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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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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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Tuesday, August 29, 2023
'I GREW UP ON THE CONVERSATION & BLOW OUT'
DIRECTOR GUY NATTIV ON WHY HE USED REAL BATTLEFIELD AUDIO IN 'GOLDA'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/goldaposter.jpg

Guy Nattiv discusses his new film, Golda, with The Hollywood Reporter's Mia Galuppo:
What did you want audiences to understand about Golda Meir that they may not have been aware of previously?

Golda, in Israel, was basically a myth. She was maybe a statue, but no one put her name on schools or parks. She was kind of the pariah of Israel because her name was connected to the failure of the Yom Kippur War. It was kind of easy to blame an older woman from Milwaukee who didn’t know a lot about the war regarding what had happened. The Israeli generals did not take responsibility, did not say, “It’s on us.” She said, “It’s on me. I’m resigning.” And that’s the narrative that we grew up on, that Golda was a failure and it was a horrible war, but no one spoke about it. It was kind of a hidden secret until 10 years ago when declassified documents got out from the state and the truth came out that the actual intelligence division fucked it up. So, it wasn’t only her, that was the face of this failure. When I read the script by Nicholas Morton, I felt that we could do justice to this pioneer lady who was not perfect, and who was a controversial character, but she was not the only person whom we could blame for this war. So when I read the script, this was basically 80 percent war, 20 percent Golda. I pitched my idea to do the opposite, to let’s focus on Golda and let’s have 20 percent war. I wanted to do a war movie with not a single drop of blood.

In the film, the audience isn’t shown much of battle or the frontlines but we hear battlefield audio as it is presented to Golda. What was the thinking behind depicting the war in this way?

I grew up on The Conversation with Gene Hackman and Blow Out, the Brian De Palma film where there’s a recording of a murder. I also thought of The Lives of Others, where he creates a narrative through sound. I thought about how Golda experienced the war, which was only through sound because she couldn’t go to the front. So [I thought] why don’t we bring the war into the war room rather than just spend all our money shooting war scenes with tanks? So, I got from Amnon [Reshef], who was a commander in Battalion in the south. He owned all those recordings. I showed him the movie, and I asked him if he can give these [recordings] to us. I was blown away by the number of recordings from 1973. It made me cry and I did put it in a movie. What you hear, a big part of it, is real sound from the front.

Was it a difficult decision including the real audio? I know your father fought in the war. It is one thing to portray war; it’s another thing to portray the war with real audio. What made you decide that the audio should be in the movie?

The cinema today is so blended, you have documentary and narrative together. Look at Oliver Stone’s J.F.K. He used real footage from the assassination. I thought this would add to the authenticity. I asked the veterans what they thought about it, and they said that it’s an homage to the people who really gave their lives to the war. And when we screened the film in front of 6,000 people in Jerusalem with war veterans, they just were in tears and felt it was a beautiful homage. And we also dedicated this film to people who lost their lives in the war.

Mirren’s casting as Golda has been criticized given that she is not Jewish. What do you want critics to understand about your casting choice?

When I came to the project, Helen was already cast as Golda. Gideon Meir, Golda’s grandson, said to the producers, “I look at Helen, I see my grandmother. That’s who I want to play my grandmother.” When I came [on], they told me, you got the job why don’t you meet with Helen? She came to my house in the middle of the pandemic, and we sat and talked for three hours. She told me that when she was 29, she toured [Israel] and went to the kibbutz and volunteered and fell in love with an Israeli man. They toured the country, they hitchhiked and they were staying there for three-and-a-half months. She was more than just a visitor. When I spoke to her at my house, I felt that I’m speaking to my mom. I felt that she’s someone from my tribe. I felt that she was someone who understands the bits and pieces of what it means to be Jewish. So I felt that she’d be an amazing option to play Golda, other than the fact that she’s one of the best actresses of our time in our time. I respect the discussion. I think that CODA 30 years ago would probably be cast differently. And when I see CODA with people with hearing difficulties, it makes it much more authentic. And I think that Rain Man would probably not have Dustin Hoffman today, or Dallas Buyers Club would not have Jared Leto. So I’m open to that, but I personally thought that Helen is perfect for this to play Golda, especially after we got the blessing of the family.


Posted by Geoff at 11:24 PM CDT
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Monday, August 28, 2023
'THIS MOVIE MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME'
KELLY MINTZER PICKS FEARLESS & BOLD PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE FOR "NO NOTES" PODCAST
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/nonotesphantom.jpg

"Welcome to NO NOTES, the show where three cerebral cinephiles take a break from chatting guilty pleasures to discuss cinematic treasures." So begins the intro for this relatively new podcast. "Each month," host Stephanie Malone continues, "we’ll take turns selecting a film we believe to be virtually flawless, one that had a significant impact on our lives and/or helped shape the film lovers we became." On this new episode, Malone calls Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise a "masterpiece." This episode's film was chosen by co-host Kelly Mintzer, and she was very happy to find that Malone and her third co-host, Jack Wells, all agree that Phantom Of The Paradise is indeed a "virtually flawless" film that needs, as the podacst title suggests, "no notes." Enjoy their discussion here.

Posted by Geoff at 10:43 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 23, 2023
'EVERYTHING GOES NEON, AND YOU GET THE SPLIT-SCREEN'
'BODY DOUBLE' DISCUSSION ON LATEST EPISODE OF 'THE HORROR VISION' PODCAST
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Missi Schmid:
One of my favorite things is, you briefly mentioned that the movie kind of flips halfway through, and it’s like we get pulled into a different world. But there’s this one scene when he goes to Club X, when they’re doing that whole Relax song, where you see him and there’s that door labeled “Sluts,” and he’s standing there. The camera follows him, and we see the Holly character behind the swinging door. So the door is swinging, but we get glimpses of what she’s doing. The camera follows him in, but then everything goes neon, and you get the split-screen, where you’re watching her dance and you’re watching him watch her. And then when they close the door, she pulls him into her scene. And pulls him into her world. And everything turns upside down. And that’s probably my favorite part of the movie.


Posted by Geoff at 10:42 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 23, 2023 11:16 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 20, 2023
'YOU'D STILL NOT BELIEVE THIS MOVIE EXISTS'
WEEKEND TWEETS - WATCHING DE PALMA'S 'THE FURY' ON MAX
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetfurychaotic.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 10:31 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 20, 2023 11:05 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 19, 2023
THE TOOLS OF THE EAVESDROPPER'S TRADE
DAN PIEPENBRING REVIEWS JAMES ELLROY'S NEW NOVEL, 'THE ENCHANTERS' - HARPER'S MAGAZINE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blowoutdioptertape55.jpg

Yesterday's post included Nope producer Ian Cooper stating that he developed an obsession "with movie sound design vis-a-vis De Palma’s foley-forward masterpiece," Blow Out. "I watched this film on VHS in early high school," Cooper continued, "and the boots-on-the-ground-artistry depiction of Travolta’s character concretized the marriage of pragmatism and creativity that is the bedrock of the BTS of filmmaking."

For today, Hugh has sent over a link to a review of The Enchanters, the new novel by James Ellroy. The review by Dan Piepenbring at Harper's Magazine includes mention of Blow Out:

As far as detectives go, Charlie Siringo walked so Freddy Otash could run, loot, and pop Dexedrine. He’s the Tinseltown private dick who narrates The Enchanters (Knopf, $30), James Ellroy’s lush, manic novelization of Marilyn Monroe’s death and all that was hushed up around it. The book contains more than a kernel of truth: Otash was a real fixer known for his A-list imbroglios and disreputable methods, including “cramming an unbelievable assortment of electronic gadgetry into an ordinary sound truck,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1971, describing what was then state-of-the-art surveillance. He met Ellroy a few times and bragged that he’d bugged Peter Lawford, JFK’s brother-in-law. He said he’d heard a tape of the president and Monroe having sex.

Ellroy called Otash a “bullshitter,” and The Enchanters runs on his bullshit—it embroiders an embroiderer. At the outset, Jimmy Hoffa hires Otash to spy on Monroe, mere months before her overdose, and generate a scandal sheet about her misdeeds with the Kennedy boys. Snooping around her Brentwood hacienda, he finds too many loose ends: forty grand in cash, a wardrobe belonging to a much larger woman, a list of her lovers alongside the main switchboard number for the sheriff’s office. There’s also a Jackie Kennedy voodoo doll rife with pins, and a secret compartment containing “fuckee-suckee pix” coated in semen. Underbellies don’t come any seamier than this. From there, the plot is off to the sordid races.

Ellroy’s last novel, Widespread Panic (which also starred Otash), has been described as “camp noir.” The Enchanters continues along the same lines and throws some erotic fan fiction into the mix. “We’re all fan-club fools run amok,” Otash says of himself and his fellow Monroe obsessives. Like Brian De Palma in Blow Out, Ellroy goes in for loving close-ups on the tools of the eavesdropper’s trade, the phone taps and hidden bugs. But they can’t compete with “scent and sensation,” Otash says: “I wanted to touch things that touched her. I wanted to be where she got lonely and cut loose.” When Otash has a porny nightmare about his tradecraft, Ellroy’s rat-a-tat sleaze is pitch-­perfect:

Wall wires, rug clamps, refitted phone jacks. They’re changing colors and starting to fray. They’re squirming. They’re untangling out in plain view.

They wiggle. Bore holes leak Spackle. Discolored Spackle—alive with a glow.?.?.?. Tap wires pop through handset perforations. Mike installations explode.?.?.?.

They’re moving. They’re pure combustion. They’re out to set me aflame.

 

The detective’s bag of tricks is all voyeurism, like Hollywood’s. The town that gave us the Western and the ­AR-15 was—is—overrun by profane megalomaniacs who had no business shaping the nation’s dream life, but did it anyway. Curious about the historical Otash, I dug up a fawning 1959 profile from the Los Angeles Mirror, which offered this choice detail: “The only item lacking to keep him from becoming a TV hero,” it reads, “is a gun strapped under his shoulder.” Riding high in his Cadillac Eldorado convertible, Otash had decided he didn’t need to carry one.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Friday, August 18, 2023
INDIEWIRE'S BEST OF THE '80s - FILMMAKERS INCLUDE DE PALMA
BLOW OUT, SCARFACE, DRESSED TO KILL, UNTOUCHABLES ALL GET SHOUT-OUTS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blowoutposters1.jpg

For IndieWire's "Best Films of the ’80s", Todd Field, Edgar Wright, Sean Baker, Phil Joanou, Randall Park, Alex Ross Perry, A.V. Rockwell, Bill Hader, Nia DaCosta, Wayne Wang, and more share their picks for best films of the 1980s. Several included Brian De Palma films: Blow Out and Scarface were each mentioned six times, Dressed To Kill was mentioned twice, and The Untouchables had one mention. Here are some highlights:

Ian Cooper, producer (“Nope”)

BLOW OUT (1981) — Working with Johnnie Burn on his epic and precise soundscape for NOPE (2022) had me recollecting on my introduction (and subsequent obsession) with movie sound design vis-a-vis De Palma’s foley-forward masterpiece. I watched this film on VHS in early high school and the boots-on-the-ground-artistry depiction of Travolta’s character concretized the marriage of pragmatism and creativity that is the bedrock of the BTS of filmmaking.

Alex Ross Perry, writer, director (“Her Smell”)
Blow Out/ Brazil – All systems rigged against the individual.

Bishal Dutta, director (“It Lives Inside”)
Blow-Out (1981)

A perfect marriage of cinematic sound and image. Has any other film bridged the audiovisual divide better than this one? Split diopter shots, for example, visualize the process of eavesdropping. An eerily spinning shot disorients us while the sound becomes dizzying in its monotony. One of the post-Jazz Singer dreams is finally and gloriously realized: a film that uses sound and visuals interchangeably as brushstrokes on its cinematic canvas.


Phil Joanou, director (“Three O’Olock High”)
Scarface — A cultural phenomenon as much as it was a film. I remember seeing it opening night and thinking Pacino’s accent was so over-the-top. But then, as the film progressed, he just owned the screen in a performance that is so one-of-a-kind, it’s still jaw-dropping. Plus, Oliver Stone and Brian DePalma together? Insane.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 20, 2023 12:37 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 17, 2023
OLMO SCHNABEL WATCHED SCORSESE, DE PALMA, CASSAVETES
SON OF JULIAN SCHNABEL MAKES DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WITH 'PET SHOP DAYS'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/petshopdays1.jpg

"Sex, crime and fish tanks converge" in Pet Shop Days, writes Variety's Matt Donnelly. The film marks the directorial debut of Olmo Schnabel, son of Julian Schnabel. Here's more from Donnelly's article, which includes an exclusive clip from the film:
“This is the perfect New York story in that anything can happen,” Schnabel said. “That’s how it was growing up. You meet a complete stranger, you’re enamored or infatuated with them, and then two weeks later you realize they’re completely different.”

Schnabel co-write the script with [Jack] Irv and Galen Core. Dark and handheld, Schnabel said he wanted to reference to the grit of ‘80s or ‘90s films to compliment the escalating trouble his boys find themselves in. The director sent an early cut of the movie to Martin Scorsese and prayed he would give feedback, only to have the icon come on board as an executive producer.

“I watched his films, Brian De Palma’s films, Cassavetes’ films, I thought that the movie was very grounded in other New York stories. When I heard that he liked it, I thought, okay, I might as well ask him and see what he says and he kindly he kindly accepted my offer. I’m forever grateful to even be associated with him.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Monday, August 14, 2023
JENNY'S NEVERENDING NIGHTMARE - 'RAISING CAIN'
BLOODY DISGUSTING'S DANIEL KURLAND LOOKS AT 2 VERSIONS OF DE PALMA'S FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/jennywakesup45.jpg

I have never considered the original theatrical version of Brian De Palma's Raising Cain a "linear" film by any means. To me, the film that was released in theaters was a neverending nightmare taking place over one night inside the mind of a sleeping Jenny. The film's opening shot shows a TV monitor of a father, who we later learn is Carter, putting his daughter, Amy, to sleep as the credits play and we hear Pino Donaggio's theme music. After the "written and directed" credit comes up, the image fades to sleep, and then the movie's eyes open again from the dark, into a God's eye view of a park on a sunny day. Twenty-seven-or-so minutes later, we see Jenny waking up from a nightmare in her bed at night. Once she drifts out of her frenzied nightmare state, she looks straight ahead at the same monitor showing the same image from the start of the film. As anyone who has seen Raising Cain knows, Jenny's nightmare has not actually come to an end. To me, in fact, the nightmare continues, in a soap opera-style that hearkens to portions of De Palma's Murder a la Mod, all the way through to the film's final shot of Margo standing behind Jenny as Donaggio's music echoes the music he'd composed for the final moments of Carrie and Dressed To Kill. The difference here is a bit of an in-joke: while those two earlier films ended with the dreamer waking up in shock in bed, there is never a final shot of Jenny waking up in Raising Cain. We've already seen her waking up in shock more than once, and so De Palma leaves it to us to imagine it, if we will.

I am very happy that Peet Gelderblom was able to piece together a version of Raising Cain that followed the supposedly even more non-linear structure of De Palma's original screenplay. However, I have always loved the film for which De Palma brought in Paul Hirsch to help edit into gonzo shape, and that was originally released in theaters in 1992. Bloody Disgusting's Daniel Kurland seems to prefer Gelderblom's recut:

Brian De Palma is an absolute master visual storyteller and his movies are always cinematically stunning even when they don’t fully work as films. For every Carrie and Blow Out there’s a Snake Eyes and The Black Dahlia, but Snake Eyes still kicks off with a twelve-and-a-half minute unbroken tracking shot and Black Dahlia turns the camera into an airborne omniscient spectator during its dynamic gangland shootout and simultaneous corpse discovery. 1992’s Raising Cain comes at an important period of transition for De Palma. Sandwiched between The Bonfire of the Vanities and Carlito’s Way–ostensibly the two extremes of De Palma’s career–it’s easy for Raising Cain to get lost in the shuffle despite its completely gonzo nature and scenery-chomping performance from John Lithgow.

Raising Cain is the story of Dr. Carter Nix (John Lithgow), a revered child psychologist who experiences a mental break and struggles to stay in control when other identities fight for authority. A hostage in his own body, Carter heads down a dark path that endangers his entire family while he relives his painful past. Raising Cain, for decades, was criticized for its confusing construction and was even viewed by some to be De Palma’s attempt at satire of his tried-and-true genre of choice. In reality, Raising Cain is an earnest–perhaps too earnest–movie that’s been misunderstood for a different reason altogether. Now, on its 31st anniversary, Raising Cain has become even more fascinating on a meta-narrative level. The film has turned into this bifurcated, jumbled experience that tries to messily reconcile many different ideas and tones at once through its two exceptionally distinct edits, like Carter’s own fractured psyche.

Seasoned De Palma fans will recognize how Raising Cain plays all of the director’s trademark hits, but those who aren’t already into De Palma’s style and aesthetic will have little to connect with in the heightened movie. It’s definitely a polarizing De Palma title, even for the hardcore fans, but Peet Gelderblom’s “director’s cut” edit does deliver a better version of this movie that creatively plays with non-linear storytelling. This might have been confusing in the early ‘90s, but audiences would learn to love this structural technique only a few years later with Pulp Fiction and Memento. It’s curious to consider how this avant-garde approach, if left undisturbed, might have come across as revolutionary rather than confusing, which was the fear. The theatrical cut attempts to bury, hide, and normalize these unique flairs–not unlike what’s done to Carter to smooth out his wrinkles so that he’s the most conventional, boring, mainstream version of himself. It’s another powerful, albeit unintentional meta element to Raising Cain that still rings true and makes the story behind the film and its two separate versions almost as interesting as the movie itself.

The divergent responses to the two cuts of Raising Cain emphasizes the “power of the edit.” The theatrical cut of Raising Cain, while chaotic, still led to a sect of audiences who believed that it’s meant to operate on dream logic and that it’s not supposed to make sense. The belief is that it’s ludicrous that De Palma has done so many better versions of this type of movie and that the audience knows that De Palma knows better. This dream logic rationale to Raising Cain’s theatrical cut may work, but it wasn’t De Palma’s original intention. Nevertheless, two complementary and contrasting movies can be born out of the same story, all depending on how it’s told and its dominant perspective. It would have been better if De Palma’s original vision could have made its way into theaters, but if any of his movies needs to suffer an identity crisis through its edit then it’s at least appropriate that it’s Raising Cain.

Raising Cain is dense with De Palma’s typical themes of dishonest women, overbearing fathers, and unhealthy familial relations between the three. It’s hard not to think of De Palma’s own frayed relationship with his doctor dad when Carter gets abused and mocked by his father, even if De Palma hasn’t acknowledged the connection between the two himself.

Raising Cain is hardly the first of De Palma’s movies to relitigate the same layered questions of identity that Alfred Hitchcock first unpacked in Psycho. Both Sisters and Dressed to Kill are De Palma’s previous attempts at dissociative identity disorder in one way or another, all of which are quite tone-deaf and ignorant on the material even if there seem to be good intentions. It’s important to understand that Raising Cain is very outdated when it comes to understanding Carter’s diagnosis. Raising Cain shouldn’t be viewed as an accurate, or even sensitive, portrayal of this condition. It’s a heightened boogeyman that operates in plain sight. Accordingly, there are shades of Dressed to Kill, Sisters, and Psycho in Raising Cain. The exceptional final shot also riffs on one of the scariest moments from Dario Argento’s Tenebre. However, more than anything, Raising Cain comes across as the synthesis between Body Double’s lurid thrills and Femme Fatale’s labyrinthine dream logic. Raising Cain is the messy stepping-stone between both of these more fully-formed movies that all riff on comparable themes.


Read the rest at Bloody Disgusting.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2023 5:41 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 13, 2023
AN EROTICIZED STASIS OF FANTASY & DREAM
NOAH BERLATSKY AT 'EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE' FINDS JOY IN DE PALMA'S FEMME FATALE
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In an essay titled "Femme Fatale And The Joy of Castration," Everything Is Horrible's Noah Berlatsky concludes: "When the movie first came out, many critics were put off by the combination of gratuitous eroticism and deliberate narrative incoherence. The truck goes off its path just like the movie keeps going off of its trajectory—the protagonist switches lives, jumps into the future seven years, goes back in time, conflates dream and reality.

"But the sex and the silly serendipity are inextricable. De Palma turns visual pleasure—the luxurious vision of water pouring out of the bathtub; split screen shots showing the same scene from multiple angles so it becomes a cubist abstraction; the camera swooping up to look down into an interrogation room; the extreme close up of Laure’s eyes; multiple explicit sex scenes—into isolated fragments of anti-plot, which direct your gaze to a here that goes both everywhere and nowhere. Instead of trying to master visual pleasure with narrative, Femme Fatale revels in the way the femme fatale releases the film from sequence, logic, and ultimately even from misogyny. De Palma, that most faithful of Hitchcock disciples, tosses away narrative mastery, and with it the master's paranoia. What he's left with is a pleasure that, despite all the sex, feels so innocent you almost have to call it joy."

Here's a portion from the beginning of Berlatsky's essay:

Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale (2002) is a kind of inverse body double of his earlier film Body Double (1984). Both movies are obsessed with undermining, or castrating, the male gaze. Where Body Double frames the male viewer as impotent and frozen outside the narrative, though, Femme Fatale instead constructs a female viewer whose usurpation of the male position causes the film narrative to fragment into an eroticized stasis of fantasy and dream.

The movie is ostensibly a noir in the tradition of Double Indemnity, which our seductress Laure (Rebecca Romijn) is watching (nude, her image superimposed on the screen within a screen) in the first scene. Laure is point person for a heist in which she is supposed to steal diamonds worn (or mostly not worn) by model Veronica (Rie Rasmussen) at a Cannes premiere. However, Laure double crosses her partners. Then things get odd.

Femme fatales in Hollywood cinema traditionally challenge the male dominance of look and plot. In her classic essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Laura Mulvey argues that Hollywood films link male viewer and male protagonist as masterful gazers, whose look drives and orders the story arc. Women, in contrast, connote "to-be-looked-at-ness" they are "displayed as sexual object" and "erotic spectacle." The gaze possesses woman, which allows the (male) gazer in the theater the illusion of mastery. At the same time, though the spectacle of woman tends "to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation." Woman is thus the prize of narrative mastery and a sensuous ice pick (or prick) in the eye of that same mastery. She is the prize that empowers narrative thrust and the twinkling treasure that leads the gaze (and other bits) off course.

Classic Hollywood films like Double Indemnity use the femme fatale to take advantage of this doubled gaze to heighten both impotence and empowerment. The erotic spectacle of Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) hijacks the male gaze and the male driven plot so that good guy Walter (Fred MacMurray) is diverted from the straight and narrow. Instead of his gaze driving the plot, her gazed-at-ness takes the wheel, steering him towards perversion, iniquity, and ultimately death. The film becomes a battle between the erotic distraction of the femme fatale and the righteous vision of the male. When Walter shakes off the glamour and does the right thing (by killing Phyllis) he reasserts his potency—though at the cost of his own life. That's the price of getting bogged down in the venus of spectacle.

Femme Fatale sort of reiterates this narrative tension, sort of parodies it, and sort of blows it up. Laure is an erotic spectacle which seizes control of the plot in numerous ways—first of all by literally seducing Veronica and ravishing her in the bathroom, pulling off her diamonds so her accomplice can slip substitutes under the stall. It's a flamboyantly queer literalization of the way that the femme fatale queers cinematic narratives.


Read the rest at Everything Is Horrible.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, August 12, 2023
JERRY GREENBERG, FROM 2015 - PENN, FRIEDKIN, DE PALMA, ETC.
"BRIAN WAS THE CONSUMATE FILMMAKER AND I WAS BECOMING PART OF HIS THINKING"
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"I can just talk to him on the phone, and he'll know exactly what I want," Brian De Palma said of editor Jerry Greenberg. "And can even do it better." The quote comes from Susan Dworkin's 1984 book Double De Palma. Greenberg, who passed away in 2017, received an American Cinema Editors career achievement award in 2015. Adrian Pennington had written a profile of Greenberg to mark the occasion - here's a portion:
Politicized by the counterculture movement and Vietnam, working within the studio system, yet largely freed of producer control, directors like Arthur Penn, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Michael Cimino, Brian De Palma and William Friedkin expressed a brutality and energy not seen on screen before. It is no coincidence that many classics of the American New Wave were crafted with the sensibility and skill of Greenberg.

Greenberg himself might defer any such attribution to Dede Allen, ACE, the legendary editor who arguably broke the mold when creating the era’s seminal movie, Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Greenberg, then 31, had known Allen for five years since being invited to be her apprentice cutting Elia Kazan’s America America.

“By ‘67 Dede and I had become close friends,” relates Greenberg. “Because of some time constraints on the finishing of [Bonnie and Clyde] and the political entanglements that wracked Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty (star and producer) I was given the task of editing a couple of the shootout scenes, including the last ‘dancing’ shootout. I worked closely with Penn on them, and he re-edited them with Dede.”

The final ambush in which the duo are gunned down, lasts less than a minute and contains more than 50 cuts. Greenberg employed slow motion at some points and faster speed at others, creating a tense and violent conclusion.

“Dede knew how to cut faster than anyone I know – and make it work. In the days of the Moviola you could sense not only what was going on in that other person’s mind, but how their fingers work, how their body works; you got it all.”

Greenberg’s career began in his native New York in 1960 in an industry that consisted mostly of TV production, commercials and small 16mm-documentary companies.

“The music edited and supplied to these companies came from contractors who leased music libraries from various publishers,” he recalls. “They were willing to take a chance on hiring someone who had no formal music training, or industry experience.”

Greenberg learned how to edit music (physically, splicing ¼-inch tape, and 35mm striped sound film), but as importantly, the function (and dysfunction) of background music, its grammar and importance in motion pictures. He also learned to use the gear for editing; the Moviola, splicers, synchronizers and recorders.

“I was hooked. I confided this desire to a good friend, who was a sound effects editor, and he told me he was going to be working on a feature being edited by Dede, (America America) and would I be interested in being her apprentice? As corny as it sounds, my life had begun.”

A year after the massive success of Bonnie and Clyde, Greenberg cut his first feature as solo editor, the caper, Bye Bye Braverman, for Sidney Lumet and in 1971 won the Academy® Award and BAFTA® for editing highly influential, cops-and-narcotics thriller The French Connection.

“This was the perfect storm of passive collaboration,” describes Greenberg. “The passion and energy of Billy Friedkin, the patience and understanding grace of [producer] Phil D’Antoni, the courage and reflexes of Owen Roizman, ASC, and the obsessive command of Gene Hackman. A lifetime of those dailies is the ultimate definition of happiness.”

The breathtaking car chase featuring Hackman’s pugnacious detective racing to catch a hit man aboard a Brooklyn D-train has been dissected at film schools ever since. Shot, like the rest of the film, documentary-style on location using handheld cameras and one strapped to the Pontiac’s bumper, the action is intercut with extraordinary verve.

“In a visual picture editors have a greater responsibility to carry it off than in a dialog-driven film,” says Greenberg. “We used imagery to illuminate the obsessions of the characters by studying how their faces react to a situation. Billy allowed it to develop with the actors in the shooting and later in the cutting room. It has compactness to it.”

Both Roizman and Greenberg went on to work with director Joseph Sargent on another gritty crime classic, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), structured entirely around the tense standoff between a hijacked running metro train and the NYPD.

Arthur Penn recalled Greenberg for The Missouri Breaks (1976) which paired acting titans Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in a western tale of cattle rustlers and land owners.

“When an actor can no longer remember lines, or want to, and requires cue cards to fill their eyelines just because they are revered as one of the best actors on earth, it should give editors (and producers and directors) fits,” recalls Greenberg. “That said, it may not be enough to make Brando less then the best actor on earth. It was not a good picture, but the acting was the least of the reasons for that.”

Greenberg would work on another Brando performance two years later as one of four credited editors on Apocalypse Now.

Coppola’s antiwar epic had been largely assembled on location in the Philippines by Evan Lottman (credited as additional editor on the film’s release). It was Lottman who asked Greenberg, then residing in San Franscico, to assist him on the project, with three other editors (Richard Marks, ACE; Walter Murch, ACE; Lisa Fruchtman) also taking over segments of the film.

The project was Greenberg’s life for 18 months from early 1978. “I’d seen the rest of the film assembled and I thought, even then, it was a phenomenal document. It was a very happy experience for me but politically it was not easy. Francis did not know me and had never met me although he knew me by reputation.”

Among the scenes Greenberg cut was the high-octane aerial battle for a Vietnamese village, a sequence which appears perfectly timed to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries which the Air Cavalry plays over loudspeakers to frighten the enemy.

“I enjoy blending music with images but I’m wary of any editing timed purely to music,” he says. “To me, that’s denigrating the art of editing to a cartoon. It’s Mickey Mouse editing. That was never the case here. The music was actually used as a weapon to intimdate the enemy and was always intended to be used in this scene so to that extent the scene is truthful. If there was any Mickey Mouse timing it was not intentional.”

Greenberg was also responsible for editing the French plantation scene, restored to print by Walter Murch for the extended Redux version in 2001.

“It was a scene that intentionally took your mind away from all the calamity – that you could have something as serene going on amid all the horror. But I was the first to suggest that it should be removed from the original.”

After the intensity of Apocalypse Now, Greenberg’s next project couldn’t have been more different. The urban drama of a middle-brow Manhattan couple battling for custody of their son swept the board at the 1980 Academy Awards ® winning Best Picture and garnering Greenberg a second editing nomination.

“How did I switch from something which has very broad political implications to doing this very intimate, sentimental story? I think that the ability to transition in this way should be in the toolbox of every editor. You may enjoy working on one end of the spectrum but studios and directors are buying your ability to understand all situations. They are buying your mind.”

Perhaps surprisingly Greenberg says he’s always enjoyed movies with a sentimental and sweet aspect. However, there is a fine line between sweet and saccharine which Greenberg confronted on Kramer vs. Kramer.

“I abhor treacly sentimentality,” he says. “That’s a red flag for me. When I’m working on a film like Kramer, which has a ton of sentiment, I want to impart that but I’m not going to spoon feed it to you.”

While he enjoyed every minute on Kramer, he wasn’t entirely comfortable either. “There was a lot of tension that happened around the cameras that crept over into the cutting room. Since [director Robert Benton] worked very hard on the editing he would sometimes share with me the problems he was having between [producer] Stanley Jaffe and [actor Dustin Hoffman, who was encouraged to direct the performance of child actor Justin Henry]. To be fair to Bob he did as much as he could to keep it out.

“Most films don’t allow the audience to make up their minds about characters and instead manipulate people to feel a certain way. Most producers go for that because that’s what they think a sentimental movie should do. I think you have to deny an audience that easy route. The way Kramer was shot it could have been edited to be a lot more sugary – and keeping it dry was a wonderful problem to have.”

Greenberg doesn’t use ‘manipulation’ pejoratively. Movies are, after all, constructed to reveal only what the filmmakers want us to see of a particular story. The past master of this was Alfred Hitchcock. Among the director’s latter day apostles is Brian De Palma with whom Greenberg has had a defining relationship.

“My aim was never to belong to somebody else. I didn’t want to think of myself as some director’s artist. I took the jobs because the scripts sounded like they needed a good editor. In other words, an editor to take that mass of ideas and make it critical. I found that instinct immediately with Brian De Palma.”

Greenberg had had a strong early association with William Friedkin, not only for The French Connection but in editing The Boys in theBand (1970). “I was supposed to do the next one for him too (The Exorcist) but there was some delay and I needed the work. I had a family to support and I took another job in the interim. That was a slap in the face to Billy. We had an argument over that and we never worked together again. So here was a case where a director thought an editor’s loyalty was worth more than anything else in that editor’s life. I never felt I did the wrong thing.

By 1979 De Palma had made several movies including Hi, Mom! and Obsession with Paul Hirsch, ACE. When Hirsch found himself unable to commit to De Palma’s next project, Dressed to Kill, he recommended Greenberg.

“I liked Brian but I didn’t particularly like his movies,” admits Greenberg. “I liked his comedies more than, say Carrie, because I found them too strident, sort of pretentious and openly derivative.”

Although De Palma kept sending script rewrites, Greenberg kept turning him down. De Palma was persistent. “This was the first time in my life someone had not taken no for an answer.” Greenberg eventually agreed to meet in De Palma’s office on Fifth Avenue which the editor recalls as a small dining room with 3” x 5” file cards filled with stick drawings and stuck by Scotch Tape to the mirrored walls.

“While we’re talking I’m looking at the walls and these crude storyboards of planned shots and it excited me. It convinced me to do the movie because I could see in this mosaic of cards the essence of the film and what he wanted to achieve. Brian was a visualist and this excited me more than anything.”

In short order they made Dressed to Kill, Body Double, Scarface, Wise Guys, The Untouchables, each containing some of the most memorable sequences ever put on screen. The homage to Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, reset to 1920s Chicago on the steps of Union Station in The Untouchables is one of them.

“This was not about doing a line-for-line copy of Potemkin but a Brian De Palma expression of thank you to Eisenstein for giving us the language of montage,” he says. “I wanted to get on screen what he himself wanted before he even drew those stick drawings. Brian was the consummate filmmaker and I was becoming part of his thinking. Usually in the editing process the first look by a director is a most auspicious moment. On Scarface, Brian came in to see the first cut which I’d done by about the last day of shooting. He looked at it and just said, ‘Ship it.’ I don’t want to analyze it too much but he trusted me and we got along very well.”

Greenberg adds: “Editing is one of the most beautiful crafts in the visual arts. It has this ability to move you out of your neighborhood theater and into an opera house and De Palma was quite brilliant at being able to do that.”



Posted by Geoff at 12:48 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 12, 2023 12:51 PM CDT
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