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a la Mod:

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
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Friday, June 1, 2018
Le Parisien's Catherine Balle posted an interview today with Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman. At the end of the interview, Balle states, "Since October, the world of cinema only talks about the Weinstein affair..." To which De Palma responds, "I'm writing a film about this scandal, a project I'm talking about with a French producer. My character won't be named Harvey Weinstein, but it will be a horror film, with a sexual aggressor, and it will take place in the film industry."

De Palma also talked to AFP about the idea yesterday, saying that it could become a book or a film. Regarding the #MeToo movement, De Palma tells AFP, "I followed it very closely, because I know a lot of people involved. I've seen this type of abuse unfold, I've heard stories all these years. I always reacted very strongly when someone did such things. As a director, you take actors, and you have to get their trust and love (...) To violate that in any way, for me it's just the worst thing you can do."

BBC News adds a bit more from De Palma, in regards to the #MeToo movement: "It will be interesting to see when women start controlling the aesthetic, what is going to happen. It would be interesting to see if their gaze is so much different than ours. Because a lot of movies are about the male gaze, what the male sees."

The quotes from Le Parisien caught on like wildfire today all over the place, with some other aspects of that interview being sprinkled into the articles here and there. Here's the whole thing, with assistance from Google translation:

The plot of your novel "Are Snakes Necessary" was supposed to be a movie?

Brian De Palma. I had tons of ideas I'd written over the years, thinking about scenarios. And then one day, I told Susan: What if we made a novel? I gave her the intrigues and the dialogues, and Susan developed the characters. When you write for the cinema, you do not work the characters too much, because they depend a lot on the actors who will embody them ...

Susan, was it hard working with Brian?

Susan Lehman. No, it was very pleasant! Brian has millions of ideas all the time. We tried to have fun with each other and we often arrived there.

Brian, it makes you happy, this retrospective at the Cinémathèque?

B. de P. I am very honored that the French recognize my work, as they did in 2000 at the Center Pompidou. That's why we published our book in France and not in the United States: because you seem to understand me better than "those" Americans.

Of all your movies, which ones are your favorites?

B. de P. I hate this question ...

So which one is the most undervalued?

B. de P. "Casualties Of War", which had bad reviews at its release, while I think it is the best movie about the Vietnam War.

And you like "Scarface"?

B. de P. "Scarface" is a wonderful film, very special. This is an example of a perfectly successful collaboration between different talents.

You have just finished "Domino", a film about terrorism, shot in Denmark, Belgium and Spain ...

B. de P. It was a horrible experience. The film was underfunded, it was far behind, the producer did not stop lying to us and did not pay some of my staff. I don't know at all if this feature will be released.

But you like it?

B. de P. Yes, it is good.

S.L. It's very good.

"Passion", your last movie, dates from 2012. Why did you wait five years before making a movie?

B. de P. If you do not just make a blockbuster, it's very hard to redo a movie ... I could never have done "Casualties Of War" (in 1989) if I had not done "The Untouchables"(in 1987).

You're mad at Hollywood ...

B. from P. Hollywood has changed. Dinosaur and superhero movies are made for kids! You can not make serious movies over there ... unless you are Spielberg and you are the studio. After "Mission: Impossible", when Tom (Cruise) said he wanted to make another one, I said, "Are you kidding?" Why do I want to make another movie like this? ... After that, I did "Snake Eyes", "Mission to Mars" and there I said: Stop. I was tired of these big movies, where you fight with the studios to know how much the special effects cost.

What movies did you recently like?

S.L. We love "A French village". We watched all the seasons and we will see them again.

Brian, have you been offered to make movies for Netflix?

B. de P. Yes, but I need a big screen because I am a visual stylist.

Since October, the world of cinema only talks about the Weinstein affair ...

B. de P. I'm writing a film about this scandal, a project I'm talking about with a French producer. My character won't be named Harvey Weinstein, but it will be a horror film, with a sexual aggressor, and it will take place in the film industry.

Posted by Geoff at 10:44 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 4, 2018 10:13 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 31, 2018
Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman were at Librairie Millepages in Vincennes, an eastern suburb of Paris, yesterday to discuss and sign copies of their novel, Are Snakes Necessary? Christian Grevstad, a regular reader of De Palma a la Mod, caught the tail end of the event and took the picture at the top of this post. Another regular reader, Romain Lehnhoff, was there, and has posted some video captures from the discussion on YouTube. Here are some links-- I will try to transcribe some of these as I get a chance:



De Palma on THE LADY EYE (Preston Sturges) / ALTERNATED TITLE


De Palma / Hitchcock part. MMMMMDCCCLXXXVIII

The picture immediately below accompanied an article posted at Le Parisien

Posted by Geoff at 8:43 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, June 2, 2018 10:46 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Posted by Geoff at 8:20 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Paul Schrader's new film, First Reformed, is getting outstanding reviews left and right. I have yet to see it, but more than one critic has mentioned that the film leads to a climactic shot that resembles the finale of Schrader and Brian De Palma's Obsession. The intriguing thing to note here is that Bernard Herrmann, who composed the score for Obsession, urged De Palma to cut Schrader's fourth act from the film, to end on the swirling shot of Michael and Amy embracing at the airport. Schrader was not very happy about the cut. And yet... here we are... Also note, each of the articles linked to below refer to the ending of First Reformed as dreamlike...

Greg Cwik, Slant Magazine

First Reformed's intellectualized, detached, and emotionally reticent notion of suicide recalls Bresson's The Devil, Probably. Bresson, along with Ozu and Dreyer, formed a trinity at the heart of Schrader's book Transcendental Style in Film, and the filmmaker has faithfully returned to them again and again, channeling them in most of his directorial efforts, working within the so-called “Tarkovsky Ring” (films made within this ring will find commercial distribution, films like those of Bresson and Roberto Rossellini, while films outside of this ring are destined for museum and festival existences). Schrader was raised in an austerely Calvinist home, but at the age of 17 he converted to cinema. First Reformed is about Schrader's film theories, about the transcendent possibilities of the medium, as much as it is about religion.

The film is, even by Schrader's standards, a bleak endeavor, concerned with the durability of spirituality, its susceptibility to corruption and radicalism, and its place in modern American life: with the slow decay of the planet, as well as with pain, penance, and the validity of suicide and murder. Invidious, at times startlingly beautiful, and at others startlingly ugly, it encapsulates Schrader's cinematic philosophies, the testament of a man who worships film. It's a churlish and controlled film, suffused with dolor yet agleam with the prospect of hope, each assiduous and apoplectic composition as neat and orderly as the garments Toller adjusts during his morning routine.

Shot by Alexander Dynan, First Reformed has a mostly familiar, competent aesthetic, with subjects and their surroundings structured in a geometric style reminiscent, again, of Ozu. The repetition of shots—what film theorist David Bordwell refers to as “planimetric shots,” faces isolated in the frame, buildings filmed head-on, the camera unmoving and observant—insinuate a life of tedium, devoid of variety. There's little ambiguity in the deep focus. The camera isn't liberated. But as Toller's faith grows increasingly strained, his revelations more and more exceptional, the shots go aslant, the camera moving more. The final shot, twirling oneirically, the camera jubilant as it circles around Toller and Mary in bloody embracement, feels torn from a Brian De Palma film, out of place with the phlegmatic style of Schrader's. It suggests a dream, an Empyrean awakening. It brings to mind a bible quote, from Revelation 17:6: “And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.”

First Reformed feels like a culmination of and response to Schrader's career. It harks back to Martin Scorsese's New York nightmare Taxi Driver by using a journal as a narrative device. Both films use a laconic, unexpurgated voiceover to elucidate on the inner turmoil of a man whose well-being is eroding and whose disdain for the people around him grows with each passing day and toward a violent epiphany. Schrader has said that he knows his obituaries will read, “Writer of Taxi Driver,” despite his own idiosyncratic career as a filmmaker. With First Reformed, he seems to be rewriting his own legacy, revisiting the infatuations and compulsions that inspired the Scorsese film.

Travis Bickle wants to wash from the streets the decay he perceives in modern life. He's a man who anoints himself an angel of death, come to smite New York City's miscreants. The backseat of his cab is, at the end of each night, doused in blood and cum, the way the faithful are awash in the blood of the lamb. In Travis one finds the seeds of Schrader's obsessions: penitence, sin, tortured veterans, working-class malaise, men with complicated relationships with sex. Like Travis, Toller sees grotesqueries and unforgivable misdeeds, and his notion of atonement becomes more extreme. He turns away the longing of his ex-wife, Esther (Victoria Hill), who leads the megachurch's choir and secretly pines, in pain, for Mary. His faith, while tested, never corrodes; it becomes more steadfast, more Old Testament-like. Misery begets penance, suffering ameliorating the sins of humanity. Toller rejoices in his suffering, and through him Schrader has found his faith in cinema renewed.

Q&A: After ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull,’ Paul Schrader talks ‘First Reformed’
by Jason Fraley

For the role of the conflicted clergyman, Schrader said Ethan Hawke was an easy choice.

“There’s a certain physiognomy in playing a man of the cloth, be it Montgomery Clift in ‘I Confess,’ Belmondo in ‘Leon Morin’ or Claude Laydu in ‘Diary of a Country Priest.’ So, you’re thinking about actors who have that physiognomy, maybe Jake Gyllenhaal, Oscar Isaac, but Ethan was 10 years older than them and his face was getting some very interesting wrinkles. I started thinking he’s just right for this. I sent him the script and he responded right away.”

Hawke’s performance goes from contemplative to harrowing as he considers ecoterrorism.

“He’s going to blow up a church, but this pregnant woman arrives and he can’t do it, so he reverts to turning himself into the sacrifice. This is a pathological fallacy deeply embedded in Christianity, the notion of suicidal glory, that my own suffering can redeem me. It’s not what the Bible teaches, (nor) what Jesus taught. It is a fallacy that is virtually the same as Jihadism.”

Hawke’s self-purgation finds him drinking Drano and wrapping himself in barbed wire.

“It’s a reference to Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Wise Blood’ (by) John Huston, where Hazel Motes at the end of that book puts his eyes out, wraps him up with wire and goes out preaching.”

This sacrifice is ultimately alleviated when Seyfried enters the room and the two embrace amid a swirling camera. It’s the first time the camera moves. Schrader uses a static camera with a 4:3 aspect ratio for the entire movie, before unleashing a circling camera like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958) or Brian De Palma’s “Obsession” (1976), which Schrader wrote.

“When you start working on the spiritual side of the street, the still side of the street, you have to stretch time,” Schrader said. “This is a very static film. The camera does not move, pan or tilt. It just sits there. It is very passive aggressive and takes too long to do everything. All of a sudden at the end, it jumps like a bird from a cage into a kinetic, whirly-gate soul in flight.”

As the camera circles, the soundtrack delivers the spiritual hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Film buffs will recall Charles Laughton’s “The Night of the Hunter” (1955), though Schrader insists it’s a reference to singer George Beverly Shea of the Billy Graham Crusade.

“That song, my father would play over and over again,” Schrader said. “(The final scene) is meant to be read in different ways. If you want to say he’s dead and imagining this, I wouldn’t object. If you want to say it’s a miracle, I wouldn’t object. If you want to say it is a redemption, I wouldn’t object. In fact, I don’t know the answer. It’s all of those things put together.”

This isn’t Schrader’s first ambiguous, dreamlike ending. A similar fate befell Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976), who similarly attempted an act of terror before embracing his better angels. In that case, it was a political assassination before shifting to vigilante justice by killing the pimp (Harvey Keitel) of a teen prostitute (Jodie Foster).

Posted by Geoff at 11:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Eight early Brian De Palma films make up a weeklong series at this year's International Film Festival of València-Cinema Jove, which runs June 22-29. In addition to the eight films, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's documentary De Palma will also be screened. The selected eight early De Palma features in the series are: Murder a la Mod, Greetings, Sisters, Phantom Of The Paradise, Obsession, Carrie, The Fury, and Dressed To Kill.

Posted by Geoff at 8:42 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 9:08 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Tale, a deeply personal story of abuse from filmmaker Jennifer Fox, premieres on HBO this Saturday (May 26th). Fox is a friend of Brian De Palma's, who, by several accounts below, was instrumental in bringing this project to the attention of Laura Dern. Broadly's Kerensa Cadenas posted a profile/interview piece on Fox today-- this is from the introduction:
Jennifer Fox isn’t new to Hollywood—the accomplished documentarian has directed and produced many of her own docs and supported others work as well. She can count Hollywood legends like director Brian De Palma and Oren Moverman as friends and mentors. (Both of whom were more than willing to call up Laura Dern on her behalf.) Though many would be apprehensive to divulge their personal histories on film, Fox was excited to do so with The Tale.

Premiering on HBO this Friday, May 26, The Tale tells the true story of Fox’s own childhood. When Fox (played by Dern) was 13, she wrote a short story documenting her relationship with an older man. When her mother Nettie (Ellen Burstyn) discovers the story decades later, Fox is forced to take a hard look at her childhood sexual abuse and the memories she twisted and repressed.

The Tale is gut-wrenching and tough to watch, but with Fox’s deft hand as a documentarian and a towering performance from Dern (who De Palma told Fox was the only actress to have the guts to take this role), it is a complex and unflinching look at the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.

Also today, Deadline's Joe Utichi posted a summary from Sunday night's director and cast panel at the AwardsLine screening of the film at LA’s Landmark Theatre, which Utichi moderated:
Based on Fox’s own life—Dern and Nélisse play Jennifer Fox at different ages—The Tale deals with the moment, years after the fact, that Fox was forced to grapple with the memories of her first sexual encounter aged 13. “It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that what I called a relationship, all of a sudden I realized was abuse,” she noted.

Fox, whose storied work in documentary film includes the highly personal series Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman, turned to narrative film for the first time to construct a wholly unique portrait of the way memories can shift and rewrite themselves in our minds. It is with the rediscovery of an essay written when she was 13 that the older Jennifer Fox, played by Dern, is forced to confront the 13-year-old version of herself (Nélisse), who framed her relationship with a much older running coach in the language of first love and unforced desire.

“It took me years to write [the film] because it was such a complicated telling, and it’s really more about the stories we tell ourselves to survive, and why we need to tell ourselves stories,” the filmmaker explained. “There are so many things that are too heavy to deal with when you’re younger, that it takes until maturity to be able to face.”

Dern’s journey with The Tale stemmed from a conversation with filmmaker Brian De Palma, an important mentor to Fox. Dern recalled De Palma’s powerful and compelling brief: “[He] said, ‘You’re going to receive a script that is difficult and painful and brave…But take it seriously. It’s so radical, it’s so brave, and you should go on this journey.'”

For Dern, “What’s extraordinary about this time is that we all are considering together how we’ve normalized behavior, to ourselves, as a community, as a culture. It has been a reckoning for many of us individually, to see how we said things like, ‘Well, it was the ‘70s,’ or ‘I looked very mature for my age.’ We took the blame, and we were silenced by our own cultural shaming.”

It was a welcome, if unexpected, climate in which to launch the film, she said, noting the conversations about taking on this story began many years ago. “This zeitgeist has said that there is restorative justice here,” Dern said. “There is reward in being a witness to something and sharing your voice, and that has really changed the conversation. There is therefore less fear, through a piece of art that you make, to all have conversations together, and hopefully, allow it be the groundbreaking time we all so desperately need.“

Fox noted the particular courage shown by Jason Ritter in taking on the role of her abuser Bill. “I think, Jason, you’re the most courageous, actually, of all of us,” she said. “We know from statistics that 93% of perpetrators are known by the children who they abuse. That means that they don’t look evil; they’re part of communities; they’re successful, they’re loved. Jason really embodied the kindness and the complexity of what I wanted to bring to this telling.”

But by the time he’d read it, he insisted, “there had already been so many incredible acts of courage that led up to this moment—Jennifer writing it, people coming on board. If I was going to be the coward to back out at the end, I wouldn’t have been able to look at myself. The truth was that I read the script and I thought it was so profound and incredibly honest, and I felt like I was opening doors in my mind that I hadn’t even cared to open, looking at this experience and getting a deeper understanding of what this can be like.”

And one more article, from USA Today's Patrick Ryan
When filmmaker Jennifer Fox was 13, she wrote a story for English class about a young girl who is coerced into a sexual relationship with her 40-year-old running coach.

Little did her teacher know, the story was true.

"I got an A," says Fox, now 58. "My teacher wrote on the back, 'If this is true, it's a travesty. But since you're so well-adjusted, it can't be.' "

Four decades later, Fox has adapted her account into a harrowing feature film, The Tale, which premieres on HBO Saturday (10 ET/PT). Two-time Oscar nominee Laura Dern plays an adult Jennifer — a successful documentarian and professor — as she confronts the truth that her childhood "romance" with Bill (Jason Ritter) was sexual abuse. With the support of her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and boyfriend (Common), she reconnects with people from her past in an effort to remember what happened after years of suppression.

"The film is about memory and the stories we tell ourselves to survive," says Dern, 51, who was brought the script by director Brian De Palma, Fox's friend and mentor. "I think we all find that relatable, not just people who have experienced sexual abuse or assault."

Dern identifies with Fox's story, having grown up as a teen actress on movie sets, where she experienced sexual harassment. She says she never recognized it for what it was until the Me Too movement started last fall, as women and men came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and abuses of power.

"I didn't realize until recently that my experiences of harassment were harassment," Dern says. "For so many young girls and boys, behavior is justified because it's like, 'Well, they did that. Maybe that's normal.' We presume that's just the way it works in Hollywood."

Like her fictionalized character in The Tale, Fox didn't fully process her trauma until middle age, as she interviewed women around the world for her 2006 documentary Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman and began to hear similar stories. She's careful to make the distinction between sexual assault and abuse, when someone is manipulated into thinking "he or she is agreeing to something which is sexual, but it isn't often violent," Fox says. "It's different from rape."

Posted by Geoff at 8:39 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 9:31 PM CDT
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Monday, May 21, 2018
'SCARFACE' ON 200 SCREENS JUNE 10, 11 & 13

Brian De Palma's Scarface will return to theaters June 10, 11, and 13, for its 35th anniversary. Playing on 200 screens in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas, each screening will be followed by a video of last month's Q&A, which followed the Tribeca Film Festival screening.

"Scarface is a timeless film that has influenced pop culture in so many ways over the last 35 years," Screenvision Media's Darryl Schaffer said in a press release. "We're thrilled to partner with Universal Pictures and Tribeca Film Festival to bring it back to the big screen in celebration of its anniversary. The Tribeca Film Festival talk was an important commemoration of the film. We're excited to extend it to the big screen and provide fans a behind-the-scenes insight into what production was like in the 1980s."

Paula Weinstein, EVP of Tribeca Enterprises, added, "Tribeca has a rich history of producing legendary reunion events. We are thrilled to be able to replicate the Festival experience with audiences across the country. Our gratitude to Screenvision and Universal. Scarface has had a strong influence on popular culture and reuniting the cast for the 35th anniversary was an evening not to forget."

About a week after the Tribeca event last month, Jesse Kornbluth, who moderated that on-stage Q&A, defended himself in a post at Head Butler, with the headline, "So I Asked Michelle Pfeiffer A Question...."

Recently, the Tribeca Film Festival celebrated the 35th anniversary of “Scarface” with a screening at the Beacon Theatre, followed by a panel discussion featuring Al Pacino, Brian De Palma, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer.

I moderated the panel discussion.

There never was an audience for “Scarface” like the 2,894 film fans at the Beacon. Of course they knew all the great quotes, but even more, they cheered like opera buffs after the great scenes. And when it ended, better believe they were eager to be in the same air space as the stars.

I brought the actors onstage one by one. Bauer got some love. Pfeiffer got more. De Palma got a roar. Then, with one chair empty, I teased the audience: “There’s one more… I forget…. Oh, I got it….Al Pacino!” The theatre went nuts. Al basked at the standing ovation. “Still got it!” he said.

And then we began. I started with the person who had the idea to remake the 1932 classic: Al Pacino. I asked Bauer about being the only Cuban in a major role. I asked De Palma about getting around the repeated X-ratings, quoted Chekhov’s remark that a gun on the wall in the first act must be fired in the second and asked if having a chainsaw murder in the first 15 minutes of the film made him question if topping it in the final scene might be too much violence for any audience. And, of course, I prompted Pacino to deliver the most quoted line of his career: “Say hello to my little friend.”

Michelle Pfeiffer has described herself as a “set piece” in this film — the attractive woman who looks good on the arm of the leading man but who’s not essential to the story. And because questions of misogyny and female agency are no longer background noise, I asked her to look back at “Scarface” from the perspective of 2018. She spoke eloquently about what she learned as a very young actress paired with a powerful star giving one of his most aggressive performances: “One of the things that hit me the strongest from the beginning was watching him fiercely protect his character and really at all costs and without any sort of apology. And I have always tried to emulate that. And I try to be polite about it. But I think that’s what really makes great acting.”

Pfeiffer’s crisp, smart responses got little media attention. Only one exchange did. I was curious about her preparation for the role as a cocaine freak whose diet seemed to consist of cigarettes and Scotch. And I thought of my daughter, who is exactly the same height as Pfeiffer. She is thin. In “Scarface,” Pfeiffer was dramatically thinner. So I asked: “As the father of a daughter, I’m concerned with body image. During the preparation for this film, what did you weigh?”

The crowd — not all, but a vocal contingent — reacted instantly. There were boos. Someone shouted, “Bad question.” I also heard “Why do you need to know?” and “Why!”

I turned away from Pfeiffer to speak directly to the audience: “This is not the question you think it is.”

Press reports said that Pfeiffer was dismayed at the question and paused before answering. Not so. She paused because, like a professional, she was waiting for the crowd to settle down. And then she answered my question — at length: “I don’t know. But I was playing a cocaine addict, which was part of the physicality of the part, which you have to consider… The movie was only supposed to be a three-month, four-month shoot. Of course, I tried to time it so that as the movie went on, I became thinner and thinner and more emaciated. The problem was the movie went six months. I was starving by the end of it because the one scene, which was the end of the film, where I needed to be my thinnest, it was ‘next week’ and then it was ‘next week’ and then it was ‘next week.’ I literally had members of the crew bringing me bagels because they were all worried about me and how thin I was getting. I think I was living on tomato soup and Marlboros.”

At the end, the stars got a standing ovation. There was a small after-party. Around midnight, I went home and, as I generally do, logged on. To my surprise there was a YouTube report of my question to Pfeiffer, but because I wasn’t named as the moderator, I laughed and went to bed.

Friday morning I woke up to 20 emails. And to items in the Post and the Daily News and half a dozen other publications. All took me to the woodshed for asking an insensitive, inappropriate question.

By mid-morning, I was asked to comment. I replied:

“It is true that a gentleman should never ask a woman about her weight. But that was not my question. It is a comment on the knee-jerk political correctness of our time that no one would be shocked if you asked Robert De Niro about the weight gain required for his role in ‘Raging Bull’ but you get booed — not by many, but by a vocal few — for asking Michelle Pfeiffer about the physical two-dimensionality required for her to play a cocaine freak in ‘Scarface.’”

Finally, I caught a break: In the Daily News, Linda Stasi wrote a column headlined “Sorry, PC police — it’s not body shaming to ask Michelle Pfeiffer how much she weighed during ‘Scarface.’” Her first sentence: “What a bunch of fat heads!”

Later, I had a chance to add to my response:

Nobody booed when I asked Michelle about how she was able to “own and claim” her performance against one of Al’s fiercest performances.
Nobody booed when I asked Michelle if she could imagine a remake in which Tony Montana was Toni Montana — a woman.
Nobody booed when I asked Brian if he were making this movie now, would Tony be a Russian — or even Mark Zuckerberg?
Nobody booed when I quoted Tony Montana — “Who put this thing together? Me!Who do I trust? Me!” — and asked Al: Who does that sound like?

I’ll go further. Not to defend myself — it’s not possible to defend yourself against the accusations of people who know you better than you know yourself — but to tell you what I learned from this experience.

First, there’s a double standard here. When a man gains or loses weight for a role, that fact is served up to the media as an asset. It’s not just De Niro in “Raging Bull.” Matthew McConaughey lost 50 pounds and Jared Leto shed 40 for “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” Matt Damon lost 40 pounds for “Courage Under Fire” — the reporting of their preparation for roles is invariably admiring. For women, the topic of weight can also be an asset — if she reveals it, as Charlize Theron did when she told Entertainment Weekly about the 50 pounds she gained for her role in a new film. So why is it “insensitive” to ask Michelle Pfeiffer about her physical instrument in a movie she made 35 years ago? Has something happened in the last 35 years to turn a young actress who had the strength to stand up to Al Pacino into a timorous Victorian maiden who needs protection from a man asking a question about her public persona?

Before we went on stage, I quoted Oscar Wilde to Pfeiffer and Pacino: “There are no impertinent questions, only impertinent answers.” Yes, I could have worded that question better. And if the question, in any form, offended Michelle Pfeiffer, I apologize.

More to the point: If I knew the audience was hardcore liberal PC, I would still have asked that question, though I would have asked it another way. But I had no idea there are New York movie lovers who see little difference between a man asking a woman about something she did professionally and Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women between their legs. It’s not heartbreaking, but it’s really, really disappointing to learn that people who presumably deal with complexity and multiple levels of meaning in their careers can be as stupid and close-minded as people who watch Fox and think Pizzagate and Obamaphones are real.

Bottom line: I call BS on the yahoos who booed.

Posted by Geoff at 8:32 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2018 8:38 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Earlier today, I posted links to reviews of Yann Gonzalez' Knife + Heart, which premiered at Cannes the other day and reminded many critics of the films of Brian De Palma. Two other thrillers were recently released in the United States that brought De Palma to mind of critics-- and, in the case of Bad Samaritan, it seems the director, Dean Devlin, had De Palma in mind from the get-go. "You know, there’s a lot of good scary movies in the last couple of years," Devlin tells Colleen Bement at Nerd Alert News. "They tend to be either something to do with a creature or they have some supernatural aspect to it, or they’re sort of violence porn. I wanted to do a scary movie that was a throwback to early Brian De Palma, or even like the movie Disturbia. This is scary because it could actually happen."

Devlin expands on that a bit more in an interview with Collider's Christina Radish:
When this came your way, it came to you as a spec script that screenwriter Brandon Boyce was asking for advice on, and then you decided you wanted to do it. What was it that made you so passionate about telling this story?

DEVLIN: Well, the first thing is that it was a page turner. I couldn’t put the script down, and that’s so rare. Usually, I’m not a great reader. I have to push myself to read through a script. And the other problem I have is that, very often, I’m rewriting a script while I’m reading it, and then I get half-way through it and I realize the movie in my head is totally different from the one I’m reading, so I’ve gotta start over again. This one was absolutely compelling, from the first page to the last. I just couldn’t put it down. It also reminded me of early Brian De Palma movies that I fell in love with, like Dressed to Kill, and things like that. There are a lot of great scary movies in the last couple of years, but they tend to be either supernatural or have a science fiction aspect, or creatures, or aliens. To me, the most horrifying and frightening thing in the world are other people. If you had a psychotic person, who had no ability to feel guilt or empathy, and you married that with someone who had all of the resources and money in the world, that’s a very terrifying idea, but not so unrealistic that you couldn’t run into that, in real life. That’s what chilled me.

Here's an excerpt from a review of the film by The Daily Herald's Dann Gire:
What Alfred Hitchcock (or his disciple Brian DePalma) could have done with this cat-and-mouse "Silence of the Lambs"-lite material boggles the brain.

Director Dean Devlin, who gave us the ludicrously silly weather disaster drama "Geostorm," can't boggle, but he races over logic lapses with such speed that the frequent surprises, power-shifts and reversals easily take up the credibility slack.

Irish actor [Robert] Sheehan executes his role as an out-of-his-class hero with aplomb, although he's operating in a story that supplies a humongous amount of Oregon scenery for British actor Tennant to chew, and he gorges himself on it with unbridled gusto.

Resembling a cross between Norman Bates and Charlie Sheen on a bender, [David] Tennant tunes into the movie's melodramatic excesses better than his co-stars. (If Tennant wore a mustache, he probably wouldn't twirl it, but we'd see him thinking about it.)

David Connell's impressive, widescreen cinematography keeps our eyeballs occupied with kinetic, well-framed compositions, although Joseph LoDuca's crushing suspense score overpowers a climactic, snow-dusted showdown with distracting notes.

If nothing else, "Bad Samaritan" might be just enough of a horror film to give us pause every time we toss our car keys to a parking attendant.


Vaughn Stein's Terminal has also led to at least a couple of mentions of Brian De Palma in critics' reviews:

Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

The latest in a long line of post-Tarantino imitations, Terminal paints its setting in broad strokes. The train station where the film's action takes place abounds in retro-modern colors that are redolent of so many 1990s-era industrial music videos. It's a generic space occupied by stilted characters: two hitmen (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons) who trade wince-inducing banter while waiting for new assignments; a terminally ill teacher (Simon Pegg) who's looking to speed up the shuffling off of his mortal coil; and a disabled janitor (Mike Myers) who just might be more shrewd and observant than he lets on. Interacting with them all is Annie (Margot Robbie), a woman who's introduced via a series of images that, in the way they reduce her to flashing, emerald eyes and pursing ruby lips, lamely prop her up as a femme fatale.

In fact, Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale stands out as the closest analog to this film, as Annie is constantly slipping on various disguises as she seduces and double-crosses those who dwell throughout this terminal at the heart of an anonymous city. Yet the comparison to De Palma's freewheeling, deconstructionist take on noir does this lugubrious thriller no favors, as writer-director Vaughn Stein doesn't so much as dust off the cobwebs from the tropes he recycles throughout. Terminal's actors are awkward and stiff in trying to project hard-boiled cool, and all while delivering lines—from “Hello, handsome, dangerous men” to “Hello, beautiful, semi-clad girl”—that sound as if they had been passed multiple times through an online translation tool.

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
“There is a place like no other on Earth … to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter.” – Margot Robbie’s Annie in “Terminal.”

With lines like that, it’s not as if the lurid and highly stylized and neon-noir “Terminal” isn’t announcing itself as a derivative B-movie borrowing elements from pop culture touchstones ranging from old-timey gangster films of the 1940s and 1950s to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” to “Pulp Fiction” to “Sin City” to “Blade Runner” to certain films by Brian De Palma and Guy Ritchie.

This is a dark and bloody and mind-bending trip, alternately fascinating and ridiculous, featuring some bold and outrageous plot twists, and juicy performances from one of the more eclectic casts you’ll see in a film in 2018.

We’re talking Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Matthew Lewis from the “Harry Potter” films — and Mike Myers playing one of the sickest sickos in recent memory.

Oh, and one of the aforementioned has a dual role, and let’s just leave it at that.

Every year, we get a handful of movies that have a legit shot at appearing on some “Best of the Year” lists and some “Worst of the Year” lists.

"Terminal" is just that kind of movie.

Posted by Geoff at 3:11 PM CDT
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Yann Gonzalez' Knife + Heart premiered in competition at Cannes the other day, and brought the films of Brian De Palma to the mind of several critics:

Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter
If Dario Argento, Brian De Palma and Kenneth Anger conceived a three-way love child while watching Cruising and listening to a Giorgio Moroder mix tape, the result would be something like French director Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart (Un couteau dans le coeur).

Taking the erotic kitsch and glamorously trashy aesthetics of his many shorts and first feature, You and the Night, to the next level, Gonzalez uses a murder mystery set in the late-'70s gay porn industry to explore deeper themes of desire, abandon and sexual repression, all of it with plenty of humor and blood splatters. Playing the same late slot that Good Time and Drive did in previous festival editions, the film should add a needed dose of glitz and gore to an otherwise tame Cannes competition, with potential for crossover appeal in France and elsewhere.

Shot on 35mm by Simon Beaufils and backed by a throbbing retro score from Gallic electro rockers M83 (one of whose founding members is the director’s brother), Knife hits you from its very first frame — and this is really a frame of celluloid and not a file of gigabytes — as a work engulfed in the pleasures of filmmaking's past.

In the beguiling opening sequence, Gonzalez cuts between an editor splicing 16mm footage; a porno movie shot somewhere in the countryside; and scenes of its young, waifish star heading out to a nightclub and meeting a man in a leather mask. Anyone who’s seen the 1980 Friedkin-Pacino movie or the works of giallo auteurs like Argento or Lucio Fulci can imagine where this late-night encounter is headed, though the director tosses in one of several surprises when the murder weapon turns out to be a black dildo armed with a switchblade. This is not your typical slasher pic.

The young victim was the latest muse of 40-something gay porn producer Anne (Vanessa Paradis), who has built up a sizable filmography of semiautobiographical skin flicks with cheeky titles like Anal Fury or Homocidal. With the help of her favorite actor-director Archibald (a hilarious Nicolas Maury), her editor and former lover Lois (American actress Kate Moran) and a fluffer nicknamed Golden Mouth (Pierre Pilol) — or Bouche d’or in French (not to be confused with Palme d’or) — Anne is as passionate about her oeuvre as any self-respecting Gallic auteur, even if her movies only play at a seedy Parisian XXX theater that also doubles as a cruising spot.

Gonzalez has a good time exploring the slapstick behind-the-scenes side of Anne’s productions, although when we first meet the woman, she's totally grief-stricken after breaking up with longtime girlfriend Lois, who’s had enough of her drunken shenanigans. Anne’s work is further compromised by the fact that castmembers keep dying left and right, with each killing beautifully, and sometimes comically, staged in a different setting: a forest during a wind storm, a late-night parking lot, the movie set itself. She soon decides to embark on an ambitious new feature that re-creates the murders in front of the camera, while investigating the murders behind it, as Knife transforms into a film within a film that blurs the boundaries between reality, fiction, dreams and disaster.

The whodunit side occupies much of the movie’s second half, with Anne turning into an amateur sleuth who uncovers a trail of bread crumbs involving a former actor and his doppelganger (Khaled Alouach), a blind crow that looks a lot like the one in Game of Thrones, and a series of black-and-white flashbacks that reveal a dark family secret involving a character named Guy (Jonathan Genet) who may or may not be dead. It’s too much to handle at times, and the film’s rhythm dips a little during the closing reels, but the ending adds some needed thematic weight to all the B-movie antics by focusing on how sexual repression — specifically of gays — can spiral dangerously out of control.

Like in Gonzalez’s debut feature, Knife indulges in the seductive, sleazy stylings of thrillers and horror flicks from the '70s and '80s (alongside movies by Argento and De Palma, the cult classic Liquid Sky also comes to mind here), with cinematographer Beaufils bathing scenes in oversaturated shades of blue and red as M83’s vintage beats blast on the soundtrack.

Peter Debruge, Variety
Someone is killing the cast and crew around the production of a gay French porno in “Knife + Heart,” which provides an inspired opportunity to set an erotic thriller within the milieu of vintage Parisian blue movies. In the hands of gifted French director Yann Gonzalez, who leaps from Critics’ Week to the official competition with this hyper-stylized follow-up to “You and the Night,” an environment that might have once given exploitation helmers the excuse to stage some red-blooded voyeurism (à la “Body Double” or “Crimes of Passion”) instead serves as a backdrop for queer empowerment in what should be one of the hottest tickets for gay audiences this year.

Picture “Cruising” as directed by Brian De Palma, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this frisky parody-homage, which is equal parts kinky and kitsch, rendered with the kind of meticulous attention to lighting, composition, and sound (including a reunion with M83, who also scored Gonzalez’s first film) that all but guarantees a cult following.

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Gonzalez, cinematographer Simon Beaufils and composer M83 (fronted by Gonzalez’s brother Anthony) conspire to make a moody whodunit with a dream logic that can frustrate anyone looking for a more straightforward crime story. In Knife + Heart, the investigation is given equal heft as Anne’s romantic woes and her company’s attempt to make their latest porn, although eventually these disparate strands will (somewhat) come together.

The film’s immutable take-it-or-leave-it ludicrousness has its bracing kicks, especially when Gonzalez stages the masked killer’s vividly violent attacks. (His weapon of choice is a dildo with a switchblade at the end.) Knife + Heart pays homage to disreputable genre films of old, not just mocking porn’s cheap production values but also the grimy pleasures of B-movie horror. Whether it’s Anne’s hip wardrobe or the flamboyantly revealed plot twists, Knife + Heart grins through its gruesome murders, revelling in the power of cinema’s pure escapism.

At some point, though, that style needs to add up to something, and Gonzalez comes up short, resolving the mystery inelegantly and failing to make Anne’s existential crisis absorbing. One suspects the filmmaker spent more time worrying about how to construct his retro split-screen suspense sequences — a clear shout-out to De Palma — than he did in developing the human beings in those frames.

David Ehrlich, IndieWire
On paper, Yann Gonzalez’s “Knife + Heart” sounds like an entirely perfect follow-up to his 2013 debut, “You and the Night.” A pansexual fantasia about a gaggle of symbolic characters who get together for an orgy, the film compellingly melded elements of camp, smut, romance, Anger, and the self-aware stylization of Jean Genet into a chromatic fever that established its writer-director as a unique new voice in contemporary queer cinema (or just cinema, full-stop).

Flecked with some new giallo flourishes and a generous helping of De Palma-like psychological distress, Gonzalez’s frenzied second feature certainly finds that voice growing stronger and more confident. “Knife + Heart” outgrows (or obliterates) the black box constraints of its predecessor in favor of a broader canvas that stretches from a subterranean nightclub to an enchanted forest in the heart of France; from reality to fantasy and back again, using the scopophilic pleasures of sitting in the dark as a bridge between those two worlds.

Posted by Geoff at 2:12 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2018 3:16 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Posted by Geoff at 8:38 PM CDT
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