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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
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in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

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"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
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edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
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Tuesday, March 7, 2023

"On this day March 7th, 1976," @Mag1cH0ur tweeted today, "Brian De Palma's PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE was back in London at the Screen on Islington Green after its lukewarm run the previous year.. The film was paired with THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK."

The image above and the image below were both included in @Mag1cH0ur's Twitter post. Note the mention in this 1976 article (below) that one of Ed Pressman's future projects at that time included an adaptation of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man.

Posted by Geoff at 11:07 PM CST
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Monday, March 6, 2023

This is from October of 2021, but I just found this intriguing article from the Montréal journal Monstrum. It's a dual review by Clayton Dillard of the De Palma/Lehman novel Are Snakes Necessary? and Tarantino's novelization of his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:
In 1969, De Palma was completing his third feature film, The Wedding Party, and was on his way to becoming a central figure within the New Hollywood. It wasn’t until 1973, with Sisters, that De Palma turned the majority of his creative focus to Hitchcockian riffs on noirish plotlines, in which men, typically, become obsessed with the identity of a woman. Are Snakes Necessary? is in many respects a riff on a riff—it’s De Palma lightly sending up himself and his thematic preoccupations while still piecing together a fully formed thriller storyline. Take Nick Sculley, a thirtysomething photographer, who will play witness to high-level political corruption and, eventually, tragedy. Not only is his name nearly identical to Jake Scully, the protagonist of De Palma’s Body Double, but his circumstances neatly parallel that of Jack (John Travolta) in Blow Out (1981). Other characters will seem familiar to anyone acquainted with De Palma’s films; there’s Fanny Cours, an 18-year-old intern and “political junkie” who is, as De Palma and Lehman write it, “in the full flush of carnality,” and who recalls Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) in Dressed to Kill for how her seductive charm is irresistible to men. Add in a pair of murderous male political figures and a shadowy woman that’s essentially a redux of Rebecca Romijn’s character in De Palma’s Femme Fatale (2002), and the ingredients for pulpy delight are afoot. The novel’s primary drawback, though, is how the economical prose cannot rival De Palma’s audio-visual acumen; in fact, even as prose, one longs for the wilder, stranger metaphors of Elmore Leonard, who has written nearly a dozen novels in a comparable register and with more aplomb.

Still, saying Are Snakes Necessary? isn’t up to the level of the crime genre’s maestro shouldn’t suggest it’s inferior within its own contexts. Indeed, as the novel winds toward a close, De Palma and Lehman find a dark and amusing means of quite literally cutting into the heart of the reader’s pent-up desire to see the back cover’s promise of “a female revenge story” fulfilled. It delivers the goods. What’s more engaging from a broader perspective is considering why De Palma and Tarantino have written novels at all. In an interview with the website Crime Reads, De Palma explains that, “As a director I like photographing women more than I like photographing men. As a writer, I like focusing on the woman’s point of view.”1 Though De Palma ends his commentary there, the implication is that prose affords the author the chance to consider perspective in a manner that the director, faced with the immediacy of the moving image, cannot. But for anyone who’s seen De Palma’s films, we should recall that, quite often, scenes unfold from the perspective of women, and often in ways that complicate questions of POV. The opening of Dressed to Kill is the most complex case, in which Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) masturbates in the shower while looking at a man, presumably her husband, shaving in the mirror. Her sense of pleasure is mirrored, too, by the camera’s scanning of her naked body, which, if we’re talking gazes, is an explicitly erotic and objectifying one, not least because the character’s body is glimpsed in close-up, absent her face (in fact, this is not Dickinson’s body, but a body double). Therefore, we have an instance, sans dialogue, in which the sequencing of images thematize the matter of looking and, to put it another way, seeing. In many ways, the control of the image is tantamount to the entire premise of New Hollywood’s divergence from classical Hollywood’s “genius of the system,” as André Bazin called it. The individual—the auteur—holds the capacity to create, to manipulate, and to puppeteer from outside the frame.

Rick’s solution to aging into obscurity in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is to work with then-burgeoning auteur Roman Polanski, a prospect that seems imminent by the film’s end. Of course, in hindsight, Polanski’s 1977 sexual-abuse case can’t help but factor into a contemporary conversation about how men, as either directors or writers, are capable of communicating female presence and perspective. Tarantino was criticized during a Cannes press conference for not giving Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) more screen time in the film; his response in the novelization is almost defiant, as the character is minimized further in favor of expanding Cliff’s background, in particular, into a wife-killing, bloodthirsty cinephile. If that sounds ridiculous, leave it to Tarantino to give his stuntman a knack for cinema, with extended sections on Cliff’s response to I Am Curious (Yellow) (Vilgot Sjöman, 1967) and taste for titles that now comprise the fulcrum for the Criterion Collection’s non-English language selections. There’s also an entire chapter devoted to Cliff’s encounter with Aldo Ray in Spain, in which the stuntman gets the veteran actor drunk. It concludes with Rick chastising him, saying, “When they give you your SAG card at the fuckin’ union office, they give you three rules: One, they gotta give you turnaround. Two, don’t do any nonunion shoots. And three, if you ever do a film with Aldo Ray, under no circumstances give him a bottle.” To what extent one finds this amusing likely depends on one’s tolerance for Tarantino’s own self-indulgent cinephilia, particularly the sort that imagines film-history-as-fan-fiction worthy of entire chapters. Nevertheless, it also cuts to the heart of what’s at stake in both of these novels as it pertains to Tarantino and De Palma: as artists aging into their later years (Tarantino claims he’ll make just one more film), they’re paradoxically intrigued by the question of artistic evolution while also stubbornly resolute in their thematic obsessions and artistic perspectives.

In The Card Counter, Paul Schrader’s latest film, the protagonist, a blackjack sharp who spent eight and a half years in military prison for his role as an Abu Gharib torturer, offers this response to his protégé, who questions if there’s any meaning in the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again: “You just go around and around until you work things out.” Schrader, who wrote the screenplay for De Palma’s Obsession (1976), might as well be speaking through his character in this moment, and in many respects he speaks for De Palma and Tarantino, too: their filmographies suggest slight variations on a theme, explored through repetition. Though Schrader hasn’t written a novel, his films are explorations that spring, in large part, from an early critical work of his own called Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (1972). Like De Palma, nearly fifty years later, the themes remain the same. In writing their first novels, De Palma and Tarantino implicitly ask us to grapple with how time affects our perceptions of ourselves and of the past. Forget snakes; the real question for both of these writer/directors becomes: is change necessary?

Posted by Geoff at 11:47 PM CST
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Sunday, March 5, 2023

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Saturday, March 4, 2023

In an article titled "Mission: Impossible, or the assassination of Jim Phelps by the coward Tom Cruise," Louis Rabinowitz at Nostalgia Detective revisits Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible:
There’s nothing exceptionally strange about a big star setting up a production company - the likes of Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt have them these days. With Cruise, though, it’s always helpful to look a little deeper.

Tom Cruise is a control freak. It’s one of his defining attributes. Just about every role he would pick from here on out would be to cultivate a very particular image of himself. For a period of time in the 2000s, when uncomfortable attention was resting on his public persona, it’d become very obvious that Cruise was using his roles to actively push back on how people saw him (we have a lot to talk about with Mission III). This control is necessary. It’s how he survives. Naturally, just being the star wasn’t enough for him.

Production helped him get into all aspects of the creative process, to shape his star vehicles from top to bottom, to make sure it was all part of the ongoing Cruise Project. Cruise was still collaborating with top auteurs - three years after this, he’d knock two of the biggest working directors out in a year - but these projects would gradually dry up as his producer era solidified, and he was pretty much done with all that by the mid-2000s. Not coincidentally, this pretty much lined up exactly with the end of his appearances in supporting roles. On a Tom Cruise project, he’s the star, or he’s not in it at all.

Naturally, then, you’d have to conclude two things from a Cruise-produced Mission: Impossible. First, that he’d lead it. Second, that because the lead of Mission: Impossible is Jim Phelps, so surely Cruise would be Phelps.

Hmm, though. Phelps was a pre-existing character whose actor had portrayed him for nine seasons of TV and stepping into someone else’s well-established role is hardly Tom’s speed. Moreover, Phelps wasn’t a young character - Peter Graves, when he signed off the role in 1989, was 64. If the movie was going to be a continuation of the show (and in the event, it was), then there’s no way Cruise could be a 64-year-old dude. If there’s one thing Tom Cruise abhors, other than antidepressants, it’s seeming old. In 2017’s The Mummy, he is described as a “young man”.

So, no to Cruise as Phelps. In the event, they cast age-appropriate Jon Voight, now most famous for being a weird right-wing crank on Twitter, and Cruise found an elegant solution to the lead-problem: he simply created a new self-insert hero character and made him the centre of the entire story.

Ethan Hunt was born. His first act, like many sons, was to murder who came before him and take his place.

From here on out, pretty much, Tom Cruise picks the directors.

One might assume from his established control freakery that Tom would want pliable journeymen directors who can serve his will - a Jaume Collet-Serra or Shaun Levy type. The fun thing is, though, his tastes for Mission: Impossible were generally quite the opposite. The pattern of Mission: Impossible’s auteur era, the sequence of four movies all handled by vastly different directors, is that Cruise finds someone interesting and lets them cook - at the very least in the early going. The man has layers.

First at bat is Brian De Palma, a choice that I assume seemed somewhat odd at the time. De Palma had been working in Hollywood for nearly three decades, directing movies that I guess you could call successful. Carrie? Scarface? Blow Out? Seen them?

(I haven’t, by the way. Don’t look at me like that. You shouldn’t have expected any better of me.)

Befitting Cruise’s new big tycoon guy status, he found De Palma in an appropriately glitzy way - through their mutual buddy Steven Spielberg. Heard of him?

Spielberg, at this point, was in one of the hottest phases of his career, having directed Jurassic Park and Oscar-winning Schindler’s List in the same year just a couple of years beforehand. It wouldn’t be until the next decade/century/millennium that the two of them would work together, but when they got to it, they would cook quite nicely.

Anyhow, the Mission script zagged through the typewriters of some of Hollywood’s biggest screenwriters under De Palma’s direction. There were three credited writers on the final script, and the combined prestige of them could have killed a medieval peasant - David Koepp had co-written Jurassic Park (and would later go on to have a truly odd career including Spider-Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Cruise The Mummy reboot that will haunt this newsletter later), Robert Towne had written Chinatown and Cruise/Tony Scott vehicle Days of Thunder, and Steve Zaillian would later write two Martin Scorsese movies.

We’ll put a pin in Mission screenwriters now, but suffice to say: some weird guys have gotten their hands on these scripts.

It should be noted that, ten years on from Top Gun, Cruise was going into the main action role of his career, one which would span three decades, in his mid-thirties. That’s not unprecedented, and nor would it be seen as an aberration - Robert Downey Jr., for instance, debuted as Iron Man aged 43. It’s also true that Ethan Hunt is a bit of a move forward from the “young hotshot” archetype that Cruise brought to Top Gun - there is a conscious acknowledgement that this is not the same guy.

Still, it’s as good an indicator as any of how intrinsic eternal youthfulness will become to Cruise’s public (and, you suspect, self) image in later years. If Ethan Hunt is the kind of role that would be a breakout for most actors in their twenties, then, well, that’s just how Tom Cruise sees himself: whatever age he really is, he believes that he’s younger.

The funny thing is, I wrote all of that before rewatching Mission: Impossible, and the thing I had forgotten was that the movie really does begin with Jim Phelps as the leading guy. The first 15 minutes - a suspenseful heist sequence that’s stylish as hell - are a condensed version of what I imagine a classic M:I episode to have been. You have the video briefing, a little team banter, and then the mission. Jim Phelps is the leader. He gets the mission. He’s the main guy.

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is introduced as just a member of the ensemble - obviously the wisecracking cool one, who stands out among the archetypes of “snarky tech guy”, “posh British lady”, “Jim Phelps’ trophy wife” and “Hannah”, but still one amongst many. He’s what TV Tropes would call a Canon Foreigner, an original creation for the film, but he slots neatly and without fuss into the existing Mission framework headlined by Phelps. He knows his place.

Then everybody on the team fucking dies except Tom Cruise. He runs around the streets of Prague in a tuxedo, sweating, as he watches the entire cast of Mission: Impossible, including Jim Phelps, die brutally. By 25 minutes, only he remains. The lone survivor. I mean, it’s a great opening. Establishing a status quo and knocking it out from under our feet before the first act is even done? That’s De Palma magic. It is, also, a subtextual minefield, knowing what we know about Tom Cruise.

Really, it’s difficult not to read a movie in which he graduates from side character to lead and then takes over the front man role and builds his own team of supporting characters as a kind of commentary on the way Cruise insists on doing things.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 5, 2023 12:07 PM CST
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Friday, March 3, 2023

Posted by Geoff at 10:29 PM CST
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Sunday, February 26, 2023

Last night, at the 34th Annual Producers Guild Awards in Los Angeles, "Tom Cruise was honored with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures," Mulderville reports. Sherry Lansing handed Cruise the award, and in his acceptance speech, Cruise again told the story of meeting Brian De Palma while eating dinner at Steven Spielberg's house:
And it was actually at his dinner table that I met Brian De Palma, and I went home, and I stayed up that night, all night into the next day, and I was reviewing all of De Palma's films. And I called Paula [Wagner] and I called Sherry—remember that? The next day—and later we offered him Mission: Impossible. And he was the first director of the first film that we ever produced.

Posted by Geoff at 3:14 PM CST
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Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Film Stage's Leonard Pearce reports that MUBI, the excellent streaming service that adds a movie every day, has scheduled a Brian De Palma double bill for March. Obsession will be added on March 10th, with Body Double to follow the next day, March 11th.

Here's MUBI's take on Body Double:

One of the most divisive auteurs out there takes the floor! The sublime and the sleazy hold hands in his work, intertwining to a point in which they become masterfully indiscernible. Body Double is pure De Palma joy: both irreverent and reverential, a sexy, stylish, twisted ode to Hitchcock.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Friday, February 24, 2023

Thanks to Christian Hamaker for sending along this profile of Jim Gaffigan from The Wall Street Journal's Marc Myers, in which Gaffigan talks about seeing Brian De Palma's Obsession when he was ten years old:
Mom was the most im­por­tant per­son in my life. When I was 10, in 1976, she took my brother and me to see ‘Ob­ses­sion,’ a movie that wasn’t es­pe­cially age-ap­pro­pri­ate. It’s about a guy whose wife and daugh­ter are kid­napped. The res­cue fails and his wife dies. The guy be­lieves his daugh­ter died, too, but she dis­ap­peared. Years later, he meets and falls in love with a young woman who looks just like his wife. It turns out to be his daugh­ter. Yeah, I know. A fast track to ther­apy. But I was more cap­ti­vated by the film’s act­ing and sto­ry­telling, so much so that I knew then what I wanted to do with my life.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sam Irvin's latest book, I Was a Teenage Monster Hunter!, "uniquely combines his exciting cinematic adventures, self-discovery, and documenting horror history through his self-published horror fanzine Bizarre," writes Daily Dead's Justina Bonilla. "Though Bizarre only lasted four issues, they are an amazing time capsule filled with interviews with horror royalty, from Vincent Price to Christopher Lee, with the book’s forward from Elvira, Mistress of the Dark aka Cassandra Peterson."

In the interview portion of the article, Irvin tells Bonilla that the book, the first in a series of memoirs, covers his life/career up until the time he met Brian De Palma. "And then, for 2024," Irvin says, "I will do the next volume of my ongoing series of memoir books, this one covering my De Palma years."

In the interview, Irvin talks about why the journal he had writen for the magazine Cinefantastique was never published:

Why did you stop publishing Bizarre?

The reason I stopped doing it, is that I ended up meeting Brian De Palma and had to start getting serious about figuring out a career in film. Between my junior and senior years of college, I ended up going to work for De Palma on The Fury. After I graduated, I became a full-time employee of De Palma as his assistant.

Then, I associated produced and was a production manager for his film Home Movies with Kirk Douglas and Nancy Allen. That's what launched my career.

When did you decide to step away from magazine writing to focus on your film career?

I became friends with Fred Clark, who was the editor of Cinefantastique. When I was working on The Fury, I got an assignment from Fred to write a journal on the making of The Fury. I still wanted to be writing for about horror movies and stay in that world.

Fred promised that The Fury would be on the cover. So, I interviewed everybody on the film from Kirk Douglas down, including composer John Williams and the editor Paul Hirsch, who edited Star Wars. Then, Fred saw Star Wars. He decided to bump our issue, so he could do a double issue on Star Wars. Okay, fine. Star Wars deserved it.

In the meantime, I insisted to Fred that, “You've got to run my interview with Amy Irving. You can't wait, because she talks about for the very first time ever, her relationship with Steven Spielberg. They were living together and it had not been revealed anywhere. I have this huge scoop.

What was the result?

So, Fred assured me that he’d run the Amy interview in the Star Wars issue, as kind of a teaser for the big coming issue on The Fury. Then, The Fury opens. Fred sees it, hates it, and decides that he is not going to put it on the cover. He cuts my journal on the making of it in half and on the cover, he instead puts the composer Hans Salter, who composed some of the scores of the 1940s Universal horror movies. I love Salter and his scores, but could there be anything less commercial? It felt like such a slap.

De Palma was not happy, and I was embarrassed. It made me look bad. I felt really bad about the whole thing.

It put such a bad taste in my mouth, that when I got asked to do articles on other films that I was working on, like Dressed to Kill, I just ended up turning it down. It kind of extinguished my wanting to continue to be a journalist in that realm. Instead, I focused on being a director.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

At National Review, Armond White reviews Neil Jordan's new movie, Marlowe:
These characters make Marlowe personal for Jordan. He’s a protégé of visionary director John Boorman, and movies are central to his imagination. Hawks’s cherished melodrama of mid-20th-century sexual intrigue is reinterpreted in terms of the history and nomenclature of film noir; revealing not only the characters’ erotic drives but their sin-sick environment. This ’30s Hollywood is morally dubious, centered on the clash of power, sex, and other vices, seen through Jordan’s literary-cinematic sensibility. Clare, evoking the Old World county and a tarnished version of Saint Clare of Assisi, confers the genre’s ultimate, poetic judgment on the story’s villain: “Because he was far too young for me. Because he was evil incarnate. Because he was already dead.”

Jordan’s Catholic-manqué Marlowe is incomprehensible without prior knowledge of Hawks’s convoluted film (symbolized by Marlowe pursuing a victim-suspect through a labyrinthine mausoleum) and, especially, Altman’s Chandler update (starring Elliot Gould) and Polanski’s mix of both Chandler and Dashiell Hammett archetypes. So this is an art film. Jordan does literary puns on Christopher Marlowe and profane riffs on James Joyce. (Dorothy knew Joyce and recalls him as a literary thief and “syphilitic little man.”) This isn’t disrespect so much as a leveling. Marlowe is Jordan’s look at cultural cynicism, linking Joyce to Chandler and to the many Dr. Faustuses of Hollywood itself.

All Jordan can do is reexamine that heritage — sordid intimations of incest, Evelyn Mulwray’s blasted eye socket in Chinatown, Gould-Marlowe’s betrayed friendships — to signify our cultural decay more effectively than Damien Chazelle did in Babylon. Jordan arrives at the same moral juncture that Brian De Palma faced in The Black Dahlia, finding the essence of modern miasma in the delusions of Hollywood’s past. For an ethnic-focused film artist like Jordan, this would include new Hollywood’s race and gender hypocrisy.

Trendy, vapid Chazelle sentimentalized a token Mexican immigrant in Babylon, but Jordan and waggish co-screenwriter William Monahan, who scripted Scorsese’s The Departed, plays with ethnicity (those Irish mugs, Lange’s perfect brogue, and Cumming’s perfect Southern twang). Daring the same black/Irish tease of The Crying Game and Mona Lisa, Jordan effects a coup, inserting the experience of black chauffeur Cedric (British-Nigerian actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Oz’s Adebisi), evoking both Native Son and A Raisin in the Sun. A burly outsider like Marlowe, Cedric knows the inside track, summing up Hollywood as “a city of motorized secrets.”

At first, the rapprochement of Marlowe and Cedric resembles the gimmicky violent bonding of Butch and Marsellus in Pulp Fiction. But because Jordan is a serious cinema aesthete, their brotherhood pinpoints Hollywood’s moral hypocrisy as it moved into World War II propaganda. Cedric looks at the backlot fakery of Nazi book-burning and daringly opines: “Still, that Leni Riefenstahl; she made some good movies, though.” It may be the ultimate clapback at modern Hollywood’s corrupt double standard. Detective Jordan rescues movie mythology.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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