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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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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
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No Harm In Charm

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The Filmmaker Who
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Jim Emerson on
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Scarface: Make Way
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The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
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Offices of Death Records

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italkyoubored

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De Palma a la Mod
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Entries by Topic
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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Wednesday, October 16, 2019
KIM NEWMAN ON 'DOMINO'
"FLASHES OF GENIUS MAKE IT A MORE INTERESTING WATCH THAN THE PROFESSIONAL PLOD OF MOST..."
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/armsraised3small.jpg

In the October issue of EMPIRE, Kim Newman begins his monthly video dungeon column with a brief review of Domino:
Early in Domino, Copenhagen cop Nikolaj Coster-Waldau bungles a routine call-out and gets his partner stabbed. As he’s dangling from a gutter à la James Stewart in Vertigo, accompanied by a lush orchestral Pino Donaggio score, this seemingly typical Scandi-noir is revealed as unmistakably the work of itinerant ex-‘movie brat’ Brian De Palma. A found footage sequence combines elements from Redacted (De Palma’s most interesting 21st century work) and Femme Fatale (his flat-out craziest/most fun) as a chic, brainwashed terrorist livestreams a gun attack/suicide bombing on the red carpet of a swanky European film festival. Sadly, thanks to budget cuts and a never-really-there script, Domino proceeds to fall over, but flashes of genius make it a more interesting watch than the professional plod of most direct-to-anything-but-a-cinema thrillers.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:11 AM CDT
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019
DE PALMA MENTIONS NOIR ADAPTATION TITLED 'PALMETTO'
AS WELL AS "A KIND OF HORROR FILM I'D LIKE TO MAKE"

Alex Helisek of Breezeway Productions posted a brief interview with Brian De Palma on YouTube, conducted outside Saturday, with Susan Lehman waiting in the background, before heading in for De Palma's conversation with Alec Baldwin at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Asked what kinds of films he is looking to make in the future, De Palma mentions "a kind of horror film I'd like to make" (he is most likely referring to Predator), as well as a movie he calls Palmetto, based on an otherwise unnamed classic noir:
Well, I'm interested in new styles of telling stories. I do have a kind of horror film I'd like to make. And also diferent genres, and an adaptation of an old classic noir picture called Palmetto.

The interviewer also asks De Palma, with the films coming out this year, gearing up to the "Oscar race, as it begins to heat up," if there is anything he's seen that really strikes a chord with him. De Palma answers, "Marriage Story," saying "the acting, the script, really beautifully done."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2019 7:55 AM CDT
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Monday, October 14, 2019
AMERICAN PSYCHO & BODY DOUBLE IN BRIGHTON OCT 26
"A MOVIE ABOUT PATRICK BATEMAN & PATRICK BATEMAN'S FAVOURITE MOVIE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bdthishalloween1.jpg
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bdthishalloween2.jpg


White Wall Cinema will host a "a special Halloween double bill pop up cinema experience" October 26th at Wgner Hall in Brighton: Mary Harron's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho and Brian De Palma's Body Double. "Two movies back to back," reads the event description, "a movie about Patrick Bateman and Patrick Bateman's favourite movie!" Sponsored by It Is Still 1985 ("Brighton's legndary 80s Party"), the event page includes a lovingly-edited trailer scored to Pino Donaggio's Body Double theme, save for a bit of Huey Lewis and The News near the end, and a bite of Frankie Goes To Hollywood to close things out.

Here's more from the event page:

We start the evening with Mary Harron’s 2000 cult classic American Psycho starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, an investment banker who attempts to hide his serial killer impulses as he descends into hedonistic violence, in a deeply satirical look at 1980s New York.

The second movie of the evening, 1984’s Body Double, is cited throughout Bret Easton Ellis’s original American Psycho novel as Patrick Bateman’s favourite film (Bateman mentions that he has seen the film 37 times and rents the tape of it from a video store several times in the story, and also repeats scenes from the film to the reader or to other characters). Directed by Brian DePalma (other works include Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way) and influenced by Hitchcock classics Rear Window & Vertigo, Body Double follows an out of work actor as he delves into the seedy world of adult entertainment in order to solve a murder he witnesses in the Hollywood hills. A vibrant 80s neo-noir thriller it’s an unashamed celebration and examination of the most superficial of decades. Tickets on sale now.


Posted by Geoff at 1:02 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 13, 2019
WATCH - FISH TANK STUNT FROM MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
VIDEO TWEETED BY ILM VISUAL EFFECTS ARTIST - GIVES CREDIT TO STUNT COORDINATOR GREG POWELL
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tankstunt2.jpg

Todd Vaziri, a veteren visual effects artist who has worked on David Koepp's Stir Of Echoes and Mission: Impossible III, among many many other films, posted a video on Twitter a couple of days ago that shows a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Tom Cruise fish tank stunt from Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. Vaziri's tweet gives credit to stunt coordinator Greg Powell.

Posted by Geoff at 11:02 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 13, 2019 11:04 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 12, 2019
PIPER HANDS AWARD TO DE PALMA AT HAMPTONS FEST
AND DE PALMA CHATS WITH ALEC BALDWIN ON STAGE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/brianpiperalec.jpg

After an early screening today of Brian De Palma's Blow Out at the Hamptons International Film Festival, De Palma took part in an onstage conversation with Alec Baldwin. Toward the end of the event, De Palma was given a lifetime achievement award by the festival, which was presented to him by his daughter, Piper De Palma.

Vulture film critic Alison Willmore tweeted:

Brian De Palma, talking about his MPAA battles, is asked if he thinks there’s anything in his work that couldn’t be made today: “I don’t think so... You can practically do anything on cable”

“My first idea was, we kill them all in the first mission!” De Palma on the dilemma of adapting MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, a show about a group of characters, into MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, a Tom Cruise movie

(This is something that drives me nuts about the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE)

In conclusion, De Palma is a fan of MARRIAGE STORY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD and very much not a fan of the lighting in most streaming movies, and Alec Baldwin will not be cowed into socks by autumnal weather


The Swan Archives has a brief report from the event, as well:
Today the Hamptons International Film Festival gave Brian De Palma a lifetime achievement award, and celebrated by hosting an onstage event with De Palma and Alec Baldwin entitled "A Conversation with Brian De Palma," which would have been better titled "Alec Baldwin Does Impressions, Tells Anecdotes, and Reveals His Complete and Total Ignorance of Brian De Palma's Early Career Whle Occasionally Permitting De Palma to Get the Odd Word In." The award was presented to De Palma by his daughter, Piper, who aptly described it as "glass and sharp." In the course of the approximately sixty minute conversation, in addition to Baldwin extensively discussing incidents from his own career, the two touched briefly on Mission Impossible, Carlito's Way, Raising Cain, Blow Out, and Dressed to Kill.

On Sunday, Roger Friedman at Showbiz 411 reported:
HIFF has had lots of nice parties, and conversations with filmmakers also including a talk with Alfre Woodard, star of “Clemency.” Alfre is certainly on the list for possible Best Actress nominees this year. Alec Baldwin interviewed legendary director Brian DePalma at Guild Hall, and DePalma’s 23 year old daughter Piper– named for actress Piper Laurie, star of DePalma’s “Carrie”– presented him with HIFFs Lifetime Achievement Award. DePalma’s long list of great movies is stunning in clip reel. From “Carrie” to “The Untouchables” to the first “Mission Impossible” movie and all his great quirky films like “Dressed to Kill” and “Body Double,” what a resume!

DePalma certainly had a good time, too. He, Woodward, and Baldwin among others turned up later in the day at Silvercup Studio owner Stuart Match Suna’s glittering annual gathering in East Hampton, where the canapes were good but secondary to the smart talk.


Mark Segal at The East Hampton Star also filed a report Sunday:
Brian De Palma, the recipient of the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, sat down with Alec Baldwin on Saturday afternoon for an illuminating and often hilarious conversation at Guild Hall that covered many aspects of Mr. De Palma’s work.

Among the director’s recollections were the struggle to get Tom Cruise to approve a script for the first “Mission Impossible,” Al Pacino burning his hand on the barrel of his “little friend” in “Scarface,” the importance of cinematographers and composers, his battles with the movie ratings board, and discovering John Lithgow in a college play.

As usual when he hosts the festival’s Conversations With . . . programs, Mr. Baldwin had a few anecdotes of his own in this program, among them working with Woody Allen and Tim Burton, and getting his prosthetic fingers chopped off in “Miami Blues.”

At the conclusion of the talk, Piper De Palma, the director’s daughter, presented her father with the award. Earlier in the day, his 1981 thriller “Blow Out” was screened for a full house at the East Hampton Cinema.


 


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2019 11:21 PM CDT
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SWAN SONG 'PHANTOM' CUT SCREENED AT SLEEPY HOLLOW
VERY RARE PUBLIC SCREENING OF RECONSTRUCTED ORIGINAL VERSION HAPPENED THURSDAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/phantomsleepyhollowposter.jpg

Jon DeMon was at the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival screening of Phantom Of The Paradise Thursday night, and tweeted, that it "was the 1st public presentation of De Palma's unedited 'Swan Song' cut!" And indeed, the version that played Thursday was the reconstructed version that Paul Williams spoke about this past summer when he thanked Ari Kahan of the Swan Archives on stage at Fantasia Fest for finding the lost footage and putting together "this absolutely pristine version of the film." With all of the legal wranglings, we don't expect very many public screenings of this version in the near future, but it was a nice surprise for the 150-plus audience members at the Tarrytown Music Hall Thursday in New York.


Posted by Geoff at 2:26 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 10, 2019
PAUL HIRSCH - 'BRIAN DE PALMA WAS MY MENTOR'
GOT JOB ON 'STAR WARS' AFTER DE PALMA SCREENED FINAL CUT OF 'CARRIE' FOR GEORGE & MARCIA LUCAS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/hirschbooksmall.jpgNovember 5th is the publication date for Paul Hirsch's book, A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away: My Fifty Years Editing Hollywood Hits―Star Wars, Carrie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mission: Impossible, and More. Promoting the book, in which Hirsch writes about his experiences over 50 years in the film business, he recently spoke with Moviehole's Mike Smith:
MIKE SMITH: What drew you to become a film editor?

PAUL HIRSCH: A number of things. I was fascinated when I first saw a Moviola. I was blown away by a festival of Orson Welles films. I liked working with my hands, and was drawn to the tools. I loved movies.

MS: Other film editors I’ve interviewed had mentors they admired. I recently spoke with Arthur Schmidt and he told me that he learned under Dede Allen and Neil Travis. Did you have someone whose work you admired and/or who took you under their wing?

PH: Brian DePalma was my mentor. He encouraged me, empowered me, validated my work and deeply influenced me. I was cutting his films from the age of 23, and so never worked under a professional feature film editor. I learned by doing and studying how films I admired were cut. I was sort of like the art students you see in museums, copying the masters.

MS: How did you come to edit “Hi Mom” for Brian DePalma?

I had cut the trailer for “Greetings,” thanks to my brother. When they got the money to do a sequel, titled “Son of Greetings,” Brian hired me to cut it.

MS: Five or your first six films were with DePalma. He is well known – and often criticized – for his use of split-screen (the prom from “Carrie” being a great example). Was that something you discussed in the editing room or was that his original vision?

PH: Split screen is Brian’s thing. I can’t take credit for it, but I do love and appreciate the tension that can result from juxtaposing images on the screen, even if, or rather, especially if, the screen isn’t actually split. I’m referring to deep focus shots, which have become a lost art, where you have a near object on one side, and a distant one on the other. Brian did that a lot, using split diopters, with tremendous success.

MS: A lot of the young filmmakers in the 70s (DePalma, Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas) were very close with each other. Is that how you were hired for “Star Wars?”

PH: Yes. Brian screened the final cut of “Carrie” for George and Marcia Lucas on their return from principal photography on”Star Wars” in England. They needed help, and turned to me.

MS: How difficult was it editing a film where you sometimes had to wait months for a finished special effects shot?

PH: We had ways around that. We would cut in place-holders or a piece of leader that we estimated was the right length.

MS: You, along with Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew, received the Academy Award for your work on “Star Wars.” Where do you keep your Oscar?

PH: It’s on a bookshelf in my office.

MS: You’ve done eleven films with DePalma but, surprisingly, not ‘The Untouchables.” Was there a reason you didn’t cut that picture?

PH: I moved to the West Coast after “Blow Out.” I didn’t cut a picture for Brian in the ensuing ten years. We next worked together on “Raising Cain,” when he was living in California.

MS: You also worked a lot with John Hughes. How was he to work with and were there any major differences in the way he and DePalma approached a film?

PH: John was a lot of fun to work with until he wasn’t. He was a brilliant artist, but had mercurial moods. But I had a great time working with him. John was a writer, primarily, and his medium was words, by and large. Brian is a great visualist. His ideas are primarily graphic, both in terms of camera movement, which no one does better, and in terms of visual story-telling, that is to say, how scenes can be constructed in the editing room.

MS: Hal Ashby was a great film editor who went on to become a fine director. Have you ever wanted to direct?

PH: I did want to for a while, and then the fever broke. I like working all the time, and editing afforded me that. To me, directing was like perpetually running for office. I’m more of an introvert, and editing suits me just fine.

MS: Your most recent film was the Tom Cruise version of “The Mummy.” What is the biggest difference between cutting a film now and forty-plus years ago?

PH: There’s a lot more reliance on vfx now, which consumes a lot of time and energy. And when I started out, directors were given much more discretion. The director was the key creative figure in the package, often with final cut. That happens less these days. If a director had a hit back then, the studio would ask, “What do you want to do next?” Today, the projects are developed by the studio, and the director is “cast” the same way you would choose an actor for a role. Producers and studio executives are much more involved in the editing process these days.


Posted by Geoff at 7:08 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 6, 2019
FEMINIST FRIGHT FEST TO ANALYZE 'SISTERS' WEDNESDAY
EMILY TAYLOR CENTER FOR WOMEN & GENDER EQUITY EVENT, 7PM IN LAWRENCE, KANSAS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sisterspairssmall.jpg

The Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity will screen Brian De Palma's Sisters at 7pm this Wednesday, October 9th, as part of its weekly Feminist Fright Fest. The screening, which will take place at the Lawrence Public Library (in Lawrence, Kansas), will be "followed by a critical feminist analysis and discussion of the film’s representation of gender, race, class, sexuality, and dis/ability," according to the organization's Instagram post.

Posted by Geoff at 11:07 PM CDT
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Monday, September 30, 2019
LINKS - RECENT ESSAYS FOCUS ON DE PALMA FILMS
BLOW OUT, HOME MOVIES, BLACK DAHLIA, DANCING IN THE DARK, MORE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/masticate.jpgIt was "Brian De Palma Week" last week over at the Philadelphia-based Cinema Seventy-Six. Writing about De Palma's video for Bruce Sprinsteen's Dancing In The Dark (1984), Ryan Silberstein notes how the first few shots of the video present Springsteen on stage, but without showing his face, which is revealed in the video once he begins singing. This strategy, which Silberstein links to the delayed reveal of Indiana Jones' face in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), was also utilized by De Palma three years later, for Eliot Ness in The Untouchables. De Palma also gave Rebecca Romijn-Stamos the same treatment (albeit with the added slap in the face) at the beginning of Femme Fatale (2002), the opening shot of which shows a blurry reflection of her face on a TV screen.

There are also earlier instances in De Palma's cinema: a similar visual strategy is used for Nancy Allen's character (Kristina) in Home Movies (1979, pictured here), as James brings his fiancee home to meet the family. It is not until Denis, the film's De Palma surrogate played by Keith Gordon, sees Kristina walking toward him that we (Denis included) see her face for the first time.

Then there is the matter of the delayed reveal of Swan's face in Phantom Of The Paradise. When we first see Swan, it is a sort of parody of the opening scene of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, although in this case, we do not see Swan's face until a later scene. And then there is the beginning of Hi, Mom! -- we see everything from Robert De Niro's (Jon's) point of view until he tells the landlord (Charles Durning) that he'll take the apartment. (The opening of the drapes here is echoed again at the end of the opening scene of Femme Fatale.)

Some of the films covered for Cinema Seventy-Six's De Palma week include Home Movies, The Black Dahlia, Phantom Of The Paradise, Dressed To Kill, and more. Some links and excerpts are below. But first, there was also a lengthy article about De Palma's Blow Out this week by Jimi Fletcher at VHS Revival:

The sound recording sequence is a joy – here we just luxuriate in the art of movie-making. Jack is out by the river, underneath a bridge, recording the natural sounds that he will end up using in the movie – first we hear the sound, then we follow Jack’s mic as it picks up on it, and then we see the source – a frog, a couple having a quiet talk (unlike the chat between the couple in The Conversation, this one’s absolutely harmless), an owl….and something we don’t see the source of – a strange buzzing, winding sound. What the hell is that? We soon find out that it’s Burke pulling and releasing the garrote on his wristband. One of Blow Out‘s main pleasures is giving us little clues and hints that only become truly apparent on a second viewing. It’s not the sort of thing that makes a first watch baffling, just the odd lovely touch that makes further viewings even more satisfying.

Ryan Silberstein on Dancing In The Dark
Brian de Palma’s direction seems to aim at one main thing: playing into Bruce Springsteen as a sexual icon. “Dancing in the Dark” is a single from the Born in the U.S.A. album, which has the iconic butt shot of Bruce in his jeans taken by Annie Leibovitz as its cover. The album, specifically the cover more than anything else, transformed Springsteen from a socially-conscious rocker into a pop icon. The sexiness of the image is drawing directly on Springsteen’s working class background with the wear on the jeans pocked, the tucked in plain white shirt, and the dusty ball cap. This masculinity in the image taps into the same energy that Ronald Reagan was using to give Americans a renewed feeling after the “crisis of confidence” from the 1970s as stated by President Jimmy Carter. Of course, as their clash over Reagan’s use of the album’s title track on his 1984 campaign stops shows, Springsteen was aligned with the blue collar union workers of the left as opposed to Reagan’s trying to lure them rightward with a combination of promises to stimulate the economy and family values.

As the song goes, you can’t start a fire without a spark, and that album cover is definitely the spark to the music video’s fire.

The video starts with a pan across Springsteen’s body from his foot up to his chest before cutting to a reverse shot. We don’t see Springsteen’s face for over 10 seconds into the video, which calls to mind the delayed introduction of Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even more striking is that it is shot entirely in closeups and medium shots for the first full minute (the runtime of the entire video is less than 4 minutes) before we get anything resembling a wide shot. This opening salvo puts Springsteen’s body front and center, his pants tight in all the right places, his short sleeves rolled up. De Palma embraces the singer’s inherent sex appeal, giving fans a better view of Springsteen on their tube televisions than they would get from most vantage points at a concert.

And Bruce is a perfect combination of sexy and goofball in this video, dancing with the microphone, smirking in between lines of the song, pointing at the audience. He’s channeling Elvis in every part of his body save his hips, since his dancing is almost entirely in his legs, arms, and shoulders. The epitome of white guy dancing. He isn’t performing at the camera, however, and only looks directly into the camera lens for a few seconds, almost accidentally. This is Springsteen in his element: it’s not about seeing crowds of people cheering him on so much as seeing the power that Springsteen has over his audience.


Gary M. Kramer on Home Movies
James is hilarious because DePalma skewers his toxic hypermasculinity. He mistreats Kristina, his fiancé, and, in a dumb subplot, makes her resist various temptations to prove herself worthy of his love. (He’s more in love with himself than with her). In one bizarre episode, James sniffs out the junk food Kristina consumed against his wishes. Graham goes all in here, giving a wildly physical performance and he’s fantastic. He often plays James like a live-action cartoon character. Just watch his bug-eyed expressions when he gets his jaw dislocated by his father in one scene. (This also leads to him making some mastication jokes). Or a bit where he saves Kristina from choking by removing a piece of meat from her throat with his tongue.

DePalma mines humor from exaggeration and absurdity, and while not all of the jokes land well—and the musical score is far too aggressive—the actors are committed. Allen, too, goes for broke, especially in a bit involving her sexual exchanges with a rabbit. Gordon is appealing in the trite role of a sensitive young man in love with his brother’s girlfriend. Unfortunately, multiple scenes of him in blackface—he’s disguised to take secret photos of his dad cheating on his mom with his nurse—are both unfunny and offensive.

Home Movies has a cheap, low-budget feel to it, but that contributes to its offbeat charm. DePalma may be in a laid-back, low-key mode here, but he still manages some stylish moments. The aforementioned choking scene, the fast food sniffing sequence, and the bit where Kristina is hit by the ambulance, have a darkly comic-horror tone to them.


Victoria Potenza on Dressed To Kill
Watching this film again I remembered how much I liked this film when I was younger. Around that time, I binged watch a bunch of Hitchcock films one summer and really got into thrillers so this stuck out as a staple for be growing up. I did not like horror much at the time but I loved mysteries and procedurals and it was exciting to revisit this and see all of the inspiration from Psycho. for this film. The twist is obviously similar to Psycho, but the way the film follows Kate around throughout her day and gets inside of her head feels like watching Marion Crane stealing money from her boss. The amateur detective team that tries to get evidence go undercover to dig up information is another similarity. Even the scene in the museum reminded me a little of the museum scene in Vertigo.

The biggest thing I noticed while watching it this time around was how much of it reminded me of a Hitchcock/Giallo hybrid. The mysterious black-gloved killer is of course a staple of those Italian horror films, but specifically it reminded me of films like Tenabrae, Deep Red, and The New York Ripper. So many Dario Argento films featured amateur detectives similar to Peter and Liz. Deep Red features a composer, medium, and reporter trying to solve a case and Tenabrae features a writer and his assistant trying to piece together the murderers, the killer in Tenabrae also uses a razor to kill his victims. The scene when Kate is entering the elevator and the killer is on the stairwell with the bright red light on them is straight out of an Argento film and now that I love horror so much I was excited to see De Palma appreciated these films too!


Andy Elijah on Casualties Of War
After severely threatening him, Meserve allows Erikkson to avoid taking part in the rape by standing guard on the perimeter of their camp. But rather than looking into the jungle for any moving figures, the camera keeps its point of view on the decrepit shack that serves as the scene of the crime. We, the viewers, watch in horror as each of the other four soldiers take their turn with the young girl. As hard as it is to watch, it is handled with taste and respect. De Palma, who never shied away from eroticism before, put none of it in the sequence.

It turns out not to just be the camera that is watching, but Erikkson himself. What is so rewarding about loving De Palma's filmography is seeing the auteuristic marks he always manages to insert–whether it be a studio for hire job or a passion project–and this moment of "seeing" falls right into his obsession with being a voyeur. Erikkson is made to be a witness to the crime, as is the viewer. It's as if we could be called to the stand to testify when everything is over. So many characters in De Palma films get themselves into trouble by finding something, or someone, from which they can’t look away. Where as in the past, it was perhaps a source of arousal, here, it is a horrible truth that can't be unseen.


Dan Scully on Phantom Of The Paradise
It wasn’t until very recently that I first saw Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise. Since my first viewing at Shame Files Live, I’ve gone on to watch it multiple times, both in a theater and at home, and every time it gets exponentially better. What a strange thing indeed for a silly, metatextual rock opera to emerge from the brain of a filmmaker once touted the “master of the erotic thriller.” Yet the more I watch Phantom, the more I think it might be the quintessential De Palma film. It’s certainly the only one I know of that feels like self-commentary — which is doubly special given that De Palma himself is no stranger to strong opinions on the nature of the film business.

So what is De Palma saying with Phantom? Well, before I get ahead of myself, let me share with you the one thing that has always stuck with me about his work. De Palma’s camera always seems to be hiding from the actions it’s capturing. What I mean is that my favorite filmmakers typically tend to make their camera invisible to the audience. To me, a great shot is one I don’t think about unless I’m actively analyzing it. It’s for this reason that I fucking HATE shaky cam. A smart shot is not one that announces the director’s presence, but rather one that draws the viewer into the reality of the film. Typically, this means that the performers are tasked with the thankless job of ignoring a camera that is all up in their business. De Palma takes a much different approach. His camera is certainly not present to the audience...but neither is it to the performers. Instead, it feels like surveillance. It‘s like De Palma is spying on his own movie. I can’t think of another filmmaker who does that (maaaaybe Jonathan Demme?).

This style is certainly appropriate given his own history with surveillance as an adolescent — baby De Palma rigged a camera system to catch his father in marital infidelity. In this instance, the camera HAD to be hidden.

Phantom of the Paradise, however, is the only film in De Palma’s body of work that brings the camera into the narrative explicitly by having the performers directly address it during certain sequences. It happens quite a few times, but the most striking example is during Phoenix’s audition for the Paradise. As she chicken dances her way through Special To Me, she makes direct eye contact with the camera and sings as if she’s giving a private performance to viewers of the film. It’s a striking moment that shows the audience exactly what the intended tone of the film should be. Phoenix doesn’t necessarily know she’s in a movie, but the movie itself sure as hell knows just what it is. This sets the table for the thematic questions posed throughout the duration of the film.


Matthew McCafferty on The Black Dahlia
Another part of the problem with the initial reception of this film was the success of 1997’s L.A. Confidential. Both L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia were adapted from novels written by James Ellroy. These two novels were part of a small series of crime books that Ellroy wrote, all based in 1940s and 1950s Los Angeles. So when The Black Dahlia was coming out in 2006, expectations were high. Another Ellroy novel adaptation — and better yet — directed by Brian De Palma. It had to be great. The hype quickly turned to disappointment, which quickly turned to negative reviews.

Again, I understand that The Black Dahlia will never be mistaken as one of De Palma’s best movies. But De Palma does deliver an enjoyable crime thriller once you connect the dots with the plot. And the ending itself actually wraps up pretty nicely. The actual Black Dahlia murder case was never solved, but this film is based off of the novel, which mixes in fact and fiction. So you do end up with some resolutions on motives and other aspects of the plot if you stick it out to the end.

Separating myself from the hyped-up expectations that were attached to this during its initial release in 2006 turned out to be a good thing. If you avoided this film like me over the years, put aside the negative noise from its reputation and give it shot.


Garrett Smith on Blow Out

 

I also really like the way Terry's life starts to become a slasher movie in some sense. His life starts to look and feel like the "trash" that he works on, and I think this is one of the most effective ways De Palma illustrates Terry's experience of being inside a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are often constructs we create to help explain what we think is so unfair, it has to otherwise be impossible. While it ultimately seems like Terry's fears are well founded, his paranoia leads to what might be considered a "bleeding over" of his work into his real life.

But here's where I have to be clear about why I've brought The Conversation into this... well, conversation. Blow Out is a thriller full of literal thrills. Thrilling cinematography and sound design, thrilling plot reveals and performance moments, thrilling pacing and editing. And yet, I never quite felt the deep paranoia that I believe I'm meant to recognize in Terry's experience of all of this. Whereas The Conversation, in its obsession with minutiae and methodical storytelling which can feel a bit slow, is ultimately a movie that makes me feel as insane as the main character by the end. This never quite got there for me, and I think it may be because this seems much more definitive in its conclusions than The Conversation does. While I find the idea of proving once and for all that politics are corrupt from top to bottom appealing, it seems more in line with what we know about paranoid types and conspiracy theories for someone to be left fully broken by even investigating that notion, and for us to never know which pieces, if any, were true.

That said, Terry is certainly left broken by this experience. And the end of the movie is truly chilling. Without spoiling it, I will simply say that the final moment in which we see what all of this has ultimately amounted to is so disturbingly reductive of the experience itself that it's practically a punchline. A dark, hollow joke that lines up nicely with what I just said about The Conversation. So I hope you'll take that minor criticism with the grain of salt it's meant to be garnished with.


Posted by Geoff at 7:51 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2019 5:21 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019
DE PALMA-BLUMENFELD-VACHAUD BOOK NOV 7
CARLOTTA TO PUBLISH VERSION FROM 2 YEARS AGO, WITHOUT THE DVDS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carlotta2019b.jpgOn November 7, Carlotta will publish a book-only edition of Brian De Palma: entretiens avec Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud. This will be the same version of the book that Carlotta had published two years ago, but this time there will be no DVDs included. According to Vachaud, the size of this upcoming edition will also be about 20% smaller than the DVD version from two years ago, which makes it approximately the same size as the original version of the book from 2001.

Posted by Geoff at 11:18 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2019 7:31 AM CDT
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