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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
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
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De Palma a la Mod

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Monday, November 21, 2022

Boston Globe film critic Odie Henderson reviews Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans:
Fast forward 10 years, and Sam (now played by an excellent Gabriel LaBelle) is inspired to make a Western after seeing John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” The Fabelmans have moved to a neighborhood in Arizona that looks ripped out of “Poltergeist,” the 1982 film Spielberg co-wrote. His group of friends/co-conspirators enters the frame on bicycles, reminding us of “E.T.” The wistful score by John Williams — one of his best — makes a lovely complement to the visuals by Janusz Kaminski.

But all is not hearts and flowers. Anyone familiar with Spielberg’s work knows of his penchant for exploring divorced families. The director’s own parents split, but the screenplay by Spielberg and Tony Kushner provides a deeper reason for his consistent return to that subject. Mitzi describes her young son’s desire to restage DeMille as a way to control a chaotic situation. The camera makes Sammy Fabelman the ringmaster in his own Greatest Show on Earth.

Sammy also has to deal with several instances of antisemitism in his high school. That subplot is harrowing, but not without humor, albeit of the gallows variety. Sammy’s “revenge,” such as it is, plays as a complex and fascinating delve into the mind of a future filmmaker’s philosophy about the images he creates.

This is Spielberg’s most personal film, and it’s intriguing to watch him pay homage to the directors who made up his group of friends in the early 1970s. There’s more than a bit of George Lucas in the film’s later, California-set high school scenes. The comic, religious guilt that pours out of Sammy’s Christian girlfriend, who prays to an enormous crucifix on her wall before jumping his bones, has all the mischief of Marty Scorsese.

A fantastic, extended cameo by Judd Hirsch as the bonkers Uncle Boris, a man who once worked in the circus, features some advice that sounds scripted by Francis Ford Coppola. “Art is not a game,” he scolds. “Art is like putting your hand in the lion’s mouth.”

Spielberg saves his biggest directorial nod to a friend for the heartbreaking, emotional centerpiece of “The Fabelmans.” Throughout Sammy’s life, his family has always had one extra member, Burt’s best friend, Bennie (Seth Rogen in a fine performance). Though a fellow techie, Bennie has a sense of humor and demeanor that align more with Mitzi’s personality than Burt’s. While editing footage from a camping trip, Sammy discovers just how close these two are. Spielberg reveals this devastating truth using a recognizable Brian De Palma technique: a series of visual cycles that expose more truth with each repetition.

The Fabelmans” ends with a cameo by John Ford, embodied here by a very funny David Lynch. Spielberg’s own career proves that he followed the real-life advice “Pappy” Ford gave him the day they met. His latest film follows the advice of that Ford Western that Sammy saw: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Two reviews of Spielberg's Fabelmans

Poltergeist's room full of "Movie Brats"

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Sunday, November 20, 2022

With roles in the new movie She Said, Patricia Clarkson and her fellow actor Andre Braugher are interviewed by Collider's Tamera Jones:
PERRI NEMIROFF: The line, “It was like he took my voice that day, just when I was about to start finding it,” has crushed me every single time I watch this movie. In an effort to highlight some of the good out there that we need more of, can each of you tell me about someone that you encountered early on in your careers who made you feel supported and respected, and helped you take a positive first step forward when you were first starting out?

ANDRE BRAUGHER: I had never done a film before and I didn't know anything about filming. I didn't know what a mark was. I didn't know how to match my actions. I didn't know what a close-up was. This was on Glory, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman really put their arms around my shoulders and led me through the process of how to work with a camera, how to understand how to bring out my performance, how to modulate it for the camera, and I'm forever grateful for that. Our careers have gone in a million different directions and I haven't worked with either one of them since 1989, but they were part of the foundation of my career in film and television. And so, I'm very grateful to them today for what they did in 1989.

PATRICIA CLARKSON: The very first movie I ever did was The Untouchables, with [Brian] De Palma directing, [Robert] De Niro, [and] Kevin Costner. But De Palma was remarkable to me. I'd never been on film. He taught me all about film. He was so loving to me and wonderful. I was broke and he convinced Paramount that Mrs. Ness had to be all through the courtroom even though there was one quick close-up of me and that was it. But I got paid for an extra month, and it saved me! [Laughs] He saved me. And so he was such a mentor. He was my first big film encounter, and I know Brian De Palma, you know, kind of a bad boy and crazy guy in Hollywood, but he was incredible to me, and I'm always thankful for how he really stood up for Mrs. Ness.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, November 17, 2022

On Saturday, Stephen Burum will accept the EnergaCamerimage Lifetime Achievement Award. The Hollywood Reporter's Carolyn Giardina interviewed the cinematographer in anticipation:
Early in your career, you shot second unit on Apocalypse Now. What was most memorable?

I was originally brought over because they didn’t have enough footage on the helicopter attack. I did a lot of inserts and then they didn’t have the big formations, so I had to do all the formations. Well, I had been in the Army and shooting training movies, and I shot a training picture on helicopter assault. So I knew technically how the army lays out the formations. There are a whole series of formations. It depends on what kind of assault you’re doing. So from that, I kind of garnered a way to organize the helicopters. We would all take off and we’d do what I used to call the assembly. We’d all get up in the air and we’d fly straight until we got everybody in position. And then we’d make a right hand turn, and that was the rehearsal leg, so we’d do the rehearsal and make sure it was okay. Then we’d do another assembly leg, and then we would do the shooting leg, and we would fly many helicopters in this great big square formation.

You had very successful collaborations with a number of directors including Brian De Palma. What makes for a successful collaboration with a director?

You have to remember, it’s never about you. It’s always about the picture.

[Additionally] it’s important that you always back up the director and never go behind their back. The producer tries to get you to do that. The actors try and get you to do that, and you should have no part of it and just shut it down immediately when it happens, because all that does is sow conflict and it just screws up the picture.

So how did you and Brian work?

We had a very unusual working relationship. We never talked very much. We’re both kind of not talkers. Typically on a movie he would show me what he wants to do. He’d show me the staging and he would say, ‘how long?’ And I’d say ’45 minutes.’ And in about a half hour when I had it all together he would come back in and I would say to him, ‘I changed this and I changed that.’ And he would go ‘fine.’ And if he didn’t like it, he would go, ‘why don’t you do this and this.’ It was a very pyramiding kind of thing; we would just work it out. And it was very sparse communication.

The first time I went in for an interview, he said, ‘let me tell you what I don’t like about cameramen.’ And I said, ‘well, let me tell you what I don’t like about directors.’ I said, ‘I don’t like directors who don’t direct. I don’t get enough money to do my job and the director’s job.’ And he looked at me, he goes, ‘fine, you’re hired’ and walked out the door. That was our first meeting.

He’s a very quiet guy. A very smart guy. Really, really sensitive. My favorite thing with him, was we were doing The Untouchables (1987) and the Capone scenes with Bobby (DeNiro, who played Al Capone). He would do versions because Brian wanted a different kind of scene with Capone to balance the picture out. So we would do a version where they they’d just do a straight version. They’d do one where Capone’s yelling and screaming, and there’d be one where he was quiet. And so they would have this great conversation where you have Brian on one side, Bobby on the other side. It was so much fun to watch them.

Would you tell us about filming the scene in The Untouchables on the steps of the train station?

Originally in the script, the accountant gets on the train and the train takes off and the Untouchables get in a series of cars and chase the train and they finally stop the train. We had a great location for this, and the whole fight was on the train. The train was stopped, people shot through the windows and all of that stuff was going on. But Paramount decided it was too expensive to do, so it had to be replaced.

The first idea that Brian had was to instead do it on steps in front of a hospital [where in the story Eliot Ness’ wife had just had a child]. Brian always likes areas where there is difficulty for the actors to move around, because that retards the action. So you could build up the suspense. But they couldn’t find [the right location].

And so at the train station, we had the big set of steps. It was hard for them to go up and down the steps. And also it’s a confined area and there’s nowhere to escape. So you have two elements going for you, it’s physically hard, and you’re just out in the open, you’re just stuck. You have to slug it out. Then to help retard the action he had the baby carriage and the baby, because that mirrored the father. He had just become a new father. And so he went for the baby.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 16, 2022


Posted April 13 2004
It seemed logical that the split-screen sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1, where Daryl Hannah dons a nurse's uniform and whistles a Bernard Herrmann melody while carrying a deadly syringe down a hospital corridor, was inspired in great part by a combination of Brian De Palma's Sisters and Dressed To Kill. On the new DVD release of the film, Tarantino even calls it his "little Brian De Palma scene." But the filmmaker tells Premiere that this particular split-screen sequence was inspired by the trailer for a John Frankenheimer film-- a scene in the trailer that was cut and scored differently than it was in Frankenheimer's film. Tarantino explains that he does not duplicate other directors' shots when he references their films in his work, but rather "a feeling in the shot or an aspect about the shot I liked." He then explains how he has a collection of 35mm trailers from movies, particularly from the '70s, and how these trailers are works of art in and of themselves in that they used techniques that Tarantino likens to the work of Godard. Having seen the films that these trailers promote, Tarantino claims that many of the scenes or sequences shown in the trailers are not in the actual films. "It's just in the trailer," he tells Premiere:

There's this one trailer for Black Sunday by John Frankenheimer that has a scene in it that's done differently than it is in the movie. It's amazing. There's a scene in the movie-- it's like, you know, killer terrorist shit-- where Marthe Keller is going to kill Robert Shaw, who works for the Israeli Army. He's in the hospital, so she dresses up like a nurse with a syringe full of lethal injection, and she's going to go into his hospital room and inject him. Well, in the movie it's an okay sequence, but not really that special. They don't really milk it that much. It's routine.

But in the trailer for the movie, when it gets to showing us that sequence, they do the whole thing in split screen. And where they just had natural sounds playing in the movie, they have John Williams's Black Sunday theme [humming the tune] pulsing through the whole trailer, so it's just ticking beats to the images. This is not in the movie anywhere. This is one of the best split-screen sequences I've ever seen.

So for Kill Bill, I say, "We're doing this when Elle Driver shows up at the hospital."

And then I have another, like, weird movie reference in there because I have Daryl Hannah whistling-- she learned how to whistle Bernard Herrmann's theme to this movie called Twisted Nerve. And the thing is, when she leaves the frame, the Bernard Herrmann score kicks in, you hear the same theme done in this lush Bernard Herrmann melody, and then it goes into split screen and it looks like I'm doing an homage to Dressed To Kill-era De Palma.

Bernard Herrmann scored two De Palma films: Sisters (1973) and Obsession (1976). Daryl Hannah made her film debut in De Palma's The Fury (1978), which was scored by John Williams. One character, Bobbi, steals a nurse's uniform to wear in De Palma's Dressed To Kill (1980). Sisters and Dressed To Kill each feature memorable split-screen sequences.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

On the new episode of The Rewatchables podcast, "The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, Chris Ryan, Sean Fennessey, and Wesley Morris head to Philadelphia in search of the perfect scream as they revisit Brian De Palma’s 1981 thriller Blow Out, starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen, and John Lithgow."

Posted by Geoff at 6:53 PM CST
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Monday, November 14, 2022

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Friday, November 11, 2022

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Thursday, November 10, 2022

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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Excerpts from two reviews of Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans:

Rafer Guzmán, Newsday:

There’s something Spielbergian in the suburban normalcy of Sammy’s boyhood — cookie-cutter homes, pesky younger sisters, bickering relatives. Sammy’s father, Burt (a heart-tugging Paul Dano), is an engineer who moves the family around the country to chase better jobs; his mother, Mitzi (lovingly played by Michelle Williams), was once a promising pianist. Following a screening of Cecil B. DeMille's “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a six-year-old Sammy sets about recreating its spectacular train crash with his brand-new Lionels, displeasing his pragmatic dad and delighting his artistic mom — a pattern that will recur throughout his life.

While editing a home movie, Sammy sees something life-shattering. For cinephiles, the moment will recall Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out,” but for Sammy it’s the end of innocence. His Uncle Boris, a crusty old carny (Judd Hirsch, in the kind of supporting tour-de-force that Oscars are made of), warns him that when family and art collide, “it’ll tear you apart.” That theme is echoed by his parents' friend Bennie (a terrific Seth Rogen), who at a crucial moment tells Sammy to keep making movies no matter what.

As Sammy enters high school, he meets his first love (a winning Chloe East), encounters an anti-Semitic bully (Oakes Fegley) and runs afoul of the school's alpha jock (Sam Rechner). Once again, Sammy's camera will play a pivotal role in an unexpected way. These scenes are lively and entertaining, though not as primal and powerful as the ones we’ve already experienced.

A nerve-wracking encounter with the legendary director John Ford (played by a wonderfully cantankerous David Lynch) tells us Sammy is on his way to becoming Spielberg. So what have we learned? Just that Spielberg was a talented kid who worked hard, took his punches and never stopped dreaming. It’s exactly the kind of story that would make a great movie.

Mark Kennedy, AP News
We learn not all is honky-dory at home and there’s maybe something going on between mom, dad (a superbly stiff Paul Dano) and dad’s best friend (really good Seth Rogen). Audiences will not be surprised when this is revealed. And the way our hero figures it out is pure cinematic — he sees clues in his own home movies. And he confronts the offending party as only an auteur would — instead of talking, he shows an edited film.

The Fabelmans” gets a needed jolt of energy when Judd Hirsch arrives as an estranged uncle who once was in the circus. He immediately sees in his nephew a fellow artistic spirit who will have to pick between family and his art, just as his mother has done. “It will tear out your heart and leave you lonely. Art is no game. Art is as dangerous as a lion’s mouth,” his uncle tells him. “We’re junkies and art is our drug.”

A big wet valentine to filmmaking, “The Fabelmans” fits into the latest wave of directors looking backward, including Alejandro Iñárritu’s “Bardo,” Charlotte Wells’ “Aftersun,” Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” and James Gray’s “Armageddon Time.” And Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age “Almost Famous” just landed on Broadway in musical form.

Many of these projects seem to passionately argue for the healing and communal power of art by preaching to the converted. And they often do it with such fondness and reverence that it gets way too heady. They’re getting high on their own supply.

In the third act of “The Fabelmans,” the Spielberg family — sorry Fabelman family — moves again, this time to California and the movie angles in another direction, with an unlikely romance amid the reality of antisemitism, culminating in a lesson about the power of film to create an image. But it shares the rest of the film’s heightened mannerisms, the artificiality of its supposed madcap humor and its tendency to create little arias of theatrical speech.

The movie ends with a warning to the young filmmaker from no less than the great director John Ford (a hysterical cameo from David Lynch). “This business will rip you apart,” he snarls. And yet Fabelman is overjoyed to connect with his hero and doesn’t listen. He’s a junkie, after all. But those of us not successful Hollywood directors might like it when he turns his camera at things other than himself.

Posted by Geoff at 11:11 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 8, 2022

It was such a pleasure to listen to Quentin Tarantino and friends talk about Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill on a recent episode of Video Archives. Now, only a few weeks later, we have Tarantino's first book of film criticism, Cinema Speculation, which delves into much of De Palma's early work. Covering Tarantino's formative years of watching films and thinking about what makes them tick, the author includes De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola as filmmakers who were "strong but less prolific" members of the "Post-Sixties Anti-Establishment Auteurs," before moving on to a chapter about the "Movie Brats." The chapter on Sisters moves from De Palma's early features and into what it was about Hitchcock that specifically drew De Palma's interest. There's an entire chapter speculating on "What If Brian De Palma Directed Taxi Driver instead of Martin Scorsese?"

Here's some of what is being written about the book the past week:

Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running

I found myself agreeing with him a lot — about John Flynn’s The Outfit, which he’s completely right about (“except for the freeze-frame at the end,” I thought to myself, and then I watched the ending again and thought, “Nah, he’s right about that too”), about Dirty Harry, you know, that sorta thing. He’s really weird about Boorman’s Point Blank, and I don’t think he makes his case against it, as I don’t think he makes his case for Deliverance going “slack.” But I decline to speculate about just why he feels like dumping on Boorman so much. I mentioned his bluster before — I was startled at times about how blunt and brash he can be. He’s not at all afraid of potentially ticking off filmmakers one infers that he’s been friendly with in the past. “De Palma would fall on his face and never really get back up again after fucking up Tom Wolfe” is a weird thing to say, given De Palma then went on to make Raising Cain, Carlito’s Way, Snake Eyes, Femme Fatale (maybe the ultimate De Palma film in my opinion) and Mission Impossible.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker
The book’s title is more than rhetoric. The best sections involve Tarantino’s counterfactual speculations, based on his copious reading of books and articles about Hollywood, his familiarity with early versions of scripts, his acquaintance with Hollywood notables, and his critical insights regarding the careers and passions and inclinations of these notables. In the long chapter on “The Getaway,” there’s a great riff on Peter Bogdanovich being attached to the project before Sam Peckinpah was signed to direct it, an extended discussion of how Ali MacGraw came to co-star in it with McQueen and the effect that her performance and her persona had on its reception; a careful look at how the casting of supporting roles determines the movie’s tone as well as its effect on viewers; and a detailed study of the differences between the film and the novel, by Jim Thompson, on which it’s based. The book’s intellectual engine is its auteurist perspective. As a director as well as a virtual critic, Tarantino delves deep into the kinds of decisions that directors make, both at the macro level of major career moves and the micro level of behavioral details and camera angles, with an absorbing acuity.

The extended portraiture of Brian De Palma stands out for the idiosyncrasy of its insights, which spill over into a detailed study of “Taxi Driver,” which De Palma was originally supposed to direct. Tarantino muses on what kind of movie would have resulted, and how De Palma’s entire career may have shifted as a result. (It wouldn’t be Tarantino if the discussion of “Taxi Driver” didn’t pivot on race—he’s obsessed with the fact that the movie’s pimp, played by Harvey Keitel, is white, and he assumes, for reasons that he details at length, that, had De Palma directed it, the pimp would have been Black.

Los Angeles Times interview with Quentin Tarantino, by Glenn Whipp
Tarantino has been thinking about writing “Cinema Speculation” for years, The book evolved, he says, from being a mere appreciation of his favorites to a survey of films that inspired a “point of view worth talking about.”

“Doing this made me respect the professionals of film criticism even more for the simple fact that I realized I couldn’t do what they do,” Tarantino says. “If my job was to go and watch the new movies every week and then write what I thought, I can’t imagine I would have anything to say about everything, other than offer a plot summary and a ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘indifferent’ verdict. With the book, I wanted to find something quirky that’s interesting and worth talking about.”

And so the chapter on “Taxi Driver” emphasizes the groundwork laid for it by Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish.” (Tarantino also recalls seeing the movie with a raucous audience at the Carson Twin, hardly the kinds of cineastes who revere it today.) Filmmakers De Palma, Don Siegel and Schrader become characters of a sort, moving through the book and Tarantino’s young life. In fact, there was so much Schrader at one point that Tarantino decided to remove a chapter devoted to his 1974 Japanese gangster homage “The Yakuza.”

“If I kept that, I would have needed Paul to write a foreword to the book,” Tarantino says, laughing.

Asked why he landed on Schrader, known for films centered on tormented men and their righteous fury, Tarantino paused for a moment.

“I don’t want to be the one to break down his theme in a sentence, but inarticulately, lonely men with nothing but a profession existing in four walls,” Tarantino says. “And sometimes those four walls are their apartment, sometimes they’re a city, sometimes they’re the f— planet Earth. Sometimes it’s just other human beings and how they bump up against the four walls until, usually, there’s blood all over them.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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