THE RESPONSIVE EYE - MURDER A LA MOD - SISTERS
"Are you sure this is the right kind of clothes? I mean, it's kind of op-art and everything, you know what I mean?"
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a la Mod:
In an interview with GQ, Leguizamo revealed that he was so sick of auditioning to play drug dealers early in his career that he considered passing on his now-iconic role as Benny Blanco in Brian De Palma’s “Carlito’s Way.”
“I’m a Latin guy and I didn’t wanna play another drug dealer. I was just kind of sick of that kind of routine,” Leguizamo said. “So I turned it down three times.”
He continued to resist the role, only to learn that one of Hollywood’s other rising Hispanic stars, Benicio Del Toro, was also in the mix for it. Once he learned Del Toro was interested, Leguizamo said that he opted to do the film after realizing it was a good career move.
“The producers said, ‘Look, this is the last time I’m coming to you. We’re gonna go to Benicio,'” he said. “Okay, I’ll take it!”
Leguizamo’s thoughts about not wanting to play drug dealers echo similar comments he made in a recent interview with IndieWire. The actor explained that the limited range of roles he was considered for as a young actor shaped his view about the importance of representation in films.
As we’ve discussed in previous entries, Erotic Thrillers owe a great deal to Film Noir, which – thanks to the Hays Code – tended to end by reinforcing a morally black and white view of the world. Body Double refuses this script: not only does Holly disapprove of being forced into Jake’s crusade and nearly being buried alive, but the pair don’t wind up together. And while the end of the film confirms that Jake has overcome his claustrophobia and returned to work, the final scene plays like it is gently mocking Jake’s B-movie role as a pervy vampire who is still working with body doubles.
In this way, Body Double works both as a great Erotic Thriller, and as self-aware meta commentary by De Palma about the subgenre and his own reputation within it. That’s pretty clever.
According to the catalog of the American Film Institute, Sisters carries a copyright date of April 18, 1973. This is when it landed in theaters in Los Angeles, although, moving throughout the U.S., it would not reach New York theaters until October of 1973. That month, De Palma was interviewed by The New York Times' Charles Higham:
De Palma gets up, coldly answers a persistent telephone caller, and then sinks back in his chair, looking tired and puffy. “I'm much happier with ‘Sisters.’ That is mine from beginning to end. American International took on the distribution — but they didn't tamper with it at all. It was shot on location on Staten Island, I liked the idea of a very suburban setting for a horror story about a small‐town girl reporter who sees a murder from her apartment window.”
Not all of “Sisters” was shot on Staten Island, however. “We built the set of the apartment where the murder takes place on East 4th Street, right next to the Cafe La Mama. I loved the voyeuristic mood of the story —here is this girl, this amateur sleuth, who gazes through windows and sees a man murdered and all kinds of horrifying things going on. Things half‐seen. Like most directors, I'm a voyeur at heart. I loved dragging the audience through the whole psychodrama of an insane situation. The audience becomes this girl, peering through a psychological hole. Since, in a way, I am the girl, the people out there can be her, too.”
De Palma’s incredible one-take intro to Santoro and his sleazy existence shows us arounds corridors, up and down escalators down to ringside. It’s dialog-heavy, incredibly complicated in its staging and so exciting to watch.
One of Santoro’s best friends, Commander Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise) sits alongside him on ringside seats. When a shot rings out and a powerful figure sitting near Santoro is now dead, the event erupts into anarchy.
Santoro and Dunne immediately sweep the area and round up the suspects. Who took the shot, why did they do it and is there one person responsible for the public assassination? How do you solve a murder that takes place in plain sight with “14,000 eyewitnesses?”
Because it’s De Palma, the expected Hitchcock visuals and themes are present. However, even with those aspects in place, there are more neo-noir themes on hand, as well as De Palma doing Robert Altman taking on “Rashomon.”
There’s a McGuffin about Air Guard Missile Tests but the core of the film is Santoro’s belatedly finding a moral center in a corrupt world.
De Palma is once again exploring media manipulation and distraction through large-scale diversion. It could be interpreted as political satire as just flat out American social commentary.
De Palma is dipping his toe into the “Blow Out” (1981) pool once more. “Snake Eyes” is a smaller film than De Palma’s anti-commercial, challenging tour de force of the original “Mission: Impossible” (1996) but still made with a bravado showmanship to match the work of his leading man.
“Snake Eyes” isn’t an action movie but a thrillingly staged mystery, which made it an odd attraction during the summer of 1998. Coming off of his back-to-back blockbusters of “Con Air” and “Face/Off” and the surprise hit of “City of Angels” earlier in the year, Cage was on a roll that lasted for years.
Playing Santoro, Cage is on fire from his first entrance. The character simmers down as the discoveries of the investigation become increasingly grave. Cage is not being over the top but playing a brash, inhibition-free jerk whose lack of a moral center changes drastically in a single evening.
There is no convincing naysayers who loathe any period of Cage’s work, whether it’s his early post-“Peggy Sue” choices, his commercial breakthrough after winning the Oscar, or the on-again-off-again era of wild creative peaks and valleys he’s currently in.
Cage always takes big swings and is rarely (if ever) accused of being subtle.
Nevertheless, the actor’s willingness to give nearly every project he takes on an above and beyond approach, giving it his all when the movie itself may not need or deserve it, has made him one of my favorites.
Alongside his incredible turn in Werner Herzog’s off-the-wall “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” (2009), this is my favorite of his “big” performances.
In both cases, the initial bravado of the characters masks the moral rot beneath, as both characters find a form of redemption but, in the end, haven’t entirely reformed their wicked ways.
The shot of a bloodied bill and the final, painful look Santoro gives it, says everything about the character and how far he’s come. It’s the film’s most important shot and solidifies the film’s neo-noir identity.
Are there other films from your career you’re especially proud of?
I don’t know. “Rio Bravo” is one that just holds up no matter when. “Dressed to Kill,” I would like to have been in it just a little bit more before they knocked me off.
Audiences have embraced that film more in recent years. How was Brian De Palma to work with?
He was great and he [allowed] no fussiness. It was hard work because he was a very serious filmmaker, and then he took on serious subjects, so you have to do it that way. But he was a master director — oh, my God.
A life well-lived is best directed by doing what you love with people you love. And my father, Edward R. Pressman — a film producer, jazz lover, student of philosophy, constant reader and Dodgers fanatic who would have turned 80 on Tuesday — had a life filled to the brim.
On Jan. 17, in the last moments of my father’s life, his family and his company, which has always been family to Ed, surrounded him. We listened to “Gassenhauer,” the theme of Badlands, my father’s fourth film as a producer. He looked so peaceful and beautiful.
Earlier, on this last day, we watched Phantom of the Paradise. I’ve always been in awe of that film. The joy and chaos that is in each frame; the music that, like old souls, lasts forever. You can feel the way that Ed and director Brian De Palma were experimenting together, pushing cinematic boundaries while also not knowing where the boundaries lay.
The film begins with the song, “Goodbye Eddie, Goodbye.” The lyrics read, “We’ll remember you forever, Eddie, through the sacrifice you made. We can’t believe the price you paid for love.”
What sticks with me is love. My father really loved a lot. He didn’t have to say a lot. I could feel it in the slightest curl of his smile or the gesture of his hands. He loved his family. He loved my mother, Annie. He loved film. He loved working. He loved his company. He loved the Hollywood and independent film community.
In remembering my father, a lot of people speak about his determination. When he committed to a film he never gave up. I think a lot of that strength came from his childhood. His family and childhood friends shared a lifelong bond that gave him the strength to never be afraid.