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Domino is
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
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mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
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Washington Post
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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 7:01 PM CDT
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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Dan Perri designed the titles for Brian De Palma's Wise Guys, which is included in his new book, Hollywood Titles Designer / A Life in Film. On Instagram today, Perri shared a brief excerpt about his design for Wise Guys:
“Brian De Palma is known for his serious, violent films. But Wise Guys was broad and funny for Brian. And, he wanted a broad title treatment that signaled that it was a comedy. So, graphic animation of letter shapes and silly shoot-em-up seemed suitable for the film.

I started with messing with the MGM logo by spinning it into a dot that became the connection with the “I” in the titles. And, to bring a sense of humour to it with bright colour and “tough guy” red typography that was nicely punctuated by Ira Newborn’s funny, silly music” - an excerpt from Dan’s book “Hollywood Titles Designer / A Life in Film”.

Posted by Geoff at 11:37 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, April 20, 2021 11:42 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 18, 2021

On his journey toward The Untouchables and Casualties Of War, after Scarface and Body Double, Brian De Palma made a very funny comedy called Wise Guys, which was released 35 years ago today, on April 18, 1986. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert really loved it, giving the film "two great big thumbs up" on their TV program, At The Movies. Thanks to andyfilm, we can watch the entire episode. Here's a transcript, followed by the video:
Ebert: Our next movie is named Wise Guys, and this one's a real treasure. A great comedy about the Mafia that stars Joe Piscopo and Danny DeVito as a couple of very low-level New Jersey foot soldiers for the Mob. One day, they're given ten-thousand dollars of the Godfather's money to bet on a horse, and they bet on the wrong horse, because they think, "He doesn't know what horse is gonna win!" But you know what? He did know what horse was gonna win, and so they owe him two-hundred and fifty-thousand dollars, and they don't have a dime. So the Don decides their punishment, which is, he secretly assigns each one of them to kill the other one. Here's the scene earlier in the movie, one morning in the Mob-controlled restaurant where the Mafia boss is handing out the day's assignments:

[Scene plays]

Ebert: [laughs at the clip just shown] That giant guy that you saw there with the horrible red or maroon sport coat is the enforcer for the Mob, and later on, the boss puts him on the case of these two guys after they've stolen his two-hundred and fifty-thousand dollars. So they are desperate. They know there's no place to turn. And so DeVito gets on the phone and pretends to be talking to his uncle in Atlantic City. An uncle who is a powerful mobster, who, if he were alive, might be able to save their lives.

[Scene plays, with DeVito pretending to talk to Uncle Mike on the phone]

Ebert: Wise Guys is a movie with one big laugh after another, and yet the thing that really holds this movie together (and you could see it there) is the genial relationship between those two guys: between Moe and Harry; between Piscopo and DeVito. They like each other and they stick together. They try to fumble their way out of this mess. And they... they're neighbors in probably the worst street in New Jersey, and they are surrounded... well, I'm sure the people that very nice people live there, but the side that they live on looks pretty bad.

Siskel: You're in trouble now, Roger.

Ebert: And they are surrounded... the people across the street are great! And they are surrounded by a movie full of some of the best character actors in the business. The big surprise for me in Wise Guys, incidentally, was Danny DeVito. I've liked him before, but he has never been better than this time, and this shows what he can do in a way that I think will be used in other movies now. Wise Guys was directed by Brian De Palma, who specializes in thrillers and crime movies, and he made Scarface, and Dressed To Kill, among his serious films. This is his first comedy in a long time, and it is a good, laugh-out-loud comedy.

Siskel: I don't even think that's strong enough-- it's a GREAT laugh-out-loud comedy, and I'm gonna have a tough time at the end of the year deciding which film I laughed out loud the longest: Down And Out In Beverly Hills, this one, or Hannah And Her Sisters. I mean, this is really a riotous film, fabulous. DeVito in a starring role-- he's not supporting people now, like in Romancing The Stone. He's absolutely terrific. There's a performance that you referred to, but I want to give credit to: the guy in the big red coat-- I think he makes this movie work just as much as the two stars-- that's played by a wrestler, a former wrestler, Captain Lou Albano. He plays The Fixer. He plays this movie at a volume pitch, that if I actually started to use it, I'd blow out every TV set that's watching us. I mean, it's a screaming performance that is hilarious. This movie, I don't know how this director Brian De Palma did it, he starts out at this level and keeps it funny and intense... it's just spectacular.

Ebert: Well, one of the things he did, I'll just repeat myself, is he fills the movie with great performances. We could go down the list and start...

Siskel: [agreeing] Oh, God.

Ebert: And the thing is, each actor is able to make his little character, or his corner of the movie, into a three-dimensional person, a presence here, so that these are people who are interacting with each other, instead of, as is so often the case in crime movies, simply stereotypes, or simply one-dimensional.

Siskel: Or vehicles for setting up a physical stunt. There aren't physical stunts here, there are people running into each other, not cars!

Ebert: That's right. there are a couple of lines in this movie, now one that... I don't want to give it, I will give it... they talk about... you mentioned that the guy's name is The Fixer?

Siskel: Right.

Ebert: That he's known as The Fixer. [laughs] They said, "What will Mrs. Fixer think?" [both are laughing] I laughed for about four minutes at that point.

Posted by Geoff at 7:13 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 18, 2021 11:30 PM CDT
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Saturday, April 17, 2021

As we near the 25th anniversary of Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible, The American Society of Cinematographers has posted the entire cover story article about the film from the June 1996 issue of American Cinematographer. Featuring a lengthy interview with Stephen H. Burum about making the film, here are some key excerpts:

On the process of color timing, etc., with the answer print

In a small darkened projection room, two men sit and watch fragments of an action movie with no soundtrack. Beaming forth from the wide-format anamorphic screen beam are powerful images of Tom Cruise, Emmanuelle Béart, Jon Voight, Kristen Scott Thomas, Emilio Esteves, Vanessa Redgrave and Jean Reno. As the actors converse, struggle, or embrace in silence, their exclusive audience exchanges a few sparse comments: “Tom’s face is a little red.” “Emmanuelle needs more blue.”

The setting for this scene is Deluxe Laboratories in Los Angeles, where Stephen H. Burum, ASC is finalizing of the answer print for Mission: Impossible with timer Denny McNeill.

After months of preparation and the frenetic production itself, the answer-print stage is a time of closure for many directors of photography, a period when they can sit back and appreciate their work. Burum likens the cinematographic process to “conducting a symphony orchestra: you’re so busy bringing in the violins, doing this and doing that, that you don’t have the real joy of listening to the music, of really feeling the music. And when you're timing and you get down to the third answer print, it hits you all of a sudden: you have the time to enjoy what you did. Until then, you just don’t.”

When timing a film, the cinematographer scrutinizes the color, brightness and quality of each individual shot, gauging its coherence against the surrounding shots in the sequence. The answer print is stricken directly from the negative; its set of yellow, cyan and magenta corrections are the foundation of an interpositive from which release prints will be produced, via the internegative. By the second or third release print, the major timing adjustments have been made, so the rest is merely a matter of fine-tuning. According to Burum, skin color is the clearest indicator for refining image quality and tone at that final stage.

“When you’re timing, you want to get a reference that will serve as a standard, so that the lab can clip it out and put it next to their timing machines,” he explains. “When there are major adjustments needed, you tend to say, ‘Let’s make it a whole lot more yellow or a lot more blue.’ Later you talk about skin tone a lot because it’s harder to define; it’s a very finicky and subtle hue.”

"De Palma left and right" -- On the collaborative working relationship between Burum and De Palma:

The feature film version is directed by Brian De Palma, whose relationship with Burum is well established.

Over the past 12 years, the two filmmakers have collaborated on five previous features: Body Double, The Untouchables, Casualties of War, Raising Cain and Carlito’s Way. Both men share an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and a passionate enthusiasm for filmmaking. The lengthy collaboration between the duo seems a natural one, as a keen appreciation of film history informs the work of both.

De Palma is best described as a postmodern director; his films are full of references to past directors such as Eisenstein, Hitchcock and Antonioni. He knows every storytelling trick in the book, and doesn't hesitate to use them. It is telling that Quentin Tarantino cites Blow Out (shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC) as his favorite film, for in many ways, the young auteur is DePalma’s heir. Critics sometimes lambast the director as a mere maker of showy homages, yet, like Tarantino, he infuses his references to past films with a very contemporary irony that creates a personal vision.

In a very different way, Burum has used his own love of the classic Hollywood tradition to enrich recent American cinematography. A master stylist, Burum has on several occasions assimilated the aesthetics of bygone genres and transformed them into original and modern imagery. Witness the highly stylized rendering of detective serials in The Shadow, or the brilliant melange of film noir and comedy in The War of the Roses. Burum's distinguished career spans from the stunning second-unit cinematography on Apocalypse Now to his masterful, Academy Award-nominated work on Hoffa. In addition, he has received ASC Award nominations for both The War of the Roses and The Untouchables, winning for Hoffa.

After working with De Palma on so many pictures, Burum says that he and the director speak in shorthand on the set. “I love working with Brian. He’s the greatest; he knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s not much dialogue between us on the set. [The collaboration] is not artsy at all, but very matter-of-fact. I have an expression that I use: ‘De Palma left and right.’ If Brian says the frame ends at a certain point, it’s going to end there. There is no reason to shoot anything past that point.” Burum also understands De Palma on a personal level. To an outsider, he says, “Brian may seem gruff, but he keeps all of his feelings inside.” The cameraman realized this during the shooting of Al Pacino’s death scene in Carlito’s Way, when he saw the director “with tears in his eyes.”

On working with production designer Norman Reynolds, and evoking three moods, "old Europe, America, and new Europe" --

Like an IMF mission, the production of the film was a race against time, shooting on location in Prague and London, and on sets built within the vast Pinewood Studios soundstages. However, the film's British production designer, Norman Reynolds, notes that the film's European locales merely enhance its essential spirit. "Mission: Impossible is an American action film, in the best sense of the term," he says.

Reynolds, who earned two Oscars for his memorable design work on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, is well-positioned to comment on the relationship between the production designer and the cinematographer. “The designer [helps to set] the picture's tone in visual terms. Now that's apart from the cameraman, who obviously has the ultimate control in that area, because he can make it dark, light, colored or whatever. So what we designers do is very much in the hands of cameramen. I certainly stay in touch with the cameraman as much as I possibly can.

“While we were in Prague, Steve was obviously very involved in location scouting and preparing things, so there were times when he and I were separated. But when we moved to the studio, I involved Steve as much as possible in the set design. It was quite selfish really, because the easier I made Steve's job, the better the film was going to look. We liked working together, and that's really the name of the game."

In planning their visual design, Burum and Reynolds referred solely to the script and not at all to the television series. In fact, Burum confesses to having never really watched the TV show. "I remember a little from college, but I never got a chance to see an entire episode," he admits.

Following the natural divisions of the script, Burum created a different lighting approach for the missions in Prague, Virginia, and on the TGV train, producing a visual diversity and rhythm that enriches the film. The cinematographer summarizes the three moods he sought to evoke as "old Europe, America and new Europe."

In Prague, Burum sought to create an atmosphere that evoked "the old European spymaster stuff. You know, the spymaster slinking around, dining in chic restaurants, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, while some Eurasian woman is wearing a tight silk dress with a mink dropping off her shoulder, with a Twenties bob hairdo — the Mata Hari thing. Here you are in Prague, which has just been freed from the Communists and is still mysterious, almost Oriental. Anything can happen, and of course, all kinds of nefarious devious stuff is going on because everyone is grappling for power, and everything is up for grabs."

In lieu of Mata Hari, Mission: Impossible features French actress Emmanuelle Béart as Claire, an IMF member and romantic interest of Hunt’s. To give Béart a "more ethereal" appearance, Burum chose his customary black silk stocking diffusion when shooting her close-ups. Onscreen, the diffusion is subtle and Béart's face still looks sharp. The cinematographer explains that "women, even when heavily diffused, don't appear diffused on film because their makeup accents their eyebrows, eyelashes and lips, which gives you a false sense of sharpness. For example, normal lip color blends in with the face but, with lipstick and liner, the lips look a lot sharper than they really are."

Most of the "old Europe" sequences in Prague take place at night. From the look of the film, the crew had the run of the Czech capital. The venerable but run-down Natural History Museum posed as the embassy's reception hall. Key exteriors were shot in Prague's two prime tourist spots: the beautiful square at the center of the old town and the famous Charles Bridge. These picturesque nightscapes required an excessive amount of light, since Mission was shot in the anamorphic format. For Burum, the lens T-stop setting is an essential factor in the quality of widescreen images.

"Many people ask me why my anamorphic shows look so sharp. It's because I know which stop to put the lenses at. You can't get an anamorphic lens below T4 and keep it sharp. In desperate situations, I have shot scenes at T2.8. I've been able to get away with it because I light very hard and very contrasty, which gives the images a phony sharpness. But if you try to light an anamorphic image at T2.8 with a soft light, the image will have no snap." Rawdon Hayne, Burum's 1st camera assistant, was instrumental in this endeavor.

Burum used Panavision's C-series anamorphic lenses, which he prefers to the E series because of their small size. "There's something about the older lens design that gives the appearance of a bit more depth of field. In point of fact, the term depth of field is baloney; there is only one point of absolute focus. Everything in front and everything behind is not really in focus, but rather seems to be in focus to your eye. If you have a lens that is ultra-sharp or heavily contrasted, then you see that difference in focus immediately. Older lenses are not quite as sharp, so they only appear to have more depth of field."

Read Burum detail much more in the article regarding lenses, lighting, old-fashioned process shots, etc., at American Cinematographer. One curious image included there is this one:

Apparently taken from the original magazine article, the image above includes the following caption:

Luther (Ving Rhames) on the train, sharing a frame with an unfocused Max (Vanessa Redgrave). Here, Burum accentuates the space between the characters, as Luther is undercover, secretly trailing Max.

Posted by Geoff at 1:48 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, April 17, 2021 2:05 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 15, 2021

On the latest episode of the podcast Cinema Rising, Jake Sanders is joined by his brother Tom Sanders to discuss Brian De Palma's Obsession and Lou Ye's Suzhou River, "two films working through aspects of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo." After the two brothers discuss Obsession, they are joined by Cara Li, "to provide some cultural and historical context for Suzhou River."

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Little Marvin, creator of the new Amazon Prime series THEM, was asked by IndieWire's Kristen Lopez to name some of his influences. "Too many filmmakers to name," replied Little Marvin, "but I will say that I'm super in love with all of the thrillers and the horror films of the '50s, the '60s, and '70s. Allison [Pill] mentions Hitchcock-- absolutely. William Friedkin, Brian De Palma...! Like, Carrie is a massively influential movie to me. His use of split-diopter shots is the reason why we use them EVERYWHERE! [laughing] Because if I could just make every shot a split-diopter shot, I would. And Stanley Kubrick. All of those filmmakers are hugely influential on my childhood. Those movies live large over my imagination. So we definitely wanted to pay homage to that look."

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 8:08 AM CDT
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Monday, April 12, 2021

Joseph Siravo, the actor who made his feature film debut as Vinnie Taglialucci in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, passed away Sunday after a long batle with cancer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 66.

As Vinnie, the son of a mob boss seeking revenge for his father's murder, Siravo is a major part of one of De Palma's most extraordinary and memorable sequences: the subway chase which leads to an escalator shootoout at Grand Central Station.

"Better known to television audiences around the world for his turn as Tony Soprano's ruthless father on The Sopranos," Abid Rahman states in the Hollywood Reporter obituary, "Siravo built up an impressive list of Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatres credits and became an integral part of the first national tour of the Tony- and Grammy-award-winning Jersey Boys, playing the part of Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo in over 2,000 performances."

Rahman continues:

Born in Washington D.C. on March 11, 1955, Sivaro attended Stanford University, where he performed for the Stanford Mendicants, an all-male a cappella group. He graduated from Stanford in 1977 with a BA and received his MFA from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Theatre Program in 1980, where he trained under the guidance of Ron Van Lieu, Olympia Dukakis and Nora Dunfee.

Siravo first made his mark acting in theater. His notable Broadway credits include J. T. Rogers' Tony-award-winning play Oslo, Herb Gardner’s Conversations With My Father with Tony Shaloub and Judd Hirsch, the musical The Boys From Syracuse and Craig Lucas' musical The Light In the Piazza.

Off-Broadway he starred in Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest and Michael Develle Winn's Up Against The Wind and in the regional theater he starred in a number of Shakespeare productions including Hamlet, Anthony & Cleopatra and Othello.

In 2006, Siravo was part of the first national tour of the phenomenally successful musical Jersey Boys, based on the career and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He played Genovese family boss Gyp DeCarlo and stayed with the production until 2012, performing in 38 cities.

To a wider audience, Siravo will always be remembered as Johnny "Johnny Boy" Soprano from HBO's critically acclaimed mob drama The Sopranos. Siravo took on the role of DiMeo crime family capo and father of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). In the show, he appeared in flashback and dream sequences in five episodes, making his first appearance in "Down Neck," the seventh episode in season one with his final one in episode 15 of season six titled "Remember When."

Siravo's also starred in FX's Emmy award-winning drama The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, in which he gave a powerful performance as Fred Goldman, the father of the murdered Ron Goldman.

His other television credits include For Life, New Amsterdam, Blue Bloods, The Blacklist, Elementary, In Treatment, Made In Jersey, Dirty Sexy Money, Hack, Third Watch, Law & Order, Witness To The Mob and Cosby.

Siravo made his big-screen debut in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way in 1993, in which he played Vinnie Taglialucci, the grieving son of a mob boss who seeks revenge on David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) and Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino). Although his focus was mainly on theater and television, Siravo's film credits include Maid in Manhattan, Shark Tale, playing John Gotti in The Wannabe and most recently The Report, Equity and Motherless Brooklyn.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Nathan Réra, whose book about Casualties Of War (Outrages) will be published on April 22, has posted an article at Gone Hollywood that details his years-long obsession with Brian De Palma's film, and the real-life events that it is based on. In the article, Réra reveals that he interviewed De Palma, David Rabe, Michael Verhoeven, and more for the book. In the introduction to the article, the Gone Hollywood editors state that Réra is a "lecturer in the history of contemporary art at the University of Poitiers, who offers a fascinating backward inquiry into the film and the 'news item' from which it is inspired." Here is a Google-assisted translation of Réra's post:

I have vivid memories of my discovery of Outrages at the end of my adolescence: I can still see myself buying the very first edition of the film on DVD, to expand my collection of works by De Palma… We were then at the very beginning from the 2000s. I was intrigued by this film, of which I only knew a few images; I assumed that it must be in line with the “great” films on the Vietnam War, alongside Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Platoon or Full Metal Jacket, films that I had seen during my adolescence and which had marked me, each in their own way. However, watching De Palma's film awakened feelings in me that I had never experienced in any other war film. I came away deeply shaken. I quickly realized that Outrages was not just another war film - nor was it completely a film about Vietnam ... - but a film about rape as a weapon of war. The impact the feature film had on me owes a lot to the heartbreaking renditions of Thuy Thu Le and Michael J. Fox, the terrifying performances of Sean Penn and Don Harvey, the chiseled writing of David Rabe as well as the overwhelming music of Ennio Morricone (in my eyes, perhaps his most beautiful score…). Since that first viewing, Outrages has not let go of me; I have seen it many times. Between the young film buff that I was when I discovered it and the confirmed researcher that I have become, a specialist in visual representations of mass violence and genocide, I have obviously come a long way. For example, a film like Schindler's List, which sparked my interest in depictions of the destruction of European Jews, confronted me with aesthetic, ethical and moral issues of the highest order; so much so that today my take on this film, from a filmmaker whom I admire by the way, is much more nuanced than it was twenty years ago. Quite the opposite of Outrages: with each viewing, the impression of strength and accuracy exuded by Brian De Palma's film remains intact.

I wanted to study the film to try to understand why it obsessed me so much, a bit like Eriksson who cannot forget the face of Oanh. This research was initially a personal, intimate quest. Originally, my plan was to write a book focusing exclusively on De Palma's film, which would have retraced its history, from its genesis to its theatrical release. To that end, I first contacted the filmmaker and screenwriter, David Rabe, to find out if they would be willing to speak with me. They both answered yes. It took several months for a meeting with De Palma to take place; on the other hand, I very quickly started a long correspondence with David Rabe. Our discussions convinced me of the interest of giving the floor to all those who had participated in the film, not just the most illustrious… Of course, I knew that De Palma's film was based on a text by the American journalist Daniel Lang originally published in the New Yorker. I had acquired the excellent French translation published by Editions Allia in 2018, but I was eager to know more about the fabric of the report and the journalist's intentions. The investigation into De Palma's film was then coupled with an investigation into Lang's work, which I was able to carry out with the agreement of his daughters, who allowed me to have access to his archives. . At the same time, I got my hands on the archives of the court martial trials; I was able to locate several funds relating to the early adaptation projects of Casualties of War, well before that of De Palma; and I also spoke with Michael Verhoeven, the author of o. k., the first film inspired by Lang's investigation, known to have prematurely interrupted the Berlin International Film Festival in 1970. My research thus took on a scale that I was far from suspecting at first! I am summarizing here in a few lines nearly three years of intensive work, punctuated by periods of doubts, false leads, trial and error ... I sometimes had the impression of throwing bottles into the sea! But my persistence paid off. It was essential to stir broad in order to reconstruct the history of Casualties of War over the long term, from 1966 (date of the real events) to 1989 (date of release of De Palma's feature film).


Several parameters made possible the realization of Outrages, which Warner had started in 1970 without succeeding in completing the project. De Palma reactivated the project in the wake of the release of The Untouchables (in 1987), which was at the time his greatest commercial success; the collaboration with its producer, Art Linson, was in good shape. When the latter asks him which project he now wishes to work on, De Palma sends him Lang's text, which he had dreamed of bringing to the screen since 1969. He had also tried to carry it out in 1979-1980, in a time when he was already working with David Rabe on a project called Prince of the City (which Sidney Lumet would eventually direct). Coincidence: Rabe, too, had been dreaming of writing an adaptation of Casualties of War for the big screen for several years! The screenwriter approached Lang at the time, shortly before the journalist's death, but negotiations did not go very far, and De Palma eventually embarked on the directing of Dressed To Kill. Seven or eight years later, the situation has changed: after the success of The Untouchables, De Palma has the big studios at his feet and can afford the luxury of choosing his projects. However, it should be remembered that the choice to adapt Casualties of War was perilous: the war in Vietnam remained at the time a sensitive subject, on both political and moral levels, despite the great cinematic successes that followed one another throughout the decade ... It is for this reason that Paramount, which was initially supposed to produce the film, finally threw in the towel, before Columbia decided to grant it its "green light".

Outrages is a film adaptation of a journalistic investigation, which is itself based on the hundreds of pages of court martial transcripts Lang had viewed. David Rabe and Brian De Palma therefore necessarily made cuts, simplifications or adjustments. Some of their narrative choices conflict with the vision of Daniel Lang, who was heavily involved in the various adaptation projects prior to Outrages. However, Rabe's script is broadly faithful to Lang's text, as it is to the real story. The portrait he paints of soldier Eriksson is very close to the sensitive one painted by the journalist, and the unfolding of the facts resumes that of the book, even if the first part of the film, which relates the daily life of the soldiers in Vietnam, extrapolates the testimony of the real Eriksson. Everything is plausible, however, and we must insist on the realism of the feature film, which is due to the vision of Rabe (himself a Vietnam veteran) as much as to the work of historical or military advisers. There are of course some differences between reality and its cinematographic transposition. The main one relates to the nature of the crime: in reality, it was a planned feminicide. From the start of the mission, it was agreed that the soldiers would abduct the young woman, Phan Thi Mao, to satisfy their sexual urges, and then kill her. In the film, the kidnapping and the rape are well planned, but the murder is decided in haste, when Meserve (Sean Penn) becomes concerned that the captive will be spotted by the American helicopters which fly over the area where he and his men lie. In my book, I analyze these different gaps between reality and film; it was necessary not to obscure them, as they reveal the tensions inherent in the work of adaptation.


Outrages is evidently at the heart of the great DePalmian oeuvre, because it contains figures and themes dear to the filmmaker; but at the same time it constitutes a kind of outgrowth of it, forming part of a small nucleus of films (with Greetings and Redacted) which tackle war, male domination and violence against women. On the directing side, the film has a few brave moments that bring to mind De Palma's taste for complex camera movements (especially the tunnel sequence, at the start of the film). However, one feels the director less concerned with visual performance than in his other films; he seeks throughout the story to adapt the form to his subject. From this point of view, his use of Steadicam is particularly interesting, because the movements performed with the device are not aimed at gratuitous virtuosity: they take care of the moral questions raised by the narrative. Among the passages that arouse in me a renewed emotion each time is the metro scene, which frames the film. This almost silent sequence, carried by the music of Morricone, gives an account of Eriksson's break-up, of his inability to stay in the present, in the world of the living, to simply relive without thinking of the one he couldn't save. It seems like the ending leaves us on a "positive" note, but studying the multiple layers of scriptwriting reveals how reductive that feeling is, and does not do justice to Rabe's intentions. Eriksson’s last look is unforgettable… I could also cite the sequence of the kidnapping of Oanh, of unbearable violence, and the rape itself, which De Palma films with remarkable ethics. More broadly, I find Thuy Thu Le's bodywork gripping. Rarely has an actress portrayed a rape victim so realistically; the passage where Eriksson tries to establish a dialogue with Oanh, while her body is ravaged by multiple wounds and bruises, does not leave the spectator unscathed.

De Palma has often said that the reception of his film in the United States has been abysmal. It seems to me that this impression needs to be qualified a little: by going through the archives of the American press of the time, we also find good (even very good) reviews, not only that of Pauline Kael in the New Yorker! But it is true that many others have distinguished themselves by their great violence. The most striking is undoubtedly that of Frances FitzGerald, who won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1973 for a book on Vietnam. In the magazine Village Voice, she attacked De Palma, reproaching him for having made a "sado-porn" film and denouncing the supposed improbabilities of the story ... She had obviously not read Lang's book! Veterans associations have also stepped up to denounce the portrayal of the US military, claiming that the facts recounted in the film were "exceptions." I believe the reception of the film in the United States is indicative of the depth of the moral wound that the Vietnam War has caused in American society. Of course, Platoon had achieved resounding success two years earlier; but Stone's film was by no means as critical as De Palma's film. The reception of Outrages also reflects, in retrospect, how war rape and femicide were viewed at the time. That part of the criticism, supported by the veterans' associations, could deplore the image that the feature gave of the American army seems, in today's society, quite improbable ... While the real subject of the film was at the same time very largely brushed aside! In France, the film also had its detractors, but overall the critics were much more receptive, with excellent analytical articles published by Laurent Vachaud and Antoine de Baecque, among others, in Positif and Les Cahiers du cinéma.


De Palma never really recovered from the critical failure of Outrages. Of course he returned to success afterwards, but he never took in the reception that was given to this film, which he rightly considers to be his most personal work. Some of his collaborators, whom he reunited with for his next film (The Bonfire of Vanities), told me that De Palma is not a filmmaker who dwells on failures; he never poured himself out with them. His reaction, after the film's screening at the Cinémathèque française in 2018, however, proves that Outrages is particularly close to his heart. It is not trivial to let such emotion shine through when you talk about a film made thirty years earlier! In 2006, De Palma directed Redacted, which is the tracing of the story of Outrages in the context of the Iraq War; a film once again based on a true story. Among his recent projects, there is also a film inspired by the Weinstein affair ... But I believe that on closer examination, the problem of violence against women and male domination haunts all of De Palma's work.

Revisiting Outrages is more necessary than ever, for at least three reasons. First of all, because it is a great film, still too little known, with complex issues, one of Brian De Palma's most successful works, and undoubtedly the film that best crystallized the moral bankruptcy of America in Vietnam. Secondly, because rape as a weapon of war is a subject that is still too little talked about, despite the existence of remarkable work by historians and journalists. Finally, because we must fight this culture of rape which plagues our societies. We feel that things are evolving, with the liberation of speech movements, but there is still a long way to go to educate the conscience, and especially those of men. Outrages speaks of rape committed in wartime, in a context where all moral barriers are collapsing; but it also speaks of the constitution of a culture of rape, which flourishes well upstream, through homosocial rituals. Outrages is also the antithesis of films which trivialize rape, or which make it a spectacle. Rape is represented here as an experience of great violence, from which one cannot recover; neither the one who is the victim, nor the one who is the witness. I believe that this film - like the book by Daniel Lang - can help educate the conscience and the gaze, because it raises the decisive question of individual responsibility. Positioning yourself on the good (or the bad) side is not inevitable: it is a choice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:53 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, April 10, 2021 11:56 PM CDT
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Friday, April 9, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, April 8, 2021


With her role in the new short film Koreatown Ghost Story, Margaret Cho is interviewed by Fangoria's Meredith Borders, who gets the comedian/actress talking about her favorite horror films:

Once we started talking about the genre in general, Cho really opened up. Although, as she says, it’s always been what she watches most, she’s been especially diving in during the pandemic, and one South Korean television series stands out in this deeply weird time we find ourselves:

“Most recent, I would say that I really love Sweet Home, which is almost a K-drama of horror, but it’s the definition of post-apocalyptic – it elicits some emotions about the pandemic, too. There's the paranoia of other people, there's this thing that's outside that you don't understand what's happening. There's a lot of monsters that are taking different forms that could be like variants. It’s really scary, but it's also the classic horror story where the protagonist finds his strength within, which is really what horror is about. You want to see somebody dig deep and into their heart and survive this nightmare, and the best horror does that.”

When we got into her favorites – a challenging question for any horror fan – she had a lot of answers: “ghosty” movies, found footage, body horror, Halloween and the “entire series” of Friday the 13th. “I love horror with kids, because kids freak me out.” She listed lots of Asian horror films: The Untold Story, Ju-On, Ringu, the original Dark Water – “which ultimately became a true story with Elisa Lam.” Like the truest of genre purists, she adores a lot of pre-‘70s titles: Séance on a Wet Afternoon, The Haunting, anything Hammer or giallo. But when it comes to her absolute favorite, she avers that’d probably have to be Brian De Palma’s Carrie, although she acknowledges that what’s most special about Carrie transcends genre.

Carrie is kind of everything, but what it really is, is this person – that's been victimized by all these people – finding her strength, but then Carrie becomes an antihero, too. So it’s really important to me.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, April 9, 2021 8:03 AM CDT
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