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Domino is
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De Palma on Domino
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Sunday, March 18, 2018

La Cinémathèque in Paris put out a teaser on social media Friday by tweeting a slightly redacted email response from Brian De Palma. The email, with the subject, "Re: Scheduling", confirms that De Palma's Blow Out will screen at la Cinémathèque on May 31st, with Casualties Of War to follow on June 2nd. The fact that De Palma himself is confirming is a strong indication that he plans to be in attendance for each of these screenings. There is nothing about any of this yet on the actual Cinémathèque website.

Posted by Geoff at 11:09 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2018 11:11 PM CDT
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Friday, March 16, 2018

In a video posted yesterday on the Amblin Twitter page, Steven Spielberg said the following during a press junket for his new Ready Player One, a movie steeped in nostalgia for the 1980s: "I have the most intimate relationship with nostalgia. And it's based on the fact that I have been doing...from, when I was twelve years old, eleven years old, I started taking 8mm movies of my family on camping trips, when I was a kid, growing up in Arizona. And when videotape came in, I started taking videotapes. And then I started taking my 8mm sound movie camera when I was hanging out with Coppola and Lucas and Scorsese and De Palma, and that whole group back in the '70s, and I would [swings hands around as if moving a small camera] ... I've got something like sixty hours of footage of all of us growing up and making movies together. Someday, could be an interesting documentary, if I could get the rights from any of these guys to go public-- probably eighty percent of the footage they would not want released." [laughter]

Posted by Geoff at 1:30 AM CDT
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Thursday, March 15, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/pacinovv.jpgThe Village Voice's Bilge Ebiri posted a profile piece on Al Pacino yesterday, to coincide with the start of the Pacino retrospective, "Pacino's Way," at Quad Cinemas in New York. In the article, Pacino mentions Scarface a couple of times. The first mention stems from a question about the contrast between the actor's more "understated" performances and his more "theatrical" ones. Later on, he brings up Scarface again to describe a role where he felt he had something that he'd wanted to express, and to "paint this," to dig around and discover something: "that I was speaking to something." Here's an excerpt:
I talked to Michael Mann last year about Heat and he said something interesting contrasting the way you and De Niro approached your parts. He said De Niro would be the guy who asked a lot of analytical questions about his part and about his motivations, but that you just absorbed the scene weeks in advance and had it bouncing around in your head as a way of building out the character. Does that sound right?

Yes, at times, because I work relative to what is around me. The role, the amount of time, what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with. I really like to approach roles, if I can, alone. It’s almost like writing about the character. Consuming it. I used to say “channeling it.” But I require more rehearsal than I usually get, and so I have to figure out how to cope with that. The thing I remember with Heat is saying, “Well, what are these mood changes the character has?” I thought, “All right, he chips cocaine, this guy.” And it turns out he did! Every once in a while I’d ask Mike, “Could you shoot something?” Because the audience doesn’t know he’s chipping cocaine like a nut, and they’re thinking, “What’s the matter with him?” And so we even shot something. But it’s not in the film. So, sometimes I look a little irrational. But that’s the source I used. I thought it added a kind of interesting texture to a cop.

In a lot of your earlier parts there is a kind of understated quality — the characters are very watchful, always absorbing things. In later years, you’re unafraid to go big, to at times be almost theatrical. Was that a conscious decision, or an evolution?

I think sometimes I went there because I see myself kind of like a tenor. And a tenor needs to hit those high notes once in a while. Even if they’re wrong. So sometimes they’re way off. There’s a couple of roles that, you know, the needle screeched on the record. But if I ever see a movie that I feel, “Oh, gee, I went too far,” I just fast-forward it a bit and move on. [Laughs] If I had to do it again…I don’t know, I might still do it that way. I think what happens is once you do it one or two times, it becomes a signature.

In Scarface, for instance. Brian [De Palma] said right at the start, “This is an opera, and this is what we’re gonna go for. This is not down-and-dirty realism.” And we called it Brechtian. That’s what we went for. Oliver Stone allowed for that in his conception and writing of the script. I saw that character as bigger than life; I didn’t see him as three-dimensional. It’s like, you know, Icarus and the sun; I saw him fly with that thing. That was the dynamic of Tony Montana that we went for.

When I saw Paul Muni do the original Scarface, I only wanted to do one thing and that’s imitate him. And of course my performance is not at all like what he did, but I think I was more inspired by that performance than any I have seen. I called Marty Bregman after I saw it, and said, “Marty, I think we should try to redo Scarface. Howard Hawks of all people!” And of course he got Lumet, who came up with that great idea of having him come in on the boat lift — a Cuban refugee. That broke the ice. Oliver went in there and wrote that script. Then somehow Lumet and Marty Bregman didn’t agree on the way to go with the film, so Brian did it. And he did a great job.

When [the Quad] offered me this [retrospective], I thought, if we’re going to do this, I would rather it be a lot of roles that are different — including roles that I sort of failed in. That’s sort of what it’s about: You’re seeing an actor’s struggle, and getting there and not getting there. An actor isn’t even aware that that’s happening. Because you take each thing on, hopefully, like it’s the very first thing you ever did.

There are a number of films in this retro that weren’t well-received when they came out. I’ve always quite liked Revolution, which was a huge dud.

It was absolutely destroyed. There are people who have throughout the years known what Hugh Hudson did in that film — some of the work he did in that as a filmmaker is just simply extraordinary. We stopped filming six weeks too early, and we should have gone back. At the same time, I said, “Hugh, I think there’s a step to be made here.” And for twenty years we kept trying to communicate and get together. We wrote a narration, which is in the film now. We spent money to do that. They cut a little more out, too, I guess. It all seems to help the film; it lifted it.

There’s another thing about certain films that didn’t work. I don’t like to look at them again, but when I watch them in retrospect, sometimes I’ll see something interesting. I was never a big fan of Scarecrow, for some reason. I don’t know why, at that particular time. And probably I don’t know still if I’m a fan of it or not. I haven’t seen it all. But Quentin [Tarantino] has this theater where he shows different movies from different eras, all in 35mm. To me, that’s the test: 35mm. He says, “Al, take a look at this. Come, take a look at Scarecrow.” I said, “Well, you know…” I was reluctant to see it. But he said, wisely, “See the first five minutes, Al. Just look at the first five minutes.” Well, I went and I saw the first five minutes, and it was…a revelation. Because you have Vilmos Zsigmond, you have Jerry Schatzberg, together. Two great photographers, working on a location. And that opening on 35 is shocking! Jerry Schatzberg gets these two guys in that five-minute span to connect when they absolutely are opposite ends of the world.

We have something here in this country that everything should work. Well, I don’t believe in that. I really think there are aspects in film sometimes that in and of themselves work, and are worth going to see. I had an old European guy once tell me that. “You know, Americans have this thing with film that it’s gotta work, and what does that mean? It always works for you — a film that works for you doesn’t work for me, works for someone else, though.” But when you see a moment that is captivating…well, it’s worth it, isn’t it? You don’t look at someone’s fifty paintings. You look at the painting! One painting! That’s enough.

Another film in this series that I’m excited to see on a big screen is Bobby Deerfield, which is a gorgeous movie, but which was also considered a disappointment.

Yeah, well, I wasn’t a big fan of that. I saw it a hundred years ago, didn’t want to see it again, naturally. And then one day a couple of years ago, I was sitting in my house and it came on, and I watched it. And it is imperfect, of course — but ultimately, it got me. Because so much of the film is the time. You perceive things because of what’s around you; that’s part of our game. What I responded to in Bobby Deerfield is that in it, you saw something revealed in this character, low-key — something I was going through in my life at that time. It wasn’t a performance that was coming at you, but it was something personal, and it showed. I saw it on a TV set, in the intimacy of my home, so perhaps that had something to do with it, and so many years had passed, and the memories of it — it was revealing. Maybe on the big screen it won’t work. But I figured, you know, show the ones that didn’t work, too. You can see the effort, and the contrast. But then there’s the roles that do come along once in a while where you say, “Oh, gee, I want to do this. I want to paint this. I want to express myself through this role.” That’s the luxury. That’s when you’re lucky.

What are some parts over the years that felt like that?

They come once in a while. I had it with The Indian Wants the Bronx, one of the first things I did Off-Broadway, and a really fortunate debut for me. A big step in my life, and certainly in what they call a “career.” Because I didn’t even know what a career was when I was in the Village in the old days. I just didn’t even think about it. I thought, “Where’s the paint, where’s the canvas?” That was what was in the air, in the streets, in the cafes that we performed in. You do sixteen shows a week, so you’re getting practice. Hopefully by the end of the sixteen, you know a little bit more than you did with the first show. That’s been my mantra: Just keep doing it. But I certainly remember feeling a certain expression when I did Pavlo Hummel, which I did in ’77, ’78. I felt it there. My roles in film, I certainly felt it in Scarface — that I was speaking to something. I was thinking just the other day, there’s a performance and then there’s a portrayal, and there’s a difference. When you finally get a certain thing, it becomes a portrayal. The others sometimes fall into the category of performance. But mostly what you’re always trying to do is get to the personal — because that’s what art is. It’s got something to do with how you feel about what you’re doing.

So many of your films have been genre movies: a cop thriller, a gangster movie, whatever. Take a movie like Sea of Love, which has a fairly conventional, predictable mystery structure, but you and Ellen Barkin completely transform it. By the end, we’ve been through this intense emotional experience. That’s something few actors can do on a regular basis.

I guess when you look at the roles objectively, you can see how different they are from each other. So, probably the guy in Sea of Love is different than the guy in Heat, or the guy in Insomnia. And then when you look at the gangsters, from Michael Corleone to Tony Montana, they may be in the same genre but they’re different. I know that I’ve consciously tried to separate the two. I try to find the difference in characters. Like Lefty in Donnie Brasco is different than Carlito in Carlito’s Way.

But there’s a four-year break between Revolution and when Sea of Love came out. I stopped doing movies for four years. I just didn’t want to do this anymore. I did three things in a row that didn’t come off. One was, of all things, Scarface, which did good business, but had a real backlash — it was run through the mill. Then there was Author! Author! And then there was Revolution. Those three were not only not received well, they were really criticized in a way that made me think, “Well, what am I doing? I don’t want to keep doing this.” I did the films, yes. You do them sometimes because you try things. And my great friend and producer, Marty Bregman, who produced some of the biggest films I did, said to me a while back, “What’re you doing, Al? What’re you doing?!” I said, “What do you mean what am I doing? I want to explore certain things.”

He says, “You don’t explore with this! Go Off-Off-Broadway, explore! Don’t do it on the street!”

I said, “Well—”

“No! It’s not…no! Don’t do it there!”

He was right, because there is such a thing as a career, and I’d never looked at it that way. That’s why they have tryouts out of town, you know? You don’t do everything there on the main stage. Because you’re not there for the avant-garde films you make; you’re there because you made successful films that were commercial. That’s why you’re there. You start understanding that.

Posted by Geoff at 8:34 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2018 11:28 PM CDT
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Monday, March 12, 2018

Full interview segment at YouTube.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 12:03 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 11, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/quadpacinoway.jpgCarlito's Way and Scarface are both part of the series "Pacino's Way," an Al Pacino retrospective that begins this week at the Quad Cinema in New York, and runs through the end of March. Pacino himself will be on hand March 28 for a discussion following a double feature of his Salomé and Wilde Salomé. Last week, Pacino spoke by phone with Vulture's David Edelstein about the upcoming retrospective:
He is thrilled that “Pacino’s Way” was proposed by the folks at the Quad Cinema in the Village. On the phone from L.A. in three rambling, absolutely delightful hours, Pacino, now 77, effuses over the years (beginning at 16, when he dropped out of the High School of the Performing Arts) in which he roamed the neighborhood, sometimes homeless and sleeping on the stages of small theaters, moving from production to production, and meeting, in a bar at age 17, his mentor, the late Charlie Laughton (not the famous one), who brought him to the Herbert Berghof Studio.

“I was just stunned by the fact that the Quad offered this to me,” he says. “I immediately crashed on when I was a kid down there. Sometimes you feel closer to what you were than you expected.”

The retrospective (it begins March 14) features most of the biggies: the first two Godfather films (he thinks the third was a mistake), Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Scent of a Woman, Heat, as well as — surprisingly, at Pacino’s request — his most formidable bombs, Bobby Deerfield and Revolution.

Equally vital for him are the movies he directed, like the rarely seen Chinese Coffee (based on a play) and two relatively recent films in New York premieres: a spare, stylized version of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé he stars in with Jessica Chastain — he’d hoped the film would help launch her career but she did pretty well without it — and Wilde Salomé, a documentary about his relationship with the play. In it, he reveals the often-wayward process of putting together the earlier film and a concurrent L.A. stage production. The documentary isn’t as exhilarating as his 1996 free-form seminar, Looking for Richard, a kind of goofy master’s thesis on the Bard, the hunchbacked king, and the nature of his theatrical obsessions. But it’s full of enjoyably bizarre episodes, like the one in which Pacino throws a lavish cocktail party so that an unprepared, rather confused Chastain can improvise. Wilde Salomé illuminates the space where Pacino is happiest: the experimental theatrical milieu in which, 50 years ago, he found his voice.

Later in the article, Pacino discusses the gangster pictures that are included in the retrospective:
Here’s what Pacino wants you to take away from the retrospective, especially if you think he’s often the same in every role onscreen — if you always say, “Oh, that’s Al”: “It’s an overview of an acting artist from the Village, really,” he says, and suggests looking at his four gangsters, Michael Corleone, Tony Montana in Scarface, Carlito from Carlito’s Way, and Lefty Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco. They couldn’t be more different. Pacino’s Montana is huge and burns like a filament, a purposely two-dimensional character in a film that the director, Brian De Palma, called a “Brechtian opera” — and Pacino loves how Tony became a cultural icon, however cataclysmic the trajectory. Carlito, on the other hand, is a man who gets out of prison and wants to put his life in order — the opposite of Montana, who manufactures chaos. Lefty is a Mafia middleman, a second-rater striving to rise in the ranks but brought down by a surrogate son who turns out to be an undercover FBI agent.

Sometimes, Pacino says, he goes overboard, sometimes underboard. “But as Lee Strasberg used to say, ‘Don’t do what you can do. Do what you can’t do. That’s how you learn.’ ”

I quote Michael Mann, who once compared Pacino to Pacino’s old Village pal Robert De Niro: De Niro “sees the part as a construction, working incredibly hard, detail by detail, bit by bit, building character … [Pacino is] more like Picasso, staring at an empty canvas for many hours in intense concentration. And then there’s a series of brushstrokes. And a piece of the character is alive.”

Pacino says, “Isn’t that great, to hear that? I’m so glad, because I remember hearing about Picasso, who stares for 12 hours at an empty canvas. So, I play around with stuff. When I find something, it’s a combination of doing it so much in my life … and also saying, ‘I don’t know anything about acting at all.’ ”

He’s still learning. In the space of a year, he has played a shocked, stricken Joe Paterno for Barry Levinson in HBO’s Paterno (premiering in April), which he says is more internal than most of his recent performances. From there, he jumped into the part of Jimmy Hoffa in The Irishman, working with De Niro (playing Hoffa’s close friend and likely killer) and, for the first time, Martin Scorsese. The film was shooting when Pacino signed up — Scorsese warned him it would be “a moving train” — which is not how he likes to work. But he trusted Scorsese and De Niro enough to hop aboard. Also, the budget of the film, produced by Netflix, is big and getting bigger, and the money will doubtless help to underwrite Pacino’s next theatrical experiments.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Monday, March 12, 2018 12:45 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Brian De Palma's The Fury opened in U.S. theaters on March 10, 1978. Following the success of Carrie in 1976, De Palma worked with producer Frank Yablans on a larger-scale picture with the biggest budget of his career at that point. Yablans had helped finance De Palma's Greetings and Hi, Mom!, and De Palma included several of his regular players within the large cast (during filming, De Palma began to realize early on that there were too many characters and asked screenwriter John Farris, author of the original novel, to condense where possible). In the shot above is Charles Durning, who had played the landlord in Hi, Mom! (and, of course, had also appeared in De Palma's Sisters). Below is a shot near the beginning of the film, where Amy Irving, fresh off of her role as Sue Snell in Carrie, walks a Chicago beach front with Melody Thomas (who had, incidentally, played the child version of Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie). Stalking them is De Palma's old friend William Finley as the psychic Raymond Dunwoody, a character who ended up with less lines and scenes than originally written, via the aforementioned cuts De Palma had asked for from Farris.

And then there is Rutanya Alda (below), who had been in both Greetings and Hi, Mom! (and who was about to work with Robert De Niro again in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter)...

Before he had made Carrie, De Palma had pleaded in vain to direct the film version of Robert Stone's Vietnam/counterculture novel Dog Soldiers. That film ended up being directed by Karel Reisz, with the title changed to Who'll Stop The Rain. Even though that film arrived in theaters a few months after De Palma's The Fury, cinematographer Richard Kline had already finished shooting it before De Palma asked around about him and hired him for The Fury. De Palma explained to Paul Mandell at Filmmakers Newsletter that he had liked the way Kline had lit some of the films he'd worked on. "So we sat down, looked at the book, decided what kind of filming style we wanted to use, and then did it. And we worked together quite well."

See also:
SYFYWire: Brian De Palma's The Fury at 40

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2018 2:13 AM CST
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Thursday, March 8, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/lithgowringling.jpgJohn Lithgow spoke on stage the other day at Ringling College in Sarasota, Florida. The moderator was Bradley Battersby, the head of Ringling's film department who got his start as a student of Brian De Palma's when the director taught a class at Sarah Lawrence by making Home Movies with students there in 1979, with stars like Kirk Douglas, Vincent Gardenia, and several De Palma house regulars. Battersby went on to work with fellow students on films such as The First Time before directing the noir Blue Desert (1991, starring Courteney Cox), followed by several more pictures, including The Joyriders (1999), which starred Martin Landau and Kris Kristofferson (and also featured Elisabeth Moss). The Herald Tribune posted an article with a video featuring some highlights from the on stage discussion-- here's a brief bit centered around De Palma:
Bradley Battersby: I was telling John that it was Brian De Palma who really influenced me in creating this program the way it developed. In that, you know, you put the young people with veterans-- the pros-- from the industry, and it just, it can take off, and be such a win-win for both parties. Because I think Brian got a lot out of it, stayed in touch with everybody for a long long time. So, pretty interesting. He gave you a number of roles, didn't he?

John Lithgow: Yeah, in three Brian films. Obsession, Blow Out, and Raising Cain. For some reason, he loved the idea of me, this sort of bland, benign WASP, ending up the villain of the piece... [laughter] ... the sadistic killer.

Posted by Geoff at 8:06 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2018 8:08 AM CST
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/mametchicago.jpgDavid Mamet's new novel, Chicago, takes place in the prohibition-era Chicago of the 1920s, and, according to Ron Charles' review in the Washington Post, includes a cameo by Al Capone:
Although the characters in David Mamet’s new novel, “Chicago,” never sound like real people, they always sound like David Mamet people, which is a strange indication of his success. We would recognize these guys in a dark alley, not from any actual experience in dark alleys but from “Speed-the-Plow,” “American Buffalo” and “Glengarry Glen Ross,” plays that have explored 86-proof masculinity for decades.

In “Chicago,” Mamet returns once again to the city where he was raised and where he started to work in theater. The novel also marks a return to the Prohibition era of “The Untouchables” (1987), Brian De Palma’s gangster film for which Mamet wrote the screenplay. But what’s striking is how little difference the time makes. Past or present, Mamet’s men must always contend with the rapidly changing currents of the day. The moment you hear Mamet working in 1920s Chicago, it’s obvious that this bullet-ridden era fits him as comfortably as a newsboy cap. Yet he’s often felt like an on-the-money writer, catching the zeitgeist even before the cigarette smoke clears the room. Remember that “Oleanna,” his deeply unsettling play about sexual harassment, opened just months after Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court. And now, while releasing this novel set 90 years ago, he’s working on a script about recently disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Chicago” is not overly inconvenienced by the actual history of the 1920s. “Received chronology,” Mamet notes at the opening, “has been jostled into a better understanding of its dramatic responsibilities.” (Leave it to Mamet to be more responsible than God.) But if this isn’t the exact history of Chicago, it’s still the city you think you know. Italian and Irish gangsters rule competing halves of the town. Al Capone makes a cameo. With alcohol illegal and ubiquitous, the city government is an institution of organized influence peddling. Every crime scene is picked over by sticky-fingered policemen shopping for their wives and girlfriends.

Posted by Geoff at 11:44 PM CST
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Monday, March 5, 2018

Posted by Geoff at 10:25 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 8:10 PM CST
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Sunday, March 4, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/peeleoscars.jpgJordan Peele was interviewed on ABC-TV's live pre-Oscar red carpet show tonight, where the hosts asked him about his inspirations for Get Out. Peele responded by echoing what he said on stage yesterday when Spike Lee presented him with the best director award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. "Getting this award from Spike is crazy — let's make no mistake, I would not be standing here if it wasn't for this man," Peele said as he looked back toward Lee, who had mentioned that Get Out is a "masterpiece." Tonight on the red carpet, after talking about Lee, Peele added a few more directors' names as inspirations for Get Out: Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Stanley Kubrick, and Brian De Palma.



Jordan Peele: “I want to do what Hitchcock did, what Spielberg did, what Brian De Palma did — dark tales.”

Posted by Geoff at 6:59 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 4, 2018 7:18 PM CST
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