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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
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Sean Connery has died following a long illness at the age of 90, accoring to a BBC News report, citing his family. Connery, beloved as the original on-screen James Bond, won an Oscar for his role as Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables (1987), which was directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay by David Mamet.

In the wake of the news today, Mamet shared two personal stories about Connery with The Hollywood Reporter's Seth Abramovitch:

Sean Connery, who died on Saturday at age 90, was nominated just once for an Oscar — and won.

It was for his work in 1987's The Untouchables, in which he played Jimmy Malone, a veteran Irish-American cop who teams up with federal agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) to put Al Capone (Robert De Niro) behind bars.

Malone's most famous Untouchables monologue — and arguably the most memorable line from the film — involves a scene in which he advises Ness: "You want to know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way."

The author of those words, Untouchables screenwriter David Mamet, shared two stories about Connery with The Hollywood Reporter.

The first is a reminder of Connery's dry and self-effacing wit.

"I met Sean [for the first time] on set," says Mamet. "Me: 'I am very pleased to meet you.' Sean: 'I never made a dollar off of James Bond.'"

The second story involves a gesture of kindness by Connery that forever stuck with Mamet.

"During post-production [Sean] was in Majorca, and we made a date to speak on the phone," he recalls. "Before our scheduled call my cousin called. She was in Ohio with a failed marriage, a husband who'd just lost his job, and, no doubt, the attendant kids down sick."

"In any case," he continues, "she was beyond despair. I told her I'd have to get off the phone as I was expecting a call from Sean Connery, and I'd call her back after the business call."

"'Give him my love,'" the cousin implored. "'Please; I adore him. Tell him first thing.'"

"Then Sean called. I said, 'My cousin adores you.' He asked about her, and I sighed, and told him the tale of her troubles."

"'What's her number?'" was Connery's reply.

"I gave it to him, he rang off, called her in Ohio, and chatted for half an hour. Rest in Peace," Mamet says.

Connery's James Bond debuted in Dr. No (1962). He would go on to play Bond in six more films, while also working on other films in between. In 1964, he was cast in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, and he also made several films with Sidney Lumet (The Hill, The Anderson Tapes, The Offence, Murder on the Orient Express, Family Business). Other movies he appeared in include John Boorman's Zardoz, John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King, John Milius' The Wind and the Lion, Richard Lester's Robin and Marian, Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas' Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, John McTiernan's The Hunt for Red October, Fred Schepisi's The Russia House, Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun, and Michael Bay's The Rock, among many others.


Posted by Geoff at 5:21 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 31, 2020 5:36 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 29, 2020

In an essay at Film Freedonia, Roderick Heath discusses Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill:
Kate’s movements are necessarily the camera’s hunt, supplanting the usual tactic of the giallo and slasher movie styles where the camera viewpoint becomes rather that of the killer. The audience is presumed to be aware that we’re watching a thriller but the hunt here has no obvious sense of suspense beyond the depiction of Kate’s blend of anxiety and excitement in seeking out a lover. The act of picking up/being picked up is transformed into a thriller experience in itself, the surging tides of contradictory emotion becoming the essence of the sequence rather than the appeal to displaced eroticism attached to the killer’s desire to tear the beautiful illusion to pieces that drives the more standard slasher movie. De Palma weaves in visual gags, some overt – Kate’s immediate position before a painting of a woman staring back sceptically at the beholder as if challenging to action, neighbouring a painting of a reclining gorilla aping her current opinion of her husband and which reminds her to write in her shopping list “nuts.” Others slyer, like positioning Kate in a frame with the bottom half of a female nude, keeping in mind both her sexual need and De Palma’s smirking satire on the disparity of painting’s sanctioned comfort for nudity and the penalisation of filmmakers who offer the same.

Kate’s dropped glove both grazes standard romantic fiction lore, the lost personal item that presents the opportunity for a gallant gesture, and giallo movie protocol, where gloves are totems of a killer’s presence. The pick-up artist touches Kate’s shoulder whilst wearing the glove, trying to make the first association work but instead provoking the second. Meanwhile photographer Ralf D. Bode’s camera tracks and moves with sinuous care around the museum corridors, illustrating Kate’s roving through a system of gates and passages, stops and permissions, at once sexual and algorithmic, echoing Peter’s computer with its capacity to both hold and carry binary numbers, whilst also recalling the jokes about computer dating in Greetings. The gestures that finally resolve the tension of the sequence as well as signalling something else in the works again involves Kate’s gloves: Lockman waves one to her from the waiting taxi window whilst the other one, the camera panning from Kate’s fce over to the captured object: only to the repeat and attentive viewer does a vital detail emerge, the sight of a long-haired woman wearing sunglasses and a black raincoat in the midst of this shot, on the pavement between steps and car. Kate has already thrown down her other glove in vexation. As Kate is drawn into the taxi by Lockman, her expression of affected gratitude smothered in a violent kiss, the dropped glove is retrieved by an unseen person.

This whole sequence might well be counted as De Palma’s single greatest achievement, a multivalent piece of filmmaking that piles up meanings as plot-enabling suspense sequence, character study, extended sex joke, essay on cinemagoing and art appreciation, and lecture on film grammar and history. In the taxi, the movement resolves with a transgressive act as Kate’s world is rocked by Lockman’s deftly seductive touch which nonetheless has a resemblance to a crime – the sudden silencing, being dragged into the cab and molested, Kate’s moans of excitement. Meanwhile De Palma weaves in the first of several nods to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), a film De Palma was initially slated to direct, as the cab driver ogles the spectacle unfolding on his backseat, part of the texture of a film that gleefully perpetuates the mythology of New York in its bad old days as a place where all kinds of human perversity spilt into the streets. “There’s plenty of ways to get killed in this city if you’re lookin’ for it,” Dennis Franz’s quintessential Noo Yawk cop Detective Marino states a couple of reels later, and Kate’s search for Eros is also naturally stalked by Thanatos.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 30, 2020 12:56 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Earlier this month, the podcast Light The Fuse (hosted by Drew Taylor and Charles Hood) interviewed David Koepp about his work on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. Listen for some good discussion of how the sceenplay was developed, some fun stories, and Koepp's lovingly-rendered and highly amusing "De Palma" voice. The interview is podcast in two parts. I haven't yet listened to Part 2, which delves into "several further unrealized reunions with Brian De Palma," but here's a bit of a transcript from Part 1:
Were you brought onto the project by De Palma?

Yes. Brian and I had done Carlito's Way together a couple of years prior to that, and we had gotten along great. And I was about to do... I had just finished Lost World, I think... and I was about to start, I was gonna do Shock Corridor. Remember the Sam Fuller movie? Yeah. Uh, somebody was going to remake it at Disney. I can't remember the producer. And is there's one thing that seems perfectly suited, it's Shock Corridor and Disney. [laughter] And I... but I had an idea for, you know, a journalist who goes in and can't get out. You know, I thought it was going to be kind of cool. And I think we were negotiating, or talking... somebody was trying to convince somebody to do it. And, I got a call from Brian, who said, you know, it was pre-cell phones, or mostly pre-cell phones. So I remember calling him back from a restaurant. And I said, "What? What is so urgent?"

He said, "What are you doing?"


I said, "I'm eating."

And he said, "No, no, what are you writing?"

"I think I'm going to write Shock Corridor at Disney."

And he said, "Huh!? Shock Corridor? That's a terrible idea!"

I said, "Brian, did you just call me to berate me? I'm eating!" You know.

And he says, "Mission: Impossible. Tom Cruise. I have to see you in the morning."


And, uh, the rest is history.

Was there any material at that point? Because we've heard that, you know, Sydney Pollack and some other people had been flirting with the idea before.

Yeah, there were several pieces of material. There was a script that Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz had written. And then subsequent to that, there was a treatment that Brian had done with Steve Zaillion. But Zaillion had to go, because he either... but I've never asked him directly... either he had to go because he had another commitment, or he had to go because he got a whiff of [starts to laugh] what it was going to be like working with Tom and Brian, and perhaps a certain lack of freedom that he might have enjoyed. And so he left. But I came in and then Brian and I reworked the treatment, because it had been a first draft, but also I had some other ideas. Nobody could ever just do somebody else's thing, you gotta wreck it, so Brian and I worked through another treatment and then I wrote some scripts.

Did you read that original script?

Which original one?

The Katz? Sure! Yeah, I did. It wasn't the direction that I wanted to go. But it had a lot of good things in it.

Did any of it manage to make its way into the movie? Anything from that draft?

Uh, I don't believe so, no.


Oh, wait, his first name. I think he was Ethan in their draft. But I think he... he remained Ethan, and Hunt was mine, because Hunt seems like a cool name. But that wasn't the coolest name-- I was very happy with Luther Stickell. It's one of my favorite character names that I've made up. That was Ving Rhames' character.

And it's hung around for a long time now.

Yeah, there's a funny story about that-- yo want to hear it?


I figure this is the place, right? So, we were in Prague right before shooting. So we were doing rehearsals. And it was fascinating, because Prague had just reopened in the mid- '90s, you know, after the fall of communism. And so we were staying-- Brian had this room at a hotel that we were all staying in that was like where the politburo must have stayed when they came to town. You know, it was this gigantic room with a huge conference table with a giant map of Europe at the end of it. And I mean, you could just picture, you know, like Brezhnev up at the map, you know, talking about where they wanted to go next. It was a really cool room. So anyway, we were rehearsing, and we got to the end, and the, yo know, the script had been through its turbulent life, and, you know, there's more turbulence to come. But it was in a pretty good state, and everybody was pretty cool at that point and we were ready to start shooting. And we were finishing our rehearsal, and Brian said, "Anybody got anything else?"

And Ving Rhames said, "Yeah, I got a question."

We said, "Okay. What's the question?"

He said, "How come the black guy gotta die?"

And we said, "Well, you know, a number of people die. You know, it's not just him."

And he said, "Yeah, yeah, but, how come the black guy always gotta die?"

And we were like, "Oh. Okay, Ving, you're right." So we kept him alive. And what I think is hilarious about it is seven movies later, Ving's still there. He was not only right about the note, but he also, in terms of career longevity, was right about staying alive.

Yeah. Where was he supposed to die in the script? Do you remember?

On the train at the end. It was all very exciting.

Well, should we start talking about the turbulence of this script?


So why was it turbulent even before you told Ving Rhames that he got to live? I mean, where was it at that stage?

There was... you know, there's two very strong personalities at the center-- well, more than two, but the, you know, the two dominant personalities at the center of the movie were Tom and Brian. And they liked each other very much, and they also disagreed a lot. You know, Brian has a really clear viewpoint on things. You know, he is an auteurist, no question. Brian gets to be called an auteur because he writes half his own stuff, but even on the stuff he doesn't write, it's an extremely clear point of view and he's one of the few directors where you can look at a shot and say, oh, it's a Brian De Palma movie. And that's rare. And you hire somebody for that, and then you... it's very hard for them to just give it up. And Tom, I think, both wanted to respect that and struggled with it, because he didn't always agree with the viewpoint. And he had a very clear idea, and he was producing the movie and also had a very clear idea about what he thought it should be. So you know, you just had two brilliant guys who a lot of the time would get along great and were great allies, and sometimes wouldn't. I think Tom also felt quite a bit of anxiety about it. It was going to be a great big expensive movie, and he was producing the movie, which he was doing with Paula Wagner, for the first time. And so there was a, you know, really high degree of personal responsibility for it. And as personally responsible as Tom Cruise feels about every single thing he does and every single person that he meets throughout his entire life, if you could multiply that by a few, for this, the first giant movie that he was producing and starring in and creating a franchise from... you now, there's a certain level of attentiveness there.

And so Brian and I had done a thing together, and we had a relationship where we trusted each other. And so, there was a dynamic. Maybe he felt it was two-on-one. Now granted, there was two of us, and then there was one of Tom Cruise, so, it could have been 50 of us, it wouldn't necessarily have mattered. He's got an extremely strong personality and point of view. And then I think what happened is the studio made a sort of... Sherry Lansing was running the studio at the time, and she made what I think was a tiny bit of a mistake in terms of working with Tom, which was to say, at a certain point, "We love the script-- we don't have any notes."

And I think that makes a person nervous. Especially of you're a person who's used to working on something exhaustively. You know, Brian and I had no intention of stopping, but I think he heard, "We don't have any notes," and he thought, oh, they're just going to try to jam me into this and get it out, because it's a title, you know, it's a big thing. And so at that point then he wanted to bring in Bob Towne to work on it, and I didn't like that, you know. Because I was also young, and I didn't like anybody touching my stuff, and I didn't realize that perhaps you shouldn't work on hundred-million dollar movies if you don't want anybody touching your stuff. [Laughter] And so, you know, there was a lot of back-and-forth at that point-- the next several months, as Towne did his thing, and then I'd come back and do more of my thing, and then a some point, we're both on the movie, but at different hotels in London. You know, the studio's maybe going to shut it down, or maybe they're not, there's pages flying everywhere, I was staying up for three days at a time trying to combine things. And it was sort of chaotic. It was chaotic-- it wasn't sort-of-chaotic.

That was leading up to the production? All that?

Yeah, that was all before cameras ever rolled. Once cameras rolled, it settled down, as things tend to. There were still, you know, last-minute rewrites and things like that, but there wasn't the sort of... it didn't have that feeling, a little bit of the wild west prior to production.

What was the biggest logjam, in terms of... was there a set-piece or something that caused that caused all this to happen, or was it just rewriting the script again and again? Or what was the hold-up?

Just rewriting the script again and again. And I think because it was a complicated plot, and we all wanted it to be a complicated plot. But you kind of have to all agree on what the complicated plot is, and how much complication is too much. And I remember one day we had... there was an opening, you know, which was quite extensive, and jam-packed full of exposition and death and reversals and set-ups-- you know, it's a very complex piece of writing that starts, you know, with a story inside a story that turns out to be a fake, and then these people are all running a thing, but somebody's running a thing on them. And I remember getting into a disagreement with Tom about... there was one security guard who had no lines. He had to push a button.

And he said, "Well, who's that guard?"

I said, "That's... the guard, who works there."

And he said, "No, no, no, but who is he really?"

And I said, "No, he really is the guard who works there."

And he said, "Yeah, but wouldn't it be better if he wasn't the guard who works there, but he's actually somebody else, and we find out who it is, and Ethan figures out that that's who it is because of..."

And I'm like, "No, it wouldn't be better, because Ethan just needs to walk through the door!"


You know, and then that would lead to an hour of discussion.


He might-- but, I'm sure he doesn't remember, but if he did, he might tell the story in a different way. But, you know, we all have our opinions.

What did you think when the movie came out and people said it was still too complicated?

[Laughter] That's a... Brian called me the day after it came out and he said, "Dave! [can't stop laughing] There's a one-word buzz on this movie. 'Incomprehensible.'"

[more laughter]

"No, no. no, it's supposed to be complicated. This is okay. People are gonna love it. And..."

[more laughter]

Well, you have this amazing archive on your website of your old scripts. A lot of scripts, and you have multiple drafts of Mission: Impossible, and we had a chance to take a peek at them. So I wanted to just ask a couple questions about how certain things evolved. I mean, I think maybe the biggest thing is the romance between Ethan and Claire. And, you know, it was more explicit in earlier drafts. I think in the earliest draft you posted on your website, the two of them are having an affair right from the beginning, and it's hidden from Phelps, and Ethan's deciding whether or not, in the opening of the movie, "Should I..." You know, he's trying to grapple with whether or not he wants to to reveal that to Phelps.] And then as more drafts come in, that gets shaded back. And then, to the final shooting script, then it's obviously very close to what ended up in the movie, except for one thing, is that they have sex on the train. They make love on the train. It's implied they do, in the middle of the movie, right before the Langley heist, I think is when it happens. So I just wanted to ask you about the evolution of the Claire-Ethan romance, and what decisions went into why it was scaled back, and stuff like that.

It was a little while ago, so I, you know, I may not remember clearly why. I remember that that's how it was originally. I'm not sure I remember how I lost that fight. Because I liked them having an affair. I liked that they were sleeping together, and I liked that he was morally compromised. And I thought that that was going to be fascinating. And, you know, having an affair with the wife or girlfriend... I can't remember, I think wife... the wife of your mentor-- that's not so good. And it gets into some... you know, Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, there's some very nice triangly stuff in there, and I love t write triangles. I think that, you know, somebody involved maybe didn't want to play that. So I think in the end the thinking was, no, no, they're not having an affair, but Phelps' treachery and jealousy actually causes the thing to happen that he was most afraid of, which is that they end up together.


Which is fine, too. And obviously the movie did well, and no one was injured during filming, so that's good. [laughter] I liked that he was having an affair. I thought that would have been kind of fun.

Did they shoot the scene on the train? Did they shoot that, where the two of them consummate their romance before the Langley heist?

I don't believe so. Before the Langley heist, in the middle of the movie, maybe.


It's on that train. Right.

Yeah, it's on the train where we first meet Krieger and Luther...


And they run down the whole scheme of what they're going to do, and then there's a scene in the train there in the shooting script that you have on your website that the two of them have a little conversation after that scene, and then they...

Yeah. I thought the best sequence in that section of the movie-- that I hope was in the first draft that you read-- was the rounding up the team sequence.


Was that in there, where he, you know...

I think that's in your second draft.

Yeah, somebody's busted out of a prison in India.


Yeah, there's an extended seven or eight page rounding up the team sequence, when, after, you know, Ethan's team's all been killed, and he's off now on his own, and he has to go figure out who's done this and why, but of course, he needs people to help him. So he, you know, every great team movie has a rounding-up-the-team sequence. You know, it's Guns Of Navarro, and it's, well, it's a million of them. So, Brian and I had come up with what we thought was fun and funny and adventurous, and had some good size to it. And it just died in the last minute, because of budget. You know, it was a very expensive sequence, but it made me so sad because I particularly liked the prison break in India. I thought it was a great idea for how to bust somebody out of prison. You go see them, you shoot them with a dart that they don't even know about so they think they're dead. And then the prison takes them up to the roof to cremate them and you rescue them with a helicopter. It's great! Because a guy wakes up in a coffin and he's sliding toward flames. That... [laughter] that seemed like a lot of fun to me.

There was also another team member, right?

Yes, who was it...

Paul... I want to say Mitnik?

Oh, right, the computer guy. Sort of combined names with Luther Stickel. Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. As one of those Spider-Man movies came to call him, the guy in the chair. I like to think that we had an early guy in the chair in Luther.


There's always a guy in the chair. Yeah, it was a shame we lost that sequence. Imagine how well the movie would have done if we'd had it. [laughter]

Meanwhile, Christopher McQuarrie, currently in Rome filming the seventh Mission: Impossible film, posted the picture above today on his Instagram page, with the following caption:

There is no escaping the past…*

*With us strictly by chance, the lens used to shoot Ethan’s meeting with Max some 25 years ago in Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2020 12:33 AM CDT
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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CDT
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Monday, October 26, 2020

There's a lot of talk about Phantom Of The Paradise this month, and even Nancy Allen brings up the Brian De Palma film near the start of the latest episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror: Uncut. The podcast features the uncut interviews that are used as soundbites for the AMC TV series of the same name. In this one, Nancy Allen is interviewed by series showrunner Surt Kayenga (that's him posing with Nancy above in a photo by Bret Curry). The interview kicks off with Nancy talking about some of her horror/thriller favorites, and that is when she brings up Phantom Of The Paradise, wishing that more people would see it.

A few minutes later, she talks about working on De Palma's Carrie. "Still to this day I will really never understand why some people thought that Sue was in on it," she says while discussing how the women in the film were the ones in control.

Nancy also discusses filming the girls' locker room scene near the beginning of Carrie. After waiting for six hours while the shot was set up, the women were "pretty worked up and terrified about what it was going to be like. But it was shot very simply. In fact, it was Brian, and Isidore Mankofsky was still the DP at that time. He was in there with a, you know, hand-held. And I think the focus puller, and there wasn't any sound, so there was no crew."

That's only within the first ten minutes or so of this 54-minute podcast, which delves more into Carrie and Nancy's other films with De Palma, and more, of course.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 25, 2020

At CBR this weekend, Michael McCarrick posted an article with the headline, "Every Phantom of the Opera Film Ranked, According to Critics." Based on ratings of the films at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise comes in at number 2 with an average score of 76. That's right behind the 1925 silent classic starring Lon Chaney, which hits the top spot with an average score of 90. Here's what McCarrick wrote about De Palma's film:
The most interesting and unique film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera by far is Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise. While Phantom is usually constricted to the Paris Opera House during the 1880s, De Palma manages to defy the conventions with one of the most visually stunning and bizarre movies of the '70s. Instead of the usual setting, Paradise takes place in an alternate modern day universe, with a hard rock club called "The Paradise" replacing the Opera House. This Phantom is a songwriter who sold his soul to get the woman he loves to sing his songs, only to have a record tycoon steal his music. The shocking visuals, as well as the satire of the music industry, make this arguably the most entertaining Phantom adaptation.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 25, 2020 12:16 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 22, 2020

What a joy to listen to Jon and Kim, the hosts of the Nightmare On Film Street podcast, discussing Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. The pair discovered the film (or, finally watched for the first time) two years ago. The episode is titled, "ROCKTOBER! The Rocky Horror Picture Show vs. Phantom of The Paradise". At one point, discussing the first time they ever saw Beef show up in the film, Kim recalls it as a moment when it suddenly dawns on you: "Is this my new favorite movie??" Here's a transcripted taste:
Jon: I don't know what it is about Phantom Of The Paradise-- it is real weird when you look at it and you're trying to figure out if you want to watch it. Like whether it's gonna be something you'd like. Because for years people have told us to watch it.

Kim: I know!

Jon: I've seen it spoofed on TV shows, even The Simpsons did a little gag about it in a Treehouse of Horror episode. And for whatever reason, I was just, "Ehh, I don't know. Even though it's a Brian De Palma movie, it doesn't really look like my bag. I'll get to it eventually."

Kim: Yep. For me, it just didn't seem directly spooky enough?

Jon: Haha, yeah.

Kim: To entice me? You know what I mean?

Jon: Like, "I guess he's a cool-looking raven thing..."

Kim: Yeah, there was too much bird stuff, like, had it been ghosts and bats, I would have been in on it. But yeah, it was just like, "I don't know if this is for me." And I was fucking wrong.

Jon: Right? Don't you feel like it's... it's weird to say, like [mocking] "This is the greatest movie I've ever seen!" Because it's only been a short period, but don't you feel like a portion of your DNA is now Phantom Of The Paradise?

Kim: Hahahahaha.

Jon: I have introduced friends to this movie who I think had the same idea I had, that it's like, maybe not for them. And they've come back and said, like, "Oh my God, this is fucking amazing! I need more movies like this!" Like, the real sad part is that there aren't. It's hard to recommend more movies like Phantom Of The Paradise. It is so unique.

Kim: Yeah. I mean, and that's kind of why we're pairing Rocky Horror and Phantom Of The Paradise together in this episode, because they're kind of anomalies.

Jon: Yeah.

Kim: In that, I guess they're similar, but only in their zaniness.

Jon: Yeah. The answer for both: like, if you want more movies like Rocky Horror or you want more movies like Phantom Of The Paradise is just recommend the other movie. Fingers crossed they haven't seen that one!

Kim: Yeah, but it's, "This isn't really like it, but it's like it."

Jon: Yeah. If you've never seen it, please, for the love of God, stop this podcast, and go seek it out. In the States, I think it might still be available on Shudder. We picked up a Blu-ray copy from Scream Factory, it's still in print. So it's available. You can get it. And if you need more of a sell, I'd say that, the thing I always tell people is that it feels-- because there are lots of live performances in the movie-- it feels like an Alice Cooper concert that you never went to.

Kim: Yeah, there's something so interesting, too, about the songs in this film... All of the songs in the movie are performances.

Jon: Yeah!

Kim: It's less like Grease, where they just break into song, and more like a stage performance. Like, we are watching a bunch of musicians performing the musical numbers.

Jon: And it has a lot to say about the music industry. Or even just, like, the entertainment industry.

Kim: It's so good.

Jon: Yeah.


Meanwhile at Pitchfork, Nathan Smith writes about The Pitch "Movie of the Week," Phantom Of The Paradise --

In just 90 minutes, Brian De Palma folds a ridiculous amount of narrative into Phantom of the Paradise, and yet it never feels rushed or overstuffed. Every moment is more inventive than the last, and there are elements of the director’s style all over: the public horror of Carrie, the surveillance technology of Mission: Impossible, the coked-out sleaze of Scarface. But it’s also vastly different from anything he’d ever make again—in part because the movie is as defined by one of its stars and composers, Paul Williams, as it is by De Palma.

More than anything, Phantom of the Paradise is a stylistic balancing act. De Palma drifts between genres, from expressionist horror to slapstick comedy to searing melodrama, to tell the tragic saga of a passionate artist devoured by the ruthlessness of the music business. Williams, then a songwriter for acts like the Carpenters and Three Dog Night, spoofs everything from Phil Spector-produced teen pop to Alice Cooper-like shock rock on the soundtrack and in his role as villain tastemaker Swan. The diminutive Williams is maybe a hard sell as a rock devil, but there’s something a little demonic about his chubby cheeks and the sunglasses that never leave his face—he’s clearly having fun with the whole thing. One has to wonder how much he, as a working singer-songwriter, channeled his own experiences into the character. As the film puts it, the pop industry is where everything can be sold, even your soul.

Phantom does what all good satire does: it cuts to the truth by going beyond it. De Palma draws on the tropes and themes of classic stories like The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust and creates images that are almost mythic, reaffirming that the modern-day exploitation of the music industry isn’t anything new—business has been preying on art since the feudal days. The story is as much a parable as it is a parody, an almost fairy tale-like warning about the damage celebrity can do to the psyche.

Posted by Geoff at 11:49 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2020 11:56 PM CDT
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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

AV Club's "Watch This" column today focuses on Brian De Palma's Body Double, as Ben Wheatley's version of Rebecca premieres on Netflix. With a focus on directly Hitchcockian films this week, the headline to today's column reads: "With Body Double, Brian De Palma trolled everyone who called him a Hitchcock wannabe."

The article by Craig D. Lindsey looks at Body Double as De Palma's "balls-to-the-wall response" to critics of his then-recent works.

Double has to be the most I’m-doing-this-for-shits-and-giggles movie De Palma ever directed. (His little-seen Home Movies, which he made with his Sarah Lawrence College film class, comes a close second.) It’s surprising how many people took this trolling so seriously. The movie was a flop at the box office and mostly trashed in the press, though a few critics got the joke. (Vincent Canby called it “[De Palma’s] most blatant variation to date on a Hitchcock film,” while Paul Attanasio said it is “carefully calculated to offend almost everyone”). Audiences hated it, too: In a 2002 salute to De Palma in Vanity Fair, critic James Wolcott recalled the “catastrophic public screening” of Double he attended “where the audience hissed the notorious low-angle shot of a power drill pointed at a supine woman’s body like a steel penis.”

Right from the jump, De Palma revels in Double’s Hollywood artifice. Every time we see Jake at a studio, fake backdrops and boulders are being wheeled away. But the fakery doesn’t stop when he leaves the lot. It extends to scenes of Jake driving his drop-top convertible around town, for which De Palma deploys an old-fashioned rear-projection shot. Without question, the movie’s most over-the-top moment, when Wasson and Shelton share a passionate kiss on the beach, is also its most deliberately inauthentic. It’s obviously meant to resemble the revolving make-out session between Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo. But De Palma goes way the hell out for his version, cutting abruptly from footage of the actors smooching outdoors to them clearly on a soundstage, on some revolving platform, against a projected backdrop of a beach, just ravaging each other as the camera does multiple, accelerated swirls around them.

By the end, De Palma has given both his fans and his haters what they crave. He ends his movie with a sequence in which a De Palma-like director (played by Dennis Franz, a one-time De Palma regular) shoots Jake, playing a vampire, biting a naked girl in the shower. A gum-smacking body double steps in for the actress, cementing the whole scene as a nod to Angie Dickinson’s shower scene in Dressed, where she used a double. Even after all these years, Body Double is still tawdry, twisted, and smart-assed, right down to the final frame.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2020 12:49 AM CDT
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Friday, October 16, 2020


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 18, 2020 11:04 AM CDT
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