Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod


De Palma Discussion


Recent Headlines
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


« March 2020 »
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31


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

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema


Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor


Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod

Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Casualties Of War
Catch And Kill
Cinema Studies
Clarksville 1861
Columbia University
Columbo - Shooting Script
Conversation, The
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dick Vorisek
Dionysus In '69
Dressed To Kill
Edward R. Pressman
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
Genius of Love
George Litto
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Ghost & The Darkness
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Hi, Mom!
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Newton 1861
Noah Baumbach
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parties & Premieres
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Peet Gelderblom
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Responsive Eye
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Rotwang muß weg!
Sean Penn
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Stephen H Burum
Sweet Vengeance
Taxi Driver
The Tale
To Bridge This Gap
Toronto Film Fest
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Sunday, March 29, 2020

Early this month, Edison Smith, editor-in-chief at VHS Revival, posted an article about Brian De Palma's Body Double:
Brian De Palma is a filmmaker who has always attracted controversy. Not only does he attract it, he seems to openly encourage it, and that was certainly the case with Body Double, a lewd and violent thriller which set out to offend with the wry impudence of someone who is sick and tired of having the same old accusations levelled at them. Described by Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post as a movie that …”has been carefully calculated to offend almost everyone—and probably will,” the queerly elusive Body Double proved a huge commercial flop on the heels of the equally controversial and hugely successful gangster epic Scarface, managing a paltry $8,800,000 dollars at the US box office. “Body Double was reviled when it came out,” De Palma told The Guardian in 2016. “Reviled. It really hurt. I got slaughtered by the press right at the height of the women’s liberation movement… I thought it was completely unjustified. It was a suspense thriller, and I was always interested in finding new ways to kill people.”

With this comment, De Palma was referring to the movie’s most controversial scene, one that sees the elegant Deborah Shelton stalked and penetrated with a phallic drill in a moment deemed so shocking that Bret Easton Ellis referenced Body Double in his equally violent and controversial novel American Psycho, decadent protagonist Patrick Bateman admitting to having seen the film no less than 37 times (just take a moment to absorb that image). Like Body Double, Ellis’s novel was called out for its blatant depictions of violence against women and general misogyny, and when the book was finally adapted for the silver screen after years in production limbo, director Mary Harron focused more on the source material’s wit than it’s profound depictions of murder, describing Scarface scribe Oliver Stone, another controversial director initially tied to the project, as “the single worst person to do it.” Just imagine that movie in the hands of a director who gave us Natural Born Killers.

Another accusation levelled at De Palma over the years is that he aped the works of legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, something else that is plainly obvious in Body Double, which has more than a shade of Hitch classics Vertigo and Rear Window ― particularly the latter, since Body Double is basically an exercise in voyeurism that taps into our darkest urges. There is so much of Hitchcock in Body Double that you practically drown in it, and the movie often makes you feel like you’re drowning, it’s woozy, dreamlike aura leaving you feeling disoriented, stumbling through a rich and often perplexing suspense thriller that is so masterfully executed you’re completely engrossed, despite its fantastical nature and offbeat flourishes. If Body Double was De Palma’s attempt to show us just how well he could do Hitchcock, then message received. The legendary Hitch would have been proud.

Body Double is so indulgent that you’ll either love it or hate it. It’s not something you’ll watch passively time and time again. Criticism for the movie was mostly negative, due largely to a backdrop of women’s rights events, but others would praise the film from a technical standpoint. As was typically the case, long-time allies/rivals Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert would have opposing opinions. Both were known detractors of the infamous slasher film, which Body Double, released towards the end of the sub-genre’s Golden Age, inevitably tapped into, and once again Siskel couldn’t help himself, writing, “When the drill came onto the screen, De Palma lost me and control of his movie. At that point ‘Body Double’ ceased to be a homage to Hitchcock and instead became a cheap splatter film, and not a very good one at that.” Known De Palma advocate Ebert had a very different opinion, stating, Body Double is an exhilarating exercise in pure filmmaking. A thriller in the Hitchcock tradition in which there’s no particular point except that the hero is flawed, weak, and in terrible danger — and we identify with him completely.”

The movie stars Craig Wasson as Jake Scully, a struggling actor with a history of alcohol abuse who falls off the wagon after catching his adulterous wife red-handed. Scully is struggling on the bottom rung of Hollywood when a fellow thesp offers him temporary accommodation in a wealthy contact’s apartment — a futuristic building with the towering, unreal presence of the Bates mansion. As an extra treat, unexpected saviour, Sam Bouchard (Gregg Henry), offers Jake the pleasures of the apartment’s telescope, giving him a perfect view of a sultry neighbour who performs an erotic dance each night after returning home. Wasson quickly becomes obsessed with the beautiful stranger, particularly when he notices a second man stalking her, but since he can be accused of the very same crime, he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands and quickly becomes a convenient pawn in an unreal mystery with so many twists and turns it would be a crime to reveal them.

Aesthetically, the movie is so lush it’s almost hypnotic. The director’s pronounced use of lighting and slanted camerawork create an overtly fictional dreamworld that you just kind of fall into, and it never feels like you’ll hit the ground, however hopelessly you plummet. The film is often like a nightmare that you don’t wish to wake from, that you’re intent on exploring in spite of yourself. The more I watch Body Double, the more it seems like a platform for De Palma’s critical grievances. Firstly, we have the highly sexualized Shelton as the seedy apple of our protagonist’s eye, her demise shot through a rather familiar Rear Window lens. Wasson’s Scully has much in common with Rear Window‘s L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart): a growing obsession, an inescapable predicament and questions of personal morality. Scully is drawn deeper into the mire against his own best judgement. The infamous drill scene is unashamedly chauvinistic. It is also masterfully executed and fraught with tension, a painstaking exercise in suspense that leaves you gritting your teeth and narrowing your eyes as you await the inescapable. Of course, the scene wouldn’t have been half as effective if the victim of our priapic killer were a man — the equivalent of having John Wayne take on Marilyn Monroe in a bout of pistols at dawn.

You can continue reading the rest of the article above at VHS Revival.

Ten days ago, Steph Green, film news editor at The Indiependent, posted a highly amusing article titled, "Bad Films to Watch During Self-Isolation." "As people around the UK are either in self-isolation, let go from their jobs or working from home," Green begins, "a lot of free time has opened up in our normally hectic schedules. As a semi-agoraphobic Millennial whose idea of a perfect evening is eating instant ramen on the sofa and going to bed at 10pm, this is not news I’m devastated by. With many publications from The Guardian to Refinery29 publishing ‘Films to Watch During Self-Isolation’ lists, we’re here to mix things up a bit. Here’s a watchlist of stuff you should actually, probably, be avoiding. This also includes Anything by Quarantine Tarantino. I mean Quentin Tarantino.

Included along with picks such as Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, Todd Haynes' Safe, and Steven Spielberg's The Terminal, among others, is De Palma's Body Double. Of the latter, Green writes, "It may be one of my favourite films, but it’s also about a man who spends too much time at home, spies on his neighbour, and inadvertently sees a murder. And claustrophobia."

Earlier this week, Emmanuelle Alt, editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, listed "her film recommendations for this period of confinement," which includes Body Double. "With all the allure of a Hitchcock thriller," says Alt, "Body Double is one of Brian de Palma's best films, which combines style, sex, manipulation and violence. It follows the tumultuous journey of an agoraphobic actor who has taken refuge in a magnificent villa (the famous Chemosphere) perched on the heights of Hollywood and witnessed the murder of his beautiful neighbor.

A day later, The Architect's Newspaper posted its editors' "picks for architecture-themed movies and shows to enjoy while housebound." Associate editor Matt Hickman chose Body Double. "There’s nothing like a sleazy, ultra-stylish erotic thriller from Brian De Palma to take one’s mind off the troubles of the world," says Hickman. "Highly controversial on its release, Body Double, now a cult favorite, serves as both an homage to Alfred Hitchcock and a tribute to the architectural weirdness of Los Angeles. While numerous L.A. landmarks serve as backdrops including Tail O’ the Pup, the Farmers Market, and the Hollywood Tower Apartments, the real star of the film is John Lautner‘s Chemosphere House (1960), a space-ship-y octagonal lair mounted on a concrete pedestal high in the Hollywood Hills. Reached only by funicular, the home, declared a Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument in 2004, is currently owned by publisher Benedikt Taschen."

Posted by Geoff at 7:49 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, March 27, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakescrop.jpgToday, links to two more reviews of Are Snakes Necessary?

James Scott Byrnside, jamesscottbyrnside.com:
Let’s get a few things out of the way. From what I know about my readership, none of you would like this book. It contains nothing in the way of detection (although surprise and suspense abound). The tone could best be described as luridly trashy, but even that wouldn’t give you a sense of the plot’s sex-leads-to-death ethos. The men are uniformly piggish and the women uniformly naked. One plot thread (of the three) ends in such dreamlike fantasy (with huge stretches of character logic–a stranger told me to throw my laptop into the ocean? Sure.) that I cannot imagine GAD fanatics going along for the ride. Occasionally, the book makes a nod to its film-noir roots:

In another world, one before cancer and surgeon generals, he would light a cigarette, probably Marlboro, and slowly inhale.

But mostly it’s a book of bad people screwing, plotting, and killing. (The title of a future book!)

So now that I’ve told you why you’ll hate it, let’s find out why I liked it. ASN is a screenplay that has been novelized. The first-person POV and the chapter head hopping are not new, but the novel’s insistence on playing as a series of set pieces make it a remarkably visual experience. The scenes are short, the transitions quick, and the backstory terse. By the time you reach the Eiffel Tower (where a French remake of Vertigo is being filmed — oh yeah, it’s that kind of story) you may not even notice the jet-propelled narrative changing to an almost literal description of shots. The plot is suitably twisty.

Thread 1: A philandering Senator (Lee Rogers) begins an affair with a videographer (Fanny Cours) on the campaign trail. Twenty years prior, he had been involved with Fanny’s mother. His wife is currently suffering the initial stages of Parkinson’s. (Swell guy) His fixer Barton Brock is weary of the affair and more than willing to end it by any available means, especially after Fanny falls in love.

Thread 2: Elizabeth Diamond is a bombshell sexpot married to an abusive husband. One day, she meets Nick, a studly photographer who hit it big years ago but now finds himself struggling for inspiration. They carry on a torrid affair until she decides to leave her husband. He brings her to a casino to grab a few things and she vanishes. Despondant, he goes to Paris.

Thread 3: I can’t tell you about thread 3. The first rule of ASN Club is you don’t talk about thread 3.

So, why not film this instead of writing it? (I don’t mean to discount Susan Lehman’s contributions, but it’s almost certain he told her the story and she whipped it into readable shape) The answer sadly, involves the financial burdens of modern cinema. Because DePalma’s eclecticism doesn’t translate to huge box-office returns (or any in some cases), he has made very few films in the last twenty years. It’s a horrible loss for cinema. Here’s someone who actually knows how to put a film together writing a novel. It’s not right.

The final set-piece on the Tower, the controlled horror when the mother reveals her secret, and the (yes) naked swim in the ocean whilst planning murder are all wonderful sequences that should be on a big screen. I’d list all the DePalma hallmarks, but this review would go on far too long. I’ll just say the dreamy malevolence of his best films’ finales and his voyeuristic obsessions are well represented here.

As I focus my blog on detective fiction, I can’t in good faith recommend ASN. However, I think my review will tell you if you want to read it. Basically, if you like DePalma, you’ll like this. I do and did.

Justin Partridge, Rogues Portal
Though the extemporaneous writing style and somewhat dated language peppered throughout the novel might keep it from being an instant pulp classic, Are Snakes Necessary? is an appropriately nasty, page-turning new effort from De Palma and Hard Case Crime.

Senator Lee Rogers and his brutish fixer Barton Brock are powerful men. These men are so powerful that women like young videographer Fanny Cours and down-on-her-luck waitress Elizabeth deCarlo barely even register to them. But when all four are pulled into each other’s orbit, all in the shadow of back-to-back senatorial campaigns, what follows is a tension-packed tale of sex, betrayal, and murder. Working with a fairly lean cast and surprising scope of time, De Palma and Lehman hit the ground running in this debut novel.

The pair pounce from lead to lead, employing a sort of loose mix of first and third-person viewpoints, and establishes a quick pace from the jump. Each chapter is only a few pages long, which gives the novel overall a breezy, quicksmart pacing. This both works well for and against the novel. At its best, it keeps the action of the novel clipping along, injecting a real compulsory feeling into the prose as you barrel from scene to scene. In other sections, it comes across truncated and neglects certain main cast members. Elizabeth, in particular, drops out of the book for a stretch only to pop back up again later.

There is also the matter of De Palma and Lehman’s choice of language in certain parts. Though seemingly set in the “present” (though time is seldom concretely established outside of background information), the pair saddle some characters with jarring older turns of phrase or anachronistic pop culture references. This clash also extends to Fanny, who, being the youngest character of the cast at 18, is cursed with a slightly tone-deaf approximation of “youth speak.” She’s given a few “as ifs” and Valley Girl bubbliness undercutting her righteous anger at the men of this story.

But even these are just slight bumps in the lurid fun of the whole story. Armed with an almost curt tonality and constant twists, De Palma and Lehman deliver some grade-A choice pulpiness, quickly setting the table of the story only to upend the whole thing once they so. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the sections set in Las Vegas and Paris. Our tale of “dirty politics” takes a fun turn into film theory edged with the classic pulp set up of a mafia moll taking a younger, unsullied lover from outside of “The Life.” To spoil how these cities connect to our main narrative would be to give away the book’s best secrets. Trust me when I say, it’s all one hell of a read.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, March 26, 2020
The Netflix docu-series Tiger King came into being when filmmakers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin set out five years ago to make a movie about people who dealt in reptiles. "Tiger King opens with the footage that reshaped the entire endeavor," writes Esquire's Gabrielle Bruney. "While the crew documented a south Florida reptile purchase, the buyer invited them to see what he had in the back of his van: a snow leopard." And thus the project "veered away from the reptile people,” Goode tells Bruney, “into big cat world."

According to Oxygen's Courtney Brogle, "The docuseries mainly tracks the rise and fall of Joe Exotic, a bombastic Oklahoma zookeeper who in January was sentenced to 22 years in prison for hiring a hitman in a murderous plot against a longtime animal rights activist enemy named Carole Baskin." Yet several articles this past week have wondered about another person included in the series: Mario Tabraue, who is believed to be one of the real-life inspirations for Tony Montana. As Bruney puts it in the Esquire article, "Tabraue breezily describes an informant's dismemberment, and still comes off as being among the most normal people featured in the series."

At Distractify, Mustafa Gatollari's headline reads, "Mario Tabraue Was Real Life 'Tony Montana' and Most Normal Guy in 'Tiger King'"...

The presentation of increasingly absurd and downright insane facts in Netflix's Tiger King docu-series is nothing short of masterful. Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin can't receive enough praise for the way each episode was shot and edited. The way it's paced, how much time and attention is given to each fantastical plot point is awe-inspiring, and the unprecedented access they had to the folks in the documentary, like former drug dealer Mario Tabraue, is astounding.

I don't know any other way to put this, but a man who was once one of the biggest mover of illegal narcotics in Miami — a man who was a part of all the unsavory bits of business that went into moving feel-good contraband with his father just so he could support his exotic animal habit — is one of the most "normal" people featured in the docu-series. Let that sink in.

The fact that Eric and Rebecca were able to get access to Tabraue's private zoo and feature him in the documentary is pretty significant, especially because he's an extremely private person who lives in a secure compound that's under 24-hour surveillance.

Hailed by many as the inspiration for Tony Montana in the iconic drug film, Scarface, Tabraue is now the owner and founder of the Zoological Wildlife foundation in Miami.

At the height of his operation, the Miami Herald reported that Tabraue was the alleged leader of a 10-year-long drug operation in the '80s worth about $79 million. In addition to spending money on big cats, the "kingpin" owned several machine guns and an enormous estate with a mirrored ceiling and a "throne" like Montana's in the movie with his initials emblazoned on it: MT (versus TM in the film). Like Tony, Tabraue is also a Cuban-American.

Even though Tabraue used his exotic animal import business as a cover for smuggling drugs into Florida, his love for the majestic beasts trumped his passion for hustling narcotics.

Tabraue was eventually arrested after being involved in the murder of ATF agent and informant Larry Nash. A New York Times article indicated that Nash was killed by Tabraue's cartel during a massive marijuana trafficking operation.

"A drug-smuggling ring that killed an informer and cut up his body while trafficking in a half-million pounds of marijuana has been broken, the Federal authorities said today. The ring also bribed police officers to protect their operation, said Richard Gregorie, the chief assistant United States Attorney here. At one time, the indictment charged, members of the ring used Miami police officers to collect, count and disburse drug profits," the report stated.

In addition to being charged with the murder of Nash, Tabraue was also accused of killing his first wife in 1981 after she threatened to reveal the inner workings of his drug trafficking operation to authorities. He was acquitted of this charge, but in 1989 he was found guilty of racketeering and was slapped with 100 years in federal prison.

He complied with authorities in prison, working as an informant, and was released after a dozen years.

After getting out of prison, Tabraue and his wife, Maria, run ZWF, which cares for exotic animals and offers small group tours where visitors can get a closer look his private zoo. Those who have visited the ZWF have left mostly glowing reviews and despite Tabraue's criminal past, his foundation appears to be unassailable with a huge priority placed on animal nutrition and wellness.

Although Tabraue isn't necessarily the focal point of Tiger King — Schreibvogel, Baskin, and Antle's zoos take up more screen time — it's apparent he's running a much different operation than Joe Exotic's zoo, which was not only way larger by comparison, but housed a lot more animals and, at time, found difficulty in feeding the creatures it housed.

Nowadays you can follow Tabraue's work with animals on his Instagram page, mariowildlife.

Mari Tabraue is mentioned in a review of Roben Farzad's 2017 book Hotel Scarface at Lad Bible:
The Hotel Mutiny, in Miami, was a pleasure palace where Hollywood royalty and rock stars mixed with America's most notorious cocaine kingpins. It was the inspiration for the famous Babylon Club in legendary gangster film Scarface *Say hello to my little friend*.

Now, a new book looks at life inside the hotel during its Seventies heyday. And author Roben Farzad, who has written the book 'Hotel Scarface', has given us a bit of an idea of all the bonkers stuff that led to Al Pacino and co. making a classic...

New Year's Eve, 1979, and behind the dimly lit bar at Miami's Hotel Mutiny, waitresses, hotel porters and cooks were stacking velvet whiskey totes full of cocaine.

These were the evening's tips at a legendary hotel owned by founder Burton Goldberg.

Sat amid crystal-lined tables were Hollywood royalty, rock stars and models - including Liza Minnelli, Ted Kennedy, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Eagles. But partying with them - as they did every night at the Mutiny - were America's biggest cocaine kingpins.

It was these who no longer paid staff for good service in currency. They simply - and openly - passed over wraps of drugs worth thousands of pounds.

In the Seventies, cocaine hit Miami with hurricane force and no place attracted the dealers and dopers quite like this luxury hotel in the city's affluent Coconut Grove enclave.

Among the regular drinkers were such notorious characters as bomber-spy-doper-Nazi-hunter Ricardo "Monkey" Morales, Mario Tabraue, the kingpin with leopards and a pet chimp that drove shotgun in his Benz, and Willie & Sal, the speed-racing 'Boys' who created a $2 billion cocaine empire.

For these men - and their tips - hostesses would always go the extra mile. They would hide weapons in cushions and breadbaskets. They offer discrete warnings whenever the cops were on the premises. One waitress was even adept at clicking her stilettos against new guys on the dance floor to check for an ankle holster on a suspected undercover officer.

How had a respected hotel come to this?

By 1979, South Florida was a failed state. It was raking in hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees, including thousands sprung from Fidel Castro's prisons and insane asylums. Hit men were among them, showing up in Miami with their weapons tattooed on the inside of their lips, raring for contract work.

The homicide rate was out of control. The county morgue was so overwhelmed that Burger King had to lease it a refrigerated truck for the overflow of murdered corpses. Race riots left swathes of the city in ashes.

But in its heyday, the lush, members-only Mutiny Club became an oasis within the chaos -- where you would go (if you could get in) to escape the mayhem, even while you were seated among those who were causing it and becoming rich on it.

The dopers. The beautiful women. The celebs. One hundred and thirty differently themed rooms, based on fantasies like bordellos, Star Trek and Arabian Nights. The Mutiny had it all. It was the Magic City's Studio 54.

Filmmakers Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma knew as much. That's why they themselves stayed at the Mutiny when in town to shoot Scarface, their Miami remake of the 1932 gangster movie.

Similarly, when Miami Vice started shooting in town, one drug lord scored roles on two episodes, in exchange for quality blow for the cast and crew.

But what ultimately transpired at the Mutiny was stranger than Hollywood could ever imagine.

In its decade of existence, the hotel was an unprecedented ecosystem for drug traffickers, law enforcement, celebs, spooks, refugees, parvenus, informers, and scammers, playing host to a drama of murder, corruption, betrayal, and recklessness.

It was a surreal free-trade zone, of sorts, where three generations of Cuban gangsters partied debaucherously and plotted their dominance of perhaps the single most lucrative commodity known to man.

But the Mutiny's infamous orgies and hot tubs would ultimately give way to a decade-long pursuit by the Feds. It would turn from pleasure palace to the front line in the war on drugs.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 27, 2020 8:20 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last week, The Ringer's Adam Nayman posted a social-distancing-related article, "Ten Movies That Are Better Than You’ve Heard."

"The question of what to watch while social distancing is ultimately less important than a lot of other things," Nayman begins. "But it’s also a reality that for a lot of people on self-imposed quarantine, renting or streaming movies will be a safe, significant time-filler—which is why it might be worth taking a bit of a risk in terms of what we’re watching. A case can be made that the time has never been better to rewatch old favorites or catch up with the classics, but what about some movies whose bad reputations previously made them seem like a waste of time? Here are 10 movies that are not only better than you’ve heard, but worth tracking down—and maybe talking or arguing about with your fellow shut-ins now that you’ve got the time to do so."

Nayman tops off his list at the end with De Palma's latest:


I wrote about Brian De Palma’s hot mess of an anti-terrorism thriller when it (barely) came out last year; if Domino was already DOA the second it hit VOD, it’s only been pushed further into the dirt ever since. The reason I’m recommending it again out of all the underrated movies out there is that it’s exactly the kind of film that benefits being watched when there’s time to process and think about it—to look past its thrifty production, evidence of meddling, and after-the-fact editing and look at what De Palma has to say about surveillance, governmental ethics, and violence as media spectacle circa 2020. The paradox of Domino is that on some level it’s a cheap, opportunistic, and wildly contrived genre movie. But it has enough directorial excellence in its DNA to, in some moments, look like a masterpiece, the same kind of outrageous, red-blooded entertainment De Palma was engineering at the time of Carrie and Scarface. Domino was a magnet for bad buzz and bad reviews, and yet it’ll endure on the strength of its bruised, submerged artistry.


Nayman on the Split-Screen Shot in Domino - The Ringer
Nayman - The Wild World of Brian De Palma
Adam Nayman on the "Formally Innovative" Redacted

Posted by Geoff at 7:51 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 7:56 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (17) | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The photo above was taken by Doug Kuntz, and accompanies Charles' Arrowsmith's Washington Post review of Are Snakes Necessary?:
Pitched in style somewhere between a film treatment and tabloid true crime, this debut novel is silly and uneven, sure, but it’s also fun, a pastiche of hard-boiled crime fiction that doesn’t scrimp on the lurid pleasures of the genre.

Sen. Lee Rogers, the “Hunk of the Hill,” a man gifted with “Columbia Law School dazzle” but compromised by a “zipper problem,” is running for reelection in Pennsylvania. Fanny Cours, an 18-year-old videographer “in the full flush of carnality” and the daughter of an old flame of Rogers, is determined to join the senator’s campaign. Beefing up the supporting cast are ruthless campaign heavy Barton Brock, who’ll do anything it takes to protect his candidate; Nick Sculley, a photographer always on the lookout for a story; and Elizabeth de Carlo (or is it Diamond? or Black?), a jailbird-turned-agony aunt who’ll play anyone for anything. There are also a $5 million Basquiat, a remake of “Vertigo” and some implausible coincidences in the mix.

Jean-Luc Godard maintains, perhaps waggishly, that film tells the truth 24 times a second. De Palma, though, believes the opposite, and “Are Snakes Necessary?” litigates the competing claims. De Palma has spent a lifetime exploring the metaphysics of recording technology and of scopophilia, showing us how observation can deceive as much as it reveals. He has shown us the gaze, the camera lens, the telescope as mediums not just of looking but of participating, of penetrating. Think of “Body Double,” De Palma’s “Rear Window”/“Vertigo” remix, in which Craig Wasson’s voyeur becomes an accidental stooge in a murder case. Or of “Blow Out,” whose central crime is exposed when John Travolta syncs an audio recording with film footage of an accident. In both cases, the passive observer becomes the active protagonist.

Likewise Fanny, who shoots webisodes for the Rogers campaign aimed at revealing the real senator, turns out to be “the antithesis of the fly on the wall.” Fanny comes straight from the Godard school: Through her video work, she says, “I want to see, really see, the truth behind things. The naked truth.” Her more jaded colleagues are skeptical. “The camera is a come-on,” she’s told. “People instinctively flirt with it.” And sure enough, Fanny’s soon involved with Rogers and the campaign videos are starting to tell the wrong story: “Every time he looks towards the camera he’s batting his eyelashes,” her friend points out. Before long, the sinister Brock decides that something must be done about the problem intern.

Many crime writers, notably Elmore Leonard, have found ways of updating the hard-boiled genre while retaining its vim and demotic panache. De Palma and Lehman, while giving their story a conspicuously contemporary setting (Twitter, iPhones, 9/11, Ferguson), have aimed less at modernizing than simply transplanting its styles and tropes to the 21st century. As pastiche, this partly works, but it may have a distancing effect on readers.

“Her stiff yellow apron barely contains her voluptuous curves,” we’re told when we first meet Elizabeth de Carlo, the most fatale of the book’s femmes — and while she may in fact turn out to be an agent of violent female empowerment, there’s something retrogressive about her presentation. Perhaps a hint of cool irony can be detected here that some readers will enjoy, but it feels more like an opportunity missed.

The book’s chauvinistic dialogue is another sticking point. While it’s obviously an intentional stylistic effect, it feels anachronistic to see women labeled “doll” and “kid,” and it’s hard for characters to breathe when corseted by lines like “Now, be a good girl and get dressed.” Elsewhere, melodramatic overtones threaten to tip some scenes into the absurd: “This is a problem for me, Senator,” says Fanny at one point. “It’s a problem because you are married — to someone else.” It certainly lacks Raymond Chandler’s combative dazzle or the stylish malevolence of a James Ellroy.

Still, the chapters zip by with the pace and economy of scenes in a movie, and there are enough good jokes — notably the Chekhovian use of a bottle of perfume named “Déjà Vu!” — and plot twists to pass the time guiltily enough.

Scott Adlerberg, Criminal Element
We are in prime De Palma territory here; the list of De Palma protagonists who work with film or video—with images—who engage with the world through a lens of some kind, is long. While they may think they fully understand what they are seeing through their lenses, appearances can be deceptive. What the artiste-technician captures in the end, more often than not, is disturbing—even devastating. The quest to discover something, to shed light on a mystery or dig deeper into a situation, almost never, in De Palma, works out as intended.

Are Snakes Necessary? has three plot strands. One follows a beautiful young woman named Elizabeth. She gets recruited by a political operative named Barton Brock to help him conduct a dirty trick against a senatorial candidate. After that, she reinvents herself as the wife of a Las Vegas mogul, and then she reinvents herself again as something entirely different.

A second strand involves the photographer, Nick Sculley, who has dreams of publishing a photo essay book that will chronicle, in a way he imagines masterful, the progression of a couple’s relationship. He crosses paths with Elizabeth and they have an intense fling.

Last we have the videographer, 18-year-old Fanny Cours, who is idealistic and impressionable. Through a connection her mother had to the senator Barton Brock once devised a dirty trick against, she talks herself into becoming the senator’s official video chronicler for his newest reelection campaign. A series of webisodes she shoots will be posted on the senator’s Facebook page and will aim to show the public a side of Senator Lee Rogers that it has never seen before.

Things get complicated when the senator, a long-time philanderer, starts sweet-talking Fanny. She begins to fall in love with him and thinks his proclamations of affection for her are genuine. He happens to have a wife of many years, though, a woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and none of what transpires between Fanny and Rogers sits well with the senator’s fixer, the aforementioned Barton Brock.

Wasn’t Brock working against Senator Rogers earlier? He was, but this is politics, after all. Allegiances are mutable, and loyalty can be bought. Barton is nothing if not professional, and when he decides the senator must be protected if Rogers is to maintain his public reputation and win the election race he’s in, Fanny finds herself in danger.

De Palma and Lehman tell the story in the present tense, keeping the language tight but casual. The book does read something like a cross between a novel and a movie script, complete with short scenes and quick transitions. Backstory on the characters is supplied as needed, tersely, and the novel’s continual forward momentum carries you along.

De Palma’s films, the thrillers in particular, frequently have a dreamlike quality that embraces the absurd and the ludicrous, to most enjoyable effect, and Are Snakes Necessary? is no different. Through a chance meeting, Elizabeth winds up living in a place you’d never expect, doing a somewhat ridiculous job, but that plot development has a wonderful payoff in the end. What starts for Lee Rogers as a mere dalliance with a staffer turns into lurid melodrama at its finest. And when subterfuge is needed by someone, as we’ve seen in more than one De Palma film, what does the trick better than a skin-clinging mask? As explained, it’s “Some sort of rubber thing, the kind you pull over your whole head, like on Halloween. In the half-light it looks almost real.”

And, a brief Twitter post from Michael Pereira:
Finished reading Brian De Palma’s first novel Are Snakes Necessary (co-written by Susan Lehman) & it was a hell of a pulpy page-turner! Pure De Palma. A must-read for fans. Best thing he’s done since Femme Fatale.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 8:14 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, March 23, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/coffeekoepp1.jpgDavid Koepp posted two pictures of Brian De Palma yesterday on his Instagram page, with the following caption:
Brian DePalma and I have met regularly for coffee for, like, 25 years. This was today. I brought my own chair. And my own coffee. #socialdistance #briandepalma #notesfromtheplague

Posted by Geoff at 8:14 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, March 22, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dionysuspremieread.jpg50 years ago today, Dionysus In '69 had its premiere at Kips Bay Theater in New York. Credited alphabetically as a film by Brian De Palma, Robert Fiore, and Bruce Rubin, it's a split-screen document of Richard Schechner's avant-garde play of the same name, which Schechner based on Euripides The Bacchae. Dionysus In '69 was staged in a New York City garage by Schechner's Performance Group as a work of in-the-round environmental theatre. Feeling strongly that it was an important work that "should be preserved on some level," De Palma approached Schechner and The Group about filming it, and they all liked the idea. De Palma put up a lot of his own money from savings, and with Fiore and Rubin (the latter recording the sound), filmed two performances in June and July of 1968.

"I was very strongly affected by the play when I saw it," De Palma told Cinefantastique's David Bartholomew in 1975. "Bill Finley had been playing Dionysus with The Group for some time. I came to see him and said, 'God, this is incredible,' environmental theatre, the way it affects the audience and draws them into the piece itself. This was the most exciting thing I'd seen on stage in years. So I began to try and figure out a way to capture it on film. I came up with the idea of split-screen, to be able to show the actual audience involvement, to trace the life of the audience and that of the play as they merge in and out of each other. I wanted to get the very stylized dramatic life of the play juxtaposed to what was really going down in that room at that time. I was floored by the emotional power of it. I shot one of the cameras and Bob Fiore the other. The editing took about a year, because I wanted to play with the different ways to use split-screen. I learned a lot and also about the kind of documentary realism that I would use later in Hi, Mom! and even in Phantom Of The Paradise."

Rubin talked about Dionysus In '69 in Justin Humphreys' book Interviews Too Shocking To Print! (2014)...

Brian called me and said, 'You've got to go see this play, Dionysus In '69,' which Richard Schechner had done down at the Performing Garage. I'd heard about it and I'd heard that Bill was in it and I found that really kind of fascinating because I heard that people kind of took their clothes off... And I went, 'That's not Bill! Bill's not going to take his clothes off in front of people!' The Bill Finley I knew was modest beyond belief and Brian kept saying, 'He's changed. He's really changed.' I was really more intrigued by that than anything else, that Bill would have changed so much. Not only did he take his clothes off, but he was buff... This guy never exercised, I thought, in his entire life, but he had turned everything around. And I think the transformation from the Bill Finley I knew prior to Dionysus and the Performance Garage to the Schechner years was one of the most profound transformations of any person I've ever known. He just became a different person: He was self-possessed in a way that I had never seen before; he was mature in a whole new way; his childlike sensibility was still there, but it had been grafted onto a person who had become really articulate, knowledgeable-- an incredible performer, audacious and daring in front of people, and bigger than life. The change was unbelievable to me. I had never witnessed that. I don't knwo if he and I ever talked about it-- I can't remember sitting down and having a conversation about it but I know we all sat and talked because we decided that we wanted to make a movie. Brian thought this would be great. Fiore would be another cameraman, I would be the sound man and editor, which was the way we looked at it. And we were going to do this idea that Brian had, which has become a signature for all of his films, which is a double-screen [split-screen], because Brian is a total voyeur, absolute voyeur, to this day, and he wanted the camera watching all the stuff that was goiong on away from the main stage-- the seductions that were going on. He really got off on it.

Bill was the one who kind of brought us all in to Schechner, and Schechner, of course, loved the idea of this preservation of a piece of work that he did. Most plays are never preserved and for him that was really remarkable. And Brian had a little bit of notoriety and Bill had the notoriety of Woton... The film, once it got made, Brian really got it to a big distributor-- a group called Sigma 3-- it was a small part of a much bigger company, sort of the art wing.

The day after the film premiered at Kips Bay Theater, the New York Times ran a review by Roger Greenspun:
RICHARD SCHECHNER'S "Dionysus in 69" played during 1968 and 1969 in a converted garage on Wooster Street. Brian De Palma made his movie version in the course of just two actual performances. It opened yesterday at the Kips Bay Theater.

Although rough in a few technical details, it is a film of extraordinary grace and power. With exceptional imagination and intelligence, De Palma has managed both to preserve the complex immediacies of Schechner's dramatic event (based on "The Bacchae" of Euripides) and to work those immediacies into the passionate and formal properties of his own creation.

Schechner approached "The Bacchae" not so much to re-interpret the play as to re-experience some of the impulses surrounding and informing it—to which end Euripides's lines were sometimes useful, and sometimes not. Schechner's troupe, the Performance Group, would by turns chant, or dance, make love, plot murder, whisper to the audience, or among themselves hold group therapy sessions.

With its nudity (partial in the actual production I saw; total in the film), its audience-participation orgies (timid and embarrassing in the production; sensual and enthusiastic in the film) and its range of theatrical invention, "Dionysus in 69" strives for a degree of sensuous presence that, paradoxically, I think it best achieves as filtered through the film.

De Palma uses a split screen, and he uses it in a variety of ways. Both sides of the screen always record the same moment in the production. But sometimes they will show different parts of the arena (the Performing Garage was a kind of multi-level theater in the round, with cast and audience often sharing spaces). Sometimes they will develop different points of view toward a single action. Sometimes they will place an apparently random event in formal perspective, and at the same time isolate important detail.

The sequences in which the chorus of Bacchantes in effect give birth to Pentheus (William Shephard) and Dionysus (William Finley, in a fine performance) is so treated, and it makes a kind of patterned energetic sense on film that it did not, for me, make in production.

And yet the film is a record of the production, slightly cut (the group therapy, blessedly, is gone), and not an attempt to extend the boundaries of theater through "cinema." Partly for this reason it is exciting as a movie, approaching its material with great brilliance and ingenuity, but never trying to supersede the material.

Between the two principal personalities involved (I'll except Euripides, who really deserves most of the credit—but in a different kind of review) a mutually enriching tension seems to exist. For if Richard Schechner's power looks the greater for being framed within Brian De Palma's cameras, so De Palma, a witty, elegant, understated young director (for example, "Greetings") seems to have found new ease and vigor and a taste for risks in meeting the challenge of this film.

The Cast

DIONYSUS IN 69, a film by Brian De Palma, Robert Flore and Bruce Rubin; directed for the stage by Richard Schechner; portions of the text adapted from "The Bacchae" of Euripides as translated by William Arrowsmith; released by Sigma III. At the Kips Bay Theater, Second Avenue and 31st Street. Running time: 86 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration classifies this film: X—no one under 17 admitted.)

Members of the performance group taking part in this film are: Remi Barclay, Samuel Blazer, John Bosseau, Richard Dic, William Finley, Joan MacIntosh, Vicki May, Patrick McDermott, Margaret Ryan, Richard Schechner, William Shephard and Ciel Smith.

Posted by Geoff at 9:11 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 28, 2020 8:43 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, March 21, 2020

SYFY WIRE yesterday posted a couple of Christopher McQuarrie quotes, culled from the new May 2020 issue of EMPIRE, regarding the new Mission: Impossible movie he is working on. Last month, McQuarrie had teased that Henry Czerny would be returning for the new installment, even though he has been absent from the franchise since Brian De Palma's initial film. "I realized Kittridge had to be right in a scene, and it was transformed," McQuarrie tells EMPIRE of the new one. He also describes Czerny's character as "a meddler."

The other part of the blurb SYFY WIRE has culled from the EMPIRE issue is a quote regarding Ethan Hunt going into space-- your guess is as good as mine where that conversation started. "He’s not going to space," McQuarrie is quoted. "Nor does he need to go to space. What’s beyond that? Plenty."

Posted by Geoff at 4:52 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, March 20, 2020
CR Men's Tiana Reid posted a story today about The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye), which mentions a few films the pop star is currently obsessed with:
In 2019, Tesfaye went back to his early days, playing the Trilogy-era version of himself in the Safdie brothers’ film Uncut Gems. “I’ve been following the Safdies for years,” he says, a committed cinephile whose current obsessions include Claire Denis’ carnal thriller Trouble Every Day (2001), Brian De Palma’s neo-noir slasher Dressed to Kill (1980), Eckhart Schmidt’s West German, ’80s horror flick Der Fan, and Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money (1986).

On the big screen, he plays it douchey, “a kind of almost satirical version of myself,” he says. His fictitious double refuses to sing unless he’s in black light. He performs “The Morning” and does lines with a white girl (Julia Fox) who comments on his erection. “He’s going to be major—even though he’s from Canada,” Julia says earlier in the film. The line is played for laughs.

That “even though” is a bigger deal than it seems. Tesfaye was born to Ethiopian immigrant parents and raised in Scarborough, a region east of downtown Toronto, before he dropped out of high school, moving out to Parkdale in Toronto’s west side. For many of the young, black, brown, and poor people in Canada’s most-populous city, Toronto lacks industry connections of all kinds, affordable housing, and creative infrastructures, especially when compared to cities in the United States. In response to his upbringing, along with La Mar Taylor, Ahmed Ismail, and Joachim Johnson, the Weeknd now runs the nonprofit HXOUSE, a “Toronto-based, globally focused think-center” that works with young artists of many disciplines. Global capital obviously floods Toronto through real estate, technology, and development, but in an exorbitantly expensive rental housing market, the lofts of “Lost Music” are unaffordable. A condo company in Tesfaye’s old neighborhood of Parkdale, a 14-story new development, is eerily called XO Condos. Five-hundred-square-foot boxes, currently unbuilt, are being sold for upwards of $600,000 dollars. XO is, of course, also the name of the Weeknd’s record label, which includes Canadian hip hop acts Nav, Belly, and 88Glam.

Today, ostensibly, he’s made it. "I feel confident with where I’m taking this [new] record,” he reveals. “There’s also a very committed vision and character being portrayed and I get to explore a different side of me that my fans have never seen.” He says that the first drop, the anti-romance song called “Heartless,” follows where My Dear Melancholy left off. “It was the first song I wrote after that album, so it felt fitting for me to put it out,” he says. “I play a character in the video who becomes compromised and then overcompensates with all the sins that Vegas provides. It’s a great introduction to the next chapter of my life.” In the music video for “Heartless,” set in Las Vegas, this new character, with his Lionel Richie mustache, Herbie Hancock glasses, and a slappy grin, was in fact inspired by Sammy Davis, Jr. in the 1973 film Poor Devil. In one scene, he licks a frog. It’s an all-knowing corniness that can be a bit of a one-note gimmick, its arc to be determined by the forthcoming album.

In the final scene of the video for “Blinding Lights,” which premiered in January, this new jittery nouveau-riche character stares into the camera but also beyond it, blood between his teeth. The look is a mix of Joker and Béatrice Dalle in that aforementioned Claire Denis film he loves so much, Trouble Every Day. After a journey through a hall of mirrors, a good high, a good ass-whooping, it’s hard to tell whether he’s laughing or crying. There’s something funny and something tragic in that ambivalence. This sense that we play characters both louche and garish feels like where we are at the turn of this decade, after years when it seemed no one had a self.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 21, 2020 1:16 AM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, March 19, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakescrop.jpgTwo more reviews of Are Snakes Necessary today from the U.K. --

Geoffrey Wansell, The Daily Mail
Legendary film director De Palma (The Untouchables and Dressed To Kill) joins forces with a New York Times editor to write this engaging debut.

It’s pure pulp fiction, with a cast of characters who wouldn’t be out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Lee Rogers, a U.S. Senator, is cheating on his wife with a young videographer who is covering his campaign. Inevitably, rumours start and he asks his ‘fixer’ to sort out the mess.

The videographer flees to Paris, where she meets a photographer who is working on a new version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and who has been having an affair with the wife of one of Las Vegas’s richest men.

The stories quickly coalesce, with justice handed out in ever more lurid forms.

Told with great panache, it is richly entertaining, and the title is a homage to Preston Sturges’s film The Lady Eve, where Henry Fonda reads a book with this same title.

Jeff Noon, The Spectator
Brian De Palma brings his film director’s eye to Are Snakes Necessary? (Hard Case, £16.99), written in collaboration with the author Susan Lehman. The novel merges fierce political satire with the tale of a corrupt senator happy to cheat on his wife, despite her suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The latest object of his lust is a young videographer hired to record his campaign. Of course, things go from bad to worse and the senator is forced to call in a fixer to sort out the trouble. Terrible consequences ensue, all the way from Washington to Las Vegas to Paris. A globe-trotting sleaze-fest.

The story is pushed forward by the three drives of classic noir — sex, money and power, with the first two only seen as stepping stones on the way to the third. Everyone is either corrupt or on their way to being so. The book is giddy on its own pastiche. Yes, this is a film-maker’s novel, with the many short chapters acting like scenes in a movie and the characters painted in deft strokes, one or two emotions at a time. In truth, there is only one goal: to survive in the swamp pit. In which case, this might well be the best ever user’s manual on swamp survival.

Posted by Geoff at 6:48 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post