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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


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The Virtuoso
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Carrie...A Fan's Site

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No Harm In Charm

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Jim Emerson on
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italkyoubored

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Entries by Topic
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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Saturday, March 11, 2023
STYLISTICALLY RAVISHING & UNABASHEDLY PERVERSE
MUBI'S UPDATED TAKE ON DE PALMA'S 'BODY DOUBLE' - THE STREAMER'S FILM OF THE DAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/mubibodydoublemarch11th2023.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 1:02 PM CST
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Friday, March 10, 2023
DELIRIOUSLY MELODRAMATIC
DOUBLE BILL OF DE PALMA ON MUBI BEGINS TODAY WITH 'OBSESSION'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/mubimarch2023.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 11:08 PM CST
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Thursday, March 9, 2023
'TOO UNIQUE & WEIRD TO EVER REMAKE'
'PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE' HITS 2 MOVIE LISTS THIS WEEK
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/phantomparadise335.jpg

Phantom Of The Paradise is one of the films included on Jeremy Urquhart's list of "Bombastic, Visually Striking Movies About Music," at Collider:
Phantom of the Paradise might well stand as one of the few horror movies that's simply too unique and weird to ever remake. It tells the story of an up-and-coming musician who's betrayed by a dastardly record producer, and after a period of imprisonment, returns to exact revenge on the man for ruining his life.

It was directed by Brian De Palma in the early years of his filmmaking career and still stands as one of his best movies. De Palma has always had a singular style that inevitably leads to visually engaging films, and Phantom of the Paradise is no exception, with its wild and creative visuals effectively complementing the various tones and genres the story covers.


Meanwhile, at GameRant, Eliza Hyde places De Palma's film at the top of her list of 10 Great Heavy Metal Horror Movies:
Phantom of the Paradise is one of the greatest cult musicals, combining elements of Phantom of the Opera and Faust (with a dash of Dorian Gray), merging it into a concoction of various musical styles. Of course, rock plays a large part in the proceedings, with some memorably proggy tunes scattered throughout this bleak masterpiece.

Directed by Brian De Palma, Phantom is a dark tale with lashings of black humor and a truly depressing ending. It warns of the dangers of selling out and pursuing a life of narcissistic excess, backed up by an endlessly catchy soundtrack. A true classic.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, March 8, 2023
'BY THE WAY, I DIDN'T TELL YOU THIS, BUT...'
"I'D LIKE TO THINK THIS IS OUR FINEST FILM"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/finestfilm1.jpg

Last week, The Independent's Jacob Stolworthy included Brian De Palma's Blow Out on his list of "25 superb movies that somehow didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination." "Brian De Palma doesn’t exactly make films in the hope of winning awards," Stolworthy states about Blow Out, "but his political thriller – based on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up – would have deserved any Oscar it was nominated for." Here's Stolworthy's introduction from the article:
It might be obvious to say, but a film getting nominated for an Oscar doesn’t automatically make it good.

In fact, there have been many deserving movies over the years that were somehow overlooked by the Academy.

It’s easy to assume that certain releases don’t get nominated because they’re not what Oscar voters would usually go for, but there have been some surprises in the past.

For example, pretty much every new superhero film earns a nomination thanks to the technical or makeup categories, while random animated films are acknowledged most likely because of the low number on offer in a certain year.

This means films likem say, DC’s Suicide Squad may get mauled by the critics, but they still gain recognition from the Academy (it went on to win).

This is even more ridiculous when you consider that classics such as Don’t Look Now and Blow Out didn’t even get recognised.



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Tuesday, March 7, 2023
ON THIS DAY IN 1976, 'PHANTOM' RETURNS TO LONDON
WITH REWORKED MARKETING CAMPAIGN FROM PRESSMAN-WILLIAMS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/1976london2.jpg

"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
VARIATIONS ON A THEME, EXPLORED THROUGH REPETITION
DE PALMA, TARANTINO, SCHRADER - CLAYTON DILLARD REVIEW OF 'ARE SNAKES NECESSARY?'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/laureactingindream55.jpg

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
SUNDAY TWEET - 'CARRIE' AS TWO MOVIES THAT MERGE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetcarriein2.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Saturday, March 4, 2023
THE TV SHOW THAT 'DREAMED HARD & BECAME A MOVIE'
NOSTALGIA DETECTIVE REVISITS THE FIRST 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/micredits5a.jpg

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
SOUNDTRACKER PODCAST FOCUS ON 'CARLITO'S WAY'
THE FILM WAS CHOSEN FOR DISCUSSION BY GUEST ARJUN HUNDAL - PODCAST HOSTED BY ERIC PEACOCK
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/soundtracker1.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 10:29 PM CST
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Sunday, February 26, 2023
TOM CRUISE HIGHLIGHTS DE PALMA IN PGA ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
"HE WAS THE FIRST DIRECTOR OF THE FIRST FILM THAT WE EVER PRODUCED"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tomcruisepgaaward.jpg

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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