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Domino is
a "disarmingly
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


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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a la Mod

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

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Came In From The Cold

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Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
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(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
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De Palma a la Mod

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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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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

At Dread Central, Tyler Doupe' writes about Raising Cain, with the headline, "This Underrated Brian De Palma Film Is Perfect For Valentine’s Day" -
While the structure of the theatrical cut does take something away from the experience, I would vehemently argue that it still has plenty of merits exactly as it is. So, for the sake of simplicity, I will focus this essay on the theatrical version because it remains the most widely accessible incarnation of Raising Cain. But for anyone keen to track down the alternate cut, Shout Factory has released Gelderblom’s version as part of a collector’s edition Blu-ray.

No matter which cut of the film you watch, John Lithgow’s ever-versatile performance is a key element of the picture’s success. The actor shines in his turn as several different characters and personas that live inside Carter’s mind. Lithgow manages to convey a sense of real menace in his turn as Cain, helplessness as Carter, and a level of unhinged fury in his portrayal of Dr. Nix.

Like so many of De Palma’s films, Raising Cain is filled with giallo influences. Although it may not have been De Palma’s initial intent, the theatrical cut sort of functions as an exercise in dream logic. There’s a constant surreal quality to the proceedings that feels reminiscent of the output of Argento and Bava. The inclusion of multiple dream sequences combined with narrative developments that feel very dreamlike make the proceedings a bit chaotic. But given my deep appreciation of the Italian murder mysteries of yesteryear, I don’t mind.

The film is also helped along by a number of signature De Palma techniques, including some beautiful split screen and split diopter shots. Not to mention, the director frequently demonstrates his keen ability to craft tension. The sequence where Jenny believes she’s left a gift for Carter in her lover Jack’s (Steven Bauer) hotel room is supremely suspenseful. The footage is assembled masterfully and paired with a chilling Pino Donaggio score. The exchange serves to keep the viewer in a state of perpetual dread as Jenny sneaks into Jack’s room in the middle of the night. There’s a jump scare associated with this setup that makes me leap out of my skin every time I see it. Even though I know it’s coming, I still react the same way.

Moreover, the picture’s final shot is absolutely phenomenal. The way it’s framed and what transpires within only serves to make me love this film all the more.

As I mentioned previously, Raising Cain is set on and around Valentine’s Day. There are plenty of references to the holiday to make this flick a logical alternative to the obvious choices we revisit each year. Valentine’s Day works as a nice backdrop, giving Jenny a reason to buy gifts for both her husband and her lover. But it’s not a central theme, which makes it accessible all year.

Posted by Geoff at 11:09 PM CST
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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Part of what makes Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars so great is the out-there, innovative score that Ennio Morricone composed for the film. The programmers at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago surely recognize this, as Mission To Mars is scheduled to launch a week-long "Cinema Morricone" series on the evening of Thursday, March 21 (6:45pm start time). The series then continues the following afternoon with a 2pm screening of De Palma's The Untouchables. Here's the theatre's description of Mission To Mars:
In 1975, Disneyland opened Mission to Mars, a cost-conscious update of their Flight to the Moon attraction, which simulated interplanetary travel using vibrating seats and multiple 16mm projectors. It closed in 1992, and was eventually replaced by Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port. Eight years after its closure, Mission to Mars would enjoy the distinction of being the first Disneyland ride to receive a theatrical film adaptation (preceding The Country Bears, Pirates of the Caribbean, and two different iterations of The Haunted Mansion). If Mission to Mars the attraction was a thrifty repurposing of a Disney holding past its prime, its movie adaptation, an all-ages tentpole budgeted at $100 million and helmed by Scarface and Dressed to Kill director Brian De Palma, was anything but. It’s the year 2020 and the first manned expedition to Mars has successfully landed on the planet’s surface, an unforgivingly hostile landscape that summarily terminates the entire crew, save commander Luke Graham (Don Cheadle). Luke’s best friend Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise), a classic space melodrama hero with a dead wife to make proud, charges ahead on an equally disastrous rescue mission which will kill more of his friends and end with the secrets of the cosmos revealed to the bedraggled survivors. Upon release, Mission to Mars ran afoul of mainstream American critics affronted by its undiluted sentimentality and genial space woo-woo, their dismissals stoking full-throated defenses from Cahiers du Cinéma (who placed it in their top ten of the year alongside films by Chantal Akerman and Edward Yang) and assorted De Palma auteurists for whom the film’s excellence was inextricable from its director’s formal trademarks. Featuring a stately and lush score from frequent De Palma collaborator Ennio Morricone.

Preceded by: “Our Lady of the Sphere” (Lawrence Jordan, 1969) – 10 min – 35mm from Canyon Cinema

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
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Monday, February 12, 2024

Posted by Geoff at 11:43 PM CST
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Saturday, February 10, 2024

Karyn Kusama & Diablo Cody cite Carrie & Heathers among inspirations for Jennifer's Body

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CST
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Saturday, February 3, 2024
"While both genres share the element of suspense, mystery and action/thriller movies differ in their focus and pacing," writes Travis Bean at Forbes, in his introduction to his list of The 25 Best Mystery Movies Of All Time. "At the core of a mystery film lies a web of enigmas," Bean continues, "typically untangled by a sharp-witted detective or keen-eyed amateur, leading to an unexpected twist that stuns both characters and audience alike. The journey to the solution is as important as the solution itself, with the audience invited to piece together the puzzle alongside the protagonist."

Beginning with Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential at #25, Bean heads toward David Lynch's Mulholland Drive at #1, with Brian De Palma's Blow Out at #7:

John Travolta delivers a career-defining performance in Blow Out, playing a sound technician who accidentally records evidence of a political assassination. Brian De Palma's direction melds suspense, political intrigue, and personal obsession into a tightly wound narrative that captivates and horrifies in equal measure. Audiences praise the film for its groundbreaking sound work, a gripping plot and an ending that haunts you well beyond the act of watching the film. If you're into mysteries and thrills, Blow Out will snag your interest. It mixes real-life scares with movie magic in a way that stands out. It throws you deep into a debate about what's real and scarily shows just how mighty the media can be in its depiction of truth.

Posted by Geoff at 9:12 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 3, 2024 9:13 PM CST
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Friday, February 2, 2024

The De Palma Decade: Cinema’s Doubles, Voyeurs, and Psychic Teens is the upcoming book by Laurent Bouzereau, which was noted here last November. The book is now listed on Amazon, with a release date of September 3, 2024. Here's the description at the Amazon page:
Journey with award-winning documentarian and author Laurent Bouzereau through acclaimed director Brian De Palma’s renowned—and controversial—horror and thriller films that redefined cinema in the 1970s and early 80s with new interviews and fresh takes.

Among a crop of fresh filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola in the 70s, Brian De Palma—a director from Philadelphia with a few small comedies under his belt—charted a cinematic path unlike any of his peers. At times he was unfairly dismissed as a Hitchcock copycat; other times he was misunderstood for his peculiar mix of sexuality, humor, music, and violence. But, over the course of ten years, he created a new cinematic language, melding his signature themes with specific filmmaking techniques that are now synonymous with his name.

Drawing from his lifelong love of De Palma, years of research, and new interviews, acclaimed documentarian Laurent Bouzereau explores the seven films that came to define The De Palma Decade—Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, Obsession, Carrie, The Fury, Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out. He combines film analysis, detailed history of the films’ productions, and interviews with De Palma himself, his casts, and collaborators to present the definitive record on this unrivaled period of cinematic creativity and the emergence of an auteur who would continue to influence filmmaking in the decades that followed.

Posted by Geoff at 11:01 PM CST
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Monday, January 29, 2024

Brian De Palma's Blow Out will screen February 4-6 at Trylon Cinema in Minnesota, as part of the cinema's 15th Film Noir Festival, which this year focuses on Neo-Noir. On the Trylon Cinema's Blog, Perisphere, Chris Polley delves into the film's paranoid trauma:
What would unfurl during the writing, casting, filming, and editing process would wind up not only cementing the auteur in suspense cinema history, but double as a diary entry of the damned. Blow Out isn’t just De Palma’s take on an age-old story of trying to do what’s right in the face of madness—it’s a crying out of contrition in the confessional booth.

What exactly De Palma winds up divulging in his taut genre exercise requires first breaking down what Hilary Jane Smith calls “the De Palma Gaze” in her 40th-anniversary retrospective on Blow Out: “a macho, threatening perspective [of the] unfiltered patriarchal mind that’s as primal as a cro-magnon man.” Basically, it’s Laura Mulvey’s foundational Intro to Film Studies term “the male gaze” without any of the subtleties. In nearly all of De Palma’s films, especially those from the early-mid 80s such as Dressed to Kill and Body Double, the camera’s eye both desires possession and destruction of the female form at the center of its iris. Blow Out is the filmmaker indulging in both of these tendencies while also attempting to wriggle out of them through meta-commentary on the production, assemblage, and distribution of movies as a downright sordid and perhaps even embarrassing business model.

The film opens in medias res with what unabashedly seems to be a nod to John Carpenter’s 1979 horror classic Halloween, replete with a roving POV shot of a slasher stalking coeds, only for De Palma to pull back the curtain. Here, it is revealed that the scene is nothing more than an exploitation flick in post-production being played back in a smoke-filled soundbooth by Travolta’s Jack and co. coming to a frustrating conclusion that the murder victim’s scream isn’t sufficient for a paying audience. It’s the kind of sardonic postmodernism that so effortlessly feels like what Hitchcock (whom De Palma is routinely criticized for aping) might have been capable of had he lived more than a few months past Reagan’s inauguration. But that’s arguably where the Hitchcockisms end for Blow Out. For Film Comment, storied critic Michael Sragow likens the 1981 film to a kind of reverse-Vertigo, saying, “De Palma and his hero don’t spend the movie creating an illusion but uncovering a reality moviegoers recognize.” What happens for the next 100 minutes is still all things De Palma/male gaze (prostitute with a heart of gold, serial killer of women thrown into the mix with graphic imagery, etc.) but with one hugely important distinction: the guy doesn’t get the girl, and he (spoiler alert) neither ends up vindicated nor released from his paranoid trauma.

When Jack unwittingly records the audio of a governor’s assassination while collecting ambient sounds for his job, De Palma isn’t shy to emphasize just how exhilarating it already is to witness the medium’s technological prowess as well as the simple beauty of a frog’s croak or the wind gently blowing. Then, a couple’s public displays of affection and ensuing skirmish catch our attention and suddenly all the quiet is left behind. And then after that, a gunshot immediately followed by a sedan careening into a creek and sinking fast. The equipment is temporarily abandoned and our hero is in the water attempting to save whoever may be in the vehicle. The natural world is long gone, and yet it’s also about to swallow up at least one innocent person whole. Jack’s rescue of Nancy Allen’s Sally proves the adage: No good deed goes unpunished. From then on, Jack and his audio reel are left to piece together who else was in that, who wanted him dead, and why. De Palma, a visual artist who traffics in the macabre, realizes that the same is likely true for him: he’s trapped himself in this scenario whether he meant to or not. As Michael Koresky says for Reverse Shot, the film “seems like penance for all of De Palma’s past and future cinematic crimes, as well as ours as viewers.” He is the Sisyphus of the moving image—forever fated to revel in the dark side of creation, only to let his creations inevitably tear him apart, just for him to start over again—and so are we.

Part of what makes the guilt go down the gullet with such ease is how joyously vibrant even Blow Out’s most stressful and problematic sequences are. Before John Lithgow shows up and dominates the narrative as a stoic, calculated killer who may be in on and/or working outside the story’s central conspiracy, the most rousing scene is when Jack is going through a tedious, laborious process of matching his audio to a spread of still images in a tabloid of the car’s swerve and descent off the bridge. Travolta is effortless when he feverishly uses a wide array of tools to splice photos and sound together, frame by frame. The film’s editor and longtime De Palma collaborator, Paul Hirsch, recalls in an interview with CineMontage, “I would be editing a piece of film showing Jack’s hand making a mark on the film with a grease pencil, and I would be looking at my own hand marking it with a real grease pencil.” He goes on to liken the experience to being inside an M.C. Escher drawing, alluding to the self-reflexive and labyrinthine works of the famous Dutch visual artist. It’s easy to imagine—and when watching or rewatching the film, it’s visceral—the kind of neurotic, obsessive energy this artistic ouroboros conjures up. On the other hand (no pun intended), another way to describe metatextuality is simple, beautiful, and healthy: it’s called reflection. Perhaps it’s okay to look deep into the photograph like Larrain did back in 1950s Paris, as long as you treat the gaze less like a window and more like a mirror.

Posted by Geoff at 10:47 PM CST
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Monday, January 22, 2024

IndieWire's David Ehrlich reviews A Different Man, following the film's premiere this past weekend at Sundance:
A caustically funny cosmic joke of a film about an insecure actor who finds a miracle cure for his facial disfigurement, only to be upstaged by a stranger who oozes self-confidence despite (still) having the exact same condition the main character had once allowed to hold him back, Aaron Schimberg’s ruthless and Escher-like “A Different Man” might have felt cruel if not for how cleverly it complicates its punchline.

Are we supposed to be laughing at someone — someone who’s been treated like a monster for his entire adult life — just because they couldn’t resist the opportunity to shed their skin? Anyone familiar with Schimberg’s “Chained for Life,” which similarly defenestrated the notion of disabilities as “God’s mistakes,” already knows the answer to that question. Besides, who among us would pass up the chance to look like Sebastian Stan?

In that light, it’s more tempting to interpret “A Different Man” as a dark and damning satire of our social conditioning, which has convinced us to see asymmetry as ugliness, and internalize ugliness as inhuman. But while that might be a more accurate distillation of what Schimberg is doing here, leaving it there would fail to convey the full ambition of a deliriously surreal psycho-thriller that complicates its own identity at every turn. By refracting Brian De Palma’s self-reflexiveness and the Coen brothers’ mordant fatalism through the prism of his most personal obsessions, Schimberg creates a house of mirrors so brilliant and complex that it becomes impossible to match any of his characters to their own reflections, and absolutely useless to reduce the movie around them to the stuff of moral instruction.

If “A Different Man” starts by preying upon the same kind of pity that backstopped the likes of “Wonder,” “Freaks,” “The Elephant Man,” and any number of other films about how atypical-looking people have feelings too, it almost immediately begins weaponizing that pity against the audience — as an impediment to empathy, rather than a pathway to it. You will feel bad for Edward by the time this movie arrives at its perfect final line, but not for the reasons you think.

The movie’s first scene also makes us feel bad for Edward in similarly unexpected ways. Our concern isn’t focused on his neurofibromatosis (which has caused non-cancerous tumors to grow around the nerve tissue inside his face, swelling it in every direction at once), but rather that Edward’s condition has forced the wannabe actor to take a role in a Kaufman-esque PSA about the protocols of working with disfigured people. After all, the only real precedent for someone like him to succeed in the movies is probably “Under the Skin” breakout Adam Pearson (a dead ringer for Edward), though it’s unclear if that film exists in this film’s alternate-reality New York, a semi-heightened place which feels almost as blithely hellish as the nowhere city in “Beau Is Afraid.” The closest Edward can get to his dreams is performing an exaggerated version of himself in a project written by — and for the benefit of — the same people who make him scared to leave his dilapidated apartment. “Fear is a reaction,” someone insists. “Courage is a choice.”

Another instructive quote is waiting for Edward when he gets back home, as his greasy super reminds him that “All unhappiness in life comes from not accepting what it is” (words of wisdom that he attributes to Lady Gaga). So while Edward is delighted to find that a free-spirited Norwegian beauty named Ingrid (“The Worst Person in the World” star Renate Reinsve) has moved into the apartment next door, his instant crush is tempered by the reality of the situation — a reality that persists even after she invites him inside and intimately squeezes out the blackheads on his nose.

Maybe Ingrid, who has an endless rotation of strange men to choose from, simply doesn’t see Edward as a sexual being. Or maybe she develops feelings for him too, but denies them to herself because he’s not the kind of guy a woman like her “should” want. Or maybe the manic pixie dream girl energy that Edward projects onto her masks the fact that she’s a narcissistic sociopath who has no regard for other people’s feelings? It’s hard to see things clearly under so many layers of social coding, and Umberto Smerilli’s woozy, clarinet-driven score makes hard truths melt away like warm butter sliding off a knife.

It won’t be long before Edward’s face disassembles in similar fashion. A single trip to a De Palma-coded doctor’s office sets him up with an experimental pill that could reverse his condition, and — just a few days later — Mike Marino’s remarkably life-like makeup begins to peel off in clumps of raw flesh, revealing that Sebastian Stan has been hiding beneath Edward’s tumors the whole time.

Unsurprisingly, some things come pretty easy when you look like Captain America’s BFF. Bar bathroom blowjobs from people you’ve just met. A lucrative career in real estate. But “Guy” — as Edward creatively renames himself after faking his own death — can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right. Why did the guy who used to live across the hall from him hang himself even though he had a hot girlfriend? When an ice cream truck had to drive on the sidewalk in order to squeeze past the ambulance that came to fetch the body, why did the whole scene feel like such a wickedly cutting metaphor for Edward’s entire future? And when Guy discovers that Ingrid has written an off-Broadway play about Edward’s life and eventual suicide, why can’t he stop himself from auditioning?

Some movies unfold in such a fun way that it can be easy for critics to indulge in the second-hand high of relaying their plots, but I promise that I haven’t spoiled anything beyond the basic setup to a film whose pleasures rely less on surprise than the satisfaction of watching something inevitable unravel into just the right shape.

Posted by Geoff at 11:32 PM CST
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Sunday, January 21, 2024

At the Toronto Star, Adam Nayman writes under the headline: "Stylish and sinister, Blow-Up hits the Paradise theatre on Monday. Here's why you can't miss it" --
Existential uncertainty lurks in plain view in Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up," a time capsule of Mod-era London that, six decades later, looks like one of the signature movies of the 1960s.

Loosely inspired by the exploits of the celebrated British photographer David Bailey — a talented gadfly whose portraits of cultural icons from the Beatles to the Krays made him something like England’s shutterbug laureate — the film stars David Hemmings as Thomas, whose candid (and surreptitious) snaps of two lovers in London's Maryon Park end up being scrutinized for evidence of foul play. The more that Thomas — and the audience — examine the grainy snaps, the more it seems like something terrible has happened; although the details (and the reasoning) remain blurry, we watch in the hope that the off-screen murder (if there was one) will come into literal and figurative focus.

It’s a classic Hitchcockian premise, shot through with illicit tingles of complicity and voyeurism — prowling through the greenery with his camera, Thomas could be a Peeping Tom — curated for its particular social moment with generous helpings of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll (the film includes a jangly concert performance by Jimmy Page’s band the Yardbirds). The atmosphere is one of chilly, free-floating dread; as seen through the lens of master cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, everyday locations become charged with mystery and menace.

For the critics who had anointed Antonioni as a major auteur based on his earlier, more austere Italian films, "Blow-Up's" surprising commercial success and breakthrough as a mainstream conversation piece was a vindication; for skeptics like critic Pauline Kael, the director was less a visionary than an opportunist, smuggling undergraduate pretentiousness into cinemas under cover of Pop Art. “Antonioni’s new mixture of suspense with vagueness and confusion seems to have a kind of numbing fascination,” Kael wrote in the New Yorker.

In 1974, coming off the world-beating success of "The Godfather," Francis Ford Coppola paid homage via the esthetics and plotting of "The Conversation"; in 1981, Coppola’s fellow New Hollywood innovator Brian De Palma — arguably Kael’s favourite American filmmaker — wrote and directed his own spiritual remake, "Blow Out," which melded Antonioni’s reality-versus-illusion themes with homespun political paranoia.

Antonioni would go on to experiment even more wildly through the home stretch of his career, but "Blow-Up" remains his most beguiling and influential feature: a thriller whose excitement is purely and powerfully metaphysical.

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Zac Thompson and Nicola Izzo's new comic book series Blow Away, debuting in April, is "an arctic neo-noir crime thriller," according to a news item by The Beat's Samantha Puc:
“Ever since I first watched Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, I’ve dreamt of telling a paranoid thriller story. Blow Away is that dream made manifest through an incredible collaboration with Nicola,” said Thompson in a statement. “We’ve crafted a neo-noir mystery about obsession and the slippery and subjective nature of the truth. Really, it’s a big love letter to Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock where suspense is the driving force on every page.

“But beyond all of that, Blow Away is the story of a wildlife videographer who may have recorded a murder,” Thompson continued. “We’re arguably living in the most obsessive, post-truth era where regular people are routinely turned into subjects of collective scrutiny. So what happens when you explore those ideas in a place that is entirely removed from that culture? Does something still bleed through? Can a person whose job it is to see patterns really trust their eyes?”

Posted by Geoff at 9:29 PM CST
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