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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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De Palma interviewed
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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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Wednesday, July 20, 2022
'FEMME FATALE' PLAYED AT ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE TONIGHT
20TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING WAS PART OF "WEIRD WEDNESDAY" SERIES
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"Another casually sultry & sleazy Brian De Palma masterpiece, in 35mm," reads the description headline at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, followed by "20th Anniversary Screening!" And then, this description:
An ode to classic film noir, FEMME FATALE opens with one of De Palma's greatest set pieces: a stealthy jewel heist by a gang led by seductive thief Laure (Rebecca Romijn) that takes place during a gala screening at the Cannes Film Festival. After double-crossing her partners, Laure flees to the Paris suburbs, where a whirlwind of unlikely events results in her assuming the identity of her doppelgänger, marrying a wealthy American diplomat (Peter Coyote), and assuming a new life in the US. Returning to Paris seven years later when her husband is made the American ambassador to France, Laure is targeted by her former accomplices, and she ropes in a bewildered Spanish photographer (a convincingly confused Antonio Banderas) for a deadly game of double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses.

Posted by Geoff at 10:58 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 17, 2022
THE 'SCARFACE' TITLE SEQUENCE
DE PALMA HAD A VISION FOR THE OPENING TITLES THAT, ALAS, DID NOT WORK OUT
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Tim Greiving's terrific liner notes in the booklet of La-La Land Records' expanded Scarface soundtrack, David Ray, who co-edited Scarface with Jerry Greenberg, says that due to time constraints and a fixed release date, most of the film was edited without any music yet, not even temp tracks. The one exception was the opening title sequence, for which they had Giorgio Moroder's opening theme music. Greiving writes:
In the main title, the melody of Tony’s theme kicks in with an up-tempo disco beat over footage of Cubans arriving by boat (an interesting juxtaposition to the dejected faces of real refugees). This was the only sequence the editors were able to cut to, but only because De Palma’s original vision was jettisoned at the last minute. “There was a title sequence crisis,” says Ray. “Brian had in his head that the title sequence should be a series of newsreel clips, which would eventually freeze, go to high contrast black-and-white, and the white parts would morph into mounds of cocaine, which would blow away and reveal the text of the title. And that was a huge thing to do. I think he had it in his mind you could shoot that live, and we did tests, and they were terrible. I think the only way to do this convincingly would be to animate it, which was a big deal.” Instead, Greenberg suggested just intercutting the film’s title cards with the existing newsreel footage, which Ray hastily did as the clock was ticking. “The music was already locked, so the length was locked in. But that was the only time that we had music.”


Posted by Geoff at 10:39 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 9, 2022
DAVID KOEPP DISCUSSES 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE' DRAFTS
ON LATEST EPISODE OF 'SCRIPT APART' PODCAST
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David Koepp was asked to choose which one of his screenplays to discuss in depth on episode 46 of the podcast Script Apart, and he chose Mission: Impossible.

Within the first few minutes, host Al Horner asks Koepp about his approach to character. "I would love to be one of those writers I hear, on shows very much like this, who say, 'It all begins with character," Koepp replies. "It must begin with character.' I'm just not. And I'm not sure I believe them. I think you have an idea about something. You don't... well, maybe you do, I don't know. I think, I have an idea. And then I think, I do exactly as you said, I think, 'Who is either the best or the worst person possible for this to happen to.' In the case of KIMI, I thought, who is the worst possible person for this to happen to. The idea was, you know, that we overhear... there are people whose job it is to listen to all those little recordings that Siri and Alexa make in our homes, and to flag irregularities and try to correct the algorithm for where it misinterpreted things. And I read an article that talked about the people who listen to those. And I thought, ooh, that's interesting. I like that person. And what if they heard something terrible. Then I thought, who's the worst person that could happen to, and it would be someone who doesn't like to leave their house. That's why they have this job, and they must go out in order to effect change in the world. So, in that case, it was the worst. In Mission: Impossible, that kind of spy thing, you want to think, who is the best person for this to happen to. And that of course is the indestructible Tom Cruise."

CBR's Leon Miller posted an article three days ago with quotes of Koepp, from the podcast, about why they decided to kill off the first team in the film:

Mission: Impossible co-writer David Koepp recently explained why Ethan Hunt's first team had to die in the 1996 espionage blockbuster.

Koepp revealed that director Brian De Palma decided to kill off the original Impossible Missions Force line-up to keep the movie's focus on Tom Cruise as Hunt, in an episode of Script Apart. "There's a fundamental flaw in Mission: Impossible as a movie with Tom Cruise, as a concept," he said, "It's an idea that should not work. It appears it has [laughs], but it is essentially an ensemble, that is its very nature. It's a team movie if it's based on the [original 1960s Mission: Impossible] television show."

"So, for this ensemble movie, the one piece of casting is the biggest movie star in the world with an incredibly dominant personality," Koepp continued. "So, it's just not going to work, so Brian's idea was 'We have to kill everybody.' And it's a good point. That's his approach on a number of films, but in this one in particular, it really worked. He's like 'Look, it's an ensemble, so we have to start it like an ensemble, kill everybody, so we've only got one left, and he's the star, and let him put together another team. But we'll always orient it around him,' which was a brilliant idea."


Meanwhile, Sandy Schaefer at /Film focused on what George Lucas said to Brian De Palma when he showed an early cut of Mission: Impossible to some filmmaker friends. Schaefer quotes Koepp:
"Brian [De Palma] had shown an early cut of the movie to some filmmaker friends. And George Lucas saw it and said, 'You're missing the spaghetti scene.' ... Brian said, 'What's the spaghetti scene?' And he said, 'You know, where they all sit around and eat spaghetti and they get the mission. You don't know who these people are. You start in the middle of a mission.' Brian said, 'Well, it's exciting to start in the middle of a mission.' And George said, 'It's not exciting unless you know who they are.'"

Posted by Geoff at 6:28 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 6, 2022
ALL DAY FRIDAY - BODY DOUBLE AT QUAD CINEMA IN NYC
TO KICK OFF 7-DAY SERIES "SO SEXY IT HURTS: EROTIC THRILLS FROM '80s & '90s HOLLYWOOD"
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Thanks to Hugh for letting us know about this seven-day film series that kicks off with Brian De Palma's Body Double, featuring five showtimes ("Showtime!" says Sam Bouchard) this Friday at Quad Cinema in New York City. The series, which is called "So Sexy It Hurts: Erotic Thrills from ’80s and ’90s Hollywood," continues the next day, Saturday, with Adrian Lyne's Flashdance, a film that De Palma came so close to directing, he even added a bit of a parody in the music video he directed for Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax." The other films in the series: Ken Russell's Crimes Of Passion, Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct, John McNaughton's Wild Things, Paul Schrader's American Gigolo, and Verhoeven's Showgirls, which concludes the series on Thursday, July 14th.

From the Quad Cinema series description:

The Quad invites you, as the temperature rises, to get out of the frying pan and into the fire — with our crackling series of films that are too darn hot and were too sexy for their times. Some fanned the flames of controversy, while others kindled zeitgeist interest; all generated notoriety through the ‘80s and ‘90s that kept them VHS and cable-TV staples. We are pleased to bring them back onto the big screen from whence they came and where they belong, including a brand-new 2K DCP of the now-rarely seen Crimes of Passion. From welders who scorch to “Ver-sayss”-coveting showgirls to implements being wielded in ways most definitely not manufacturer-recommended, these movies elicit both aroused and “ouch!” reactions — sometimes, perhaps, simultaneously. So, this July settle in and prepare to shift around in your seat…

And specifically about Body Double:
Determined to poke the bear that was the MPAA Ratings Board, De Palma orchestrated a return to his preferred playground of Hitchcockian homages with voyeuristic flesh and blood aplenty. Melanie Griffith’s sassy and sensual performance, as a porn star entangled with struggling actor and apparent-slaying witness Craig Wasson, catapulted her career into a thrilling second act. The aptly lurid cinematography is by Stephen Burum; other core De Palma collaborators on hand include composer Pino Donaggio and actor Dennis Franz — as a horror-movie director.


Posted by Geoff at 10:47 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 5, 2022
JUSTIN HAWKINS GUIDES THRU 'PHANTOM' SOUNDTRACK...!
THE DARKNESS FRONTMAN: "THIS HAS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST UNDERRATED FILM SCORES AND MUSICALS OF OUR TIME"

"This has to be one of the most underrated film scores and musicals of our time," states Justin Hawkins of The Darkness in the description for this video (above) that he posted last week. "Phantom of the Paradise is phenomenal and yet no one cares about it except of course, those of us who do. It's genius. Allow me, if you'd be so kind, to guide you through the soundtrack in hopes to inspire you to watch this masterpiece. The music is written by Paul Williams and it's directed by Brian De Palma (who directed Scarface!!). I love it and I hope that you will too. Let me know in the comments if you've seen it or if you're going to after this."

Here's a transcription of the beginning of the video:

Good day to you all. It is I, Justin Hawkins, and this is "Justin Hawkins Rides Again," my YouTube channel. Today I'm doing an album that's a top-to-bottom bangers, in my view. All of the songs are written, weirdly, by Paul Williams, who... I don't know if you guys remember Paul Williams. He played Little Enos in Smokey and the Bandit. Anyway, Paul Williams wrote all the songs for a musical called Phantom of the Paradise, which I've recently discovered, and I've been watching it religiously. I have a pathological hatred for musicals. I'm not a fan of the art form. That kind of musical theater is just one slice of ham too many for me, if you know what I mean. But on this occasion, I adore the movie and I think it's really a classic and it's one of those forgotten classics. It was only sort of considered worth watching in two places, apparently: Winnipeg (in Canada), and Paris, which is a cultural hotbed, of course. So, anyway, it was directed by Brian De Palma. It's an absolutely staggering piece of cinema and I really love the movie and I love all the songs, so I'm going to talk about the soundtrack to Phantom of the Paradise, and I hope you enjoy it.

Posted by Geoff at 5:53 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 5, 2022 10:15 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 2, 2022
'A WORK OF BREATHTAKING FATALISM'
'BLOW OUT' PLAYS JULY 4th AT METROGRAPH IN NEW YORK CITY - PART OF ROAD TRIP FILM SERIES
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/metrographroadtrip.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 11:52 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 23, 2022
'THIS IS WHEN HOLLYWOOD WAS REALLY HOLLYWOODING'
'THE REWATCHABLES' PODCAST REWATCHES 'THE UNTOUCHABLES'
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"I don't know where to start with this," says Bill Simmons, co-host of The Rewatchables podcast as Ennio Morricone's "Strength of the Righteous" theme from The Untouchables drives the episode's intro underneath. The Untouchables is the featured film on this June 23rd episode. Simmons profers that "there's a prototype with this movie that resembles football, to me. Where, just a lot of elements have to come into place, but the best thing is... like when the Chiefs had Mahomes on a rookie contract. It's like, wow, this is great. This is the biggest advantage you can have. The Untouchables has Costner on a rookie contract. He is going to be the biggest start in the world two years later, but we don't know that in 1987, when they're filming this in '86. You have him on a rookie deal, and then you can spray the money around. You can get De Palma. You can get De Niro for 18 days. You can get Connery. You can get David Mamet to write the script. But the key is Costner on the rookie deal."

Enthused, co-host Chris Ryan then adds, "And you've still got your scouting department out there finding Andy Garcias in the fifth round! Watching 8 Million Ways To Die tape and being like, 'I love this guy!'"

A bit later, after some brief discussion of the film's budget and how the filmmakers essentially made a hundred-million dollar movie for about 20-million, Ryan continues: "Not only what a bargain, but also it goes across the board, beyond even the big names that we just mentioned, where, when you watch a movie like this, you're seeing like every single part of what goes into making a movie at its absolute best. Like, the cinematography is great, the outfits are amazing, the production design is amazing. I know that stuff isn't that fun to talk about, but it is kind of like, this is when Hollywood was really Hollywooding. Like they REALLY made... and when you watch it, still to this day - there's some slower parts of it - but ... this is a really really really entertaining movie that just delivers, like, every single time."


Posted by Geoff at 11:34 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 22, 2022
'PHANTOM' ENTERS THE CRACKED GUIDE TO CULT MOVIES
"WITH A STORY THAT WOULD MAKE THE THEATRE DU GRAND GUIGNOL THINK THEY SHOULD TONE IT DOWN A LITTLE"
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Yesterday, William Kuechenberg posted The Cracked Guide To Cult Movies: Phantom Of The Paradise. "Of all the entries in this series, Phantom of the Paradise is almost certainly the one with the most coherent plot," Kuechenberg states in in the "What's this movie about" section near the start of the article. "It centers around the villainous record producer and music magnate Swan, who looks like if cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch got really into coke." Here's a bit from Kuechenberg's "What makes it a cult movie" section:
It’s a kickass movie, first of all, with awesome set design and costumes and a story that would make the Théâtre du Grand Guignol think they should tone it down a little. The movie shares DNA with several cult films, which kind of puts it in that orbit by default. For example, Jessica Harper, the actress who plays Phoenix, also plays Janet Weiss in a kinda-sorta sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show called Shock Treatment. It also doesn’t hurt that movie is a musical with music that honestly rips ass. “Rips ass?” Is that what the kids are saying? Or, wait, is that farting?

The point is the music is legitimately good, thanks in no small part to Paul Williams. Williams plays Swan, but he also wrote and sang most of the film’s music. You might know Williams from his extensive work with the Muppets, or if you’re dealing with new and exciting forms of back pain like I am you may know him from his cameo on Dexter’s Laboratory:

 

There’s something inherently funny and fascinating about seeing a man responsible for writing some of the most important music of our childhoods – playing the literal devil and being a huge horny sleazebag on screen. It’s awesome.

Phantom of the Paradise is also a cult film because it’s one of those movies that was never commercially or critically successful but had a huge influence on later artists. When director Guillermo Del Toro (or as US audiences know him, “Billy the Bull”) was a teenager in Mexico City, he waited in line for Paul Williams to sign his copy of the Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack. Many years later, he’d ask Williams to write the lyrics to the stage adaptation of Pan’s Labyrinth. Edgar Wright also cites it as a huge influence. Daft Punk claim to have seen the movie together more than twenty times – and when you remember that the hero of a story is a man in a black suit with a metal helmet obscuring his face that sings in a mechanical cadence of another man over songs he composes on a synthesizer, you start to wonder if perhaps Phantom of the Paradise is more responsible for the birth of electronic music than readily-available MDMA and a music industry looking for an ever-cheaper production model.

Finally, the movie is of note to big music nerds like me for one very particular reason. I’ve mentioned several times that Winslow writes his music on “a synthesizer,” but it would perhaps be more accurate to say he composes his music on “the synthesizer:”

The gigantic instrument he’s sitting inside of is TONTO. No, not the Native American character Johnny Depp racistly portrayed in – holy crap, 2013? Didn’t we know better by then? No, this TONTO is an acronym for The Original New Timbral Orchestra, and if you don’t know the name you’ve definitely heard the sound. Stevie Wonder utilized it on many of his most famous songs, including the iconic riff in “Superstition” that’s so damn funky it’ll make you want to start wearing a vest with no shirt in daily life. It shows up in a huge range of hits from the 70s and beyond.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2022 12:13 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 21, 2022
GLEN TROTINER HAS DIED AT 65
IN VIDEO FROM 2021, THE SECOND-ASSISTANT DIRECTOR TALKS ABOUT WORKING ON 'THE UNTOUCHABLES', BEGINNING AROUND 16-MINUTE MARK

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 18, 2022
CRITERION UPGRADING ITS 'BLOW OUT' PACKAGE TO 4K
AS STEPH GREEN AT INVERSE LOOKS AT CINEMATIC LEGACY OF WATERGATE, 50 YEARS ON
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Criterion this past week announced its upcoming September releases, which includes a 4K UHD and Blu-ray edition of Brian De Palma's Blow Out. This edition features a new 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The package will have one 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and one Blu-ray with the film and special features.

This past week also entered into the timeline marking 50 years since the Watergate break-in and scandal. Steph Green at Inverse posted an article Friday with the headline, "50 years ago, America’s greatest political scandal changed movies forever." Green's article begins:

HE'LL GO ANYWHERE TO BUG A PRIVATE CONVERSATION

The above could easily be a newspaper headline from 1974, the year Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace after being caught on tape ordering a cover-up of the Watergate scandal two years earlier. Instead, it’s the tagline for The Conversation, a movie released that same year, which dealt directly with both the ethics of surveillance and the psychological fallout of paranoia.

Political scandals have existed since politics began, and since the birth of cinema itself, the silver screen has reflected these upheavals and the mistrust they cause. Decades before Watergate, we saw film noir play upon post-war disillusionment. Then the beckoning fear of communism throughout the 1950s wound its way firmly into the cinematic conversation, where movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Topaz (1969) transliterated the Red Scare into celluloid and blew it up onto the big screen. Throw in events like the 1963 assassination of JFK and the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969, and you already have a country increasingly distrustful of the narrative being fed to them.

But when Nixon’s administration covered up its involvement in the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s offices — perpetrated by burglars paid via a secret slush fund operated by the president’s re-election campaign — a new cinematic catnip was born. It wasn’t a neighbor that was a potential secret Red agent, or a series of unsubstantiated claims about an assassination. Nixon got caught, he confessed, and he resigned.

It seemed, for the first time, that the lid had been lifted on the most powerful organization in the entire country. From that moment, the Watergate scandal had an enduring effect on the cinematic landscape that followed. Fifty years on, it boasts the legacy of being — of, possibly, all the events in American political history — the ripest for adaptation: rich with reveals, twists, and a lingering sense of dread.

“Conspiracies involving murder by federal agencies used to be found in obscure publications of the far left,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert in early 1975. “Now they're glossy entertainments starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.” He didn’t seem too happy about this, even if he ultimately gave the movie in question — Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack — a positive review. “How soon we grow used to the most depressing possibilities about our government,” Ebert mused. “Hollywood stars used to play cowboys and generals. Now they're wiretappers and assassins, or targets.”

The movie, which saw Redford star as a bookish CIA researcher, follows a classic conspiracy formula. A small fry finds himself in over his head and is determined to rise above the big dogs to expose corruption. One of many conspiracy flicks of its kind in the mid-1970s, academics saw this deluge as an opportunity for audiences to synthesize their real-life anger at political organizations into something tangible, with such movies acting as “resolutions for inadequately explained socio-historical traumas.”

Many at the time, however, saw these movies as toothless attempts to emulate the level of corruption happening in real life, unable to coalesce the economic imperatives of studio filmmaking with a genuine political message. In a 1976 pan of Condor, Patrick McGilligan decried it as “evasive, exploitative and politically vacuous.” If you look at how the plot is beefed up with a dicey Faye Dunaway romance/kidnap subplot, you can see where he’s coming from here.

While today it’s considered a masterpiece, Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View similarly failed to escape criticism. The movie starred box-office mainstay Warren Beatty as a television journalist who becomes aware of a secret organization that recruits political assassins and kills off witnesses. The Senate hearings for Watergate were in full swing during production, and members of the cast and crew would sneak off to Beatty’s trailer to watch proceedings unfold during downtime. Sure, the book the screenplay was based on was unmistakably tied to JFK trutherism, but the entire thing whiffs of Watergate jitters.

Writing in The New York Times in 1974, just three days after Nixon’s resignation, Stephen Farber disparaged the upward tick in political conspiracy movies. He criticized Parallax as “probably the most mindless and irresponsible of the lot [...] exemplifying the emptyheaded, fence-straddling approach to controversial issues that has made Hollywood's political movies such a joke.” He continued: “Today's mass audience wants to believe in omnipotent, omniscient, indestructible conspiracies.”

Two years later, Pakula would direct the definitive Watergate flick, All The President’s Men. The two films (which complete his “paranoia” trilogy, alongside 1971’s excellent Klute) differ starkly in their degree of optimism. In one ending, Nixon resigns as Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward triumphantly type up their exposé. In the other, a government apparatchik says with chilling, deceptive finality, “There is no evidence of a conspiracy.”

But both were equally astute in how the very fabric of the filmmaking makes us feel. The jarring split diopter shots in All The President’s Men force us to discount no detail, to keep an unnaturally sharp eye on the figures that operate in our periphery. In Parallax, Pakula shot his characters at a long distance, giving the effect of a sniper tracking their movement, drowning them in sparsely-populated frames that emphasized their isolation and smallness.

Some filmmakers peddling their paranoid wares distanced themselves from potential accusations of half-baked posturing by looking inward. It was certainly a stroke of perverse serendipity that Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation was written before the 1972 break-in ever occurred because it is inadvertently one of the most sophisticated and striking films about Watergate-era paranoia to come out of that decade.

“When Watergate happened,” Coppola says in a May 1974 Filmmakers Newsletter interview with Brian De Palma, “I was really frightened that people would expect it to be about spies and tapes and that sort of thing, and then be very angry that it wasn't. Right from the beginning, I wanted it to be something personal, not political, because somehow that is even more terrible to me.”

The film’s famous opening, voyeuristically surveying a crowd in San Francisco’s Union Square, cinematizes the paranoia of the time — relaying the intense feeling of an invasion of privacy. Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul, a surveillance expert, is wracked with guilt over his role in a wiretapping sting that went wrong. Drawn into a new investigation entirely conducted through the manipulation of audiotapes, the film is a chilling examination of the effects paranoid conspiracies have on our lives, shaping us into individuals who are unable to trust.

“Nobody wants to know about a conspiracy,” John Travolta’s sound engineer character Jack explains, wide-eyed and frantic, in Brian De Palma’s 1981 paranoia thriller Blow Out. “I don’t get it.” His character is also sucked into a political cover-up that plays out in a multimedia hall of mirrors: television, telephones, photographs, wiretapping, dubbing. When he thinks that he has inadvertently recorded a murder, the audio trickery — like that in The Conversation — instantly would have reminded contemporary audiences of that final nail in Nixon’s smarmy coffin: the “smoking gun” tape that proved, unequivocally, that the president had lied to the public about his involvement in the Watergate whitewash.

Blow Out uses the blue and red tones of the star-spangled banner as color motifs throughout, and the film’s finale, a tragedy that takes place at a jubilee celebration of Philadelphia’s liberty bell, is heavy irony for this so-called symbol of American justice. At its very heart, the movie epitomizes Nixonian anxiety.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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