HEATHER DRAIN - "THESE FILMS, IN SOME WAYS, ARE POLIICAL, BUT IN SOME WAYS ARE APOLITICAL"
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a la Mod:
Cocks remembers an unproduced script they worked on together that De Palma opened with a scene in which a man is killed in a park by a murderous model airplane, a fondly sinister parody of the famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest," in which Cary Grant is chased by a crop-duster.
At Looper, Nick Staniforth writes about the latest episode (Chapter 6) of The Book of Boba Fett, noting that:
In the latter half of Chapter 6, the Pykes move on Boba's territory by dealing the Sanctuary Club a fatal blow. They pay the establishment a short visit before exiting and leaving a case unattended. What's in the case, you might wonder? Nothing good. A dutiful droid spots the item and attempts to call the guests back, but it's too late. The case contains a timed explosive that goes off, destroying the premises and killing all those in attendance.
The attack echoes Brian De Palma's classic gangster thriller "The Untouchables," which opens in a similar fashion. The difference here is that a rather than a droid, it's a young girl who chases after a cold-blooded gangster who leaves a briefcase bomb in a bar. The similarities didn't go unnoticed by fans of both "Star Wars" and the classic gangster movie, who quickly took to Twitter to point it out.
Stingray_Travel tweeted, "Was that an Untouchables homage on 'The Book of Boba Fett?'"
Richard Elorza was impressed with it too, writing, "What about that The Untouchables nod?" including a gif from the De Palma's iconic film.
The sequence also earned praise for Dave Filoni from "Star Wars" fan Ralf Baier who said, "Dave Filoni, You crazy son of a b***h! You finally did it! Thank you. But you forgot the toothpick. And it looks like you've watched 'The Untouchables' one too many times. Anyways, awesome episode!"
On that we can all agree. What an episode, indeed.
Well, first of all, Hitchcock, in fact, gave very little directorial advice to me as an actor, and yet we got on famously. I know that Brian is a bit of a disciple of Hitchcock. But in this case, with The Untouchables, with Brian, he was, I must say, very very considerate and helpful with the actors. And we had quite a bit of discussion before we started. He very much wanted the Malone character to be the old teacher with the three guys. And this was very much how we worked off-screen and on-screen, and he was very supportive in that way. Keeping them, you know, on their toes all the time. And he had infinite patience, I must say. But then again, I think that if one can make one comment about this script, the film, The Untouchables, I think it was a very good choice for De Palma, because it involved him with very, I think, well-delineated characters that you could feel some sympathy for. I feel in his preceding films, he had a tendency to distance you a bit from the people. But not in the case of The Untouchables. A lot of that’s to do, of course, with the actual writing.
Back to the video, when asked to talk about De Palma as a director of action scenes, Connery responds:
Well, I like very much the way De Palma films his scenes. Particularly the point-of-view scenes. He makes the audience very very aware of the geography and what you’re seeing, and you’re inside the action all the time. Some directors use lots of whip-pan and jump cuts and a lot of, like a mosaic – tiny pieces of film. I like his method of… it’s quite epic, the space he uses in getting to what he wants, and then taking you in with it. Really, I mean, his techniques and things really speak for themselves. It’s nothing that I can really embellish on. But I think that sometimes the blood and the violence, he gets carried away with. But technically, he has, I think, a marvelous sense of the cinema.
“The Conversation” returns this week in a terrific, newly struck 35 millimeter print supervised by Coppola and distributed by Rialto Pictures, playing Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 at the Music Box. Its enveloping chill feels, looks and — crucially, in a story about a man who eavesdrops for a living — sounds as arresting as ever.
With a role originally offered to Marlon Brando, Coppola’s modestly scaled masterwork turned out to be two of Gene Hackman’s finest hours, in which he delineates a morally haunted surveillance expert’s world in incremental, barely perceptible ways, usually through action and reaction, not words.
Harry reveals little. His San Francisco apartment, furnished in the style of Early Anonymity, contains “nothing of value,” as he tells his building manager in a testy phone call early on, when Harry learns the manager has a key to his place. Outside Harry’s place the building across the street is being razed; Coppola’s script originally filled in many details and larger forces regarding who’s building the “new” San Francisco, and how.
Harry has no car, no phone, a frosty working relationship with his less fastidious fellow surveillance expert Stan, played by John Cazale. The subtly extraordinary opening sequence in “The Conversation,” endlessly rewatchable thanks to sound designer/editor and film editor Walter Murch’s brilliant aural and visual manipulations, takes place in Union Square at lunch time.
The sound wizards record fragments of conversation, from various locations and with various electronic means, between an apparent pair of young lovers (Cindy Williams of “Laverne and Shirley” and Coppola regular Frederic Forrest). Harry has been hired to tape their open-air rendezvous and deliver the results, for $15,000, to an unnamed businessman (Robert Duvall) and his achingly smug assistant (Harrison Ford, a year after “American Graffiti”). Harry doesn’t know anything about their reasons for the surveillance, or care.
What he discovers on the tapes, alone, later, at one of his three reel-to-reel recorders, suggests a crime in the making. Harry’s clouded past has blood on it already. An earlier job Harry worked resulted in the murder of three people. A devout Catholic, he lives his clam-like life with all his residual guilt crammed inside the shell. There’s barely room for occasional trysts with a lover (Teri Garr), or awkward socializing with acquaintances in the bugging community (Allen Garfield plays an East Coast rival).
Guided, gently, by composer David Shire’s solo piano fragments — loneliness, crystallized — “The Conversation” owes an acknowledged debt to Michelangelo Antonioni’s international 1966 sensation “Blowup,” as well as to Hermann Hesse’s “Steppenwolf,” with its riddle of a protagonist, isolated from society and even from himself. What Antonioni did with photography, and the notion of a sinister subplot hiding in plain sight, Coppola and Murch did with sound, and images carefully attuned to that sound. Coppola began working through the themes of “The Conversation” in the late ‘60s, when wiretapping was still legal. On “The Godfather,” Coppola narrowly avoided getting fired off his own movie, by firing those who were conspiring to fire him first. “The Conversation” may have been a smaller project, in the wake of the huge financial success of the first “Godfather,” but it wasn’t much easier for Coppola, as he revealed in a remarkable interview with fellow filmmaker Brian De Palma. Many pages, some key to the lucidity and back story of the narrative, went unfilmed due to time and money.
Many, including me, suspect the movie’s far richer and more troubling without those pages. Some would claim “The Conversation” is Coppola’s most essential work — a bridge between his commercial filmmaker self and the filmmaker striving for personal expression. It’s rarely either/or, of course, with moviemakers who have greatness to share.
Hackman often spoke of his frustrations with Harry, whom even Coppola described as a blank, a cipher. The film has its limitations: not all of the expository details are handled with equal finesse, partly because of those unfilmed pages; in this primarily male universe, the women are expendable, dismissible; and in an otherwise superb portrayal, Hackman seems ever so slightly uncertain in what he has to say, and how, in a key dream sequence.
These are small matters in a key film of its decade. (I had the good fortune to introduce it on Turner Classic Movies once.) Seeing it again in this beautiful new 35 mm print, “The Conversation” seems itself in conversation with an earlier San Francisco-set classic, Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” Like Coppola’s film, “Vertigo” met an indifferent, vaguely mystified public reception in its initial release. “The Conversation” is also fully conversant in the language of ‘70s downbeat genre pictures with a difference. (Hackman soon went on to director Arthur Penn’s pungent detective tale “Night Moves.”) In that decade, so much modestly budgeted, modestly profitable studio work pre-”Star Wars” wasn’t afraid to unsettle an audience, or leave it hanging, in the service of a story unconcerned with tidy solutions, or dime-store redemption.
Hackman turned out to be exactly right for Harry Caul: He gives us a formidable island, trying desperately not to be seen, or judged. The climax delves into “precognition” visions of horror, of Harry’s own making. Nothing can be trusted, not even the recorded sounds on Harry’s reel-to-reel. It’s not always what you say. It’s how you say it.
Or hear it.
Lewis, the other co-host of the podcast, then responds, "Yeah. I think part of how this podcast has changed how I view films at the moment is that I'm not trying to outsmart the narrative. I know that we talked about it on the Play Misty For Me episode - about kind of just watching the film and not trying to be one step ahead. And that's what I've been trying to do. And I think with this film, especially, it pays off."
Meanwhile, Liam Gaughan at /Film includes The Untouchables on his list of "The 12 Best Mob Movies You Need To See Immediately" ...
There's a fear that sometimes mafia films can try too hard to humanize gangster characters, and as a result the audience may end up sympathizing with violent men who have done truly horrible things. However, some of the best mob movies are those that focus on the law enforcement officers that attempt to bring these dangerous criminals to justice. Based on the 1957 novel of the same name, Brian de Palma's 1987 classic "The Untouchables" tells the true story of the Chicago cops that brought down the notorious Al Capone (Robert De Niro). De Palma has experience working in the horror and thriller genres, and here he combines flashy stylistic flourishes with a more classic version of the old-school gangster epic.
Brian De Palma always creates an interesting tone with his crime films, which combine well developed characters with more elaborate stylistic flourishes. "Carlito's Way" is a fascinating look at a gangster's career that features one of Al Pacino's best performances ever; Pacino is known for giving exaggerated performances and can often be quite hammy, but he's remarkably restrained here in his role as Puerto Rican gangster Carlito Brigante. There are obvious similarities within De Palma and Pacino's other famous collaboration, 1983's "Scarface," but "Carlito's Way" is the stronger film.