes, Scarface: The Musical.

MP: Yeah…

JF: (dancing and singing) Say hello to my little friend! Say hello to my little friend.

MP: You know (pointing at Jimmy), that could happen…

JF: That’s what I’m saying. It could… Okay, so you go into the audition, and he doesn’t want you for that… he’s like, “No…”

MP: Well, it was really, it was a very long, drawn-out auditioning process, and there were a number of women auditioning, and it went over a period of about, I don’t know, it seemed like forever, but I think it was about two or three months…

JF: Wow—just auditioning…

MP: And I was terrified. And I was really young. And I knew he didn’t want me. And as it went on, the worse I got, because I just got so afraid. And by the end of it, Brian De Palma was very sweet, and he was really rooting for me, Brian, and he said, ‘I’m sorry, but you’re just bad now. [Laughter] What’s going on?’ And you know, it was true, and I was like, ‘I know, I know, I’m just so up in knots.’ And [he says] ‘It’s not gonna work out babe.’ ‘Right.’ So I went away, and then about a month later, they called and they said, ‘They wanted to screen test you,’ and I’m like [gasp, drops shoulders as in oh, ugh, no]. Because part of me was just relieved to have the torture end.

JF: Heh heh he, and move on with your life!

MP: And when they called, I just said, [eyeroll] ‘No’. So, anyway, I show up, and I kind of drag myself—and I have, you know, no feeling at all that I have any shot at getting this, so… So it kind of freed me up, you know, and so I wasn’t afraid. And I just sort of, I show up, and do this scene, the restaurant scene at the end, where I kind of freak out at the end, and…

JF: …trash the place

MP: [getting animated] I threw dishes, and everything went flying, and broke things…Cut! I was IN IT! And there was blood everywhere.

JF: What!?! [Laughter]

MP: And everyone comes running over to me, checking me out for blood, where am I cut, they’re not finding anything, there are no cuts on me… I look over and Al is bleeding.

JF: Oh, no, ohhh, my gosh! [Laughter] You cut Al Pacino?!?

MP: [Nodding] I cut Al Pacino! And I…

JF: [Mimicking Tony Montana] I cannot believe you threw this dish! Broke a dish… (I can’t do Al Pacino)… [more laughter]

MP: Oh my God, I cut Al Pacino!

JF: No way, oh my God! And that’s how you got the…

MP: [Regains composure with glimmering triumph] And that’s how I got the part.

[Applause, to which Michelle Pfeiffer takes a bow]

Posted by Geoff at 10:17 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 21, 2017 10:21 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 20, 2017
Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr reported yesterday that David Ayer "is in early negotiations to direct" the Scarface remake for Universal. Diego Luna is still attached to star, from a screenplay most recently rewritten by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Ayer is currently finishing up post-production work on Bright, a Will Smith vehicle for Netflix. Ayer and Smith had previously collaborated on Suicide Squad. Ayer wrote the 2001 film, Training Day, which was directed by Antoine Fuqua, who at one time had been attached to direct this remake of Scarface prior to the Coen Brothers' involvement.


Coen Brothers will rewrite Scarface script
Fuqua drops out of Scarface remake; Diego Luna will play lead
Terence Winter to tackle Scarface script
The Scarface remake just got a lot less interesting
Scarface remake is Larraín's dream project
The Scarface remake just got a lot more interesting

Posted by Geoff at 3:28 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017 3:37 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017
IM Global has a large slate of films to present to buyers at the Cannes market, including Domino. ComingSoon.net posted IM Global's publicity descriptions for each film. Here's the one for Domino:
Directed by Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible, Scarface, The Untouchables), DOMINO stars Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones, Oblivion, The Other Woman) and six time Emmy® award nominee Christina Hendricks (Drive, The Neon Demon, Mad Men), is written by Petter Skavlan (Kon-Tiki, Sophie’s World) and produced by Peter Garde and Michel Schønnemann.

In this fast-paced thriller, legendary director Brian De Palma weaves a multi-national tale about Christian (Coster-Waldau), a Copenhagen police officer seeking justice for his partner’s murder by a mysterious man called Imran. In a world wracked by terror and suspicion, Christian and Alex (Hendricks), a fellow cop and his late partner’s mistress, embark on a mission to hunt Imran down, but are unwittingly caught in a cat and mouse chase with a duplicitous CIA agent who is using Imran as a pawn to trap ISIS members. Soon Christian and Alex are racing against the clock – not only seeking revenge, but to save their own lives. From the frosty cities of Scandinavia to the sun-drenched landscapes of Spain, De Palma sets up a spectacular battle of multiple opposing forces and leaves the audience breathless until the climactic moment when we learn who will be the last person to survive.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:09 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017
"I find that television executives are very intrusive," Brian De Palma told Variety's Nick Vivarelli at the Venice Film Festival in September, 2015. "I’ve never had so many meetings with so many notes about a script than the one I developed for Al Pacino [about the fall of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno] that HBO wanted to influence in a way that made it unworkable. I got to a point where I said: ‘guys, I’m done.'"

One year earlier, in September of 2014, HBO suspended pre-production on Happy Valley "for a moment to deal with budget issues," the network said at the time in a statement to Deadline, adding, "but the project is still intact at HBO with the entire creative team as before." Deadline then cited other unnamed sources to say that "the suspension would also be used for additional script work." Sounds like all that script work irked De Palma the wrong way, and he eventually walked away.

This morning, Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman reported that Barry Levinson will now direct Pacino in an untitled movie "about Joe Paterno and the Sandusky scandals at Penn State." Levinson and Pacino had previously collaborated on HBO's Jack Kervorkian biopic You Don't Know Jack in 2010. Levinson has a current vibe with HBO-- his Bernie Madoff biopic, The Wizard Of Lies, starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, premieres on the network this weekend. In 2013, Pacino made another biopic for HBO, with David Mamet directing him in Phil Spector.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 21, 2017 2:40 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ryuichi Sakamoto will introduce a 35mm screening of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale Sunday, May 14, 7pm at the Quad in New York. The screening is part of a four-day series this weekend: "Forbidden Colours: Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Movies". Femme Fatale will screen again Monday, May 15, at 9:15pm.

"Multitalented Japanese electronic music superstar Ryuichi Sakamoto crossed over into movies as both actor and composer in Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence in 1982," reads the Quad website series description. "Since then he has provided over 40 features and documentaries with his unique sound. On the occasion of async, his first album in eight years, which he has described as 'a soundtrack for an Andrei Tarkovsky film that does not exist,' we present eight of the best."

The site's Femme Fatale description reads: "Sakamoto’s reshaped version of Ravel’s 'Bolero' accompanies the virtuoso Cannes Film Festival-set jewel-heist setpiece that sets in motion a dreamy, sinuously crafted thriller that’s filled with surface pleasures and meta-cinematic tricks. Rebecca Romijn plays the titular thief, whose attempts to start a new life in Paris are complicated when she crosses paths with photographer Antonio Banderas."

Bilge Ebiri at The Village Voice posted a preview of the series yesterday:

When The Revenant got twelve Oscar nominations a couple of years ago, I was struck by the fact that Alejandro González Iñárritu's film wasn't nominated for best score, the one category it deserved to win. The mournful, ethereal music of Ryuichi Sakamoto was everything Iñárritu's overbaked pseudo-western wasn't — understated, evocative, and ultimately rousing.

The Revenant isn't screening in the Quad Cinema's short tribute to the Japanese composer, but some of Sakamoto's greatest work is. A classically trained pianist and ethnomusicologist, he had already achieved international fame as a member of the pioneering Japanese synthpop trio Yellow Magic Orchestra when director Nagisa Oshima hired him to star in and score the 1983 P.O.W. drama Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. His music for the film is at times playful, even bordering on pop — particularly in the catchy main theme — and at times discombobulating, almost atonal. The seesawing mood makes an ideal match for Oshima's heated, surreal tale of obsession and torment.

Scoring diverse films, Sakamoto has revealed himself as surprisingly good at pastiche: His music for Pedro Almodóvar's High Heels (1991) is the noirest noir that ever noired. His traipsing boleros and Vertigo homages in Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale (2002) are unforgettable. (Also included in this retro is a rare 35mm screening of Volker Schlöndorff's 1990 The Handmaid's Tale, a first go at adapting Margaret Atwood's seminal novel.)

But I'd argue that Sakamoto's best work came in collaboration with Bernardo Bertolucci. An opera fanatic, the director often had lush, unabashedly melodramatic scores in his earlier pictures (think back to Georges Delerue's rhapsodic melodies for The Conformist, Ennio Morricone's sweeping marches for 1900, or Gato Barbieri's crashing jazz crescendos in Last Tango in Paris). He clearly connected with Sakamoto's ability to mix the lyrical and the ethereal, to nestle brisk compositions within stretches of melancholy ambience.

Posted by Geoff at 4:20 AM CDT
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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Posted by Geoff at 3:23 PM CDT
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