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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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« March 2018 »
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Interviews...

De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


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De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
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The De Palma Touch

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Carrie...A Fan's Site

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No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

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The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags

Directorama

The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

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Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

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FilmLand Empire

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A Lonely Place

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italkyoubored

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De Palma a la Mod
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Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
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Sunday, March 25, 2018
ATLANTIC'S DAVID SIMS ON 'SCARFACE', 'CARLITO'S WAY'
AND ALSO THIS COOL TRIBECA FLYER... MOSTLY THE FLYER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfacetribecaalsmall.jpg

David Sims posted "The Many Eras of Al Pacino's Stardom" today at The Atlantic, inspired by the "Pacino's Way" retrospective currently playing at The Quad in New York. Sims says that "Carlito’s Way might be the best Pacino performance of the ’90s, in that it’s a natural evolution of his bombastic gangland heroes of prior decades into someone worn out by the excesses of the era." Despite this, Sims does not delve into that film, preferring instead Pacino's supporting role in James Foley's Glengarry Glen Ross. But Sims does delve into Scarface:
The ’80s were quiet for Pacino (he only made five films, including the major flops Cruising and Revolution), but they also gave him Scarface, the Brian De Palma gangster epic that endures as a cult classic for generation after generation of college students and stoned teenagers. Perhaps I’m selling Scarface short, but the comedian John Mulaney once perfectly mocked the notion that someone would say their favorite movies were The Godfather and Scarface, as if the two were of remotely similar caliber: “Oh yeah? Well my favorite foods are lobster ... and Skittles. Those are equal in my eyes!”

The story of a Cuban mobster’s rise to power and fall from grace, Scarface is a blast to watch, but it’s the definite beginning of Pacino’s “Skittles” phase, one where no choice was too outrageous, where yelling right to the camera was practically a matter of course. It’s the Pacino that so many younger viewers are more familiar with. “I think sometimes I went there because I see myself kind of like a tenor,” Pacino said. “And a tenor needs to hit those high notes once in a while. Even if they’re wrong. So sometimes they’re way off ... I saw that character as bigger than life; I didn’t see him as three-dimensional.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:30 PM CDT
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ARTIST SEEKS TRUTH FROM ART, LIKE JACK IN 'BLOW OUT'
AND ALSO PHOTOGRAPHER IN 'BLOW-UP' - INTENSITY LEADS ARTIST TO BE "FORENSIC INVESTIGATOR"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/abuhamdan.jpgBerlin-based Lebanese artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan has won the Abraaj Group Art Prize this year in Art Dubai, according to Arab News' Rawan Radwan. The artist, whose works utilize sound and surveillance technologies, talks to Radwan about the protagonists of Blow-Up and Blow Out to help illustrate the way he sees his art:
Abu Hamdan’s vast works are politically focused, incorporating sounds in an interplay of noise and silence in conflict.

He unveiled his award winning work on the 21st of March, on the official opening of Art Dubai. “Walled Unwalled”, a single channel film projected on a glass wall covered in a special holographic foil that allows it to be reactive to light - dark elements of the image retain the glass walls natural transparency while the bright patches allow it to appear solid. The performance comprises of an interlinking series of narratives derived from legal cases that revolved around evidence that was heard or experienced through walls.

The Berlin-based artist has had marvelous successes over the years in using his knowledge and research in sound and surveillance technologies to produce works of art that translate well to a wide audience. His work is like nothing I have encountered before; it is moving, disturbing and raw.

A trained musician, fluent in the anatomy of audio production, Abu Hamdan is able to understand the causes of different types of distortion and noise, qualifying him to work on forensic audio investigations. His work and research mainly revolve around the manners of use and abuse of various kinds of audio.

He has compiled audio analyzes for legal investigations at the UK asylum tribunal, and advocacy for organizations such as Amnesty International and Defense for Children International. Forensic audio investigations are conducted as part of his research at Goldsmiths College at the University of London, where Abu Hamdan is a PhD candidate.

“It’s my formal training as an artist that has augmented this non-expert but proficient training in musical production,” said Abu Hamdan. “Think of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film ‘Blow-Up,’ or more aptly in this context, Brian De Palma’s 1981 thriller ‘Blow Out.’ In both, we see an artist (a photographer in ‘Blow-Up’ and a B-movie effects artist in ‘Blow Out’) become a murder investigator.

“The intensity with which these artist-protagonists see and hear the world in order to reproduce it — each paying very close attention to every grain of an image or every aspect of an audio track — is so great that both artists unintentionally find themselves in the position of being a forensic investigator.”

Abu Hamdan’s use of audiovisual installations expresses different themes, all of which revolve around the importance of bringing forth the truth. There is no room for lies or deceit, and we all know that science does not lie.

His work, “Saydnaya (The Missing 19db),” speaks of the struggles of surviving Syrian prisoners. The first of a series of articles of evidence produced by Abu Hamdan, it features people talking about their time in a prison where more than 13,000 people have been executed. Blindfolded most of the time, they developed an acute sensitivity to sound. Through their audio testimonies, Abu Hamdan is able to reconstruct the structure of the building and compile evidence of the torture and violence that took place there.

One of the most notable and moving aspects of this project is how the voice was heard before Saydnaya, and a gradual decrease as the voices are lowered at a 19 decibel drop — the disappearance of the voices and the voices of the disappeared.

Another project, “Earshot,” is an audio-ballistic analysis of gunshots recorded in May 2014, when Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank shot and killed two teenagers, Nadeem Nawara and Mohammed Abu Daher. The audio evidence aimed to determine whether the soldiers had used rubber bullets, as they claim, or broken the law by firing live ammunition at the two unarmed teenagers. The acoustic analysis, for which Abu Hamdan used special techniques designed to visualize the sound frequencies, established that live shots were indeed fired.

His 15-minute audio essay, “Language Gulf in the Shouting Valley,” captures the plight of the Druze split by the border between the occupied Golan Heights and Syria, where members gather and shout across the divide to family and friends on the other side.

“I see the role of the artist as documenting the world in an avant-garde way — a world that doesn’t yet accept these things as documents but will, at some point,” said Abu Hamdan. “What makes most sense for me as an artist now is to build on that, to believe that the forms of historical documentation and truth-determining we use today are inadequate, and to use experimental material and aesthetic practice as a means to produce new kinds of documents.”

Abu Hamdan goes on to explain that this method often involves focusing on what is in the background, the structural conditions, to propose a truth and to use the intensity of looking at and listening to the world, and to posit a different kind of truth-production through art — a truth-production that is not the law, that is not science, that has very different kinds of models of defining what the truth is. He believes that art offers a third way of doing that.

His focus and attitude toward his work is not like many artists. Instead of beautifying and simplifying his work, his experimentation with the physical and social effects of sounds in particular explores the plight of people and important issues in the region. His works are complex installations, difficult for some to fully grasp, but his emphasis on allowing sound to become more than just art allows them to become testimony is what is truly remarkable.


Posted by Geoff at 1:45 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 24, 2018
AS CANNES SPECULATION HEATS UP
DE PALMA'S 'DOMINO' ON WISH LISTS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dominocarwindow.jpg

A couple of days ago, in an article titled, "25 films we’d like to see at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival," Little White Lies' David Jenkins wrote about Domino as the #6 choice: "The spurious rumour mill has gone into overdrive with regard to the new film by Brian De Palma. His previous, 2012’s Passion, flew somewhat under the radar despite being taken to the bosom of the hardcore De Palma stans. A wicked whisper suggests that Domino was destined for the Berlinale, but the reaction at an early test screening was reportedly so positive that its course was diverted. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten and Guy Pearce star in a Copenhagen-set crime thriller which looks like it could be the director’s unique take on the 'Scandi noir' genre."

A Twitter post from the week before suggests that the test screening aspect of the rumor was actually a "sales screening in Paris." A Cannes speculation article by Deadline's Nancy Tartaglione and Andreas Wiseman was posted the same day as the Little White Lies article (March 22nd), but did not include mention of Domino until an update the next day. The full Cannes lineup will be announced April 12th.


Posted by Geoff at 11:28 PM CDT
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WITH FUQUA BACK, NEW WRITER FOR 'SCARFACE' REMAKE
GARETH DUNNET-ALCOCER TO REWRITE AYER, HERMAN, & COEN BROTHERS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarface.jpgSeveral outlets, including The Wrap, which claimed an exclusive, reported yesterday that Mexican-born filmmaker Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer has been hired to rewrite the screenplay for Universal's upcoming remake of Scarface, which now has Antoine Fuqua set to direct. This screenplay began in 2011 with David Ayer writing the original draft, with rewrites by the following writers: Paul Attanasio (2012), Jonathan Herman (2015), Terence Winter (2016), Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (2017). When Ayer signed on as director of the project last year, it is thought (though never officially reported) that he did another polish on the screenplay he'd initiated back in 2011.

"Dunnet-Alcocer, originally from Queretaro, Mexico, is best known for writing the English-language adaptation of Miss Bala for Sony," The Wrap's Umberto Gonzalez stated in his report. "He wrote and directed Contrapelo, which was shortlisted for the Academy Awards after premiering to rave reviews at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival."

Previously:
Fuqua circles back to Scarface remake
David Ayer in talks for Scarface remake
Coen Brothers will rewrite Scarface script
Fuqua drops out of Scarface remake; Diego Luna will play lead
Terence Winter to tackle Scarface script
The Scarface remake just got a lot less interesting
Scarface remake is Larraín's dream project
The Scarface remake just got a lot more interesting


Posted by Geoff at 7:17 PM CDT
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Friday, March 23, 2018
SPIELBERG DEFINES FELLOW MOVIE BRATS
COPPOLA = GODFATHER, SCORSESE = SPEED DEMON, DE PALMA = SPLIT SCREEN
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/spielbergrepubblica.jpgThe video does not appear to be working, but Steven Spielberg appeared on stage recently to talk to La Repubblica, and was asked by Mario Calabresi for a one-word definition for each of his fellow "Movie Brats." Spielberg responded, "Francis Ford Coppola is the Godfather, Martin Scorsese is a speed demon, he speaks and thinks very fast, George Lucas is a comedian, and Brian De Palma, I would say, is a split screen". Spielberg also says of Stanley Kubrick, "I met him on the set of The Shining and we remained friends until his death"

Posted by Geoff at 8:04 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 23, 2018 8:08 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 21, 2018
LECTURE SERIES ON DE PALMA AT SUMMER FILM SCHOOL
CHRISTINA ALVAREZ LOPEZ & ADRIAN MARTIN TO PRESENT LECTURES & SCREENINGS IN ROTTERDAM THIS JULY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/summerfilmschool.jpg

Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin will present lectures and screenings of five Brian De Palma features July 18-22 at Summer Film School Rotterdam. The film school will also include a separate lecture and screening series on Alain Resnais. Here's the rundown on the De Palma series:
Brian de Palma: Vision, Obsession and set-up

Brian De Palma (born 1940) is one of the most inventive film directors that America has produced. Formed in the counter-cultural scene of the 1960s, he has never abandoned his interest in formal, modernist innovation, nor his ultimately pessimistic view of society and politics. This series will take you through the major phases and tendencies of his career so far, from anarchic comedy and complex plotting through to Hitchcockian ‘pure cinema’ and social satire. The ultimate goal of the course is to elaborate the extremely complex and thrilling ‘machine of sound and vision’ that De Palma creates with the elements of film.

Cinema Experts
Cristina Álvarez López
Cristina Álvarez López is a film critic and video maker based in Vilassar de Mar (Spain). Her work has appeared in MUBI Notebook, LOLA, and De Filmkrant, and in books on Chantal Akerman, Bong Joon-ho, Philippe Garrel, and Paul Schrader. More info.

Adrian Martin
Adrian Martin is an art critic based in Vilassar de Mar (Spain). He is the author of eight books, including the forthcoming essay collection Mysteries of Cinema (Amsterdam University Press). His ongoing archive website of film reviews, covering 40 years of writing, is at filmcritic.com.au.

Lectures and Screenings on Brian de Palma

July 18 — De Palma’s Beginnings: Art, Music and the Counter-Culture
Phantom of the Paradise (1974, 92’, DCP)
July 19 — The Hitchcockian Model and its Variations
Obsession (1976, 98’, DCP)
July 20 — Vision and Sound: The Complex Machine
Carrie (1976, 98’, DCP)
July 21 — Story, Identity and Point-of-View
Body Double (1984, 114’, DCP)
July 22 — The Langian Model: Narrative and Society as Trap
The Black Dahlia (2006, 121’, 35mm)


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 12:04 AM CDT
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Monday, March 19, 2018
TRIBECA - SCARFACE 35TH w/DE PALMA, PACINO, PFEIFFER
POST-SCREENING CONVERSATION THURSDAY, APRIL 19 - TIX ON SALE TOMORROW (MARCH 20TH)
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweettribecascarface.jpgNew York's Tribeca Film Festival announced today that this year's fest will include a 35th anniversary screening of Brian De Palma's Scarface ("one of the most referenced and revered films in pop culture," states the announcement) at 7pm on Thursday, April 19th. The screening will be followed by a conversation with De Palma, Al Pacino, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The screening will take place at the Beacon Theatre, and tickets go on sale at 10am tomorrow, March 20th.

One week after the Scarface screening, the fest will present a 25th anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg's Schindler’s List at 6:30pm on April 26th. Following that screening, Janet Maslin will moderate a conversation with Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Embeth Davidtz.

Here is the Tribeca announcement description of its Scarface screening:

Scarface – 35th Anniversary, Sponsored by Kia

Scarface, Brian De Palma’s blazing modernization of Howard Hawks’ 1932 classic, is an electrifying consideration of the humanizing motives of evil men. It went on to receive three Golden Globe nominations and became one of the most referenced and revered films in pop culture. Al Pacino delivers his riskiest performance in a career-defining role, garnering a cult following for the film. Revisit the gangland masterpiece thirty-five years later, a rich, harrowing, eminently quotable ride to excess and self-destruction that laid the groundwork for all the anti-hero stories to come. A Universal Pictures release.

After the Screening: a conversation with director Brian De Palma and actors Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer.

DATE: Thursday, April 19th
TIME: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: Beacon Theatre


Posted by Geoff at 5:17 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 18, 2018
PARIS CINEMATHEQUE TEASES DE PALMA RETROSPECTIVE
LATE MAY/EARLY JUNE 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetcinematheque.jpg

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
SPIELBERG SAYS HE HAS ABOUT 60 HOURS OF FOOTAGE
FROM 8MM CAMERA FOLLOWING "ALL OF US", DE PALMA, COPPOLA, LUCAS, SCORSESE IN THE '70s
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetamblin.jpg

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
PACINO ON 'SCARFACE' - 'I WAS SPEAKING TO SOMETHING'
"IT'S GOT SOMETHING TO DO WITH HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING"
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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