SPIELBERG TOLD ACTORS ON 'READY PLAYER ONE' ABOUT HAVING DONE 2ND UNIT WORK ON 'SCARFACE'
Ready Player One actors say Spielberg was constantly surprising them on the set
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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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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 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)
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