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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Martin Girard, the co-screenwriter of Bruce LaBruce's Saint-Narcisse, tells De Palma a la Mod that the film "is profoundly influenced by the cinema of Brian De Palma (my all time favorite director, I worship him). Saint-Narcisse that I have co-written with Bruce (another big fan) is about twins (named Dominic and Daniel) and so much more... I'm very proud of the film, of its mix of satire, melodrama, horror, mystery, subversion... and numerous hommages to the master." Girard adds that yes, "the names are a direct reference to Sisters, but you’ll see that there are also many themes close to Obsession and Carrie. After all, it’s a story about double and religious fanatism, among many other things..."

This week, Armond White reviews the film for National Review:

Saint-Narcisse, a place of the imagination, is an ironic destination for LaBruce’s protagonist, who loves to take pictures of himself. Duval looks like a Marvel superhero: curly hair, curious eyes, gym-fit body (part Chris Evans, mostly Sebastian Stan). His arrival in Saint-Narcisse evokes certain gay cultural signposts, from Aubrey Beardsley–style ink-drawing flashbacks to the erotic-art film Pink Narcissus. It’s a combination of myths — from mother dominance to same-sex narcissism — once used to either explain or represent homosexuality. LaBruce adds his own mythology, evoking Brian De Palma’s 1973 thriller Sisters (which starred Canadian actress Margot Kidder as twins Dominique and Danielle), playing with the idea of split personality to further tease queer pathologies that are either inflicted or alleged.

“Everyone despised us for what we did and what we were — your grandmother, the church,” Dominic’s witch-artist mother explains, defending her own transgressions. LaBruce’s post-Stonewall, post-Warhol sensibility never shies away from transgression, which is why he has made the bravest, most emotional films about gay experience by any artist in the Western Hemisphere. His only rival is Mexico’s Julián Hernández. In the sequence where the two suedehead twins confront each other in the woods, they share curiosity, frustration, and desire. Their yin-yang postures in postcoital Last Tango stills are daringly cinematic — like the montage of Sebastian reclining against a tree, which dissolves to a rippling lake, leading to the classical mythological image of Narcissus seeing himself reflected in water. These beautiful contemplative moments, more sensitive and sensual than in LaBruce’s 2017 film The Misandrists, are unexpectedly classical.

But LaBruce must interrupt classicism with agitation in the form of institutional critique: Brother Daniel’s sexual identity is derailed by the rapacious priest (Andreas Apergis) in an order of eccentric monks whose seclusion (“Evil grows in the dark,” by the Poppy Family) features S-M rituals and manic self-flagellation. Scenes of monks disrobing and swimming at a pond are like Claire Denis’s Beau Travail finally directed by a gay man, while the corrupt priest’s death is the payback François Ozon tastefully avoided in By the Grace of God.

In Saint-Narcisse, LaBruce works through decadent sexual identity by confronting its corruption. Critic John Demetry pointed out a connection to De Palma’s Carrie (a great movie not generally appreciated for its profound satire of sexual-social-religious guilt) in the scene where an arrow-pierced Saint Sebastian statue (often a gay objet d’art) looks down, comically condemning a perverse supplicant. LaBruce matches that with his own pop-culture jest: Sly and the Family Stone’s “It’s a Family Affair” (“Blood’s thicker than the mud”) during the climax which clears away sorrow, confusion, and narcissism. Saint-Narcisse doesn’t show De Palma’s mastery of suspense tropes but moves from obsessive self-regard to open embrace. Brothers Dominic and Daniel escape the high-priest hypocrite whose lust is stronger than his love, just like LaBruce’s honest, gay-identity horror-satire triumphs over the political blasphemy of Buttigieg’s lust for power.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

In a repost from their "Female Monsters" series, The Final Girls podcast last week posted an episode in which host Anna Bogutskaya and film critic Kelli Weston go "for a deep, deep dive on the inimitable classic of horror cinema, Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976). We talk about the monstrous feminine, otherness, Sissy Spacek, period horror, who's the real villain in the film and so much more."

Five years ago, Bogutskaya and her Final Girls co-founder Olivia Howe hosted a screening of Carrie:

Sunday, September 25, 2016
The Final Girls (Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe) hosted a screening last night of Brian De Palma's Carrie at the ICA in London. The screening, which was part of Scalarama film month, was followed by a panel discussion made up of Michael Blyth (BFI Festivals Programmer), Catherine Bray (Film4 Editorial Director and Producer) and Dr. Alison Pierse (Lecturer at York University). The discussion is summarized by Smoke Screen's Owen Van Spall:
Brian de Palma's films and his own statements have been controversial to say the least, something the Carrie panel tackled right from the start of their conversation. This is a film that begins with a tracking shot that has become somewhat notorious; the camera journeys through a steamy changing room as Carrie’s high school gym class are seen in various stages of nudity. This is far from the last time in the movie de Palma’s camera will linger on female flesh either: with female cheerleaders on the pitch and high school bad girl Chris’s bra-less torso getting plenty of screen time. This is also one of many de Palma films that put their female characters through the wringer, to put it politely.

Thus the panel agreed that at some point they had all been driven to ask themselves: “Is it cool to like Carrie [and de Palma]?” But the consensus was that, after repeat viewings and after taking a few steps back to reconsider de Palma’s career as a whole, rejecting Carrie entirely as mysoginistic felt too much like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Alison Pierce for example praised the way the film - largely through Sissy Spacek’s intense performance - effectively transmitted the desperate sadness of the plight of this hapless but incredibly powerful young woman. You empathise with Carrie as almost a Frankenstein-like figure, a victim created by monstrosity. The panel also noted how both De Palma and King explored her victimhood in interesting ways - with the narrative and characterisation of Carrie seeming at times to provoke the viewer to almost want this pathetic figure to get tormented. De Palma arguably manipulates viewers to effectively swing between delighting in seeing Carrie suffer, and yearning to see her inflict terrible vengeance on her tormentors turn. The bucket of blood sequence, with its long, almost gleeful build up in slow motion, was much discussed as an example of this. Viewers might want to ask themselves; do you maybe sneakily want that rope to be pulled, and the bucket to fall, knowing both what the immediate humiliating result will be, and what will happen next?

Author Stephen King and de Palma also have an interesting kingship, as Catherine Bray noted: they are good at “serious fun” - taking a ludicrous concept and imbuing it with genuine terror and emotional weight. Of course, Carrie can simply be enjoyed as campy, shlockly fun, with Michael Blyth half-joking if you could convert this film easily into a musical given its tone and setting. Regardless, the panel noted that the film remains very striking from a cinematographic perspective, with a visual approach that teeters on the deliciously overblown at times. De Palma throws in a tonne of tricks that he would become well known for, including diopter lens shots, and the use of montage which really works well in the prom terror sequence, as Carrie starts to come apart, her attention and powers jumping to various points as she singles out her enemies for destruction. The Smoke Screen in particular was struck by the deliriously bold lighting throughout the film too. Much of the film’s early sequences seem drenched in a warm, apple pie glow, but in the prom night sequence sees de Palma start us off with a dreamy kaleidoscopic mix of purples and yellows that highlight how carried away Carrie is by her one moment of bliss, only to drench the entire affair in an insanely deep red shade once the psychic assault starts.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 22, 2021 5:50 PM CDT
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Monday, September 20, 2021

Thanks to Chris for highlighting a bit of news from le festival Lumière: Wild Side plans a previously unreleased and restored DVD Blu-ray box of Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War. According to Blu-ray.com, the street date will be November 24, 2021.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 5:51 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore posted a review of Giuseppe Tornatore's Ennio, the Ennio Morricone documentary that had its world premiere at this year's Venice Film Festival. Here's a portion of the review:
Of all the filmmakers who owe debts to the great Ennio Morricone, surely few owe as much as Giuseppe Tornatore: 1988’s Cinema Paradiso was a crowd-pleaser for many reasons, but would’ve had a harder time becoming a global hit without Morricone’s romantic, nostalgic score. Tornatore worked with the composer many times after that first collaboration, and is well positioned to offer the career-capping Ennio, which arrives barely a year after Morricone’s death.

Happily, the film is more than a greatest-hits rundown (and at nearly three hours, it had better be): In addition to nuts-and-bolts musicology, it offers real engagement with a complicated character, endearingly stubborn and self-effacing, whose inventiveness changed both his chosen field (“absolute” music) and the one, film scoring, he entered only reluctantly.

The maestro sits onscreen for much of the film, alert behind his giant spectacles, telling stories about a career he’d intended to be entirely different — even after he gave up a boyhood ambition to be a doctor. (His father, a professional trumpeter, insisted that little Ennio should follow the same path.)

Morricone recalls the humiliation of playing for food during the occupation of Italy in World War II. His play-for-peanuts experiences may have left a visible mark, because when he entered a program to study composition, the young man was at first allowed to write only dance tunes. Morricone craved the approval of his mentor, the composer and teacher Goffredo Petrassi — he still remembers the grades he got on assignments — and he did make headway in the academic arena, eventually helping to form an avant-garde collective inspired by John Cage.

But he was always doing commercial work as well, staying up all night to crank out arrangements for TV shows that didn’t credit him by name. This led to arrangements for pop singers, and Tornatore shows us many enjoyable examples of what Morricone’s contemporaries are describing in interviews: Where previous arrangers simply wrote orchestral parts to follow a song’s chords, he was inventing something new, giving the orchestras much more to do, and adding elements no pop producer at the time would have imagined using, from tin cans to typewriters.

The film’s brief but delightful tour through these bing-bongy pop tunes, enriched by interviews with Italian stars like Gianni Morandi, suggests that a very enjoyable film (if one appealing to a more narrow audience) could be made on these years alone. But that’s not why we’re here, of course. It’s time to start whistling.

Morricone composed scores for two Westerns under a pseudonym, not wanting to be associated with the genre, before teaming up with Sergio Leone. (The two were surprised to realize they’d been classmates in elementary school.) The director took him to a Kurosawa picture to explain what he had in mind, and the rest is spaghetti.

The doc’s look at A Fistful of Dollars is the first of several places in which Morricone explains how he borrowed from his own work, repurposing an arrangement he’d done for a country song. His work on that movie is also a key example of his putting his foot down — though not the first, as we’ve already heard how he swore he’d quit his conservatory if they didn’t let him study under Petrassi. When Leone intended to use a Degüello from another movie in a key showdown scene, Morricone was so offended he threatened to quit. Leone backed down.

Morricone would lose some artistic conflicts, but it seems they were often occasions on which he underrated his own work. When he sent Brian De Palma nine ideas for a victory theme in The Untouchables, he told the director, “Please don’t choose number six.” But number six is in the movie, and it’s hard to imagine any music that would serve the scene better. He also initially refused to write music for The Mission, claiming that Roland Joffé’s images were so beautiful he could only make things worse. (Again, Ennio: Wrong.)

But for serious self-deprecation, you have to hear Morricone claim that he “hates melody.” Other composers interviewed here (tons of them, in the film world and outside it) are astonished at this idea, coming from someone who has created so many memorable melodies. But there are only so many ways tones can be ordered, and Morricone calmly says, “I think that we are out of melodic combinations.” Good thing he had so many other compositional tools to work with.

Posted by Geoff at 2:46 PM CDT
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Friday, September 17, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 10:14 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 17, 2021 10:15 PM CDT
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Thursday, September 16, 2021

At Pop Culture, Allison Schonter writes:
The final days of summer are here, and with spooky season just around the corner, Fathom Events is getting ready to celebrate the season with Fright Fest 2021. Lasting from September through November, the eight-week event will bring some of the most iconic horror movies of the past back to theaters nationwide for a limited time just in time for those Halloween film binges.

This year's Fright Fest will kick off on Sunday Sept. 26 with a night celebrating the 45th anniversary of Carrie, the 1976 Brian De Palma-directed horror film that is based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. The film has become a cult classic in the decades since its release and is notably a must-watch spooky season movie. Fright Fest will continue with more nights celebrating the anniversaries of other favorite horror flicks, including The Evil Dead, Scream, and The Silence of the Lambs. There will also be several nights dedicated to Studio Ghibli Fest 2021, as well as several other popular titles returning to theaters, before Fright Fest 2021 wraps on Tuesday, Nov. 16 with Paranorman, a family-friendly viewing option.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 8:46 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 16, 2021 8:06 AM CDT
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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Adam White's article about "the grand, urgent return of the erotic thriller" for the Independent, and his note that "they were glamorous, obscene and always seemed to star Michael Douglas," has me remembering the days in 2002 when it always seemed like Michael Douglas was showing up at screenings and parties for Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale.

In the article, White quotes De Palma from the Passion days of 2013:

At the beginning of Amazon Prime’s new erotic thriller The Voyeurs, a pair of mildly repressed twentysomethings watch their neighbours romp away on their kitchen island across the street. “They want us to look!” cries the guy, as his girlfriend feigns discomfort. In truth, she’s guiltily aroused, desperately wanting to perv but unsure if she should. The couple are characters in a sweaty, stylised, and overwhelmingly ludicrous movie. They are also everyone who has ever watched an erotic thriller. That most polarising of film genres lay dormant for years, its saxophone scores unheard, those phallic murder weapons collecting dust. Now it’s back, in all its maddening, barenaked glory. Hopefully, anyway.

We’ve been here before. With the launch of Fifty Shades of Grey in 2015, there were rumbles that a cottage industry of adults-only dramas would be unfurled upon the world, resurrecting a style of filmmaking unseen since Michael Douglas stopped taking his clothes off in movies. Instead, the trilogy of book adaptations petered out, and mainstream American cinema maintained its oddly sexless status quo. Eroticism, love-making, even romantic intimacy are big-screen anomalies in 2021. And while we’ve generally convinced ourselves that we’re far more progressive and sexually open than we used to be, at least in the public sphere, cinema is nowhere near as straight-up sexy as it was 25 years ago.

The cinema of the late Eighties and early Nineties was dominated by powerful stars who oozed sex and chaos. There were genre titans Douglas and Sharon Stone, who tangled with one another in 1992’s Basic Instinct, then separately sowed sexual carnage in less-remembered thrillers in the aftermath, such as Disclosure (1994) and Sliver (1993). Linda Fiorentino, Richard Gere, Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger – the last two of whom slathered each other in jelly and assorted meats in Nine ½ Weeks (1986) – were perennial erotica stars, and you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Demi Moore topless scene. The erotic thriller – from the highs of Fatal Attraction (1988) and Crash (1996) to the barrel-scraping (yet fun!) lows of Body of Evidence (1993) and Jade (1995) – turned mortal actors into prurient myth, or figures burned into the eternal fantasies of millions.

In their heyday, erotic thrillers cut together sex and murder with socio-political symbolism. They were secretly about inadequate males terrified by third-wave feminism in the office and in the bedroom. They were about fear of kink, of bisexuality, of unbridled lust. They were about Aids. It’s no coincidence that tales of sexual carnivores rampaging through America trailed a disease so often reduced to one clear message: have sex and die.

For the most part, erotic thrillers echoed that kind of wrong-headed moralising. Female agency was a catch-22, they insisted. Give women an ounce of power, and they’re inclined to take your job, wreck your home and try to kill you. The best of the genre, though, understood the pleasure of watching a female character intentionally destroy everything she touches. Basic Instinct, The Last Seduction (1994) and even the maligned Showgirls (1995) are all anchored by sociopathic women dismantling worlds set up to hurt them. They revel in glamour and violence, reduce libidinous men to weak-minded boys, and get away with murder. The films they’re in are absolutely dubious in nature – no genre that melted together noir, horror and pornography could ever not be – but they allowed for a feminine, sexual and moral complexity almost entirely absent from American filmmaking in the decades since.

There are any number of reasons why the mainstream erotic thriller went limp towards the end of the Nineties. The easy availability of internet porn meant randy adults didn’t need to pay £15 to see simulated sex with tasteful lighting. And when the president is receiving oral sex from an intern and scandalising every household in America, James Spader – of Crash, Dream Lover and Sex, Lies and Videotape – being horny and devious seemed suddenly quaint.

“It’s kind of a lost art,” Brian De Palma – director of Body Double (1984) and Dressed to Kill (1987) – told The Guardian in 2013. “I don’t think anybody’s interested in it any more … They say [my films] are ‘erotic European trash’. I’m like, ‘What are they talking about? These women look fantastic. I spent a lot of time making them look as stylish as possible!’”

We also seemed to lose our vocabulary when it came to big-screen sex appeal. If today’s stars are often accused of being oddly chaste on-screen, it’s only because we prefer them that way. Somewhere along the line, to acknowledge a movie star’s beauty became slightly dubious, or diminishing of their talent. Many factors are to blame: lascivious profiles of female movie stars seemingly written by 12-year-old boys; women on the red carpet demanding to be “asked more” than who they’re wearing, as if fashion, image and aesthetics are inherently vacuous; a Hollywood climate justly striving to be far less exploitative and dysfunctional than it was pre-#MeToo, but ultimately flattening or altogether erasing sex as a whole. Take the recent Jungle Cruise, an adventure romp modelled almost entirely after 1999’s The Mummy. But while Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz oozed carnality and sexual chemistry together, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt bore all the erotic frisson of distant cousins.

Posted by Geoff at 9:58 PM CDT
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Monday, September 13, 2021

At Filmmaker Magazine, Steve Dollar writes about Tom Surgal, who worked on Brian De Palma's Home Movies:
Many years in the making, Fire Music tells the many-stranded story of free jazz, a chronically misunderstood and often maligned expansion of the improvisatory African-American art form that exploded as a movement in the 1960s through the innovations of path-breaking titans like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra. Although this avant-garde has been around long enough to become its own tradition – its oldest living exponents are in their 90s – the music still remains somehow outside the mainstream. Even this week, Twitter was abuzz over Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon’s mockery of the German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, a pioneer of European free improvisation, in a bit called “Do Not Play.” He held up a copy of Brotzmann’s 1969 album Nipples, and then played a snippet from one of the musician’s signature gale-force solos. Times haven’t changed. As the film reports, critics at the time denounced the same records as “washing machine” music.

Filmmaker Tom Surgal’s “cinematic corrective,” which opens today in New York and next Friday in Los Angeles, offers an immersive primer told from the performers’ perspectives. It’s a rich and highly spirited account, driven by candid and extremely “real” interviews with a generational spree of artists, including Carla Bley, Sonny Simmons, Bobby Bradford, Roswell Rudd, Rashied Ali, Noah Howard, Tristan Honsinger, Paul Lytton, Karl Berger and many others, venerated by the form’s devotees if not always well-known to wider circles of listeners. These are intercut with a sometimes dizzying assortment of performance and archival clips, many painstakingly sought out. “Pretty much, if you don’t see it on YouTube it really doesn’t exist,” Surgal says. “I was amazed I was able to uncover what I did, and equally disappointed that I couldn’t come up with more of some artists.”

Surgal has been around the edgier precincts of the film industry since childhood. His father, the screenwriter Alan Surgal, wrote Mickey One, Arthur Penn’s surreal, noirish 1965 film with Warren Beatty as a stand-up comic on the lam. At the other end of the spectrum, Surgal’s mother Florence, now 104 years old, was a pioneering female television producer who first introduced the puppeteer and children’s TV legend Sherry Lewis to the airwaves.

“I was a little kid,” Surgal says. “Just to be on sets was definitely stimulating.” As a teenager, the filmmaker and musician was taken under wing by Brian De Palma. “Everything I’ve ever done in film I’ve learned everything from him,” he says, speaking recently via Zoom from his Tudor City home. “He taught me everything. Location scouting. How to shoot things. How to storyboard. A lot of things that didn’t come into play with this project: how to work with actors, how to cast. He is the primary influence on my cinematic life.”

That life led to art-directed downtown indies like Beth B.’s 1982 Vortex, and directing videos for bands like Pavement, the Blues Explosion and Sonic Youth, whose frontman Thurston Moore is a longtime friend and musical collaborator, and one of the executive producers of Fire Music (along with experimental guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco, among others).

As to what in the music captivated Surgal enough to compel the years of labor behind Fire Music, “that’s the hardest question to answer,” he says. “That’s like asking me what I like about sex. It’s not one thing. It’s highly varied. The free-blowing scene in New York is different from the way it took root in Chicago. The music in Holland was different than Germany was different than England. Throughout stages of my life just discovering that there are so many ways to run with this artistic ethos. It manifests itself in so many beautiful and varied ways.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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