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Monday, April 6, 2020
A TWITTER ANALYSIS OF 'FEMME FATALE'
FACU DANTUONI POSTS LENGTHY TWITTER THREAD, ILLUSTRATED WITH SCREEN CAPTURES
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/ffanalysis.jpg

Facu DAntuoni, from Argentina, posted a lengthy analysis of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale today, as a Twitter thread. Below is a Google-assisted translation, although these tweets are best read on DAntuoni's thread, where he has included screen captures to illustrate his tweets.
Thread Analysis of "FEMME FATALE" (2002). De Palma is repeatedly said to copy Hitchcock and that he is an irregular director. Let's see particularly in this case, as what he does, is a rereading and updating of his work. In one of his least valued movies.

Before starting, I clarify that the analysis will be with spoilers and that there will be several mentions of Double Indemnity (1944), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960) and Body Double (1984).

"Femme Fatale" is among many things, a revision to the figure of the fatal woman. For this reason it begins with the reproduction of Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder. Fundamental film for film noir, the characteristics of the "femme fatale" and the figure of the double.

In this close-up of the film, Laure is reflected and blurred in the screen. Establishing the mix of reality with fiction and the oneiric (which was later proposed by Brian De Palma).

In the scene he watches from Double Indemnity, he goes from general to specific (there is a close-up of the shots). In Femme Fatale the opposite occurs: De Palma uses a traveling backward, going from Laure's reflection (his double) to his presentation; backwards.

But let's detail several more particularities of this entire initial scene, which lasts almost 5 minutes and has no cuts:

The backward traveling responds to the fact that: both Laure, De Palma's own film and cinema understand that one must know the above (the history of cinema). The present and the future are built from the past (which is going to happen literally in the film).

Laure shows up and almost the whole scene is turned on her back: we understand that there is something behind it and that it will be pursued and observed throughout the story.

It is the first voyeuristic act in a double way: we (spectators) see Laure (and she does not see us). At the same time she sees Phyllis from DI (who doesn't see her). This will be maintained throughout the film (chases of 3 people) where there is someone who does not know that they are watching.

She is lying down: since she is going to dream (literally) much of the film.

In addition to the Billy Wilder movie, "Femme Fatale" will dialogue with Vertigo and Alfred Hitchock's Rear Window. Films that among many topics address the theme of women, and women and their relationship with men (and vice versa).

Black Tie enters "scene" being this, the "masculine" look of this femme fatale. This man gives you orders and takes a command position. Laure apparently subordinates herself to him.

Lastly, the clock and the mirror: the double, the gaze and the time are brought into play from the beginning.

To complete this whole scene, which as I mentioned has no cuts, curtains are opened -the curtain is drawn- which gives an idea of ​​self-awareness, representation, staging and acting (later I develop all this). And it's also a link to the beginning of Rear Window.

The entire following sequence (which lasts about 15 minutes) occurs at the Cannes festival, where Laure is going to steal diamonds and betray her companions (Black Tie and Racine): and where the following themes are going to be present (which then go to make sense).

Double: Both the film shown at the festival "East West" and "Femme Fatale" is made up of two words.

2 bodyguards // 2 women accompany the director // 2 women in the bathroom // division of the same space into 2 parts.

Reflection in mirrors // 2 languages ​​and 2 countries (France and the United States) // Number 2 in the director's passenger seat.

The circular and the fall: (relationship with Vertigo, then I return to this).

Voyeurism, the male gaze, the female gaze.

The screens:

The water, (later in the thread I explain).

At the end of this entire sequence. It is the woman who has the key (takes power) that previously passes through 3 men: she will be the protagonist / heroine of the story.

Laure is now the protagonist: therefore we see her behind the glass (screen) and the world (paris) is the one that is reflected in her. Thus reversing the foreground, where she observed a screen and reflected on it.

To hide, she will change her look (double her). Symbolically, Laure is searching for her identity.

The first split screen appears, which as is known is a resource that De Palma uses regularly. Far from being free, in a film where the gaze is a relevant topic. Viewers will have to choose and decide where to look. But this is not the only interesting thing:

De Palma uses this narratively: and shows two glances towards the woman, (in both cases they are spying on her). Laure realizes that the photographer is watching her. But he is unaware that Black Tie is doing the same. The viewer with the split screen knows everything. [A La Mod editor's note: it is not Black Tie spying here via binoculars, but his partner, Racine]

This whole scene is going to alternate different subjective of the characters, with normal planes (somehow subjective of the spectator). And it will end with (continue)

Nicolas Bardo, pasting the photo he took of Laure (reality / fiction / representation), and on the right side, a shot identical to the one that Bardo looks at, but which is not a subjective one of him.

Laure escapes from the Church and is persecuted by her (false) parents. Along the way De Palma takes the opportunity to present other characters that will appear later. Her future husband, the chief of security, the wench and Phyllips.

Very interesting that the character of the head of security is starring Gregg Henry. Actor who in Body Double plays Sam Bouchard, who represents evil and power.

Hitchcock is the master of suspense and Brian De Palma is his best student: Racine, a partner in Black Tie, is going to wait for Laure in the hotel room. The viewer knows everything beforehand and thus the tension is generated.

The attack on the woman is similar to the end of Rear Window.

Then Racine pushes her and Laure falls for the first time. Falls are essential in Hitchcock's cinema.

When Laure falls, she is "sleeping".

The photograph increases in blue tone; which is related to water and a certain trait of reverie. Through a subjective, Laure sees her (false) parents.

For the second time a television appears (beginning of the film). We already know that Laure watches and learns from what she sees in this one. In the show you watch, they ask themselves: if you could see your future, would you change it? Which is literally going to happen next.

All the movements, planes and angulations in De Palma's cinema always have a reason. Not coincidentally here, (a death) uses a zenith shot.

As in Vertigo: there is an identity replacement: (Madeleine / Judy) - (Laure / Lili) but this time it is the woman herself who decides to do it (in the form of a dream). Without neglecting that she is persecuted, by the “masculine” gaze of different men.

Anticipating us a little, Laure will reflect, (taking power): What woman does she want to be? What did you learn from the other women? What is your identity? Lili is her double but also her counterpart: she is married and had a daughter.

Let's remember the elements that appear when Laure bathes (the water, the clock). From here it is a dream of hers.

The rain of this whole scene also responds to a change, so every time it rains, Laure will change her look (identity).

Subjective of Laure that sees Lili in a kind of screen, between the kitchen frames. As we said, Lili is one of the many women that Laure observes.

Lili writes a letter saying that she is going to travel to America to start a new life. Then she loads the drum with two shots, turns it and takes aim. The first shot doesn't work but the second does (relating it like this to the scene Laure sees from Double Indeminity)

Double and circular is in every detail: De Palma makes a great ellipsis, and without showing the shot: it goes from the circular movement of the drum to the turbine of the plane. With this we already understand that Lili shot herself and that Laure took her identity.

The story jumps 7 years later where Laure returns to France and is married to Watss (the man she met on the plane)

Nicolas Bardo's presentation is repeated with the split screen. The Banderas character is going to be acting and pretending to be someone else several times. In the role play, he is also searching for his identity.

Nicolas Bardo is a kind of Scottie (Vertigo), Jeff (Rear Window) or Jake (Body Double). As these have a weakness, he has free time and is a voyeur.

On the split screen, on one side he will stay (without moving the camera) with Nicolas Bardo. On the other side, the movement from the beginning of the film is repeated: the camera moves back and goes through the church, through the deja vu poster and finally by the two women in a bar.

From the back we are presented with a woman who we think is Laure (she is not). Then Nicolas Bardo appears, posing as a blind person to take a photo of Laure.

Rear Window / Femme Fatale / Domino.

Shiff appears back, sure he wants to get Laure's photo back. Nicolas Bardo does not know that he is being watched. In this minimal conversation the double appears, the screen and the water.

Bardo enters the room performing a performance: and both are dressed in opposite colors: Laure is in white, since she simulates purity and innocence. Then when he reveals his plan, he is going to present himself in black. Also these two states coexist in it, as a double.

The cross anticipates the (symbolic) death of these two characters.

Nicolas Bardo falls in love, and Laure seduces and uses him. Like Madeleine, she appears ghostly.

In order for De Palma to tell us that Laure is cheating on Bardo, he places her in front of a mirror where she takes off her makeup (her mask).

“Femme Fatale” and film noir: a great self-conscious mystery / suicide scene and that of a detective trying to discover a case.

In Hitchcock's work: the protagonist's morality and taking charge, seeing and discovering a murder, are put into play, starting from observing the details. From a voyeuristic look, getting into the private life of another. For a photo that Bardo took, Black Tie searches for Laure

We have already discussed the role of women and the masculine gaze. Laure and Nicolas Bardo go to a bar, where they are all men and she is the center of attention.

Laure seduces Napoleon (another relationship with water) who is double of Nicolas Bardo.

Nicolas Bardo and Laure descend into "the underworld" obviously through a circular staircase.

Both men and women seek their identity, through representations. Laure stared at the Double Indeminity femme fatale. Then, I change her look and take the identity of Lili. Now before the Napoleon dance, look at another woman on the poster.

Bardo watches Laure, who unlike the close-up of the movie (from the back), is facing forward and knows that she is being watched. What it gives, a certain self-awareness within the film itself. Back the 2 masculine glances at Laure. Napoleon is here, the one with his back

Then Banderas must face and beat his double. All this shown, intelligently through shadows.

This little scene is another summary of the Femme Fatale themes. One of the protagonists (Laure) there is something she does not see, and the viewer has more information (Bardo is recording it). Both characters are acting within the fiction itself.

On the bridge, already reaching the end, all the important characters will conclude. This whole scene is reminiscent of the one Laure sees in Double Idemnity: first she cheats and kills the husband to keep her silver. Then (continue)

they both point their guns. Recall that in Double Indemnity, Phyllips shoots Neff once and does not kill him (he needs two shots), he shoots him twice and kills her.

As we already said, at any moment some of the characters are being observed without knowing it. In this case both Shiff and Black Tie watch them from a car.

Laure and Nicolas Bardo sign up, the latter has fake bullets (performance / representation).

The bridge is a symbol of union, and of power. Power, which in Veritgo invisibly has Gavin Elster, in Body Double Sam Bouchard has it. In Femme Fatale, Laure (as a woman) and Nicolas Bardo are going to try to get it. The bridge will also be the step to another life.

Symbolically, Nicolas Bardo (attention to the framing, the blood and the cross) and Laure are going to die.

Laure, like Madeleine, is going to "fall".

Water as a symbol of rebirth: If Laure dies, she will be reborn back in the bathtub.

Now, understanding that everything Laure lived through is a dream (of her future). Knowing what happens, both in your life and in the other movies, (the camera that goes backwards, relationship scene)

Laure, as a woman can decide what life to live and what identity to have. Live your own life and not that of other women.

Also, Brian De Palma, decides to give his protagonist the opportunity to redeem herself and go back. That possibility that Marion Crane did not have in Psycho.

Therefore Laure, will change the facts and her own destiny. She decides to save Lili, who gives a circular chain to a driver.

Before moving on to the end of the film, let's see how Brian de Palma, using Laure's elements in the bathtub (such as the water and the clock), leaves clues, so that the viewer, if he is attentive, knows that everything that has happened is a dream:

Water:

The clock, with the same time as the one in the bathtub.

Posters of "deja vu".

Pictures with water or referring to sleep.

The dialogues:

The Blood of Black Tie, which refers to the beginning of the film.

The double, not only seen from the plans:

The circular can be seen from objects, shapes, scenes that are repeated, or even in minute details, such as the spiral of the vase. Let me be clear, it is not just a curiosity, this is fundamental for the film and as a way of seeing life, by Brian De Palma.

Not coincidentally, with everything already explained, the characters discover or reveal situations through photos.

Now, the end: They go back 7 years and repeat the sequence already known from the split screen to Nicolas Bardo. Now it's Laure, the woman sitting at the bar.

The driver, this time is dazzled by the circular chain that Lili gave him, and instead of accidentally killing the woman, he is going to kill Black Tie and Racine. Laure changed her destiny and that of the other woman.

In the end, Laure and Nicolas Bardo instead of ending in "hell" will end in "paradise".

If "Femme Fatale" started with a fiction and "opening a curtain" it will end with Nicolas Bardo, sticking the photo of Laure on his wall, a cutout and a representation of reality, from one of his many possible lives.

Up to here the thread of "Femme Fatale" (2002) MASTERPIECE by Brian De Palma. Thanks for reading, and any doubt, contribution or suggestion is more than welcome.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 11:07 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 5, 2020
MEGAN ABBOTT TWEETS 'CARRIE' - 'DARE ME' ECHO
FIRST EPISODE OF CHEERLEADER DRAMA OPENS WITH DIRECT HOMAGE TO 'CARRIE'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetmegancarrie.jpg

Megan Abbott is co-showrunner of the TV series Dare Me, which ended its first season last month on the USA Network. The series is based on Abbott's 2012 novel of the same name. A week ago, Abbott tweeted the above juxtaposed images from Brian De Palma's Carrie and the very first episode of Dare Me. The latter, which originally aired last December, was written by Abbott and co-showrunner Gina Fattore, and directed by Steph Green.

Back in December, Abbott talked to Refinery29's Leah Carroll about why so much of her writing is about teenage girls, and also about the visual look of the pilot episode:

Refinery29: Dare Me is adapted from from your crime novel of the same name — so many of your books are about teenage girls. Why do you think you return to that subject in books, film, and TV?

Megan Abbott: "I think we're all in some ways haunted by our adolescence. It is sort of that moment, especially for women, when you really decide who you are and what you want and what you don't want. Teenage girls are just on the cusp of adulthood and they crave experience, but might not always be quite ready for it when it comes. And it just is such a precipice age and just so ripe for drama. And I think as a culture, we so mistreated the subject and are so diminishing of young women. There’s a stereotype of these selfie-taking, vapid girls we see so much in media and in film and TV, but we know it’s obviously not true. Adolescence is a time of roaring complexity for young women. It's endlessly fascinating. I would really only write about teenage girls."

Visually the show is so stunning. The girls are shot covered in glitter but it looks like war paint. What was behind that aesthetic choice?

"Well, the 'war paint' thing comes straight from the book. And my novels are so influenced by movies. So I do think when I’m writing, I’m also creating a visual image. But it really was so much a part of a pilot director, Steph Green, who really established the look, and our director of photography on the pilot, Zoe White, who does handmade palettes. And together with Gina Fattore, my co-showrunner, we really had all these visual ideas that we wanted to use to tell a story that is very internal. We really wanted to find a way to convey these inner feelings through visuals because you're not always really able to articulate those feelings at that age.

"So we wanted to go with a slightly elevated style to reflect how it feels to be a teenage girl, where the colors are even brighter and the world is more intoxicating and mysterious. All of that was part of the very first discussion, even when we were pitching the show. we really wanted this to be, you know, Virgin Suicides-esque: that kind of dreaming, moody, murky, dark. We had this amazing production designer, Michael Bricker, who also did Russian Doll. And he had this great idea that the girls would be the one pop of color in this sort of gray, muddy-looking, weary city. And so it was this great collaborative effort to try to bring this interior life of teenage girls to a visual form."


PREVIOUSLY:

Friday, November 16, 2012
MEGAN ABBOTT INFLUENCED BY LYNCH & DE PALMA
"I CAN NEVER THINK OF A FEMALE LOCKER WITHOUT THINKING OF THE BEGINNING OF 'CARRIE'"
Megan Abbott's latest book, Dare Me, takes place in the world of high school cheerleading, and has been described as Heathers meets Fight Club. Abbott is currently working on the screenplay adaptation of Dare Me for a film version in development with producer Karen Rosenfelt at Fox 2000. In an interview with William Boyle at Fiction Writers Review, Abbott discusses, among other things, the influence of David Lynch and Brian De Palma on Dare Me. Here are the first few paragraphs of the interview:
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William Boyle: You cited Twin Peaks as a big influence on The End of Everything and you mentioned Laura Palmer in your article about competitive cheerleading for The New York Times a few weeks ago. I feel David Lynch’s presence in Dare Me, as well. There’s a Laura/Donna dynamic between Beth and Addy and a very palpable erotic tension throughout. Did Lynch influence Dare Me?

Megan Abbott: With me, it’s never one-to-one or conscious exactly. But this is interesting: when I had the title for The End of Everything I watched Mulholland Drive again and it’s a line in that film: “This is the end of everything.” Someone told me, “Oh, it’s also a line in your first book” [Die A Little], which I had written the year Mulholland Drive came out, so clearly that line is/was tattooed in my brain. So I think it mostly comes out in unconscious ways.

But that’s a great analogy. The Laura Palmer/Donna relationship is such a fundamental female friendship dynamic and that’s a perfect example with Beth and Addy. There’s always the one friend who takes all the air out of the room or is such a presence and the other one who is secondary and is longing to be that bigger person. There are those moments when Maddy comes and looks like Laura and then Donna realizes that she’s going to be dethroned again. There’s something about that complicated female dynamic that I think has been a pulse through a lot of my stuff.

And then sometimes I look at Lynch when I’m trying to add odd tensions to a scene. I get that a lot from him. It’s never direct either. But I’ll just sort of watch a bunch of his stuff to remind myself of why things are scary that wouldn’t necessarily seem scary. There’s a scene in Dare Me where Beth is talking about a dream she had and that definitely feels like a Lynch kind of thing. You know, when someone’s telling you the dream, but they’re telling it in a way that it becomes terrifying to the listener.

Also, in Lynch’s films everything is infused with eroticism. That’s something that’s probably characteristic of maybe all my books, but certainly the last two where it’s adolescence, so it takes over everything anyway.

William Boyle: Early in the book you confront the fetishization of cheerleaders head-on: “All those misty images of cheerleaders frolicking in locker rooms, pom-poms sprawling over bare bud breasts. All those endless fantasies and dirty-boy dreams, they’re all true in a way.” This put me in mind of Brian De Palma. It’s almost as if you’re playing a kind of trick he’d play, making us believe that’s true but yet undermining it with the portrait of the Cheerleader Real that you wind up painting. Was that your intention?

Megan Abbott: Absolutely. De Palma. I can never think of a female locker without thinking of the beginning of Carrie, which is exactly what “dirty boy-dreams” I had in mind. And it’s funny because I always feel like I go both ways with that. I love De Palma. I’m a big De Palma fan. And I want to diffuse the fantasy, but then it also turns out to be partially true. That’s always the thing—it’s the two sides of me. My Times essay is my intellectual take. I want this to be real. But when I write, it’s a different part of my brain—it also wants it partially to be a fantasy. And for it to be a fantasy part of it has to be true. So there are moments in the book where the fantasies are made real, they are kind of literal, there is a sensory pleasure the girls get from each other’s bodies even in just touching each other during stunts. I wanted that to be in there. The sort of thinking feminist part of my head wants to puncture this stuff, but the other part of me knows it is part of the Real in some ways, that all fantasies have some basis in reality. People always say De Palma’s a misogynist, but I think he’s actually really a feminist. And I think he gets to have it both ways. I mean, that’s sort of his trick. He’s making fun of it, but he’s still indulging it.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, April 4, 2020
IT'S A 'BLOW OUT' KIND OF SATURDAY
TALKED UP AT FLICKERING MYTH, SCREEN RANT, AND FEELIN' THE LOVE IN PHILLY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/travoltamakesmovie.jpg

"You liked Rocky. You loved Witness," Gary Thompson, film critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, said to readers in an online post this morning. "And now readers have flooded The Inquirer’s 'One Movie, One Philadelphia' with excellent suggestions for other movies to watch together while we’re in lockdown — the strong favorite being Blow Out, the 1981 Bicentennial thriller with John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, and Dennis Franz (as lowlife Manny Karp, the anti-Sipowicz). But before we move on to Brian De Palma and his R-rated hooker noir, we wanted to find something appropriate for all ages to watch this weekend and weigh in on."

And so, while this week's "One Movie, One Philadelphia" will have The Inquirer's readers watching Nicolas Cage in National Treasure over the weekend, and posting their comments about that film before midnight on Sunday, it looks like Blow Out will definitely be highlighted later this month. In the meantime, two other websites included Blow Out in their lists today. At Flickering Myth, Tom Jolliffe offered up "10 essential paranoia films," a list that includes The Conversation:

Possibly the greatest paranoia film ever. Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful film sees Gene Hackman catch a suggestive conversation from two ‘targets’ he’s been asked to tap. A progressive trail of events unfold and Hackman, still haunted by the collateral damage from some of his previous jobs, believes he’s unwittingly put a young couple in danger.

The nefarious company Hackman deals with make vague threats when he questions them, and then his mental state begins to unravel. For a film that Coppola did as a kind of quickie between his two Godfather epics, The Conversation is stunningly crafted. The offsetting score really adds to this unsettling atmosphere. By the time Hackman has lost his marbles completely, and the film has ended brilliantly, you’ll be left stunned.


And of course, Jolliffe also includes Blow Out:
Back to a sound man finding himself drawn into a web of murder after recording more than he bargained for. Brian De Palma’s wonderful homage to vintage era Hitchcock (as well as no small nod to Antonioni’s Blow Up, and the aforementioned The Conversation) has everything you’d expect from his peak era work.

Travolta probably gives his best performance. Given how huge a fan Tarantino is of this film in particularly, and the surprising choice to cast Travolta in Pulp Fiction back in the day, it’s likely his work in this contributed heavily to why he ended up dancing with Uma Thurman on screen in 94. Travolta and fellow Carrie alumni, Nancy Allen are both excellent in this and the film is brilliantly shot and expertly paced. De Palma’s trademark style is in full effect, and completely effective for this kind of histrionic thriller. If Coppola dialled it all back for his thriller, De Palma keeps it all out and it contrasts beautifully with The Conversation (rather than battling it for supremacy).


"TRAVOLTA'S BEST-YET-MOST-UNDERRATED ROLE"

And also today, Jake Dee at Screen Rant ranks Travolta's "10 best roles," with Jack Terry in Blow Out coming in at number 5...even though it sounds like Dee is actually saying it is Travolta's best...? Read on:

Travolta's best-yet-most-underrated role is almost certainly that of Jack Terry in Brian De Palma's equally unheralded 1981 thriller Blow Out. See this movie if you haven't already!

Jack Terry is a soundman for low-budget horror films. While out recording nighttime sounds, he accidentally records a car crashing off of a bridge into a lake. The car belongs to a powerful politician who dies in the wreckage. What seems like an accident is discovered by Jack to be an assassination conspiracy after he carefully studies his recording. The final line Travolta gives is truly chilling!


Jake Dee's top four Travolta roles: Vincent Vega - Pulp Fiction (#1), Tony Manero - Saturday Night Fever (#2), Danny Zuko - Grease (#3), and Chili Palmer - Get Shorty (#4).

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
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Friday, April 3, 2020
EXPLORING GREENWICH VILLAGE WITH CARLITO
'CARLITO'S WAY' & 'REAR WINDOW' INCLUDED ON 'EPIC GREENWICH VILLAGE WATCH-LIST'
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Yesterday, Ariel Kates at the Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation posted their "Epic Greenwich Village Watch-List." The list includes Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, which are both on HULU right now, apparently. "It’s time to dive into our beloved neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo as they’re seen through the movie camera lens," Kates states in the introduction. "Presented in no apparent order, this list is full of Village locations, Villagers behind and in front of the camera, romance, action, drama, intrigue, and all the things to keep us occupied when we’re looking for something to watch.

Here's the entry for Carlito's Way:

Carlito’s Way – 17 Gay Street, Greenwich Village (Hulu)

Ten years after they made “Scarface,” Al Pacino and director Brian De Palma returned with “Carlito’s Way,” another large-canvas portrait of a professional criminal. Carlito Brigante is older and wiser, and for a time seems to be luckier… you’ll have to watch it to find out what happens to him and his luck, but *spoiler alert* our hero Pacino is arrested on Gay Street. He also watches a dance at the Joffrey Ballet Theater, and explores other sites in the Village and beyond.


And the entry for Rear Window:
Rear Window – Christopher Street and Hudson Street (Hulu)

It’s not often that a building plays a starring role in a major motion picture. But in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which premiered on August 1, 1954, that is exactly the case. Most people know that Hitchcock set the film in Greenwich Village, but did you know that the location he used as a reference for the setting actually exists? The multi-dwelling apartment building and complex of next-door buildings that share a common courtyard at the corner of Christopher Street and Hudson Street is the object of Jimmy Stewart’s obsession and where the murder in the lauded Hitchcock film takes place.



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, April 2, 2020
'SISTERS' HITS MUBI UK
REVIEWS AT LITTLE WHITE LIES, VODZILLA
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Brian De Palma's Sisters was added to MUBI UK a few days ago. Little White Lies' Tom Williams posted a review on Monday-- here's an excerpt:
What elevates Sisters above a standard Hitchcock rip-off, and makes it authentically De Palma, is its typically unsubtle and scathing social critique. Latching on to the disillusionment of late-1960s America amid the broadcasting of the Vietnam War, he makes his concerns about morbid fascination apparent. By framing the game show scene as a television studio set, De Palma positions us as the live audience, making it impossible to ignore his on-the-nose satire.

As evidenced in this scene, the act of looking is central to the plot of Sisters and is unavoidable as a by-product of its Psycho-meet-Rear Window narrative. Crucially, budding investigative journalist Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt) is introduced as the lead character through a voyeuristic episode: the viewing of Woode’s murder at the hands of psychologically unhinged Dominique, Danielle’s since-separated Siamese twin and ulterior personality.

After a frenzy of blood and Bernard Herrmann’s screeching score, Collier’s identity as Danielle’s distant neighbour, and witness, is revealed via a tantalising zoom out. De Palma uses his notorious split-screening to show this ordeal unfolding from both apartments simultaneously, suggesting that no one is immune to being spied on in this twisting, slasher escapade.

This begins the reporter’s story of female crisis as distrust haunts her at every turn: whether it’s the police, her own mother, or a private investigator she hires. De Palma makes this disbelief as frustrating to watch as possible, to both point at a repressive patriarchy and indicate the dangers of her invasive, suspense-fuelled investigation.

He achieves this by frequently positioning the audience as voyeurs of the story rather than being immersed in one character’s perspective: effectively punishing them for peeping too. One excruciating split screen sequence shows Grace’s fracas with the police side-by-side with Danielle’s ex-husband Emil (regular De Palma collaborator William Finley) hurriedly covering up the murder and hiding the body in a sofa bed.

Collier’s persistence heightens upon viewing a Breton Twins exposé, reminiscent of the exploitative real-life documentaries that fed perverse curiosity in the sixties. Her own morbid fascination leads her into captivity under Emil and she is forced to witness the journey of the twins whilst sedated in a harrowing dream sequence.

This is where De Palma really flexes his directorial muscle, physically launching Collier into the perspective of Dominique through her own pupil, which transitions to become a peep hole into the twin’s nightmarish history. Switching from 35mm to 16mm, colour also ceases to exist as she witnesses life on the other side of the lens, including the invasive recording of the documentary and the neurotic behaviour of the general public.

Such an explosive crescendo rounds up what De Palma was saying all along: our voyeuristic tendencies are unhealthy, perverse, and ultimately dangerous. The final shot and the last act of looking is one of obsession and zero resolution. Through binoculars, the private investigator observes the sofa bed intrinsic to the murder. No one is coming for it and the case is dead in the water. Still, he watches on.


Meanwhile, Vodzilla reshared Anton Bitel's review of Sisters from this past January:
Sisters opens with a double-bluff. First, as the credits roll to the instantly recognisable dramatic strains of a Bernard Herrmann score, we see up-close stills (courtesy of Lennart Nilsson) of a foetus developing in utero, before it is revealed that there is a second foetus hidden behind the first. Next, in the opening scene, ad man Phillip Woode (Lisle Wilson) is shown in a changing room watching as a blind woman enters and starts undressing – only for it to be revealed that this is a sting operation, with Phillip’s moves and moral choices being filmed by hidden cameras for a television show called Peeping Toms. By turning away, Phillip passes the test of chivalry, and is rewarded with dinner for two at Manhattan’s nightspot. The ‘blind’ woman – in fact, a perfectly sighted Quebecoise model called Danielle (Margot Kidder) – puts herself forward to join Phillip at the club, and then invites him back to her apartment on Staten Island. The following morning, Phillip is murdered there, stabbed with a knife from the cutlery set that had been Danielle’s prize on the show.

These two openings, one short and one much longer, introduce what will prove key themes in Brian De Palma’s first thriller: twins (and other doubles), and voyeurism. It turns out that sweet Danielle is a Siamese twin, surgically separated from her more disturbed sister Dominique (also Kidder) as an adult, and still bearing scars (both physical and psychological) from that traumatic rupture. Linked by their otherness – he is African-American, she is French-Canadian – Phillip and Danielle are brought together by a television show devoted to wandering eyes, and as they spend the night and morning together, they are still being observed – by Danielle’s ex-husband, Emil Breton (William Finley), who possessively stalks the model, by Dominique, who lingers jealously in the next room, and by budding journalist Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), who lives in an apartment opposite and is partial eyewitness to Phillip’s murder. Even the newspaper for which Collier currently works is called the Staten Island Panorama – that last word signifying the full view of the film’s plotting which, in the end, the audience can see even if the surviving characters remain blind.

It is no coincidence that Herrmann was hired to provide the score. For Sisters, like so many of De Palma’s subsequent films, pays homage to, even makes pastiche of, the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock. Grace snooping from her apartment replays Rear Window (1954), while the killing and cover-up that unfold in Danielle’s apartment come with echoes of Rope (1948) and a gender-reversed Psycho (1960). If these allusions represent one kind of doubling, there are certainly others, from De Palma’s expert use of split screens to divide the film’s narrative perspective in two to the convergence of Danielle’s and Grace’s storylines until they become hypnotically conjoined. Sisters is a film of two halves, with Phillip’s murder and disappearance followed fast by Grace’s amateur sleuthing – in which she is paired with professional detective Joseph Larch (Charles Durning). Their two-pronged investigation will lead to some crazy places, and indeed to a place for the crazy, where one man’s gaslighting ways are made to coalesce with a psychiatrist’s clinical use of mesmerism, and two very different women will find themselves trapped in the same Shock Corridor.

Both Grace and Danielle are trapped. Grace may have high ambitions to pursue her career as an investigative reporter independent of any men, but voices around her, like the urgings of her mother (Mary Davenport) that she give up her “little job” and get married, keep driving her to conform to the prevailing, male-oriented system, while the policemen and Detective Larch broadly patronise and ignore her. In a different way, Danielle is even more trapped, still mentally conjoined to her now-separate sister as though she were a phantom limb, and caught in her ex’s abusive web of control. The two murders in the film are both presented as acts of revenge – one tragically misdirected – against patriarchy itself. Indeed, both begin with castrating slashes at the male groin, the seat of phallocentric power. Yet, by the end of the film, Grace has thoroughly internalised a male voice that undermines her own best interests – and prevents her from ever being able to publish her big journalistic scoop. For this is a film where sisters, and the sisterhood, are shown to fail in their bid for success or freedom, all thanks to a domineering, manipulative Svengali who gets into their heads and brainwashes them to meekness, madness and murder.

“There’s nothing simple about any of this,” complains perplexed police detective Kelly (Dolph Sweet) near the close of Sisters, unable to comprehend how or why the once determined and dogged Grace is now “just not quite herself” and insists that no crime has even been committed. Perhaps the reason is that the real criminal here, patriarchy, is able, not unlike Danielle’s twin, to continue exerting a malign influence long after it has been cut out of the scene. In any case, De Palma’s brassy, bonkers film will have you seeing double.


Posted by Geoff at 11:44 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 1, 2020
'I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN'
SEAN BURNS REVIEWS 'ARE SNAKES NECESSARY?' FOR WBUR
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakescrop.jpg"A tawdry tale of a political fixer playing whack-a-mole with the skeletons in an oversexed U.S. Senator’s closet," WBUR's Sean Burns states in his review of Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman's Are Snakes Necessary?, "the book mixes and matches elements of the John Edwards pregnancy scandal with Rep. Gary Condit’s missing intern case much in the same way that De Palma’s 1980 masterpiece Blow Out fused Chappaquiddick and the JFK assassination into a paranoid hall of mirrors awash in awful ironies. I couldn’t put it down."

Here's more from Burns' review:

I kept seeing these characters as played by members of De Palma’s regular stock company, with roles for Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Gregg Henry and Melanie Griffith, while imagining a swelling Pino Donaggio string score to exacerbate the tension. There’s a plot turn about halfway through that struck me as DePalma’s attempt to do a second take on a twist that had been elided by studio execs who wanted a PG rating for his 1976 “Obsession.” The penultimate chapter so resembles one of the director’s distended, crosscut, climactic montages that a character even says it feels like they’re seeing it in slow-motion.

A few years ago, I went to a Coolidge After Midnite 35mm screening of De Palma’s deliriously lurid “Dressed to Kill.” Before the show, their projectionist warned me that the print was really dirty. “That’s okay,” I told him. “So’s the movie.” As you might imagine, “Are Snakes Necessary?” takes tremendous interest in the female form, mimicking the gaze of De Palma’s tumescent camera as one character is unable to so much as stop for a fast-food hamburger without staring at the girl behind the counter and imagining “a wrestling match between her breasts and the tight seams of her Ronald McDonald wear.” To quote my friend the late, great Jim Ridley’s review of De Palma’s glorious 2002 “Femme Fatale,” it is “the work of a happy, horny man.”

We can probably credit co-writer Lehman for keeping him just barely on the right side of dirty old man territory, and being a former New York Times editor, she’s presumably responsible for keeping the prose so propulsive. Billed on the back cover as “a female revenge story,” the book falls into familiar De Palma archetypes of his male protagonists being incompetent buffoons who think they’re Prince Valiant, their grand plans to rescue damsels in distress backfiring in the cruelest ways imaginable. Meanwhile, the women turn out to have it all together, with the character you’d least expect here emerging as a heroine to rival Griffith’s street-savvy porn star in “Body Double” or Rebecca Romijn’s eponymous "Femme Fatale."

What the book’s fleet writing can’t do is fill in much soul for these figures as the authors so expertly move them around the story’s chessboard. You gain a deeper appreciation for De Palma’s actresses and how much extra dimension they bring to his sometimes schematic setups. Nevertheless, this swift page-turner left me cackling with delight right through to its epilogue, the final twist being one of those easily predicted developments that De Palma allows you to savor for the whole time you can see it coming. Maybe not exactly “Necessary,” but enormously enjoyable all the same.


Posted by Geoff at 7:50 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 7:51 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 29, 2020
RELAX - MARCH IS FILLED WITH 'BODY DOUBLE' TALK
BITS FROM EDITORS AT VHS REVIVAL, VOGUE PARIS, THE INDIEPENDENT, & ARCHITECT'S NEWSPAPER
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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
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Friday, March 27, 2020
'SO NOW THAT I'VE TOLD YOU WHY YOU'LL HATE IT...'
"LET'S FIND OUT WHY I LIKED IT" -- 2 MORE 'SNAKES' REVIEWS
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
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Thursday, March 26, 2020
NETFLIX DOCU-SERIES 'TIGER KING' HAS 'SCARFACE' LINK
MARIO TABRAUE BELIEVED TO BE AMONG INSPIRATIONS FOR TONY MONTANA, ALSO SAID TO BE "THE MOST NORMAL GUY" INCLUDED IN DOCU-SERIEShttps://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/mariotabraue.jpg
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
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020
ADAM NAYMAN ON THE PARADOX OF 'DOMINO'
"HAS ENOUGH DIRECTORIAL EXCELLENCE IN ITS DNA TO, IN SOME MOMENTS, LOOK LIKE A MASTERPIECE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/naymanbetter.jpg

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:

Domino

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.


PREVIOUSLY:

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
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