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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


De Palma Community

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The De Palma Touch

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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

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(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
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The Phantom Project

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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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Friday, March 15, 2024

"Less well-known but still crucial among these names is the cult horror director Brian De Palma," states Richard Chachowski in his introduction to his Wealth of Geeks slideshow ranking his top 15 De Palma films. "One of the unsung heroes of ‘70s and ‘80s film, De Palma served as the closest thing New Hollywood had to Alfred Hitchcock’s successor. Through his odd and audacious movies, De Palma crafted a new kind of horror movie that merged psychological suspense with plot twists and more visceral imagery."

This is a slideshow worth viewing, as Chachowski's writing about the films throughout is much better than the average click-bait slideshow, and he does seem to be familiar with De Palma's work. Check it out.

Posted by Geoff at 7:18 PM CDT
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Friday, March 8, 2024

In today's weekly Fangoria email sent out to email subscribers, Fangoria's editor-in-chief Phil Nobile Jr. shares his anticipation for the upcoming Phantom Of The Paradise screening event at the Overlook Film Festival:
Anyway, it’s incredibly fun to come up with an evening’s entertainment for my comrades in kino, and those fleeting moments have fueled a low-key jealousy of the friends and acquaintances I have who get to do it full time (-ish). So you can imagine my elation when a phone call I made to Landon Zackheim, co-founder of the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans, during which I pitched him a special screening for the 50th anniversary of The Phantom of the Paradise, was received so well.

I’m a pragmatic sort, so I pitched a scalable event, with removable parts and contingency plans, in the hopes that if we got a “no” on one front, we’d get a “yes” elsewhere, and end up with SOME version of this event for the fest. But yesterday The Overlook announced their lineup to the world, and I’m excited to say the Phantom event is the ultimate version Landon and I dreamed of.

First off, there’ll be an entertaining, informative and often hilarious presentation on the history, trials, tribulations, and persistence of Brian De Palma’s 1974 glam rock horror musical, given by Ari Kahan of The Swan Archives; next, a screening of the classic film itself, giving some Overlook audience members their first-ever chance to see the movie on the big screen (at the beautiful, historic Prytania Theatre, no less); and finally, an in-person conversation with the great Paul Williams, Phantom’s villainous star and composer. I kind of can’t believe it’s actually happening.

And to be clear: I did NONE of the work. I had an idea of how *I* would love to see the film presented, pitched it, connected a person or two to the fest, and Landon and his team made it happen. (Then, no less crucially, Fango agreed to sponsor it.) And my understanding is that Phantom is a film that the Overlook’s late artistic director Doug Jones had been hoping to screen at the fest for some time, so I humbly recognize that I’m just a small part of the universe’s larger plan here. But the excitement in Landon’s voice upon hearing my pitch, and the incrementally growing excitement in his voice with each new update — man, that’s a buzz I could get used to. And it’s a buzz I’ll be riding right up to the moment this screening ends… and let’s be honest, probably for a couple weeks afterward.

This screening will likely be the culmination of my 40-plus-year relationship with this movie, sure, NBD, but at its core it’s just a bigger version of showing people you like a movie you love, which is an attainable and relatable buzz for all of us. I think that tradition has been diminished in recent years as we text and DM each other links all day, and maybe fewer folks are sitting down to actually watch the thing you’re recommending (I know firsthand that folks will do anything to NOT leave the platform on which you’re sharing an external link with them). But it does still happen; Shudder and Screambox are basically platform-sized versions of this, with passionate movie lovers finding and sharing with us films they absolutely love. Certainly Joe Bob Briggs is the role model for this activity, championing lost classics on his show and converting his congregation to one new-to-them title or another every episode.

I bet the film fest programmers, the streaming programmers and Mr. Briggs alike would agree that curating films for our tribe is, on any level, a buzz worth chasing on both sides of the transaction. It’s probably tied to our innate desire to share and tell stories; maybe that’s what that dopamine hit I’m feeling right now is about. But, and not to put too much pressure on the next Blu-ray you loan out, it’s also ultimately how the movies we love gain immortality. It’s important and it’s needed. So fire up those recs, those links, those discs, get out there and spread the good word.

Posted by Geoff at 11:46 PM CST
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2024 11:58 PM CST
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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Cláudio Alves at The Film Experience looks at the career work of production designer Jack Fisk, with sets of images from several of the films that Fisk has worked on over the years. These include Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise and Carrie, as well as films directed by Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, and Paul Thomas Anderson, among others:
Born in Canton and raised in Ipava, Illinois, Jack Fisk didn't study cinema or any performing arts, for that matter. His background was in painting, having gone to the Cooper Union and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. There, he started to explore the medium of sculpture, free to experiment with large-scale work that, in his own words, looked better when you were walking around them. In other words, he was building environments rather than a piece to be observed from a static distance. He attended college with childhood friend David Lynch, whose acceptance to the AFI prompted the pair to go West, to California. There, Fisk found work on movie sets, like a non-union gig managing traffic for a shoot.

Inevitably, he found his place in the art departments of small productions, such as the Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman-produced Angel Warriors. In that project, he worked alone and learned the necessities of set dressing, which, until then, hadn't crossed his mind. Still, cinema was a job to Frisk until one production opened his eyes to its possibility as an art form. It was Badlands, and Fisk got his job after knowing of Terrence Malick through Lynch – their time at AFI overlapped – and feeling curious about the film's premise. Mostly, the art director wanted to try his hand at a period piece, even if it was set in the not-so-distant past of 1958. Learning to work with this new director was a wild experience, a repudiation of mechanical filmmaking practices and a love for artistic freedom.

Take the treehouse inhabited by the runaway lovers. There was no such thing in the script, but Fisk suggested it to Malick, took a day to build it, and they were shooting there by the next sunrise. With no storyboards and such fluidity, he became more aware of the world-creating magic of production design, intuitively relating spaces to each other to generate ideas, blending actual location with scenography to invoke a seamless feeling of immersion. Moreover, the director's methodology often involved creating something even more expansive than what ended up on the screen, being ready for any eventuality, the camera's will.

Fisk has described Malick as a brother, but it was also on the set of Badlands that he met his wife, Sissy Spacek. Less than a year after the film saw the light of day, they were married, and she soon started working as a set dresser between acting jobs. Spacek's first art department credit came in 1974 when Fisk got a job designing the theatrical lunacy of Phantom of Paradise. It was the first of the couple's two collaborations with Brian De Palma since the thespian managed to win the role of Carrie White, and Fisk also designed the 1976 Stephen King adaptation. Far from the only genre pictures he made during this time, such projects proved that this artist could thrive beyond realism.

But between horror and blaxploitation, indie nightmares and musical fantasy, Fisk's "brothers" pulled him into their own worlds at the height of New Hollywood. For Lynch, he was Eraserhead's The Man in the Planet, and for Malick, he was the man in charge of bringing to life Days of Heaven's farmland poem. Inspired by historical photographs and the director's idea of a three-story Victorian house lost in the middle of a wheat field. In his most lavish production up to that point, Fisk found himself working the land like the characters, seeing that engaging with the picture's reality helped him as a designer. His achievement is also a treatise on the power of emptiness in the cinematic frame and the lyricism of light.

Posted by Geoff at 11:20 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2024 11:21 PM CST
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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Paul Williams will be there in person for "a very special screening" of Phantom Of The Paradise on April 7 at the 2024 Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans. The screening is presented by The Swan Archives and Fangoria. In the Fangoria announcement, Scott Wampler writes:
The Overlook Film Festival is one of the country's best genre fests, an annual party that combines some of the most exciting new horror films, rep titles and special guests with wholly unique immersive experiences that you simply won't get anywhere else. Today, the fest has announced this year's full lineup, and ... phew, they've really outdone themselves this time! The 2024 Overlook Film Festival lineup is possibly the best it's ever been.

A special point of pride for us this year: FANGORIA is presenting a 50th-anniversary screening of Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise, with none other than Paul Williams in attendance, as well as a special lecture about the film's history by Swan Archives' Ari Kahan. We couldn't be more excited to be bringing this special event to the Overlook.

The Overlook Film Festival runs April 4 - April 7.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2024 12:10 AM CST
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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

"Scarface is For Girls" reads the headline of a Ciara Moloney article posted today at Crooked Marquee. "Last summer," Moloney begins, "at the peak of the Barbenheimer phenomenon, it seemed like cinematic gender essentialism – the kind that made a Ghostbusters reboot a lightning rod for controversy the guts of a decade ago – had finally died off. Barbie and Oppenheimer were released on the same day, and what was set up as a versus between the “boy movie” and the “girl movie” quickly became a both/and. There were no movies for this gender or that, just a couple of great films that we all wanted to see. I saw them back-to-back. Loads of people saw them back-to-back, and tons more watched both films at some point in their long runs on the big screen. The movies were back, and this time, quadrants could be damned.

"Then awards season came along and, as usual, crushed all my hopes and dreams.

"Barbie lost out on nominations for Best Director and Best Actress, for Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie respectively. A backlash strong enough to rope in Hillary Clinton followed. Much of the backlash included accusations of sexism on the Academy’s part, which, given their historical and ongoing aversion to female directors, cinematographers and visual effects artists, makes sense. But the backlash framed Barbie as female in some deeper, more intrinsic sense than, say, Anatomy of a Fall, directed by Justine Triet and with a cast led by Sandra Hüller, both of whom were nominated. Barbie was not just by women, but for women.

"'Did too many people (particularly women) enjoy Barbie for it to be considered ‘important’ enough for academy voters?' Mary McNamara questioned in the LA Times, '… Was it just too pink?'"

From this set-up, Moloney dives into what, on the immediate surface, seems like a completely absurd notion: that Brian De Palma's Scarface is "the girliest, pinkest movie in the world." The tone of the piece is playful, and yet... one can't help but sense there might be at least a tiny bit of truth in what she is saying:

I tried to think of other girlish, pink movies that didn’t get their due accolades on release. Dirty Dancing doesn’t count, obviously, since that’s a class conflict sports movie in the vein of Rocky. Every man I’ve ever met loves When Harry Met Sally. But of course, the girliest, pinkest movie in the world was robbed of even an Oscar nomination: Brian De Palma’s Scarface.

Since its release in 1983, consistent efforts from film critics, rappers, and dorm poster salesmen to assert the macho masculinity of Scarface have failed to erase this simple truth: Scarface is a fairy princess story wrapped in pink, purple, and cyan. Both its score and soundtrack are exuberantly feminine dance-pop from euro disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder. Can you imagine any of the many, many hip hop songs inspired by Scarface rubbing shoulders with Debbie Harry, Amy Holland or Elizabeth Daily on the film’s actual soundtrack? I cannot, and that includes the ones that literally sample music from Scarface.

The film’s girliness is exemplified in the “Push It To The Limit” montage, which pulses to a beat much closer to a makeover montage than a rising-to-power one. It’s set to a relentlessly upbeat bit of synth that would make any Death to Disco advocate throw up. And it’s not creating an ironic contrast between that music and the images: it doesn’t just sound like a makeover montage, it looks and feels like one, too – with images of Tony’s sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) trying on outfits at the store, not to mention the opening of her beauty salon (in a perfectly pink palette, of course) and Tony’s wedding to Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer), featuring his new pet tiger.

Tony’s banker calls his wife Elvia “the princess,” but he’s got it backwards. Elvira is a Prince Charming: an American-born WASP, gorgeous in her slinky backless dresses, she is a conduit to and symbol of power and privilege, a cipher onto which men can project the American Dream. Tony Montana is the princess – not the kind that exists in reality, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but that kind that exists in fairy tales. Pauline Kael complained that Tony seemed “to get to the top by one quick coup,” with no sense of his rise there. But it’s not that it’s a typical gangster story with parts missing. Tony is Cinderella. He’s Evita. He’s Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. He’s plucked from the gutter to the palace in one fell swoop.

And with that one fell swoop, he puts together his own Barbie Dreamhouse of material consumption, complete with a ginormous bubble bath and a pink neon sign in the foyer: “The World Is Yours.” He changes outfits with the regularity of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, an assortment of suits in endless colours. And when he has it all, he stares into the middle distance, alone, in a pink-lit nightclub, like a sad rich girl in a Sofia Coppola movie.

Scarface is feminine deep in its bones, even more so than Barbie – De Palma would never have allowed a Matchbox Twenty song to intrude. (Maybe “Smooth” by Santana feat. Rob Thomas.) If we insist on gendering movies, and doing so on the basis of aesthetics, we must face up to this simple fact: Scarface is for girls.

Posted by Geoff at 10:57 PM CST
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Monday, March 4, 2024

"Well, what happened is, I had written this book about Goodfellas," Glenn Kenny begins on the debut episode of The Misfits, a new podcast from Hollywood Elsewhere. To make a long story short, following his terrific and well-received book, Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas, Kenny tried to write a book about the film Sleepless In Seattle. After that project fell apart, Kenny and his publisher decided to do a book about Scarface. The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface will be published May 7th. Here are some general notes about the book from the podcast, which is definitely worth listening to:

- I got the cooperation of Brian De Palma, which was very important

- I got Oliver Stone on board

- I got a lot of people on board

- And we kind of did the same drill as the Goodfellas book: we have a making of, we have a scene-by-scene breakdown

- Scarface has an even bigger cultural footprint than Goodfellas (which itself is pretty well-known and widely-quoted)

- And I hope to get De Palma involved in some promotional projects. We’re doing a launch on May 14th at The Mysterious Bookshop, in downtown Manhattan, my favorite book store. We’re doing other events, as well. And I hope Brian will come along for some. I think Steven Bauer will certainly be involved. I had the best time with Steven Bauer, the guy who plays Manny. He gave me the most stuff.

- I got Michelle Pfeiffer, which is not an easy get. But I did get her. And she was great. She was lovely. She’s so interesting, because, you know, she’s very frank about her experience. She’s proud of the work that she did on the film, but she said every minute on the set was torture. And it wasn’t because she was being mistreated or disrespected by anybody, it’s just her level of confidence was so low, she was always afraid that she was screwing up. She had no kind of feeling for the value of what she was doing, and she was miserable.

- [William McCuddy cuts in: “But that works for the film – she looks frightened all the time.”

- Yeah. Well, the one thing, the one direction that Brian always gave her – and she talks about Brian being very good and very sympathetic – she says, but Brian, after every take, the one thing he would ask her was, “Did you smile?” Because she wasn’t supposed to smile. You know, there was a notion that she would try to warm the character up just a little bit, and Brian said, “I appreciate you want to do this, I know you have the ability to do it, but for the purpose of the role, you can’t do it.” Although there is one scene where she does it, and I won’t say what it is. But when you read the book, we go into it, and it’s an improvised scene. It’s a scene between her and Pacino where she does laugh.

- Bauer’s origins

- Pacino’s accent and how Bauer influenced it

- Charles Durning and Dennis Franz dubbed lines in opening interrogation

- De-myth of Spielberg directing a shot

- Pacino decided to write his own book, and so did not participate in Kenny's book

- Bregman/Pacino fallout over Born On The Fourth of July

- Jeff Wells sneaking onto Scarface set at mansion

- McCuddy fascinated by New York portion of film within this Miami story

- Entertaining chapter about R-rating due to testimony of a film critic

Posted by Geoff at 7:06 PM CST
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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Steven Fierberg, credited as Additional Photographer and Best Boy on Brian De Palma's Home Movies, has gone to have a terrific career as cinematographer in film and television. Fierberg "will be presented with the ASC Career Achievement in Television Award on Sunday, March 3, during the 38th Annual ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography," according to a profile article by Terry McCarthy at American Cinematographer. "The ceremony will be streamed live at theasc.com."

The article includes the photo above, showing Fierberg and De Palma on the set of Home Movies in 1979. Fierberg went on to be director of photography on Charlie Loventhal's The First Time, a feature that Loventhal co-wrote with Susan and William Finley. Fierberg was also the cinematographer on Sam Irvin's directorial debut, a short titled Double Negative, which William Finley appears in.

Here's the first part of McCarthy's profile article:

Steven Fierberg, ASC, points excitedly at a canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a recent tour of L.A.’s The Broad museum. Titled Melting Point of Ice, it has an angry face, a spread-eagled elephant, an eye with teardrops of blood. He notes wryly, “Now that is my world — reds and blacks, anger, the world isn’t working, poverty, people suffering…”

As Fierberg tells it, his vision germinated in dark spaces, including the depressed neighborhoods of Detroit, where he was born, and the punk underworld of New York City, where he started his film career. But as people who have worked with him will quickly point out, the cinematographer’s instinct is to shine light into that darkness and make space there for the human heart. “Steve is built on love,” says director Julian Farino, who worked with him on HBO’s Entourage. “He has the biggest heart, and endless love for humanity.”

Posted by Geoff at 10:28 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2024 10:38 AM CST
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Saturday, March 2, 2024

As we remember David Bordwell, who passed away this week after a long disease, we're looking back at Bordwell's Observations on film art post from 2014 about visual storytelling, which focuses on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible:
The result is nice case study in visual storytelling. It also indicates how even a pure instance needs non-visual elements to be understood.

Top among those elements is genre. We know a heist situation when we see one, and that knowledge forms a kind of hollow form, a schema into which we slot the elements that generate suspense. What elements? There’s the need for silence and concealment. There’s Donloe, the oblivious analyst who comes in and out of the vault; he must be distracted, but he may still return at the wrong moment. There are unexpected obstacles—a suspicious guard, a curious rat, and a drop of sweat. There’s the risk of a telltale detail that may betray the invaders, such as Krieger’s dagger, dropped onto an arm rest. Over it all hovers a deadline, so that the heist becomes a race against time. (Not only is there a clock in the room, but a digital readout warns us of the rising temperature in the room, another potential giveaway.) Visual storytelling is enormously helped when we bring so much prior knowledge about the type of situation we confront.

“From here on in,” Ethan warns the team, “absolute silence.” For them, maybe, but not for us. The music continues a bit before subsiding for about ten minutes. Even then, the silence isn’t absolute. We hear the hum of the vault, the scratchy patter of the rat approaching Krieger in the ductwork, and the squeaking of the rope as Krieger pays it out and strains to keep Ethan poised above the floor.

Clearly, in his concern for visual storytelling De Palma isn’t ruling out noise and music. What he’s opposed to is talk. But there is talk, however discreet, here too. In M:I, I count about two dozen lines of dialogue once Krieger and Ethan get positioned above the vault. These chiefly involve Luther whispering information to Ethan about Donloe’s whereabouts. Granted, many of his lines are very terse (“He’s in the bathroom,” “Check,” “Good”). Still, dialogue serves as a good redundancy factor, accentuating the suspense of the situation and at one moment giving us access to Luther’s reaction, when he discovers that what Ethan has nabbed is the precious NOC list.

Just as important, our experience of the full suspense of the scene depends on talk we’ve heard earlier. Ethan has gathered his team on the train and is explaining how the security system at Langley works. Using a strategy that goes back to Lang’s M, M:I presents Ethan’s verbal walk-through of the procedures as a voice-over for footage of Donloe executing them. The sequence introduces us to Donloe, familiarizes us with the constraints of the heist, and maps out the normal going-and-coming rhythm that Donloe’s spasmodic upchucking will disrupt.

So the vault break-in can rely on relative silence partly because the situation has been given fully by Ethan’s verbiage. In a way, it’s the reverse order of the Rear Window tutorial: dialogue first, then images to give it dramatic impact.

Posted by Geoff at 11:22 PM CST
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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Phantom Of The Paradise will screen Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, at The Beacon in Seattle, as part of the theater's NINE-TENTHS OF THE LAW: SQUATTERS’ CINEMA program:
One of history's most notorious squatters is the Phantom of the Opera. And the greatest film inspired by Gaston Leroux's classic story is PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE!

Of course it's also just as much an adaptation of Faust and The Picture of Dorian Gray as it is Opera. In just an hour and a half, director Brian De Palma folds a ridiculous amount of narrative into PHANTOM and yet it never feels rushed or overstuffed. Every moment is more inventive than the last, and there are elements of the director's style all over: the public horror of CARRIE, the surveillance technology of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, the coked-out sleaze of SCARFACE. But it's also vastly different from anything he'd ever make again - in part because the movie is as defined by one of its stars and composers, Paul Williams, as it is by De Palma.

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is a stylistic balancing act, drifting between genres - from expressionist horror to slapstick comedy to searing melodrama - to tell the tragic saga of a passionate artist devoured by the ruthlessness of the music business. Williams, then a songwriter for acts like the Carpenters and Three Dog Night, spoofs everything from Phil Spector-produced teen pop to Alice Cooper-like shock rock on the soundtrack and in his role as villain tastemaker Swan.

The film does what all good satire does: it cuts to the truth by going beyond it. De Palma draws on the tropes and themes of classic stories and creates images that are almost mythic. The story is as much a parable as it is a parody, a fairy tale-like warning about the damage celebrity can do to the psyche, leaving one no choice but to take to the rafters in response.

Posted by Geoff at 10:30 PM CST
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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Posted by Geoff at 1:28 PM CST
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