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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

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

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

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

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

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

Washington Post
review of Keesey book

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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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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Monday, February 7, 2022
IMPRESSIONISTIC POINTS & SLICES OF COLOURED LIGHT
COLIN EDWARDS DELVES INTO DE PALMA'S 'GREETINGS'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blur0.jpg

While I was checking out that Cult Movies Podcast about Greetings yesterday, I happened upon an insightful post about the film by Colin Edwards, from 2019:
Taking inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard and the French New Wave, as well as Richard Lester’s ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, it’s a free-wheeling, hip, youthful third feature by De Palma.

And that’s how it plays out for the first half with sped-up sequences of tomfoolery set to era-appropriate pop music, semi-improvised slacker talk, fourth-wall breaks and a scattershot, comedic vibe like a sort of anarchic sketch show or a cinematic ‘happening’, man. It works, mostly, and is funny, mostly. I was having a good time.

Then De Palma suddenly exerts himself with a couple of set-pieces that could come from no-one else but him, like he’s had a sudden artistic growth spurt caught on camera. The change happens when De Niro’s character delivers an address to camera on the psychology of “peeping” and the sexual aspect of watching. Once all this has been described for us (thanks for the lecture, Brian!) we then see it demonstrated before our very eyes with De Niro filming a young woman whilst directing her for our pleasure and we get to reflect on the process of seeing. It’s nicely done but it’s the “gag” comes at the end with a brief misdirect followed by a double-punch line that’s really cool. Oh, he’s watching it on a screen after a… ah, no he’s not! De Niro walks “through” the camera (“What are you doing coming in through my window?!”) and physically invades her space. It’s clever, funny and very, VERY De Palma.

That’s followed by another cool scene that’s pretty remarkable and pays off an earlier scene which explained how we can identify people and objects from the most minimal points of visual information. The camera is filming a guy at a party as he talks about stoners. We’re listening although De Palma starts playing with the focus and depth of field so we’re drawn to De Niro who is standing in the far background although our attention is then quickly hijacked by a pretty women filling the visual space only to be replaced by another man in the background in a red top inspecting a glass. The focus then shifts back to the foreground and the first man, who is still talking but are we listening? Our attention is still on the background although the people we are watching are now nothing more than points and slices of coloured light, as though we are standing too close to a moving Seurat painting. It is gorgeous and allows De Palma to present to us a beautiful effect of moving colours and shapes that blurrily exist on the edge of coalescence. It’s the sort of shot he would’ve used his precious dioptre for in later films but here, without it, the effect is wonderfully impressionistic. The film has shifted from a youthful romp to something else; something brimming with confidence.

Perhaps too much confidence that’s quivering on the point of over-spilling because although ‘Greetings’ is inventive and smart it is also didactic and arrogant. A number of times De Palma lectures (he might call it “priming”) us on various aspects of filmmaking so he can pull off a big reveal. Fair enough and it helps sells his gag but there’s also a self-congratulatory air about the proceedings, especially when one character (a dirty movie seller) starts telling De Niro (us) how beautiful what we’re watching is. He’s right, it is beautiful, but if someone was to say De Palma is arrogant then, from the evidence here, I’d not object. Likewise, if someone said these were nothing more than film-school formal experiments I would not disagree. But boy, they’re fun and pretty.

If you are a De Palma fan (which I most certainly am) you’ll enjoy ‘Greetings’ simply from seeing a distinctive and talented director demonstrating and exploring his style. What is also fascinating is how much later De Palma is already here, almost fully formed. Characters discuss Antonioni’s ‘Blow Up’ and political paranoia, essentially laying out the entire concept for ‘Blow Out’ before our eyes. Likewise with ‘Casualties of War’ and the horrors inflicted, specifically, on Vietnamese women. And it should come as no surprise that there is so much comedy here as De Palma has always demonstrated an acute sense of humour in his movies, even if it is often covered in a veneer of set-piece sleaze and thrilling voyeurism.

One of the funniest moments (which I’ll spoil so feel free to skip this paragraph) involves Robert De Niro when his attempt to dodge the draft backfires. After telling the army psychiatrist his most psychotic, racist, murderous, insane, offensive, right-wing, violent, psychopathic thoughts which he hopes will get him rejected for their extreme nature, he’s causally told — “You’re just a little over zealous.” It’s funny as hell and gives a wonderful, subversive punch to that particular anti-war thread.



Posted by Geoff at 11:07 PM CST
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Sunday, February 6, 2022
'GREETINGS' & EARLY DE PALMA ON CULT MOVIES PODCAST
HEATHER DRAIN - "THESE FILMS, IN SOME WAYS, ARE POLIICAL, BUT IN SOME WAYS ARE APOLITICAL"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetcultgreetings.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Saturday, February 5, 2022
JAY COCKS RECALLS OPENING SCENE OF DE PALMA SCRIPT
UNPRODUCED SCRIPT OPENED WITH "FONDLY SINISTER" PARODY OF HITCHCOCK'S 'NORTH BY NORTHWEST' CROP-DUSTER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/nbnw1a.jpg

As I was reading Bruce Weber's New York Times profile of Brian De Palma from 1989, this bit about an unproduced De Palma screenplay, co-written with Jay Cocks, got my attention:
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.

This appears to be one screenplay I otherwise have not heard of... later on, though, De Palma did open Mission To Mars with what turns out to be (spoiler alert?) a toy rocket.


Posted by Geoff at 4:31 PM CST
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Friday, February 4, 2022
RELAX - BLOW OUT THE SPEAKERS - CINENATION PODCAST
BODY DOUBLE IS DE PALMA'S "MOST DE PALMA, IN A WAY"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bdmethodactordiopter.jpg

The podcast CineNation, hosted by Brandon Sparks and Thomas Horton, kicks off a series on the Erotic Thriller this week with an episode on Brian De Palma's Body Double. "Listen as they discuss how the film fits into the genre, and why Thomas has questions about De Palma's directing style," reads the episode description.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 5, 2022 11:27 AM CST
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Thursday, February 3, 2022
ECHOES OF 'UNTOUCHABLES' IN BOOK OF BOBA FETT
SPOILERS HEREIN - SEVERAL VIEWERS HAVE NOTICED SIMILARITIES IN LATEST EPISODE (CHAPTER 6)

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.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, February 4, 2022 12:56 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 2, 2022
VIDEO - SEAN CONNERY 1987 PRESS CONFERENCE
ROLE AS MENTOR IN UNTOUCHABLES, STRENGTH OF MAMET SCRIPT, WORKING WITH HITCHCOCK/DE PALMA, MORE


Thanks to Neil for letting us know about the Sean Connery press conference video (above), which was posted to YouTube by take2markTV this past Sunday. The main thrust of the questions revolve around The Untouchables. Early in the 29-minute video, Connery is asked to compare working with Brian De Palma to having worked with Alfred Hitchcock:
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.

With Connery saying that De Palma "very much wanted the Malone character to be the old teacher with the three guys," and saying that they had "quite a bit of discussion" before filming, one wonders if perhaps De Palma, with this aspect, might have been thinking at least a little about his college days, when he and William Finley and Jared Martin were mentored by Wilford Leach. De Palma and Martin would spend most of their time at Sarah Lawrence College, where, along with Finley, they appeared in Leach's production of Jean Giraudoux's Ondine. According to Justin Humphreys, author of Interviews Too Shocking To Print!, "Finley played an old man, Martin played the lead, a knight, and De Palma played various roles. De Palma's then-girlfriend, Kristina Callahan, played Ondine. Finley, as usual, also designed some of the sets." The show was a "major success," states Humphreys, and they followed it up over the next year with two more: The Italian Straw Hat, and A Soldier's Tale.

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.

Posted by Geoff at 7:52 PM CST
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Tuesday, February 1, 2022
NICK BARTLETT AGAIN -
THIS TIME RANKING HIS TOP 14 BRIAN DE PALMA FILMS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetnickb.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 1:18 PM CST
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Saturday, January 29, 2022
SOUND, AND IMAGES CAREFULLY ATTUNED TO THAT SOUND
MICHAEL PHILLIPS REVIEWS NEWLY-STRUCK 35MM PRINT OF THE CONVERSATION, SUPERVISED BY COPPOLA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/conversationallen.jpg

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips revisits The Conversation:

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.


Posted by Geoff at 7:03 PM CST
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Friday, January 28, 2022
SERIOUS OPINIONS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetozzi.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, January 27, 2022
'I'M NOT TRYING TO OUTSMART THE NARRATIVE'
FILM CHURCH RADIO PODCASTERS TAKE A STEP BACK AS THEY WATCH & RE-WATCH 'BODY DOUBLE' - "IT PAYS OFF"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bodydoublewindowshopping.jpg

"I actually watched this movie twice," says Brandon, one of the co-hosts of the Body Double episode of Film Church Radio. "Going into it, I was being so critical. Like, I noticed it. You know, I was like, 'I think I'm just trying really hard...' not necessarily trying really hard not to like the movie. But I'm just... I was really dissecting it, really trying to find everything, and be like, 'Well, that wasn't good. Well that wasn't good,' you know. But, when I think about it, I'm like, I really enjoyed the movie. The movie got me. If that makes sense. What the movie was supposed to do was be fun and entertaining, and all the mysterious stuff. Because it is like a mystery film. You know, I didn't figure it out beforehand. It got me. So yeah, I enjoyed it a lot."

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."


Posted by Geoff at 10:54 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 28, 2022 8:14 AM CST
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