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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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« February 2020 »
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Interviews...

De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


Enthusiasms...

De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
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The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site

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No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

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Fly Rule

Movie Mags

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The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
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The Big Dive
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Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

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Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
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italkyoubored

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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Sunday, February 16, 2020
WHOLE LOTTA LOVE FOR DE PALMA'S MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
FILM SCHOOL REJECTS ON "THE SHOT THAT MADE" IT; ALSO, TWITTER DISCUSSIONS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/misuspendedshot.jpg

When I first met Brian De Palma, he asked me how I got into his work. "Was it Mission: Impossible?" he asked. This was in 2002, about six years after Mission: Impossible was released, and it had been De Palma's biggest financial success up to that point (it remains so, today). But when I started telling De Palma that no, I had actually been following his work since I had seen Blow Out, Dressed To Kill, and Phantom Of The Paradise on video years before that, he perked up. I thought of this moment today when I read a tweet from Matt Zoller Seitz, who was responding to a tweet from Mike Ryan, a senior writer at Uproxx, who wrote this morning, "We don’t make a big enough deal that Brian De Palma made an awesome Mission: Impossible movie."

Seitz responded, "There was an interview where he said he thought that was the movie he would be remembered for, and it was difficult to tell if he was genuinely enthused by the prospect, or if he had that old director thing where the film that made the most money is by definition 'the best.'"

Based on my conversation with De Palma in 2002, it would seem he probably saw that prospect as a simple matter of fact. Yet, even though De Palma had smuggled a personal film into his biggest commercial blockbuster (in the Scorsese sense of "the director as smuggler"), De Palma, to me, would seem to be more enthused at the prospect of being remembered for something like Blow Out, or even, perhaps, Carlito's Way. The latter two films are the ones he had personally chosen to open and close his 2002 retrospective at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. In any case, Mike Ryan's tweet about Mission: Impossible led to a whole lotta love for De Palma's film in response.

Meanwhile, this past Wednesday, Film School Rejects' Margaret Pereira posted an article with the image above, and the headline, "The Shot That Made Mission: Impossible." A subheadline reads, "We take a deep dive into the first of many memorable Mission: Impossible shots." Pereira's article then begins:

The iconography of movies is always a little unstable. The imagery and symbolism that are legible to an audience depend so much on the cultural, historic, and generic context. There are even entire academic subfields dedicated to studying it. The visuals we associate with certain themes or characters can be as simple as the Batman logo and as nuanced as Han Solo’s smirk. But there are also images so powerful that they immediately seep into the filmic bloodstream and soak into every nook and cranny of culture. Mission: Impossible contains one of these images.

Tom Cruise, suspended by a single cable, hanging over a computer console. His black secret-agent garb contrasting with the pristine white background. Utter silence. It’s almost absurd that it’s so simple. Directed by Brian De Palma, the 1996 adaptation of the TV series of the same name finds Ethan Hunt (Cruise) embroiled in the first of many scraps with the IMF. Ethan’s been accused of double-crossing, in a botched mission that found the rest of his team dead (or so he thinks). To clear his name, he must steal a list that reveals the secret identities of all operatives in the IMF and team up with a smattering of ex-agents to do so.

In truth, it doesn’t particularly matter what he needs to steal and who he needs to steal it for. This first entry in the Mission: Impossible film franchise spends a lot of time explaining the exact circumstances of the conspiracy. It’s something later movies will mostly abandon — we just get that Cruise has to hang off the side of a plane and we’re happy with that. In fact, the labyrinthine plot of Mission: Impossible contributes to the power of this single shot. The stunning immediate impact of the shot has all viewers forgetting briefly the scene’s narrative purpose and instead investing in the film emotionally. You’re too anxious to be concerned with the specific reason why we’re in this room.

Part of what builds this intense anxiety is the circumstances of the break-in. Alarms will be activated if any sound is too pronounced, a gauge notes the room’s average temperature, and the floor has a sensitive pressure sensor. Because of this, Ethan has to be suspended directly in the middle of the room. The way Cruise’s body breaks up the geometric design of the space adds a lot of visual interest and thematic weight. This bunker is designed solely to keep information in, the secrets of which Ethan must expose to get his life back. He descends into this hyper-codified, precisely organized space as a major disruption. It mirrors the way he disrupts the plans of his adversaries and even his status as a generally rogue agent in future movies.

What’s masterful about De Palma’s approach here is the way he implicates the audience in this shot. While many filmmakers emerging from the more-is-more school of thought might add the classic musical twang here, De Palma opts for silence. Ethan must be dead quiet so as not to trigger the alarms, and we realize that we must be as well. By extending the rules of the story world using sound (or rather a lack of sound), De Palma connects us more deeply to Ethan and his mission.

De Palma also ensures the camera’s slow descent into the space with Ethan leaves the audience hanging on for dear life. The camera never feels like it’s resting on the ground; it’s hovering. Our perspective is just as precarious as his. Ethan is our lifeline; he’s the only one who’s hooked into the cable. We’re forced to trust him. All of these techniques cause the throat-catching, breath-holding effect we’ve come to expect from the Mission: Impossible movies.

There exists a grand meta-narrative of the Mission: Impossible franchise, wherein Tom Cruise is the Ethan Hunt of Hollywood filmmaking. Cruise refuses to let his audience down; he comes back again and again even when we say we’ve had enough. No scandal can keep him down for too long; no box-office disappointment can force his retirement. He’ll hang off the side of a building or jump out of an airplane if he has to, whatever it takes to get his mission done. This film, and particularly this shot, help begin that dynamic.

Mission: Impossible was also the first film Cruise ever produced, and he’s clearly aware of the importance of his own iconographic effect in this movie. Cruise’s producing career includes the rest of the Mission: Impossible films, along with a couple of Jack [Reacher] films, and most recently, Top Gun: Maverick. These projects are a sign of self-awareness in Cruise; he knows what his audience wants to see and is willing to back it financially and creatively. Mission: Impossible cemented his status as a movie star as well as a major creative force in 21st century Hollywood.

Not every movie star would understand that his visual impact lies in being a spatial disruption. The image of Cruise’s body suspended in mid-air isn’t particularly macho or sexy. It simply signifies to audiences the most important part of his persona: he’ll never drop us. This shot sticks in our collective craw certainly because of the gorgeous construction and the utter silence. But even more than that, it establishes Ethan Hunt as the character willing to risk it all, and Cruise as the only actor who could ever convincingly play that. Mission: Impossible created the visual symbolism of Tom Cruise, and his impact will be forever meaningful to audiences because of it.


Posted by Geoff at 6:30 PM CST
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Saturday, February 15, 2020
DRAWER FULL OF VALENTINES - RAISING CAIN
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING - NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/rcvalentine1.jpg

 


Posted by Geoff at 9:38 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020
AMY IRVING RECALLS ADVICE FROM KIRK DOUGLAS
ON SET OF 'THE FURY' - "SAVE IT AND USE IT WHEN THE CAMERA IS ROLLING"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/amykirkmarathonsmall.jpg

Along with Brian De Palma remembering filming Home Movies with Kirk Douglas in this week's Kirk Douglas tribute issue of The Hollywood Reporter, the magazine also has a remembrance from Amy Irving, as told to Benjamin Svetkey:
The Fury was my first starring role. This was a real big deal for me. And I had a certain way of working, getting myself there emotionally to play the character. I wasn’t very experienced in front of the camera at all. So, while Brian De Palma was setting up shots, I was sitting in my little director’s chair, in my own world, concentrating on where I’m at in the scene — I was taking it really seriously and getting myself into an emotional state. And as tears were rolling down my face, Kirk came over to me.

"Are you all right?" he asked. I told him I was just preparing. He said, "Amy, first of all, you’re what, 23 or 24 years old? You’re never going to make it to 30 if you put that much into everything while they’re lighting the set. My advice to you is, A, save it and use it when the camera is rolling. And, B, did you not hear what lens he was using on this shot? With that lens, you’re going to be the size of a pea on the screen. It really doesn’t matter how emotional you are."

It was a really good lesson. And he was right. I probably would not have made it to 30 if I had not had that sage advice from Kirk Douglas.


Posted by Geoff at 7:52 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2020 7:55 AM CST
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DE PALMA REMEMBERS STUDENT FILM WITH KIRK DOUGLAS
DE PALMA SAYS HIS STUDENTS CREATED & WROTE THE MAESTRO CHARACTER FOR KIRK TO PLAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/briandirectskirk.jpg

The Hollywood Reporter this week has a special tribute issue to Kirk Douglas, including this brief remembrance from Brian De Palma:
When I was teaching a filmmaking course at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1970s, Kirk joined me in producing a super-low-budget feature titled Home Movies. My concept for the course was to show the students how to make a low-budget feature by making a low-budget feature. Once the class had written the script, we sought out financing and started casting. Since Kirk and I had enjoyed working together on The Fury, I asked him to join our project.

He agreed immediately and even invested in it with me (along with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg). My students were shocked and surprised: "My God," they exclaimed, "we have Kirk Douglas in our student movie!" They created and wrote a character — a film school teacher called the Maestro — for him to play. I have fond memories of Kirk sitting on a tree branch with his co-star Keith Gordon in the middle of the night instructing him on the virtues of Star Therapy ("You must be the star of your own life," his character lectured, "not an extra!").

A star: No one embodied it better.


Posted by Geoff at 7:31 AM CST
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Sunday, February 9, 2020
'SISTERS' PART OF 'NEW AMERICAN NIGHTMARE' AT TIFF
SEQUEL TO ROBIN WOOD-CURATED SERIES FROM 1979, AS GENRE RESURGES TODAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sisterssplitmirrorsmall.jpg

Brian De Palma's Sisters is included as part of "The New American Nightmare," a TIFF Cinematheque retrospective that began January 24th. Sisters will screen on Friday, February 21, with programmer Peter Kuplowsky providing an intro, as well as a Q&A after the film. The series takes the recent resurgence of the horror genre as an opportunity to revisit the Robin Wood-curated horror series, "The American Nightmare" from 1979, by looking at some of the films Wood had examined, and taking a similar approach to "provocative new explorations of the genre by Jordan Peele (Get Out), Ari Aster (Hereditary), and Robert Eggers (The VVitch)," according to the series description. Here's the programmer essay by Richard Lippe and Barry Keith Grant:
The period from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960 through to the Reagan '80s constitutes a "golden age" of horror cinema, an era that saw the breakthrough work of directors whose notion of horror constituted a radical challenge to bourgeois society and a rejection of middle-class notions of normality. Films like George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Brian De Palma's Sisters, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Larry Cohen's It's Alive were made and released during the turmoil of the Vietnam conflict and the Watergate scandal, and it is no coincidence that these and other horror films of the period contain some form of social and political critique.

Responding to this phenomenon, in 1979 Wayne Clarkson — who had recently been appointed executive director of the Festival of Festivals (later TIFF) — invited film critics Robin Wood and Richard Lippe to program a series of 60 horror films for the Festival's fourth edition. Opening with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic Nosferatu and concluding with John Carpenter’s recently released Halloween, the programme featured onstage interviews with a number of the featured directors (including Carpenter, De Palma, Hooper, Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, and Stephanie Rothman) and an accompanying book of essays. Although it had a small initial printing of only a few hundred copies, The American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film was a pioneering work that set the terms for critical study of the horror genre for decades to follow.

Ironically, following the publication of this landmark study the horror genre began to experience a period of exhaustion. Making once-fresh innovations stale by repeating them ad nauseam, the largely unimaginative and conservative movies that emerged in the 1980s effectively removed the radical frisson from horror, draining it of social criticism and turning their characters into mere targets for whatever weapon the respective killer happened to be wielding. That drought persisted for a long time: even as many of the foundational films of the genre's great period were remade (sometimes repeatedly), it is hard to think of many horror films from the last few decades that approach the allegorical resonance of Romero's remarkable zombie movies, the greatest film series in the history of American cinema.

In the last few years, however, horror has entered another period of revival and experimentation, as a new generation of filmmakers — including Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, and Robert Eggers — has mobilized the genre's basic conflict between normality and the monstrous Other in distinctive and provocative ways. It thus seemed to us appropriate to revisit one of TIFF's pioneering programmes now, as the horror genre is once again becoming a vehicle for progressive awareness in a mainstream cinema that, for the most part, continues to pretend that ideology and entertainment are two distinct entities.


The event page has a programmer's description of Sisters:
ARCHIVAL PRINT!

The first of Brian De Palma's Hitchcock homages conceals a more serious, and ultimately more truly horrific, layer beneath its jocular salute to the Master. From the opening of the film, De Palma invokes familiar Hitchcock themes from foundational works like Rear Window and Psycho (voyeurism, normality vs. the monstrous, etc.) in tongue-in-cheek ways, as a one-night stand between French-Canadian model Danielle (Margot Kidder) and a fellow contestant on a voyeurism-based game show called Peeping Toms ends in morning-after murder — an early-act killing that invokes Psycho's shower murder, but is considerably more brutal and explicit. Our identification then shifts to Grace (Jennifer Salt), an intrepid but occasionally overzealous reporter who witnesses the killing and tries to get to the bottom of the subsequent cover-up. Her quest leads her to a delirious, narcotically stimulated hallucination in a sinister medical clinic, where she relives a traumatic incident from Danielle's past at the hands of a creepy surgeon (William Finley). Abandoning Hitchcock and radically shifting tone in its final movements, Sisters finds its horror not in the masterful manipulation of audience expectations, but in patriarchy's pervasive control over women.

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2020 12:45 AM CST
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Saturday, February 8, 2020
'HI, MOM!' A 'FRINGE BENEFIT' THIS WEEK AT GENE SISKEL
PLAYED LAST NIGHT, ALSO THIS THURSDAY (FEB 13) IN CHICAGO
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/himomflyers.jpg

Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom! is screening this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, as part of the theater's "Fringe Benefits" series. "We continue the mostly monthly series dedicated to provocative and outré films that have galvanized audiences and critics alike, incited passionate conversation, and inspired devoted cult followings among adventurous cinephiles," reads the series description. Hi, Mom! screened last night, and is scheduled to play again this upcoming Thursday, February 13th.

The event description includes an excerpt from The New Yorker's Richard Brody: "An exuberant grab bag of mischievous whimsy that blends radical politics, sexual freedom, racial tension, and emotional hangups with the director’s own catalogue of artistic references, from Hitchcock and the French New Wave to cinéma vérité and avant-garde theatre—and adds a freewheeling inventiveness and an obstreperous satire all his own."

Below that is a description from Cameron Worden:

Before achieving notoriety as a director of formally audacious commercial thrillers, Brian De Palma found his footing in the New York independent film scene of the late ‘60s, producing a series of oddball underground features that culminated with this scabrous comedy. Prefiguring his turn in TAXI DRIVER, De Niro stars as a Vietnam vet navigating the seedier corners of New York City, first as a pornographer surreptitiously filming his neighbors’ sex lives, then as a member of a politically radical avant-garde theater company, before eventually dipping his toes into domestic terrorism. Moving freely between sitcom-ready mugging, Godardian direct address, and gritty faux cinéma vérité, HI, MOM! would demonstrate the breadth of De Palma’s gifts as a cinematic stylist and preternatural ability to stage memorable set pieces. 35mm.

Posted by Geoff at 9:16 PM CST
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Friday, February 7, 2020
'THE FURY' SLOW-BURN ZOOM
PETER SANDZA, ONE DEADLY BULLET
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/furybulleta.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 7:47 AM CST
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Thursday, February 6, 2020
MUBI LOOKS AT NY MOVIES JULY 24, 1981, IN 'JOKER'
INCLUDES NY TIMES OPENING DAY ADS FOR 'BLOW OUT', 'WOLFEN', 'ZORRO'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blowoutnytimesad.jpg

Adrian Curry's "Movie Poster of the Week" MUBI Notebook column last week takes a look at the posters in Todd Phillips's Joker. Included are several frame captures from Joker featuring movie marquees and posters, as well as images of the posters themselves. Investigating the time frame of Joker via these film cues, Curry notes that three of the film titles and posters spotted toward the end (Blow Out, Zorro, The Gay Blade, and Wolfen) are of movies that all premiered in New York on July 24, 1981. Curry includes ads for these films culled from that day's edition of the New York Times, including the one for Blow Out seen above, with the long quote from Pauline Kael's New Yorker review.

Here's an excerpt (sans images) from Curry's column:

The climactic scene of the film (mild spoiler alerts follow) in which clown-masked rioters tear the city up, takes place in front of a fake marquee which Friedberg created on Market Street in Newark, promoting the equally fake (at least as far as my extensive research into early ’80s porn can tell me) Ace in the Hole (“in 3 acts”) which is clearly not a revival of the Billy Wilder film.

The least convincing movie-within-the-movie in the film is the black tie screening of Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 Modern Times at Wayne Hall (actually the Hudson County Courthouse in Jersey City) which just gives Phillips an excuse for Arthur Fleck to enjoy Chaplin’s insouciantly daredevil rollerskating scene (a scene which employed matte paintings as deftly as that long shot of the city at the top of the page).

But the scene which firmly sets Joker in the last week of July 1981 is the sequence towards the end showing Thomas and Martha Wayne and their son Bruce leaving a movie theater (in reality the Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Jersey City—one of the five Wonder Theatres opened by Loew’s in the late 1920s) in the middle of the riot. The marquee clearly touts Brian De Palma’s Blow Out and Peter Medak’s Zorro, The Gay Blade, both of which opened in New York on July 24, 1981.

As the camera dollies past the front of the theater, beneath its gorgeous marquee lights, we get blink-and-you’ll miss them glimpses of four movie posters (click on the images to see them large). First Blow Out:

Then Bob Peak’s poster for John Boorman’s Excalibur, which is somewhat the odd man out because Excalibur opened three months earlier on April 10, 1981.

And then, if we’re not too distracted by the Waynes leaving the theater (which film had they just been watching?), we can glimpse a poster for the Dudley Moore comedy blockbuster Arthur, which had opened a week earlier on July 17, 1981.

The tagline for Arthur could have served as an ironic tagline for Joker.

And finally, around the corner, down a dark alley, we see the poster for Michael Wadleigh’s werewolf movie Wolfen, which also opened the same day as Blow Out and Zorro.

Blow Out, Wolfen, and Zorro were all reviewed in the Friday July 24 edition of the New York Times, and ads for all three, as well as for Arthur, appeared in the same paper.

What’s remarkable is how little screen time these posters get and yet how carefully Phillips and Friedberg planned their inclusion. Not only do the posters fix Joker’s climax in a very specific time, they also speak to the film itself. I can’t see the connection with Blow Out, but Excalibur and Arthur are both about a man named Arthur, as is Joker of course, and Wolfen is a transformation-centered, New York-set horror movie, much as is Joker. The comedy Zorro, The Gay Blade might seem an odd choice until you read the synopsis which tallies with Joker’s themes of wealth and class: “When the new Spanish Governor begins to grind the peasants under his heel, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega follows in his late father's footsteps and becomes Zorro, the masked man in black with a sword who rights wrongs and becomes a folk hero to the people of Mexico.”

There are no posters within the film for Scorsese films, even though the film otherwise wears its Scorsese references proudly, but on July 24, 1981, there was one Scorsese film playing in New York: a revival of New York, New York, which, just coincidentally, is being revived in New York again, starting today.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2020 12:05 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 5, 2020
KIRK DOUGLAS HAS DIED, AT 103
MICHAEL DOUGLAS SHARED THE NEWS TODAY IN AN INSTAGRAM POST
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/furygrief2small.jpg

Kirk Douglas has died today, at the age of 103. His son, Michael Douglas, shared the news today in a heartfelt Instagram post. Kirk Douglas, a legend of the screen from the golden age of Hollywood, starred in Brian De Palma's The Fury. Asked upon the film's release in 1978 why he cast Douglas as the lead, De Palma told Paul Mandell of Filmmakers Newsletter, "I like Kirk Douglas and I've also liked a lot of his films, although in the last couple of years he's been in some not-so-hot ones. I wanted the kind of driven, obsessive character he plays so well. At one point I said to Frank Yablans, 'We need a Kirk Douglas type.' And he said, 'Why don't we get Kirk Douglas?' Kirk had worked with Frank at Paramount before, so the next thing I knew I was talking to him on the phone. Kirk was great! He has a lot of experience and he brings all those years of movie-making to your film."

In an obituary at The Hollywood Reporter, Mike Barnes and Duane Byrge describe Douglas as "the son of a ragman who channeled a deep, personal anger through a chiseled jaw and steely blue eyes to forge one of the most indelible and indefatigable careers in Hollywood history."

After working on The Fury in 1977, Douglas had heard De Palma was making an independent film with film students at Sarah Lawrence College. According to De Palma (in an interview with Gerald Peary for Take One magazine), Douglas had called him and said, "Maybe I can help you out." After reading the script, Douglas wanted to play a part. He became an investor, putting in some of his own money, and also became the star of the film, which would be titled Home Movies (from a script De Palma had written years prior). With a big star like Douglas on board, playing a character called "The Maestro," no less, De Palma feared some of the students might feel a bit intimidated, which might then affect the quality of the film they were making. De Palma made the decision to take on the official role as director of the film, even though he let his students direct the scenes wherever possible. In addition, he hired professionals to head each department.

"All of Kirk's stuff is shot cinema verite," De Palma told Peary, "and his own Star Therapy is to have cameras running on him all the time. He's constantly directing the camera crew that's shooting him, telling them to come around for closeups, over here for a medium shot. When the lab saw the stuff, they thought Kirk was directinig the movie."

Here's an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter obit:

Douglas walked away from a helicopter crash in 1991 and suffered a severe stroke in 1996 but, ever the battler, he refused to give in. With a passionate will to survive, he was the last man standing of all the great stars of another time.

Nominated three times for best actor by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — for Champion (1949), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Lust for Life (1956) — Douglas was the recipient of an honorary Oscar in 1996. Arguably the top male star of the post-World War II era, he acted in more than 80 movies before retiring from films in 2004.

"Kirk retained his movie star charisma right to the end of his wonderful life, and I'm honored to have been a small part of his last 45 years," Steven Spielberg said in a statement. "I will miss his handwritten notes, letters and fatherly advice, and his wisdom and courage — even beyond such a breathtaking body of work — are enough to inspire me for the rest of mine."

The father of two-time Oscar-winning actor-director-producer Michael Douglas, the Amsterdam, New York native first achieved stardom as a ruthless and cynical boxer in Champion. In The Bad and the Beautiful, he played a hated, ambitious movie producer for director Vincente Minnelli, then was particularly memorable, again for Minnelli, as the tormented genius Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life, for which he won the New York Film Critics Award for best actor.

Perhaps most importantly, Douglas rebelled against the McCarthy Era establishment by producing and starring as a slave in Spartacus (1960), written by Dalton Trumbo, making the actor a hero to those blacklisted in Hollywood. The film became Universal’s biggest moneymaker, an achievement that stood for a decade.

Douglas’ many honors include the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The broad-chested Douglas often bucked the establishment with his opinions, and he had the courage to back them up. “I’ve always been a maverick," he once said. "When I was new in pictures, I defied my agents to make Champion rather than appear in an important MGM movie they had planned for me [The Great Sinner, which wound up starring Gregory Peck]. Nobody had ever heard of the people connected to Champion, but I liked the Ring Lardner story, and that’s the movie I wanted to do. Everyone thought I was crazy, of course, but I think I made the right decision.”

Never one to toe the line with synthetic, movie star-type parts, Douglas played classic heels in a number of films. In 1951, he showed a keen flair for portraying strong-minded characters like the sleazy newspaper reporter in Billy Wilder’s The Big Carnival (aka Ace in the Hole) and the sadistic cop in William Wyler’s Detective Story. He played more sympathetic types in Out of the Past (1947), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) as Doc Holliday, Paths of Glory (1957) and The List of Adrian Messenger (1963).

Douglas was very particular in his role selection. “If I like a picture, I do it. I don’t stop to wonder if it’ll be successful or not,” he said in a 1982 interview. “I loved Lonely Are the Brave and Paths of Glory, but neither of them made a lot of money. No matter; I’m proud of them.”

His independent nature led him in 1955 to form his own independent film company, Bryna Productions. In the post-World War II era, Douglas was the first actor to take control of his career in this manner. Captaining his own ship, he soon launched a number of heady projects. Most auspiciously, he took a risk on a young Stanley Kubrick with Paths of Glory and Spartacus, films that feature two of Douglas’ finest performances. (He hired Kubrick for the latter after firing Anthony Mann a week into production.)

Indeed, Douglas backed his artistic and political opinions with action: His public announcement that blacklisted writer Trumbo would script Spartacus was a key moment in Hollywood’s re-acceptance of suspected communist figures.

During a Tonight Show appearance in August 1988 to promote his first book, The Ragman’s Son, Douglas told Johnny Carson that he often drew from personal experience for his work on film.

“What I found out when I wrote this book is I have a lot of anger in me,” he said. “I’m angry about things that happened many, many years ago. I think that anger has been a lot of the fuel that has helped me in whatever I’ve done.”



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2020 6:05 PM CST
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020
'DOMINO' IS CUMBOW'S TOP FILM OF 2019
"COMBINING THE STRONGEST ELEMENTS OF FEMME FATALE & REDACTED"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dominobaby.jpg

Robert C. Cumbow's list at Parallax View's "Best of 2019" post last month places Domino at the top of what Cumbow calls his "Magnificent Seven." Cumbow must not read our blog here at De Palma a la Mod (turns out he does-- see comments below), or he would surely have read that Brian De Palma claims that Domino was not recut. In any case, here is what Cumbow writes about the film in the best-of article:
I didn’t see all of the films I’d like to have seen, but I did a fair job of catching the ones I most wanted to, and of those, here are the ones I liked best:
Domino (Brian De Palma) took a lot of flak for being cut down from 150+ minutes to 88, but for me it was a crisp, clean 88 and the best film De Palma’s done since Femme Fatale. Combining the strongest elements of Femme Fatale and Redacted with some actual thought about what it means to make images and the all-too-human motivations that underlie our most high-minded moral choices, this has to be my top film of 2019.

Cumbow also lists two composers under "Music" - Pino Donaggio for Domino, and Max Richter for Ad Astra.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2020 6:33 PM CST
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