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Domino is
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not only ethically
but metaphysically"
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
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musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
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in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
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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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Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
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Friday, June 25, 2021

With the paperback edition of Are Snakes Necessary? coming July 13th, Hard Case Crime set up an interview with co-authors Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman for the Light The Fuse podcast. Part one of that interview was posted Friday (YouTube version embedded below). The original discussion about Are Snakes Necessary? included spoilers, but at the request of Lehman, podcast hosts Charles Hood and Drew Taylor cut out the spoiler portions. Here's a partial transcript of the episode's discussion around the novel:
Drew: Well, I was going to ask if this was ever conceived as a movie, but it sounds like it was always a book.

De Palma: Well, you write a lot of scripts that never get done. Then you've got a lot of ideas that are sitting on a shelf somewhere, or in a computer. And you say, well, this movie never got made, but maybe we can use this idea in a book. And that's sort of how it evolved.

Drew: Okay. And what was the collaborative process like?

Lehman: A lot of fun.

Drew [laughter from Charles]: Really? Okay.

De Palma: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I would basically write some stuff and send it off to Susan, and she would rewrite it and then send it back to me.

Lehman: Brian, as you can imagine, has a very visual imagination and a great eye for story structure. And so he put down the tent poles, and then we sent it back-and-forth. And we kind of played a game, which was send it back-and-forth and see if you can amuse the other person more than you were amused.

Charles: Did you have an ending from the start?

Lehman: No, we were a couple of pages short, so... [she laughs]

[some other laughter]

De Palma: What do you mean a couple of pages short?

Lehman: As I recall, [we were at this some time?]...

De Palma: And?

Lehman: I think there was a whole section that we just decided to add on after we'd sort of mapped everything out.

De Palma: Sounds good to me.

Charles: Was it the whole Paris section or something? Or was it one of the characters that you were following?

De Palma: Well, we had some broad ideas...

Lehman: It's that kind of attention to detail that makes Brian remiss.


De Palma: You know, we had the political story, and then when we got the deCarlo character involved, then we got into her doing the column.

Lehman: And I think the final revenge, I think we took the revenge up a notch there at the end.

Charles: What was the biggest challenge of writing together? Or I guess, in writing your first novel, in general?

De Palma: Well, as you can imagine, we had a lot of time together, and it sort of fills out the day. Because, I sort of wake up very early in the morning, I have all kinds of ideas, and I sort of go to the computer and write them down, and then I sort of confer with Susan, and... sometimes I'm either developing a screenplay, but then, I have all these other ideas from the other screenplays, and it's a kind of unique collaboration, because Susan kind of fits it to the things I don't have. You know, I'm a visual storyteller, and blah-di-blah-di-blah. And she's able to get the characters' meat on the bone. You know, in movies, you just say, "He...", "She...", "The reporter...", you know, and you're very... sketching things in, because when the actors come in, they give the body to the character. But Susan did a lot of this, filling in the characters and their backstories.

Drew: The book came out a year ago, and we're nearing the paperback release. Is there going to be a followup? Are there going to be more of these books?

Lehman: Many many more.

De Palma: Yes. We, in our confinement, came up with another idea for a book, and we've been working on that for quite a while. So...

Lehman: It's finished.

De Palma: Yes, it's finished.

Charles: That's great!

De Palma: When our public calls out to us, we will release it.


Charles: Well, we'd love to see this, for sure, I hope that happens.

Drew: Yeah, we're calling out for it.

Charles: I'm interested to know: the book feels so much like a Brian De Palma movie, but also has more... it feels like a lot of your movies are so laser-focused on the narrative of a singular character or a couple of characters. This is much more of an ensemble. It's almost like a Brian De Palma movie by way of, like, Robert Altman, almost, with all these different characters. Was that always...

Lehman: Who gets to be the Robert Altman character in this portrayal?


Charles: Was that always the idea? Or did it start... I know a lot of your movies are like sequences that you start from and then build around. Was it more like that? Or how did the whole thing begin?

De Palma: What happens when you can't answer these questions?


Lehman: You ask me for help.

De Palma: Okay.

Lehman: So Brian had a number of ideas. The book is built around set pieces that are easily recognizable as trademark De Palma moments. The Eiffel Tower is one, and there are others. And so, I think... Brian plots things... he's a really good plotter. Like, he knows exactly how things are going to be structured, and how different scenes are going to speak to other ones. So I think we started with his basic idea. Structural idea. And then we played around with it a lot. Is that accurate?

De Palma: Yeah. You have to explain "played around."

Lehman: Well, we made up new characters, and we complicated their stories, and we, you know, twisted...

De Palma: Washed them out...

Lehman: Twisted their pathways to one another.

De Palma: And had many laughs doing it.

Drew: Susan, would you agree with the laughs part?

Lehman: Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah. I mean, writing with somebody is, especially if the somebody is Brian, takes all the loneliness of writing alone, and removes that, and replaces it with, you know, a sense of mischief and play.

Charles: Right.

Lehman: I really recommend it.

De Palma: If you have the right partner.

Drew: Were any of these set pieces left over from projects that you either couldn't fit into projects that were already completed, or, you know, from abandoned projects as well?

De Palma: Well, that's hard to answer-- I'm trying to think...

Lehman: I think Brian operates with a ragtag bag of tricks and ideas. I mean, he's always working. He has a million ideas, a treasure trove of unproduced scripts, and some are filled with good ideas, and some probably are filled with less-good ideas.

De Palma: They're all filled with great ideas. [Susan laughs, then the others laugh, too]

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 24, 2021

According to The Film Stage's Leonard Pearce, in July the Criterion Channel will be adding Brian De Palma's Blow Out, which happens to celebrate its 40-year anniversary next month. "Also among the lineup," adds Pearce, "is a series on neo-noir with Body Double, Manhunter, Thief, The Last Seduction, Cutter’s Way, Brick, Night Moves, The Long Goodbye, Chinatown, and more." Note that Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat is also part of the alphabetical list provided in the article.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 25, 2021 5:09 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 11:13 PM CDT
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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 23, 2021 8:03 AM CDT
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Monday, June 21, 2021

When Jenny first appears in Raising Cain, behind Carter (or, er, who she thinks is Carter but who is actually Cain), she is holding a book. Jenny tells "Carter" that she is going to go lay down, and, continuing to hold her place in the book, carries it with her as she lays down on the bed and begins to read. Of course, Cain has designs of his own, and interrupts Jenny's book reading. In all of these shots, as framed in the film itself, it is not exactly easy to identify what book Jenny is reading. However, from looking at those shots of the book in the film and googling through dozens of Penguin Classics book covers, I was able to come to the conclusion that the book is Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola. And then I found a publicity still taken by on-set photographer Phil Bray that makes it clear as day.

Thérèse Raquin is a novel that deals with the subject of adultery, which, of course, is also a main subject of Raising Cain (if Laure falls asleep in Femme Fatale while watching Double Indemnity, it can also be suggested that Jenny falls asleep in Raising Cain while leafing through Thérèse Raquin). And, of course, Thérèse Raquin is the inspiration for the upcoming novel by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman, to be titled Terry.

In a La Repubblica interview from last year, Brian De Palma is asked by Silvia Bizio whether he and Susan Lehman will write together in the future. "We have already written another book," De Palma responds. "It's called Terry. It is inspired by Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin and it's about a film production that is making a film about the book. There is a love triangle in the film, a lover, and a murder. And the same thing happens among the characters who are making the film."

In March of 2019, in an on-stage chat at the Quais du Polar in Lyon, France, De Palma had mentioned Thérèse Raquin as both a film idea he's had for years, and also as the subject of their next novel. With Lehman on stage with him, the subject came up during the Q&A when an audience member asked De Palma, "Are there any French characters, authors or films that inspire you?"

"I've made a lot of movies here," De Palma began in response. "And Thérèse Raquin is an idea I've... always had an idea for a movie for. Thérèse Raquin's been made many times, but I think I have a new way of... in fact, that's sort of the subject of our next novel, isn't it? We love the French, that's why we're here. They're very kind to me."

In fact, De Palma was close to getting his film version of this story, to be titled Magic Hour, made in 2013 with producer Saïd Ben Saïd. The pair had just made Passion together the year before. Screen Daily's Geoffrey Macnab reported that Emily Mortimer was to play the lead in the film, which was described as a "loose adaptation of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, featuring both period and contemporary elements." Macnab added that "the story is about a film director and two actors shooting a movie version of Zola's novel and finding that it reflects experiences in their own lives."


Earlier in 2013, without naming the project, Ben Saïd told Nicolas Schaller about a film he was then developing with De Palma: "This is a film about cinema that is not devoid of humor or cruelty. It happens on a shoot between a director, an actor and an actress. De Palma wrote it by drawing on things that have happened to him. It is a kind of film testament."

De Palma's Therese Raquin film titled Magic Hour
Emily Mortimer cast in De Palma's next film

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2021 12:02 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Brian De Palma's original title for what became Raising Cain (1992) was "Father's Day". The early version of that screenplay had Jenny picking up a Father's Day gift for Carter: "a new edition of Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses Of Enchantment. Jenny picks it up and leafs through it. It's filled with beautiful color illustrations of all the classic fairy tales."

Interestingly, The Uses Of Enchantment is one of three books that David Mamet recommends in the first part of his 1991 book, On Directing Film:

The mechanical working of the film is just like the mechanism of a dream; because that’s what the film is really going to end up being, isn’t it?

The images in a dream are vastly varied and magnificently interesting. And most of them are uninfluenced. It is their juxtaposition that gives the dream its strength. The terror and beauty of the dream come from the connection of previously unrelated mundanities of life. As discontinuous and as meaningless as that juxtaposition might seem on first glimpse, an enlightened analysis reveals the highest and the most simple order of organization and, so, the deepest meaning. Isn’t that true?

The same should be true of a movie. The great movie can be as free of being a record of the progress of the protagonist as is a dream. I would suggest that those who are interested might want to do some reading in psychoanalysis, which is a great storehouse of information about movies. Both studies are basically the same. The dream and the film are the juxtaposition of images in order to answer a question.

I recommend, for example, The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud; The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim; Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung.

All film is, finally, a “dream sequence.” How incredibly impressionistic even the worst, most plodding, most American movie is. Platoon really is not any more or less realistic than Dumbo. Both just happen to tell the story well, each in its own way. In other words, its all make-believe. The question is, how good make-believe is it going to be?

"The strange, perfect clarity of a dream" - Revisting Janet Maslin's 1992 NY Times review of Raising Cain

Posted by Geoff at 3:56 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Following yesterday's post about Raising Cain, here's a video of Brian De Palma being interviewed by Bobbie Wygant during the press junket for that film. This was the year after Julie Salamon's The Devil's Candy was published, and Wygant brings it up by jokingly asking De Palma if he allowed any reporters on the set of Raising Cain. Keeping a straight face, De Palma replies, "Absolutely not." The conversation continues:
Bobbie Wygant: Do you have deep regrets about letting Julie Salamon on the set?

Brian De Palma: Oh, no, no, no, not at all. I mean, my idea was to show exactly what... See, I got asked so many questions over the years about how movies are made. And I used to get the impression from the press that it was like we were living in, you know, Hollywood of Louis B. Mayer. I mean, the way we were making movies, and what we had to go through, was something that they had not been able to see, basically, in the way that they talked to us or what they read about. So I said, well, somebody, you know, you've got to really make a movie and really show what goes on and be as honest as possible. And, it's...

Wygant: She was!

De Palma: Yeah, she was as honest as possible. And, though I've not read the book because it's such a painful experience for me, because it was such a difficult movie... but, I think it's important that people know how the contemporary director works with the studio and the writers and the actors and how movies are made. Right down to the press junket!

Wygant: [laughing] Indeed. Well, I'll tell you, I've been hanging around movies for 25 years, and I learned a lot from that book. I really did.

De Palma: Great.

Wygant: And I enjoyed reading it.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Thanks to a tweet from Metacritic for highlighting Janet Maslin's glowing 1992 review of Brian De Palma's Raising Cain, from The New York Times. With all due respect to the wonderful things Peet Gelderblom has accomplished, Maslin's review is a reminder that the true "director's cut" of Raising Cain was released in theaters in 1992:
A peaceful playground. A pleasant day. And two parents making small talk as they watch their children and then share a ride home. Dr. Carter Nix (John Lithgow), a child psychiatrist taking time off from his work to help bring up his daughter, engages a female friend in small talk about the legitimacy of conducting psychological studies on small children. The conversation starts innocently, but within moments -- during the course of an edgy, sustained driving shot executed with bravura ease -- it turns hostile enough to make Carter sneeze. Even worse, it makes Carter commit murder.

Bounding back gamely from "The Bonfire of the Vanities," Brian De Palma has vigorously returned to familiar ground. "Raising Cain," a delirious thriller starring John Lithgow as a man with at least three more personalities than he really needs, finds Mr. De Palma creating spellbinding, beautifully executed images that often make practically no sense. Working with an exhilarating sense of freedom, he seems to care not in the least what any of it really means. The results are playful, lively and no less unstrung than Dr. Carter Nix himself.

In his early days, Mr. De Palma sometimes labored to make his neo-Hitchcockian thrillers appear reasonable. This time that kind of strain is gone. So is the need to compare Mr. De Palma's latest psychological mystery, which he both wrote and directed, with any films other than his own. Less grisly and more mischievous than "Body Double," infused with the kind of free-floating menace that colored "The Fury," "Raising Cain" is best watched as a series of overlapping scenarios that may or may not be taking place in the real world. By the time it reaches its greatest feverishness, the film has featured a tussle involving three characters. One is real, one probably imaginary and one may actually be dead. At that point, it's hard to know for sure.

The Cain to whom the title refers is Carter's vicious alter ego, who likes to appear whenever a violent crime is in the wind. (This time, Mr. De Palma dispenses with the power drills and keeps the violence implicit and off screen.) Frequently shooting Cain from disturbing, tilted angles, Mr. De Palma may be promising to provide some kind of stylistic compass, but the film is often too caught up in its own craziness to keep track of that. Risky as it sounds, "Raising Cain" is enjoyable precisely because it makes the most of its own lunacy and stays so far out on a limb.

The fact that "Raising Cain" is beautifully made is, of course, another attraction. The film offers no warning as to when Mr. De Palma will launch into a spectacular tracking shot (a stunning one involving Frances Sternhagen goes on for about five minutes) or spin out a multi-tiered, slow-motion operatic showdown. The cinematographer Stephen H. Burum, whose several other films for Mr. De Palma include "The Untouchables," gives "Raising Cain" a crisp, handsome look that helps to ground its fanciful story in some sort of reality. As it means to, the film has the strange, perfect clarity of a dream.

Some of "Raising Cain" really does consist of dream sequences, although of course Mr. De Palma has fun by failing to specify where they begin and end. Carter has his own set of hallucinations, involving Cain's evil aphorisms ("The cat's in the bag, and the bag is in the river") and Carter's attempts to shake off very persistent childhood demons.

Carter's wife, Jenny (Lolita Davidovich), is confused in her own right once her former lover Jack (Steven Bauer) makes an unexpected appearance on the scene. Jenny's purchase of two clocks, one for Jack and one for Carter, affords the director many opportunities to play tricks upon the audience, as do Jenny's sexual reveries about Jack. These sequences, also startlingly photographed, have a way of featuring Carter lurking somewhere in the back of Jenny's mind.

Mr. Lithgow has a field day with an indescribably loony role, one that amounts to an open invitation for scenery-chewing excess; instead, this subtle, careful actor stays very much in control. Even in a woman's black wig, barefoot and wearing a raincoat, Mr. Lithgow manages to seem remarkably restrained. Miss Sternhagen also stands out as someone who is very much on the film's peculiar wavelength, although by the time she appears, fairly late in the story, it has all gone well over the edge. It is she, as someone who knew Carter and his even crazier father (also played by Mr. Lithgow), who reveals that their early troubles were once the basis for a television mini-series. That's one of the few things in "Raising Cain" that makes perfect sense.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Monday, June 14, 2021

From the description at Mubi:
The Video Essay is a joint project of MUBI and FILMADRID International Film Festival. Film analysis and criticism found a completely new and innovative path with the arrival of the video essay, a relatively recent form that has already its own masters and is becoming increasingly popular. The limits of this discipline are constantly expanding; new essayists are finding innovative ways to study the history of cinema working with images. With this non-competitive section of the festival both MUBI and FILMADRID will offer the platform and visibility the video essay deserves. The seven selected works will be premiering online from June 7 - 13, 2021 on MUBI's Notebook. The selection was made by the programmers of MUBI and FILMADRID.

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk said that real museums are places where time is transformed into space. The meaning of such phrase is expanded when we admire the possibilities of filming a museum brought by Alfred Hitchcock and Pedro Costa. In their films, the museum itself is an element of such beauty and complexity as any of the pieces discussed by Straub & Huillet in "Une Visite au Louvre," whether it's a painting or nature itself.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2021 8:18 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 13, 2021

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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