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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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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

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The De Palma Touch

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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


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
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Saturday, December 15, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/greetingspremiere.jpgBrian De Palma and Charles Hirsch's Greetings opened at New York's 34th Street East Theater on December 15, 1968. It was the first movie to be rated X by the MPAA. As Glenn Kenny discusses during an audio commentary track included on Arrow Video's new Blu-ray of Greetings, Hirsch pitched the idea for the movie to De Palma as an American version of Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Féminin. They began shooting on 16mm film, but quickly realized that the format would limit the potential release to very few art houses, according to Laurent Bouzereau, in his book The De Palma Cut. Bouzereau adds that the film initially made three times what it cost (the cost was about $43,100). The film was panned in the New York Times by Howard Thompson, who stated that while De Palma and Hirsch "are determined and camera-minded," they should try next time "for something that matters instead of the tired, tawdry and tattered." A few weeks later, the paper ran three letters from readers in defense of the film, under the headline, "Was That Any Way To Greet 'Greetings'?" William Bayer's letter began, "When a good film is misunderstood and then characterized by Howard Thompson of The New York Times as 'tired, tawdry, and tattered,' it is time to come to the rescue." Kenny quotes more from these letters in his audio commentary.

Greetings follows three young men as they attempt to dodge the Vietnam draft (the film's title directly refers to the first word seen on the page when someone would open up a letter from the U.S. government telling them they've been drafted). Along the way, each of the men, played by Robert De Niro, Gerrit Graham, and Jonathan Warden, grapples with his own personal obsessions (respectively, voyeurism, the JFK assassination, and computer dating). In his commentary, Kenny links the buddies-hanging-out aspect of Greetings to Federico Fellini's I Vitelloni. Aside from a general Godardian influence throughout, there is also direct reference to another Godard film, Vivre sa vie, and, of course, overt references to Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, the latter of which Chris Dumas has explained (in his book, Un-American Psycho) "was recently in theaters when Greetings was in production; its specific presence here - like Une Femme Est Une Femme in Bertolucci's Before The Revolution* - signifies that the film's logic was, as they say, a topic of conversation."

At one point in the film, Lloyd (played by Graham) asks pop artist Richard Hamilton (playing himself) if he's seen Blow-Up. Shortly after that, Lloyd brings a photo of Dealey Plaza to Tina, a photo assistant played by Tina Hirsch (at the time of filming, her name was Bettina Kugel-- by the time Greetings was released later in the year, she had married Charles Hirsch and changed her name). While this scene makes overt visual reference to Blow-Up, it was Tina Hirsch who insisted on adding a verbal reference in this scene. As she told William Chamberlain a few years back, "Brian and Chuck [Charles Hirsch], the producer and co-writer, wrote the scene. As originally written, Gerrit Graham was, you know, he played a Kennedy assassination buff, and he wants me to blow up a picture taken on the grassy knoll to prove that officer Tippet is Oswald’s accomplice. And that he’s hiding behind a tree. I was supposed to answer that if he blew it up, all you’d see is the grain. I mean a funny side story is that that literally was a studio in which I was working as a photographer’s assistant, and I actually blew up those shots that are shown at the end. I told Brian that I couldn’t say that line, that the movie Blow-Up was all about that. I didn’t feel comfortable saying it without crediting the other movie. So my answer became something like, 'You’re not going to be able to see anything. I’ve seen Blow-Up, I know how this turns out. You’re not going to see anything but grain the size of golf balls.' Years later, Pauline Kael, the movie critic for the New Yorker, quoted the line as one of Brian’s great citations. [Laughing] But, in fact, I was the one who cited Blow-Up. That’s the way it goes."

*Incidentally, Dumas' essay about Greetings in the booklet of Arrow's new disc set is titled, "Before The Revolution."

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2018 3:29 PM CST
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Arrow's new limited edition box set, "De Niro & De Palma - The Early Films," is here, and, having only delved partway through so far, it is nonetheless very very cool. The final product does not have two of the originally expected extras: new interviews with Gerrit Graham and Peter Maloney are nowhere to be found. What is here, however, is terrific-- even with two of the films, The Wedding Party and Greetings, sharing the same disc (original marketing imagery for the collection suggested three independent discs and covers).

Appearing in the booklet for Hi, Mom!, Christina Newland's essay, "American Godard," is named for Brian De Palma's off-the-cuff remark to an interviewer in 1969 that "If I could be the American Godard, that would be great." Linking these early films to De Palma's later work, Newland states that De Palma's style "has always cheerfully drawn attention to itself." Focusing on Hi, Mom!, Newland writes that the film's narrative "speeds along with nervy ingenuity and a chaotic structure; you might say this is a film with a multiple personality disorder. Loosely divided into three jarring acts, each more wild than the last, De Palma follows a chameleonic young man, Jon Rubin, on the streets of New York City, attempting several different utterly insane ambitions."

Toward the end of her essay, Newland zeros in more precisely on De Niro's Jon Rubin as chameleon:

In the final portion of the film, Jon seemingly becomes entrenched in domestic terrorism and decides to disguise himself as a 'square' by marrying. The artificiality of Jon's faux-domestic set-up recalls a '50s sitcom, underpinned by a Weathermen Underground-style bombing that's thoroughly of the '70s. Though few might characterise the director of Carrie (1976) and Scarface as explicitly political, De Palma applies scalpel-like cynicism toward Jon's flirtation with underground social movements. Perhaps it's a young leftist's frustration with insincerity within the movement.

Still, little in Hi, Mom! is straightforward. In Greetings, De Niro's Jon was a draft-dodger; in Hi, Mom!, he's a veteran, seemingly displaced by his role in that war. Many comparisons have been made between this and De Niro's later role as a 'Nam vet in Taxi Driver (1976), but he's the real spiritual antecedent of another darkly comic role for Scorsese: Rupert Pupkin. Like the delusional wannabe of The King Of Comedy (1983), Jon is so phony he's almost earnest in his phoniness. This is evident in the final set-up, when Jon wrangles his way to the front of a television news broadcast about the explosion he himself devised. As with so much of De Palma's work, we are watching people who are watching other people; some of whom know they are being watched and act accordingly. The intended result is a sort of endless, empty hall of mirros; a media spectacle with no meaning.

Regarding Hi, Mom! now - either as a direct sequel to Greetings or simply as a madcap counterculture relic - it doesn't necessarily equate to coherent greatness. But it does hint at the ways in which De Palma, along with the best of his generation of filmmakers, could marry the arthouse and the commercial in their later work. When they applied teh radical stylings of their art film interests to make challenging mainstream cinema of the era, the New Hollywood flowered into being.

Posted by Geoff at 12:44 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

I don't usually think in terms of 35th anniversaries, so I hadn't been planning to post anything about the 35th anniversary of Scarface-- after all, at the 35th anniversary Scarface screening and reunion this past April at Tribeca, with Robert De Niro hanging around (it's his festival), De Palma at one point said, "35 is such an odd number to celebrate an anniversary- why not 50? Greetings was created in 1968, we’re all still here." In any case, I felt like posting the two images above, so here it is-- and here are a couple of links from the past few days, followed by a repost of the People Magazine coverage of the Scarface screenings and parties in New York and Hollywood:

Variety: Inside Scarface's Sometimes Rocky Road to Becoming a Classic

Mental Floss: 15 Surprising Facts About Scarface


Scarface 1983 Premiere

In its December 19, 1983 issue, People Weekly covered the parties of the Scarface previews that took place within 24 hours of each other in New York and Hollywood. It is interesting to look back at the celebrities' reactions to the film upon its initial release. The article, written by Kristin McMurran, David Hutchings, and Pamela Lansden opened like this:
Kurt Vonnegut walked out after 30 minutes, muttering, "It's too gory for me." Author John Irving followed. Cheryl Tiegs called it "the most violent film I've ever seen. It makes you never want to hear the word 'cocaine' again." The celebs were unnerved by Scarface, the scarifying update of the 1932 Paul Muni classic, starring Al Pacino as a Cuban immigrant drug lord who shoots his way to the top and snorts his way back down (see review, page 12). At the movie's tag-team previews in New York and Hollywood, the verdict was generally the same: pro-Pacino and anti-firepower. Actor James (The Onion Field) Woods, though, had a different view. "Personally," deadpanned Woods, "I'm all for any movie whose lead character keeps a grenade launcher in his living room."

Pacino himself missed the New York preview because he was performing in a Broadway revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo, although he appears to have made it to the afterparty. In the photo to the left, Pacino is leaving the New York party by limo with his then-current girlfriend Kathleen Quinlan. In the photo at the top of this page, he is shaking hands with co-stars Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Steven Bauer. The caption underneath the photo quotes Bauer: "I feared rejection until I met Al. It's hard to imagine yourself in the same league."

The article says that Lucille Ball was the favorite of fans watching from the sidewalk, until Eddie Murphy arrived to upstage her. Murphy is pictured at left with Diane Lane, who arrived late herself. Murphy said, "Al Pacino is my favorite actor. I know the dialogue to all his movies. When I met him, I groveled." The article says that the preview audience was more subdued after the screening, quoting Lucille Ball (whom the article consistently refers to as simply "Lucy") as saying, "We thought the performances were excellent, but we got awful sick of that word."

Martin Bregman hosted an after-preview party for 130 guests at Sardi's in New York, where Cher, who brought her 14-year-old daughter Chastity along, told People, "I really liked it. It was a great example of how the American dream can go to shit." Raquel Welch, who also brought along her daughter Tahnee, said, "A lot of people will enjoy the comic-strip violence that goes on ad nauseam." Welch is also quoted in a photo caption as saying that "the violence is just for effect."

Another mother-daughter pair of interest showed up at the Los Angeles premiere: Tippi Hedren and daughter Melanie Griffith. Griffith at the time was married to Steven Bauer, and would go on to star in Brian De Palma's very next film in 1984, Body Double. According to the September 16 2003 New York Post, Bauer was planning to check out Griffith's performance in Broadway's Chicago while he is in town for the September 17 re-release premiere. Hedren was quoted in the 1983 article as saying, "Scarface was too brutal." The article concludes in L.A. with one of the big stars of the day, Joan Collins:
Joan Collins, who would gussy herself up for a smog alert, was one of the few who dressed elegantly, sparkling in black sequined leather. Typically, Joan had the final word about Scarface's nasty language. "I hear there are 183 'f---s' in the movie," sighed Collins, "which is more than most people get in a lifetime."

Posted by Geoff at 5:55 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 6:00 PM CST
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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Posted by Geoff at 10:07 AM CST
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Friday, December 7, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/obsessionspinescream.jpgShout! Factory today revealed details about its collector's edition Blu-ray of Brian De Palma's Obsession, which will be released January 15, 2019:
Bonus Features

NEW Audio Commentary With Author Douglas Keesey (Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life In Film)

NEW Producing Obsession – An Interview With Producer George Litto

NEW Editing Obsession – An Interview With Editor Paul Hirsh

Obsession Revised – Vintage Featurette Featuring Interviews With Director Brian De Palma, Cliff Robertson, And Geneviève Bujold

Theatrical Trailer

Radio Spots

Still Gallery


If you pre-order from Shout! Factory, they are still offering "a FREE 18" X 24" ROLLED POSTER" featuring the new cover artwork by Sonny Day, although "due to a manufacturing delay," Shout! "can no longer guarantee early shipping on this title." The original poster art for Obsession will be included on the other side of the reversible sleeve.

The chapter on Obsession in Keesey's book, Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life In Film, delves into the highly intriguing biographical links between the film and De Palma's personal life:

Like Sandra, the young De Palma tended to idealize his mother and to demonize his father. If Michael, according to Elizabeth's diary, was "busy at work all day," so was De Palma's father. Elizabeth's feelings of abandonment ("sometimes I wonder if Mike loves me as much as his business") were then dealt a killing blow by the ultimate desertion-- his failure to pay the ransom money, which led to her death. Young Sandra felt equally deserted, sharing her mother's pain. We recall that it was Sandra's voice on the tape recording, pleading for her father to save them. As a result of his neglect, she vowed to get revenge and undertook a secret plot against Michael. As we know, De Palma's father compounded his workaholic "desertion" by sleeping with a nurse at the office, which led to a suicide attempt on the part of De Palma's mother. (She was saved by De Palma himself, who took her to the hospital.) De Palma then used the tape recorder his mother had given him for Christmas to try to avenge her, secretly capturing his father's phone conversations-- and later surreptitiously filming him-- to gather evidence of adultery so that his mother could divorce him. "I identify with the avenging child," De Palma once said in a direct comparison of himself to Sandra.

But the comparison doesn't stop there. Just as Sandra eventually realized how much her demonization of her father was due to Bob's manipulation of her to believe what he wanted her to believe-- the very worst about Michael's motives ("[He] just can't come up with the money, not for Elizabeth and not for you"), so De Palma came to see that "my mother had manipulated me": "My brothers and I had only had my mother's point of view, and she spoke of daddy as an outsider, leagued against us. She told us, 'He's the bad one; you, you're with me; blame him.'" In the children's eyes (Sandra's, De Palma's, and his brothers'), the father was as guilty and despised as the mother was innocent and idealized. (It is interesting to note that De Palma's brother Bart painted the portrait of Elizabeth that Sandra idolized.) However, both Sandra and De Palma later gained a more mature understanding to challenge their one-sided, childish perceptions of their fathers: "I gradually came to appreciate my father's point of view"; "in truth-- but I understood this only much later-- he was just a man who threw himself into his work so that he could forget his marriage troubles." Similarly, in Rebecca, Fontaine grows to understand that her husband/father figure Maxim isn't as demonic as she feared and her predecessor/mother figure Rebecca isn't as worthy of idolatry.

Posted by Geoff at 9:27 PM CST
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Tuesday, December 4, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/miabriandepalmafilm.jpgMoviefone's Phil Pirrello asks Christopher McQuarrie how he selects which clips to use in the opening titles of his two Mission: Impossible movies. "That's a really good question," McQuarrie responds. "If you look at the first Mission: Impossible -- Brian De Palma's -- he shows you every one of the characters that dies in the movie, in the order in which they die."

This is not exactly true -- De Palma's opening credits appear to mimic the opening credit sequences of the TV show it is based on, with the purpose of settling the audience into the idea that these characters are ours, the IMF, the team we are going to follow throughout the film. Little does the first-time viewer (especially in 1996) suspect that the film is going to pull that rug out, devastatingly, fairly early on. All that said, there are key shots included in De Palma's opening titles that do show the death-blows in close-up (the knife stabbed through the gate, or the computer keyboard stroke that controls parts in the elevator shaft), shortly after showing the respective characters that fall victim to those blows. It's not exactly in the same order in which they die in the movie, yet I think what McQuarrie is getting at is that the opening credit sequence cleverly shows these details without giving anything away.

"Yeah," McQuarrie continues to tell Pirrello, "if you watch it you'll see there's actually a storytelling motif going through it. I only noticed it around the time I was making Rogue and we were rewatching it and looking through those credits.

"I remember when, on Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird... he had a whole idea of shooting misdirections within his titles. Getting shots specifically for the opening titles that were slightly different -- from a different angle of a piece of action. And you learn very quickly you don't have time to get those. You're racing very quickly, always trying to beat the clock, and you run out of time. And what I did when I came to it was -- we found these guys called Filmograph -- an amazing video effects house in Los Angeles -- and they came and sent us two concepts for the titles [for Rogue]. And I liked both concepts so much, I said: "You know what? We're gonna use both concepts. One at the beginning, and one at the end." And they absolutely nailed it. They did it so well, they got two jobs out of it. And out of that, that's where we developed the 'curtain call.' The idea of seeing the characters come back at the end of the movie. And that was something unique to Rogue and then Fallout. In fact, it's the only connection -- stylistically -- that Fallout has in common with Rogue.

"So what we do -- [Editor] Eddie Hamilton and I -- we say to Filmograph: 'You tell the story back to us [in the opening titles].' And we give them the whole movie. And they take little clips and they throw things at us and we throw things back at them. And we more or less feel our way through it by the energy the images are giving off. And how they are juxtaposed. And we like to do at least one giveaway in the credits. We like to do one thing where we are tipping our hand a bit. If you're paying attention, there's a little bit of a spoiler in there."

Posted by Geoff at 10:36 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 10:41 PM CST
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Monday, December 3, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/rotwang1.jpgSomething about Hans-Christoph Blumenberg's Rotwang muß weg! (1994) must have impressed Brian De Palma, because he agreed to appear in the German satire, billed in the credits as the "famous American movie director." The film itself has always been hard-to-find, but I located the images included in this post at Zweitausendeins. The film, also known as To Hell With Rotwang! and just plain Rotwang, was described by Blumenberg as a "the first German recession comedy," as it was shot in only 13 days on a minimal budget, using private homes of cast and crew as locations. Described as an impetuous and irreverent farce about the German film industry, the film casts a big star, Armin Mueller-Stahl, as its title character, but saves money by never showing his face (he apparently narrates from the grave, from what I can gather, having not seen the film itself). Six years later, De Palma would cast Mueller-Stahl in an uncredited role as a NASA commander in Mission To Mars.

Rotwang also includes a scene that quotes Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and De Palma's The Untouchables with a pram on a stairwell in a park in which Rotwang's possible murderers (forgot to mention, as the movie opens, Rotwang has been shot dead, and he had many enemies) are lurking on their victim. The funny low-budget catch is that the screaming baby is actually a Sony tape recorder that is easily switched off. Rotwang also alludes to Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, but the dinosaurs are plastic. Elsewhere, actor Udo Kier complains to the director of his "harsh tone," Blumenberg consistently urges his actresses to bare their breasts for the camera, and the German voice-actor who usually dubs the voice of Woody Allen is sometimes heard giving off-screen stage directions. Receiving mostly positive reviews as a biting satire full of political tension and darkly absurd humor, the film was originally advertised with the tagline, "Monty Python meets the Red Army Faction."

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CST
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2018 5:12 PM CST
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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Robert De Niro was handed an honorary tribute award by none other than Martin Scorsese Saturday at the Marrakech International Film Festival. "We made our first film together, I think it was over 45 years ago... One of the great blessings of my life," said De Niro, according to an AFP report at France 24. The report adds that while handing De Niro the award, Scorsese joked, "What would this be? The mid-point of his career? It is probably more accurate to say the peak of his career but then this guy has more peaks than the Atlas mountains."

According to Variety's Elsa Keslassy, De Niro was fighting back tears while stating the above. Keslassy's report continues:

De Niro went on to draw parallels between his own Tribeca Film Festival and Marrakech Film Festival, both of which were born in 2001, “in the shadow of the tragic events of September 11” and have always strived to bring people together and – in the case of Marrakech fest – “serve as an inter-cultural bridge between nations.”

The Oscar-winning actor concluded his speech with a stringent criticism towards the current U.S. government.

“Sadly, in my country, we’re going through a period of grotesque version of nationalism. Not the kind of nationalism where we celebrate the quality and character of our diverse population; but rather a diabolic form of nationalism marked by greed, xenophobia and selfishness under the banner of ‘America First,'” said De Niro, who didn’t name the U.S. President in his speech.

“This stands in contrast with what brings us tonight. The arts don’t respect borders (…), the arts celebrate diversity, origins and ideas. Look at us here tonight we’re enjoying films from 29 countries; we’re united in our love for films and our common humanity,” added De Niro, drawing repeated ovations and cheers from the audience.

Scorsese introduced De Niro’s tribute with a moving, funny and vibrant speech in which he paid homage to actor’s “amazing body of work” before showing a sprawling and meticulous selection of clips – some of which were entire scenes — from De Niro’s films divided by themes cleverly titled “razor’s edge,” “touchable,” “lovestruck,” “once upon a time in America” and “king of comedy.”

Reflecting on De Niro’s unique talent, Scorsese said he had the “uncanny ability to get the viewer to empathize with some really horrific characters” and draw the viewer “to the humanity inside the monster.”

“Bob was in eight of my first 15 non-documentary features and we took on some pretty rough subjects in those pictures and Bob played some tough characters — psychopaths, sociopaths, every kind of paths you can think of (…) and he always conveys the audience not to judge.”

Scorsese also took the opportunity to pay homage to Bernardo Bertolucci. “He was and is and always will be a constant inspiration to me and I believe to so many others (…). I’m shocked and saddened about his passing.”

Both Scorsese and De Niro were greeted like rock stars by the Marrakech festival crowd and took time to sign autographs for locals outside of the gala venue.

On Sunday, there will be free open-air screenings of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables and Scorsese's Kundun on Marrakech’s Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Also on Sunday, Scorsese will present a masterclass at the festival.

The festival opened Friday night with a gala screening of At Eternity's Gate, presented by director/painter Julian Schnabel, along with co-writer and editor Louise Kugelberg and two actors from the film. Guillermo de Toro, who had conducted a Q&A with last month with Schnabel and star Willem Dafoe at the Body Double house in Hollywood Hills, was in attendance Friday, and will also present a masterclass at the festival.

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CST
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Sunday, November 25, 2018
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/phantomjoachimroncinsmall.jpgJoachim Roncin, who creates alternative movie posters at VideoClub, created this poster for Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. The poster is included in a new expo of Roncin's work that opened November 22nd, and runs through December 2nd at Paris' Galerie 121. "Even though I discovered very lately this movie," Roncin states on the VideoClub website, "I was in total shock with the art direction of the movie, the costume, the music, etc…"

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 26, 2018 12:17 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Once upon a time," Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh has said, "TONTO represented the cutting edge of artificial intelligence in the world of music." Created 50 years ago in 1968 by Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff, TONTO was and remains the largest synthesizer in the world, according to the National Music Center (NMC), which has just completed a restoration of the instrument. Winslow is seen prominently playing TONTO in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, although, as mentioned on The Swan Archives' Production page, we do not "hear sounds actually generated by TONTO in the film, where it's used only for its striking appearance."

TONTO is further described at The Swan Archives:

"It's a Series III Moog modular synthesizer, which Cecil expanded with modules from Moog, Arp, Oberheim, and others. It was used by Stevie Wonder on several albums, and is also heard on records by Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack, The Isley Brothers, Gil Scott-Heron and Weather Report, Steven Stills, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Little Feat, and Joan Baez. All those dials and jacks on the walls are actually part of the thing, and not some set-designer's fantasy."


"In 2013, the National Music Centre (NMC) acquired TONTO for their working musical instrument collection and the famous synthesizer was moved to Calgary to be restored for use," Beatroute's David Daley wrote ahead of TONTO Week. He continued:

In conjunction with the Alberta Electronic Music Festival, NMC is celebrating the completion of TONTO’s restoration with TONTO week, a series of events running November 14-18 that includes which include a rare screening of the cult film that helped make TONTO famous.

The Phantom of the Paradise is many things at once: a mind-bending horror film, rock opera, tragedy, love story, comedy and a cautionary tale for us mere mortals. There’s a reason why the movie ran almost constantly for a year in Winnipeg after it first opened and has earned permanent die-hard cult status around the world: it’s a damn good film.

Legendary director Brian DePalma both wrote and directed the story, drawing from the classic tales of Faust, The Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Grey. Rod Serling of the surreal TV show The Twilight Zone narrates an eerie introduction explaining how the music mogul Swan seeks the music to open his new rock palace “the Paradise” with: “..this film is the story of that search, of that sound, of the man who made it, the girl who sang it and the monster who stole it.”

Winslow Leach is a brilliant composer. Swan steals his masterpiece cantata and sends him to jail on false charges. Leach escapes from prison and is horribly injured and believed dead after he tries to destroy the pop-music pressings of the music swan stole from him. Things heat up when a lurking phantom kills the Paradise’s opening act “Beef” in a horrible onstage spectacle. The story get even stranger after that.

The diminutive Paul Williams (who also plays Swan in the film) wrote the music and lyrics for the soundtrack at the height of his song-writing career and each tune is quite successful on its own. Blistering rock performances by Swan’s musical incantation “The Undead” leave more than a few people chopped up afterwards. The chanteuse Phoenix sings a hauntingly beautiful love ballad after Beef is cooked alive onstage. Immediately an instant star, Phoenix is seduced by Swan which creates a love-triangle that doesn’t end well at all.

Don’t be thrown off by the movie’s campy 1970s aesthetic or apparent simplicity, this is a film lover’s film of the highest order with strong visual symbolism and a rich sub-text. It’s a dark parody and venomous critique of the star-making schemes of greedy producers and well worth seeing on the big screen. Love and death, hope and despair, doom and redemption all await the viewer in this unique rock and roll horror phantasy.


TONTO: The 50-Year Saga of the Synth Heard on Stevie Wonder Classics
by Martin Porter & David Goggin, Rolling Stone

It was during that same period that TONTO had its Hollywood close-up. TONTO and Record Plant Studio B are featured in several key scenes in Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult movie Phantom of the Paradise, in which a Phil Spector–like producer (Paul Williams), imprisons and drugs a tormented Phantom (of the Rock Opera) composer until he completes his rock cantata. For fans like Rod Warkentin, organizer of Winnipeg, Canada’s annual Phantompalooza festival and Facebook page, “TONTO is like another character in the movie.” Following the film’s storyline in which the Phantom’s composition is purloined by its producer, Cecil was never paid for the use of TONTO, based on an unfulfilled promise that he could contribute to the movie’s score.

Posted by Geoff at 5:44 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2018 5:46 PM CST
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