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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
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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Scarface: Make Way
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De Palma a la Mod

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Malcolm Cecil, co-creator of TONTO, the world's largest analog synthesizer, passed away Sunday morning following a long illness. "Cecil was the co-designer of the Original New Timbral Orchestra (TONTO), a massive analog synthesizer that brought new sounds to popular music," according to an obituary by Pitchfork's Allison Hussey. "He began the project with Robert Margouleff, taking over ownership of TONTO in 1975 and maintaining it for nearly four more decades. The success of Cecil’s and Margouleff’s work with TONTO opened up possibilities for synthesizers in the pop world and beyond."

The Los Angeles Times' Randall Roberts states that by 1974, "TONTO had become a circuitous beast that included machines made by Moog, ARP, Oberheim, Roland and Yamaha; drum controllers, sequencers and, later, MIDI converters; and thick gauge wire procured from surplus supplies made for the Apollo mission and Boeing 747 manufacturing. Those familiar with Brian De Palma’s cult classic film Phantom of the Paradise have seen TONTO in action. It provides the setting for a wild scene in which protagonist Winslow Leach, donning a silver owl’s mask, performs a surreally ridiculous song on the contraption."

Roberts mentions that "Cecil was said to be furious at TONTO’s unauthorized appearance in the film." Indeed, Cecil talked about this a bit in a 2017 feature article for Music Works, written by Jesse Locke:

The pair’s invention and ambition led to an intense four-year collaboration with Stevie Wonder. The legendary artist wrote nearly 150 songs before the tracks were selected and released on his groundbreaking albums Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, and Fulfillingness’ First Finale. During this time, TONTO was expanded to include two Moogs, two ARP 2600s, four Oberheim SEMs, modules from EMS, Roland, and Yamaha, drum controllers, sequencers, and MIDI converters, all fused together with Boeing 747 airplane wire. Jim Storyk constructed the woodwork at Electric Ladyland, studied geodesic domes with Buckminster Fuller, and then designed TONTO’s singular cabinets. Its primitive prototypes were replaced by synths rolled out on a tea trolley or a gurney, and its six-foot curves were ergonomically tailored to match Cecil and Margouleff’s heights. In a 1984 Keyboard magazine article (later adapted for the 2011 anthology Synth Gods), writer John Diliberto points to the influence of their electronic Afrofuturism. “This collaboration changed the perspectives of black pop music as much as The BeatlesSgt. Pepper altered the concept of white rock.”

While Wonder’s TONTO era resulted in Grammy awards, lucrative tours, and massive sales for Motown Records, Cecil claims he “never made a penny from the royalties.” Cecil bought out Margouleff in 1975 and forged a new partnership with the poet, musician, and activist Gil Scott-Heron. At the height of another fruitful period, TONTO appeared on the cover of Scott-Heron’s album 1980, which featured synth-powered songs about nuclear protests and the hardships of illegal Mexican immigrants.

TONTO went on to help shape hit releases from Minnie Riperton, the Isley Brothers, the Doobie Brothers, and countless other artists. It famously lived briefly in the studio of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh in the mid 1990s, and was immortalized in a parody in The Simpsons. Its best-known visual appearance, in Brian DePalma’s cult film Phantom of the Paradise, allegedly occurred against Cecil’s will.

“TONTO was at the Record Plant in Los Angeles when we were working there with Stevie,” he recounts. “During that two-year period, the studio rented the room to the film and told them they could use TONTO as a prop. No one said a word to us. When I walked into the studio and saw they were filming it, I blew a gasket!

“We eventually negotiated that they could use the footage if they paid us for the visual rights,” he continues. “The other part of the deal was that whenever TONTO appeared on screen the music was supposed to be played by the real instrument. Of course it ended up being Paul Williams’ piano instead. I’ve seen the movie a few times and it always [used to make] my blood boil. [But] I learned to let it go long ago.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Friday, March 26, 2021

(Thanks to Mike!)

Posted by Geoff at 5:39 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 26, 2021 5:53 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 25, 2021
"Join Jeff, Stuart and special guest Mark Tilley as they discuss the complexities and the uniqueness of this film which was way ahead of its time."

Posted by Geoff at 12:37 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sam Irvin posted the pic above on his Facebook page today, writing:
OMG! The fabulous, ageless goddess Nancy Allen (DRESSED TO KILL, CARRIE, ROBOCOP) is helping me spread the word about this great honor:

Nominated for a RONDO AWARD!
Best Article of the Year!
by Sam Irvin
(Category 14)
Anyone can vote!
You don’t have to vote in every category!
It’s easy!
Please vote here:

The DRESSED TO KILL Special Edition of BOOBS AND BLOOD No. 4 is available to order here:

56 pages! 13,000 words! 175 photos! You MUST read my first-hand inside chronicle on the making of DRESSED TO KILL on which I worked as director Brian De Palma’s assistant! This issue of BOOBS AND BLOOD No. 4 is entirely devoted to my memoir of DRESSED TO KILL! And it’s for a great cause, too!

All profits from the sale of the magazine go to the breast cancer charity Keep a Breast Foundation.

Thank you so much, Nancy, for your generous support and friendship! And thank you Jay Moriarty for snapping this great photo of Nancy! (I can see you in the reflection of the DRESSED TO KILL poster! Your Hitchcockian cameo! 🤣)

Posted by Geoff at 7:49 PM CDT
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Monday, March 22, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, March 21, 2021

In a new interview for Collider Ladies Night, Connie Nielsen is asked by host Perri Nemiroff about her experiences working in Hollywood, and making Mission To Mars:
Perri Nemiroff: I just have too many Mission To Mars questions. I think it's also on my brain, because of current events. So, actually, speaking of that, do you ever think about that movie, which I believe took place in 2020, now that we've had some major recent events in that sphere happen in 2021? Just like comparing, contrasting where you guys pictured us being, and where we actually are.

Connie Nielsen: I mean, it was so crazy when we were reading the word "twenty-twenty." I don't know what we were thinking that we would have progressed into. You know, technologically, and socially. But what was great was that, in fact, the women were very much part of the mission control. And it was so cool that it was prescient that way, you know. And modern that way, too, you know? Super modern. And then I thought that it was... there were so many parts of the story that, in hindsight, so many people still, even scientists, are finding, well, was there life then on Mars? And those are questions that we were raising at the time.

And so a lot of the science has really held up, and it's worth noting that we worked with Buzz Aldrin. And that we worked with NASA on the whole film. My coach was Story Musgrave, a rocket scientist. And I remember, we were in Vancouver. We were shooting in upper Vancouver, and he invited me out to dinner, and I was just plucking his brain. He was the person who was part of the two-team [of] people who were the first free space walkers. Who repaired the Hubble Telescope when, you remember, it was put up and it didn't work? And so they had to go up there, and actually walk in space, and repair it. And he explained to me how they did that.

And you know, that's one of the things I love the most about being an actor is that you get to have these incredible experiences with real life geniuses that you get to learn from and listen to. And I was obviously so in awe of all of the stuff he showed me. He showed me pictures he'd been taking with his own camera from when he was going around the Earth, and seeing the Earth from outside. And I saw all those incredible pictures.

And he said, "You know, what you see... you see all those incredible patterns and movement and sand, and all this ocean. And it's just like... we have this unique and rare thing to see Earth, and when I'm out there, I really notice that the most extraordinary thing about Earth, is life. And that's where you come in, Connie. You're an artist, and I love what you do, and what you bring. And that's the true beauty of what humans are. It's art." And it was just so beautiful that here was a rocket scientist who thought that artists were the shit.

Perri: So much of that taps into why I'm obsessed with movies in general. It's just the closest I can come to experiencing things that are out of my reach, or even just understanding someone else's truth that is just so polar opposite to mine. I know Brian De Palma has referred to that experience as being relentless. Is that just because he was at the helm of that film, or were you able to feel any of that while you were on set as well?

Connie: Yeah, we were a lot of actors on that set. And I think that we had some problems with the storyline still. I think that the stories were not really resolved in some of the cases, I think. But we also had amazing actors, like Don Cheadle. I just love Don Cheadle, and I just loved working with him, too. And what a fabulous guy that he is, and amazing actor.

I remember, I am standing inside of this giant white space. And I'm asking him [De Palma], what will that creature look like? Just so I know what I'm looking like. Just so that I have a sense of, what am I supposed to do? And it's worth noting that we're inside of what these spacesuits would really look like. We are hoisted up underneath the sky, like underneath the ceiling of the thing, and trying to emotionally react to-- for example, my husband, dying in front of my face in the middle of the mission. And not being able to move a muscle in my body because in space, you don't move. Like, if you move at all, that motion would send me flying through space like a dead stone, you know, or a piece of ice, forever and ever in that direction that I moved.

And so, having to do all of these things and being able to only communicate with my co-stars and with my director via this radio, I am wearing a cold suit underneath it, through which they are pumping ice water so that I don't overheat and die inside of my suit. And, at the same time, you know, when you're then walking, you can't hardly move.

So at this point, we're shooting the scene where I'm supposed to see, what is this mysterious thing that's inside of this piece of ice on Mars. [She thinks for a moment and laughs a little] And so he can't really explain over the radio, so we said, "Do you mind just coming over here and telling us, like, what are we going to be seeing?" And as he walks towards us, he falls over some cables, and he literally gets this contusion on his foot, if he doesn't actually break it. [Laughing at the absurdity of the situation] "It doesn't matter [shaking her head], I'll pretend I understand what I'm seeing!" Because I just literally could not believe that. Yeah, [still laughing] it was relentless that way.

Perri: I understand. It's like, you know, if you've got some frustrations and stressors and you bump your head, it's ten times worse than it really is! [laughter] All right, so this is like, half Mission To Mars, because it's another thing that Brian said that kind of taps into your experience a little. He had mentioned, I believe this was in the documentary about him, that the Hollywood system destroys you, and that that wound up being his last movie in the states. You, on the other hand, based on how you're describing everything, have had a wonderful experience in Hollywood. So what do you think it is about your experiences making movies in Hollywood that keeps you coming back to them?

Connie: I mean, there have been a few times, I am not going to lie. There have been a few times where in the process of making a movie, I have really questioned whether it's a place for women. Because it's been... it's been really difficult at times to stand up for women, on film and in film. Inside of films where the director was given absolute leeway to change the script completely, and make it unrecognizable from the project that you actually originally signed on to. And then you were caught, and you were kind of like, "But my character is not supposed to be this character, and we... what?!?" And then all of a sudden it becomes a two-hander between two guys and now the girl is like the third wheel on the, you know, on the bike here.

And it's just... it's been extremely frustrating. And I think that if you go into that, you have to have an enormous amount of resilience. And you have to know that it's worth fighting for what you are fighting for. And I think I do. I think I just do believe it's worth fighting for. I do think it's worth fighting for films that will ultimately tell different kinds of stories about women than the stories we're telling, or were telling, up to now. And we're still figuring out how to tell those stories, but they're coming, and they're being made. And I think that will change how we treat women in general, and how we see them.

Posted by Geoff at 12:40 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 21, 2021 12:44 PM CDT
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Friday, March 19, 2021

"Brian De Palma’s Blow Out and Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way aren’t just predicated on the act of murder," Patrick Preziosi states in an article posted today at The Quietus. "Instead, both these 1981 films locate their cruxes at the precise moment in which a murder occurs or is discovered, as witnessed by the protagonists. Both directors cut to their characters’ faces, as if to say that they are just as much an audience to this specific event as you are to the very film. It’s a canny method to mount allegiance, and entirely successful. The reaction shot registers the stakes, and thus, the viewer is invited to do the same. The instances in question are initially enacted from within a bubble of upper-class impunity, and subsequently spill out unto those below. We’re not just identifying with a singular viewpoint, but one that’s tangled up in a morass of American-abetted apathy, a purview stoked by always looming inequity."

Here's more:

Neither film is in service of any sort of exclusive genre categorisation, their incisive political interrogations forwarded by the undergirding emphasis on the granular activities of their characters, which, among other things, offers up a wealth of moments wherein ranging emotions – fear, satisfaction, camaraderie, anxiety – are telegraphed by a simple shot of an actor’s face, taken in tandem with whatever else has transpired. An important motif, considering that Blow Out and Cutter’s Way are predicated on how much we trust our own senses, and how the unimpeachable qualities of our personal sight and hearing can be swiftly and ruthlessly denied by authoritative powers. Remaining content within an already skewed environment isn’t enough; one must commit to the final word of politicians, business executives, corporation heads and the like, even if they knowingly present zero verifiability.

Critic J. Hoberman brings the two films together with erudite concision in his book Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan (they also screened as a 2019 double feature at Film At Lincoln Center as part of a retrospective tailored to the release of Hoberman’s book), writing, “Both movies used patriotic displays as ironic backdrops. De Palma’s invented Liberty Day Jubilee conceals a brutal political killing, while San Barbara’s annual Old Spanish Days celebration is a cover-up for fat-cat malfeasance.” Similar points of origin in both films (someone saw/heard something they shouldn’t have) lead to similarly, unintentionally, tragic destinations as architected by America’s political rot. But Blow Out and Cutter’s Way are best viewed through the lens of a malleable relationship of conversing details, rather than two perfectly parallel narratives.

Blow Out’s ticking-clock drama is set in motion when John Travolta’s sound man, Jack Terry, inadvertently records a presidential hopeful’s Chappaquiddick-esque assassination (and rescues Nancy Allen’s Sally, the one-night companion of married politician and presidential-hopeful McRyan), whose status as nothing more than an accident he works to disprove. This ambition is emboldened by his superlative talents as a craftsman, as he is able to uncover the inconsistencies of the incident through the basest––and therefore, purest––filmmaking tools. Cutter’s Way is just as predicated on coincidence, but its tenor is one of disaffection, with Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) and Alex Cutter (John Heard) ultimately left unmoored in a climate where the rich enjoy the privilege of moneyed immunity, after the former thinks he’s spotted a prominent and powerful businessman at the site of a teenage girl’s vicious murder.

As Jack, Travolta is the disgraced wunderkind (a former technician for undercover sting operations to pinch corrupt cops, his own equipment’s inadequacy having led to the gruesome death of a participant), whiling away his time doing foley for crude slasher films, repeatedly reminded by his director that he’s smarter than what the immediate material demands. The film begins as a movie-within-the-movie, a steadicam-led, first-person POV of a killer’s journey through an all-girls’ dormitory, before the paltry shriek of a victim announces the jump to Blow Out itself. Suddenly transplanted to some cheaply appointed editing suite, Jack enacts the first of the many aforementioned reaction shots, one of giggly disbelief directed at what’s on the screen. In contrast to his prior wiseass behaviour, Jack flaunts an impressive focus when he’s out recording nighttime sounds on the Wissahickon Bridge, just southwest of downtown Philadelphia. He’s tuned-in, and his near-expressionless focus suggests a momentary communion with the surrounding nature – that is, until McRyan’s tire is shot out.

De Palma’s gamesmanship, both narrative and visual, is in crystalline form in Blow Out. His signature use of split-screen and split-diopters finds a simpatico partner in cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, the clean widescreen and long lenses often losing and once again finding characters within crowded spaces. De Palma had already flaunted such nimble camerawork in the museum sequence of 1980’s Dressed to Kill, but not yet with the sinuous unease that Blow Out maintains as its consistent tenor. The reaction shots lift Jack and Sally from their paranoia-laced circumstances, before plunging them back in once again, each time more violently than the last. Jack’s visage runs the gamut from righteous elation to gutted confusion, such as when he is able to assemble his own stop-motion recreation footage of the same incident, that when played with his audio, proves both aurally and visually it was no accident. This very tape is erased by John Lithgow’s trigger-happy hitman Burke, another stumbling block for Jack and Nancy. Later, when all three major players come (crash) together at the Liberty Day Jubilee, Pino Donaggio’s emotively gaudy score envelopes the scene – but only after Allen’s impossibly shattering, reverberating scream echoes – left are we only with the profound dread colouring our heroes’ faces.

The reductive line of comparison would posit that Cutter’s Way is the “muted”, character study equivalent of Blow Out, but this is only partly true. Passer’s film is merely bereft of De Palma’s pyrotechnics, its languorous progression symptomatic of its characters’ own nonexistent prospects. Blow Out interpolated Chappaquiddick and the Zapruder film, its totemic points of reference already burrowed in the minds of all Americans. Cutter’s Way is more uniformly assembled, awash in the miasmic fallout of the Vietnam War, evidenced by Jordan Cronenweth’s jaundiced cinematography (in a 2016 interview in Film Comment, Passer wittily offers: “Did you notice there’s no blue in Cutter’s Way?”), and embodied by John Heard’s paraplegic, one-eyed, amputee veteran, Alex Cutter.

Read the whole article at The Quietus.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, March 18, 2021

At Neo Text's "Click-In Movies", the feature this week is Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale:
In true De Palma fashion, the director makes sure that the only thing we can come to expect is the unexpected, utilizing plot points that center around heists and suicides, double identities and double-crosses, revenge-seeking ex-cons and sexual manipulations, only to deliver a final twist no one could have seen coming. Throw Thierry Arbogast’s impressive cinematography style and Bill Pankow’s precise editing into the mix and what you get is a bold and exciting thriller celebrating a fierce and intelligent woman coming up on top.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 19, 2021 8:21 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Aaron Sorkin's 2020 film The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (below) opens with President Lyndon B. Johnson on TV in 1969, announcing the draft lottery that would begin late that year, which had the effect of turning even more people against the war in Vietnam. Sorkin simply shows a TV screen with no surrounding context. Contrast this with the shot of the television Brian De Palma uses in the opening shot of his 1968 film Greetings (above). The focus is still on a TV showing LBJ giving a rallying speech, but the frame also shows the TV and several items around it. We find out in a later shot that this TV sits on a kitchen table, so the coffee pot, the coffee mug, the book about the JFK assassination sitting in front, and the random book open to the left, allows a bit of additional context regarding the way people (at least, some people) lived in 1968.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 19, 2021 2:13 AM CDT
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