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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


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Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Wednesday, January 18, 2023
FROM THE MAY 1994 ISSUE OF ANIMAGE - TWEETED LAST WEEK BY ARTSAKUGAhttps://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/toshiakihontani1994animage.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 7:43 AM CST
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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

At The Conversation, Alexander Howard delves into Bret Easton Ellis' 1980s-set new novel, The Shards. "The Shards is a bold attempt to understand how the analog and digital interact," Howard concludes. "This accounts for the novel’s countless, obsessive descriptions of outmoded forms of analogue tech: the cassette, the Betamax, and, most tellingly, the typewriter. It also explains Ellis’s bravura manipulation of genre (the age of the digital, as we know, is one where once-stable systems of classification tend to collapse)." Here's a bit more from Howard:
The story is set in the autumn of 1981 and revolves around a cluster of wealthy students enrolled at Buckley College, an exclusive Los Angeles prep school.

Bret, who is gay but closeted, is dating Debbie Schaffer (who has justifiable doubts about her boyfriend’s friendships with Ryan Vaughn and Matt Kellner), and is friends with two teenage sweethearts, Susan Reynolds and Thom Wright.

The Bret who is writing this novel then introduces two more characters – a student named Robert Mallory and a serial killer called The Trawler – into the mix.

Not long after, Matt goes missing. The fictional Bret’s writerly imagination goes into overdrive. He suspects Robert is responsible, and that he is The Trawler. Things quickly spiral out of control.

As Ellis’s fans will anticipate, his latest is full of pop culture references (the Buckley clique are big New Wave fans), sex and drugs, and acts of grotesque violence rendered in tonally neutral prose. Some cultural commentary, too, on the purported perils of political correctness. Think: Joan Didion meets Brian De Palma.

When it comes to content, The Shards, with its cast of hedonistic and disaffected adolescents, aligns with three of Ellis’s earlier L.A. novels: Less Than Zero, 1987’s The Rules of Attraction, and the sequel to his debut, 2010’s Imperial Bedrooms.

In terms of length, however, The Shards, which is 600 pages long, is closer to Ellis’s New York fictions: 1991’s American Psycho (which I believe is the most important novel of the 1990s), and 1998’s Glamorama (easily, for me, the best novel of the 1990s).

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Monday, January 16, 2023

The issue of Boobs and Blood from 2020, in which Sam Irvin writes in detail about the filming of Dressed To Kill (made while Irvin was working as Brian De Palma's personal assistant), is essential reading for anyone interested in De Palma's cinema. Here's a portion where Irvin recalls filming the restaurant scene from Dressed To Kill:
After Liz is saved and Dr. Elliott is arrested, we are lulled into believing that the final scene of the movie is going to be a restaurant scene during which Liz (Nancy Allen) explains the details of a sex-change surgical procedure to Peter. At the next table, looking over her shoulder, is a nosy woman appalled by the gory details being described. Those priceless reactions were provided by none other than Mary Davenport who played Keith Gordon’s mother in Home Movies. She was also the real-life mother of Jennifer Salt who starred in four De Palma films (Murder a la Mod, The Wedding Party, Hi, Mom! And Sisters) and the wife of Waldo Salt, the great two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter (Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home, Serpico and Day of the Locust). Mary had also appeared briefly with her daughter in Sisters and had played a salesgirl in the classic film noir This Gun for Hire (1942). Brian asked Mary to do this brief, non-speaking cameo in Dressed to Kill as a favor and she was delighted to reunite with all her Home Movies pals – Brian, Nancy, Keith and me.

The restaurant scene was actually shot at Windows on the World, located on the 106th and 107th floors atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Completed in 1971, the Twin Towers were, at that time, the tallest buildings on Earth. The restaurant had opened in 1976, the same year the remake of King Kong was released featuring the big ape climbing the towers. Sidney Lumet's The Wiz (1978) used the Twin Towers as the setting for Oz. So, in 1979, filming at the World Trade Center was prestigious and newsworthy. George Litto and Fred Caruso jumped through hoops to negotiate the deal and all the logistics to shoot there. Brian had envisioned the most breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline outside those windows. His storyboards had angles that would feature that vista behind the actors in as many shots as possible. It was going to be gorgeous and everyone was excited to have the privilege of shooting there.

Sadly, Mother Nature was not cooperative that day. It was rainy and completely overcast to the point where the view out the windows was nothing but a solid white cloud. We literally could have built a set at the warehouse and hung a white sheet outside the window and gotten the exact same effect. It was heartbreaking.

There were discussions about possibly canceling the day and returning when the weather was clear but the fee for closing and renting the restaurant was nonrefundable; the cast and crew were already there and would have to be paid anyway; there was nothing else that we could shoot instead; the entire cost of the day was simply too expensive to flush down the drain.

Understandably, Brian was not happy about it, but he forged ahead. He and Ralf Bode re- configured the angles so that they weren't constantly shooting toward the blinding white background. Luckily, thanks to the three actors, the scene itself turned out very amusing on its own and, ultimately, wasn't reliant on grandiose scenery. It would have been nice but it didn't kill the moment.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 21, 2023 8:09 AM CST
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Thursday, January 12, 2023

Patrick McNamara, who made his film debut in Brian De Palma's 1976 film Obsession (under the name J. Patrick McNamara), has passed away. Following Obsession, in which McNamara portrays the "third kidnapper," De Palma continued to cast the actor as shadowy watchdog/dirty-deeds/fix-it characters in The Fury and Blow Out. During these years, he also had roles in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 1941.

Here's a portion of the obituary from Nola.com:

Patrick McNamara, an actor, director, teacher and producer who established the short-lived Energy Theatre in New Orleans in the mid-1970s, died of pneumonia on Jan. 2 at Ochsner Medical Center, his wife, Carol Stone, said. He was 80.

“Patrick was the most interesting person I ever knew. Nobody wore a coat of so many colors like he did,” said Amanda McBroom, an actress, singer and songwriter who performed in “A Witness to the Confession” at Energy Theatre.

“He was interested in everything, and he was really talented at so many things. He had a divine combination of extreme compassion and humor and lightness with a major dark streak … in the middle of all the light. … He loved the uncertainty of life.”

A native New Orleanian who graduated from De La Salle High School, McNamara grew interested in acting when he performed in plays at the University of New Orleans to improve his public-speaking skills, Stone said.

After a brief stint at Tulane Law School, he moved to New York to embark on a full-time career as an actor, starting in Ellen Stewart’s Café La Mama Experimental Club, an avant-garde troupe in Manhattan’s East Village. He also taught voice, and he performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“He found amazing things to do,” Stone said. “His spirit was magical. Whatever he pursued, he pursued it as far as he could.”

He amassed a long list of film credits, including Brian De Palma’s “Obsession,” which was shot in New Orleans, two movies directed by Steven Spielberg – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “1941” – and the comedies “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” in which he played Bill S. Preston’s father. His television appearances included “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Although his given name was Patrick John McNamara, he was often billed as J. Patrick McNamara because when he joined Actors’ Equity, he was told another Patrick McNamara was already in show business, Stone said. He solved that problem by putting his middle initial first.

“He was a solid actor,” said David Cuthbert, a former theater critic for The Times-Picayune. “He was believable, and he was real. You’d look at him in ‘Close Encounters,’ and you’d see the same things you’d seen onstage.”

McNamara returned to New Orleans to found Energy Theatre, which opened in March 1974 in the Prytania Theater in Uptown New Orleans. The first attraction was the musical revue “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” Audiences loved it, he said in a 1976 Times-Picayune interview, but the theater was never more than 40 percent full, and local actors resented that no local performers were in the cast.

Moreover, he said, “I’m one of the world’s worst fundraisers.”

McNamara staged strong plays, including “That Championship Season,” “The Hot L Baltimore” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” with Geraldine Fitzgerald, but audiences didn’t come. In the newspaper interview, he announced he was moving to Los Angeles.

Energy Theatre “should have lasted longer than it did,” Cuthbert said.

Posted by Geoff at 7:59 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2023 5:27 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Peet Gelderblom is interviewed about his Re-cut of Raising Cain by John Gaspard on the newest episode of The Occasional Film Podcast. A transcript of the interview is conveniently provided on the same page. Gaspard makes an interesting link between the original version of Raising Cain and De Palma's Carrie:
Before chatting with you, I sat down and rewatched both versions and took notes to try to figure out what the order was. And what throws it off for me a little bit is the opening shot in the theatrical cut of the park from high up is very much a Brian DePalma opening shot, you know, very close to what he did in “Carrie.” Whereas, the opening shot in the clock store is not really a DePalma shot. It's a little mundane. It's a wide shot. It's interesting, you know that Jenny walks up and sees herself in the heart shaped camera and all that--

Peet: It encapsulates the whole movie, but that's in a different way than the original did.

Yes, exactly. And then as I was going through—and I'm sure you ran into this, it's regardless of whether it's the re-cut or the theatrical one—it's a dream sequence with a flashback built into it. And so it isn't until you get out of the dream sequence that you realize, oh, that was a dream sequence. But then in your mind, you're going well, then, was the flashback real, or is that part of the dream?

And then they've added in narration as part of the flashback to help explain it, which I'm guessing was done in post. And so now they have a narration thing. So they have to keep that up. And then when they switch it around, when you did the version that was closer to what he wanted, it's still a bit wonky, regardless of whether you're chronological or not. And the audience has to go: okay, she's going to the hotel. Is this a dream? It must be a dream, because she's walking into the room and she doesn't have a key. That's the only clue, I think, that it's really a dream. And then obviously it's a dream, because she's killed and wakes up. And then you have the repeat of the thing with the gift and all that.

So, regardless of the order of everything before, that whole section, I think is always going to throw an audience off.

Peet: You're right, but the wonkiness, if you call it that, it is intentional. What he wanted to do, and he has stated this in interviews is, you know, normally with kind of police mystery, there is something going on and you don't know quite what. And then the detectives, they start to ask around. And you slowly assemble information, and it becomes clearer and clearer what actually has happened. And he really wanted this time to fuck with his audience, of course, because that's what Brian DePalma does. And he said, what if all the information the audience is getting is either a dream, it has never happened? Or they don't know if it's happened. Or, you know, it's an unreliable narrator. That was actually the game.

And he's so good at that.

Peet: He's really good at it, but of course you also need to get the audience so far that they're willing to go with you. Because it's a very manipulative way of telling a story. And some people don't like that. So, that's a very thin line that he was walking.

And I think in the editing, he got cold feet. He thought, well, maybe I went a little too far here, and maybe I should do it a little differently, help them out and make everything chronological, and it may have fixed some things. But it created other big problems. The flow isn't really right. It wasn't how he originally imagined it.

Posted by Geoff at 10:52 PM CST
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Sunday, January 8, 2023

The image above, from Starburst Magazine no. 52, was tweeted this weekend by Body Snatchers, with the following caption:
From Starburst Magazine #52, 1982: Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma were going to collaborate on an adaptation of Michael Crichton's CONGO with De Palma directing but the project has fallen apart and Crichton is going to direct the film instead.

As De Palma has told Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, Spielberg would have produced and De Palma would have directed Congo. In fact, Congo would take another dozen or so years to reach the big screen, and ended up being directed by Spielberg's Amblin partner Frank Marshall, with a screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, following Spielberg's adaptation of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.

Meanwhile, this is the first I have ever heard of Starfire. Not sure what is meant, precisely, by the Starburst description of that one as a "science fiction trip," but De Palma didn't end up taking a cinematic science fiction trip again until the year 2000, with Mission To Mars.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Monday, January 9, 2023 7:21 AM CST
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Saturday, January 7, 2023

Thanks to Peet for spotting a poster for Brian De Palma's Blow Out in the pages of Destroy All Monsters, a graphic novel by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The third in a series "starring troublemaker-for-hire Ethan Reckless," Destroy All Monsters is set in 1988, seven years after Blow Out was originally released.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Friday, January 6, 2023

In an interview posted today, Forbes' Simon Thompson asks Nicolas Cage about revisiting Snake Eyes:
Thompson: 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of Snake Eyes. You get asked about sequels to a handful of your movies but have you ever thought about returning to Rick Santoro post-jail?

Cage: Heck, man. I didn't know that. Thank you for reminding me. I don't usually watch my old movies, but I might watch that one because there was a lot there that has not been uncovered yet that could be rediscovered. To answer your question, Yeah. I would work with Brian De Palma again on a sequel to that in a heartbeat. I think it was a good character. Brian's one of our great geniuses in cinema; I'd love to make a movie with him.

Thompson: It could also work as a limited series.

Cage: You could do that too. My 17-year-old has got me watching immersive television, and he got me into Breaking Bad. Oh my God, they are so good in that show. Immersive television is a unique genre because you have so much more time to play out scenes. You're not boxed into a timeline. You can have these scenes be half the episode if you want. It's quite something.


Meanwhile, over at /Film, Jeremy Smith also couldn't resist asking Cage about Snake Eyes:
We're running out of time, but I wanted to say one of my very favorite performances of yours is in "Snake Eyes" with Brian De Palma. You guys had such great chemistry together as filmmaker and star. How do you remember that going, and was there ever a possibility ... is there a possibility you might hook back up?

You know something? I've been trying to work with Brian ever since I made that movie. We had a great script about Howard Hughes that David Koepp wrote. I'd like to revisit that. But I just found out that it's the 23rd anniversary of "Snake Eyes." I don't watch my old movies, but I'm compelled to watch that one again because I had a great time working with Brian, because of his guts and his ability to do these huge takes. We had, like, five-minute cans of film that would swish pan, and we had to act it all out and rehearse it all day. And if you missed one line or flubbed up with a prop or anything, you had to go back to the beginning and do it all over again. He called it "no-net productions," and it was stimulating. There was an adrenaline to that. I would love to do a sequel to "Snake Eyes," and with Brian De Palma. He's one of my favorite directors.

Yeah, the tracking shot is unreal.


You enjoyed that as an actor?

Well, yeah. I mean, it's scary. It's daunting. But yeah, I mean, you want to prep and get ready for the challenge. We're all trying to get that opening that Orson Welles had in "Touch of Evil," and I think Brian was trying to throw his hat in the ring with that. We all want to homage what we love, and he's genuinely passionate about Hitchcock and Welles.

Posted by Geoff at 5:04 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 6, 2023 11:35 PM CST
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Thursday, January 5, 2023

Thanks to No Film School's Jason Hellerman for posting about the video above. In his post, Hellerman writes:
These engaging 27 minutes really pull apart an appreciation for a director. I actually think you can see a lot of De Palma in Tarantino's work, especially with the violence. He's always willing to take it one step further into the macabre. 

Another thing I think Tarantino highlights that few people talk about is De Palma's social satire. We mention Bonfire of the Vanities, but really every De Palma movie has something to say about society. 

What sets this interview apart, I think, is that Tarantino is gushing about De Palma, but in his book, Cinema Speculation, which comes out close to 30 years after a lot of these interviews, is that Tarantino is a little more hardline on De Palma.

It's easy to see Tarantino still loves De Palma. The book has a chapter dedicated to Sisters and another dedicated to a "what if" scenario talking about if he hadn't passed Taxi Driver to Scorsese and stayed on to direct it himself. 

He also lists his favorite De Palma movies, which include Dressed to Kill, Carrie, Hi Mom, Blow Out, and Scarface

These clips are all about De Palma's art and point of view. He's commercial but also willing to push back on expectations. He's exploring art in very complicated ways, but also trying to continue to work. I think De Palma may have always understood he needed to be commercial to get Hollywood budgets, but always brought a piece of himself to the screen. It's what makes him one of the most interesting directors to talk about. 

And I think what draws Tarantino to him.

Nevertheless, this is a really intelligent discussion of a director, and I think unlocks a lot of directing lessons for the audience.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Sunday, January 1, 2023

In the "Books" section of the Los Angeles Times Friday, Bonnie Johnson examines White Noise from page to screen:
Late in Don DeLillo’s classic novel “White Noise,” a scholarly friend discussing cinematic car crashes tells the story’s protagonist, “Look past the violence, Jack. There is a wonderful brimming spirit of innocence and fun.” In the book, it’s one of many absurd platitudes the characters use to make sense of a nonsensical world. In Noah Baumbach’s adaptation, it’s part of the opening scene: The scholar (Murray Siskind, played by Don Cheadle) screens a reel of stunt crashes for his students, and his comments set the tone for the film.

The violence of the novel is there — man-made disaster, attempted murder, Nazism — but for perhaps the first time in a Baumbach film, so is a pervasive spirit of innocence and fun, along with an eye-popping visual flair he’s kept concealed for far too long. Whereas the book built up a kind of fatalistic resignation, Baumbach’s version of “White Noise” is genuinely exuberant. Case in point: In a closing supermarket scene, DeLillo described shoppers as “aimless and haunted.” In the film, the same moment ends in an eight-minute dance number incorporating the expansive cast.

Yet framing this as a dichotomy glosses over the complexity of the source material. At the heart of the novel was always a bubbling domestic comedy, and not of the bitter, dysfunctional kind we’ve seen in previous Baumbach films. Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) and his wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig), truly care for each other; the marriage glows with tenderness. Baumbach runs with their children’s antic energy and lets it suffuse other parts of his film, animating even the story’s more difficult third part with humor and affection that reflect the book’s tone. Rather than betraying the novel’s savage critique of modern life, Baumbach’s approach illuminates DeLillo’s humanism in the director’s least cynical film since “Kicking and Screaming” — and easily the most daring he’s made.

Like the novel, “White Noise” the film contains three distinct parts. “Waves and Radiation” introduces us to the Gladney family and Jack’s academic work in his first-of-its-kind Hitler studies department. “The Airborne Toxic Event” tracks an industrial chemical leakage that throws the family’s life into crisis. “Dylarama,” taking up the second half of both book and film, documents Babette’s clandestine participation in an unsanctioned medical trial.

Remarkably, the intellectual satire, environmental disaster tale and noir coalesce more smoothly in Baumbach’s movie than they did in the novel. A shadowy rogue pharmaceutical figure who dominates the story’s third part now drifts like an apparition through its first and second, rather than disorienting with a late entrance. More significantly, Baumbach makes a bold and divergent choice to bring Babette into the climactic confrontation and its fallout. Her presence adds a valuable grace note, contributing to the film’s surprising optimism.

It was Brian De Palma, not a purveyor of innocent fun, who suggested Baumbach consider an adaptation to try things Baumbach’s own scripts wouldn’t allow. The latter filmmaker co-directed a documentary about De Palma in 2016, and at the time, they seemed an unlikely duo: the elder an auteur of the lurid and gruesome (originals such as “Blow Out,” adaptations including “Carrie”), the younger firmly planted in the confines of grown-up mumblecore (“Greenberg,” “Frances Ha”).

Watching “White Noise,” though, the pairing begins to make sense. Who knew Baumbach had it in him to choreograph intricate crowd scenes, crane-shoot crashing and combusting trains or stage a payback shooting at a sleazy motel bathed in neon-lit De Palma shades? Certainly no one familiar with Baumbach’s filmography, in which the most striking image to date was of two silent people in an empty subway car.

Despite its long-assumed unadaptability, DeLillo’s story contains a number of memorable visual moments, and Baumbach takes advantage. A first-act set piece takes place in a classroom so impossibly twee it seems like a tribute to past collaborator Wes Anderson. But what starts off as a composition of colorblock and Fair Isle takes on sudden urgency in Baumbach’s hands. He splices in not only relevant found footage but also the toxic event’s precipitating accident, about which the book barely speculates. In the process he draws a line from mass hysteria to human carelessness, the results of which can be similarly catastrophic. And isn’t that the theme of these last few years?

The emergency response to the Airborne Toxic Event is the centerpiece of both book and film, and Baumbach brings it to life with flourishes of his own: Seussian air-purifier trucks; hazmat suits a little more fabulous than they need to be (credit to Ann Roth, who costumed De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill”). DeLillo wrote that “The toxic event had released a spirit of imagination,” and we tour the evacuee camp to behold mythmaking and conspiracy-theorizing in progress. Rather than despair over obvious present-day parallels, however, Baumbach limits fake news to folk songs and puppet shows. During the madcap flight from the camp, he sends Jack on an off-tackle run for a lost toy.

While the third act still plunges us into more chilling waters, Baumbach guides us with familiar signifiers. A chemistry lab looks like it belongs to Bunsen and Beaker. A visit to the A&P packs in maximal advertising language. And in an impressive coup, German legend Barbara Sukowa presides at the German hospital where Jack lands near the story’s end (now with Babette in tow). As Sister Hermann Marie, Sukowa brings to bear the weight of past roles when lecturing on grief and magical thinking: philosopher Hannah Arendt, mystic Hildegard von Bingen, prostitutes and militants. Attending nuns push not gurneys but shopping carts, leavening the tragic with the mundane. By the closing dance sequence, Jack and Babette have faced their worst fears and emerged unified. For its trouble, the town earns its evident joy.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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