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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


« December 2019 »
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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

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Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
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Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
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So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

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Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
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De Palma a la Mod

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

UPDATE 3/11/2020 - This event at Strand Book Store has been canceled. No reason was provided, but today, Strand posted the following on its Facebook page:
𝐖𝐞 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐚 𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐝𝐮𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗, 𝐬𝐨 𝐚 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐮𝐩𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐮𝐬.

First and foremost, we're keeping our eyes on announcements from the CDC, WHO, and NYC Health to monitor how this all develops. We encourage everyone to follow those sources for the most up-to-date information.

Unless otherwise noted, scheduled events will proceed as planned. We won't be doing signing lines or photo ops to limit the amount of person-to-person interaction. At events, you'll receive a pre-signed copy of the book, so come prepared with lots of questions for the Q&A section so you can chat with your favorite author.

Reminder that in-store, the bathrooms are located on the second floor if you need to wash your hands. Store hours remain the same as always!

If you're staying home and happen to be reading through your TBR pile too quickly, fear not! You can order anything from the store online for delivery to your home from strandbooks.com.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated on how this all affects our programming.

"The night before we publish Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman's Are Snakes Necessary? (March 16) we'll be holding a premiere with the authors at the Strand in NYC." So reads a Twitter post today from Hard Case Crime, which will publish the novel the following day. The event is scheduled from 7-8pm March 16. Strand's event page has the following description:
Doors open 30 minutes before the start of the event.

"It's like having a new Brian De Palma picture." - Martin Scorsese, Academy Award-winning director

When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should've known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator's fixer. He's already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman -- how hard could this new one turn out to be?

Pursued from Washington D.C. to the streets of Paris, 18-year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn't realize is that her life might be as well...

Join us in the Rare Book Room for the release of Are Snakes Necessary? with writers Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman.

Brian De Palma is the world-famous director of more than thirty films, including Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, Blow Out, and the original Mission: Impossible. The subject of the 2015 documentary De Palma, he is considered one of the most accomplished filmmakers of the last fifty years, a peer to directors such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese and an inspiration to next-generation directors such as Quentin Tarantino.

Susan Lehman is a former editor of the New York Times and author whose writing has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Spy magazine. An attorney by training, she also served as communications director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Are Snakes Necessary? is their first novel.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2020 6:49 PM CDT
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story is getting raves and topping lists all over the place. Dazed's Nick Chen spoke with Baumbach last week, and, amidst discussion of the new film, asked him about a Brian De Palma quote from Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's De Palma documentary:
Baumbach is in the middle of a jet-setting tour. The previous day, he flew in from Paris and delivered a BAFTA Screenwriting Lecture. (“Greta Gerwig pointed out to me that my movies tend to tell you what they’re about at the very beginning,” he said at the event. “I wasn’t aware of this, but it’s embarrassing when you go back and look.”) Earlier in the week, in New York, Marriage Story won so many prizes at the Gotham Awards that Baumbach took to the podium four times, eventually deadpanning, “I hope you remember what I said in the last speech, because it’s still relevant.”

Compare it to early 2018, a few months after the release of The Meyerowitz Stories, when Baumbach was a regular at awards shows – but as a plus-one on the Lady Bird table. (InStyle ran an article titled “Who Is Greta Gerwig’s Boyfriend?”) However, several pundits are predicting that Marriage Story will be the first Netflix film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. So what about the rumours that Marriage Story was originally set up at Amazon?

“That wasn’t true,” Baumbach says. “We had talked to Amazon about it, but I already had a relationship with Netflix.” Was he impressed, then, with the creative freedom a streaming service offered on The Meyerowitz Stories? “Netflix is a movie company run by people who really love movies. A few years ago, there was a legitimate distinction between what Netflix is doing and what other companies are doing. But now the movie business is moving that direction. Netflix adjusted on their part, too. We had a month in the United States exclusively in theatres before it went on Netflix, and they’ll keep it in theatres for people who want to have that choice.

“I talked to Scorsese about it. The King of Comedy was pulled after two weeks in theatres. It’s a complex discussion and in flux. In two years, it’s going to be something else. To me, Netflix is just a great place to make movies.”

Unlike Baumbach’s earlier features where scripts were written then sent out to potential actors (Greenberg was nearly shot with Mark Ruffalo and Amy Adams, not Ben Stiller and Gerwig – a real Sliding Doors moment), Marriage Story was conceived specifically for the leads. “Adam’s an actor I’ve continued to work with since Frances Ha,” Baumbach says. “Knowing Scarlett and Laura was invaluable and helped me visualise the scenes. There are sequences written in the movie because I’m motivated by knowing that actor is playing that part. Laura’s monologue came from Laura. We talked about it while I was writing it.”

As Nora, Nicole’s lawyer, Dern delivers a fiery speech about how society accepts imperfect fathers but not imperfect mothers. Fathers are already expected to be absent, Nora explains, but mothers are chastised if they drink too much wine. “We were saying that Nora got into the business for moral reasons. Nora wanted to stand up for people, and women particularly, who she feels the system is rigged against, and she wants to be their crusader.”

Early on, the camera regularly hovers over the shoulder of Charlie or Nicole, depending on narrative momentum. The legal scenes, though, are blocked and framed as if the bickering pair are helpless children in the room. Occasionally, it’s like the lawyers are in cahoots. Dern and Liotta’s characters are arch enemies who socialise at charity dinners and drive up each other’s business. It’s an emotionally cold war: when Nicole hires Nora, Charlie reluctantly directs “two shitty plays” to afford an expensive equivalent. (Incidentally, Baumbach wrote Madagascar 3 and nearly directed Mr Popper’s Penguins around 2011.) In the courts, it’s like we’re witnessing a different film – or what Baumbach describes to me as “various genres that are hidden and that reveal themselves in the movie”.

One of those hidden genres is a musical. At rock bottom, Charlie belts out Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive”, a song that appeared for five seconds in Lady Bird. The sight of Driver’s gigantic face on a gigantic screen as he splutters Sondheim’s lyrics (“Make me confused, mock me with praise/Let me be used, vary my days/But alone is alone, not alive!”) is reason enough to catch Marriage Story in a theatre. That Driver is initially too tall for the microphone is the cue to laugh or cry.

“Charlie clearly knows the song very well,” Baumbach explains. “He’s doing all the other parts. We all have that experience where there’s a song we’ve heard a million times, and suddenly you hear it in a different way.” When performing Sondheim, Charlie is able to reveal his deepest, innermost emotions. Did Baumbach find something similar with Marriage Story – that screenwriting unlocks a certain kind of honesty and catharsis?

“It’s through art that Charlie can express himself in a way that he can’t, or hasn’t been able to, in life,” Baumbach says, slightly avoiding the question. “That was very moving to me. There’s something true of many artists, that they can be smarter and wiser and more profound in their work than perhaps in regular conversation.”

Through Robbie Ryan’s cinematography, the film depicts the visual contrast between New York, where Charlie directs his plays, and LA, where Nicole lands a role in a TV pilot. Often, Charlie is like Stiller in Greenberg: a New Yorker resentfully residing in the open spaces of LA. “We thought about that with the wardrobe,” Baumbach explains. “When Charlie’s in Los Angeles, he’s still wearing an overcoat and sweater. He’s dressed for the past.”

Does Baumbach, a New York resident, consider LA to be his Bergman Island? There are, after all, numerous references to Ingmar Bergman in Marriage Story – including a magazine profile titled “Scenes from a Marriage” and close-ups that pay homage to Persona. “I find LA so strange,” the director says. “Every time I go there, I need to adjust. The car culture and the light is so different from New York. The movie was an opportunity to have these radically different-looking environments: LA for her, New York for him. But it’s a stand-in for a more abstract idea of what home is, and identity.”

As for why there are so few divorce movies, Baumbach doesn’t have an answer. ABBA, I mention, sang about divorce, had two divorces within the band, yet the blockbuster celebrating their music revolved around a wedding. “There are a lot of breakup songs,” he says. “But many love songs are actually about breakups. There’s a movie genre, even, of the love that can’t be: Casablanca and Brief Encounter. I thought about this movie in that context as much as any ‘divorce movie’ context.”

Baumbach, it must be said, speaks carefully and considerately, often starting sentences again, as if punching up his own responses. But he does answer a few quick-fire questions, such as the status of the stalled Barbie movie he’s writing with Gerwig (“It’s happening, but we haven’t started it yet”), and if the “you should see the other dog” line that appears in both Meyerowitz Stories and Isle of Dogs is an in-joke between him and Wes Anderson (“Really? We’ve never discussed it – I’ll ask Wes”).

But the longer answers are, understandably, reserved for Marriage Story, which could have premiered at the 2018 film festivals, but the director opted to spend a few more months perfecting it in the editing room. All of which is to say, catch it in a theatre if you can. There’s a misnomer that talky dramas don’t require the cinema treatment. (A headline from The Onion: “You Haven’t Seen Frances Ha Until You’ve Seen It In IMAX.”) But it was shot on 35mm, the cinematography is thoughtful and elegant, and the collective discomfort can only be experienced with a crowd – unless you watch it at home with a resentful partner, that is.

Many critics have called it Baumbach’s best film. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s certainly up there. It’s definitely his most mature, in that it’s the only one in which a character would apologise for screaming, “Every day, I wake up and hope you’re dead!” The richness of the material – feeling like a criminal who hasn’t committed a crime; the irony that Charlie is a better husband in divorce; that loving someone generates a deeper potential for hatred; that Nicole thrives by dumping her controlling partner – wasn’t there in Baumbach’s first few movies. Which brings to mind a quote from Brian De Palma at the end of the 2015 documentary De Palma, co-directed by Baumbach. De Palma claims that filmmakers peak in their 30s, 40s and 50s – then go downhill. Does Baumbach, aged 50, have 10 years left at his peak?

“That’s Brian’s observation,” he says, chuckling. “But what Brian also says, which I think is very true, is that directing is very physical. Concentration-wise, it’s exhausting. It’s a challenge. I’m really impressed with directors like John Huston and Robert Altman who work to the end of their lives. It’s so tiring and gruelling, getting up and shooting nights, and under stress and parameters.”

So it’s fortunate Marriage Story turned out the way it did? “It’s a crazy art form when you think about it. I don’t know if there’s any other art form where you have to get it right this one time – and that’s it.”

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 1:18 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 4, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/demolishedmanbookcover.jpgStephen Tolkin, a writer and sometimes director who works mainly in television, wrote a screenplay adaptation of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man for CBS Films in 1985. About a decade later, according to Tolkin, Brian De Palma, having found box office success with Mission: Impossible, told Paramount that he wanted to direct Tolkin's version. De Palma, of course, had been wanting to make a film of The Demolished Man since the mid-1970s, and worked on a screenplay with author John Farris after adapting Farris' The Fury into a feature film.

Tue Nguyen chatted with Tolkin recently, and asked him about The Demolished Man. Tolkin told Nguyen:
It was 1985. I had just adapted A. E. Van Vogt's Slan for MGM and a producer named Sidney Beckerman and his son Barry. Our executive on the project moved to CBS Films, where Demolished Man was in development, with Barry Beckerman producing. Because we had all just had a good time working together they sent me the book, I read and loved it, then went in and pitched my ideas and got the job. A simpler path than most! Just when I finished the script CBS Films stopped functioning as an entity and for the next thirteen years the script was an effective writing sample for further work, but nothing more. Then, completely out of the blue, after the first Mission:Impossible movie came out and was a big hit, Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount, asked Brian De Palma what he wanted to do next, and he said "I want to direct Stephen Tolkin's draft of Demolished Man." I was stunned when I heard this; I had never met De Palma and to this date have no idea why he would want to direct my version of the story rather than his own, or even how he ever came to read it. So Paramount hired me to rewrite the script but for some reason they chose not to do it under De Palma's supervision -- which would have been fun, I think -- and it never really came together; whatever the flaws are in my 1985 version, the 1998 version represented at best lateral, and most likely backward, movement.

In 2013, Chris Dumas interviewed Farris for the booklet in Arrow Video's edition of The Fury. Discussing The Demolished Man, Farris told Dumas:
The film rights belonged to a Hollywood wannabe who was in the hotel business. I don't recall his name. Brian was attached to write the screenplay and direct and the project was set up at Paramount. Mike Eisner thought Brian's script needed work, although he was thrilled with the project, etc. I was brought in at Brian's suggestion. Read his draft, which I thought was excellent. I did a 30-page treatment, adding new angles but not straying far from the novel. Brian okayed the treatment. I did the new screenplay. Next thing I knew [Frank] Yablans was involved, took the project away from Paramount and gave it to Fox. There were heavy-duty politics involved in this move. But Fox passed and Brian was irate. For more on that story, you would have to talk to Brian. He never mentioned The Demolished Man to me again."

Note: during that time in the mid-'90s, amidst the success of Mission: Impossible, De Palma had also been working to set up Ambrose Chapel, which never ended up being made. Tolkin's recollection that it was 1998 when The Demolished Man was being tossed around suggests a possibility that De Palma and Lansing were already preparing to make Snake Eyes while De Palma and Tolkin would work on The Demolished Man screenplay... unless perhaps it was very early in 1998, before Snake Eyes was fully-formed.

Posted by Geoff at 7:54 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 3, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/hirschegyptian.jpgPaul Hirsch will attend a De Palma double feature this Friday (December 6th) at Los Angeles' Egyptian Theatre. Before the first film, at 6:30pm, Hirsch will be signing copies of his new book in the lobby. Then at 7:30pm, Sisters will screen. Hirsch will take part in a discussion in between that film and Blow Out, the latter of which closes out the event.

Posted by Geoff at 7:49 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Yesterday, The Film Stage posted an article with the headline, "Where to Stream the Best Films of 2019." The article is meant to highlight notable films that may have slipped by readers. "This is far from a be-all, end-all year-end feature," Jordan Raup explains in the article's introduction, "but rather something that will hopefully be a helpful tool for readers to have a chance to seek out notable, perhaps underseen, titles from the year."

Included in the article is Brian De Palma's Domino, which is enthused about by The Film Stage's Nick Newman:

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.

Posted by Geoff at 12:47 AM CST
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Thursday, November 21, 2019

In an article for its "Men Of The Year" cover story this month, GQ included a 16-minute video chat between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in which the two actors recall discussing Scarface:
Robert De Niro: This is how I remember it, II could be wrong... We were talking about Scarface, and you were considering who to do it with, what director. And I was saying, you should really do it with Brian, of of the choices that you had. I don't... I thought I'd...[uttering a bit to indicate this is how he remembers it] and then I said if you don't do it, I'm going to do it, because I want, you know, I wanted to do it.

Al Pacino: Yeah, they were going to do Scarface, Marty and Bob. They hadn't... they didn't do it yet, they were playing with the idea.

De Niro: I was thinking the idea was, they would have done it.

Pacino: And then I know I was, when I saw Scarface in California, I said, call Marty Bregman. Who was the producer. And I said, I think this is a, this guy, Paul Muni, in this part, I said I think it was great. And I said, I would just like to do him, if I could [laughing]. And then he said, no, he didn't know Scarface. I said, "See the film, I think we can do it." I didn't know that Marty and Bob were interested in it, and...

De Niro: We were just talking, I think it was all loose. You know...

Pacino: When he got Lumet... Bregman and Lumet... it was Lumet's idea to do it Cuban.

De Niro: Ah.

Pacino: But then Marty and Lumet didn't quite agree on where the thing should go and how it should be done. And then Brian came in. They had a parting. And Brian came in. And then that was the... I think that was the thing that took it off. Because the way Brian saw it, and Oliver saw it, and Marty saw it, and I saw it, had this sort of, you know, this kind of... thing that was all... pretty much were opposite of each other, in certain areas. And that's when Scarface came about.

De Niro: I just thought, I think I remember, that I just felt Brian would be the best because he would be the least conventional of the choices of the other directors.

Pacino: [nodding] That's true.

De Niro: That was all. And I had worked with him, I knew him.

Pacino: Turned out that was very true.

De Niro: Yeah

Pacino: Because he did have his own way of doing it, which made it different, and it really did make that film. And so did Bregman, by the way. Marty had that feeling about it, too. Larger than life. Just that little step up.

Meanwhile, at 48hills, Joshua Rotter asks Martin Scorsese about his working relationship with De Niro. Scorsese replies:
Well, not counting when we knew each other on the Lower East Side when we were 16 years old and he wasn’t an actor and I wasn’t a filmmaker, I met him again when we were about 27 or 28.

Brian De Palma introduced us because he had worked with him on Hi, Mom! and De Niro actually knew many of the characters that I knew. All the people I grew up with, he knew them and he knew how they were reflected in Mean Streets, for example.

So pretty much he’s the only person left around who knows where I come from and who I knew, so that was the beginning of the bond of trust.

On a final note, check out the headline on this review:
The Irishman: Say Goodbye To The Bad Guys
Baylor Thornton, AC Observer

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Friday, November 22, 2019 12:11 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019
For the past few months, Adam Zanzie has been working on the above video, "An Oral History of CASUALTIES OF WAR (1989)," and now it is here. Here is Zanzie's full description from YouTube:
On this day, 53 years ago, in 1966, a woman named Phan Thi Mao was murdered in Vietnam.

50 years ago this year, in 1969, journalist Daniel Lang's article about the incident was published in The New Yorker Magazine.

And 30 years ago this year, in 1989, director Brian De Palma's Hollywood feature film adaptation was released.

For this oral history video essay about the legacy of "Casualties of War", director Brian De Palma, screenwriter David Rabe, co-producer Fred Caruso, Captain Dale Dye, Sergeant Mike Stokey, actor Erik King, actor Jack Gwaltney, actor Darren E. Burrows and actress Thuy Thu Le all kindly answered questions that I had about their memories of the production.

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted. "Fair Use" guidelines: copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

Music by Ennio Morricone and the Chamber Brothers.

Posted by Geoff at 7:33 AM CST
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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Paul Hirsch will sign copies of his book (A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away) and take part in a Q&A this Wednesday (November 20th) following a 7pm screening of John Hughes's Planes, Trains & Automobiles at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Hughes' son, James, will also join the conversation.

A couple of weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly posted an amusing excerpt from Hirsch's book, detailing the transition from finishing work on Brian De Palma's Carrie and then setting out to work on Star Wars, with De Palma making the call himself on Hirsch's behalf:

By the time we had locked the cut of Carrie, George Lucas had finished shooting Star Wars. He and Marcia were on their way back to California from the UK and stopped off for a few days in New York. George was a bit demoralized. The shoot had been very difficult for him, and he had even checked into the hospital at one point with chest pains, thinking he was having a heart attack. They turned out to be only anxiety attacks, but they took their toll on him emotionally. In addition, he was unhappy with his UK editor, a solid and experienced pro. He never got the spirit of the piece and apparently made his scorn for the project known. George was very unhappy with the first cut and decided to replace him at the end of principal photography.

Brian screened Carrie for him and Marcia. They loved it, made no suggestions for changes, and flew off to the West Coast to begin postproduction on their picture. About two weeks later, I got a phone call from Marcia.

“Paul, I know you are just about finished with Carrie. How would you like to come out and help us edit Star Wars when you are done?” she asked.

Would I! But the timing! My wife Jane had just become pregnant with our first child. “I have to talk to my wife and get her OK.”

I was thrilled, but a little apprehensive too. How would Jane take this news? I told Brian about my conversation with Marcia. “What? You didn’t accept? Are you crazy?”

He grabbed the phone and called Marcia right back. “Marcia? It’s Brian. He’ll do it.” He told her how much I was making on Carrie. “Can you pay him that?” he asked. “OK, then, it’s all set.”

He hung up and turned to me. “You don’t tell her your problems. She doesn’t need that. Just work it out.”

I raced home to tell Jane. “Honey, I’ve gotten a great job offer, but it means having to go away. Do you remember that book of stills we saw at Jay and Verna’s? Well, George Lucas wants me to come on the film.”

Jane gazed at me and without hesitating said, “Do it!”

I called the next day, and it was agreed I would begin work as soon as Carrie was in the can, around the end of September 1976.

We set about finishing our film. We finished mixing the picture in New York and went out to L.A. to oversee the color corrections in the answer print, the first seamless print made from the cut negative. I moved into a room at the Chateau Marmont, a Hollywood landmark where John Belushi from the original cast of Saturday Night Live was to die of a drug overdose years later.

While I was staying at the Chateau, George Lucas had a copy of his script sent to me. It was titled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the ‘Journal of the Whills’” by George Lucas, and then “(Saga I) Star Wars.” It was the revised fourth draft. I read it and frankly didn’t quite know what to make of it. The pages were filled with words like Wookiee, Jawas, Jedi knights, TIE fighters, X- and Y-wings, and so forth. It was impossible to imagine these things, but I had seen those production stills and was excited at the prospect of working on the film.

George’s office called and asked me to meet him at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a special effects company he had opened to produce the effects shots for the film. ILM was located in an industrial warehouse in Van Nuys. When I got there, George greeted me and gave me a tour. He showed me the motion control camera and the tracks on which it traveled. I had never seen such a thing before. He explained that a computer memorized the movement of the camera so that the precise movement could be repeated exactly, again and again. This was necessary to photograph different models and combine them into a single shot.

The computer data was stored on punched paper tape, which was then constructing the various spacecraft for the picture. There was an enormous pile of boxes of model airplanes and warships that they had cannibalized to make all the intergalactic cruisers and X- and Y-wing fighters, as well as the Millennium Falcon. He showed me the star field that was used as background in all the space shots. Then we went through a glass-paneled door into a small air lock. As we stood on a metal grille, a large vacuum cleaner started noisily under our feet, sucking all the dust off the soles of our shoes. After a few seconds, the motor died down, and we passed through a second door into the optical department.

In the film era, optical effects were achieved by rephotographing original negative, either with mattes or through filters and lenses, with an aerial head, which permitted the image to be enlarged or reduced, tilted or reversed, or other elements to be superimposed, and various other tricks. The result of this rephotographing, however, was a loss of quality, in which the sharpness of the original negative was greatly reduced. To counter this, George had decided to shoot all the effects in a larger film format called VistaVision. It had been developed in the 1950s, when movie studios were competing for audiences with television. The idea was for theaters to project an image that was bigger, wider, and sharper than ever, in contrast to the small screen. In VistaVision, each frame was eight perfs (perforations) wide, and the frames were side by side. In standard 35 mm film, the frames are stacked one above the other and are only four perfs high. The result is that each frame of a VistaVision negative is much sharper. When the optical process we were using degraded the image, the resulting quality, theoretically, would be very close to the look of standard four-perf original.

The studios had abandoned the format some years before due to the high cost of shooting pictures this way. VistaVision required twice as much footage, on top of which the dailies would have to be reduced to four-perf just so the editors could cut it using their regular Moviolas and splicers. The Moviola was the workhorse standard editing tool of the industry even before sound came in. Originally intended as a home movie projector, it was named after the Victrola, the early record player. Too expensive for home use, it caught on with film editors. George wanted to revive VistaVision, only to discover that there were no surviving compatible optical printers. His team, headed by John Dykstra, had to build new ones so that they could shoot the models in the eight-perf format, preserving the quality he hoped for.

I was awed by the high-techness and cutting edge–ness of it all. I had been cutting 16 mm just a couple of years earlier! This was a whole new ball game for me. George suggested we go get something to eat at the nearby Hamburger Hamlet on Van Nuys Boulevard. He ordered a cheeseburger and a glass of milk, and we started to get to know each other a bit. We agreed that I would come up to San Anselmo in Marin County, where the editing rooms were, as soon as I completed my work on Carrie.

After a while, I felt compelled to say something that was weighing on me a bit. “You know, George,” I began, “I have a confession to make to you.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Well, I feel it’s only fair to tell you that I’ve never worked on anything this big,” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said. “No one ever has.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:26 PM CST
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Yesterday's post about The Black Dahlia reminds me that earlier this year, Armond White mentioned Brian De Palma's film in his review of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, which White states "is easily Tarantino’s best film." From National Review:
Movie-actor sympathy is QT’s obtuse version of humanism; his hipster notion of relationships rarely goes beyond clichéd cleverness. The behind-the-scene moments in Once Upon a Time don’t seem as authentic as the early-Sixties sex-and-ambition revue in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, or as insightful as the Hollywood-blacklist parodies in the Coen brothersHail, Caesar! An interlude about the vanity of Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) gives the impression that QT forgot exactly what movie he was making; like Jackie Brown, it’s not convincing.

In Jackie Brown, QT was so absorbed in fetishizing Blaxploitation lore and his star Pam Grier (whom he called “the queen of women” the first time I met him) that instead of reexamining the era when his obsessions were born, he updated it poorly, and Grier wasn’t actress enough to reclaim her Foxy Brown crown. In Once Upon a Time, QT exults in a period re-created solely through cultural artifacts: pop songs, TV shows, movie posters, theater marquees, and incessant, maddening radio advertisements. The specter of gruesome real-life tragedy underneath all the Hollywood history and pop effluvia gives him something new: poignancy.

Brian De Palma already made this ambivalence poetic in The Black Dahlia — especially the memorable sequence where the audition of tragic Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirschner) as Scarlett O’Hara distilled her all-American drive and pathos. Despite crude technique, QT reveals his awareness of Hollywood desperation, found in society’s changing sexuality, especially when dealing with the Manson girls. Going back to the Sixties hippie era, QT evokes the cultural differences between middle-class California conservatism (embodied by inside-outsiders Rick and Cliff) and Manson’s dangerously radical counterculture.

These tense, lewd scenes (anchored to Margaret Qualley’s Pussycat, a brazen free-love druggie, Dakota Fanning’s fanatical Squeaky Fromme, and Rick’s meeting with a precocious child star, loaded with pedophiliac undertones) suggest more than Manson’s psychotic influence. QT seems to be getting at a modern crisis. Manson’s maenads — dirty, barefoot examples of Dionysian abandon — provide the most fascinating sequences of QT’s career. A plot digression features Bruce Dern as a blind, wizened, weakened victim of his own lusts as well as of female opportunists, a Harvey Weinstein figure.

At the screening I attended, most of the audience went into quiet shock during QT’s finale, an extended sequence of conventional action-movie moral reckoning. It hit them on another level than the earlier, poorly imitated scenes of mock-TV violence (for a cineaste, QT’s images are surprisingly imprecise). In this riposte to #MeToo diabolism, Tarantino finally finds a social context that challenges his audience. And while the Motion Picture Academy previously rewarded QT for disgracing both the Holocaust and slavery, this might be an even hotter topic, and it needs a better follow-through than his slasher-movie tropes. But, admittedly, this display of cheap revenge is his career highpoint.

Posted by Geoff at 8:45 AM CST
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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Telegraph's Chris Harvey interviewed Jemima Rooper for an article that posted earlier this week:
In 2013, she appeared in a Harvey Weinstein film – One Chance, the true story of Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. She met the producer but was never alone in a room with him, and has a surprising insight from the shop floor, “Controversially, there's this feeling, when someone who has the power to make careers doesn't really give you a second look, or isn't really bothered about you… it's incredibly annoying. Not that I wanted that kind of attention.

On the first day of filming, she adds, “his PA appeared with a whole load of new costumes and it was all massive high heels, short skirts, basically sexing up the character. I was supposed to be the weird, funny girlfriend… She was sent to do it, to make me feel comfortable about it. If Harvey himself had come along and said, I want you in a miniskirt and high heels, I’d have been, excuse me? Then you hear these awful stories of these girls and because it was probably a woman who said, ‘Harvey really wants to meet with you,’ those women were really sort of complicit in allowing that to happen.”

The moment she found most embarrassing, she says, was when she was cast in Brian De Palma’s 2006 adaptation of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, with Scarlett Johansson. “I got three scenes in a big movie and one of them was a 1930s porn film with another girl. I was 22… I knew that I was probably going to have to be topless… and when we did the porn element, there was a point when Brian was asking if my pants could come off, and I was like, oh my god, what do I do? When you’re doing a small part, you don’t feel like you can just go, ‘hang on, I need to call my agent.’ You want to be amenable. Luckily, he saw I had two tattoos on my back and said, they’ll take too long to cover with make-up. I was so happy. I’ll probably get tattooed underwear now.”

Posted by Geoff at 7:15 AM CST
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