EXPANDED 2-CD SOUNDTRACK RELEASES JUNE 14, 2022 - INCLUDES ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM 1983
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a la Mod:
She talks of her career a bit like she’s the Carrie of it all – more or less a bystander, always lurking on the sidelines studying the actions of others. “I had the great fortune to come into contact with people who were really amazing artists,” she explains. “When I met Terrence Malick for Badlands, that’s when I understood that film could be an art form. It’s not just actors on a screen.”
It was while working on Badlands that Spacek met Fisk, and subsequently his best friend David Lynch. Decades later, Lynch would cast Spacek in one of his less head-spinning films, the 1999 road movie The Straight Story. Her casting in it seems appropriate: she plays a kind-hearted woman who can’t help but see the world at its most pure. Spacek sees herself as being very different from Lynch and her husband. “They live the art life,” she says. “Jack knew David as an artist in the eighth grade – they were the only two people they met that wanted to be artists. It’s truly a way of thinking, and I’m certainly not the artist that either one of them are.”
It’s funny, though, that she sees herself as somehow lesser, I tell her. Because she is an artist, too, surely? She mouths a quiet “Thank you.” I confess to having spent a few days listening to a largely forgotten country album she released in 1983 – yet another string to her creative bow – called Hangin’ Up My Heart. It feels of a piece with the release of Coal Miner’s Daughter three years earlier, but she never seems to talk about it – was it a good experience?
“Oh, yes!” She lights up, her hands at the sides of her face almost in disbelief. “I got to work with people that I idolised!” Her voice drops to a whisper again. “Rodney Crowell… JD Souther… Emmylou Harris… Rosanne Cash. God, the list goes on, and all because of playing Loretta Lynn. My dream of all dreams was to make music with these musicians who are far better than me. Far better! And they sang on my record. It was the most fabulous thing.”
And with that, I realise that Spacek has spent much of her interview talking about other people. She has an impressive ability to pivot any answer away from herself. It doesn’t feel like deflection, though; more like inherent awe – as if she’s heard a delicious secret, and wants to let you in on it, too. I ask her if she’s naturally quite a modest person.
“I must be. I guess so. I… I know really great artists,” she says, emphasising the “really” like she’s revving up a car engine. “And so much of my success has been because I’ve been at the right place at the right time. I met Terry Malick, and then went from that to… you know, I kind of represented the young everywoman of the Seventies, and then one thing led to another. There are people who are far more talented than me… so many great artists out there who don’t ever get the break.”
She thinks back to David Lynch, and his years of struggle before hitting it big. “He was a painter and a filmmaker, and when he was working on [his first film] Eraserhead we’d go over to his house and he’d have made these sculptures out of piles of dirt, just with a twig in it. He’d do it all for the right reasons – because it was in him and it had to come out. God, did it ever pay off. He’s just a great, funny, talented guy and my husband’s best friend. So I get to rub elbows with him.”
I’m curious where her bravery comes from, in spite of her own tendency to downplay herself. I think back to the opening sequence of Carrie, in which Spacek’s character is in the showers of her high school gym and gets her first period. She has no idea what is happening to her, and shrieks with horror while her classmates heckle and pelt her with tampons. “Oh God,” Spacek says, biting her lip. “It was terrifying. I’m also very shy, and I’m an introvert.” Not a great combination for someone playing that scene. She had no idea how to approach it. “I went to [director] Brian De Palma and said: ‘Tell me about this scene, what is it like?’ And he turns to me and he says: ‘It’s like getting hit by a Mack truck.’” (Basically a massive lorry, for any non-American readers.)
She asked for advice from her husband, who she discovered – funnily enough – had once been run over by a car. Not a Mack truck, per se, but it’d do. “So in that scene, what’s going on in my head is [Jack] walking along the side of the road when he was about 11 or 12. It’s snowing, and he’s looking at Christmas lights. And then he saw car lights. There was a car coming down the road right at him, and it ran him over. So, when Carrie’s in the shower, I’m seeing those Christmas lights, and then the horror of the blood…” Spacek holds her hands aloft and unsteady, just like in the movie. “Ain’t it bizarre that something like that could work?”
Heffernan continues, "Of course, the 80s were a bit different in a lot of regards, and filmmaking was no exception. Joyously unafraid to be cheesy, ridiculous, and borderline nonsensical, the decade’s blockbuster, mainstream cinema was best defined by muscles, mayhem, and montages. From sports dramas to schoolyard comedies, there is an abundance of brilliantly bonkers montage scenes from the 80s which have, if anything, become even more staggeringly fantastic over time."
Heffernan then presents a list of film montages from the 1980s, in no particular order. He includes the "Push It To The Limit" montage from Scarface:
It’s ambitious to give a criminal anti-hero in a violent gangster movie his very own 80s montage, but Brian De Palma was never one to shy away from creative risks and this particular montage has everything. With multiple business ventures, a wedding, a pet tiger, and obscene drug use, the scene is a realization of Tony Montana’s (Al Pacino) ambitions.Also included is the "mastering dance" montage (or montages?) from Footloose, which was edited by Paul Hirsch:
At the peak of his powers at the time, it showcased the building and legitimization of his multi-million dollar drug empire and what it meant for his family and friends. While things started to go downhill for Tony not long after, the montage is an encapsulation that, for a short while at least, crime sometimes does pay.
Rock n roll and dancing has been banned, and Kevin Bacon is the teenage hero to hit the sanctimonious small town with a shot of youthful rebellion. The story is undeniably silly, but the execution was to a standard that encapsulated the adolescent angst of the decade’s kids, and the cheesiness of the montages has a lot to answer for.
Dancing all around town, Ren (Bacon), teaches Willard (Chris Penn) how to boogie ahead of the prom. While the dancing at the prom reveals Willard learned very little, if anything, the sequence has a lot of heart and oozes the charming ridiculousness of the 80s.
“It’s all led to this.” That is what Tom Cruise tweeted out Monday morning alongside our first taste of the Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One teaser trailer. It’s an old familiar line in movie franchises that have survived, or even thrived, for decades: every previous film has been building to this moment!
And yet, while watching how the dazzling sizzle reel footage is framed in Dead Reckoning, it is hard not to think this will be some kind of capstone on the entire Mission: Impossible franchise. After all, this is the first feature in nearly 30 years to directly call back on the events of the original Mission: Impossible movie from 1996.
Most obviously, that is apparent in the way the trailer is structured around a verbal dressing down from an IMF and/or CIA handler. At this point, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt getting chastised for his insubordinate and showboating ways is pro forma. The price of doing business as “the gambler” of super-spy espionage (as previously described in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). However, the fact that the man chewing Hunt out this time is the first superior he ever had to deem Hunt more enemy than ally is significant. Indeed, that is Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge.
If his distinct sneering cadence sounds familiar to you in the trailer—as he informs Ethan the ideal he’s fought for doesn’t exist and never did—that’s because Czerny’s Kittridge was previously the IMF Director in the 1996 movie directed by Brian De Palma. Due to the machinations of the film’s true villain, Jon Voight as Jim Phelps, Kittridge came to be convinced by a frame job that Ethan Hunt was a dirty agent. He then spent most of the film chasing Hunt down until he was led to a fateful chunnel ride between London and Paris where he learned of Phelps’ culpability… and arrested a covert crime boss named Max (Vanessa Redgrave).
That ending to the original Mission: Impossible is also important to the new trailer since we see the daughter of the Max character, Vanessa Kirby’s “the White Widow,” on her own fateful train ride in a desert terrain. The familiarity of the action set-piece is unlikely to be coincidental.
Brian de Palma is a master of unforgettable, operatic set pieces: the shootout on the steps of Union Station in The Untouchables, the prom scene in Carrie, the shock ending of Blowout, the list goes on. He was an unexpected but ultimately inspired choice to helm 1996’s franchise starter, and his stamp of directorial bravura is unmistakable.
Mission: Impossible was released in a golden age of special effects—when computer-generated imagery was a new innovation, sparingly used. Mission: Impossible‘s climactic helicopter vs. train sequence through the Britain-France Chunnel, though technically preposterous, still stands up today as pure visual candy. The most common criticism directed at the original Mission is that its plot is too hard to follow—maybe even flat-out incomprehensible. It’s hard to complain about that when the entertainment value is this high.
One of the very first rock operas, based on the novel The Phantom of the Opera, which tells the story of a young and gifted composer; who when a diabolical producer steals his music, transforms himself into a masked phantom, haunting the theatre of his nemesis. De Palma asked Paul Williams to score the film—giving him the necessary freedom, to allow for his talents to unfold through all kinds of popular music, influenced from the 1950s to 1970s.
The opening and closing ceremony will be directed by awarded short film director Thanasis Neofotistos.
Brian De Palma (1940), after studying physics, studied theater and in the 60's lived in the artsy Greenwich Village, cradle of the Fluxus movement. He became the author of a political and critical cinema at the very heart of Hollywood and post-Vietnam America, with films like Obsession (1976), Carrie (1976), Scarface (1983), The Untouchables (1987), Outrage (1989). His work is both dark and spectacular, referential to Hitchcock in particular, and constantly inventive. Nowadays, Brian De Palma is still an active filmmaker and writer.
The idea of remaking the series as a film seemed to make commercial sense, especially after the enormous success of The Godfather and its sequel. Its studio Paramount turned to the producer Art Linson, who was responsible for successful comedies such as Car Wash and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and asked him whether he would be able to put together a similarly high-class package.
The offer left Linson with mixed feelings. He had never been an especially big fan of the original television series, but as he wrote in his memoir A Pound of Flesh: “I loved the subject matter... Al Capone, Eliot Ness, bootlegging, machine-gun violence and Chicago in the 1930s were a significant part of American folklore.” If he could attract the right filmmakers, it could have great potential. As he said: “I wanted a high-priced writer who would distinguish the movie, rather than approach it as another trashy remake chasing a famous title.”
Enter Mamet, who was not only a Chicago native, but a Pulitzer Prize winner for his play Glengarry Glen Ross. He had attracted plaudits for his screenplay for The Verdict, but that was a far more serious film. The Untouchables was intended to be a big summer blockbuster. If Mamet could be seduced, then the film could work. If not, it was barely worth making.
Linson’s first impression of the playwright was that “he reminded me of a Jew with a buzz cut trying to impersonate a biker”, and he liked him enormously. Mamet was less excited, and regarded the producer with a mixture of suspicion and distrust. Linson suggested that “I must have reminded him of a clammy rag salesman in casual clothes.” They met for lunch in SoHo in New York.
Linson had intended to offer Mamet a long and detailed pitch about the cultural and historical significance of the project, and why it would be of a piece with his career as a dramatist. It therefore came almost as a surprise to him that he instead blurted out: “Dave, don’t you think that the best career move for somebody who just won the Pulitzer Prize would be to adapt an old television series like The Untouchables for a s___load of money?”
Mamet, without missing a beat, agreed, and delivered his first draft within four weeks. Linson, who was used to writers taking up to a year, was impressed by what he read. Although the Capone character was thinly drawn, he could see that Jim Malone, in particular, would attract a major star, and described the screenplay as “emotional, witty and filled with unexpected, memorable exchanges that would distinguish it from the television series”.
But there were immediate difficulties. Mamet was unreceptive to rewrites and refused to spend more than a couple of days on them, and, after A-list directors turned down the screenplay, there was increasing unease at the studio about the project. As Linson said tactfully: “The first thing you notice about a Mamet script is that the characters do not always sound conversational in the way we are used to.”
The studio’s first reaction was to fire Mamet and hire a more conventional, pliable screenwriter, and when Linson dared to suggest to the playwright that he should be more responsive to executive notes, Mamet calmly said: “I weigh them before I throw them away.” If an A-list director could not be recruited, then, as Linson said: “The new version of The Untouchables would be headed toward the warmth and comfort of familiar mediocrity... written by committee and certainly without Mamet.”
Yet when the producer had a meeting with the “large, abrupt and seemingly stern” de Palma, who had expressed interest in directing, he was faced with another kind of difficulty. As he said: “You are instantly given the feeling that if he hasn’t yet scared the s___ out of you, he eventually will.” The legendary director of Scarface, Dressed to Kill and Carrie was not an easy or congenial man. Linson was explicitly warned that “with the two of us in the same cage, I would last for about a week.” De Palma needed a hit after two back-to-back flops in the form of Wise Guys and Body Double, so he committed to the project, but with reservations. “We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “This script needs to be addressed, and this picture is going to cost more than they think it is.”
Casting was a major issue. De Palma met with Kevin Costner for the central role of Ness; he was not especially interested in the part, and the actor was also an unknown quantity at the box office, having never carried a film of this kind before. But de Palma and Costner hit it off and, after failed attempts to interest Mel Gibson and Don Johnson in the role of Ness, the actor was hired and attention turned to the big-name stars who had to be cast in the roles of Malone and Capone.
De Palma stated from the outset: “We’ve got to get a movie star like Sean Connery to play Malone... if I kill [him] off in a movie, no one will believe it.” Like his idol Alfred Hitchcock, De Palma was notorious for killing off his leading actors in unexpected fashions – Angie Dickinson, the supposed star of 1980’s Dressed to Kill, is brutally murdered after 20 minutes – and Connery agreed to take on the role after meeting with Mamet and de Palma. His usual fee was $2 million, which would have wreaked budgetary havoc, but his canny agent Mike Ovitz negotiated another deal; Connery would take no upfront fee in exchange for a percentage of the gross if the film was a hit. He ended up making considerably more.
The casting of Capone was more difficult. It was felt that the character, who only appeared in three scenes in the original script, should be an outsized, almost grotesque presence; John Candy was at one point suggested in an example of casting against type. But it was instead felt that the British actor Bob Hoskins, who had brilliantly combined charm with menace in the gangster films Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday, would do a better job, and so he was hired for a fee of $200,000.
Then de Palma casually mentioned that his friend and former collaborator Robert de Niro was interested in playing Capone. Not only would casting the most sought-after and acclaimed actor of his generation in the role give the project unimaginable kudos, but the presence of the man who played the young Vito Corleone in a pivotal role of this sort would be totemic.
Yet the budget was clambering higher and higher, and de Niro’s fee would run into the millions. Paramount were horrified, telling Linson that “we are not spending $20 million to remake a gangster movie…tell your director that he better start looking at himself in the mirror and coming up with the right answers.” A compromise was reached. Capone’s scenes were scheduled for the end of filming, and Hoskins was still available; as Linson said: “He was not as electrifying a choice, but he was the only choice.”
De Palma, meanwhile, began to conceive of operatic set-pieces that made his paymasters sweat with terror. A full-on Western shoot-out on the Canadian border, complete with cavalry charge; deeply expensive recreations of Thirties Chicago; a climatic gun battle at Union Station that De Palma saw as an opportunity to pay homage to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. All of these would be hugely, ludicrously expensive. A reckoning was inevitable.
Paramount executive Ned Tanen called a meeting with Linson and de Palma shortly before filming was about to begin, in an attempt to keep costs down. The budget had been set at a maximum of $18 million, and the idea of its spiralling up to $20 million made the studio nervous. De Palma calmly outlined what he required; he wanted to hire De Niro as Capone, to indulge his penchant for epic and unforgettable action scenes and to make a modern-day gangster classic.
As he said: “If we stay with the cast we have, shorten the schedule and reduce the scale of the picture, [we] will end up with a movie that at best will be suited to ‘Masterpiece Theatre’. It is not the movie I want to direct. It will not work, and I cannot afford to make a movie that will not work.” Then he suggested what awaited instead. “When Bob De Niro kills somebody with a baseball bat, with me directing, it will never be forgotten.” Tanen was persuaded. A $22.5 million budget was agreed upon, and Hoskins was paid off, leading the actor to call de Palma and jokingly ask if there were any other films that he didn’t want him to star in.
Yet the casting of De Niro could have caused more trouble than benefit. Although the actor was only required for two weeks of filming, his obsessive attention to detail made his presence known far earlier. He refused to wear the (Giorgio Armani-designed) costumes, and instead demanded that his wardrobe as Capone be redesigned by Italian tailors, under his personal supervision; he even insisted on wearing a $3,000 suit that had been tailored by someone who had fitted Capone’s outfits. He gained 25 pounds for the role, and shaved his hairline so that his face looked wider and fatter.
He was even reputed to have worn silk underwear to understand the arrogance and entitlement of the crime lord that he was playing. It seemed a piece of extraordinary method-heavy self-indulgence, but it worked electrifyingly. As Linson said: “Without uttering a word, by merely strolling to his position in front of the camera, Capone-De Niro suddenly became sly, dangerous, confident and even witty.” The gamble had paid off spectacularly.
While Blow Out taps into a sound-based investigation of the central characters’ lived experience of a possible political assassination, Strange Days continues the previous film’s subversive tradition through the virtual reality-based reliving of salacious scenarios and traumatic events, eventually revealing the role of police corruption in the death of a famous rapper. Although the two films stand apart as equally fascinating and foundational artistic statements in their respective director’s filmographies, their similar invocation of Hitchcockian intrigue à la Rear Window within unique genre frameworks of political mystery and science-fiction unify the films as a cinematic bridge between the disillusioned patriotism of Reaganite optimism and the convoluted communication of the early digital age, presaging the prominence of surveillance in the twenty-first century.
Although De Palma locates Blow Out comfortably within the framework of Reagan-era nationalism and the ensuing American insularity, it is essential to acknowledge the integral role that Nixonian disillusionment and the subsequent cinematic thrillers of the 1970s played in formulating the subtext for De Palma’s masterpiece. In the wake of Watergate and the atrocities of the Vietnam War, the New Hollywood leaned into a renewed manifestation of genre filmmaking that mirrored the political paranoia and personal discontents of the era.
Releasing revisionist thrillers that bordered on nihilistic like Alan J. Pakula’s conspiracy-centric stylized statement The Parallax View and Sydney Pollack’s annihilative mystery Three Days of the Condor to incredible acclaim and box office success, the cinematic landscape of the 1970s tapped into the disturbingly relevant well of national distrust and political turmoil to draw in audiences by empathizing with their existential fears. Perhaps more elegantly and precisely than its predecessors, Blow Out equally politicizes and personalizes both the fear of being watched and the anxiety of seeing something dangerous, incriminating, and potentially life-threatening.
Opening with a “movie-within-a-movie” sequence of the b-level horror film Co-Ed Friendly, De Palma immediately establishes the poetic paranoia that pervades the film by placing the audience into the first-person perspective of the sorority serial killer villain, indicting the audience of their own cinematic “surveillance as entertainment.” Although the point-of-view cinematography from the perspective of a serial killer stalking girls in and around a sorority house foreshadows the eventual government-backed, cover-up “serial killings” by Burke (John Lithgow) in the film’s second half, the opening sequence also builds an atmosphere of dread and doubt that functions as a critique of Reagan era optimism through a tragically honest approach to political corruption and lurid criminality throughout the film.
When Jack (John Travolta) is tasked to search for new wind for the fictional film’s atmosphere and a new scream to add to the Psycho-like shower murder in the film’s first, the first-person voyeurism that the cinematography evokes also becomes an auditory construct, as John Travolta’s protagonist invites us into his sonic perspective through his recording of nature sounds and accidental capturing of audio from a car crash.
In a manner similar to the accidentally photographed murder at the center of Michelangelo Antonioni’s groundbreaking arthouse film Blow Up, Blow Out sees Jack unravel at the seams as he attempts to uncover and bring to justice the assassination of Pennsylvania Governor George McRyan through his audio recording. Echoing the first-person perspective of the “film-within-a-film” opening, a sequence at the center of the film sees the audience take on the audiovisual point-of-view of Jack as he relives the moment of recording the potential assassination, aligning the audience within the protagonist’s multi-sensory perspective as he grapples with the government conspiracy in which he is caught.
While it is entirely possible to call Jack’s unintentional surveillance of the tragedy a positive example of seeing the truth in the midst of a dishonest political yarn, the psychic and bodily fallout of the recording suggests that his accidental anti-government observation is an impossible task in the midst of the corrupt behemoth of Reaganite American politics. The film’s final sequence at the firework-laden “Liberty Festival” sees the personal and political consequences come to the forefront, as Jack witnesses and records the murder of Sally (Nancy Allen), the former governor’s escort whom he liberated from the sunken car in the film’s inciting incident, by the government-hired assassin Burke.
By juxtaposing the death of Sally against the backdrop of a joyous patriotic celebration, De Palma finalizes the critique of the American political establishment as an ironic and corrupt force of destruction that wears a mask of individual freedom and nationalistic optimism. The haunting final moments see Jack forced to surrender to his own exploitation and personal paranoia as he offers Sally’s final scream as the sound effect for the film from the reflexive introduction, emphasizing a devastating poetic continuation of surveillance and conspiracy through the cinematic form.
Building on the foundation of Blow Out’s approach to voyeurism and political intrigue, Kathryn Bigelow’s underrated and unfortunately difficult-to-find Strange Days extends the structures of surveillance into the realm of human memory, as the film’s policeman-turned-illegal memory dealer protagonist Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is forced to confront the ethical fallout of his VR-style memory archive. In a manner similar to Blow Out’s meta-cinematic opening, the introductory sequence of Strange Days showcases the first-person perspective of a restaurant robbery as recorded on the memory-sharing device. While the scene ends in the tragic death of the memory’s “protagonist,” the camera cuts from the point-of-view memory to Lenny’s shocked removal of the memory-viewing apparatus.
That film didn’t turn out as well as Brian probably would have liked, but that’s another one where there’s a big scene at the end in the bullfighting arena, and the terrorists are there, and I had put in this sort of action temp score. And then when Brian saw it, we put in Bolero. And it’s interesting because he really wants the visuals to command the audience’s attention. And he wants to pick and choose the places where the music leads you in a certain direction, or makes you… or emphasizes what he thinks you might want to feel for the character at that time. And so the Bolero was just something that could keep the audience involved, but really the visuals are what are so engaging. That was true in that scene, and obviously true in the opening scene of Femme Fatale, as well.
According to an official press release, received today from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, The Untouchables makes its 4K Ultra HD debut on June 6, 2022 on 4K UHD + Blu-ray Special Collector’s Edition SteelBook, which includes the 4K Ultra HD™ feature film, Blu-ray™, poster, 6 art cards and 2 business cards.
Legacy bonus content is as follows:
- The Script, The Cast
- Production Stories
- Re-Inventing the Genre
- The Classic
- Original Featurette: “The Men”
- Theatrical Trailer