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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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Interviews...

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The Filmmaker Who
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Deborah Shelton
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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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Friday, December 15, 2023
GREETINGS OPENED IN NYC 55 YEARS AGO TODAY
FRANK YABLANS "WENT FROM THEATER TO THEATER WITH THE PRINT UNDER HIS ARM"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/greetings0.jpg

Excerpt from the 1979 book The Movie Brats, by Michael Pye and Lynda Myles:
[Brian De Palma] had managed to establish himself as promising, and as a promising director, he was entitled to the polite interest of at least one of the recurrent Hollywood new talent programs. In fact, he spent months sitting around the offices of Universal in New York with Charles Hirsch, the head of the studio's new talent programs. "Out of that frustration," he says, "smoking cigarettes and waiting for someone to return our calls, we came up with the idea for Greetings." Hirsch's title was grander than his power. He had been appointed because Universal thought he knew New York directors, and he might find some bright new filmmaker; but before Easy Rider's success it was hard to persuade the studio to take any of his recommendations seriously. When Greetings was made Universal kept its distance; its basic conservatism had always led it to consider new talent programs much as it would consider charm schools for aspiring starlets: decorative, but not functional. The film was started on 16mm, with $10,000 that Hirsch raised from his parents and from a friend of his parents. "We started to shoot," DePalma remembers, "but there was something wrong with the camera and everything came out a little soft. That took up a whole week of shooting, half our schedule. We looked at the material, and I said to Hirsch: "The worst thing about this is the way it looks. Let's go to 35mm." Fortunately, the laboratory scratched the first material we sent them, all the way through. They felt so badly about it, they gave us the rest of the film and the processing free."

The film was made for $43,000; it took in more than $1 million. It brought DePalma general recognition for the first time. With his crew of eight, who were friends and students from New York University, he managed to make a virtue out of the limitations under which he was working. Purely for economy, he used very long takes. These tend to allow improvising actors to maunder on, but they also give the film a loose, episodic character that develops an exhilarating picture of the generation of 1968 and their particular problems and obsessions. Just because it was shot while the worries were real, it has a raw edge that later reconstruction cannot bring. The film's heart is the plan of three friends to help one of them evade the draft, the most immediate problem facing most of the people working on the film at the height of the Vietnam war in 1968. In its three episodes one man has to be kept awake all night so that he can be exhausted in mind and body when he goes before the draft board. The treatment is picaresque, a series of near hallucinatory encounters. In the second section DePalma returns to his constant obsession with the killing of President Kennedy; in a prolonged take he shows a would-be expert on the assassination tracing the path of the bullets across the naked body of his girlfriend. It is a repellent image which captures the weird erotic charge that talk of the Kennedy killing carries in necrophilic radio shows and publications. In the last section DePalma nods to the changes in sexual attitudes: one of his central characters is fascinated by pornography and is inventing a new form of art— peep-art. With all three components put together, sex, assassination, and the draft show a group of young Americans at a point of cultural transition. And they are shown in a context that is real, for Greetings is a street film, where the locations are exact and the extras are actually men who are to be drafted. Greetings becomes a report on the past.

This time the finished film did find a distributor. Frank Yablans saw it. He had not yet climbed his way to Paramount and The Godfather, and he was years away from his role as an independent producer at Twentieth Century-Fox, where he produced DePalma's The Fury. He was working with a small-time New York distributor called Sigma 3, which specialized in the sort of films that played art houses across the country. Yablans was excited by the film. He bellowed at his bosses: "If you don't pick up this film, I'm quitting." And, by himself, he stomped round the country to sell the film. DePalma still remembers his campaign with awe. "Literally," he said, "Yablans went from theater to theater with the print under his arm."

The film made money but DePalma saw little of it. It also won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. It was a critical success that was also marketable, largely on the peep-art sequences.



Posted by Geoff at 6:26 PM CST
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Thursday, December 14, 2023
REMEMBERING BART DE PALMA, WHO HAS PASSED AWAY AT 86
WORKED WITH HIS BROTHER BRIAN ON HI, MOM!, OBSESSION, FEMME FATALE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/barton1.jpg

We are saddened to hear about the recent death of Bart De Palma, who passed away on December 1, at the age of 86.

Bart's younger brother, Brian De Palma, had assisted Bart in making an experimental film in 1959, titled Gray Rain, while Bart was attending Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Eleven years later, Bart assisted Brian in making Hi, Mom! (1970), and went on to work with Brian on Obsession (1976) and Femme Fatale (2002).

Bart's son, Cameron De Palma (who had appeared in Brian De Palma's Carrie), posted about his father last week on Facebook:

Barton De Palma, my father, passed away last friday in our home at 12:40pm, a couple of days after his 86th birthday. It has been an honor to care for him these months of joy and sadness and connection. He floated away gently, surrounded by his beloveds. Bart was always chasing and creating beauty, preparing for new adventures, making new friends. Until his liver decreed otherwise last year, he never grew old. I got to see this guy build televisions from scratch, train his telescope on the apollo craft as it went by, create new worlds on canvas, score touchdowns, have a family twice, photograph nebulas, scuba, assemble computers, become a gourmet chef, work in the movies, teach overseas, you get the idea…Unfillable shoes. Great love and respect for my incredible wife Dana, who befriended Bart and went above and beyond to hold us all up with love and grace ♥️.

GRAY RAIN

In the book Double De Palma by Susan Dworkin, Brian is quoted, "I knew a lot about still photography from my science fair days. And I guess it was my brother Bart, he was taking a filmmaking course at Washington and Lee, and we made a little film at the shore."

HI, MOM!

On Hi, Mom!, Bart is credited as part of the N.I.T. Journal crew (along with Bettina Kugel/Tina Hirsch and two others), and he is also credited as still photographer.

OBSESSION

For Obsession, Bart painted the portraits that are seen in the film, and he also took the photos that are used in the film's opening slideshow.

FEMME FATALE

For Femme Fatale, Bart makes a cameo as a security guard, and was also a visual consultant - he created the "Déjà Vu" poster of Rebecca-as-Ophelia, and took 3200 photos during the making of the film to make up the photo mural seen in the apartment of Antonio Banderas' character. (Interestingly, Déjà Vu was also the working title of Obsession.) Bart appears on screen in one of the Laurent Bouzereau special feature documentaries on the Femme Fatale DVD:

My job on Femme Fatale was to produce the photographic work that Antonio was going to create in the course of the film. When Antonio read the script, he was bothered by the fact that the character was a paparazzi, something that he apparently has considerable dislike for. The interesting thing was, once he saw the montage that we were creating for his character, he said to Brian, “Now I understand. Now I understand what this person is, and who this person is.” I figured out when I was done, I shot 3200 photographs of this location. And I must say that many people on the production crew bent over backwards to work on this picture just because they wanted the opportunity to work with somebody who was going to make it technically interesting for them, and interesting visually.


Posted by Geoff at 8:11 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2023 5:18 PM CST
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Monday, December 11, 2023
L.A.TACO, 40 YEARS LATER, FINDING SCARFACE FILMING LOCATIONS
EXEC PRODUCER LOUIS STROLLER CREDITS FERDINANDO SCARFIOTTI - "HE WAS VERY INVENTIVE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfacemother055.jpg

At L.A. Taco, Jared Cowan writes about searching for and photographing the Los Angeles filming locations for Brian De Palma's Scarface, forty years later (see the article in full for Cowan's photographs and comparison frames from the film) -
The film’s producers had intended to shoot almost all of Scarface in Miami.

“I was the first guy [from the production] in Miami, and I was supposed to set up the entire movie there,” says Scarface executive producer Louis Stroller.

But some Miami columnists and politicians were highly critical of the storyline, and the controversies surrounding the filming of Scarface garnered numerous headlines before production started.

“Miami was and still is very well-to-do, and there were a lot of bankers and lawyers, and they didn’t want to point to Miami as a place where all bad Cubans went,” Stroller tells L.A. TACO. “So they put pressure on and pressure on until, finally, the studio called and said, ‘No, we’re not going to make the movie in Florida at all. If we’re going to make this movie, it’s going to come back to L.A.’”

At the end of the day, community leaders were likely feeling the loss of the economic impact that comes from a major studio production. Constituents were also applying the pressure, as a number of local Cuban actors that were supportive of the film showed up at town hall meetings focused on the production.

Eventually, leaders of Miami’s Cuban-American community welcomed back the filmmakers, though they were still not thrilled about the main character being a Mariel criminal.

Stroller says they were permitted to return because the production wasn’t going to shoot any scenes in Miami that were detrimental to the area.

The producers also agreed to include a disclaimer at the end of the film stating that Scarface did not represent the Cuban-American community as a whole.

Over ten days, with bodyguards in tow, De Palma shot mostly exteriors that best captured Miami’s modern, Art Deco, and tropical aesthetics.

Aside from the film’s pressure-cooker car-bomb-gone-awry sequence filmed in New York, and the exterior of Tony’s Miami compound and Alejandro Sosa’s Bolivian estate, which were both shot in Santa Barbara, much of the nearly three-hour film was shot between practical L.A. locations and sets built on-stage at Universal Studios.

Stroller gives a lot of the credit to Scarface’s visual consultant, Ferdinando Scarfiotti, for capturing the look of Miami in L.A.

“He went back to L.A. and scouted all the places and he came up with some wonderful locations,” says Stroller. “He was very inventive.”

Unfortunately, 40 years later there aren’t many folks from the production who can comment with first-hand knowledge on the film’s locations, even Stroller.

“It was a few days ago,” he quips.

De Palma could not be reached for comment for this article.

Scarfiotti, producer Martin Bregman, art director Edward Richardson, cinematographer John Alonzo, and location manager Frank Pierson, who may have had some insight on the film’s locations, have since passed away.

One location manager who worked on the Florida locales declined to comment on the move from Miami to L.A.

Co-producer Peter Saphier told us he wasn’t close enough to the actual filming - he mainly dealt with Bregman, Stroller, and Universal executives - to say why and how the L.A. locations were chosen.

With all that in mind, L.A. TACO took a photographic look at a number of the L.A. spots from one of the most polarizing yet hugely influential gangster pictures ever made.

L.A. Taco

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CST
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Sunday, December 10, 2023
MOTHER IN 'SCARFACE' ECHOES MOTHER IN 'CARRIE'
FRAMED IN AN OPEN DOORWAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfacemother153.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 12:28 PM CST
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Saturday, December 9, 2023
'SCARFACE' RELEASED IN THEATERS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY
ROGER EBERT: "THE MOVIE OBSERVES HIM WITH ALMOST ANTHROPOLOGICAL DETACHMENT"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/philadelphiainquirer.jpg

From Roger Ebert's 1983 review in The Chicago Sun-Times:
The interesting thing is the way Tony Montana stays in the memory, taking on the dimensions of a real, tortured person. Most thrillers use interchangeable characters, and most gangster movies are more interested in action than personality, but "Scarface" is one of those special movies, like "The Godfather," that is willing to take a flawed, evil man and allow him to be human. Maybe it's no coincidence that Montana is played by Al Pacino, the same actor who played Michael Corleone.

Montana is a punk from Cuba. The opening scene of the movie informs us that when Cuban refugees were allowed to come to America in 1981, Fidel Castro had his own little private revenge -- and cleaned out his prison cells, sending us criminals along with his weary and huddled masses. We see Montana trying to bluff his way through an interrogation by US federal agents, and that's basically what he'll do for the whole movie: bluff. He has no real character and no real courage, although for a short time cocaine gives him the illusion of both.

"Scarface" takes its title from the 1932 Howard Hawks movie, which was inspired by the career of Al Capone. That Hawks film was the most violent gangster film of its time, and this 1983 film by Brian DePalma also has been surrounded by a controversy over its violence, but in both movies the violence grows out of the lives of the characters; it isn't used for thrills but for a sort of harrowing lesson about self-destruction. Both movies are about the rise and fall of a gangster, and they both make much of the hero's neurotic obsession with his sister, but the 1983 "Scarface" isn't a remake, and it owes more to "The Godfather" than to Hawks.

That's because it sees its criminal so clearly as a person with a popular product to sell, working in a society that wants to buy. In the old days it was booze. For the Corleones, it was gambling and prostitution. Now it's cocaine. The message for the dealer remains the same: Only a fool gets hooked on his own goods. For Tony Montana, the choices seem simple at first. He can work hard, be honest and make a humble wage as a dishwasher. Or he can work for organized crime, make himself more vicious than his competitors and get the big cars, the beautiful women and the boot-licking attention from nightclub doormen. He doesn't wash many dishes.

As Montana works his way into the south Florida illegal drug trade, the movie observes him with almost anthropological detachment. This isn't one of those movies where the characters all come with labels attached ("boss," "lieutenant," "hit man") and behave exactly as we expect them to. DePalma and his writer, Oliver Stone, have created a gallery of specific individuals, and one of the fascinations of the movie is that we aren't watching crime-movie clichés, we're watching people who are criminals.

Al Pacino does not make Montana into a sympathetic character, but he does make him into somebody we can identify with, in a horrified way, if only because of his perfectly understandable motivations. Wouldn't we all like to be rich and powerful, have desirable sex partners, live in a mansion, be catered to by faithful servants -- and hardly have to work? Well, yeah, now that you mention it. Dealing drugs offers the possibility of such a lifestyle, but it also involves selling your soul.

Montana gets it all and he loses it all. That's predictable. What is original about this movie is the attention it gives to how little Montana enjoys it while he has it. Two scenes are truly pathetic; in one of them, he sits in a nightclub with his blond mistress and his faithful sidekick, and he's so wiped out on cocaine that the only emotions he can really feel are impatience and boredom. In the other one, trying for a desperate transfusion of energy, he plunges his face into a pile of cocaine and inhales as if he were a drowning man.

"Scarface" understands this criminal personality, with its links between laziness and ruthlessness, grandiosity and low self-esteem, pipe dreams and a chronic inability to be happy. It's also an exciting crime picture, in the tradition of the 1932 movie. And, like the "Godfather" movies, it's a gallery of wonderful supporting performances: Steven Bauer as a sidekick, Michelle Pfeiffer as a woman whose need for drugs leads her from one wrong lover to another, Robert Loggia as a mob boss who isn't quite vicious enough, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as Pacino's kid sister who wants the right to self-destruct in the manner of her own choosing.

These are the people Tony Montana deserves in his life, and "Scarface" is a wonderful portrait of a real louse.



Posted by Geoff at 12:17 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 9, 2023 7:39 PM CST
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Friday, December 8, 2023
NEW BOOK BY NAT SEGALOFF DIGS DEEP INTO 'SCARFACE'
WITH FOREWARD BY STEVEN BAUER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/natsegaloffbook.jpg

Nat Segaloff gets into all the details surrounding Scarface, from the origins of the original Howard Hawks film, towards especially the 1983 version that Brian De Palma directed (the inside jacket indicates the book is timed for the latter film's 40th anniversary). There's a forward by Steven Bauer, and our friend Laurent Vachaud is quoted on the book's back cover:
"Not content with tracing the origins, production, reception, and legacy of Howard Hawks's film and Brian De Palma's remake with an incredible wealth of detail, Nat Segaloff takes digressions into the history of the main players, Prohibition, the cocaine trade, and many other subjects, always in a concise and entertaining manner. For all these reasons, Say Hello to My Little Friend is the ultimate all-in-one guide on Scarface that will teach you everything and more."
-Laurent Vachaud, co-author of De Palma on De Palma

 

"Al Pacino fans will devour this book. It identifies Scarface as the driving force behind Pacino's evolution as a star. The analysis of his Tony and Paul Muni's Tony in the first Scarface is fascinating, as are all of Segaloff's stories about the Mob and how it infiltrated Hollywood during the film industry's golden age."
-Robert Hofler, author of The Way They Were and The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson



Posted by Geoff at 11:11 PM CST
Updated: Friday, December 8, 2023 11:13 PM CST
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Thursday, December 7, 2023
DAVID AYER TALKS ABOUT HIS REJECTED SCARFACE SCRIPT
"ONE OF THE BEST SCRIPTS I'VE EVER WRITTEN WAS MY SCARFACE DRAFT"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfaceitaliancrop1.jpg

Total Film's GamesRadar quotes David Ayers from the latest issue of the print magazine:
Suicide Squad director David Ayer reflects on his unmade Scarface reboot script, and admits it was one of his best.

"One of the best scripts I’ve ever written was my Scarface draft," he says in the new 2024 preview issue of Total Film, which hits shelves this week. "It gets passed around in Hollywood, underground. It’s funny when people talk about the project. 'Is it the Ayer script?' 'No, it’s somebody else.' 'Oh, OK.'"

Ayer was attached to the reboot of the classic Brian De Palma film which starred Al Pacino as Tony Montana before he parted ways with Universal on the project in 2017. Speaking to TF in our new issue, the director also addresses the misconception that the script was turned down because it was too violent.

"It wasn’t too violent. Violence – I can cover it. If someone gets shot, I can photograph it where a head explodes and have a hard R, and it’s not going to alienate people. That’s easy. That’s filmmaker 101. I created this rich, soulful journey through the drug trade, and kind of what it is. The studio just wanted something more… fun."

He continues: "Scarface is its biggest IP behind Jurassic Park. They want to capture as big of an audience as possible. I fucking love Universal. Amazing people. I had this really honest conversation about the movie they wish they had, and the movie that I wished to make. There’s a lot of daylight between us. It’s just easier to be like, 'Let’s park this.'"


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
'CARLITO'S WAY' DISCUSSION - 'WATCH WITH JEN' PODCAST
BEGINS AROUND AN HOUR AND 36 MINUTES INTO THE EPISODE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/watchwithjen2.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 11:23 PM CST
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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
THE NEAR RETROFUTURIST LOOK
'EXTENDED CLIP' PODCAST DISCUSSES DE PALMA'S THE BLACK DAHLIA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/podcastdahlia.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 11:16 PM CST
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Monday, December 4, 2023
'AN IDEAL CREATIVE CANVAS'
THE TELEGRAPH'S FILM CRITIC TIM ROBEY ON HOW SCARFACE PREDICTED THE 1980s
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/worldisyours255.jpg

At The Telegraph, film critic Tim Robey looks at "how the blood-soaked Scarface predicted the 1980s" --
Even De Palma’s usual ally, Pauline Kael, had a host of issues with it. Singling out the “rash brilliance” of the chainsaw sequence as a highlight, she faulted the film’s dramatic arc – “the middle is missing” – and called it “manic yet exhausted”, with Pacino’s efforts expended on a character so consistently pig-like that the audience got no kick out of him. She compared him – rightly – to De Niro’s Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980), another film Kael disliked for reasons that seem a little facile now. It’s as if she’s asking these loathsome men, with their “macho primitivism”, to satiate an audience’s craving to be won over, somehow. Charmed.

In retrospect, all the unpleasantness Kael describes in Scarface is right there – but it adds up to a go-for-broke vision, not a litany of flaws. Fast-tracking Tony to obscene wealth, bypassing the steps he takes, is the most swaggery way to comment on his ugly rapaciousness. It differentiates De Palma’s film from The Godfather – or the likes of Casino after it – and makes it pop as a prescient, coke-taker’s satire on Reaganite consumption. “Nothing exceeds like excess,” as Pfeiffer drawls, acidly.

With its glacial Giorgio Moroder score and mirror-filled nightclub scenes, Scarface flaunts an archetypal early-1980s aesthetic, but also manages to feel like the last word on the selfish glamour of a decade that had barely begun. When Tony berates all the rich, appalled habitués of a swanky restaurant as hypocrites, worse than he is, the scene would hardly benefit from more social realism – it’s a one-sided slapdown, a screed. Tony is no one’s listener, of course: he just shouts, expecting the world’s attention.

It took a while to get it. Scarface barely broke even in 1983 – hurt by the reviews and backstage squabbles, netting a so-so $65m worldwide. But it soon became a runaway hit on VHS, selling more than 100,000 copies (priced at an eye-watering $79.95 per cassette, in the medium’s early days). In 2003, the 20th anniversary DVD re-issue was the fastest-selling disc on record, even beating ET. Saddam Hussein was such a fan, he named his family trust fund Montana Management in Tony’s honour.

Along the way, it became an enormous touchstone in hip-hop culture, referenced and sampled by everyone from Public Enemy to Jay-Z. Rapper Sean Combs claims to have seen it 63 times; it’s been an incalculable influence on rap videos ever since it was made.

The electronic artist and composer E.M.M.A., whose main instruments are synths, has had the film on her “creative mood board” from the moment she first heard “Tony’s Theme”. “The mood is unsettlingly complex,” she explains. “Every sound has a purpose and space is used wisely. It helps cement in my mind the gold standard of the emotion you’d want to draw out of a story with your music, and what can be achieved with a meeting of minds.”

The blimp that floats past Tony’s mansion saying “The World is Yours” – nodding back to the billboard under which Muni dies in Hawks’s original – gives the film a reckless allure that transcends bling and firepower. E.M.M.A sees this as the reason so many artists have drawn inspiration from Scarface: “Wanting something just out of grasp is an ideal creative canvas.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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