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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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« February 2019 »
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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
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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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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

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

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Guillotine

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italkyoubored

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EatSleepLiveFilm

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De Palma a la Mod
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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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Saturday, February 2, 2019
NICOLAS PESCE ON SPLIT-SCREENS IN 'PIERCING'
STEMMED FROM IDEA IN NOVEL OF HIDDEN PERSPECTIVES, & ALSO STYLISTICALLY CITES DE PALMA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/piercingsplit.jpgNicolas Pesce's Piercing opened yesterday in theaters and streaming on demand. It is Pesce's second feature, following his singularly strange and vivid feature debut from 2016, The Eyes Of My Mother. Piercing, which had its world premiere last year at Sundance, is an adaptation of a novel by Ryū Murakami, and stars Mia Wasikowska and Christopher Abbott. In a review at Rue Morgue, Shawn Macomber writes that the film "has the vibe of Brian De Palma co-directing with Michael Haneke and David Lynch. Piercing is menacing, darkly funny, subversive, grotesque, sexy, challenging, stimulating, immersive and monumentally fucking weird."

In a discussion with The Film Stage's Mike Mazzanti, Pesce mentions De Palma as he talks about the development of the split screens used in Piercing:
There are visual components in both The Eyes of My Mother and Piercing that speak to a kind of slow cinema interest; they’re very observational at times. When you’re prepping a film, do you look to bring specific aesthetic sensibilities to each script you write, or does it first depend on the story and the material and what they require?

It starts off as whatever pops into my head. I sort of have a mental library of movie moments that are perpetually collaged, whether that’s to contextualize movies, or my own life, or my own movies. So, I think that it starts with whatever naturally comes to me—as I’m writing it, reading it, whatever—and then once I know what it looks like in my head I start realizing more where those references are coming from. Sometimes I’m not aware of it, but by the time we were making Piercing, I knew we were making a giallo movie.

Going off of that, this feeling of the commonplace is counteracted by the viscera and the sense of psychopathy in the air from Reed.

Yep.

Which is punctuated by the sharp cutting. While violence and observation are far from being mutually exclusive, they create an interesting dichotomy in Piercing, and sometimes an emotional detachment or distance. How do you go about balancing these visual and conceptual ideas during prep and also in the edit?

It’s really on a case-by-case basis. I think something that’s always been fun for me about filmmaking is that there’s always been a level of experimentation to it. There’s always discoveries that come during every stage. There’s this idea that starts in the book; you’re in their perspectives but you don’t actually know what’s going on.

So, for each character, the things that are going on in their heads are drastically different. So, I thought, how could we communicate these two worlds, but together in the same place, but so disconnected? So, very quickly I was thinking split-screen. Part of it is stylistic—I love Brian De Palma, and he dealt very much in the wheelhouse of what we were doing—but it also conceptually tied in really nicely, this kind of idea of contrasting views of the same thing.

So, we had always known that split-screens were going to be an element of the movie. But initially, it was only planned for the one sequence with Reed on the phone with his wife. And, as we were editing, we were like, this does work the way we wanted it to—where can we find other places to do it? And so, the two other places are key character moments; the first is where Jackie and Reed meet for the first time, and we’re showing how different their lead-ups are to the same moment.

Then, at another moment, Jackie and Reed finally think they’re on the same page—they’re flirting on the couch, they both think they know what’s going on, and they’re both with it—and there’s a moment where something is off, and they both don’t know what’s wrong but they realize they’re on the same page, and we jump back to split screen again. So, you have to find techniques that play into the stylistic choices that you’re trying to make, but it also has to be an element that’s helping the narrative or at least the emotion along, as well.


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2019 12:35 AM CST
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Friday, February 1, 2019
'PHANTOM' HOMAGE - NEW KING GIZZARD & LIZARD WIZARD
VIDEO FOR 'CYBOOGIE' DIRECTED BY JASON GALEA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cyboogie1.jpgThe staff at Brooklyn Vegan notes that the video for the new song by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Cyboogie, "pays homage to Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult favorite Phantom of the Paradise. The video was directed by Jason Galea.


Posted by Geoff at 2:48 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 30, 2019
PIPER DE PALMA MAKES FEATURE DEBUT AT SLAMDANCE
ALEC TIBALDI WROTE 'SPIRAL FARM' ROLE SPECIFICALLY FOR HER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/spiralfarm.jpgPiper De Palma, daughter of Brian De Palma, makes her feature film debut in Spiral Farm, which had its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival this past weekend. The film was written and directed by Alec Tibaldi, who wrote the lead role of 17-year-old Anahita specifically for Piper. "I had worked with Piper on my first two short films," Tibaldi tells Scott Iwasaki at The Park Record, "which were first times for both of us. They were her first time acting and my first time directing." Regarding Spiral Farm, Tibaldi tells Iwasaki that Piper "was influential in creating this character. She and I had conversations about what she could bring to the role before the script was written. Because this is her first feature, it felt like she was taking a chance with me and I was taking a chance with her. I really had to trust my instincts, which told me she would be great. But there were moments when I would doubt myself."

Reviewing Spiral Farm for Film Threat, Paul Parcellin writes, "Piper De Palma, daughter of director Brian De Palma, gives a lovely, wistful performance as the introverted Anahita, who struggles to break free from her roots and find her place in the world."

Slug Magazine's Makenna Sutter-Robinson includes many details about the film in her review:

The film Spiral Farm explores betrayal, passion and sensuality as it occurs in and around the life of 17-year-old Anahita, living on Spiral Farm Commune with her family. The film begins with a meditation involving the commune members, which appears to be no more than 10 people. Though they discuss their intentional, generous way of being, they also make an ambiguous statement about outsiders being unhappy with their way of life. It is clear that Anahita is not as invested in the practice as those around her, and this uninterested, reserved demeanor remains constant through the entire film.

Later in the day, she finds her unstable mother with a man she used to date and his teenage son, Theo, who steps into the frame with obvious charm, drawing the attention of Anahita. Frustrated that her mother has invited them to a ceremony that night, Anahita goes on with her daily responsibilities, which include taking care of her sister’s child, Ocean. Later, when the family questions Anahita’s virginity and joke with her about the attractive stranger, the sexual nature by which the film is driven surfaces. After drinking a seductive herbal elixir, the introspective, self-betterment ceremony becomes something like a sexual revelry, and her best friend sleeps with Theo. The conflict of desire and denial within Anahita becomes apparent.

The family dynamics are complicated, revolving around Anahita’s sister as she travels between the commune and the city, and Anahita’s mother, who is uncomfortably sexual and uniquely detached from reality. A conflict between her mother and sister grows as her sister’s desire to get off Spiral Farm and move her son to the city actualizes—however, Anahita ends up following in her footsteps with dreams of moving to the city to pursue dancing. Neither her sister nor her mother believe that she is capable of leaving, and the internal debate that arises when she overhears this in a conversation, mixed with the navigation of her feelings for Theo, drives the rest of the film.

What begins as a perceived romance in the intentionally compassionate community becomes convoluted with her mother’s instability and the deterioration of her sister’s commitment to Spiral Farm. When Theo finds out that Anahita dances, he takes her into the city for an audition. They decide to spend the night in a motel, but what initially begins as a pursuit is returned with a cold, unassuming distance. This sort of climax without any real resolution repeats, taking varying forms, throughout the film.

Director Alec Tibaldi parallels the intimacy of the story with the way it is captured. Focusing each shot with undeniable intention and stretching time with a great deal of silence, the film is experienced as both a work of art and a candid view of Anahita’s life as she grows and hurts. Working with specially curated music, Tibaldi builds a soundscape perfectly matched with the eerie moments and the dreamy.

At times, the evolution of relationships felt unnatural, however, this was also fitting to the vibe of the film in its resting place of a commune. Tibaldi captures an odd simplicity in bad faith, and works to uncover the paradoxical elements of an attempted utopia. Spiral Farm has the ability to haunt you with its relevance and leave you in amazement with its nuanced imagery and simple, unexpected beauty.


Posted by Geoff at 9:26 PM CST
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Friday, January 25, 2019
WORD ON 'DOMINO' - 2019
U.S. RELEASE COMING, OTHER COUNTRIES TO FOLLOW, MORE INFO AFTER BERLINALE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dominocarwindow2.jpg

According to producer Els Vandevorst, Brian De Palma's Domino will be released later this year. The film has been sold to an as-yet-unnamed U.S. distributor, "and later on will be released in several different countries, including the co-production countries," Vandevorst stated in an email to De Palma a la Mod. No precise dates can be provided yet, but Vandevorst expects they will announce them "soon after the Berlinale."

Posted by Geoff at 8:24 AM CST
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Monday, January 21, 2019
2 WRITERS DISCUSS STYLE & POLITICS OF 'RAISING CAIN'
AT ALCOHOLLYWOOD, LOOKS AT ORIGINAL THEATRICAL VERSION AS WELL AS THE RE-CUT
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/raisingcainbanner.jpg

"In anticipation of M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, two writers go back and forth on the style and politics of Brian De Palma’s multiple-personality thriller Raising Cain." Thus goes the introduction to a post at AlcoHollywood from last week, with the headline, "Of Two Minds: Dissociating Ourselves from Raising Cain." The two writers are Gena Radcliffe and Chris Ludovici, with the latter's words in italics, in order for the reader to differentiate between the two as they go back and forth.

"Brian De Palma’s movies aren’t about sense, they’re about emotions," Ludovici states early on. "His movies are visually opulent and voyeuristic, they’re about watching people do things, and what they do is betray one another. From his personal passion projects to his massive studio blockbusters the issue of trust and how it’s impossible appears again and again."

Looking at the original theatrical version of Raising Cain, Radcliffe states, "It’s rare to find a movie that would benefit from being longer, but Raising Cain could have used another twenty or even thirty minutes. It’s edited down to within an inch of its life so that the entire plot confusingly feels like it takes place on the same day. Key elements are explained rather than shown, and the characters are thinly drawn, verging on stereotypes — the wisecracking cops, the concerned best friend, the handsome love interest, the German-accented psychiatrist. Jenny is an aggressively off-putting 'heroine,' and all we really know about her is that she’s a doctor who had an affair with a dying patient’s husband, kissing him right in the hospital room. We don’t even really know much about Carter, other than he has multiple personalities, and is hyper-focused on his young daughter, in a way that could be unhealthy, but who can say for sure, because it’s never explored."

"MOSTLY JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT," SHE SAYS

Radcliffe later continues:

Still, it can’t be emphasized enough that John Lithgow makes a feast of his roles, playing sinister, sympathetic, campy, and compelling all at the same time. The scenes when Carter’s "twin” Cain mocks him are both funny and tragic, in a “Gollum looking at himself in the water” way. De Palma’s love of Hitchcock-style imagery serves this movie particularly well, a good reminder that you’re not watching anything that’s supposed to be a realistic depiction of DID. Raising Cain isn’t a bad movie, it’s just confounding, an interesting premise that needed more structure, and more fleshing out.

And, as it turns out, there’s a twist in the making of the movie itself.

The strange pacing and editing were a last-minute decision for De Palma after the original cut tested poorly with audiences. Why anyone thought that a psychological thriller would work better if it was harder to follow is unknown, but that’s how it was released, much to De Palma’s regret. Twenty years after Raising Cain was released, a filmmaker from the Netherlands, mostly just for the hell of it, recut the film so that it more closely resembled the original script. Nothing was added or taken away, scenes were merely moved around so that the plot was somewhat more linear. The recut got back to De Palma, who was so pleased with it that he petitioned to have it added to the 2016 Blu-Ray release, claiming that it was the way the movie was always meant to be seen.

In the interest of good journalism (and because I had to see if it really did improve whatever the hell is supposed to be happening), I watched the recut, and you know what? It actually works pretty well. It opens with Jenny reconnecting with Jack, and her bizarre excitement over the prospect of cheating on her husband, which is reminiscent of Dressed to Kill, though she doesn’t pay for it in quite so gruesome a fashion as Angie Dickinson does in the earlier movie. The gauzily lit, soap operatic “lovers reunited” plot ends with a flashback of Jack’s terminally ill wife seeing them kiss and literally dying instantly, providing a delightfully effective bridge from romantic melodrama to psychological thriller.

After about the 45-minute mark, the “director’s cut” more or less follows the theatrical cut. While the movie still, in the end, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it no longer quite feels like being thrown into the deep end of a pool without a life preserver. Not having to focus so much on trying to figure out what’s happening (it’s safe to assume that probably about 45% of it is only occurring in Carter’s fractured mind) allows plenty of opportunity to really see just how great John Lithgow is. He’s not just sad and a little scary, he’s hilarious, abruptly changing his facial expressions from “evil” to “innocent” in some scenes like he’s a human Looney Tunes character. It’s obviously an intentional choice, and even better when compared to how straight all the other actors play their roles. Lithgow is at his best when playing perhaps the most dangerous personality, “Margo,” who says nothing, smiles sweetly, and headbutts old ladies; regrettably she doesn’t show up until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. If Raising Cain still feels too short, it’s simply because we don’t get enough of Lithgow taking a potentially touchy subject matter and brilliantly, gleefully, riding it into camp oblivion.


Meanwhile, interspersed with Radcliffe's words, Ludovici continues to describe the autobiographical aspects of De Palma's work:
There’s a war raging inside of Brian De Palma. As a child he won a regional science fair by building his own computer, he went to college to study physics before being seduced by filmmaking. His best films and sequences have an almost clockwork construction, they’re known for their long uninterrupted takes that suggest fascination but also distance. His movies are often simultaneously horrific and clinical in a way that suggest a bloodless, pitiless scientist running rats through a lethal maze.

But that intelligent, scientifically minded child had a chaotic home. His father (a respected Philadelphia doctor) was a serial adulterer and the young De Palma followed him around and photograph him with various women, he even created a time-lapse camera so that he could stake various locations out without being there. Once, he threatened his father with a knife after ambushing him and one of his conquests at his office.

That tension between the thoughtful intellectual and the furious adolescent is the fuel that makes De Palma’s work go. And it changes the purpose of detached distance that he also seems to take from his subjects too. Maybe he doesn’t hold his subjects at arm’s length because he doesn’t care about what happens to them; maybe it’s because he doesn’t trust what he would do if he got too close.

At their core, his DID movies are about how, at the end of the day, we also can’t really trust ourselves. We might think we’re better and more knowledgeable than the people around us, but we’re not even safe from ourselves. There are no safe places in Brian De Palma’s world – not even inside our own minds.


Read the whole thing at AlcoHollywood.

Posted by Geoff at 12:15 AM CST
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Saturday, January 19, 2019
McQUARRIE TWEET - WATCHING 'UNTOUCHABLES' TONIGHT
'CAPONE RISING' CO-SCREENWRITER KOPPELMAN KNOWS "EVERY SHOT & LINE BY HEART"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/untouchablesmemories.jpg

Christopher McQuarrie on Twitter tonight:
Tonight’s #RedWineCinema:

Brian De Palmas’ The Untouchables


Shortly afterward, McQuarrie added, "An extraordinary intro to a villain contrasting a hero ill-equipped to prevail."

Brian Koppelman, co-screenwriter of the unproduced Untouchables prequel Capone Rising, responded to McQuarrie's initial tweet: "I know every shot and line by heart."

The Nerdy Hub then challenged both of them: "What is the last line of the movie without checking google (even though I can’t check to see if you did or didn’t lmao)".

McQuarrie responded, "Probably have a drink", and then Koppelman added, "'I know some of you take a drink' earlier in the movie is such a great Mamet characterization though language."


Posted by Geoff at 10:49 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 19, 2019 10:58 PM CST
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RAPACE TELLS OF CLASHING WITH DE PALMA ON 'PASSION'
DE PALMA FROM LAST JUNE: "SHE REFUSED TO PLAY CERTAIN SCENES THE WAY I ASKED HER"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/passionvenice2.jpgWith a new movie (Vicky Jewson's Close) world premiering on Netflix yesterday, Entertainment Weekly's Shirley Li talked to star Noomi Rapace about five of "her most badass roles" (Rapace plays a tough-as-nails bodyguard in the new film). One of the five movies in the article is Brian De Palma's Passion:
In Brian De Palma’s hypnotic drama, Rapace plays a woman who—six-year-old spoiler alert!—murders her boss. Production, the actress admits, was just as dramatic in some ways. “He’s more old-school, so sometimes we clashed,” Rapace says of working with De Palma. “It was an interesting, turbulent journey.”

De Palma himself discusses his difficulties working with Rapace in the 2017 revised edition of Brian De Palma: entretiens avec Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud (published by Carlotta Films), and was asked about it last June by Le Point's Philippe Guedj. "Ha! My worst memory since Cliff Robertson in Obsession," De Palma said to Guedj. "She refused to play certain scenes the way I asked her. In general, when I deal with this kind of reluctance, I shoot two versions, one in my own way and another in the actor's way. But there she obstinately refused to follow my instructions. I had to constantly be extra cunning to achieve my goals. I will never work with her again and I pity the next director who will hire her."

Despite all of this, as can be seen from the photo above, De Palma and Rapace remained respectful enough of each other to promote Passion and hang out together at its Venice premiere in 2012.


Posted by Geoff at 1:04 PM CST
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Thursday, January 17, 2019
DEL TORO DONATES 35MM 'PHANTOM' PRINT TO NEW BEV
RIAN JOHNSON & EDGAR WRIGHT POST RESPONSES TO GUILLERMO'S TWEET
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/phantomrageinred.jpg

Earlier today, Guillermo del Toro tweeted the image above with the following message:
I love this film (Phantom of the Paradise) so much that I bought a great 35mm print. I then donated it to the @newbeverly cinema. Hopefully they'll program it soon!

Rian Johnson then responded, "I have never seen this movie and am waiting until I can see it on the big screen. Soooooo....."

And then Edgar Wright jumped in: "But how many times have I gone on about?"

Rian Johnson: "I blame you for all of this."

Edgar Wright: "My first ever programming at the @newbeverly was a double bill of Bugsy Malone & Phantom Of The Paradise with a @IMPaulWilliams Q&A (and a secret midnight of Ishtar). I'm not sure I ever topped it."

New Bevery Cinema to Rian Johnson: "This is very exciting to hear! I can’t imagine a better way to see it for the first time."

(The New Beverly, of course, is owned by Quentin Tarantino, but I don't know who tweets on the New Bev's behalf.)

Aaron Stewart-Ahn, co-screenwriter of last year's Mandy, responded to del Toro's initial tweet, writing, "The Academy archival print is so effin gorgeous and such a highlight of how prints even of films from that era and stocks can hold saturation and inky blacks." Stewart-Ahn also retweeted del Toro's tweet, adding, "One of the most underrated movies ever."


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2019 12:15 AM CST
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Sunday, January 13, 2019
JOHN ORTIZ TELLS COLLIDER HIS 'CARLITO'S WAY' STORY
RECALLS PACINO'S KINDNESS - "HE WENT OUT OF HIS WAY TO MAKE SURE I WAS TAKEN CARE OF"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carlitoswaycousin.jpg

In a video interview to promote the new movie Replicas, John Ortiz is asked by Collider's Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub about Ortiz' first film, Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way:
Frosty: You’re someone who, I’ve admired your work for a very long time. I believe it goes back to Carlito’s Way. So, I want to definitely jump back in time… what do you remember about making that one? Because to me, every time it comes on HBO or whatever, I’m, like, hooked.

Ortiz: Yeah, that was my first movie. Ever. And what I remember was, a kid… a kid in a candy shop. I was working with Al Pacino. And Sean Penn. And Viggo Mortensen. And Brian De Palma. And I was just… whenever you saw me smile in that movie? That was real. [Laughs out loud.] I was like, [laughs and grins] This is great!

Frosty: I would imagine working with that level of talent has to rub off a little on just the way you present, the way you work in future gigs. Just learning from masters like that.

Ortiz: Yeah.

Frosty: Do you remember what you took away from that experience that you said, “I need to be like this in the future.”

Ortiz: Yeah, you know, the one big—I learned a lot. A lot of stuff. The one big thing that to this day I’ll never forget, is Al Pacino’s kindness towards me. Like he went out of his way to make sure I was taken care of. And he would run lines with me, he would ask me how I was doing, when things weren’t quite working out on set, he would make sure that I was aware of certain things, and that I was protected. And he didn’t have to do that, he was nominated for two Oscars that year. And he was Al Pacino.

And yeah, there was one incident where I was almost cut out of a scene, because I couldn’t keep my eyes closed. And they were blinking from too much caffeine. And it was messing up the shot. And so Brian was going to kind of just skim over me, onto him. And it was my death scene. It was my moment. And Pacino knew that. And I was up for 23 hours straight, so I was on espresso the whole time. So I was literally shaking. You know, I couldn’t stop it. And that’s what was causing my eyes to flicker. And De Palma said, “Okay, we’ll just go over,” [motions imaginary camera panning] and Al needed to take a flight to L.A., for the Academy Awards. And it was like, you know, an hour before his flight or something. And he (De Palma) was like, “No, I’ll just skim over and we’ll just get the shot.” And he (Pacino) cleared the room, kept me there, and he said, “I want everyone out.” And I was like, about to leave, and he was [come-back motions with his hands] “No, stay, stay, I’m just going to have an espresso. I just needed everyone out of the room.” And I’m like, [worried face, inner thoughts] “All right. What the hell am I doing here, then?” He’s like, “Do you want an espresso?” [Laughter with Frosty] And I was like, “Yeah! Yeah, sure.” I did not want an espresso, you know, but you’re never going to turn down Al Pacino’s espresso. So I had an espresso with him. I don’t know what we talked about, but it seemed like hours went by. And he called everyone back in, did the scene, and my eyes didn’t flicker. And he left. And yeah—that’s the lesson I take away from that movie.

Frosty: That’s an amazing story, and I say thank you for sharing. Seriously.

Ortiz: That’s the first time I’ve said this story on camera. I’ve told friends this story, but… it took me like ten years to tell that story to anyone, just because I held it so close to my heart.


Posted by Geoff at 11:28 PM CST
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Saturday, January 12, 2019
SAOIRSE RONAN ON PERIOD SCENES & 'CARRIE'
AND 'MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS' DIRECTOR HAD TO FIGHT TO INCLUDE "A PERIOD IN A PERIOD MOVIE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carrieperiod.jpgSaoirse Ronan discusses her new film, Mary Queen of Scots, in a profile piece written by Erica Wagner at Harper's Bazaar:
In the film, Mary’s womanhood may not completely define her: yet one aspect is strikingly on display. We see the Scottish Queen get her period, staining her white shift; the ladies-in-waiting clean her, and the cloths they rinse swirl blood into a bowl of water. I’ve only ever recalled menstruation being referenced in Brian de Palma’s Carrie – not the most positive example, I offer. Ronan disagrees, and argues that the sense of shame that still surrounds this everyday aspect of women’s lives should be removed. ‘What’s genius about Carrie is that it shows what it feels like when you have your period for the first time,’ she says. ‘When I watched it as a teen with my mam, I’d already had my period for a few years, but if I hadn’t known what it was, I’d have thought I was dying. And that’s why it needs to be talked about.’

Mary, of course, is only one of the impressive roster of powerful women Ronan has embodied in her career. Her role as Briony in the film version of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement gained her an Oscar nomination when she was 13. Since then she has given one riveting performance after another: as Eilis in Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn; as the heroine of Lady Bird; in On Chesil Beach, another McEwan adaptation. And she made her Broadway debut in 2016 playing Abigail in Ivo van Hove’s acclaimed production of The Crucible.

‘From a purely selfish point of view, I’ve always wanted to play characters who are well-rounded and interesting and smart, or who are intelligently written,’ she says. ‘And because that’s what I’ve always wanted to get out of it, the films end up reflecting that. They’re the only roles I want to play. Even when I was a kid, I knew I didn’t just want to play “the sister”, or “the girlfriend”, or “the secretary”. That was always a priority for me, to play someone who –even if they were only in a few scenes – really had something to them.’

It’s clear she doesn’t have much time for the notion that films with women in them are ‘women’s movies’. In part, I think that’s because – blessedly – she is of a generation that’s moved past such regressive ideas, although she knows there’s still some ground to cover. ‘With Lady Bird,’ she says earnestly, ‘the amount of guys who would come up to me – and I had it with Brooklyn as well – and be like, “I’m not usually into films like that, but ah... I really liked that, and I even cried a little bit because I loved it so much”. And I’m like,“What kind of films do you mean?” Of course, they mean female-led movies. But the thing is, whether there’s a girl or a boy leading it, Lady Bird is about someone preparing to leave home. That’s it. And the more specific you can make it to one person's experience, the more universal it will be.'


Meanwhile, The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins recently posted an interview with Mary Queen of Scots director Josie Rourke, which delves into the pushback Rourke received from producers, who wanted her to cut the period scene from the film:
The film has much to say about bodies: about the queens’ different calculations about marriage and producing an heir; about the violence done to women by men; about sexual pleasure; about physical closeness between women friends; about clothing as a projection of power and desirability. When I last saw Rourke, several months previously, she had been arguing with producers over the edit. She wanted to include scenes that showed Mary having her period, and another that showed her being given oral sex.

“I was fighting for a period in a period movie,” she says. “Those were instructive discussions about how honest we were being about women’s bodies and what they do, women’s pleasure and what that is, and a queen’s body as a political canvas. I felt that was something I hadn’t seen before, that I just really wanted to show. There are not many of us who know what it feels like to be a crowned head of Europe – but what we do know is what it’s like to fight for the rights of our bodies.”

She got her way in the end: the scenes are still there. “We need to show this stuff. It does need normalising. A journalist asked me how hard it was to shoot the scene where Mary has her period, and my answer was, ‘Not hard at all!’ There were six women in that room, and it was probably the thing that just most easily staged itself. But it does continue to freak some people out.”

As for the cunnilingus scene, Rourke did not employ an intimacy director – a safeguarding role increasingly being discussed in the performing arts. Rather, she worked with the choreographer Wayne McGregor, who was movement director for the film. “I don’t think I’ve ever done a sex scene without a movement director, without treating it as a piece of choreography,” she says. “I hope the sex scenes feel truthful and alive. To think in a language of movement helps remove embarrassment, discomfort or shame.”


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2019 12:33 AM CST
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