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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

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Carrie...A Fan's Site


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a la Mod

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a la Mod

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Greetings & Hi, Mom!

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De Palma a la Mod

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A review embargo lifted yesterday morning, and Domino reviews have been popping up since. Here are some links:

Nick Newman, The Film Stage

So: Domino. The latest from Brian De Palma hits film culture not unlike a moody son trudging to their graduation party at a parent’s behest, a master of big-screen compositions relegated to VOD for those who bother plunking down. That tussle between pedigree of talent and nature of distribution foretells the chaos within: at one moment lit like a Home Depot model living room–a fault I’m more willing to chalk up to incomplete post-production, less likely to blame on Pedro Almodóvar’s longtime DP José Luis Alcaine–the next photographed and cut as if an old pros’ sumptuous fuck-you to pre-vis-heavy and coverage-obsessed action-filmmaking climate, the next maybe just an assembly of whatever master shots the team could scrounge together during those 30 production days. To these eyes it’s a chaotic joy; nearly malicious, deeply serious about the wounds of contemporary terrorism, and smart enough to pull off a mocking of the circumstances around those fighting it.

I have seen Domino twice and express little reservation saying its plot, courtesy of scribe Petter Skavlan, rests somewhere between formalist window dressing and outright catalyst for those plug-and-play habits. Be even a little versed in De Palma and you know what’s to come: God’s-eye (or director’s; same difference) surveillance shots, split screens as an actual plot device, a melodramatic thread over which to lay molasses-thick Pino Donaggio cues treating much of this as a big joke; the plot-setting incident being yet another assault on a stairwell.

Make no mistake, it’s mostly staged for campiness. More often than not that De Palma touch is zooming in on the specter of terrorism until it can find something ridiculous, heightened, thrilling in their possibilities. The rub is that Domino comes into a world with too many scarring reflections of itself to sit right. How amusing that a director so fascinated with the voyeurism-violence dichotomy would make a terrorist thriller about insurgents using the power of propaganda. Its own protagonist (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, carrying a blankness that lets every expression running across his face draw the movie’s emotions in even bigger lines) makes note of their formal sophistication: “even a drone shot!” But the movie’s high-wire act between gawking and actually showing can suddenly yank any fun from our grasp. Safe to say that watching Domino less than a month after the livestreamed Christchurch massacre–among the best warning signs of how deep into horror our world’s being brought–makes for one of De Palma’s few setpieces wherein aesthetic pleasure stings like sin.

Robert Kojder, Flickering Myth
For a film mired in production troubles (apparently, the crew were only able to shoot 30 days/100 and were gipped out of some serious funds), Domino is… good. More than anything, it’s a testament to how strong of a filmmaker Brian De Palma is and remains to this day, overcoming numerous hurdles to present 89 minutes (cut down from a little over two hours, for better or worse) of lean crowd-pleasing thrills grounded in revenge and ISIS hunting...

Like everything else preceding it, the finale is simply awesome, combining realistic threats with outrageously gnarly violence baked into personal vendettas that come to a head. Unfortunately, for as impressively technically crafted Brian De Palma’s film is, it’s painfully obvious that story beats are not as fleshed out as desired and that material was indeed left on the cutting room floor (and I’m willing to bet it has something to do with being screwed over doing shooting rather than creative liberties), but what’s here is undeniably sound and compelling. Domino is a short and sweet suspenseful terrorism thriller teaming up a pair of Game of Thrones stars, that also isn’t afraid to linger on the monster that is ISIS. The violence is enjoyable but not without important real-world parallels, which could have resulted in a bold misfire if not in the hands of a veteran like Brian De Palma. More impressively, it looks and sounds incredible.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker
De Palma displays glimmers of imaginative energy in images like those that have graced his films for half a century, including tense crane shots and jangling split screens, but the political intrigue is stale and stereotyped, the characters might as well be windup toys, and the gore is repulsive and gratuitous.

Niles Schwartz, Slant Magazine
Early in Brian De Palma’s Domino, Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) wakes at daybreak and tries to roll out of the arms of his lover. The camera peers down at the detective and ever so slowly zooms in on his bed. Soon it becomes apparent that the camera isn’t even interested in the happy couple, but the gun set off to the side. Here as much as ever, De Palma has fun flexing his formal acumen, building a foundation of suspense with the camera and its subject, portending how Christian, once he manages to get his clothes on, will forget to pack heat, setting into motion a, yes, domino-like chain of mishaps.

De Palma would appear to be on familiar terrain with Domino, what with its deliriously extended set pieces, morally ambivalent characters, and smattering of references to his beloved Hitchcock (specifically to Vertigo and To Catch a Thief), with some self-reflexive commentary on the moving image thrown in for good measure. But De Palma has voiced his disfavor with the making of the film, whose production at one point was in danger of being closed down because of funding problems. So, while Domino superficially feels of a piece with what we’ve come to expect from the master filmmaker, it leaves one with the sense, as we’re wheeled from one set piece to the next, that so much texture that could have been extended to the characters’ interrelationships was probably never allowed to come to fruition.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club - SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
There are plenty of classic De Palma ingredients to be found in Domino, his first feature since 2013’s Passion: the Hitchcock quotations (including, once again, a sequence cribbed from Vertigo); the side-eyed look at American power; the dual fascinations with surveillance and helplessness. But regrettably, the movie—a troubled production that’s being released under the ignominious tagline “Murder can lead to deadlier crimes”—ranks somewhere near the bottom tier of his filmography. If Passion, an over-the-top remake of Alain Cavalier’s chilly corporate thriller Love Crime, felt like a “for the fans” effort by a director who had effectively been exiled from Hollywood after a string of expensive flops, Domino is the sort of stiff auteur workout that even a De Palma nut might struggle to defend—never anonymous, but shockingly plodding for a movie that barely passes the 80-minute mark before the end credits begin to roll.

Stephen Witty, Screen Daily - SPOILER HERE, TOO
There are some flashes of the famous De Palma artistry here – the first action sequence, in which a domestic-violence investigation goes horribly wrong, has carefully built tension and the requisite nods to Hitchcock; in this case the opening to Vertigo. The finale has some sharp cross-cutting, too. Sometimes the screen is split into halves, even quarters, for multiple, simultaneous images; some scenes are washed in bold, primary colors.

The new world of social media also underlines De Palma’s career-long fascination with voyeurism, as we see people watching each other on phones, internet videos, security-cam footage. Nothing is real unless it’s recorded. Nothing is experienced except at a distance.

Yet as the Copenhagen cop on a quest, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is more dull than dogged, never establishing any on-screen connection with his temporary partner, the vulnerable Carice van Houton. Guy Pearce provides some cynical shadows as the CIA man – and probably could provide more, if De Palma gave him any closeups. But instead he’s half-forgotten.

Much of the film has a similarly unfinished look. (De Palma has already complained, publicly, about the low budget.) Sequences that should be stand-outs – an attack on a film festival, an assault at that bull ring – fizzle due to cramped quarters and an obvious lack of extras. Too many scenes consist of Coster-Waldau and van Houton simply driving around.

The film, though, does make plenty of time for its terrorists, who pray as they piece together bombs and coldly assign assassins. Those details are expected, perhaps, even necessary, in a film whose villains are ISIS members. But Domino practically revels in the scenes (one of which it even reprises, as a kind of warning, before the final credits). Add to that a hero named “Christian,” and it feels as if the film’s real subject isn’t Islamic terror but terror of Islam.

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 28, 2019 11:50 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Howard S. Berger, who contributed mightlily to Arrow's "De Niro & De Palma" box set last year, shared his thoughts about Brian De Palma's Domino in a Facebook post earlier today:
DOMINO is De Palma’s everything-all-at-once. A perfect end-cap to his trilogy (REDACTED, PASSION, now DOMINO) of satires dealing with the advancement in technology in media, ease of content distribution, the basic immorality of that content and the ultimate price society (viewer and filmmaker alike) will pay for buying into that corruption. It’s Jon Rubin’s (DeNiro in De Palma’s GREETINGS and HI MOM!) dream of terrorist infiltration and usurpation and ultimate destruction of society through the media. Samuel Fuller’s notion that “film is a battleground” validated for the 21st century. I found DOMINO both comfortable and discomforting. It’s always a joy to see De Palma dismantle the expectations of “mainstream commercial film” audiences and, with this film, he is, if anything, more contemptuous and hostile towards them than previous. A dash of VERTIGO, a sprinkle of TORN CURTAIN and a trickle of - gulp - BEYOND THERAPY (?!?!?) - washes of UNTOUCHABLES and CARRIE and BLACK DAHLIA amongst the greatest hits used to a fairly amusing and bemusing extent. I’m sure this film will continue to piss off, disappoint, depress anyone who still believes that De Palma owes them their idea of a De Palma film. I’m braced for the derisive howls. But the crescendo of failed expectations will be a symphony in testament to the director’s carefully, contemptuously, constructed cautionary message to the masses. I can only hope that De Palma lives long enough to make twenty more features — but — I have to say — this would make one smashing, logical conclusion to one of the most consistent, complex, careers of one of the most devoted satirists working in cinema today. It’s a pitch black, hilarious hoot.

In a special feature on that Arrow set from last year, Berger zeros in on Jon Rubin as the ghost, essentially, in De Palma's cinematic machine. Speaking about Hi, Mom!, Berger says:
Forget about the plot. When he reads from The Urban Guerilla, direct, like he did in Greetings, when he's reading from the book on voyeurism, I see this removed from the plot. And the plot is, you know, threadbare to begin with. You're formulating your own idea of what the plot really is. It's a fragment. These are fragments. So, you're abstracted from this continuity of daily life, in a story, in a narrative framework. You're in a more Godardian sort of blackout skit, sort of satiric thing. And what he does in Hi, Mom! when he reads from The Urban Guerilla, I believe, is... De Palma's basically stating to the audience that he is a cinematic terrorist. He's going to assimilate into society as a respectable mainstream director. He's going to do commercial, accessible mainstream, genre film assignments. He attempted to do this with Get To Know Your Rabbit, but it was almost fortunate that that was a disaster for him, both personally and, I guess, commercially, because Sisters is where, it's sort of like, there's this little gap, between Hi, Mom! and Sisters, of a couple of years. And when Sisters emerges, it is a superficial veneer of a Hitchcockian commercial horror film. From that moment on, he goes step-by-step into this plan that Jon Rubin, in metaphor, states outright that he wants to do in Hi, Mom! He wants to assimilate into the culture, on its own level, appear to function as a commercial, mainstream, successful director of individual distinct talent, or whatever-- he contributes to the pool, and then he will level it in the most subversive way possible. And that's with his touches of satire. And that's consistent, from the beginning of his career to the ending of his career. He is one of the few directors where I can actually say I almost hesitate to judge critically any one film that he's made, because they all contribute so strongly to an overall cinematic worldview.

Posted by Geoff at 2:30 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 26, 2019 9:00 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Richard Shepard's The Perfection hit Netflix yesterday amidst highly positive reviews, and many people saying not to read anything about the film, "just go watch it." However, a week prior to the film's premiere date on Netflix, Shepard began tweeting a 7-day countdown, starting with the image seen here, from Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill. "7 days til The Perfection drops on @netflix," Shepard stated in the tweet. "In anticipation, I’m tweeting 7 films that influenced my movie starting with Brian De Palma’s extraordinary Dressed To Kill. An amazing B movie with A movie attitude. Stylish, sexy, vicious and oh, those beautiful split-diopter shots."

Continuing the countdown all last week, the other movies Shepard listed are: Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy, Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin, John McNaughton's Wild Things, Takeshi Miike's Audition, and Park's The Handmaiden.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Netflix tweeted a mini-class thread about split diopter shots and how they're used in The Perfection, using images from other films to illustrate the technique and its effects. "But we can’t talk about split diopter shots without talking about Brian De Palma," the thread states at one point, "whose use of the technique has been a hallmark of his career. You’ll spot these shots in Blow Out, Carrie, Obsession, Mission: Impossible, Scarface… the list goes on."

Also included in the thread is a 43-second bit from the Baumbach/Paltrow documentary, in which De Palma explains how his ideas for the use of split diopter shots grew from his split-screen editing of Dionysus In '69. "I mean, I edited Dionysus, so I was constantly putting two images against each other. And I thought, 'Well, how can I do this in a regular movie?'"

Posted by Geoff at 7:22 PM CDT
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Friday, May 24, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blowoutsecret.jpgBrian De Palma's Blow Out will screen from a 35mm print at midnight Saturday, May 25th, as part of the Secret Movie Club's "'80s Fever Dream" series, and also part of its series, "The Antonioni Effect." The films are shown at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles. Sergio Pinheiro worked up a great new poster (included here) for the screening. Here's the description of the film screening from the Secret Movie Club promo materials:
Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960’s hip thriller Blow-Up birthed not one but at least two cinematic children: Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 The Conversation (screening 1 day earlier than this movie on Friday, May 24, 2019 @ 11:59p) and this 1981 Brian De Palma thriller which uses the same basic story as Blow Out AND the same basic profession as The Conversation, the sound recordist.

One of the minor miracles of the two movies that follow Blow Up is that for all their clear inspiration taking from Antonioni’s original, they are both, somehow, equally original and idiosyncratic to their respective writer/directors. While Coppola’s The Conversation explores his career long fascinations with Catholic guilt, hypocrisy, societal greed, and man’s capacity for monstrous violence, De Palma’s Blow Out explores De Palma’s personal obsessions with Hitchcock, cinema, seedy sexuality, and a kind of cinematic language that almost completely transcends anything verbal.

Blow Out follows B movie sound recordist Jack Terry as he realizes that he may have inadvertently recorded proof of an assassination when he records the sound of a car accident one night as part of his routine sound effect recording.

From there, the movie gets giddily cinematically hysterical in typical De Palma phantasmagoric fashion, as Terry comes to realize he is part of a greater US political conspiracy that includes assassination, presidential politics, seriel killing, and prostitutes.

Accompanied by De Palma company regulars Nancy Allen and John Lithgow, Travolta wanders through a series of stunning cinematic De Palma set pieces until the whole thing circles back to be about moviemaking itself and the exploitative nature of almost all moviemaking whether or not it started out in exploitation cinema.

One of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies and one of the most beloved De Palma movies (along with Scarface and Phantom of the Paradise which we are also showing) Blow Out is the perfect way to start your Summer. Come join us for some 80’s Fever Dream cinema and paranoia!

Posted by Geoff at 5:18 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Another day, another clip from Brian De Palma's Domino. Today, Collider has an exclusive clip from an early sequence in Domino, which leads to a grisly scene that, you can bet, is not safe for work (so to speak). It's "a very on-brand clip," enthuses Collider's Haleigh Foutch. "Lush visuals? Check. Split diopter? Check. Operatic Score? Check. Extreme violence? Check. Yep, it’s a De Palma moment." I mostly like this brief article by Foutch, but I have to note a correction: Foutch states, "The film was finished in 2017," although Domino was not actually finished until 2018. Foutch adds that "while De Palma might not consider Domino his favorite experience, it’s immediately clear that his stylistic fingerprints are all over it in this clip." Watch it at Collider.

Posted by Geoff at 6:42 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Wrap shared an exclusive clip this morning from Brian De Palma's Domino, which you can watch below:

Posted by Geoff at 12:46 PM CDT
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Domino is set to open at cinemas in Russia beginning June 6, via distributor Bazelevs. So now, aside from California and New York on May 31st, we have Domino opening in Hungary May 30th, Russia June 6th, and Italy June 20th.

Yesterday, Nick Newman tweeted, "Not hyperbolic to say Brian De Palma’s Domino features the single greatest transition from final image to directorial credit in cinema history."

And last Friday, syndicated film critic Roger Moore had the first "official" review of Domino to come out of the gate:

No, what we”re here for are the homages to Hitchcock, a rooftop nod to “Vertigo” and a finale that conjures up memories of “Stagefright” and Doris Day’s turn as a Hitchcock blonde in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

DePalma interjects random bits of up-to-the-minute surveillance tech into a movie whose clumsy, cut-and-paste script sees Danish cops having basic European geography and geopolitics explained to them. And to us.

But that payoff “bravura sequence” has multiple points of view, a crowd, lots of slo-mo and the threat of violence on a vast scale, all of it set to a bolero — not Ravel’s “Bolero,” just a pastiche of it.

And friends, if the entire movie had been as good as this Spanish last act, they’d have had something here.

Posted by Geoff at 7:38 AM CDT
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Monday, May 20, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bridgegaptitle3small.jpgAbout three years ago, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund posted to YouTube a documentary short titled To Bridge This Gap. The film, by Ken Burrows and Brian De Palma, was commissioned by the NAACP in the late 1960s to highlight "the state-sponsored discrimination faced by African Americans in the 1960s and the relentless work by LDF’s staff and cooperating attorneys to establish legal and social precedent while bridging the gap between hard-earned legal victories and implementation of the law by public authorities."

For years, books about De Palma had listed this documentary as a 1965 film titled Bridge That Gap In his book The De Palma Cut, Laurent Bouzereau states, "In 1965, Brian De Palma shot, in New Orleans and in several other southern cities, a film sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) entitled Bridge That Gap, and in 1966, he did Show Me A Strong Town and I'll Show You A Strong Bank for the Treasury Department."

Similarly, in the Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud book Conversations with Brian De Palma, De Palma says: "With one of my friends, Kenny Burrows, I started a small company to shoot documentaries and industrial films. The goal was to make enough money to finance a feature film. We essentially filmed two commissions. The first, on social housing for African Americans in New Orleans, was placed by the NAACP. The film was entitled Bridge That Gap."

The company formed by De Palma and Burrows was called Aries Documentaries, and the end of To Bridge This Gap includes a copyright date of 1969. In the film, which is about 25 minutes long, one of the lawyers (Michael Davidson) makes reference to the riots of Newark, New Jersey, which took place in 1967. It seems possible that De Palma and Burrows were working on the NAACP doc while also working on other film projects. De Palma's regular collaborator Robert Fiore is credited as the cinematographer, while another regular collaborator, Bruce Rubin, is credited as the editor.

The feature film goal that De Palma speaks about above turned out to be Murder A La Mod, made in 1967 and released by Aries Documentaries. In 1968, De Palma, Fiore, and Rubin shot two stage performances of Dionysus in '69. The split-screen documentary was completed and released in 1970.

To Bridge This Gap is available to watch in its entirety (below) via YouTube and the NAACP LDF.


Posted by Geoff at 1:46 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, May 20, 2019 7:07 AM CDT
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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Brian De Palma's Domino will be the splashy opening film of the second edition of the Filming Italy Sardegna Festival, which takes place June 13-16. Domino will then open in theaters across Italy on June 20th. The announcement was made in high-fashion this morning at the Cannes Film Festival, with Eva Longoria heading the presentation, as she is set to open the Filming Italy Sardegna Festival along with De Palma's movie, which was partially filmed in Sardegna (aka Sardinia).

"A second edition under the sign of doubling and sustainability," declared festival director Tiziana Rocca (in pictures here, to the right of Longoria). "Double the theaters, with the Cristallo Cinema and the large Arena of Forte Village open to all for free. The films in the program are multiplied with a schedule of about 30 titles in a selection that also includes 5 works chosen by ‘Variety’, in the artistic committee of the Festival. Because we want to provide the Festival to the public-- especially to the young people-- premiere films, but also documentaries, short films and TV series, with the aim of bringing the new generations ever closer to the big screen. We will open with a grand auteur like Brian De Palma and his Domino, shot in part in Sardinia, with actors of the caliber of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten. And for the previews dedicated to the TV series we will also have an episode of the upcoming TV series Caccia al ladro (To Catch A Thief). In this edition we also wanted sustainable development as a common thread to counter the unconditional exploitation of environmental resources. Also the awards realized by Maestro Gerardo Sacco will be in a special edition made with eco-sustainable materials."

At today's event, Longoria also presented the Filming Italy Cannes Award to Werner Herzog, who is at Cannes with his new film, Family Romance, LLC.


Speaking of Herzog, he is at Cannes for the first time in 25 years, with a film he funded himself called Family Romance, LLC, which was shot in Japan, in Japanese, with non-professional actors, using translators as go-betweens. Herzog does not speak Japanese, and tells Variety's Stewart Clarke that the experience was freeing and joyful:

Did “Family Romance” come together quickly?

It came very quickly; it was instantly there. I knew it was so big I had to immediately tackle it. And there was competition, I believe, from Amblin that wanted to something like that. I do believe one of the great actors of Hollywood wanted to do something about it. But before they even sent the deal memo to an attorney, I was already filming.

It’s Japanese-language. How challenging was that?

It was done with a complete sense of freedom. I didn’t have the demands of having one or two world stars in it. I started filming with this great sense of freedom – essentially I’m stepping back into filmmaking like [1972’s] “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” or even [1970’s] “Even Dwarfs Started Small,” this complete sense of freedom and joy of filmmaking.

Do you speak any Japanese?

I do not speak Japanese. The go-betweens while shooting were intelligent translators. It made me even faster because I did not have to have the spoken dialogue verbatim. It was clear the actors would have a situation that they had to act in and very clear demands: ‘This part of the dialogue has to be hit at this mark, but how you are getting to that point you can articulate in Japanese. You don’t have to learn a text; you have to learn a situation.’

Listening to the dialogue I could sense if the mood was right or off target. It came with ease.

Was funding the picture a challenge?

I funded it myself completely, and my company Skellig Rock is the production company. I have done two more films in the last 12 months, and I earned some of the money through that. I’m still earning through other things I am doing – for example, through “The Mandalorian” part. Through the “The Mandalorian” earnings I partially finance “Family Romance.” It’s my own money, and I earn it in all sorts of ways. The only thing I haven’t done is bank robbery.

Is the resulting picture going to surprise people?

In my film there is not a single moment that you have ever seen in a movie, although it looks completely normal and regular. When you take a good look, there is not a single thing you have ever seen in any movie. That was completely organic. The awe comes because you have not seen what you are seeing there.

You shoot what you really want to see on the screen. It’s only the essence. That’s the only thing I would film. Because of that, I have barely 300 to 350 minutes of footage in total. It’s very natural for me, and nothing is missing.

Does that rogue filmmaking style mean that a wider selection of people can make movies?

Of course – just look at “Family Romance.” If you are barefoot native from the Andes in Peru, you can make a feature film.

Posted by Geoff at 12:21 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 18, 2019 12:33 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 16, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dominogermanblu.jpgThanks to Andreas for sending in word that Koch Films has announced a DVD/Blu-Ray Region B release of Brian De Palma's Domino, coming August 22, 2019. With Domino being released in theaters in Hungary May 30th, and in theaters in Italy on June 20th, and, of course, in California and New York on May 31st, we are keeping an out for any other theatrical releases out there.

Posted by Geoff at 7:30 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 16, 2019 8:08 AM CDT
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