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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Ideal reported yesterday that Brian De Palma will bring the Domino production to Almería, Spain, this summer, shortly after filming in Antwerp. "Although Málaga was initially chosen as a location for this international thriller," states the article, "Brian De Palma decided to place one of the key scenes of the film in Almería's centenary bullring, which also led to many of the film's scenes taking place in the capital of Almería. In fact, the American filmmaker landed at Almería airport on Sunday June 11 to start work and meet the rest of the team."

Posted by Geoff at 1:48 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 1:50 AM CDT
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Collider's Brian Formo interviews John Lithgow on the occasion of Lithgow's new movie, Beatriz at Dinner, and also talks with the actor about working with Brian De Palma:
Shifting gears, a little, I am a big Brian De Palma fan.

LITHGOW: Ah, great!

Actually, you’re in my favorite of his: Blow Out.

LITHGOW: Oh yeah, that’s correct.

I feel like I’m the resident De Palma blurb writer for lists on our website, but sometimes I have to spent extra time explaining why I don’t think we should be offended by some of his films. I’m wondering, considering gender and gender identity, how so much has changed since he made his films in the 80s does it feel difficult to go back and watch now? I love watching De Palma, but I feel like I can’t really recommend a number my favorite films of his—like Body Double, Dressed to Kill—to too many people, and to a lesser extent Blow Out too because there are so many caveats to put with it, because I know people would get upset by things that happen in it, how groups of people are treated, how lovingly deaths are filmed. I’m just wondering, with a bloated lead in, if you have any thoughts on that triggered nature when we go back and watch these very psychological and interesting films?

LITHGOW: It’s funny, I haven’t been back to see them. It’s pretty rare that I see a film that I did a long, long time ago. I remember being unsettled by Brian’s vision, for want of a better word, even when I was doing many films with him. But I really admired the fact that he went there. For example, in Blow Out his version of women getting carved up in that was very different and much more warped than even a standard slasher movie. You know, I played the Liberty Bell killer, and I murdered women with an ice pick. I [laughs hesitantly] basically drew a Liberty Bell on their torsos with an ice pick; several women, several prostitutes, as I recall, to make it look like I was a psychopathic killer—when in fact, all I was trying to do was rub somebody out, without any motivation. This was not Jack the Ripper. There was no gross statement. Just pure desire to kill and knowing it would be accepted more if there appeared to be some crazy person with a trademark etch behind it. A ghastly premise. Absolutely ghastly. And I think maybe time has moved on to the point where that kind of thing is completely unacceptable. It was appalling, then, don’t get me wrong. It was a nightmarish idea, even then. But Brian is an old friend. He told me the stories of his own life—you must know this if you know a lot about Brian—which so completely connect with his obsessions on film. And I had a real respect for that and I think he was very adventurous in the 80s and it would be hard to find funding to be that adventurous into dark areas now. To me, of all the movie directors I’ve ever worked with, he was the most—this will sound like a crazy thing to say—he was the most like a director like Ingmar Bergman, who takes his own obsessions and puts them on film.

I can definitely see that. If you had that response to the script, what was it like to work on it?

LITHGOW: Oh, I would do anything for Brian. And yes, it’s lurid, it’s psychological thriller in the mode of Hitchcock for mass entertainment. It was gleefully gory stuff. Truly horrific films, but they came out of such a need to make art that critiqued our glee at such sights. Really, it sounds pretentious, but I really had to admire Brian for that. He had the courage of his own compulsions, really.

His horror and erotic thriller films are so extremely icky that if we’re worried about misogyny and misogynistic depictions, his films are so extreme that way that it doesn’t make it look appealing, it’s perfectly ugly for something ugly that exists in the world, stares it right down and wants you to look away but we don’t. And I think that that’s why they’re still fantastic movies and deserve to be looked at in how he shoots misogyny not just dismissing as misogynistic. I was just curious about that because I re-watched a number of his films recently.

LITHGOW: I haven’t seen the documentary on Brian yet.

Oh, it’s great.

LITHGOW: I will catch up with that.

Posted by Geoff at 12:47 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 12:49 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rebecca Van Remoortere at the Gazet Van Antwerpen posted a report early this morning on the first day of filming in the area on Brian De Palma's Domino. According to her, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was definitely there for the filming, but no one seemed to have spotted Christina Hendricks yet. The image above appears to be from lunchtime, in which De Palma and company were blocked from being seen entering/exiting vehicles by the tarp near the crew's trailers on the street. Here is a Google-assisted translated excerpt of her article:
The Antwerp filming for the movie Domino of Hollywood director Brian De Palma started yesterday in the Eikenstraat, a side street of the Meir. [Note: Meir is the major shopping area in Antwerp.] For the new film production, De Palma works together with actress Christina Hendricks, especially known for the Mad Men series, and actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, or Jaimie Lannister from Game of Thrones. Of the latter we are sure that he was already in Antwerp for the scene in the Eikenstraat yesterday. Also today, in the walkway of the authentic building with rental apartments, more filming took place.

Wednesday the film team moves to Borgerhout. A scene is to be filmed in the loft complex at the Kattenberg 122. The loft complex also has a courtyard. Where the filming will take place exactly in the building is not clear. But it will not be in the loft of Petra De Pauw and her husband Herman Verbruggen, residents of the complex.

"A long time ago, all residents of the loft complex received a letter in the mailbox that stated that this location would be suitable for filming and whether we wanted to cooperate with them. We did not really pay much attention to that letter and also did not know what film production it would be. We were about to go to South Africa to film for a long time, and were more involved with that," says Petra. "We recently wondered what it actually meant with those filmings, because we know a lot of F.C. De Kampioenen is not over. This week a crane was installed on the inner courtyard. We first thought that there was work on the roof, but apparently it would be for the filming. We also know that it's a movie by Brian De Palma. But nothing more."


The scene that was filmed yesterday in the Eikenstraat was a fight scene. To this end, the hall of the building in the Eikenstraat had to be emptied, said owner Guido Vandamme. "I could follow the shots what the purpose of the scene was. One of the actors had to fall through a window and in the elevator a combat scene was filmed. Graffiti was sprayed on the walls, but I was promised that they would be painted."

Parking on the Sint-Jaconstraat and the Lange Klarenstraat were prohibited yesterday. There had to be space for the dozens of crew trailers and caravans. Director Brian De Palma drove to the trailers for his lunch. It was only a few hundred meters further, but he was hidden by a tinted car. On leaving, a large cloth was tensioned between the building and the carriage so that the press could not catch any glimpse of the director.

The filming will continue in Antwerp in the Bleekhofstraat in Borgerhout, on the Kiel, on the Left Bank and in the district house of Deurne.

Posted by Geoff at 7:47 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 12:58 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 11, 2017
Thanks to Lear for pointing us to the listings for Brian De Palma's Domino at the IMDB, which was just updated again today to the status of "filming." The page lists two taglines for Domino: "The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy." And, "Revenge doesn't stop." But the real news here is that José Luis Alcaine is listed as the cinematographer, and Cornelia Ott is listed as the production designer. Both had worked in the same respective roles on De Palma's most recent film, Passion. Listed as first assistant director on Domino is Nick Shuttleworth, who has worked on many of Paul Greengrass's tense thrillers.

Below is an excerpt from a December 2015 interview with Alcaine conducted by Gorka Díez at Las Noticias de Cuenca, with Google-assisted translation:
You’ve spent 50 years as director of photography. How do you keep up with it?

It's quite simple: it's about tackling everyday problems that you may have and trying to solve them as best as possible, not try to do the same thing you've done, but always look forward. That is the way to keep up, and it happens with all professions. Somehow it is also about being at ease in the profession you have, something important over the years: it makes you come up with new things and solutions every time and allows you to bring a seemingly young spirit to all the films for which they call you.

Is there a single label of José Luis Alcaine in the films on which you’ve worked? Or is it more complicated because there have been so many?

It's difficult but it's about always making a movie whose photography is not too powerful, mine, but one that fits the needs of the film. I want to be in second term, in the service of the film. And I run from the genres. If they offer me a horror movie I do not try to make a horror movie, but a photograph that is quite recognizable and everyday so that terror can enter people's lives saying, "Damn, this could happen to me!". An example is ‘Se puede matar a un niño', Chicho Ibáñez Serrador, which is about absolute terror and occurs in August on an island that could be Ibiza. Chicho wanted a film of great shadows on the walls, which frightened the public, and I said no, I had to make a daily film, where things happen that shake and suddenly shake and hope that that does not happen to you. In 'The Skin I Live In', a thriller, I tried not to create the picture of a normal thriller, but a recognizable environment for the viewer with small details of terror or threat, which surprises more…

…How is the relationship with the directors? Because it can be complicated ...

I do not influence them at all. I simply try to listen to what they propose and try to be as practical as possible, without getting in the way because directors should not be moved too much away from the way they’ve plotted. The only thing that has to be preserved is that it is a living movie. John Ford said at the end of his life that what he was most proud of in his films were the things that were not expected to happen and changed the meaning of the film. Because that, normally, is the life that bursts into the movie.

Being called back by the same director must be a satisfaction ...

It is always a good sign. It means that they had a good time on the set, first of all, and they liked the job I did. And to repeat with really creative directors is always important. But it's also important to be suddenly called by a director you've never worked with and who tells you that he wants to work with you because he likes what he has seen of you. That was the case with Brian De Palma, who called me and told me that he thought that I was one of the best cinematographers at illuminating the actresses of the world. It's something that impresses a lot.

Posted by Geoff at 12:17 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 11, 2017 7:18 PM CDT
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Saturday, June 10, 2017
Gazet Van Antwerpen's Jan Stassijns reported yesterday that Brian De Palma and his crew had landed in Antwerp for shooting on his new thriller, Domino. An announcement had been made by the Antwerp city government, according to a similar article by De Redactie's Joris Truyts, who added that De Palma will shoot scenes for the film within the cities along the Scheldt.

"In total there are twelve filming days in Antwerp," Stassijns reports. "Shooting will take place between June 9 and 30 in, among others, the Town Hall of Deurne, on the Kattenberg in Borgerhout, in the center of Antwerp, in the Kiel district, and in the Left Bank."

Earlier this week, Suzanne (SuusCineChat) tweeted that Domino filming was to take place partly on her street ("like 20 steps from my front door") beginning this Monday and Tuesday.

Posted by Geoff at 3:38 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, June 10, 2017 4:04 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Posted by Geoff at 4:36 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 8, 2017 7:58 AM CDT
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Entertainment Weekly's Mary Sollosi posted an article today with the headline, "The stars of The Untouchables look back, 30 years later." The article pulls together new interviews with Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro. Check out the full article at the link above-- here's an excerpt:
Signing on to make the movie “was the easy part,” De Niro says. Then came the hard part. There’s a certain level of pressure that comes with playing a historical character, especially one who has achieved such mythic stature in the collective imagination as Capone. Researching the part, the Oscar winner read a book (likely My Years With Capone: Jack Woodford and Al Capone) that gave him crucial insight about the legendary gangster. “It was supposedly written by a young kid, a piano-player, a prep school-type kid,” De Niro recalls. “Capone would take him around as kind of, I felt, maybe as a chronicler of his exploits, and he played at one of his speakeasies.”

To physically recreate Capone, De Niro says he watched footage of the gangster and “tried to gain as much weight as I could and shave my head more so I could look as round as I could in the time that I had to prepare for it.”

As for Ness, “I remember checking on him and his life — and it wasn’t as rosy as people might want to think,” Costner admits. “But the truth is, you’re stuck inside the lines of something that’s written… I understood history of him, but I really was having to play this character.” From there, “what we were trying to do was get the clothes right, because we had a really good script.”

And such clothes! The cast’s sharp Prohibition-era suits are credited to Armani (though costume designer Marilyn Vance reportedly took issue with the designer’s credit). “I wasn’t even familiar with Armani, that shows you what a country bumpkin I was,” Costner says. De Niro remembers another piece of the mise-en-scene fondly: “There was a barber’s chair that I wish I had held onto. I think they paid $5,000 for it at the time,” he recalls. (He spends the film’s opening scene in it). “It was a great chair. I’m sorry I didn’t get it.”

Behind the Scenes

A $5,000 mosaic-covered barber chair is the least of it when you look more closely at Capone’s opulent surroundings, which provide stark contrast to the grimy streets and modest apartments occupied by the Ness’ Untouchables throughout the film. Capone is mostly kept in such lavish settings as the Lexington Hotel, where he lived, or the opera, and only comes face-to-face with Ness in two scenes: First in the lobby of the Lexington, and then again at the very end, in the courtroom where he is found guilty of tax evasion.

“I had trouble with some of the scenes with [De Niro], because my character was very straight-arrow, and Robert was able to jump off the page,” Costner remembers. “I was trying to survive with my straight-arrow language against someone who was throwing a level of street language at me that had a level of improv to it. So it was hard for me to survive in some of those scenes, and Sean talked to me a little bit about it.”

Malone and Ness’ mentor-mentee relationship “was very real” between the actors playing them, Costner says, and the dynamic among all the Untouchables “couldn’t have been better,” according to Connery. “All the actors were very experienced and professional. Everybody played an important element in the film.” (Costars on Ness’ team included Charles Martin Smith and Andy Garcia.)

Costner also says he felt “in sync” with De Palma, whose Scarface had come out four years prior. “Brian was so open for ideas and suggestions,” Connery added. “Working with him was everything that I expected.”

De Niro had worked with the filmmaker years before, when both were at the very beginning of their careers, on 1968’s Greetings, 1969’s The Wedding Party, and 1970’s Hi, Mom! “This was a different type of thing altogether than [what] we did when we were young,” he says of The Untouchables, adding that, “Brian’s style of shooting was helpful. He’s a good director with actors.”

“Violent, Violent Men”

“I’ve always not appreciated when [violence] wasn’t handled right in movies,” Costner says. “Violence is vulgar, and a lot of times there’s not a lot of ballet to it. The Untouchables was about a violent time and violent, violent men.”

It certainly was. “The essence of the movie [was] about street violence,” Connery writes — and his character understood that better than anyone. The actor counts an early scene between Malone and Ness — “not in particular because I suggested it” — among his favorites. Hiding in a church, the old cop gives the naïve G-man a master class in justice, Chicago-style.

“You want to get Capone? Here’s how you get him,” Malone instructs Ness. “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone.”

Later, after intercepting a booze shipment at the Canadian border with some Mountie assistance, Malone savagely murders an already-dead body to scare one of Capone’s men, oblivious that the victim was already a corpse, into talking. “I do not approve of your methods!” the horrified Mountie captain exclaims. “Yeah? Well, you’re not from Chicago,” Ness replies. And so, the student has become the master.

“It was all about expectancy,” Connery says of the shocking moment. “The scene was very realistic and quite vicious if I must say. Very creative to say the least.”

Another memorable demonstration of brutality comes from De Niro’s Capone after Ness’ first successful alcohol raid. Gathering all of his top cronies for an extravagant meal, he delivers a speech about the importance of teamwork, likening his crew to a baseball team — and one unnamed member to a showboating player.

“Sunny day, the stands are full of fans,” he muses. “What does he have to say? ‘I’m goin’ out there for myself. But I get nowhere, unless the team wins.’”

As his cigar-chomping cohorts murmur their agreement, he takes a baseball bat to the head of the guy who let him down.

“It’s a touching scene,” De Niro says when asked about the horrific sequence. “I’m joking.”

“The baseball [scene] is a memorable one — whether good or bad, but it was memorable,” he says, more seriously. “The rhythm of the dialogue in that one especially is so specific that you really have to know it so that it will work.”

However, The Untouchables’ biggest showstopping “ballet of death,” as Costner calls it, might be the Battleship Potemkin-inspired train station gunfight in which Ness and George Stone (Garcia) engage in a shootout with some of Capone’s men across a wide staircase — as a baby carriage rolls down the steps the whole time.

Costner remembers pestering De Palma with constant questions about the rest of the players in the complicated sequence. “Constantly, when the camera would fall on me, I would say, ‘Now, is that guy still alive to my left or to my right?’” he recalls. “And he was like, ‘Which guy? I’m on you right now.’ I said, ‘I understand, but I’ve got to know: Has that guy already been shot? Or is there another one coming? Or is there somebody over here?’ Brian would look at me and I said, ‘I need to act that. If [Ness is] going to survive, that means he has to have a sixth sense about where people are.’”

He also made a point of never shooting his gun more times than it would realistically have had bullets, and then reloading after he did. “It drove Brian a little crazy, but then he actually came to love it,” Costner says. “He was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ve already shot [all my bullets]. Why don’t you make sure that you tie some drama up in this boring part that you call reloading?’”

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 12:17 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 4, 2017

At least a handful of posts around the internet have popped up recently to mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, which was released on June 3, 1987. Here are some links:

The Untouchables, At 30, Has Only Improved With Age
by Larry Taylor at Monkeys Fighting Robots

If you come into Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables expecting a history lesson, well, that’s your fault. In no way is this an accurate portrayal of treasury officer Eliot Ness and his showdown with the volcanic, tax-evading sociopath mobster Al Capone; what it is is a magnificent cops and robbers fable whose romanticism has only grown more endearing over the last thirty years.

With the razor-sharp, melodramatic score from the incomparable maestro Ennio Morricone, tapping into a certain urgency when needed, the prickly screenplay from the master, David Mamet, the slick cinematography, terrific suspense, and a cast who seemed to be born for their respective roles at the time, The Untouchables whisks along on its substantial merits, leaving all historical accuracy behind in lieu of a rich bit of pulp storytelling that makes it one of the best of all gangster films. And in 1987, this sort of story felt alien.

The mid 80s was a bit of a void for the gangster genre. Save for De Palma’s other gangster opus, Scarface in 1983, the genre had seen a significant ebb in the midst of Reagan’s “Morning in America” hedonism. A look back at the crooks and thieves of America’s past wasn’t in vogue, and The Untouchables represented a distant era of the country that hadn’t been explored during the decade. But De Palma delivered the goods, and his film was noticed; and as the decades tick away, the idiosyncratic style De Palma employs here has become both a relic and a flashpoint of a certain type of crime drama we may never see again...

...For all its pomp and circumstance at the time, The Untouchables has managed to sing even louder and sharper in this, it’s thirtieth year. It has all the familiar De Palma style flourishes, but remains a classic tale of cops and crooks, told less as a true story and more as a fable of pulp fiction, handed down through generations of kids who remember Eliot Ness wiping the streets clean of crime during the prohibition. De Palma captures the mysticism of these unflappable lawmen, dedicated to justice and unflinching in the face of danger. The purity of this story feels wholly unfamiliar when compared to the De Palma catalogue, full of rogues and murderers. But he manages to hit all the right beats to romanticize a bygone era in both cinema and American history.

De Palma’s action set pieces still work beautifully, for all their flaws. The shootout at the Canada border, the showdown between Ness and Frank Nitti (Billy Drago) on the rooftop, the Battleship Potemkin homage on the staircase in Grand Central and, most tragically, Nitti’s visit to Malone’s apartment… they all sing with the terrific choreography of a master at the top of his craft.

The immediate play would be to compare The Untouchables to the classic gangster films. How does it stack up against the likes of White Heat? The Godfather? Goodfellas? Maybe it isn’t as seamless or classic as some of the best of the genre – and for my money Carlito’s Way is the better De Palma entry into this field – but something about The Untouchables feels more timeless than just about any of the greats. Perhaps it’s the effervescent approach to the story, or Mamet’s killer words, or the impeccable casting that give the film a timeless quality. Whatever the case, the story has only gotten more potent and more captivating over the last thirty years.

Retouched: How Inaccuracy Improves De Palma’s Untouchables
by Brian Salisbury at Film School Rejects

It’s often the case that biopic films are judged by their adherence to the facts of the actual stories on which they are based. It would then stand to reason that the more accurate the filmic depiction, the better the movie. Right? Not necessarily. While creative license is often met with resistance, sometimes biopics benefit tremendously from veering heavily away from historical veracity.

Case in point, Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables.

One would presume that the story of a legendarily irreproachable squad of law enforcement officers taking on one of the most notorious villains in American history would warrant no creative tinkering to sell to audiences. However, the 1987 movie takes a Tommy gun to the facts of Elliott Ness’ crusading squadron and the adversarial nature of his relationship with Capone. And thank goodness it does.

The actual story of The Untouchables is, cinematically speaking, as interesting as reading the language of the Volstead Act itself. There were no violent acts of retribution perpetrated by Capone against Ness’ men. Capone never went after Ness’ family, and in fact, Ness had no children during the years he pursued Capone. This would completely negate the scenes of Nitti outside Ness’ home as well as the moment wherein the mother of the little girl killed in the prologue instills confidence in Ness with her teary-eyed affirmation, “it’s because I know that you have children too.” In fact, the scene wherein Ness expels from his office a Capone agent attempting to bribe him represents the entirety of Capone’s nefarious tactics for dealing with the troublesome lawman.

Drama requires conflict; the more heated and personal that conflict, the more compelling the drama. Robert De Niro and Kevin Costner screaming at each other in a courtroom while Capone’s goons hold the mobster back from starting a full-on brawl, that’s dramatically viable. Less so is the fact that historically Capone and Ness were never actually in the same room with one another at any point in their lives. Frank Nitti being thrown off a roof by a vengeful Elliott Ness, incredibly dramatic! The real Frank Nitti killing himself on a railroad track–missing with the first shot to his own head–is more sad than dramatic.

Most importantly, The Untouchables crafts a bonafide boy scout out of Elliott Ness, aforementioned roof-tossing of Nitti aside. In reality, Ness was a troubled individual whose crusades beyond bootlegging included prosecuting anyone who had contracted a venereal disease. He had several failed marriages and ended up drinking himself penniless with several visits to brothels along the way. This suggests a man far more morally conflicted than the spit-polished hero of the film. Although we watch him wrestle with crossing the line in multiple scenes, there is always the sense of a greater good being pursued. Almost as a nod to his real-life, morally gray personal life, the last line of The Untouchables is Ness answering a question as to what he would do if Prohibition were repealed with, “I think I’ll have a drink.”

There are valid reasons to deride factual revision for the sake of entertainment, but when a filmmaker is concerned with the legend of a historical figure more than the textbook facts, it creates multiple perspectives by which to evaluate that figure’s worth. It also has the potential, as in the case of The Untouchables, to make for a far more thrilling cinematic experience.

30 Years Ago, Ennio Morricone Proved He Was Untouchable
by Michael Roffman at Consequence of Sound

All joking aside, there’s no denying how vital Morricone is to De Palma’s gangster epic. From the thudding main titles to the sweeping end credits, his Grammy Award-winning score rarely leaves a frame of the picture, glossing over the historical Chicago scenery, beefing up the undulating tension, and making every onscreen relationship feel palpable. That latter notion is by far the most important facet to his score, as the story’s success is paramount to whether or not you love the characters. If you do, you’re likely on the edge of your seat, hoping and praying that heroes like Malone and Stone make it out alive. If you don’t, well, De Palma’s blatant homage to Old Hollywood may come off a little too schmaltzy and cartoonish for your tastes. That’s how Ebert felt.

“De Palma’s Untouchables, like the TV series that inspired it, depends more on clichés than on artistic invention,” the late critic argued three decades ago for the Chicago Sun-Times. To his credit, he’s not wrong. The film leans heavily on clichés, but that’s kind of the point, as De Palma takes these familiar tropes to prey upon your emotions. Ness isn’t anything but The Good Cop out to “do some good” just as Capone isn’t anything but the big baddie who wants to see everyone “DEAD!” Arguably, the only face with any actual nuance is Connery, who, alongside De Niro, was the only true veteran of the bunch and had the chops to rise above David Mamet’s surprisingly mild screenplay. Though, unlike De Niro, he wasn’t fulfilling the hype of a major historical figure and wasn’t required to be a larger-than-life caricature, so he had a little more agency in front of the camera.

Morricone factored into all of this by carving out a score that gave a heart and muscle to De Palma and Mamet’s familiar archetypes. His compositions for The Untouchables are large and vibrant, gushing with all sorts of angst, swagger, and gusto. Take Capone’s theme, for instance, which thunders along with ragtime piano, boozy brass, and velveteen strings. It’s boisterous and over the top, but so is De Niro’s performance, and the ebbs and flows of Morricone’s instrumentation paint the scenery with broad strokes that actually wind up doing a lot of the heavy lifting for Scorsese’s prizefighter. The same treatment occurs for Costner’s Ness, namely his lonely plight as an unpopular Prohibition agent. Morricone’s “Death Theme”, which is without a doubt one of the composer’s most beautiful works to date, adds an unshakable weight to the officer’s violent quest. His ironclad determination in fighting for truth and justice is signified by the lone saxophone that pines at the solitude and loss that comes with such a fate.

As the film burns through its 119-minute runtime, Morricone’s themes quickly become signifiers, and that extends not only to the characters but their heroics and villainy. Maudlin flute watches over the Ness family, bass and drums belong to the mob, and brass lifts our four Untouchables far above the skylines of Chicago. These signifiers elevate a number of key scenes — the entire shootout on the Canadian border; Malone’s heart-wrenching, gory demise; and Ness’ cat-and-mouse rooftop chase with Frank Nitti — making Morricone more or less responsible for the strongest feelings one might draw from the film, whether it’s awe and wonder or suspense and remorse. The greatest example of this is at the very end, when Ness returns to his office to clean out his desk and finds a photo of his colleagues, two of whom are now deceased. Almost instantly, Morricone swoops in to catch us, tearfully uncorking all of those feelings we’ve been reserving for the film’s four untouchable heroes.

Even when he strays, Morricone never stumbles, and that much is obvious during the film’s climactic shootout at Union Station, aka The Baby Carriage Scene. Dubbed “Machine Gun Lullaby”, his composition for this sequence welds the sounds of a baby mobile to his more traditional brass and strings. It’s an unorthodox move that some may consider too on the nose, especially given how many shots De Palma supplies of the goddamn carriage. But, and this may be a reach (just roll with it), this juxtaposition is a brilliant subversion. Because in addition to turning the whole situation into a hazy nightmare, it also adds a certain gravitas to Ness’ psyche. If you recall, his whole charade against Capone truly started, at least narratively speaking, following an emotional run-in with the grieving mother of the little girl who died in the film’s opening. It was she who lit the fire under his shoes — Ness is also a parent, mind you — so it’s rather poetic the film would come full circle and place the life of another child in Ness’ hands.

The Untouchables: The Sacrifice of the Righteous, Prams, a Lot of Talk and a Badge in the Cult of De Palma
by Giuseppe Grossi at MoviePlayer

It's thirty years old, but seems even older. Reviewing The Untouchables today could make you think of a "badly-aged" movie, but that is not the case. Because the film already had a classic aftertaste at the end of the 1980s, impregnated as it was with rhythms, images, words and characters referring to a bygone movie era. Deliberately close to the imagination of the old noir, De Palma draws a city often emptied, desolate, dominated by the shadows of its characters. It seems like a purgatory in Chicago, full of silhouette in the darkness, inhabited by men of action and women waiting for the return of their hero home. In clear opposition, immediate, absolutely Manichaean struggle between good and bad, then we find the epic tale of the western, a genre also available from the retro soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and some shots as tight close-ups, directing the gaze of the characters. If the American cinema of those years exalted the hypertrophic power of the lonely, individualist hero capable of sufficing for himself (Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the two highest representatives), De Palma rediscovers the pleasure of the group alchemy between complementary characters and men joined in risking everything in order to respond to their moral integrity. Men of other times, like their movie.

'The Untouchables': THR's 1987 Review
by Duane Byrge at The Hollywood Reporter

Four police chiefs, three district attorneys, a wad of grand juries couldn't bring Al Capone down. It took a green government graysuit named Eliot Ness to put him away. That irony buttresses this old-fashioned, well-crafted black hats vs. white hats shootout.

Paramount's going to have to hire more armored cars to transport The Untouchables' considerable box-office booty to its already teeming [Beverly Hills] Cop [2] vaults.

Straightforward and crisp, The Untouchables is a classically structured good-guy/bad-guy epic, pitting the square, wet-behind-the-ears Treasury agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) vs. America's most notorious, ruthless and powerful Prohibition-time gangster, Al Capone (Robert De Niro).

While overtly melodramatic, The Untouchables is a perceptive and hard-driven actioner. It's an intriguing character confrontation, loaded with ironies, both personal and social — on one side, the flamboyantly powerful gangster whose booze smuggling made him a popular hero amid a Prohibition-weary public; on the other side, a faceless outsider whose straitlaced, insistent dedication threatened to overturn the town's well-oiled troughs.

As Eliot Ness, Kevin Costner plays it tight to the vest. Those who recall Robert Stack's superbly confident portrayal and hail-hearty voice in the TV series may be initially turned off by this interpretation. But to Costner's considerable credit, he defers to the staid traits of character throughout; ultimately, it is these small, relentlessly Sunday School qualities that make his ultimate victory against the seemingly invincible Capone believable — the tortoise vs. the hare.

Throughout, the scrupulous Ness is nevertheless shrewd enough to surround himself with a trusted yet unorthodox team. Sean Connery as a wizened Irish beat cop, Charles Martin Smith as an eager beaver accountant, and Andy Garcia as a fearless rookie cop round out Ness' team of “Untouchables” — men who are most out of orbit in Capone's bloody Chicago universe.

The Untouchables' most entertaining scenes, unquestionably, center around these superb supporting characters; Connery and Smith, in particular, both make the most of their juicy roles. As Al Capone, Robert De Niro is mesmerizingly intimidating — characteristically, De Niro gained 30 pounds for the role, had his hairline altered, acquired a scar. One instant he's a populist-styled protector, the next, a rapacious killer — De Niro makes these instant transitions frighteningly believable. When he's on the screen, wide-eyed and smiling, your instinct is to duck and cover.

Also deserving praise on the bad guy's side is Billy Drago as the psycho, trigger-happy Frank Nitti — his mean and vicious glint is razor sharp.

Despite one excessively showy and laughable slo-mo, Potemkin-like scene — Ness wipes out a horde of thugs while rescuing a cascading baby carriage — director Brian De Palma brings The Untouchables in tight and true, in the spirit of Ness himself. Unlike Scarface, no one is likely to claim that this film's considerable violence is gratuitous.

Technical credits, like the supporting character portrayals, are well realized and particular. Marilyn Vance's costumes, from the luridly vivid gangster regalia to Ness' Sears-style graywear, are starkly expressive. Meticulous details, contrasting further the character consistencies, are evident throughout in the production design — credit visual consultant Patrizia von Brandenstein for the expressive period nuances. Ennio Morricone's astringent score, featuring a harsh and lyrical trumpet blend, is wonderfully piercing, the perfect sounds for this well-contrasted film.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 5, 2017 7:23 PM CDT
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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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