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Tuesday, March 10, 2020
"I know it's hard to imagine a world with men like astronauts, who have this purity about them, but that's what I experienced in the times I spent with them. And also, they have that kind of starry-eyed look, because they've seen things that we will never see. They've been out there, hanging off the shuttle somewhere, fixing something on one of the satellites, and they've been looking around the universe. They come back with this look in their eyes! There's something magical about it. And that was what I was attempting to show, with Gary Sinise's journey through the material. These guys have been somewhere and done things that no man has ever done before." - Brian De Palma, talking to Bill Fentum in 2000


Posted by Geoff at 1:55 AM CDT
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Monday, March 9, 2020

Brian De Palma's The Untouchables will screen in a 70mm Blowup print, with Magnetic Sound, at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago March 14, 17, and 18. The Untouchables was included in an early version of the Music Box's 70MM Fest back in the summer of 2016.

Posted by Geoff at 11:09 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 9, 2020 11:12 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 8, 2020


UPDATE 3/14/2020 - The Metrograph appears to be in the process of canceling all screenings at the theater after March 18, which includes the sceenings mentioned in this post.

UPDATE 3/11/2020 -  The Metrograph page for this event now reads, "De Palma will no longer appear in person."

Original Post from 3/8/2020 - Brian De Palma
will spend a Saturday night at The Metrograph in New York City March 21st. He'll be signing copies of Are Snakes Necessary? And he will also present two films: Richard Quine's Pushover (1954), and De Palma's own Femme Fatale (2002), the latter a Metrograph favorite. The choice of Pushover is interesting, as it featured the film debut of Kim Novak, who, of course, would go on to star with James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, the 1958 film that sparked De Palma's interest in cinema. Stewart and Novak teamed up again in 1958 for another Richard Quine film, Bell, Book and Candle, which was a big hit at the box office. Meanwhile, Novak's co-star in Quine's Pushover, Fred MacMurray, had already starred with Barbara Stanwyck in another De Palma favorite, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944), which is playing on a hotel television in the opening shot of De Palma's Femme Fatale. When you consider that Are Snakes Necessary? includes a film crew in France who are making their own version of Vertigo, there is sure to be some fascinating intertextual discussion March 21st at the Metrograph.

Here's the Metrograph description of the event:

March 21

Brian De Palma has been an independent cinephile filmmaker emerging from the politically and aesthetically radical 1960’s counterculture of New York City. He has been a director of scrappy, ingenious low-budget genre fare, and he has been an unmistakably personal studio auteur putting the entire mechanism of industrial filmmaking towards creating big, bold, and sui generis thrillers. He survived being perhaps the most excoriated of New Hollywood’s Young Turks, and has become among the most venerated of its Old Masters.

And now he is adding another accomplishment to his astonishing CV—the author of literary fiction. At Metrograph for the release of his debut novel, the political satire Are Snakes Necessary?, co-written with Susan Lehman and published by Hard Case Crime, De Palma will also present one of his own films and an old favorite, as a reassurance he hasn’t left the cinema behind entirely.


C.J. Bunce, borg

The modern pulp noir follows intersecting characters in a smarmy world of cheating, lying, and murder, from Las Vegas to Washington to Paris.

A senator and his majordomo encounter a woman from the senator’s past at an airport, and the senator is eager to welcome her daughter as an intern to document his campaign. Meanwhile, a struggling photographer gets mixed up with the trophy wife of a wealthy businessman in Las Vegas. Two married couples–a cheating wife and a cheating husband–the wife a victim of spousal abuse seeking to get out, and a politician with a sick wife staking out his next conquest. And somehow they all come together during a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, based more toward the underlying novel, which was set in France (I reviewed the novel a few weeks ago here at borg).

In a way Are Snakes Necessary? is De Palma taking a stab at doing his own play on Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski. Fans of The Girl on the Train, Chinatown, State of Play, and the sleazier shelf of 1970s era pulp crime novels will go for this one, along with fans of De Palma’s films. More about 20th century sexual politics than 21st century sexual politics and less about a political campaign, the snakes in the title are the men who continue to get away with manipulation, lies, and sometimes murder.

The setting and players will be familiar to readers of Elmore Leonard–it’s the kind of pulp crime story where men are maulers and women only survive if they’re willing to kill–the kind of story De Palma or Tarentino would put on the big screen, along with the corresponding sex, language, and violence. Almost as an aside, the authors slip in a character something like Melanie in Leonard’s The Switch and Rum Punch, a woman fed-up with her lot who knows herself and finds her way into an off-the-wall revenge plot. The book also has that taste of so many airplane-based movies in the 1970s with those relationships tied to travel, like passengers flirting, something that hasn’t been a go-to plot element for a while.

Are Snakes Necessary? is full of highs and lows–highs in its surprises, lows in its overall familiar tropes of the genre. Tightly written, the story may also seem a bit thin and straightforward, although the authors pack a handful of twists into their tale, including a vivid climactic sequence at the Eiffel Tower clearly written for the screen, which may justify a read all by itself. The authors reveal the scene via a photographer that plays out like a zoetrope–a really nice effect. In fact the entire novel feels like it could have been a screenplay adapted into novel form.

Mark Rose, Bookgasm
De Palma and Lehman provide a nice brisk pace through what is a relatively short novel. And unfortunately, the short length may be the flaw that bothered me the most. The ending seems rushed, unsatisfactory in details, and is way too pat (there are twists I don’t wish to give away). However, there is a lot going on with all of the characters, and they seem fairly well-rounded.

Descriptions are at a minimum but still adequate. Dialogue is realistic. The two stories are strong but could have benefited from further fleshing out. Is it readable? Absolutely. Is it a classic? No. A good read for an airplane ride or your first day on the beach.

Posted by Geoff at 3:55 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 14, 2020 9:43 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 6:46 PM CST
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Friday, March 6, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CST
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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Our old friend Peet Gelderblom, who famously re-cut Raising Cain back to something resembling Brian De Palma's original idea for that film, has been working on a new project for the past couple of years: When Forever Dies, described as "an archival fiction film assembled from fragments of hundreds of largely forgotten movies, most of which are rarely seen today." The film will have its world premiere next month at the Imagine Film Festival in Amsterdam, and they've started a crowdfunding page for the final stages of production. You'll find a compelling trailer posted there. Here's more from the crowdfunding description:
Writer/director Peet Gelderblom joined forces with the prestigious Eye Filmmuseum and production company Tangerine Tree to repurpose a treasure trove of moving images into a genre-bending found-footage fantasia, 125 years in the making.

Silent movies, propaganda, animation, newsreels, advertising, trick films, burlesque, educational shorts and experimental cinema unearthed from dusty archival sources were painstakingly curated and cleverly re-mixed to create an immersive sensory experience. Held together by a compelling narrative, anonymous strips of celluloid were combined with nitrate prints of long-lost classics and given new meaning. Fully enveloping sound design was added to cast the vintage imagery - often color-tinted, sometimes degraded, but always gorgeous - in a different light.

The film features original music by Pieter Straatman, Kettel and Man After Midnight, classical pieces and an eclectic mix of existing tracks.

The page also includes Gelderblom's Director's Statement:
This film, made of 125 years of film, is dedicated to all of the artists, producers and technicians before the lens and behind the scenes who gave cinema light and shadow. And to the archivists keeping the magic alive when movies are sometimes forgotten.

Archival footage is usually deployed to document the past: to create a time capsule of what once was and is no more. That’s the traditional approach and perfectly legitimate, but the vast creative possibilities that film archives offer are rarely explored in full.

For this particular project I was not interested in what Werner Herzog has called “the truth of accountants.” I don’t see these largely forgotten moving pictures as ancient relics, but as living things. In a recycled context, pieces of old film have the power to open doors of perception—at once timeless and relevant to our times.

The tools of the digital age allow filmmakers as myself to clash perspectives, combine wildly different sources in unexpected ways and overlay a contemporary point of view. When these antiquated images are used as building blocks for archival fiction or other experiments, they offer a vintage lens through which one can see the world of today more clearly.

In the age of sampling and recycling, it’s only logical to consider the potential of a circular cinema: a second chance for orphaned reels of film to find a new home. When Forever Dies is my attempt to take this concept as far as I could, but I never expected the end product to feel so personal.

As I dived into the archives, the archives also dived into me. I chose to work only with images that really spoke to me, and much to my surprise, the images I found demanded a discussion. What started out as my ode to cinema became a manifestation of all I hold dear and fear of losing, as alluring as it is distressing.

Posted by Geoff at 8:15 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 7, 2020 9:52 AM CST
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Brian De Palma's Scarface was to screen at 9pm April 4th at the Los Angeles Theatre, with a disco dance party before and after the film. However, as of March 15, the event page reads, "RESCHEDULED - TBD." Here's the lowdown as originally posted from sponsor Cinespia:
Dive into the opulent luxury of 1980s Miami in the most breathtaking theater in Los Angeles! The world is yours with a cinematic masterwork on the big screen and an outrageously extravagant disco dance party before and after the film.

Al Pacino is the charismatic and savage Tony Montana, whose rocket rise in the 1980s Miami underworld is a fever dream of power and pleasure. Can he grab hold of the American dream, or will the high life take a turn? Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer in her startling, sumptuous breakout role teeming with glamour and grit.

The neon decadence of the Babylon Club comes to life on all five floors of the extravagant Los Angeles Theatre, from the exquisite balconies to the palatial ballroom, with full bars, DJs, and dazzling photos moments on every floor. Dress up in decadent glamour for our free photo studio to take your portrait home.

With virtuoso direction by Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone’s riveting script, you won’t want to miss this epic Cinespia night.

All ages, 21+ w/ valid ID for cocktails. Rated R No one under 17 admitted without parent or guardian.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 15, 2020 6:47 PM CDT
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Monday, March 2, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Late last week, The Telegraph's Jack Taylor posted an article with the headline, "The complicated, colourful history of Apple products in films." The main thrust of the article is Apple's insistence through the years that on screen, only "the good guys" are to be shown using Apple products:
Over the last few decades, blockbuster films have been awash with Apple products, from iPhones and iPads, to MacBooks and iPods. And, while most companies shell out millions for the privilege of getting product placement on screen, like Heineken and its eye-watering deal to replace James Bond's martini in Skyfall, Apple doesn't pay a penny.

Suzanne Forlenza organised Apple's film and TV marketing almost single-handedly in the '90s, and worked out a system still in use today. "Frankly, we are absolutely overwhelmed with requests," she told the Irish Times in 1996, "The good news is we have established excellent relationships throughout Hollywood, so we have first crack, typically, at all the big films."

"We provide the computers requested for on camera usage on loan, all being due back to us at the end of the filming."

Forlenza made clear that Apple products could only ever be portrayed in a positive light, withholding permission where this couldn't be guaranteed. In the first Mission: Impossible film (1996), for example, she insisted that Tom Cruise use a Mac while the villains had IBMs. "We have a standing insistence that [Apple] will only be in the hands of the good guys."

This philosophy hasn't changed much since, as Knives Out director Rian Johnson was frustrated to discover: "Apple lets you use iPhones in movies, but – and this is very pivotal if you're ever watching a mystery movie – bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera."

The tech giant was one of the first companies to realise the value of lifestyle branding through film and TV, whether that be the high-tech glamour of Mission: Impossible or the socialite chic of Sex and the City. Below, the company's most influential product placement spots.

The list of films and TV shows that comes next in the article includes Mission: Impossible:
One of the earliest appearances of Apple in film is Tom Cruise's aptly-named PowerMac in the action spy thriller, which rivals Bond for its love of high-tech gadgets. Apple made a deal with the producers to feature clips from the film in their adverts in exchange for the laptop being front and centre during Cruise's hacking escapades. Marketing manager Jon Holtzman said: "We saved almost $500,000 in production costs – and got Brian De Palma to direct and Tom Cruise to act in it."

The commercial for the PowerBook can be viewed on YouTube. What remains unspoken in all of this is how De Palma subverts the whole idea of "good guys" and "bad guys" in Mission: Impossible, even though, yes, Tom Cruise is the hero of the piece. Placing Cruise's hero in the same position at the end that Jon Voight (as Jim Phelps) had been sitting in at the start of the film indicates a potential blurring of the lines, as does Ethan Hunt's taking on the role of "Job" and breaking into the CIA to steal the NOC list. Similarly, the characters using MacBooks in De Palma's Passion are all just as bad as they are good. De Palma focuses in on the MacBooks with their Apple logos twice in that film, highlighting the product as well as the two sets of characters using them, echoing the blurring of the good/bad lines in Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 11:21 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 9:42 PM CST
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Saturday, February 29, 2020

https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cctsnakes.jpgBrian De Palma, who attended Columbia University from 1958 to 1962, had been scheduled to return for a Columbia College Today event on Thursday, March 26, but the event was canceled as of March 13th. Billed as "An Evening with Brian De Palma ’62," De Palma was to take part in a conversation with "renowned educator and author Annette Insdorf, professor of film at the School of the Arts," who has been "director of Columbia’s Undergraduate Film Studies program for more than 20 years," according to CCT. Susan Lehman had also been scheduled to be there, as the De Palma/Lehman novel Are Snakes Necessary? would have been included in the discussion. The book would have been available for purchase, with the co-authors signing copies after the Q&A.

De Palma entered Columbia University as a freshman in 1958, studying physics and technology (in the Baumbach/Paltrow De Palma doc, De Palma tells them he originally went to Columbia "to study physics and math and Russian"). Soon after the start of the semester, De Palma saw Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo in VistaVision at Radio City Music Hall and something clicked. "At first, I didn't know exactly why I was so impressed," De Palma told Michael Pye and Lynda Myles in their 1979 book, The Movie Brats. "It was like suddenly finding someone who is speaking your language and realizing that there is a vocabulary. You begin to be aware of a very grammatical use of the camera, something you only see in a very few directors. I began to realize why Hitchcock engages you so strongly; you were in the same position as the character. You saw the same information the character saw."

In his 2011 book Shock Value, Jason Zinoman points out that Vertigo engaged De Palma's practical side as well as his creative imagination. As De Palma told Zinoman: "I'd look and I'd say, okay, now how do you do that? Like when I was a kid, I'd look at machines and say, let's figure out how to do this." In his 1988 book The De Palma Cut, Laurent Bouzereau writes of De Palma's Vertigo epiphany: "Filmmaking had suddenly become more precise than science itself."

In a 1975 interview for Cinefantastique, De Palma told David Bartholomew that in the late '50s, "I was interested in theatre first, because I had a way of approaching that. They were doing plays at Columbia and I had been doing skits and things in high school, so I knew something about it. I was much more of a scientist than an artist. I thought science, now that was something really important. I was brought up in the '50s when going to the moon was the most important thing man would ever have to do."

With fresh Vertigo-inspired cinematic interest, De Palma joined the university's Columbia Players theater troupe. As a sophomore in 1960, De Palma met Jared Martin and William Finley at the Columbia Players' annual varsity show, A Little Bit Different. "And the varsity show that year had some names," Martin recollected for Justin Humphreys's 2014 book, Interviews Too Shocking To Print! "Terry McNally wrote the script, Ed Kleiban that did A Chorus Line wrote the music or the lyrics, I can't remember which. Michael Kahn, who became a famous director-- he directed it. Bill [Finley] more or less played the lead, I remember... He was a director looking for locations in a jungle for a movie he was shooting, and in this jungle he met all these strange types... And was this a real jungle or was he actually in Hollywood, walking through sets? We never really knew. But not only did Bill play the director, he also designed the sets. A huge set of banana leaves, which was very difficult to climb over if you wanted to make an entrance. A lot of people were late because they couldn't get through the banana leaves.

"And I played a bit role in this and that's where I met Bill. And Brian was kind of in the background. He wasn't an actor-- Brian was still acting at that time-- he wasn't an actor, he wasn't a writer, he was one of the producers-- he was around. And at the end of the varsity show, Brian stopped by and I didn't really know him at the time, and he said, 'Next year, in the fall, do you want to be roommates.' And I said, 'Sure.' And then, that summer, I was away, and then in the fall, I found that Brian's other close friend was Bill. And Brian was always the centerpiece.

"Bill and I liked each other, we worked well with each other, but Bill always lived at home. He wasn't part of the Columbia 'Go down to the West End and get loaded or hang out or this, that, and the other thing.' He'd go to class, he'd go to rehearsal, and then he'd go back to 25 Fifth Avenue [where] he lived with his folks and his sister. So we didn't really have a life [together] outside of campus and theater activities. But, that year, Brian was always the Pied Piper for our little group. Brian was the oldest, Bill was the middle, and I was younger by about two years."

Early in 1958, prior to leaving home in Philadelphia for Columbia University, De Palma had been working to document his father's infidelity by recording his phone calls, following him to work and snapping photos outside his father's office window. According to Zinoman, De Palma told one friend that year that the photos were his "first film." In 1970, De Palma mentioned his "background in photography" to Joseph Gelmis (for Gelmis' book The Film Director As Superstar) as he explained how he ended up directing his first short film, Icarus, in 1960:

I started making movies when I was at Columbia University as a sophomore. I was with the Columbia Players, and I had a background in photography. I was obsessed with the idea of directing the Players. But they wouldn't let undergraduates direct them, so I was frustrated. I figured I'd go out and direct movies instead.

This restlessness no doubt led De Palma to corral his friends Jared Martin and William Finley up to Sarah Lawrence College, where the three of them would spend most of their time. (Humphreys writes that De Palma and Martin would travel up together "precariously on a Lambretta scooter while Finley took the train.")

Bouzereau (in The De Palma Cut) states that De Palma "created a film association between Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. The famous stage director Wilford Leach, who conducted a theater class at Sarah Lawrence, was immediately impressed by the young man's energy and interest in filmmaking. Leach soon became De Palma's mentor. According to De Palma, Leach was one of the very few people who ever understood him." Bouzereau goes into further detail about the making of Icarus:

In 1960, Brian De Palma made Icarus, which he today considers a pretentious film, though he admits that it encouraged him to learn more. At first, De Palma was only supposed to be the cameraman on Icarus, but the director left the set after many arguments with De Palma, who was already trying to impose his own visual ideas, regardless of his position. Luckily, De Palma was then offered the opportunity to finish the film himself.

Talking about Icarus, De Palma told Gelmis, "I bought a Bolex 16-mm movie camera secondhand for about $150. I hocked everything I had and used my allowance over a period of a year and a half to finance a long, forty-minute short called Icarus." In the Pye and Myles book, De Palma explains that, because of his scientific background, he had originally planned to be the cameraman. "But I had a falling out with the director. That left me with the cast, and I had to start all over again. I became a director because I had the camera and the film." Asked about the short by Bartholomew in 1975, De Palma said, "It's not a very good film. I had a whole bunch of ideas, and it's pretentious and slow and stupid in many ways, but it has some rather good things in it, too. It was a beginning, and you have to begin somewhere."

In 1961, while still at Columbia, De Palma made the short film 660124, The Story Of An IBM Card, which Bouzereau describes as "the story of a painter who loses his life to the benefit of his art." De Palma told Gelmis that 660124 "was pretentious but a little better, technically. Then I finally made a short called Woton's Wake, which won a lot of prizes." Woton's Wake was made in 1962, the year De Palma graduated from Columbia and, with the help of Wilford Leach, received a two-year graduate fellowship to Sarah Lawrence College.

While he was at Columbia, "There was a lot of excitement," De Palma says, speaking to Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow for their 2016 De Palma documentary. There was a lot of excitement, De Palma tells them, "because, of course, we had the war-- we had to worry about getting drafted-- and we had all this French New Wave stuff coming, and all these foreign movies. So it was a pretty exciting time. It was like, that's what you talked about. That was like the new thing. There was no place you could take film at Columbia. And I signed up for a cinema society called Cinema 16, run by Amos Vogel. And they would show all these very avant-garde shorts. That's what you signed up for. I submitted my shorts every year until the third year, I won it with Woton's Wake."

Posted by Geoff at 10:22 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 14, 2020 6:03 PM CDT
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