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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Sunday, June 13, 2021
1987 FLASHBACK PIC - CONNERY'S STUNT DOUBLE
JEFF JENSEN SHARES PIC FROM SET OF 'THE UNTOUCHABLES' WITH PROFILE IN THE CHINOOK OBSERVER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/connerystuntdouble.jpg

Retired stuntman and film director Jeff Jenesen, who worked as Sean Connery's stunt double on Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, shared the set photo above with the Chinook Observer, which posted a profile piece today written by Patrick Webb:
Jensen thirsted to learn every aspect. “From Day 1 in the film industry, I was wanting to direct and would like that job,” he said.

He enrolled in the University of Southern California film school. On days when stunts were not required, he returned to the set, observed directors and helped out. His career advanced by earning credentials with the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures and the Actors Studio in New York.

He savored travel to exotic locales. “I have been on every continent except South America, even under the polar ice cap. The places that they paid me to go! I had the most amazing career. But my injuries caught up with me.”

Early stunt work was on TV shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger,” as well as Chuck Norris’ 1983 movie “Lone Wolf McQuade.” He fell off a seven-story building in “The Fall Guy,” and appeared in episodes of “Falcon Crest,” “Knight Rider” and “Magnum, P.I.” He fought with Jackie Chan on “Cannonball Run 2” in 1984 and Sylvester Stallone in the 1989 “Rambo III” movie, where he was second-unit director. That year he performed stunts in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” with Harrison Ford.

Fighting — or pretending to fight — meant developing eye and hand coordination to effectively “pull punches.”

“The worse thing you can do is hit an actor or hit the camera,” he said. “Fighting is all choreography for the camera. It’s all rehearsing, blocking. It is all a big con.”

On rare occasions where performers actually hit Jensen, he made sure he was paid extra.

Another inside secret is how stunt coordinators plan car chases and crashes. Jensen is amused to reveal how they use tiny “Matchbox” toy cars to help multiple drivers learn their moves before they did the real thing for the rolling camera. “We are creating illusions, we are not crashing,” he said.

Jensen cherishes memories of working with big-name stars, especially those who recognized his skill. “I put my physical well being on the line so they can be safe,” he said. A treasured 1987 snapshot from the set of “The Untouchables” shows Sean Connery and his double — Jensen, with identical costume and mustache. Another shows him with Donald Sutherland, who he describes as “very thoughtful.”

The contrast in scenes ran the gamut. In “Running Man” in 1987 with Schwarzenegger, he was a motorcycle rider who attacked brandishing chainsaws then flew over the handlebars. Doubling for John Goodman in the 1994 “Flintstones” movie, meant wearing a dress when Fred put on a disguise.

One spectacular stunt was for Dolph Lundgren’s 1992 adventure “Universal Soldier.” The scene called for Lundgren’s character to Australian rappel (standing, facing down) 650 feet down the Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border.

“I wore five layers of gloves,” Jensen said, recalling meticulous preparation that included making sure the rope was long enough. “If I trip and fall, I die. You have to lean out at a 90-degree angle. I did it six times, once with a camera on my head.”

Jensen appeared in three of the “Star Trek” movies, but laments the change to CGI (computer generated images) in many of today’s films. “I love making movies,” he said. “I hate the business of movies,” alluding to how money is wasted, “but I love the process.”


Posted by Geoff at 2:58 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 13, 2021 3:08 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 9, 2021
SALAMON BRINGS THE DEVIL'S CANDY TO TCM PODCAST
30-ODD YEARS LATER, HER RECORDINGS OF DE PALMA, HANKS, GRIFFITH & OTHERS FORM SEASON 2 OF 'THE PLOT THICKENS'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tcmpodcast.jpg

Julie Salamon's book The Devil's Candy, about the making of The Bonfire Of The Vanities, will come to life via her "actual recordings" of Brian De Palma, Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and others for season two of the TCM podcast The Plot Thickens (see trailer below). The series is hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, and the first episode of this season premieres June 29th. TCM will also be showing De Palma films as the weekly podcast continues for seven episodes. Here's an excerpt from Mike Barnes' Hollywood Reporter article about it:
Meanwhile, season two of The Plot Thickens, “The Devil’s Candy,” which will go behind the scenes of the notorious 1990 Warner Bros. flop The Bonfire of the Vanities, arrives June 29 via a production partnership with Campside Media.

The title comes from the best-selling 1991 book written by Julie Salamon, who was a journalist embedded in the production; she’ll co-host the seven-episode podcast with Mankiewicz. The movie, based on the sensational 1987 novel by Tom Wolfe, was directed by Brian De Palma and starred Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis.

“There have been plenty of lemons in movie history, but none that have been so meticulously recorded,” Mankiewicz says. “Julie Salamon’s book was a gift to film lovers, film students and perhaps most critically, movie executives. She lays out a blueprint for what will go wrong if you lose your way. We’re thrilled to bring her book and her recordings to life with this season of the podcast.”

The Bonfire of the Vanities will make its TCM premiere July 5, kicking off a selection of De Palma films. It will be followed by Obsession (1976), Sisters (1972), Blow Out (1981) and Body Double (1984).


Here's the description from The Plot Thickens itself:

The Bonfire of the Vanities was one of the best-selling novels of the 1980s and had all the makings for a hit motion picture: a dark comedy with heart and bite, an A-list director and a star-studded cast. So what went wrong? Beginning June 29th, come with us onto the closed set and hear actual recordings of Brian De Palma, Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and others, as they set about making one of the most anticipated films of its time, only to have it end up a cautionary tale for the ages.


Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CDT
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Monday, June 7, 2021
'OMAGGIO a DONAGGIO' FOR RECORD STORE DAY
ISABELLA TURSO HAS COMPOSED PIANO WORKS INSPIRED BY DONAGGIO'S MUSIC FOR NEW ALBUM
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Isabella Turso celebrates Pino Donaggio, who turns 80 later this year, with an album of new songs directly inspired by the composer. And it turns out, Donaggio himself suggested the idea to Turso. All of the images here come from the album cover of Omaggio a Donaggio, a special limited edition release for Record Store Day.

https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/omaggioadonaggio0.jpg

https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/omaggioadonaggio1a.jpg

https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/omaggioadonaggio2.jpg

https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/omaagiocover.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 6, 2021
SLATE - WHAT MAKES A GOOD STEPHEN KING ADAPTATION
KING HAS ADAPTED HIS OWN NOVEL 'LISEY'S STORY' FOR PABLO LARRAIN-DIRECTED SERIES
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Slate's Jack Hamilton includes Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie as an example of King adaptations that mange to get around the fact that King's books are not easily given to screen adaptation:
The long, long list of unsatisfying King adaptations—of which Lisey’s Story is certainly among the better entries—may tell us something about King as a writer, and the shape of his remarkable career. Stephen King has been writing hugely popular and influential fiction for almost half a century, but for much of the early part of his career he was often dismissed as a mass-market genre writer. As this brief 1979 New York Times profile notes, King’s early books were paperback phenoms that barely registered on the hardcover bestseller lists. In the 1970s the popular genre fiction market was thoroughly entwined with the Hollywood development machine, and many of the biggest blockbusters of that decade—Love Story, The Exorcist, The Godfather—were based on what might today be called airport paperbacks. In 1974, the same year that King made his debut with Carrie, a first-time novelist named Peter Benchley published a salacious beach-read called Jaws, which was adapted into a movie the following summer. (The film did well.)

From the start, King was seen as the kind of writer who writes books to get turned into movies, because that was the widespread conception of the publishing market to which he’d been consigned. King has always had a surfeit of ideas, and many of his horror novels have the sort of one-sentence synopses that seem like they’d make for killer movie material: a bullied teenaged outcast develops telekinetic powers; a writer battling alcoholism and writers’ block moves his family into a sinister old hotel; a malevolent force in the shape of a homicidal clown stalks a town from generation to generation. But unlike some of the writers he was lumped in with, King’s books never read like movie treatments, and many of the devices he frequently deployed—fragmentary narration and shifting perspectives, non-linear chronologies, a keen interest in his characters’ interiority—aren’t mainstays of conventional horror filmmaking.

The most successful adaptations of King’s horror work have found ways to get around this. To stay with the three examples above, in adapting Carrie in 1976, Brian De Palma and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen straightened out the narrative and dispensed with the novel’s patchwork form, a mix of conventional third-person narration interposed with excerpts from newspapers, academic volumes, and other fictional sources. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining jettisoned much of the book’s focus on Jack Torrance’s struggles with alcoholism and his gradual descent into madness in favor of a haunted hotel story. (King famously hates Kubrick’s version of The Shining, complaining—and not wrongly—that Kubrick made Torrance into a standard horror-movie psychopath.) The first “Chapter” of Muschietti’s It was remarkably well-done and truly scary, but it also relegated the book’s “adult” sections—which in the novel are intertwined with the childhood sections—to a sequel, It: Chapter Two, which was ham-fisted and bloated, stumbling into many of the pitfalls the first chapter managed to avoid.

Most of the best King adaptations are drawn from material that is horror-adjacent, at most: The Dead Zone, “The Body,” “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” Dolores Claiborne. Lisey’s Story isn’t strictly horror, but it doesn’t neatly reduce to a logline; it’s a great idea, but hardly a straightforward one. It’s one of those books that when someone asks you what it’s about, all you can tell them is to go read it. It’s also a moving rumination on stories and inspiration, and the places fiction writers get their ideas, a subject that King—one of the most absurdly prolific popular artists in history—has probably been asked about more than almost anyone on earth. It’s not an easy book to make a television series about, which is to its writer’s credit. Lisey’s Story’s failings aren’t an indictment of King the screenwriter, they’re a tribute to King the novelist.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 7, 2021 8:23 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 5, 2021
BEFORE THE DOORS CLOSE - DTK & STAR WARS
THE WHIRRING OF VADER'S INTERROGATION DROID ECHOES WITHIN DE PALMA'S SLOW-MOTION ELEVATOR MOMENT
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I revisited George Lucas' Star Wars (A New Hope, 1977) last week, and the scene in which Darth Vader submits Princess Leia to an interrogation droid struck an odd déjà vu feeling. It made me think of the elevator suspense scene in Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill (1980). The kicker is the whirring sound effect that enters the soundtrack in Lucas' film when the droid appears on screen. The whirring appears over John Williams' music, and so appears to be a sound effect, not part of the score. As the camera, from Leia's point of view, zooms in closer to the needle being held by the droid, the whirring sound slowly gets faster and faster, eventually raising its pitch, as well, until we (via a cut) step outside the room. The sound of the door slamming shut from top to bottom drowns out the whirring as well as any other sound, followed immediately by a set of hard shoes on a walkway grid that the camera then follows.

In De Palma's film, a similar whirring sound begins as Liz turns and meets the killer's eyes in the mirror. As in Lucas' film, this sound appears to be an effect separate from Pino Donaggio's music. In fact, it sounds like the effect may have been achieved (I am taking a guess) by gradually speeding up a sound on a reel-to-reel tape player. It is interesting to note that the sound quickly fades as Bobbi's eyes turn away from Liz, breaking their gaze and then dropping the razor to the floor.


Posted by Geoff at 6:26 PM CDT
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Friday, June 4, 2021
'A LOVE LETTER TO FILM'
CINENAUTS PODCAST DISCUSSES DE PALMA'S 'BLOW OUT'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blowouthotelwindow45.jpg

The newest episode of the Cinenauts podcast features an in-depth discussion of Brian De Palma's Blow Out. Here's the episode decsription:
For their 31st mission, the Cinenauts are joined by special guest Jordan McGrath of the HIS FILM HER MOVIE podcast to discuss Brian DePalma's BLOW OUT starring the John Travolta! Also discussed in this episode: His Film Her Movie, Cruella and the Disney remakes, the underappreciation(?) of John Travolta and much more! Send us an email or voicemail at cinenautspod@gmail.com.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 3, 2021
'PHANTOM' ART BY COMIC BOOK ARTIST MATÍAS BERGARA
"First time watching Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Masterpiece!"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/matiasbergara.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, June 2, 2021
BILGE EBIRI DIGS INTO 'MI' ON 'LIGHT THE FUSE' PODCAST
AND THE HOSTS ANNOUNCE DE PALMA/LEHMAN INTERVIEW COMING SOON
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In the intro for the May 21st episode of the "Light The Fuse" podcast, hosts Charles Hood and Drew Taylor announce that they have interviewed Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman for an upcoming episode, timed around the publication of the paperback edition of De Palma and Lehman's novel, Are Snakes Necessary? (release date July 13). Meanwhile, this episode features part one of the podcast's interview with Vulture film critic Bilge Ebiri, which was conducted a few days prior to Ebiri writing his great article, "The First Mission: Impossible Is Still the Best". It's a fun episode in which Ebiri delves even more into why he believes the world of Mission: Impossible is perfect for De Palma's cinematic sensibilities and obsessions.


Posted by Geoff at 11:38 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 2, 2021 11:40 PM CDT
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Tuesday, June 1, 2021
'BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES' IN HD HITS HBOMAX TODAY
FOR WHEN YOU HAVE TIME FOR A QUICKIE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/quickie1.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 11:23 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 27, 2021
'A STAR VEHICLE WITH A DEEPLY WEIRD SENSIBILITY'
BILGE EBIRI ON 'WHY DE PALMA MADE SUCH AN IDEAL DIRECTOR' FOR 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE'
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Vulture film critic Bilge Ebiri posted an anniversary article today with the headline, "The First Mission: Impossible Is Still the Best" -- here's an excerpt:
If you told those of us who saw Mission: Impossible in theaters in 1996 that, 25 years later, the series would still be going strong, with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt having outlasted two James Bonds, two Supermen, and three Batmen, we probably would have called you an idiot. It’s not that the movie (which, to celebrate its anniversary, has just been rereleased in a remastered new Blu-ray edition) wasn’t a sizable hit — it was — but it was also initially held at something of a remove by critics and audiences alike. It was the kind of smash-and-grab blockbuster that made a huge chunk of its box office in its opening few days and didn’t seem to care about word of mouth. That type of hit is, of course, pretty much all we have nowadays, but back in 1996, it wasn’t exactly a mark of quality.

Critics, who’d always been divided on the work of director Brian De Palma, saw Mission: Impossible as a movie that showcased his expertise with suspense, but one that didn’t have much personality to it. The action setpieces (mostly) received their share of praise, while the screenplay (credited to Robert Towne and David Koepp, and reportedly revised constantly throughout production) got knocked for being confusing or nonsensical. Many fans of the original series were disappointed that this new version was less about teamwork and spycraft and more about Tom Cruise jumping off exploding trains. (Some were also upset that this film decided to make Jim Phelps, the ostensible hero of the original show, a villain.) The then-small-but-growing ranks of the Extremely Online chuckled over the picture’s representation of how the internet works. Its CinemaScore grade was a mere B+ … which, in the world of hyperinflated CinemaScore grades, is generally cause for concern.

No, there was definitely something uncool about Mission: Impossible. It was somehow both too smart for its own good and also, weirdly, not smart enough. Besides, Tom Cruise: action star? What? It’s hard to remember now, but Mission: Impossible was an odd choice at the time for the actor, who had built his stardom through a savvy combination of mainstream prestige pictures and pop hits but had never really been an ass-kicking action hero. In Top Gun, he flew jet fighters, while in Days of Thunder, he raced cars; in those movies, the action came from the machines, not the people. And despite his incredible box-office run, Cruise avoided sequels. Mission: Impossible, which he produced, seemed very much like the type of flick designed to establish a franchise, an odd choice for a performer whose white whale at the time was not so much box-office success as Oscar glory. (At the time, he’d only been nominated for 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July, though he’d starred in numerous Oscar-anointed films, such as A Few Good Men and Rainman. However, he’d soon be nominated for that year’s Jerry Maguire and, not long after, Magnolia. He still hasn’t won that Oscar.)

That odd choice would soon prove prophetic. It didn’t seem likely at the time that the industry would one day mostly abandon the star-driven, medium-budget hits that had been so important to Brand Cruise — that everything would eventually become subsumed into franchises and so-called IP, and that a star’s earning potential would become wedded to their ability to play the same, extremely familiar character over and over again in multiple installments of the same film series. Did Cruise himself recognize that this would become the way of the world? Probably not. He still had a good decade of star turns ahead of him. Jerry Maguire was still in the future, as were Minority Report and Collateral and War of the Worlds (and, of course, Magnolia, arguably his greatest performance). But one day, after his public image exploded, he’d wind up needing Mission: Impossible to help him claw back to relevance — and to some modicum of public affection.

In the period following the original’s release, however, you could sense the series struggling to find its footing. Mission: Impossible II, which came out four years later, was tonally very different from the first one. Director John Woo went for straight-up action ballet, with Cruise doing acrobatic gunplay while performing elaborate motorcycle stunts, the rest of his team essentially reduced to bit parts. Six years after that, the third entry, directed by J.J. Abrams, went dark and shaky-cam, entertainingly upping the explosions and the personal backstories. I would argue that the series didn’t fully hit its stride until 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which in many ways restored the central idea that had made the original so effective.

So, what was that idea? And how has it endured so long? Is it just, you know, stunts?

Not quite. Mission: Impossible delivered a new spin on properly utilizing what was then Cruise’s thermonuclear star power. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the actor represented a fresh-faced, can-do macho ethos; this was a far cry from the musclebound strongmen and grizzled wiseasses who dominated action cinema. But by the mid-’90s, the Age of Irony was fully upon us, and Cruise’s all-American appeal needed some complication. A little of this guy went a long way: Let Cruise be too confident, too capable, too smirking and cool, and you ran the risk of silliness and annoyance. (This is why Mission: Impossible II, by the way, for all its financial success, kind of stinks.) The man could no longer grin his way through his challenges.

The trick, it turned out, was to add a bit of slapstick. Tom Cruise was a handsome, physically gifted supernova with a thousand-watt smile, but the key to making him a relatable action star was, well, to humiliate him a little. The first Mission: Impossible gave us a hero whose confidence gets him into ridiculous situations that make him look foolish: What makes the infamous Langley break-in sequence so immortal isn’t the intricate derring-do of the heist itself; it’s the fact that Ethan Hunt winds up anxiously hovering two inches off the floor, desperately flapping his arms about — because there are few things more satisfying in modern mainstream cinema than the sight of Tom Cruise looking like a total dork. And weirdly, he seems to know it. For all the theatricality of his performances, Cruise is great at deadpan.

This might also be why De Palma made such an ideal director for this material, and for this star. No auteur was better at undercutting his protagonists, at turning his heroes into marks, cuckolds, dupes, and dopes. Mission: Impossible is much more of a Brian De Palma film than it gets credit for being. Certainly, the director loves the demonic artifice of cinema — his work simultaneously mines it for aesthetic power while purposefully highlighting its inherent phoniness — and with their vast array of costumes and masks and breakaway walls and falsified surveillance images, what are Ethan Hunt and his colleagues but a bunch of amateur filmmakers who also happen to be professional spies? Tied into this embrace of artifice is also a dedication to the old-school suspense setpiece — silent, carefully choreographed, focused on details — of the kind that these movies have deftly woven in with the more typical big bang-boom of modern action spectacle.

Ethan even becomes, for a while, one of De Palma’s classic sexual marks. The film isn’t just about Ethan and his team’s betrayal by their leader, Phelps (Jon Voight); it’s also about Ethan’s betrayal by Jim’s wife, Claire (Emmanuelle Béart), with whom he clearly has a romantic connection. By the end, when Ethan discovers that Claire has been working with Phelps all this time, the deception genuinely stings. A sex scene was reportedly shot and then cut from the finished film, but the point still comes across: It’s in Ethan and Claire’s longing glances, in their gentle kisses and caresses. Mission: Impossible played a little demure in 1996. Today, it feels downright heated.

Perhaps it’s this hybrid quality — as an action flick with a flair for the perverse and the intimate, a star vehicle with a deeply weird sensibility — that makes the first Mission: Impossible hold up so well. Perched at that moment, when everything in the industry began to change, it’s a surprisingly slippery movie, not quite one thing and not quite the other.



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 28, 2021 12:15 AM CDT
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