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Domino is
a "disarmingly
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


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Scarface: Make Way
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Deborah Shelton
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De Palma a la Mod

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Monday, October 31, 2022

For Halloween, The Guardian posted an article in which the Guardian's writers share a couple of paragraphs about "their scariest movie endings." Lauren Mechling writes about Dressed To Kill:
Set in Ed Koch-era Manhattan, a sultry haze hangs over Brian De Palma’s chic erotic slasher Dressed to Kill, reminding us of a time when New York felt thrillingly un-synthetic. We’re thrown into a day in the life of glamorous housewife Kate Miller (played by then 49-year-old Angie Dickinson). Morning sex with her clod of a husband, a visit to her worldly shrink (Michael Caine), a moment’s reflection in front of a billboard-size Alex Katz painting at the Met, then afternoon sex with a stranger. De Palma prowls about his side of the camera like a wildcat, mixing slow motion with flashes of terror to entrancing effect. White wine lunches and languorous close-ups of hands flipping through other people’s Rolodexes are spliced against cheaper thrills: beady-eyed voyeurs and paranoid prostitutes, screeching taxi cabs, a gruesome killing in the elevator of a luxury apartment building. This Hitchcockish sequence is the one that film nerds tend to dwell on, but the final scene is the one that I’ve found harder to shake all these years after my first viewing.

The analyst has been locked away in an insane asylum, where he strangles a nurse, changes into her uniform and finds his way to Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), the sweetheart prostitute who is onto his double life as a cross-dressing murderer. Sensing that something is amiss, Liz backs into a corner of the shower, the steam building into a thick fog as she tries to think quick. We’ve all been there: alone (or so we thought), defenseless, utterly unprepared for what’s around the corner, especially an unfettered maniac wielding a knife. Liz wakes up in a cold sweat. Nobody slashed her throat after all. But she’s still screaming over the nightmare lodged in her head, and with good reason. Ask any analyst. Lauren Mechling

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 30, 2022

At High-Def Digest, David Krauss reviews the new Kino edition of Dressed To Kill:
Writer-director Brian De Palma's brilliant thriller gets the 4K UHD treatment from Kino, and the brand-new Dolby Vision/HDR master struck from a 4K scan of the original camera negative delivers stunning results. This twisted tale of split personality, sexual frustration, and the hunt for a brutal killer still enthralls, titillates, disturbs, and delights, and it's never looked better or felt more immersive than it does here. Two solid audio tracks and an entire disc of supplements make this the definitive edition of Dressed to Kill and it comes very Highly Recommended.

Two movies released in 1980 changed my life. One was Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. The other was Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill. Both films bowled me over with their brash technique and both fostered within me a deep appreciation for cinematic innovation and lyrical storytelling that continues to this day.

Raging Bull made the biggest impression on me, but I was obsessed with Dressed to Kill. The intricacies of its plot, jaw-dropping twists and turns, Hitchcockian flavor, agonizing suspense, split screens and slow motion photography, and yes, all the sex and gore (hey, I was 18 then!) held me spellbound during multiple viewings. I bought the soundtrack album as soon as it was available and played Pino Donaggio's elegant score over and over. I was a classic movie maven even then and caught all the Psycho parallels, but instead of dampening my enthusiasm for Dressed to Kill, they enhanced it. Watching De Palma take Hitchcock's blueprint, amp it up for contemporary audiences, and put his individual stamp on it exhilarated me.

Dressed to Kill might seem tame today, but it was pretty hot stuff four decades ago, and more than a little controversial. Allegations of misogyny, gratuitous female nudity, and violence against women plagued the film and dogged De Palma. The criticisms weren't unfounded - they also could be leveled at Hitchcock and Hollywood itself, which began exploiting and mistreating women as far back as the early talkies when James Cagney smashed that half-grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face in The Public Enemy - but as the years passed it became clear if De Palma had any agenda at all it was simply to produce an artistic, edgy, psychosexual thriller.

It's hard to believe it's been 42 years since my first exposure to Dressed to Kill, but the passage of time hasn't dulled the picture's impact. If anything, I find the story of Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson), a sexually frustrated wife and mother who gets picked up by a stranger at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and gets slashed to death hours later in the elevator of his apartment building by a mysterious "blonde woman," more disturbing and unsettling now than I did then. As I age, I appreciate more fully the ironies of life, the consequences that can result from moments of weakness, impulsive actions, and lapses in judgment, and the devastation and senselessness of random acts of violence. More than a slick thriller and absorbing mystery, Dressed to Kill worms its way into our psyche and taps into our fears and vulnerabilities as it spins its intricate web. Any of us could be Kate Miller, any of us could be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's what makes the movie so damn scary.

And like so many scary movies, Dressed to Kill is also a helluva lot of fun. De Palma does for elevators what Hitchcock did for showers...and then some. As I watched the film this last time I had to steel myself and fight off a queasy feeling of dread during the lead-up to that fateful scene. Four decades later, it's still brutally effective and completely terrifying (maybe more so in 4K UHD), but just like there's so much more to Psycho than the shower scene, there's so much more to Dressed to Kill than that vicious elevator encounter.

De Palma's flashy technique keeps the eye constantly engaged without feeling self-conscious and his snappy script contains plenty of memorable dialogue. While it's a hoot to see Nancy Allen, who plays a high-class call girl who witnesses Kate's killing, verbally spar with police detective Dennis Franz, whose loud, cheesy wardrobe makes him look more like a pimp than a cop, it's the lengthy sequences without dialogue that really sing. All of them are meticulously and impeccably choreographed to evoke myriad emotions, but the knockout scene in the art museum (which borrows a bit from Hitchcock's Vertigo) is a bona fide tour de force and arguably the most compelling and masterfully constructed sequence of De Palma's career. Watching Dickinson and her mystery man play a game of cat and mouse as they navigate a maze of galleries in what amounts to a self-contained mini-drama is pure cinematic bliss. The prelude to Kate's murder ranks a close second, and though the dream sequence denouement is far different in tone and a little gimmicky, I can't deny its dazzling execution and off-the-charts fright quotient.

Posted by Geoff at 5:02 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Vulture's Martha Polk posted an article Thursday with the headline, "21 Great Movies Exploring the Unique Horror of Being a Woman." Polk includes Carrie on her list:
Brian De Palma and menstruation — truly a match made in hell that’s well worth another watch this Halloween. Sissy Spacek’s Carrie is, yes, a teen outcast with telekinetic powers, bad social skills, and a religious yahoo for a mother, but she’s also relatable, likable even. She’s just pissed that nobody ever told her about her period. You know the old adage, Tell a girl the truth and maybe she won’t freak out and bleed all over the locker room. Signs that Carrie is just like us: She sets up a healthy boundary with her mom; she mounts an appropriate defense when she’s suspiciously asked to prom by a total stud; she quite satisfyingly knocks a little monster off his bike for teasing her; and when confronted with the phrase dirty pillows, she replies, “No, Mother, they’re called breasts.” Honestly, I don’t care what the other girls say, Carrie puts on a master class in learning how to own your shit. And against all odds, she finds her way to an ethereal prom night, all blush pink and glitter, with a gentle blond boy showing her how to dance. When she’s crowned onstage, it’s not so much that she’s “made it,” as much as she’s finally just been given a chance to breathe.

Which, of course, makes it all the more heartbreaking when the pig’s blood comes pouring down, and with it, all the old narratives, parental lies, and peers’ cruelties — the very expectations of womanhood — all come back, syrupy and suffocating, to reclaim her. The worst part is the famous climax when Carrie vengefully sets all around her ablaze. This isn’t actually the final scene; instead, for all her teen-girl triumphs, Carrie is punished relentlessly. And that, more than the bloody havoc she wreaks, should haunt us still.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

At Beats Per Minute, John Wohlmacher reviews Midnights, the new album by Taylor Swift:
Another track that will endure due to its violent honesty follows in “Anti-Hero”, where Swift faces self-hatred and depression head on, imagining herself surrounded by the people she’s ghosted and a scheming family that is only after her inheritance. The scar on her collarbone returns here as she imagines herself a giant monster with a pierced heart, unable to die. There’s faint irony here, but also fatigue as she repeats the signature chorus: “It’s me / Hi / I’m the problem, it’s me”. This connects with much of Swift’s self-reflection chronicled in the documentary Miss Americana, where she discusses her vast insecurities, but it also points out her standing in the music business, where the ‘family’ of surrounding industry players see her merely as a money-making annoyance. The midnight here stretches into the afternoon, further characterizing the moment as a feeling, as Swift goes to war and shock imagery abounds: “Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism like some kind of congressman? / A tale as old as time / I wake up screaming from dreaming, one day I’ll watch as you’re leaving and life will lose all its meaning / For the last time”.

Thankfully, the darkness lifts a little with “Snow On The Beach”, which introduces a very interesting sonic inspiration. The minimalist classical background has hints of modern composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, with the short up-and-down of pulled strings looping as the vocal line extends over it. It’s incredibly cinematic, with the use of bells also introduces a somewhat wintery nuance, but the orchestral bed drives the song and makes it softly avant-garde in a manner similar to Bowie’s equally Reich-inspired “Weeping Wall”. Much has been made of the Lana Del Rey feature here, which is already being memed as inaudible – if anything, Del Rey’s voice adds a subtle shade of melancholia, contrasting the pure happiness of the miniature love story the lyrics chronicle. It indeed does feel like, as Swift points out, a moment from a movie.

This theme that into “You’re On Your Own, Kid”, where Swift returns to her hometown, attending what could be read as a homecoming dance only to find her friends ignore her and have moved on. After referencing the ‘Daisy’ persona from Reputation‘s “Don’t Blame Me”, Swift imagines herself as Carrie in the climactic moments of Brian De Palma’s interpretation as the scene turns apocalyptic: “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes / I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this / I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss / The jokes weren’t funny, I took the money / My friends from home don’t know what to say / I looked around in a blood-soaked gown / And I saw something they can’t take away”.

As on the first two tracks of the album, the musical composition on “You’re On Your Own, Kid”, with its plucked guitars and subtle synths reminiscent of The xx, hides the emotional darkness quite well, and opens many questions. In a way, it feels like Swift is using pop music to cast a shadow over the brightly illuminated truths within her lyrics on Midnights. Maybe this polarity is not so much a contrast but – similar to the industrial and noise elements on Reputation – an open admission, like a wizard who will introduce his show by exclaiming his work is illusory, but still distracting the audience during the process to alleviate the performance.

Swift portraying herself as Carrie puts into sharp focus who the “monster” in “Anti-Hero” is, illuminating a worldview where women are driven to violence and madness by a world that confronts them with brutality until they break under the punches. That’s where the earlier mention of Courtney Love and Laura Palmer makes a lot of sense – the dark side of the homecoming queen has been a classic staple of modern American pop culture. But in Swift’s equation there is no Bob and no Kurt Cobain; there’s just the very real loneliness of a person constantly bombarded with her own reflection, and her attempts at finding new personas to confront this isolation, which shift and mutate.

As an example, the image of cold blooded vengeance extends to “Vigilante Shit”, where Swift takes the role of Catwoman, all lascivious eyeliner and dressed for revenge. It’s the album’s most minimal track, all quiet anger with its hushed beats and subdued synth lines. Funny enough, the closest sonic reference here is Talking Heads’ “Listening Wind”, which imagines a very different type of revenge and a different kind of vigilantism. This familiarity shouldn’t be read as direct reference, but the similarly eerie-yet-beckoning atmosphere showcases how there is a thematic basis within the emotional core message.

There’s another link here: “Vigilante Shit” is one of multiple appearances of Zoe Kravitz’s presence (the others being her co-credit as writer of “Lavender Haze” and bonus-track-title “High Infidelity” riffing on her show High Fidelity). The actor and the songwriter reportedly quarantined together during the lockdown and Swift later praised her friend’s interpretation of Selina Kyle in The Batman – and the subtle but clever parallels (the cat’s eye, the need for revenge, the double identity, the vigilante character) are too numerous to not work. Kyle can be lined up with Palmer; Carrie and Love as mythical American women who are being demonized for being maladjusted and fighting back against a system that is all too ready to bend them until they break. Their demons are, in a way, manifestations of the structure they reside in – and while Palmer, Carrie and Kyle have Twin Peaks, Santa Paula and Gotham respectively, Love and Swift have LA and New York. This is where the cover art of Swift staring in the flame becomes much more than just an image – to banish the demon or to burn it all down?

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 23, 2022

A "Cinémaniaque" who goes by Vodka Wick on Twitter posted images of the 2019 book, Les Films de Brian De Palma, the first book published by the French-language blog Zoom Arrière. I had posted about this book back in April of 2019.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 24, 2022 6:20 PM CDT
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Saturday, October 22, 2022

Here's the description from the CinemaSpection episode commentary for Phantomn Of The Paradise:
We're celebrating Halloween season with a commentary track for one of Agatha's favorite movies, Brian De Palma's 1974 cult horror musical Phantom of the Paradise! Listen as we praise the amazing songwriting of Paul Williams, identify De Palma's various references to classic films, and marvel at Jessica Harper's dancing. Listen for our countdown to start your copy of the movie. Warning: Contains explicit language, spoilers, and awkward traveling mattes.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
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Friday, October 21, 2022

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2022 5:57 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 20, 2022

Remember last month when Dua Lipa walked around Buenos Aires like a tourist wearing her Carrie sweatshirt? Yesterday the JW Anderson Carrie Capsule went live. Here's the writeup from Hypebeast:
Jonathan Anderson‘s eponymous British brand, JW Anderson, doesn’t shy away from a bold print or a heavy reference. In recent times, the designer has drawn influence from the South Korean cartoon Run Hany, delivered a Spring/Summer 2023 runway show dispersed with kitsch nods like goldfish swimming in a bag, and has also released his infamous FW22 pigeon clutch. Now, the designer gears up for spooky season as JW Anderson has collaborated with MGM on one of its most notorious horror films, Carrie.

Released in 1976, the Stephen King-adapted film directed by Brian De Palma went on to become a cult classic. With Carrie White — played by Sissy Spacek — as the film’s protagonist, it was a film unlike many others of its time as the bullied Miss. White became the unlikely star of the film, using psychic powers at her school prom to release her telekinetic terror.

As for the capsule collection, Anderson spotlights Carrie herself across a number of key womenswear-centric items (although, much of JW Anderson’s clothes lean into the genderless realms of fashion). Here, a black shirt sports classic Carrie masthead branding alongside a depiction of a prom tiara, while another graphic shirt shows the moment Carrie is crowned prom queen — moments before she massacres students en masse.

Printed co-ords expand this theme with the help of formal pants, while T-shirts, hoodies and a puffer jacket round off the capsule’s RTW, with accessories including the Bumper Moon bag, a baseball cap, and tote bags also making an appearance. Take a look at the Jurgen Teller-shot campaign (staring the model Lily McMenamy) above, and shop the collection online or in JW Anderson’s flagship Soho, London store, now.

Also yesterday, IndieWire posted an article with the headline, "Spooky Strings and Scary Synths: IndieWire’s Favorite Horror Scores." It features a nicely-stated appreciation of Pino Donaggio's score for Carrie by Jim Hemphill:

Brian De Palma worked with one of his heroes, Bernard Herrmann, on “Sisters” and “Obsession,” and he planned to have Herrmann score “Carrie” as well. When Herrmann passed away, De Palma was faced with an unusual challenge: How do you find a composer worthy of following in the footsteps of arguably the greatest that ever lived? The director must have been happy with what he found in Italian composer Pino Donaggio, because they would go on to collaborate on many future films, including “Dressed to Kill,” “Blow Out,” “Body Double,” and “Raising Cain.” “Carrie” remains one of their greatest triumphs, a film in which Donaggio’s lyrical strings and woodwinds seem to be speaking for telekinetic high school outcast Carrie White herself — and in which the stabbing, shrieking strings interrupt her reveries to pave the way for her assaults on her enemies. Donaggio viewed “Carrie” as less of a horror film than a tragedy, and his music evokes almost physically painful feelings in the viewer toward the doomed title character. It also makes the film all the scarier when the horror does kick in, because we’ve grown to care about Carrie to a degree uncommon for a film of any genre. —JH

And on a final note, last week, New City Film posted an article by director Jennifer Reeder, with the headline, "Made for Horror: Favorite Genre Films, Led By Women." The article focuses on films directed by women, but at the end, Reeder adds on "Special-mention genre films I love about women but directed by men." --

Carrie (1976), Brian de Palma
This film features the most perfect ending to all films ever made. It’s a great example of why the “teen film” is a perfect nest for horror. Sissy Spacek is brilliant as both hero and villain.

Rebecca (1940), Alfred Hitchcock (based on a book by Daphne de Maurier)
A wickedly morose telling of a lady love triangle between a newlywed, her maid and a ghost. I saw this film for the first time when I was very young, and it’s been under my skin ever since. It’s possibly one of the reasons I am a filmmaker who works in genre.

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CDT
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Monday, October 17, 2022

An article written by Rory Doherty, posted today at Paste Magazine, kicks off with the headline, "Just When They Thought I Was Out: The Brilliance of ‘90s Al Pacino," and includes some consideration for Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way:
Made with the reflexive panache that would make most modern directors weep, De Palma’s second collaboration with Pacino proved to be a much more muted affair than their first. Carlito’s Way sees a reformed Puerto Rican gangster trying to keep things clean upon his release from prison, but his attempts to own a garish nightclub that’s an assault on the senses of sight and sound inevitably gets tied up with the nefarious deeds he wanted to avoid. Poor guy! There’s not much hope for him throughout the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, seeing as the opening shots show his dead body being carried away. It’s great seeing Pacino, the same year he won his Oscar, slum around as a noble ex-con building his life up from nothing.

In terms of delirious performances, Pacino actually struggles to let his Hooah-ness shine, thanks to the dominating lifeforce that is Sean Penn as Carlito’s insecure, belligerent, coke-fiend best friend. When Pacino isn’t trying to calm down Penn’s sweaty turn, he has to fend off a scenery-chewing Viggo Mortensen (wired and wheelchair-riding in his one scene) and a luminescent John Leguizamo as the flashy wannabe bigtimer Benny Blanco (from the Bronx). And, like all good movies, Luis Guzmán is in the background somewhere. It’s understandable how straight Pacino plays it; even in a De Palma movie, there’s a limit on how many insane performances you can have before a movie bursts at the seams. And while Pacino hadn’t yet leaned fully into the shouty, eye-bulging indulgences that the ‘90s would represent for him, he did get to lead a classic dialogue-free De Palma suspense sequence, evading sinister characters across a big railway station. Little victories.

Posted by Geoff at 11:17 PM CDT
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