INTRIGUE, SPLIT SCREENS, GORGEOUS CINEMATOGRAPHY , SAVVY CHARACTERS, & BIRTHDAY CAKE
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
Norman Reynolds, the British production designer and art director who won two Oscars for his work on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, has died.
Reynolds, 89, worked as art director on Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977 and took over from John Barry as production designer for the sequels.
Steven Spielberg previously said Reynolds was the "creative core" of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.
"He possessed that rare combination of humility and utter genius," he said.
Reynolds' notable design work included Yoda's planet of Dagobah, the carbon freezing chamber in which Han Solo was encased in carbonite and The Emperor's throne room.
The latter was reimagined as part of a destroyed Death Star in The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.
His influence on the Star Wars universe is still seen today with many of his designs incorporated in the look of the Disney+ series, The Mandalorian.
Spielberg asked Reynolds to work as production designer for Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, for which he won his second Oscar.
In a 1996 American Cinematographer article by Benjamin B, Reynolds discussed working with Stephen Burum on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible:
Like an IMF mission, the production of the film was a race against time, shooting on location in Prague and London, and on sets built within the vast Pinewood Studios soundstages. However, the film's British production designer, Norman Reynolds, notes that the film's European locales merely enhance its essential spirit. "Mission: Impossible is an American action film, in the best sense of the term," he says.
Reynolds, who earned two Oscars for his memorable design work on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, is well-positioned to comment on the relationship between the production designer and the cinematographer. “The designer [helps to set] the picture's tone in visual terms. Now that's apart from the cameraman, who obviously has the ultimate control in that area, because he can make it dark, light, colored or whatever. So what we designers do is very much in the hands of cameramen. I certainly stay in touch with the cameraman as much as I possibly can.
“While we were in Prague, Steve was obviously very involved in location scouting and preparing things, so there were times when he and I were separated. But when we moved to the studio, I involved Steve as much as possible in the set design. It was quite selfish really, because the easier I made Steve's job, the better the film was going to look. We liked working together, and that's really the name of the game."
In planning their visual design, Burum and Reynolds referred solely to the script and not at all to the television series. In fact, Burum confesses to having never really watched the TV show. "I remember a little from college, but I never got a chance to see an entire episode," he admits.
Following the natural divisions of the script, Burum created a different lighting approach for the missions in Prague, Virginia, and on the TGV train, producing a visual diversity and rhythm that enriches the film. The cinematographer summarizes the three moods he sought to evoke as "old Europe, America and new Europe."
The high-tech CIA computer room set is a good example of the collaboration between production designer Reynolds and Burum. Reynolds drew his inspiration from his previous set designs in Star Wars to create a space that was also a self-contained soft light source. This futuristic white room is a seamless integration of luminescent plexiglass panels with dozens of photofloods and 216 diffusion behind them. The effect is an expanse of shadowless whiteness. To ensure the purity of the white light, Burum overexposed the panels by about three stops to "burn out any color. It's an old photographic trick: if you want to get rid of oversaturation, you overexpose, and if you want heavy saturation to get a weird color, you underexpose."
Cruise wore a black outfit to retain contrast and sharpness in the extremely soft light. Burum says that much of the suspense in Mission: Impossible was created by trapping the protagonists in confined spaces. "Throughout the picture, the characters are stuck in airplanes, in elevator shafts, in air-conditioning ducts. There's no place to hide. If you get caught in a tunnel and there's somebody coming, you have no way out — it's that feeling of being completely vulnerable at all times."
Brett tweets, "Air is the last movie I expected to feature the most iconic bit of Pino Donaggio’s score for Body Double, one of my very favorite pieces of music movie ever, for the shoe reveal." And in a review posted today at JoBlo, Chris Bumbray concludes, "All in all, Air really is a terrific package, with Affleck having a ton of fun telling this story. It definitely has one of the best soundtracks of the year, with the needle drops running the gamut from Bruce Springsteen to 'Axel F'. Affleck even repurposes Pino Donaggio’s main theme to Brian De Palma’s Body Double to complement the Tangerine Dream music. It’s a nice touch in a movie that’s full of them."
Film Music Reporter has the lowdown:
The full list of music cues featured in Ben Affleck’s biographical drama Air has been revealed. While the film doesn’t have a credited composer, Paul Haslinger (Underworld, Halt and Catch Fire, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) appears to have contributed a few original music cues, credited in the end titles as I Want to Sign Him and Sneaker AnthemRunning Out of Tim. The movie also features tracks from multiple 80s scores by the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream (which Haslinger was a member of in the late 80s), including Running Out of Time & Through the Dark/Run Across the Street from Miracle Mile, Shop Territory from Firestarter, Jerry’s Decision [Ed. note: a comment at that site states this is not a Tangerine Dream track] & To the Head of the Class from Three O’Clock High, Love on a Real Train from Risky Business and Breathing the Night Away from Heartbreakers. Harold Faltermeyer’s music from Beverly Hills Cop and its first sequel makes an appearance in a couple of scenes. Other score cues featured in the movie include Leave Atlantic City from Desperately Seeking Susan (by Thomas Newman), JP Brenner Emerges from Raw Deal (by Christopher Boardman), Votes for Women from Suffragette (by Alexandre Desplat), Closing from The Times of Harvey Milk (by Mark Isham), The Girl from Flinch (by Miami Nights 1984) and a track from Pino Donaggio’s score from Brian De Palma’s Body Double.
Andrea von Foerster serves as the music supervisor of the movie, which also features numerous 80s hit songs, including Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, My Adidas by Run DMC, Legs by ZZ Top, Sister Christian by Night Ranger, Ain’t Nobody by Rufus & Chaka Khan, All I Need Is a Miracle by Mike + The Mechanics, Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper and Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen. Air starring Matt Damon, Affleck, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Marlon Wayans, Matthew Maher, Jay Mohr, Julius Tennon centers on the game-changing partnership between a then rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division. The drama will be released in theaters nationwide on April 5 by MGM/Amazon Studios.
Sly as a snake, Brian De Palma's "Femme Fatale" is a sexy thriller that coils back on itself in seductive deception. This is pure filmmaking, elegant and slippery. I haven't had as much fun second-guessing a movie since "Mulholland Drive." Consider such clues as the overflowing aquarium, the shirt still stained with blood after many days, the subtitles for dialogue that is not spoken, the story that begins in 2001 and then boldly announces: "seven years later." The movie opens with a $10 million diamond theft, with a difference: The diamonds adorn the body of a supermodel attending a premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival, and they are stolen with erotic audacity as the model is seduced in a restroom of the Palais du Cinema by the tall, brazen Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). Her team includes the usual crew of heist-movie types, and we get the usual details, like the guy in the wet suit, the laser-cutter and the TV spycam that attracts the attention of an inquisitive cat. But the movie announces its originality when none of these characters perform as they expect to, and Laure Ash steals the diamonds not only from the model but also from her fellow criminals.
No, I have not given away too much. The fact is, I have given away less than nothing, as you will fully appreciate after seeing the film. The long opening sequences, about 40 minutes by my clock, are done almost entirely without dialogue, and as De Palma's camera regards these characters in their devious movements, we begin to get the idea: This is a movie about watching and being watched, about seeing and not knowing what you see.
Romijn-Stamos plays Laure Ash as a supremely self-confident woman with a well-developed sense of life's ironies. Chance plays a huge role in her fate. Consider that not long after the theft, while trying to avoid being spotted in Paris, she is mistaken for a grieving widow, taken home from a funeral, and finds herself in possession of an airplane ticket to New York and a passport with a photo that looks exactly like her. And then ...
But no. I cannot tell any more. I will, however, describe her relationship with Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), a paparazzo who photographs her in 2001 on that day she is mistaken for the widow, and photographs her again seven years later (!) when she returns to Paris as the wife of the American ambassador (Peter Coyote). She wants that film: "I have a past here." And then ...
Well, the movie's story, written by De Palma, is a series of incidents that would not be out of place in an ordinary thriller, but here achieve a kind of transcendence, since they are what they seem, and more than they seem, and less than they seem. The movie tricks us, but not unfairly, and for the attentive viewer there are markers along the way to suggest what De Palma is up to.
Above all, he is up to an exercise in superb style and craftsmanship. The movie is very light on dialogue, and many of the words that are spoken come across as if the characters are imitating movie actors (the film opens with Laure watching "Double Indemnity"--for pointers in how to be a vixen, no doubt). I've seen the movie twice; it's one of those films like "Memento" that plays differently the second time. Only on the second viewing did I spot the sly moment when the subtitles supply standard thriller dialogue--but the lips of the actors are not moving. This is a movie joke worthy of Luis Bunuel.
Greiving's article describes Sakamoto as "an eclectic Japanese composer who was an early leader in electronic pop music and became an acclaimed composer of film scores — notably Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor — that blended Eastern and Western cultural influences."
In the Snake Eyes section of the book Brian De Palma - Interviews with Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud (an English translation of which is set to be published this year by Sticking Place Books), De Palma discusses working with Sakamoto:
You worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto on the music for Snake Eyes. Did you discover him during Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence by Nagisa Ōshima?
No. It was his score for Bertolucci's Little Buddha that seduced me, I listened to it non-stop at the time. I have all his film scores at home, he did some wonderful things. He's a very imaginative guy, who works very hard. In addition, his base in New York is really close to my home. Like most composers today, Sakamoto composes everything on the computer. You go see him, and he plays the music for you, right on the computer. In the old days, you could never listen to the score before recording in the studio, especially with Bernard Herrmann, who did not let you hear anything beforehand. Today, when you enter the studio, you already know the music by heart.
Why did you use a pop song during the end credits?
I wanted this ending to bring us back to today's world, as the shot is very long, it lent itself well to a song. And then, like at the end of Casualties Of War, I wanted to suggest that after having lived through hell, the hero has redeemed himself, he has paid the price... and life goes on.
But the lyrics of the song really speak to the story of the film.
That's right, but the tone of the song is much less dark than Sakamoto's music. Through her instrumentation, she brings something very rock, very contemporary into the film, it's like a breath of fresh air. It was ideal for the ending, since it is the only daytime exterior shot of the entire film. We had to loosen it up a bit.
De Palma talks a bit more about working with Sakamoto in the Femme Fatale section of the Blumenfeld/Vachaud book (the images after the excerpt below are taken from Laurent Bouzereau's documentary footage on the Femme Fatale DVD) -
The scene of the theft of the jewels at the Cannes Film Festival is one of the most jubilant that you have filmed.
Yes, it took us three nights to block it. I had a very good steadycam operator on the film, but to get this sequence to shoot so quickly, I had to call in my favorite technician, Larry McConkey, who I brought over from the United States just for that. . I wanted this sequence to feel like a movie like Mission: Impossible, so that the break in your tone would only be greater when she meets her double and another movie begins. This eclecticism is reflected in the soundtrack.
The credits use music by Miklos Rosza for Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder, which Laure watches on television; then there is this piece by Ryuichi Sakamoto which accompanies the theft of the jewels, interrupted from time to time by the music of Patrick Doyle for Est-Ouest by Régis Wargnier, which is projected in the Palace, then there is the song by Elli Medeiros that the two girls listen to when they fuck in the toilets, and there is even the intro by Saint-Saens, taken from The Carnival of the Animals, which is the anthem of the Cannes Film Festival. Sakamoto's music for the scene that takes place in Cannes is very subtly different from Ravel's Bolero. Originally, Laure listened to the Boléro on her walkman. And Sakamoto had composed a long piece like Mission: Impossible to accompany the theft of the jewels and all the parallel actions. It was a huge job that took him months, and I was very annoyed when I told him it wasn't working. The scene speaks of a seduction, it's an erotic climate, the theft of diamonds is secondary, so that's not what the music should reflect. It's me who offered to try the Bolero that we placed as is on the images. And it worked right away. So I asked Sakamoto to compose a variation. For two reasons: that it sticks perfectly to the images and also to show that I'm going to take you somewhere else. And Sakamoto did a superb job. It's a very long piece, more than ten minutes, that you have to listen to in its entirety to grasp all its subtlety. I reused it for the end credits because I thought it was a shame to interrupt it suddenly during the scene where the jewels were stolen.
The music cuts off abruptly when the current jumps in the Palace.
Exactly. A director's worst nightmare. A power failure during the projection of your film. I had witnessed a similar incident during the presentation of Jean-Jacques Beineix's film Mortal Transfer at the Vienna festival. In the second reel! The blackout.
Sakamoto had already worked with you on Snake Eyes. He was immediately the composer you wanted for Femme Fatale?
No, initially I wanted Éric Serra, but he was already hired to compose the music for John McTiernan's Rollerball. Yet he really wanted to do it and I would have loved to have him, but I knew he couldn't do both. Then I went to see Patrick Doyle, who liked the film but couldn't compose the music in the time allowed, because he was recovering from a serious illness. The amount of work to be done was really enormous. So I was lucky that Sakamoto was available. He worked hard for four months. The fact that we know each other and have worked together has certainly helped because, for a composer who meets me for the first time, I can be a little off-putting. I demand a lot from them.