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a la Mod:

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

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

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

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

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

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
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(Blow Out)

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Deborah Shelton
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De Palma a la Mod

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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Sunday, April 19, 2020

"Live from my living room, surprise Saturday stream starting in a few minutes," Sasha Grey tweeted last night. "Vinyl only starting with salsa & Latin then maybe some funk on http://twitch.tv/sashagrey". The twitter post included the image above, which shows Grey sitting in her Los Angeles living room, in between two very large framed posters for Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise and Brian De Palma's Blow Out. The latter appears to have been signed by De Palma himself. A recording of Grey's live Saturday stream can be viewed on her Twitch TV channel.

In 2014, Grey starred with Elijah Wood in Nacho Vigalondo's Open Windows. When The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern told her that Open Windows "seems to combine the voyeuristic Rear Window conceit with the whole 'cam girl' phenomenon," Grey responded: "I think Blow Out was more of an inspiration. But with the cam girl thing, it’s interesting because there were a few girls who did this in the ‘90s when no one was doing it, made millions, and retired. But now, with the advent of Internet porn, people can see professional-quality material online, and now we’re regressing and going back to not caring about the quality. But the fascination goes back to having a connection with the person you’re watching and having this “intimate” experience. It’s a need to satisfy the soul. The Internet has brought us together globally, but also separated us. And people now don’t have that intimacy in their real lives, so they go online."


Sasha Grey in the house of Body Double

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, April 20, 2020 12:23 AM CDT
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Saturday, April 18, 2020

At Le Devoir, François Lévesque discusses how the split-diopter, or bifocal lens shot, "constitutes a real balm at a time of social distancing." The bifocal "makes it possible to play with distance via the simultaneous development of two elements, however isolated, in the front and in the background," writes Lévesque.

The article, with the headline, "So far, so close, the secrets of proximity in the cinema," includes image frames from Brian De Palma's Carrie and Blow Out. Lévesque discusses De Palma as "the undisputed master of the bifocal" --

The key is there, in the juxtaposition. De Palma’s work is replete with examples where the bifocal has not only narrative but psychological value. In Carrie, you can see the reaction of popular student Tommy (William Katt) at the front of the classroom and that of the ostracized Carrie (Sissy Spacek) in the back after reading a poem. Here, the bifocal makes it possible to “unite”, literally and figuratively, two students who seemingly separate everything.

In Pulsions (Dressed to Kill), Peter (Keith Gordon) sits in the police station waiting room while, beyond the bay window behind him, Detective Marino (Dennis Franz) and Doctor Elliott (Michael Caine) discuss the murder of his mother. The teenager, using a listening device, hears everything that is said in the office, and De Palma visually expresses this sound concept by using the bifocal: in the foreground, Peter listens, and in the background, the two men distill useful information without the sequence appearing explanatory.

A similar scene and intent can be found in Blow Out when Jack (John Travolta) in the hospital listens to two hard-pressed political advisers. In the left part of the plan, the profile of Jack in close-up, and in the right part, the advisers who are plundering further: in the ambient hubbub, Jack concentrates on a conversation concerning him; we hear what he hears, we enter his head. Note: a great montage of fifteen bifocals that the film contains was produced by Vashi Nedomansky (vashivisuals.com).

In Mission: Impossible, there are several segments filmed in bifocal, but one of the most memorable is that where the operator of the computer kept in a Langley vault returns earlier than expected: we see him from below, in the foreground, while Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hangs just above him. Will Hunt be caught in the bag? Suspense by amplified proximity...

In short, the bifocal gives more information in a single plane, in addition to highlighting the nature of the relationship between different characters, whether friendly or antagonistic. Or in love? Certainly. We think of the magnificent Paris, Texas, of Wim Wenders, and this sublime passage where Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), having found the elusive Jane (Nastassja Kinski), talks with her on the phone without her, on the other side of the peep show booth where she works, knowing who he is.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 7:08 PM CDT
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Friday, April 17, 2020

Melbourne illustrator Nick Charge designed this beautiful alternative poster (above) for Brian De Palma's Body Double. Meanwhile, The Pod Charles Cinecast podcast has devoted its latest episode to Body Double. A post at the Prince Charles Cinema Instagram page reads like this:
Hello! It's Jonathan (@tall4all) here from @ThePCCPodcast. This week on the podcast myself and co-host Fil (@dogz_i_metz) are joined by the The PCC Podcast's very first guest—all the way back from Episode 2 (The Warriors)—Front of House member Tamsin Cleary!⁠ ⁠

Tamsin is an incredibly knowledgeable student of film and aspiring film essayist. As a fan of cult cinema, Tamsin sat with us (via video chat) to discuss 1984's #BodyDouble and the psychosexual thrillers of Director #BrianDePalma. ⁠

Steeped in #Hitchcock influence, pals with New Hollywood legends #StevenSpielberg, #FrancisFordCoppola, #MartinScorsese and #GeorgeLucas, and a career that has seen more ups and downs than a rollercoaster; Brian De Palma may be one of the most underrated directors of his generation. This 88 min instalment takes a look at one of his most bonkers films; where 36 years on, we are still left wondering why it features a video for #FrankieGoesToHollywood's "Relax" smack-bang in the middle.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, April 18, 2020 9:18 AM CDT
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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gwen Ihnat interviewed Patricia Clarkson for The A.V. Club's "Random Roles" column, wherein actors are not told beforehand which roles they will be asked about. Thankfully, Ihnat asked Clarkson about her first film role, in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables:
The Untouchables (1987)—“Ness’ wife”

AVC: Your movie debut was in The Untouchables as Kevin Costner’s wife. That seems like quite the get for a debut.

PC: It was my very first movie, yes. I went in and auditioned for the casting director, the great Lynn Stalmaster. Beautiful man. Gave me my biggest break of my life—the first big movie. And he said, “Come back and meet Brian De Palma. But don’t be glamorous. You know, remember this is a Midwestern girl.” I was like, “Okay.” And I came in with a sweet little dress on and no makeup, and there was Brian De Palma. And he read Eliot Ness with me.

And the next thing I knew, like, the next day, they said, “We’re going to fly you to Chicago to meet Kevin.” I said, “Well, I’m in the middle of a play.” I was doing House Of Blue Leaves on Broadway. And they flew me in the morning, like on a Friday morning or something, and then they flew me back to make the show. Thank god Chicago is a quick flight. And I met Kevin Costner, and they told me right then and there in the room that I had it.

And Kevin hugged me, and my agent didn’t believe me at the time. “No, no, no, Patty, they don’t tell you.” He said, “Don’t—don’t get too excited.” I was like, “No, no, no! He told me I got the part!” And it was so sweet and lovely, and I had such a beautiful time. I have such a love still, a soft spot, for Brian De Palma. He gave me the first break of my life. He was very kind to me and added me to the courtroom scene. I was broke, and he added me to the courtroom scene, which meant I had to be paid for a whole month. Which was like, “Oh, my god!” I was like, “Brian, I love you!”

And Kevin was a doll, and I’ve seen him since, of course, and we always hug. He was really involved in post-Katrina in my hometown of New Orleans. He’s beloved there, and he’s a beautiful man, and still beautiful. He was hot then, hot now. [Laughs.]

The Dead Pool (1988)—“Samantha Walker”

AVC: You followed that up with another movie with another icon: Clint Eastwood.

PC: I was in—that’s the last Dirty Harry movie. I kept thinking, “C’mon, Clint, you’ve had all these movies. Do one last Dirty Harry. And bring back the journalist you had a crush on.”

I mean, that was—what a job. My father was beside himself. He couldn’t hang up the phone fast enough to call every single friend of his to tell them that I was doing a movie with Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry—I was going to be in a Dirty Harry movie. Some of my more New York friends were like, “Really?” I was like, “Yes.”

And I was cast off-tape. Clint Eastwood doesn’t meet in person. I just did a tape, sent it in, went into a casting director, and was cast. Showed up in San Francisco. The first time I met him—oh, my god—was in a big restaurant by the Wharf, and the producer and the cinematographer were there, and I got there, and I was waiting, the three of us. And suddenly, I hear screaming. I mean screaming. We’re at the back of the restaurant, and I hear screaming. And I turn around, and there’s Clint Eastwood walking through the restaurant, and it was—you know, the king had arrived. It was crazy. And he sat down, and he was incredibly dry and cordial and lovely.

I had a beautiful time working with him. And he’s very quick. So some of what you see in that movie is one or two takes, I’m not kidding you. He’d be like, “Was that good for you?” And I’d be like, “Wait, it it it—yeah? I think it was good.” “Okay, okay. Moving on! Moving on.” I’d be like, [Exasperated sigh, laughs.] “Yeah.”


Patricia Clarkson on meeting Brian De Palma

Posted May 10 2004
Seventeen years after her film debut as the wife of Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, Patricia Clarkson's career is having a resurgence. An interview article at the Washington Post discusses Clarkson's voice, "her most arresting feature." Described by the author as a "throaty" and "husky" voice that harkens back to the screen sirens of the 1930s and 1940s, Clarkson tells how she would walk into auditions "blond, pretty, whatever. But then I'd open my voice and they'd say, 'Hmmm.'" The article then mentions De Palma as "one director who wasn't put off," casting Clarkson in The Untouchables. "I think he liked that I looked a certain way and I had this voice," Clarkson told the Post. "Brian is irreverent and brilliant and funny and I think he just kind of liked it." Clarkson is pictured here with De Palma at the Tribeca Film Festival in May 2002.

Posted by Geoff at 10:48 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 16, 2020 10:52 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Criterion announced today that it will release a new 4K digital restoration edition of Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve on July 14, with many special features, some old, some new. Of course, Sturges' film is where Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman take the title of their first novel from, and there are a handful of new reviews of the book from earlier this month:

Sam Tyler, SFBook

There is a certain flavour that a good pulp noir novel should provide and Are Snakes Necessary does this from the very start by introducing us to Brock. This is a self-centred man who starts the book thinking about is aching privates after an operation. So far, so pulp. Rather than stick with just the one character, this is an ensemble piece that shares the limelight equally among three or four characters. Other smaller roles are given time to shine as well.


This means that the characters are more rounded than in almost any other noir that I have read. You learn the motivations for a senator, his wife, his intern, his fixer, the women he hired for a con and that women’s lover. It is a potent mix but does lead to this being a slow burner. I found the sense of place and characters enthralling enough that I enjoyed the sedate pace. It has the feel of a Robert Altman film as you just followed interesting people around.


The noir elements don’t come to fore until the end. The various threads can play out and only come together as the tension rises. A remake of Vertigo plays a part in the end and it is that film that the book takes its style from. There is an enigmatic quality to the book as you follow characters who do not all seem to have a direction. The conclusion shows that De Palma and Lehman did have a destination in mind – the Eiffel Tower.

If you are used to your pulp noir being naked bodies and guns, then Snakes is not quite for you. The book does have these, but it is more about characterisation and story development. It feels like Wag the Dog written by Carl Hiaasen on one of his more acerbic days. To get the most from this book you must enjoy the journey. The duo of authors fills the pages with nice quips and asides that you would expect from the genre. It certainly lacks a little pace in places and perhaps there were one or two too many characters, but there is no denying that this is an accomplished read that will have fans of character development in good cheer.

Steve Taylor-Bryant, The Dreamcage
Whilst written within the Hard Case Crime kind of style, that 50’s – 70’s pulp detective novel, it is very much a modern story with iPhones, and vlogging, but it's also a timeless tale with its heart in the past books of the publisher. It's witty, it's tense, it's extraordinarily clever, and yet reads in short, snappy sentences, letting your imagination fill in any blanks. It's more of a film treatment or script overview than a traditional novel but having words on a page play out a De Palma cinematic gem in your minds eye is no bad thing. Some may not take to the succinct style and that’s fine, each to their own, but if you read Are Snakes Necessary? from cover to cover I guarantee your life will feel the richer for it.

So you can see where that’ll lead to too. Nick will ultimately end up in Paris working as a behind the scenes photographer on a remake of Vertigo, (which was based on the novel D’entre les morts by French crime duo Boileau-Narcejac). Paris is also where the novel will reach one of two climaxes – yes two!

So we have the fixer, the philanderer, the photographer, the ingenue and the woman scorned. Five well-fleshed out characters that intertwine more intensely as the novel goes on, although I was mostly interested in Elizabeth and, to a slightly lesser extent, Nick, than the others who were more stereotypical. I enjoyed the elements of political satire and the dark soap opera of the plot, done with tongue in cheek. De Palma and Lehman mainly let the characters drive the narrative for around two thirds of the book’s 240 pages before ramping things up in Paris, and then an extended coda. I enjoyed the more slowburn start and middle more than the latter stages of the book, especially the final chapters, which frankly, stretched the limits of plausibility a bit.

If you were expecting the more violent side of De Palma, this novel has its moments, but it’s not that kind of noir. There is moral ambiguity in abundance in the manipulation of and by key characters, and I sped through the pages. There was a cinematic feel to many of the scenes, but apart from the obvious Hitchcock homage and many possible influences at one key location which I shan’t reveal, I didn’t spot many other obvious references. (The title of the novel apparently comes from a book Henry Fonda is reading in the Preston Sturges film The Lady Eve.) In summary, this novel isn’t perfect, but it is definitely an engaging read. (7.5/10)

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In Bret Easton Ellis 1991 novel American Psycho, Patrick Bateman mentions that he has seen Body Double 37 times, renting it repeatedly on VHS. Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner's film adaptation, which was produced by Edward R. Pressman and released twenty years ago today, in 2000, does not explicitly reference Body Double, opting instead to show that Bateman is watching porn in one scene and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in another. However, an article today by Manuela Lazic at The Ringer suggests that the dance moves by one of the characters "are clearly inspired" by the dance in Body Double:
Bateman’s reflection and appearance are crucial to him in a pathological and modern way. Harron cleverly turns his lengthy morning routine into a cosmetics ad selling you an entire lifestyle. Bale’s descriptive voice-over speaks in velvety tones as a delicate piano (by John Cale) bathes the scene in luxurious serenity. Bateman’s sculpted body is presented in full as it is perfected through exercise and lotions. His outward appearance is the modern ideal, which he also confirms for himself by videotaping his straight sexual encounters, for which he carefully selects sex workers for their looks (one of them is asked to dance, and her moves are clearly inspired by Melanie Griffith’s in Brian De Palma’s 1984 erotic thriller Body Double, a film all about the illusory power of images). These moments, too, are athletic workouts: In the midst of acrobatic poses, Bateman winks at himself in the mirror, triumphant. He is the ultimate “boy next door,” as his fiancée Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) calls him: the poster boy for individualistic upper-class America.

See also:

Scott Tobias, The Guardian
American Psycho at 20: a vicious satire that remains as sharp as ever

Adam Pliskin, Elite Daily
The One Line In American Psycho That Will Completely Change The Way You See The Film

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:56 PM CDT
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Monday, April 13, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/biggoodbye.jpgA few days ago, CrimeReads posted a brief chat with Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman about their novel Are Snakes Necessary?. When asked what is currently on their nightstand, the pair replied: "The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson. The Blue Angel by Francine Prose."

Regarding the cover art for their novel, De Palma and Lehman told CrimeReads, "The publisher initially showed us cover art that featured a girl in a bikini. We objected. There are no bikinis in Are Snakes Necessary? We love the current cover."

Here's a bit more from the interview:

CR: The story and hardboiled themes of Are Snakes Necessary? seem to fit neatly in your diverse repertoire, but what made you decide to explore these themes in a book, instead of a film?

BD & SL: I have more ideas than I can ever make films from. It seemed like it would be fun to try this as a book—though the story would obviously make for a good movie too.

CR: Your films draw so much on rich cinematic lineages of Hitchcock, Godard, and Antonioni—how does your writing draw on your filmmaking inspirations?

BD & SL: I started as a writer, not a director. I wrote many screenplays before I directed any movies. So I tend to think in terms of structure and plot and dialogue. A book also requires description—of characters and locations—and cleverly constructed prose. A new challenge.

CR: What was the genesis of the novel? Was it inspired by anything in particular?

BD & SL: We wrote the book before Trump was elected. It was inspired by two political scandals, the John Edwards scandal and the Gary Condit scandal which involved a Congressman and an intern who mysteriously disappeared.

Posted by Geoff at 7:57 AM CDT
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Sunday, April 12, 2020

"Watched Carrie (1976) for the first time last week and I feel like people focus too much on its horror elements," Pharaonoiah posted about 24 hours ago on Twitter. In the tweet, which is accompanied by a brief 20-second video clip from the film's opening scene, Pharaonoiah adds, "The physical acting in this movie is top-notch. Look at the opening scene and Sissy Spacek's final defeated shrug after trying to keep a brave face. Heartbreaking".

That tweet was the first of a thread of seven. All but the final tweet includes either a video or a motion gif from Carrie. Below are the texts of Pharaonoiah's entire Twitter thread. To read these with the accompanying video, visit Pharaonoiah on Twitter.

Watched Carrie (1976) for the first time last week and I feel like people focus too much on its horror elements.

The physical acting in this movie is top-notch. Look at the opening scene and Sissy Spacek's final defeated shrug after trying to keep a brave face. Heartbreaking

Another plus for the movie is how it portrays religious nuts like Margaret White. A lot of movies highlight their hypocrisy or their awareness that what they're doing is in fact wrong. But it's clear that Carrie's mom truly believes in what she's preaching and that's scarier

Tommy's surprised and delighted little laugh after Carrie endearingly says she won't talk to any other guys.

I know he's technically taken by Sue, but dammit the dance scene is the soul of the movie and makes everything that happens after that much sadder

You deserved a moment like this Carrie

Brian De Palma is a genius for having glasses girl execute the same movement of reaching to her friend behind her both in reality where she is shocked and in the scene where Carrie sees her as being part of the laughing crowd.

It serves to highlight Carrie's break from reality

Takes a bold director to call attention to the set design by having Carrie herself change the scenery to one matching her emotions. It also serves as a way of "setting the mood" for the final act. Sort of ironic to have Carrie control the film, but lose hold of reality. I'm high

This movie's a masterpiece and I haven't stopped thinking about it since last week, despite already knowing the plot and having seen the prom scene before. It should be known for more than the somewhat camp, somewhat dated 70s horror film that a lot of people now say it is.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, April 13, 2020 12:07 AM CDT
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Saturday, April 11, 2020

"Had things gone according to plan, today would be the opening night for No Time to Die," Scott Mendelson stated this past Thursday at Forbes. "The 25th official James Bond movie was supposed to open in the UK on April 3 and in North America on April 10 (or April 9 at around 7:00 pm counting previews). Alas, MGM and Universal delayed the movie to November due to concerns about the Coronavirus impacting overseas box office."

Mendelson's article carries the headline, "(00)7 James Bond Imitators To Stream Instead Of No Time To Die." Later in the introduction, he explains, "The bad news is that 007 fans now have to wait another seven months for their fix, which is particularly vexing since Spectre opened way back in November of 2015. So, in the name of charity, here is a list of temporary substitutes while you wait. No, these aren’t James Bond movies, but they exist in the same sandbox, and in some cases are entirely inspired by the Ian Fleming-penned spy saga (and resultant EON-produced movies). So, without further ado, here are 007 alternatives while you wait to Die Another Day and patiently figure out Another Way to Die. All of these will leave you feeling [like] you’re on an All Time High. I’ll see myself out. Oh, and I’ve tried to spread these out a little, in terms of years and decades. I could make this list just from the various spy flicks that debuted in 2015."

Among the list of seven titles, which includes films as diverse as James Cameron's True Lies (1994), Jay Roach and Mike Myers' Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), and Susanna Fogel's The Spy Who Dumped Me, Mendelson includes Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible (1996).

While the stunt-filled and action-packed franchise today stands side by side with the 007 franchise (and the Fast & Furious films) as A-level action blockbuster franchises, this first (admitted mega-hit) was indeed a buttoned down and cynical look at the spy craft, with more in common with The Spy Who Came In From the Cold than GoldenEye. Although both Tom Cruise’s first Ethan Hunt flick and Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 movie are rooted in the cynicism and weariness of lifetime government operatives questioning their purpose at the end of the Cold War. The Brian DePalma film is very much a DePalma film, just as the first five Mission: Impossible films matched the persona of their director (Mission: Impossible II is so John Woo almost spoofing himself). The film earned plaudits in its day for its adult-skewing narrative, its emphasis on suspense over carnage, and its comparatively stripped down narrative. Today, it qualifies as a miracle of modern tentpole filmmaking.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 12, 2020 12:17 PM CDT
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Friday, April 10, 2020

Pedro Almodóvar has begun writing quarantine essays from Madrid. Posted today, the latest essay was "provided to IndieWire by the filmmaker and translated into English by Mar Diestro-Dópido." A few paragraphs in, Almodóvar mentions James Ellroy, which leads into a riff on the films of "my beloved Brian De Palma," including several recommendations:
On Monday night, as the new hardened measures for the current quarantine were being announced, I started feeling symptoms of claustrophobia for the first time. They’ve come up late, as I’ve been suffering from claustrophobia and agoraphobia for a while; I know they are opposite pathologies, but my body is paradoxical, it is one of its characteristics, it always has been.

That night, I knew I was going to try to go out the following day; I felt as if I was going to commit a premeditated crime. As if giving yourself to a forbidden pleasure and you cannot do anything to avoid it. It sounds like cheap pulp literature, and it is, but I blame it on the effects of confinement.

I planned it minimally; I’d go to buy food, a genuine shopping trip and a genuine need since I’m on my own. So that Tuesday morning I got dressed to go out and I felt like I was doing something exceptional: dressing! It’s been 17 days since I last did it, and I’ve always experienced getting dressed as something intimate and very special. I recalled various other occasions of getting dressed, very important moments for me I realize now, which have remained in my mind since. For instance, I recalled when in 1980 I was getting dressed in Lope de Rueda street, for the premiere of “Pepi, Luci, Bom” in the Peñalver cinema on Conde de Peñalver street. Even though it was a cinema where they played re-releases, for me it was as if it was premiering at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. It was the first time that a film of mine would be watched by an audience, the first time in a real cinema and as part of the commercial circuit, with its seats full of people, the audience watching images created by me with my friends, during the year and a half that it took to film. And those who didn’t leave the cinema laughed so much. I remember I wore a red satin bomber jacket that I bought in Portobello Market, in London.

It’s not always that one dresses as part of a plan, or at least you don’t always remember it so. I recall when two years after the premiere of “Pepi,” still in the midst of La Movida, I consciously dressed in a grey Mao collar suit to go to a bar in Malasaña run by a boy I had my eyes on. I have never been much for Mao collars; I prefer the Perkins because it covers up the double chin. I remember the Mao collar suit because the boy in question became part of my life for the next two, three years. And he left a mark.

I also remember the purple silk Shantung tuxedo by the designer Antonio Alvarado, and the studded ankle boots, like the ones now made by Louboutin, that I wore to my first-ever Oscar ceremony in 1989. We didn’t win, my relationship with Carmen Maura blew up into pieces, but I remember that trip to Los Angeles as being full of wonderful events.

Four or five days before the ceremony we had dinner at Jane Fonda’s home; she was obsessed with remaking “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” She’d invited very few people, Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson, her partner then, who mentioned to Bibiana Fernández he had spotted her watching the Lakers that very afternoon. Cher, with natural make-up to make her look as if she had no make-up on, more gorgeous, cuter and shorter than I imagined. And Morgan Fairchild. Yes! (I thought the next guest would have been someone like Susan Sontag.) I was truly surprised, because I thought Morgan Fairchild played in a lower league to the rest (although having worked on “Flamingo Road” and “Falcon Crest” is no small achievement). Jane Fonda must have noticed my surprise since afterwards she explained that she used to go on demonstrations with Morgan Fairchild, who was as feminist if not more so than herself.

We spent the soiree gobsmacked by the energy of the female guests and of Jack himself. We had many pictures taken with them and with the paintings hanging on those walls, whose author was Jane’s father, Henry Fonda.

The morning after the ceremony, I received a phone call at the hotel, a woman’s voice. She tells me, as if she were not conscious of its impact, but confident that her voice was going to have an impact on me: “Hello, it’s Madonna, I’m filming ‘Dick Tracy’ and I would love to show you the set. I’m not filming today and I can dedicate the day to you”.

It could be a false Madonna, or a psychopath who was thinking of cutting me into pieces on one of those waste grounds James Ellroy describes so well in his novels. If you read “The Black Dahlia” you’ll know what I’m talking about; Ellroy’s mother was dismembered on one of those wastelands. You can also watch the film by my beloved Brian De Palma based on the book, with Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank, but the truth is it didn’t turn out that well. It’s not bad for quarantine, but I would recommend you many others by De Palma before that one: “Sisters,” “Phantom of the Paradise,” “Carlito’s Way,” “Body Double” — with Melanie Griffith at the peak of her powers, skinny as a rake — and above all, “Scarface” with Al Pacino. Don’t bother with “The Black Dahlia” and organize yourselves a program with all of those films, you’ll thank me later. They are all gems, seriously accessible, and really enjoyable. I will make you a list of recommendations at the end.

Coming back to Madonna, it could always be someone who was playing a joke on me, but my self-esteem — despite not winning the Oscar — was high enough for me to have no doubt this was an authentic phone call. Madonna’s voice gave me the address for the studio where they were filming, and I turned up there, pleased as punch.

The truth is the whole team, from Warren Beatty to Vittorio Storaro, couldn’t have been kinder to me. They treated me as if I was George Cukor. Beatty forced me to sit on the chair with his name on, the director’s chair, so I could watch the sequence they were filming. I was about to confess that when I was a child I discovered my sexuality when I saw him in “Splendor in the Grass” (the builder in “Pain and Glory” never existed), but I stopped myself from doing so, of course. They were filming a sequence where an unrecognizable Al Pacino was yakking away non-stop. He was nominated for the Oscar the following year, and the film was awarded three statuettes.

Madonna took me around all of the sets and I met someone who I deeply admired, Milena Canonero, the costume designer who by then had already won three Oscars (she’d be nominated for “Dick Tracy” the following year): “Chariots of Fire,” “Barry Lyndon,” and “Cotton Club.” I recommend all three films to cope with the quarantine. My favourite is Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon.” Milena Canonero would go on to win a fourth Oscar, I don’t remember which film. Visiting her workshop was what probably left the strongest impression on me during that visit; it would have been the only reason why I would have liked to work in Hollywood: the obsession for detail.

Continue reading the rest of the essay at IndieWire.

Posted by Geoff at 11:43 PM CDT
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