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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
in Paris 2002

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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Scarface: Make Way
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Carrie: The Movie

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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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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

"I expressed my reservations about the picture in my book, but I think when I wrote that, I was over-focusing on the difficulties we faced in reaching the final cut and ignoring the picture's strong points," says Paul Hirsch about Blow Out in an interview with Patrick Z. McGavin posted at Shadows and Dreams. "I love that we inadvertently memorialized an editing process that is now obsolete." The interview was conducted in 2020, but McGavin has posted the Blow Out portion this week as Criterion's 4K edition was recently released. Here's a bit of an excerpt:
Shadows and Dreams: The use of sound, on and off screen, is so central to the storytelling here. What kind of work went into capturing that to everybody’s satisfaction?

Paul Hirsch: Dan Sable was our sound effects editor. They hadn't invented the term sound supervisor yet. He was responsible for recording the sounds. The placement of the sounds within the scenes was critical, and I did that. 

Dan moved some of the sounds, and I had him move them back. The picture cuts were triggered by the sound, and the temp effects I laid in had to be treated like dialogue, sync-wise. The picture cuts and the sounds are like in a dance with each other, and you can't shift the sound without spoiling the picture. 

Shadows and Dreams: Was that your suggestion to DePalma to introduce Burke, the John Lithgow character much earlier in the film?

Paul Hirsch: I think that came out of an early screening of the film for a few friends, who found a lack of tension in the early reels. Introducing the antagonist sooner was our solution to that note.

Shadows and Dreams: Another celebrated moment, the Zapruder-influenced scene where Jack syncs his recorded sound to the published photographs. Was that an example of DePalma letting you do your own thing with the material?

Paul Hirsch: Well, he always let me do my own thing unless he had a problem with something I had done. Then we would change it. 

Shadows and Dreams: Did DePalma storyboard a lot with the cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond? If so, did you reference any of that for your work?

Paul Hirsch: I only look at the script and dailies. Brian did his own boards for a long time, and they were difficult for me to decipher. Anyway, they are all about how he planned to shoot a scene. Once the scene is shot, they are irrelevant. 

Shadows and Dreams: In your book, you talk about the conflict with you and DePalma over the final movement. How did you ultimately resolve that?

Paul Hirsch: We disagreed over the timing of Travolta's run to save Nancy Allen. I recut it according to Brian's instructions. Then George Litto, the producer, saw the cut and expressed an opinion that coincided with mine. So Brian agreed to go back to the earlier structuring, although with film, you had to take apart one version to create a new one. 

So I had to try to remember what I'd done. It was all about how early or late we started John running. As for the final scene, I would have preferred a hokey happy ending, but that's just me.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Monday, November 28, 2022

Italian poster art for Hi, Mom!, at the New Bev Nov. 28th

Posted by Geoff at 6:22 PM CST
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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Scream Factory's new 4K editions of Brian De Palma's Carrie, which will be released on December 13th, include a "new 2022 4K scan of the original camera negative," as well as a new audio commentary track with Joe Aisenberg, author of Studies In The Horror Film: Carrie. Aisenberg's book was originally published by Centipede Press in 2012, although that edition has long been out of print. A modified excerpt from the book can be read at Bright Lights Film Journal. One other new bonus feature of Scream's new Carrie edition is a "newspaper ad gallery by Drive-In Asylum."
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Joe Aisenberg's in-depth study of Brian De Palma's Carrie is a must-read, must-have for any De Palma fan. As I reported before, the book features extensive interviews with De Palma and Cohen that alone would be a must for De Palma fans, but Aisenberg's deep analysis into every shot of Carrie makes the book a joy to read. Aisenberg has read just about everything written about Carrie, and offers a critical look at those writings, while also gleaning from them useful perspectives on the film. He offers an exhaustive account of Stephen King's conceptualization of and writing of his original novel, as well as King's alternating views of Carrie (both book and film) throughout the years.

This naturally leads into a chapter on how the movie was made from the novel, with Cohen and De Palma providing key details, such as how producer Paul Monash had originally hired a young woman (no one seems to recall her name) to write the screenplay. After her first draft made Monash very nervous (because, as Cohen says in the interview, "it just wasn't good"), Cohen, having loved King's book and having a very strong idea about what the film of it should be, went on a three-week marathon in which he did nothing but eat, drink, and sleep Carrie. There is also a well-considered background on De Palma leading up to the making of Carrie, even quoting the interview De Palma did with the now-defunct web site "Le Paradis de Brian De Palma" to illustrate what Aisenberg calls "a rare romantic insight into De Palma's notion of film":

"The great movies that I remember are the ones that went right into my subconscious, and I don't know why they obsess me, or why I keep thinking about them, or why in a postmodern way I keep trying to recreate them, like Vertigo, for instance. It's just something that's inexplicable. These images have taken seed in your subconscious, and you can't get them the hell out... There are a few great directors that have been able to do it, and that's why we never forget those movies. Aisenberg allows insights such as this to color his analysis of Carrie throughout the study.

These initial chapters are well-researched and fascinating, and then the book really takes off when Aisenberg begins his scene-by-scene analysis, illustrated with black-and-white frames from the film itself. Incorporating an author interview with Betty Buckley in addition to the others mentioned, Aisenberg weaves his research in with the fabric of his analysis, producing a text that is as entertaining as it is insightful. Aisenberg deftly illustrates how the opening volleyball scene establishes Carrie’s theme of competition, which is presented most prominently by the film’s ongoing juxtapositions between Sue and Chris, but also between Margaret and Miss Collins, with Carrie (and, perhaps, “the boys”) stuck in the middle. Like the film itself, Aisenberg keeps moving forward, stopping to consider moments such as when Sue walks into the background of the scene in which Margaret pays a visit to Sue’s mother, and giving that moment just the right touch of curious investigation before linking the scene directly to Orson WellsCitizen Kane:

As Mrs. Snell hands over a contribution of ten dollars to be done with Margaret, which clearly annoys the religious woman, a further visual detail complicates the dramatic tension. Through the doorway behind them beyond the pink hallway where Mrs. Snell answered the phone is a sliver of another doorframe (frames-within-frames [Aisenberg highlights these throughout]) in which Sue appears and silently hovers. While most films would probably cut around at this point to make all the characters’ stakes obvious, De Palma expertly stages things on the cheap so that viewers can connect the dramatic dots between things for themselves, imparting to Sue hints of guilty feeling that will shortly lead her to atone for her actions.

When I asked De Palma about this scene, as well as other moments in which he makes use of background and foreground actions, or places things independent of one another on the left- and right-hand sides of the screen, De Palma described the effect in musical terms as “contrapuntal,” with roots in the deep-focus arrangements of Citizen Kane, a film that also lets scenes run on without too many cuts. Indeed, the staging here recalls an early moment in Kane specifically, wherein little Charles’s mother transfers legal custody of the boy to a lawyer. Up front, Kane’s mother (Agnes Moorehead) sits at a table signing over guardianship of the boy to her cold attorney, despite her husband’s protest, while deep in the background, through a window, the boy can clearly be seen playing in the snow enjoying a childhood which has already slipped away. Carrie reverses the terms: the child figure hidden in the faraway depths of the frame is the guilty party, while those near at hand are still “innocent” of life-changing events that have taken place (thus Sue’s image is appropriately blurred and ambiguous).

Later on, in his analysis of the prom scene, Aisenberg lays out very nicely Carrie’s deliberate echoes of David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai, and elsewhere delves into the film’s inspirations from John Boorman’s Deliverance and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne Of Blood. Regarding the moment of shock just after the pig’s blood spills over Carrie, and the film shows Carrie’s viewpoint in a kaleidoscope effect, Aisenberg states that it recalls “some of the overdone visual distortions and expressionistic devices of silent movies, such as in F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), whose themes, incidentally, parallel Carrie’s enough to compare them, I think.” Aisenberg also compares this moment in Carrie to a similar subjective visualization of shock from the 1958 version of The Fly.

I stated above that Aisenberg has read just about everything related to Carrie, and, well, he has listened to just about everything, too. The book includes bits of information throughout from the very rare Criterion laserdisc edition of Carrie, which included audio commentary by Cohen and Laurent Bouzereau. At one point, Aisenberg also serves up a quote from a recent Raising Cain-focused episode of the online radio show Movie Geeks United, in which editor Paul Hirsch discusses the music for the final dream sequence of Carrie:

The temp score for the nightmare was Albinoni’s Adagio for Organ and Strings, which was the saddest music I could find for Amy Irving laying the flowers on Carrie’s grave. And then I found a deliberately arrhythmic moment. I mean I lined the music so there was an arrhythmic moment when the hand shoots up out of the ground, and for that I used the main title from Sisters, which starts with an anvil strike, a sharp metallic sound just at the moment when the first rock is dislodged, you know, starts to move, and the hand comes shooting out. So you have this soft sweet, sad organ and strings interrupted at a very unexpected moment by a loud anvil strike guaranteed to startle anyone. So Pino [Donaggio] just copied that.

Aisenberg’s Carrie expertise makes for an eye-opening book, and provides a necessary credibility when he goes for the gusto and declares that both De Palma and Hirsch are wrong when they insist that the split-screen section at the prom does not work. “The scene is thrilling, marvelously realized,” states Aisenberg, adding that “the use of split-screen serves several purposes.” After quoting De Palma explaining his original rationale for conceiving the sequence in split-screen as a way to avoid simply cutting from Carrie to things moving around, Aisenberg explains why he thinks the sequence works so well:

Indeed, [De Palma’s] solution seems an ingenious way to dramatize Carrie’s power in action—she looks here, she looks there, and on the other side of the screen objects do her bidding. The effect is heightened by the stunning way Carrie’s face, at one point, slides from the right side of the screen to the left. De Palma’s frames and expertly montaged juxtapositions throughout the movie suggest irrational lines of influence hard at work between things; the split-screen liberalizes it. Also, from a practical point of view, this device makes the most of relatively little in the way of special effects-induced chaos, since all that’s really happening during the first part of the sequence is that the lights change and a fire extinguisher hose stands up like a penis-snake and starts spraying everybody. As with the volleyball game, where a single unbroken take was employed by the director so that the audience could see it being played in real time, De Palma may have instinctually hoped that by combining as many images on screen as possible he could trick viewers into thinking they were seeing al the destruction happen before their eyes.

Split-screen has stylistic-thematic significance as well. Throughout the film characters have been shown acting on several contradictory levels in bifocal shots, that oppose but mirror one another. Once the split perspectives come together in Carrie’s ultimate degradation, the traumatic force literally breaks the image itself in half, and a new doubling of the viewer’s experience sets in. The audience sees exactly how Carrie is misperceiving the situation in her crazed state, believing there to be a much bigger conspiracy at work than there really was—one including everybody, even Miss Collins.

Other tidbits from the book's De Palma interview include: a brief discussion about the two songs written for the film, one of which producer Paul Monash (whose wife wrote the lyrics to both) wanted to run over the opening credits (De Palma says he fought tooth and nail against that); De Palma switching cinematographers after initial filming around the school because he did not like the way Isador Mankofsky was lighting the girls (De Palma didn't like the way they looked); and how after figuring out how Margaret would be killed, they decided to go back and shoot scenes of Carrie in the closet, for which set designer Jack Fisk created the haunting Saint Sebastion figure "with all the arrows in it."

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Monday, November 28, 2022 12:14 AM CST
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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Mission to Mars (2000). Brian De Palma
Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum
Camera Operator: Gordon Hyman.
Boom Operator: Charles O'Shea
Script Supervisor: Portia Tickell
Actor: Gary Sinise
Photo by: Rob McEwan
Via American Cinematographer

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2022 9:09 AM CST
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Friday, November 25, 2022

At Den Of Geek, and with a spoiler alert, David Crow posts an essay with the headline, "The Fabelmans Reveals How Steven Spielberg Sees Us" - here's an excerpt:
It is not how this type of story is supposed to go. Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), a lad who is also a thinly veiled portrait of Steven Spielberg’s youth, has been bullied, humiliated, and finally assaulted by his high school’s golden boy, Logan Hall (Sam Rechner). The six-foot-plus gorilla never openly made an Antisemitic jape at Sammy’s expense. But when Logan’s buddy Chad (Oakes Fegley) did, Logan stood there and laughed—and later tried to break Sammy’s nose when the smaller kid stood up for himself.

Yet here they were, a few months later and on prom night, sharing something akin to camaraderie. Logan even offers Sam a drag of a joint he just rolled. The 180-degree pivot from animosity surprises the kids, just as it does the audience who expected a revenge of the nerds style of comeuppance. There was even a perfect opportunity just one scene earlier when Sammy revealed his “Senior Skip Day” short film at the prom. Surely, this would be the scenario where Sam could get back at the physically bigger bullies by depicting them as buffoons. In a locker room they might be big men, but in the editing suite, the director’s God.

Yet that’s not the type of movie Sammy wanted to make. In retrospect that perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise either. Spielberg came of age during the same period as a lot of the filmmakers behind ‘70s and ‘80s high school revenge fantasies, but that was never the instinct of an eternal onscreen optimist like Spielberg. And it also does not become Sammy’s choice—at least not entirely. While the more openly hateful bigot does become the butt of the joke in the short film, Logan is elevated to the status of a demigod. He looks noble and beatific onscreen, worshiped even as he’s filmed dominating volleyball on the beach and winning a race that has all the stakes of Body and Soul.

Not only does it flatter Logan’s ego, but it captures the imagination of the kids in the dance hall. Future Spielberg contemporary Brian De Palma would make horror history when he adapted Stephen King’s Carrie so masterfully that to this day we crack jokes about pig’s blood at school proms. After all, it’s at such a dance that Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is humiliated by a bucket of livestock blood, causing her to reveal her ominous superpowers to her peers.

In its own way, the prom sequence in The Fabelmans plays the same. Before this sequence, Sammy is at best a curiosity for his WASP-y classmates, including his girlfriend (Chloe East), who is as enamored with the forbidden fruit of Sammy’s religion as she is the funny kid always holding a camera. But when the class sees one of his films, they at last see him. Filmmaking, at least according to Spielberg, who co-wrote The Fabelmans with Tony-winner Tony Kushner, is his superpower. And while the other kids are not horrified by that gift like Carrie White’s classmates, they’re nevertheless thunderstruck by it. Shock or awe, it looks the same on a big screen.

This includes Logan, who cannot reconcile the images he saw of himself coming out of the projector. The man he watched onscreen was perfect, divine, even innately good. Hell, he was a bigger all-American hero than the sometimes caddish Indiana Jones. That isn’t the real Logan though. The audience knows this; Sammy knows this; and even the jock knows it. Nonetheless, it’s such a seductive image that the girlfriend Logan cheated on takes him back after seeing that he-man up there in the flickering light.

“That’s not me!” he later laments in a fury to Sam. It’s a lie! He doesn’t understand why the put-upon Jewish kid would give him this monkey-pawed slice of hagiography, and to be honest Sam is also not entirely sure. “Maybe I did it to make the movie better?” Sam finally offers.

In The Fabelmans, Spielberg pays homage to his friends
Two reviews of Spielberg's Fabelmans
Poltergeist's room full of "Movie Brats"

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 26, 2022 11:53 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Woody Harrelson honored Michael J. Fox at the 13th Governors Awards this past Saturday in Los Angeles. Fox was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is awarded to an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry." Here's a breakdown of Harrelson's on-stage story via MovieMaker's Margeaux Sippell:

But of the honorees, only Michael J. Fox has tasted cobra blood. It happened in the late 1980s, as Harrelson visited Fox in Thailand, where Fox was shooting the 1989 Brian De Palma Vietnam War drama Casualties of War.

“One night, Mike took us to the end of the jungle, and we stopped at this little hut, and Mike, you know, ran out of the car, this kid runs up to him, and he hands him like thousands of [Thai] baht, which probably amounted to about $16,” Harrelson said.

Suddenly, Harrelson saw something he didn’t expect.

“I couldn’t believe it. I look in there and Mike is sitting next to this kid with dozens of cobras all around them ready to strike and—no jest—and the kid was toying with these cobras,” Harrelson recalled. “He taunted a bunch of these cobras and then he found the orneriest cobra, grabbed it by the neck, threw it in a cage with a mongoose, where I saw the craziest fight I’ve ever seen between any animals other than studio executives—you guys know I’m kidding.”

Woody Harrelson continued.

“And the mongoose won, they took the snake, tied it by its tail, ran the blood out, half-filled four glasses with cobra blood and half with Thai whiskey,” he said. “Drinking the cobra blood is called ‘becoming brother to the snake. … Mike and I drink lots of things together and he can hold his own—what can I say, he’s Canadian. But Mike promptly vomited his snake cocktail. Never could hold his cobra blood.”

You can watch Woody Harrelson tell the Michael J. Fox cobra blood story here or above.

But seriously, folks: Harrelson also noted that Fox, who has spent years advocating for greater research for people with Parkinson’s, “never asked for the role of Parkinson’s advocate, but it is his best performance.” He added that his friend “sets the ultimate example of how to fight and how to live.”

Fox seemed to enjoy it all.

“I love you,” he told Harrelson as he accepted the award. “We did some damage. We did some damage in the ’80s.”

Posted by Geoff at 7:03 PM CST
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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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