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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
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in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
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De Palma developing
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"a horror movie
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in the news"

Supercut video
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edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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Brian De Palma
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AV Club Review
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Thursday, February 25, 2021

The video above, Epilogue, was posted on YouTube this past Monday, effectively announcing the end of Daft Punk. The video repurposes footage from the duo's 2006 avant-garde science fiction film, Daft Punk’s Electroma, and is mostly silent, but concludes with the 2013 song "Touch," a collaboration the pair recorded with Paul Williams. The clip, then, brings to mind not only Phantom Of The Paradise, but also evokes, quietly, the Antonioni/Pink Floyd conclusion of Zabriskie Point, and, by extension, the conclusion of Brian De Palma's The Fury, albeit with a more somber melancholia than rage.

Ryan Ninesling at The Quietus describes the clip nicely, in an article headlined, "Daft Punk Said Goodbye With The Film Baring Their Soul" --
Bangalter and Homem-Christo’s cinephilia formed Electroma into a transformative experience for them, as their love of films was already hardwired into their identities long before the film was even conceived. Much of their music has been described by the pair as a love letter to the memories of films they bonded over in children, principally Brian De Palma’s satirical rock opera Phantom of the Paradise. Two other film projects they’ve worked on – the music video collection DAFT: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes and Discovery’s extended anime tie-in Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem – are steeped in the pair’s seemingly vast knowledge of international cinema and television. DAFT boasts direction from a collection of beloved auteurs ranging from Spike Jonze to Michel Gondry, while Interstella 5555 was born from a collaboration with the pair’s childhood hero Leiji Matsumoto, who has penned innumerable space opera manga and anime.

Electroma is unique in that it was the first and only film that was entirely Daft Punk’s own organism; they penned the script, co-directed, and Bangalter served as cinematographer, spending pre-production reading over 200 copies of the filmmaking magazine American Cinematographer to prepare. Electroma is no mere promotional add-on from Human After All; it’s a fully-formed feature with shades of independent cinema running through its circuited veins. The horrific, surreal masks the pair don in order to appear human mimic the nightmarish imagery of David Lynch’s Inland Empire. The robots’ ill-fated journey into the desert mirrors the doomed trip that forms the center of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry. The twisted depictions of suburbia and the otherworldly image of Homem-Christo wandering the wasteland alone evokes the mood of Derek Jarman’s The Garden. Through this confluence of cinematic flourishes, Electroma quietly highlights what Daft Punk’s discography was always trying to: conformity is an ironically surreal prison, and the only way to free ourselves is to let go and feel the music. Otherwise, we self-destruct.

This idea has been cemented by the duo’s use of the film’s climactic scene as a eulogy for their career, with some noticeable tweaks to the original film further emphasising Electroma’s importance to their legacy. The original film ends with Homem-Christo’s lonely robot giving into despair over the death of his silver-domed partner, sealing his own fate by smashing his helmet and using the broken glass to set himself ablaze in the desert sun. The new epilogue now gives the pair a more bittersweet ending, holding on to Homem-Christo walking off into the sunset, the hauntingly beautiful choral section of their Random Access Memories track ‘Touch’ sending him on his way. “Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home” croons over and over as 28 years of history are summarized in a few poignant frames. The newly formed juxtaposition of music and imagery affirms the romantic humanism that runs through these funky robots’ souls, reminding us of their career-long belief that our connections to one another, whether through music or other means, form the basis of our souls. By repurposing Electroma in this way, Daft Punk said goodbye with their motherboards laid bare for all the world to see.

Much will rightfully be written about Daft Punk’s musical output in the coming weeks, but their cinematic output shouldn’t be ignored. Electroma, in particular, offered a gateway to cinematic history beyond the mainstream, putting the duo’s forebears in direct conversation with the contemporary. It crystallised Bangalter and Homem-Christo as great purveyors of the human experience not just through their music, but through every sense of what it means to be alive. They visualised everything they were feeling and subsequently imparted the lessons of that experience to us, as they always graciously did. On the strength of that gift alone, the spirit of Daft Punk will live on forever.

Back in 2013, in a review of Random Access Memories, Slate's Geeta Dayal delved into Daft Punk's love for Phantom Of The Paradise, and the song "Touch" --
Here they’ve “sampled” the vintage production of their favorite records, using the same analog equipment, techniques, and musicians. Instead of sampling Chic, they brought in Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers to play guitar on two tracks. Instead of sampling Quincy Jones’ productions for Michael Jackson in the 1980s, they brought in the actual session musicians who played on the albums—including John J.R. Robinson, a drummer on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, and the guitarist Paul Jackson, who played on Thriller. They’ve “sampled” the clothes, too (Daft Punk’s tight sequined jackets resemble Michael Jackson’s) and the fonts (the cursive lettering on the cover of Random Access Memories resembles the cover of Thriller). Daft Punk even “sampled” their favorite movie—the 1974 Brian De Palma schlock classic Phantom of the Paradise—by inviting in Paul Williams, the movie’s composer and lead actor, to sing the album’s epic, melodramatic centerpiece, “Touch.”

Phantom of the Paradise is key to understanding Daft Punk’s aesthetic. In the movie, a nerdy songwriter is reborn as a phantom who attempts to exact revenge on an evil svengali record producer named Swan. In one scene in the movie, Swan traps the phantom—now wearing a tight black leather jacket and a robot helmet—in a sophisticated recording studio walled with racks of analog gear. The phantom, whose vocal cords have been destroyed, speaks through a talk box attached to his chest, sounding remarkably like a vocodered lyric in a Daft Punk song.

It’s easy to see why the rock opera was catnip for Daft Punk, who claim to have watched it more than 20 times—the movie is completely over-the-top, drenched in pathos, and layered with in-jokes and sideways references, much like the band’s music. Daft Punk’s black leather outfits in their 2006 feature film, Electroma, seemed inspired by the phantom. “Electroma is a combination of all the movies we like, paying a big, almost unconscious homage to them,” de Homem-Christo told Stop Smiling in 2008. “There are so many different influences: In the end, it becomes such a melting pot of everything that it resembles something else altogether. We love cinema the same way we do music—we’re from a generation that doesn’t segregate.”

Touch” is the apex of Random Access Memories, the total realization of the album’s ambitious reach. There’s nothing cool about it, and it takes guts to make music like this in 2013 on such a grand scale. It’s Daft Punk’s love letter to Phantom of the Paradise, and it’s schmaltzy and deeply weird. The lyrics are, well, daft (“Touch, sweet touch/ You’ve given me too much to feel”), but the lyrics are beside the point; Williams’ graceful vocal delivery is awe-inspiring. It’s simultaneously melancholy and uplifting; the moment where Williams’ voice trails off and “Get Lucky” begins is a great moment in pop music.

Vulture's Craig Jenkins also touches on the layers of meaning in "Touch" --
The mini-opera “Touch” may seem indulgent, but remember that the robots got the idea for masks watching Paul Williams in Brian De Palma’s outrageous 1974 musical Phantom of the Paradise. Was Daft Punk this molting, unpredictable, ever-changing thing, or was it more like an operating system whose day-to-day mechanics progressed through the years but always in service to a steady and unchanging core mission?

Posted by Geoff at 8:03 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 25, 2021 5:37 PM CST
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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Two days ago, Daft Punk announced that they were calling it quits. The duo had been inspired by seeing Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise early on, and worked with Paul Williams on the song "Touch" from the 2013 album Random Access Memories. Edgar Wright tweeted Monday:
When I hosted a 40th anniversary screening of Phantom Of The Paradise at the Cinerama dome, there were lots of superfans in the house; not least Daft Punk (sans masks). Pre-show, their manager asked politely that I not say they were present. I can now reveal they sat in G9 & G10.

Meanwhile, the latest episode of Slate's "Flashback" podcast has critics Dana Stevens and K. Austin Collins discussing Phantom Of The Paradise. The description lists "other titles mentioned in the episode" --
Nosferatu (1922)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Phantom of the Opera
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Femme Fatale (2002)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Body Double (1984)
Casualties of War (1989)
The Black Dahlia (2006)
One From the Heart (1982)
New York, New York (1977)
Sisters (1973)
Carrie (1976)
Obsession (1976)
Dionysus in ‘69 (1970)
Scarface (1983)
Blow Out (1981)
The Fury (1978)
The Untouchables (1987)
The Wedding Party (1969)
Hi Mom! (1970)
Suspiria (1977)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Cask of Amontillado
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
Everybody Loves Raymond
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Psycho (1960)
The Day of the Locust (1975)
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
Finnegans Wake
Gimme Shelter (1970)
The Earrings of Madame De… (1953)
Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)

Posted by Geoff at 8:05 AM CST
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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Thanks to Rado for sending along this IMDB Facebook post from Sunday. The post asks, "What's the most beautiful movie set in space? 🚀🌌", and it includes a frame from Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars in its triplet of movie scenes. (The other two are Danny Boyle's Sunshine and Andrew Stanton's WALL-E.)

Meanwhile, with NASA landing the new Mars Perseverance rover last Thursday, USA Today's Shayna Murphy posted "5 Mars-themed movies worth watching tonight," and included Mission To Mars on the list. "Inspired by Disney's theme park attraction of the same name," stated Murphy, "Mission To Mars is a visually stunning film by director Brian De Palma, an auteur best known for crime dramas like Scarface (1983) and The Untouchables (1987)."

Posted by Geoff at 8:29 PM CST
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Monday, February 22, 2021

Tunisian film director Kaouther Ben Hania’s satiric The Man Who Sold His Skin made the shortlist for this year's International Feature Film Oscar submissions, after premiering at last year's Venice Film Festival. Via Zoom, Frank J. Avella at Awards Daily asked Ben Hania to name her "cinematic heroes" -- here's what she said in response:
I grew up in a very tiny town in Tunisia, not even the capital. There was no cinema. I’m VHS generation. We rented VHS. And mainly what was available was Bollywood movies…I found this amazing. I was a pre-teenager. But I never thought these movies were talking about me. And one day I went to the video clerk and said I watched all the Indian movies; you don’t have anything else? He said there’s this American horror movie. And I said yes! It was Carrie by Brian DePalma. I didn’t know who Brian DePalma was at the time. So I watched the movie and it was something very strange—it’s not the best Brian DePalma movie—but for me it was something because she’s a teenager, she just got her period, she’s bullied by her friend in high school—it was almost talking about me! She lived in a small city in the U.S. She had a strict mother. I was realizing, oh my god, cinema can talk about stuff (relatable to) me—a girl like me. It was a shift in my mind. So this is how it started, thinking that you can identify with heroes in movies. With Carrie!

Elsewhere in the interview, Ben Hania discusses planning for her "visual ambition" --
I had a lot of visual ambition, but not enough money, so not enough time. I did the usual before shooting, precising every frame and what I wanted exactly. Making storyboards and visual references. Talking about it for days and days with my DOP. It’s like in this famous book by Sidney Lumet, the director of Network, “Making Movies,” talking about the metaphor of the mosaic. When you’re making a movie it’s like you have this tiny stone to paint, it’s like a shot, and nobody understands what you are doing since it’s a tiny stone, but as a filmmaker you should know where to put it, where its place is in the big mosaic. So, when I heard this I thought, Sidney Lumet is right, (I must) prepare every tiny stone because I don’t have time to improvise onset. I have to have my shots done…But there were some things that I changed. For example, the pimple scene. Only the operation on his back was written in the script. There was something missing. I needed the artist in the scene. So we brought the artist in and I wrote the dialogue between them on the same day…But mainly things were prepared before shooting.

Posted by Geoff at 11:25 PM CST
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Sunday, February 21, 2021

In a new episode of The Film Cult Podcast, Laurent Bouzereau, author of The De Palma Cut, discusses his experience with cinema, and his fascination with the way movies work. Discussing his first behind-the-scenes documentary, for Steven Spielberg's 1941, Bouzereau tells the podcast how amazing the experience was for him, as he considered himself a fan of this movie he loved, even though 1941 was a box office disaster. He could see how painful it was for Spielberg to talk about:
It kind of taught me one thing, is that, it takes as much energy and as much work to make the best, most successful movie as it does to make the least successful movie. And it's the same sort of dream. It's the same dream. It's the same conviction, that you're doing something that you believe in and that's so amazing. And there's something very touching about that, and very emotional, as you put yourself in that perspective of an artist.

A bit later (around the 40-minute mark), Bouzereau talks about having to film interviews for his docs on The Last Picture Show and Obsession on the same day. He managed it, and received a nice note from Brian De Palma:
Of all the films that I did for Brian De Palma, that was the one where he sent me a note after seeing the, kind of, rough cut. And he said something along the lines of... you know, because he is a filmmaker that I think has been mostly misunderstood,or never had the kind of recognition that he deserved. And he kind of said something, I'm misquoting, but something along the lines of, "I've never been on time. I've always been either before my time or after my time. But watching your film on the making of my film reminded me why I do what I do. And why I love doing what I do." And that made me feel great, because if there was one person that you always want to be happy, it's the actual director of the original film you're talking about.

Posted by Geoff at 11:49 PM CST
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 12:09 AM CST
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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Stanley Tucci discusses his career on Josh Horowitz' podcast Happy Sad Confused. Around the 25-minute mark, the discussion turns to auditions:
Josh Horowitz: What's the one that scarred you for life? What's the one that still haunts your dreams, all these years later?

Stanley Tucci: There were two of them. One was Brian De Palma, who I went in and auditioned for. And my friend Ellen Lewis cast it. So Ellen cast all of my films when I was making them in America. Well, three of them, three of my films. And, um, he, Brian De Palma... I auditioned for The Untouchables.

Horowitz: Yep.

Tucci: To play, like, Frank Nitti, or one of the bad guys.

Horowitz: Okay. That'd be ironic, considering you went on to play Frank.

Tucci: I know. I know. And he... then I did it, and he just sort of sat there and stared at me. It was weird, it was in a conference room, he was sitting at a desk, and I was standing sort of next to him, and the whole thing was weird. And then I did it and he went, "Ooh. Scary." And I was like, I don't know how to react to that. And then there was some minor chit-chat about nothing, and then I left. And I was so depressed. It was just creepy and bad and rude.

The other story involves producer Don Simpson reading the New York Post while Tucci was auditioning in front of him.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 21, 2021 12:22 AM CST
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Friday, February 19, 2021

The new Netflix movie I Care A Lot, written and directed by J Blakeson, opens with an effective slow motion sequence, with voiceover, set to the song "Dirge" by the band Death in Vegas. It took me a long minute to figure out why the song felt so familiar to me: the track was, of course, used in the trailer for Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia. It had been a long time since I looked at that trailer, and I did not remember the blue-ish lights at the top and bottom of some of the film projections showing Mia Kirshner's embodiment of Elizabeth Short on film. A flourish for the trailer, in one freeze-frame the blue and its surroundings turn to black-and-white. Back to "Dirge", here's a paragraph from the Death in Vegas Wikipedia page that mentions all the films, trailers, and commercials that have used the song:
The band's second album, The Contino Sessions (1999), marked a slight change in direction with more attention to live instrumentation than their first and the inclusion of guest vocalists (including Dot Allison, Bobby Gillespie, Iggy Pop, and Jim Reid).[1] Although predominantly rock-influenced, the album still retained some electronic elements, in particular the opening track "Dirge" with its drum machine-based rhythm track. "Dirge" was featured on a Levi's jeans commercial, as well as the second instalment of The Blair Witch Project, and was used in the trailer for the 2006 film The Black Dahlia. The song was also used in the trailer for the 2013 film Cheap Thrills and used in the 2002 film 28 Days Later; at the end of the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left; near the end of the Being Human episode "The Longest Day"; and in the second episode of season two of Misfits. Along with "Aisha" (with vocals from Iggy Pop), "Dirge" helped the band gain more recognition, culminating in a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2000. "Dirge" was the subject of a lawsuit by the band Five or Six, as it borrowed extensively from their song "Another Reason". The matter was settled with Five or Six receiving a writing credit.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 20, 2021 1:18 PM CST
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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Last week at Flickering Myth, Tom Jolliffe posted his list of "ten essential paranoia films." The list includes The Conversation and Blow Out. Here's what he wrote about each one:
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.

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).

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, February 19, 2021 8:16 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Nick McLean, the cameraman and cinematographer who, early in his career, worked frequently with Vilmos Zsigmond (including on Brian De Palma's Obsession), is scheduled to discuss his career during two Zoom-session Masterclasses from Ireland in the next couple of weeks. The tickets are free. Paul Nolan at Hot Press has the details:
There’s exciting news for film buffs with the announcement that, on February 23 and March 2, famed Hollywood filmmaker Nick McLean will be joined by Naas author and film historian Wayne Byrne for a brace of masterclasses for Dublin Business School.

The lectures with be split into two subjects, the first covering McLean’s career as a camera operator on some of the biggest releases of the New Hollywood era, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Obsession, McCabe & Mrs Miller, The Deer Hunter, Marathon Man, and The Rolling Stones’ concert film, Let’s Spend the Night Together.

The second class will focus on McLean’s acclaimed work as a cinematographer on box office hits and cult classics of the 1980s such as The Goonies, Spaceballs, Staying Alive, Cobra, Willow, City Heat, and the hit 90s TV shows Friends, Cybill, and Evening Shade.

Byrne, a former writer for Hot Press, has authored several highly acclaimed books on cinema, including a film biography of McLean entitled Nick McLean Behind The Camera: The Life and Works of a Hollywood Cinematographer, co-written with the filmmaker and released in March 2020.

Byrne’s other work includes books on American indie auteur Tom DiCillo, Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds, and he is due to release his latest book, a history of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, in the coming months.

These classes will be accessed via Zoom and will give film fans an opportunity to hear McLean discuss his working relationships with directors aged actors such as Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, Michael Cimino, Hal Ashby, Robert Altman, Mel Brooks, George Lucas, John Schlesinger, Sylvester Stallone, and Burt Reynolds, as well as offering an insight into the making of many revered films.

There will be a Q&A at the end of each session for attendees to ask the eminent McLean directly about his work filming these many classics.

Free tickets for these masterclasses are available via Eventbrite, here and here.


Cameraman Nick McLean on Obsession & Family Plot

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Earlier today, Readful Things (Adam Perocchi) posted the image above on Instagram, with the following caption:
If you bought two of these, you could connect them and activate "De Palma Mode" - allowing you to play the Prom level with 2 screens.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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