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Recent Headlines
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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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The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
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Scarface: Make Way
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The Big Dive
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Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
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italkyoubored

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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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Saturday, November 13, 2021
'HARDER THEY FALL' EDITOR LOOKED AT DE PALMA FILMS
DIRECTOR JEYMES SAMUEL, A DE PALMA FAN, SUGGESTED IT FOR WORK ON SPLIT SCREENS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/carriesplitscreenterror.jpg

Editor Tom Eagles was interviewed by /Film's Shania Russell about working on Jeymes Samuel's The Harder They Fall:
There are some really great split screen moments, like in that final battle or when we see the death of RJ Cyler's character and we get to see everyone's reaction. Are those things that were in the script or when did you decide to use those?

Yeah, Jeymes always wanted to do those two split screen moments. The other one is on the train. That last one that you're talking about when RJ dies, he was very particular about what it was. So we worked really hard even in pre, we got to Santa Fe a couple of weeks early, we were cutting in Santa Fe, and I actually worked with the assistants just with stock pictures to try and get that right, to get the rhythm right.

So that was very specific and then the other one, which is Cherokee, LaKeith, talking through the wall to the General on the train, that was a little bit more like, "I want split screens here, you figure it out." I think he was specifically, he did want it to wipe on, and then I just had to figure out how to cut a scene where can see both sides. Which is a tricky thing for an editor because normally you're always directing the audience's gaze a little bit. With split screens you can suggest but you can't tell them exactly where to look.

Because LaKeith was so magnetic, I would use cuts to sometimes try and draw your attention over to the other side, we needed to see what was going on there. And the other thing that was tricky about that is LaKeith is a very fluid performer, so he doesn't say the same thing twice ever. So those things were not shot at the same time, when he was doing the general side, he didn't do all that stuff about "Dred Scott free," he didn't do the countdown at the end. So I had to find bits and pieces that I could play on the general side that made it look like they were part of the same conversation.

And then there were just fun discoveries, I found that we could also wipe off with the movement of the door. So that was really fun and Jeymes told me to look at Brian De Palma for split screens. He's a big De Palma fan so I went back and looked at "Dressed To Kill" and a couple other De Palma's, and "Carrie," to see how those worked.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Friday, November 12, 2021
LOSERS' CLUB PODCAST DISCUSSES 'CARRIE'
AS DE PALMA'S FILM TURNS 45, WITH SPECIAL GUEST COLLEEN GREEN
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/losersclubcarrie45.jpg

Truth be told, I've been spinning Colleen Green's latest disc, Cool, several times a day since it was released a few weeks ago. So my ears perked up when I heard that she would be the special guest for this new episode of The Losers' Club podcast, discussing Brian De Palma's Carrie to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the film's release. Near the start of the episode, it's mentioned that Sissy Spacek reads the audio version of the book - something I did not know. The episode then kicks off with a discussion of Carrie as a high school film, as well as a horror film. Things spin off from there - check it out.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, November 11, 2021
'WHIRLPOOL OF ZAPRUDIC ANXIETY'
TRAVIS WOODS ON 'BLOW OUT' - ILLUSTRATION BY BRIANNA ASHBY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/briannaashby65.jpg

At Bright Wall/Dark Room, Travis Woods delves through Brian De Palma's cinema and deep into Blow Out:
To watch Blow Out is to watch an artist confronting his deepest fears using the techniques and technology of the medium that had previously offered him salvation and the ability to wrest control from chaos. That artist is John Travolta’s Jack Terry. That artist is also Brian De Palma.

Recording his father taught him the power of the voyeur’s cinema; designing a decade’s worth of arch and unhinged thrillers interlaced with dizzyingly/dazzlingly visual set pieces of murderous mayhem soaked in deliciously endorphic filmmaking taught him how the voyeur’s cinema has the power to make audiences look at what he wanted them to see and how he wanted them to see it. To direct them as much as his films. And what De Palma saw, and defiantly wanted his audience to see as both a warning and an indictment, was the drain-circling, atavistic degradation of art and culture—while using the immediately decaying tools of art and culture to ring the alarm bells and focus the audience’s attention.

A decade before, De Palma witnessed the encroaching nihilism and commercialization of his generation’s desperate movement to save itself—“When I made Greetings, I found myself on talk shows, talking about the revolution, and I realized I had become just another piece of software that they could sell, like aspirin or deodorant. It didn’t make any difference what I said. I was talking about the downfall of America. Who cares? In my experience, what happened to the revolution is that it got turned into a product, and that is the process of everything in America. Everything is meshed into a product”—and that horror multiplied with his termination from Get to Know Your Rabbit, before unleashing itself in a moment of terrible clarity: standing in an elevator, and hearing that the ear-piercing tune playing was a Muzakification of The Beatles’ cinematic epic about the mutability of reality, “A Day in the Life.” That single moment generated his Phantom of the Paradise, in which an artist literally makes a deal with the Devil to preserve his music, only to hear it survive in increasingly terrible bubblegum incarnations chewed by a mindless crowd. It’s a rock ‘n roll fable in which De Palma directed his audience to witness a fate worse than selling your soul: a world buying back your commodified cultural revolution as elevator (to hell) music. But no one cared; the film died a quick death in theaters.

In 1981, De Palma was driven by the same, singular fury, now compounded by his terrible failure to make Prince of the City, the film he intended to be the defining artistic statement that would prove his seriousness as an auteur. He felt the generation that had turned its own revolution into something to be sold, growing fat on couches while watching peeping tom game shows like Candid Camera, refused to look at the world around them, at the political machinations and murders hinting at power structures operating at levels beyond their imaginations, and thus needed to be directed to see those powers-that-be rendering them impotent, whether those powers were a corrupt government or simply an impatient bottom-line-based movie studio. De Palma wanted to craft a cinematic magic bullet that would zigzag through it all, savaging power at every level and making such a percussive bang when firing from the barrel of his camera that everyone would hear. And in a moment altogether fitting for the hyper-referential De Palma filmography, the design for this bullet came from a merging of his cinema with that of a previous master:

While editing sound on his previous film, Dressed to Kill, De Palma was sorting through the “fill” in his effects tracks (“fill” being the industry colloquialism for random strips of film laced between individual sound effects on a reel) and found, wedged between sounds like “knife slices” and “woman screams” was a strip of film from David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. One of the greatest films ever made (and a De Palma favorite) was being recycled like trash and used to separate the sounds of salacious fucking and shower-killing in his sleaze-epic erotic thriller. Not only did this reinforce his obsession with the idea of all things trending towards commercialized dissolution, it jacketed another layer of lethality to the bullet he was honing—the notion that something of life-shattering importance could be buried beneath the surface of a film, between the sounds.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 10, 2021
'IT'S THE BEST-CRAFTED MOMENT IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE'
THE ARKIN BROTHERS TALK ABOUT 'SNAKE EYES'

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2021 7:53 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 9, 2021
EXERCISING THE FULL EXTENT OF HIS VISUAL WHIMSY
FLCKERING MYTH'S TOM JOLLIFFE ON BRIAN DE PALMA'S 'SNAKE EYES'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakeeyesproducedbydepalma.jpg

At Flickering Myth, Tom Jolliffe includes Snake Eyes on his list of "10 Essential Forgotten 90s Thrillers" --
Take a legendary director like Brian De Palma, renowned for his grandiose visual style. Then take a star (Nic Cage), known for just as grandiose an approach to the craft of acting. At the time Nic Cage was peaking as a box office star and a newly established star of action blockbusters. De Palma was somewhat on the way down, coming off the back of helming a popular adaptation of an old 60’s TV show, Mission Impossible. If that seemed to suggest that De Palma was in danger of becoming gun for hire, over auteur, Snake Eyes felt like (for better and worse) a once heavy hitting powerhouse was exercising the full extent of his visual whimsy.

Snake Eyes certainly isn’t near the top of De Palma’s CV, but it’s the last big pulpy shlocker of his CV. Critically derided upon release, the film has picked up a little more appreciation in years since. For one, it’s a technical marvel with the film opening on a lengthy unbroken take up to the inciting incident of the piece (where a government official is shot whilst attending a boxing match in Vegas). That opening also happens to follow around Nic Cage’s rogue Vegas cop and as only he can, Cage revels in hogging the unbroken take and leading the steadi-op on a merry journey throughout the large arena (guts and all). Once we get back to De Palma’s bread and butter of Hitchcock ode thrills and plot unravelling, things are less spectacular but still gripping. Cage maintains our attention and the aesthetics always dazzle, even if the payoff doesn’t quite land.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Monday, November 8, 2021
CHVRCHES 'SCREEN VIOLENCE' ALBUM, SINGLES, & TOUR
TAPPING INTO CINEMATIC IMAGERY SUCH AS 'BODY DOUBLE', 'CARRIE', 'HALLOWEEN', 'VIDEODROME', MORE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/goodgirls65.jpg

Writing about CHVRCHES' new album, Screen Violence, for The Skinny back in August, Sam Moore stated that the album's "cinematic influences like Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg" make "for cathartic music you can have a sob to, dance to and play loud while you’re pounding a punch bag." Also back in August, Illinois Entertainer's Tom Lanham delved even more into the album's cinematic influences:
Chvrches had already planned on taking 2020 off after two solid years of touring behind its third **Love is Dead opus. And as she [lead singer Lauren Mayberry] dug into her horror-flick schematic for Album No. Four, watching a slew of gruesome gorefests in the process, she again stumbled across Joel Schumacher’s 1987 cult-favorite **The Lost Boys. Around the same time, she was delighted to discover a newer entry like **Final Girls. Set in the fictional seaside California town of Santa Carla, **Lost Boys wound up inspiring her moribund “California” lyric. “For me, that song was like writing through the lens of freaky Santa Carla, about people dying in California, and they’re being killed by vampires — that’s one read on it,” Mayberry says. “But then an actual read on it is how we moved here to get writing jobs, and how none of that really matters now, and now you’re probably going to die in California, completely disconnected from all your friends and family. And you only know one guy ([Martin] Doherty), and he’s in a house down the road, but you can’t really see him.” She takes a deep, calming breath, exhales.” So it was a VERY cathartic piece when we wrote that one, I think,” she adds.

However dark their firmament, the stars all seemed to align for Chvrches in 2020, just the world shuddered to a halt. The band name was still in the public eye, thanks to the Marshmello collab and “Death Stranding,” a track commissioned for a video game of the same name by renowned **Metal Gear Solid designer Hideo Kojima. Mayberry had an empathic new understanding of her own songwriting skills — ‘Plays well with others,’ her pandemic report card would have read — and Cook and Doherty were feeling the urge to revisit vintage synth-rock sounds and warmer textures from the ‘80s, via fave bands from that period like OMD, Depeche Mode, plus New Order and its Joy Division precursor, and even — on the sinister-carnival-evoking Final Girl itself — Rio-era Duran Duran. They had even set aside the suggestive album title, which Mayberry had found in a decade-old book of nixed potential band names. It didn’t take them long to agree on an allegorical theme, where Elm Street crosses paths with Camp Crystal Lake — machetes optional.

“We were really lucky for the most part because we’d planned to take 2020 off to make the record,” says Mayberry, who got into the spooky swing of things by growing her hair long and dying it blonde to resemble Drew Barrymore (perhaps channeling Barbara Crampton) in one of her all-time favorite nail-biters, Scream. “We only had a little summer touring planned, and that was a fortunate position to be in because a lot of bands we knew were just gearing up to put out albums (at lockdown). So I think there’s an energy to this record that’s really special because it was made in a vacuum — we worked remotely, and the band didn’t really exist outside of the three people that were in it anymore.” Sans tours, press junkets, and promotional duties like TV appearances, she asks, rhetorically, “What IS a band when you take all those things away? It’s about writing, and last year, that became a steady, consistent thing. We’d meet up every day on Zoom and do our writing, and you’re working on music with your colleagues, but also your friends, in real-time, talking about the horrible shit that everybody was going through.” As awkward as it sounds, she adds, she’ll treasure that trial by fire, always.

Spare time, of course, was spent Netflixing down the ghoulish rabbit hole for film research. Besides Final Girls, Mayberry can easily pinpoint three spectral favorites that topped her list after repeated viewings: Carrie (“Stephen King writes female characters so well, and that movie means so many things, on so many levels,” she praises); the original **Halloween (“Because John Carpenter is the absolute greatest — he’s making the music AND writing and directing the films, and it’s just impressive to me that he did that,” she says); and, of course, the satirical **Scream.

“And it makes a lot of sense as a reference for this record,” she reveals, “because it is that meta, talking-about-the-medium-whilst-making-the-medium kind of thing, and I think that’s incredibly clever. The sequels I could do without, but the original is great, and the whole point of me dying my hair was to kind of play with the tropes of women in horror. So if I can be blonde like the Drew Barrymore character, who only lasts for five minutes, what would people project onto you? Because in order to be the true final girl, you have to have an innocence, and the audience needs to root for you.” She pauses for effect. She’s given this considerable thought: “But what if you don’t have that? What if you feel like the Scream Queen, but you’re actually not the Final Girl? What do those things mean? So maybe only a few people other than me will pick up on these things. But that research was really helpful for my writing process.”

In the cover art for the album’s syncopated folk/pop/dance pastiche of a single, “Good Girls” — which sneeringly deconstructs society’s simpleminded sexist strictures for what constitutes a female of good moral breeding — Mayberry even taps into the Nagel-print-retro look of a Brian De Palma femme fatale, circa 1984’s Body Double. And she unveils her brilliant ideas in such an authoritative, rapid-fire volley that she effortlessly packs a two-hour talk into 35 condensed minutes. So we don’t have to discuss the new reigning pandemic Scream Queen, the brainy Samara Weaving of Mayhem, The Babysitter, and Ready or Not fame. But she has plenty of time to address the mascara-sporting white elephant in the room, singing along on “How Not to Drown,” a certain Mr. Robert Smith, The Cure being another musical influence that Cook and Doherty took on Screen Violence board.

“I still feel very what-the-fuck about it — I can’t believe that it actually happened,” Mayberry gasps, sounding fangirl giddy. “But honestly, it was just a bizarre, happy accident, which I feel has been on par for us. The biggest things to have ever happened to Chvrches have always been the loose things — it’s never been something that we wanted desperately or tried to get to happen in some way. It’s always been some weird accident, where somebody met somebody at a bar and said, ‘Oh, I LIKE that band!’” This boon came courtesy of Chvrches’ manager Campbell McNeil of Lunatic Entertainment, who casually informed a lawyer he shared with The Cure that his trio (which now unofficially includes drummer Jonny Scott) wouldn’t mind opening a few upcoming dates for the band since Smith was finishing a new album. Nothing more invasive than an innocent have-their-team-contact-our-team request, she swears. “Campbell was just looking ahead, you know? Doing what good managers do,” she recollects. “But Robert Smith doesn’t HAVE a manager, so then he got an email from him saying, ‘Aloha, Campbell! I hear you have been looking for me. What do you want?’ So then Campbell had to call US up and go, ‘Uhh, guys? I just did a thing…so what DO you want?’ And we were like, ‘What?! What do we ask for? I have no idea where he even came from!’” Chvrches dutifully sent Smith early Screen demos as work examples, she adds, and he happily opted to contribute to “Drown.” “That was the one that he picked out,” she says proudly. “And hearing his voice on that song is so insane, but hearing him sing words that I wrote is incredibly bizarre, as well, especially given what the song is about. It’s really a full circle, so you never know where things are going to end, I suppose.”

Script-wise, however, it’s supposed to end with the Final Girl dispatching the masked serial killer with his own chainsaw. Or, as Mayberry warbles blithely in the anthem of the same name, “And you know that she should be screaming.” But this defiant auteur enjoys no longer taking cues from any directors. “And with some movies, if you package them in a certain way, people are going to want to watch them, and they’re going to take on — and engage with — the ideas in a way that.

Might not have otherwise,” she firmly believes. So with Screen Violence,” she concludes, “I like that there are layers to it. Like, if you just want to listen to this record and think, ‘Oh, it’s a horror concept album that Chvrches made because they love horror movies because they’re geeks like that,’ then that’s fine. But it’s also a bit meta because it isn’t really about that at all.”


As CHVRCHES gets set to begin the tour for Screen Violence, Mayberry tells Cory Garcia at Houston Press, "I've seen the visuals and I will need to not get creeped out during the show." Garcia "asked Mayberry for her horror movie picks to experience the Screen Violence tour." Mayberry named four: Carrie, Hellraiser, Halloween, and Videodrome.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Sunday, November 7, 2021
WES ANDERSON CITES DE PALMA'S 'RESPONSIVE EYE'
AS A PARTIAL INSPIRATION FOR SCENES IN 'THE FRENCH DISPATCH'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/responsiveeyetitle.jpg

In the "special thanks" portion of the end credits of Wes Anderson's new film, The French Dispatch, he includes Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow, and Brian De Palma all on one line, near the top. The published edition of the film's screenplay includes an interview conducted by Walter Donohue, who asks Anderson about the particular use of color in the "Concrete Masterpiece" portion of the film:
Would the impact of the paintings have been the same if the story had been shot in color?

It was the Emile de Antonio movie Painters Painting - which I love - that suggested to me the idea to shoot only the paintings in color. Because he did that. I think, in his case, it might have been to save money on film stock for the interview parts of his film - but it is a beautiful effect. And it is such an interesting movie.

ALSO: Brian De Palma's short documentary of an opening of op art at the Museum of Modern Art - The Responsive Eye - in the mid-sixties. I love it, too.



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 14, 2021 12:26 AM CST
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Saturday, November 6, 2021
WAGNER MOURA'S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT 'MARIGHELLA'
WHICH IMPRESSED BRIAN DE PALMA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/mouradirects.jpg

Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival two years ago, Marighella is Wagner Moura's debut feature as director. The film was released in the U.S. earlier this year, and as it is released this past week in Brazil, Moura talks about it with AdoroCinema's Aline Pereira:
Who was Marighella?

Artist, politician and guerrilla, Carlos Marighella was one of the main figures in the fight against the repression of the dictatorship in Brazil until his death in 1969, when he was assassinated by government agents in an ambush. Considered the “No. 1 enemy of Brazil”, the guerrilla was arrested for subversion for the first time in 1932, when he published a poem criticizing government leaders. Later, he was tortured during the Vargas era, until he was elected Federal Deputy in 1946. In the year of the military coup, 1964, he was shot inside a movie theater - a scene in the film - and went into armed revolt, a decision that became a controversial figure within the libertarian movement - an issue that is also illustrated in Wagner Moura's film:

"This important character in the history of Brazil had his trajectory erased by the official narrative and the film we made returns to the popular imagination the figure of an important man. You can like him or not"

In the film, the protagonist is played by Seu Jorge, but the role, at first, would be Mano Brown, who could not participate due to availability conflicts. “My first choice was Mano Brown because, symbolically, for me it represents a lot of what Marighella was. A poet, a man who made no concessions,” analyzes the actor from Tropa de Elite.

Wagner Moura's directorial debut

In addition to being a milestone for national cinema, Marighella also marks the debut of Wagner Moura as a director, a work that combines his experience as an actor in major international productions, such as Narcos and Sergio, available in the Netflix catalogue, and references from directors he has worked with. “José Padilha [director of Tropa de Elite] himself is a reference for me and taught me that political cinema can be popular. This is an actor-directed film, it has my acting energy. The camera is me wanting to understand who those people are, those characters,” he explained.

Applauded at the Berlin Film Festival and praised by the New York Times, the film was also very well regarded by famous Wagner Moura “colleagues,” such as Brian De Palma, director of Scarface and Mission: Impossible, among others. “I showed the film to some people and a lot of the comments come from the way we filmed, the actors' work. Brian De Palma was very impressed with the long take from the start,” he said.


Here's Devika Girish's brief New York Times "Critic's Pick" review of Marighella from this past April:
In 2018, the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro declared that he wanted “a Brazil similar to the one we had 40, 50 years ago”— referring to the era of the country’s military dictatorship, which saw violent censorship and the torture of dissidents.

This contemporary context underlines the barreling urgency of “Marighella.” Directed by Wagner Moura (the star of Netflix’s “Narcos”), the film chronicles the final years of Carlos Marighella, a Marxist revolutionary who led an armed struggle against the dictatorship in the 1960s. With a rousing, kinetic style reminiscent of “The Battle of Algiers,” and confrontational close-ups of fiery eyes and faces, the film is not merely a historical biopic — it’s a provocation.

And a riveting one, too. Seu Jorge plays the charismatic Marighella, whom we meet as he leads a group of younger radicals in robbing a train carrying weapons. In flashback, we learn that Marighella was expelled from the Communist Party for his uncompromising commitment to guerrilla warfare. “An eye for an eye” is his cell’s motto, invoked throughout the film.

The group struggles to balance itself on the razor’s edge of that phrase. “Marighella” plows stylishly through heists, showdowns and increasingly bloody shootouts, with the sadistic cop Lúcio (Bruno Gagliasso) on the militants’ tail. Yet the script makes room for wit as well as meaty ideological debate, delivered in crisp bullets of dialogue by a uniformly solid cast.

“I’m your comrade,” Marighella’s wife, Clara (Adriana Esteves), says to him. “But don’t make me your accomplice. Don’t ask me for permission to leave here and die.” As the tragedies mount, Moura’s film becomes an elegy — not so much to Marighella as to an idealism consumed by the pyrrhic games of dirty regimes.


Previously:
Wagner Moura cast as lead in De Palma's Sweet Vengeance

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 7, 2021 12:28 AM CDT
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Friday, November 5, 2021
EDGAR WRIGHT SPEAKS INFLUENCE OF DE PALMA, OTHERS
ON THE DREAM LOGIC OF 'LAST NIGHT IN SOHO' - IN FILMMAKER CONVERSATION WITH BONG JOON-HO
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The new Fall 2021 issue of Filmmaker is anchored by a great cover-story of Edgar Wright in conversation with none other than Bong Joon-ho, discussing Wright's great new film, Last Night In Soho:
Bong: Even though it’s really about Soho, I felt like Café de Paris was the prime location, where you see some of the key visual motifs. I thought you made some really bold choices in that location, where I saw a lot of your cinematic ambitions flow throughout. When Eloise first enters the Café, that was such an overwhelming sequence. While I was watching it, I kept trying to imagine your storyboard, because it was such an ambitious scene. I’d like to hear more about how you shot that sequence.

Wright: The interesting thing about Café de Paris is that it still actually exist[ed] as a club [editor’s note: still open during the shoot, the venue closed permanently in December 2020 as a result of the pandemic]. In fact, it’s quite a famous shooting location—tons of music videos have been done there and lots of British films, like Michael Caton-Jones’s Scandal or Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners. But what we wanted to achieve in the sequence was quite challenging and required a bit more space than the location could offer. Also, it’s still a working club, and they needed it back at night. It was cheaper to build the set than shoot in the real one, so we built it and made it a little bigger than the original—I figured since it’s a dream sequence, we were allowed to do [that]. Because of that, it meant that we could design shots you just couldn’t do on location. For example, when Thomasin McKenzie first comes into the lobby and there’s the first mirror shot with Anya, that’s actually a double set. It’s a double lobby and there’s a mirror there, then when one of the maître d’s, who’s played by Oliver Phelps, takes [Thomasin’s] coat and walks in front of the camera, the mirror slides back revealing Anya and James Phelps, his identical twin brother, also in a maître d costume. It’s basically a Magic Circle shot. It’s also choreographed to the song [Cilla Black’s “You’re My World”] as well. Choreographing everything to a song might seem restrictive, but it isn’t really—we know [Thomasin] is going to walk out into the street to the first chorus, she’s going to see Anya on the second chorus, then she’s going to walk into the club on the third chorus, so you can choreograph movement to those specific moments. And when Anya and Thomasin come together opposite each other for real and touch their fingers on the glass, there’s no glass there at all. They are literally tapping their fingers.

Bong: How many times did you shoot this?

Wright: I can’t remember how many takes that was, but for some of those really complicated shots, we would have Saturday rehearsals. We’d be shooting a five-day week, then on a Saturday we’d ask the cast and a couple of key crew members, like choreographer Jen White, Chung Chung-hoon and especially the camera operator, Chris Bain, to rehearse in the afternoon. There’s no point doing those complicated shots if the camera operator isn’t there [at a rehearsal]. It’s always the mistake people make with choreography sequences—they do the choreography in the studio, and the director and dancers or actors know what they’re doing, but the key person to have there is the camera operator because he or she needs to be in exactly the right spot. The floor is taped up with [all these marks] and we rehearse over and over—“one, two, three.” Later in the sequence, when the actors are dancing on the floor, there’s a long Steadicam take that’s done without motion control. It’s all based on the actors and camera operator being in the right spots at the right time. With the exception of one section, which had a second pass on it, everything is done in-camera. Thomasin and Anya are hiding behind the Steadicam, then switching around. It took about 18 or 20 takes for that one. We rehearsed a lot.

There was also a funny thing that happened when we did that shot on the dance floor. Initially Chung had this little mirrored blade, and he liked to flash his torch into the lens so you get some real flares. During the first couple of takes of that dance floor sequence, Matt Smith [was] in the middle and then Anya and Thomasin were dancing around him, then the camera operator [was] moving around them in a bigger circumference, and Chung was trying to flash the lens, running around an even larger circumference to the Steadicam operator. [laughs] After a couple of takes, Chung goes, “Too difficult! Do the flare later. ” [laughs]

The real thrill for me with all those sequences was to try and figure out how to do as much of them in-camera as possible, so that the actors could really physically be there and act opposite each other, especially in scenes when Thomasin and Anya are playing each other’s reflections. There was lots of trickery where it’s half-practical, half-digital.

Bong: As filmmakers, more than anything else, we’re just huge cinephiles, and I think when we’re shooting an ambitious sequence like that, we’re always conscious of our predecessors. When I watched that Café de Paris sequence I felt that you might have thought of The Lady from Shanghai by Orson Welles or some of the Steadicam shots in Brian De Palma’s movies. Were there any sequences or directors you were paying homage to or maybe competing with? Were you conscious of any reference points?

Wright: I think all the things you mentioned are dead on. The entire film is inspired by a feeling that I get from some of those films, whether it’s De Palma or Lady from Shanghai, but also Hitchcock and Italian directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Cocteau’s Orpheus inspired me in terms of finding a way to visualize dreams. Something I saw when I was a teenager that struck me in a very profound way was Buñuel’s last film, That Obscure Object of Desire, and the idea of two actresses alternating scenes. I would always have dreams where I knew I was somebody else—not looking in a mirror and seeing somebody else, but just the feeling that I’m experiencing a dream through somebody else’s body and face. So, it was bringing all of those things together. In the Buñuel film, they never have the actresses in the same shot, they just alternate scenes, but I thought, “Well, what if it’s almost as if the baton is being passed?” You see the other person in the mirror, then there’s a handoff. Now Thomasin is on the other side and Anya is the lead in these sequences.

Something I like in Hitchcock and De Palma films—this goes for some of the Italian filmmakers as well—is when things become operatic, in that they don’t really make sense in a physical way but make sense in some kind of dream logic. That was the feeling I wanted in the entire film: What if you had sequences that were clearly dreams, then at a certain point in the movie it all starts to feel like a waking dream? For the second half of the movie, Thomasin McKenzie is so sleep deprived that it’s similar to that manic state when you’re having a lucid waking nightmare.

One other filmmaker we didn’t mention who had a huge influence on me was Michael Powell, and two of his films specifically, Black Narcissus and Peeping Tom. In the former, I love how the use of color is so expressionistic and emotional. Then with the latter I was so inspired by Peeping Tom that I actually used two of its famous locations in Soho. The newsagent that Thomasin McKenzie goes into at the start of the movie is the same newsagent from Peeping Tom—still there, 60 years later. Then the pub they run past towards the end of the film is from the opening of that movie. Again, these locations are not far away from where I live. So, when I say I can’t escape it, I literally can’t escape it. It’s something I walk past every day.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, November 4, 2021
GLENN KENNY ON THE 'UNSETTLING POWER' OF '76 'CARRIE'
"AS GOOD ART SOMETIMES OUGHT TO DO, THE WHOLE MIX RENDERS THE VIEWER UNEASY"
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Aa part of a series called "The Problematics" at Decider, Glenn Kenny discusses Brian De Palma's Carrie:
In my recollection, the breakthrough 1973 Stephen King novel about high-schoolers was pretty popular with actual high-schoolers back in the day; I remember many upper classmen carrying around the paperback and comparing juicy bits, much as they did with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather a couple of years prior. The King book was one that gave pop culture a proper and explicit introduction to telekinesis, that being the move-things-with-my-mind power that poor Carrie White uses to fix both her religious-fanatic mother and her peer prom-ruiner’s at the story’s wild climax.

Then hotshot director De Palma, most of whose films up to this one reveled in a snarky, sometimes perverse subversive streak, brought not-inconsiderable irreverence to this project, which he definitely sensed could be a commercial hit that would sharpen his studio-filmmaking profile. Look at a dinner scene between Sissy Spacek’s Carrie and her unbalanced mom, played with pitch-perfect awareness by Piper Laurie. When Carrie reveals “I’ve been invited to the prom?”, Mom raises an eyebrow and says “Prom?” At that moment, lightning flashes like something out of a Universal Frankenstein movie.

The virtuosic director goes all-but-kitchen-sink in orchestrating effects to achieve maximum shock and horror: diopter shots, shock cuts, rack focusing, you name it. The way the movie hews to the time that it was made is in its matter-of-fact treatment of how high schoolers got it on, supposedly.

Here Carrie’s tormentors here are both super mean and super horny. John Travolta’s Billy, boyfriend to Nancy Allen’s gum-cracking, eye-rolling horror show Chris, is both dumb and physically abusive. There’s shot-reverse-shot bit in which Billy leers at Chris’s braless breasts under her sweater that shares the character’s joy of ogling. In the same scene, Chris uses fellatio to inveigle “dumb shit” Billy into taking part in her evil scheme to avenge herself on Carrie. And here too, De Palma can’t resist a joke, having Chris interrupt her efforts to exclaim “I hate Carrie White,” much to Billy’s confusion.

The 1976 movie’s opening scene, in which the horrified Carrie experiences menstruation for the first time in the girl’s locker room shower post-gym class, is shot in a gauzy, dreamy, slow-motion, and literally steamy male-gaze fashion that De Palma would use again in the opening of Dressed To Kill, with Angie Dickinson (and her body double) fantasizing rhapsodically about sex with a hunky stranger. Nancy Allen — director De Palma’s future wife, it’s worth mentioning — bounces by in the altogether, and De Palma lingers on Spacek’s Carrie soaping up her breasts, belly, and thighs. (The score by Pino Donaggio has a flute melody that suggests some kind of ad concerning the “special times” of one’s life.) But as much as De Palma luxuriates here, the strategy is to overturn whatever pleasure the male viewer might derive by depicting Carrie’s “plug it up” humiliation in excruciating detail.

The 2013 Carrie remake, directed by Kimberley Peirce, maintains the period of discovery — or, rather, the discovery of period — in the girls’ shower, but also keeps the taunting teens in towels or underwear. And it shows Carrie mostly from the shoulders up, certain shot choices paying homage to the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho as she goes. (Why didn’t De Palma think of that?) As for sex, popular kids Tommy and Sue are sufficiently reflective characters that they interrupt their (very briefly depicted) coitus to discuss Sue’s guilty feelings about throwing tampons at Carrie. There’s more time devoted to the ins and outs of how Chris and Billy get all that pig’s blood than to the details of their fraught relationship. (Cell phone videos are added to the mix, too.) But as Manohla Dargis pointed out in her mostly favorable review of the remake in The New York Times, “the dread of the female body that deepens Mr. De Palma’s version somehow goes missing.”

That dread is not unrelated to a less specifically gendered trend that was brewing in genre movies in this period, eventually termed “body horror.” Carrie can nestle comfortably — or uncomfortably, as the case may be — between David Cronenberg’s 1975 and 1977 films Shivers and Rabid in this respect. And Julia Decorneau’s new, provocative French film Titane is a proud and prominent inheritor of what De Palma and Cronenberg were up to. Whereas Peirce’s remake re-centers the movie around Carrie’s relationship with her mother (in the newer film, Carrie is played by Chloe Moretz, and the mom by Julianne Moore), and the theme becomes twisted family relations, for better or worse.

A large part of what makes De Palma’s Carrie potentially problematic is also a source of its unsettling power. The girl’s shower scene notwithstanding, the treatment of teen sexuality isn’t intended solely to titillate; rather, it makes a mordant commentary on the use of sex as a weapon, leaning heavy on a female vamp stereotype. While we now consider that a retrograde cliché, it’s not a condition without real-life precedent. As good art sometimes ought to do, the whole mix renders the viewer uneasy.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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