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Domino is
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
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mix or the color
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final print."

Listen to
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Supercut video
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Washington Post
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Rock music critic Dave Marsh reviewed the stage version of American Idiot on his blog last week, and recalled a quote from Brian De Palma from some years ago regarding musicals:

Walking out of Sweeney Todd years ago, I asked Brian De Palma why I hated such shows. He said, “Well, you love stories and you love music. In musicals, story is compromised by having to stop for the songs, and the music is compromised because it has to tell the story.”

Marsh used the quote to help illustrate his point about how the Green Day musical "trusts the music"-- meaning that the original Green Day album told the story just fine on its own, and the new show keeps the volume loud and trusts the music's rock roots by slurring the lyrics like a rock'n'roll show should (according to Marsh).

Posted by Geoff at 12:09 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 7, 2010
The other day, the New York Times' Patrick Healy posted an article that served to officially announce that the revamped stage version of Carrie has been acquired by the MCC Theater, which plans to open the show Off Broadway as "a major production at the Lucille Lortel Theater during the 2011-12 season." Healy interviewed the show's director, Stafford Arima, who said he was actually in attendance for the orginal preview of Carrie on Broadway on April 30, 1988. "I had never seen a crowd go wild like the ‘Carrie’ crowd did, the infectious and almost hypnotic quality to some of the songs, the absolute roar from the audience at the end as Carrie dies,” Arima told Healy. “Personally, too, as a theater geek who had been bad at gym, I related very much to the archetype of the misfit. How many of us can remember being made fun of in high school because we were too smart, too shy, too awkward?” Arima told Healy that about half of the songs in the new show will be different than the original show, which was a notorious flop. "Among the songs already jettisoned," states Healy, "is the notorious Act II opener, 'Out for Blood,' in which high school mean girls and boys work themselves into a state of murderous rapture as they seek pigs’ blood for a cruel prom-night prank against Carrie, a character best known from Sissy Spacek’s portrayal in the 1976 film adaptation."

Lawrence D. Cohen, who adapted Stephen King's novel for both the film and stage versions of Carrie, was quoted in an official MCC announcement yesterday. "From our perspective," explained Cohen, "we had no interest in seeing a new production of the exact same show that closed on Broadway." Composer Michael Gore added, "We've revisited the material extensively and embarked on what we're terming a ‘re-imagining' of the musical." The announcement also quotes Arima regarding how the story takes on increased resonance today. "As our society finally begins to take a serious look at the intense stressors placed upon teenagers and the often tragic consequences of bullying and social ostracism within our schools," stated Arima, "the message of Carrie has only become more timely and resonant."

Posted by Geoff at 7:42 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:48 PM CDT
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Friday, October 1, 2010
Armond White is not impressed with Matt Reeves' Let Me In, which opened this weekend at U.S. theaters. "This perverted fairy tale about Owen’s guardian vampire degrades the vampire genre simply to exploit adolescent sappiness," White states in his review at the New York Press. White goes on to contrast Reeves' film with "the all-time great adolescent horror movie," Brian De Palma's Carrie. Here are the two concluding paragraphs of White's review:

The 2009 Swedish film Let the Right One In originated this confusion. Its title—borrowed from a 1993 Morrissey song that expressed adolescent longing— sentimentalized moral ambiguity. Abby cannot enter her friend’s home without being invited, requiring his acceptance of evil. Bringing teen anguish to vampire lore (M. Night Shyamalan-style rather than Buffy-style) was lamely nihilistic—and inferior to the vampire romance Twilight that opened the same season. But critics preferred Let the Right One In for its selfpitying view of adolescence. That’s also the sell point of this American remake—add on trite political commentary by setting the story in the nuclear test site Los Alamos, N.M., during the 1980s and frequently cutting to TV broadcasts of President Reagan as a right-wing ghoul warning: “America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good…” So teen anguish gets smashed-up with facile politics, America-hatred and routine Christianity bashing. (Owen’s mother is a grace-saying, Bible-reading drunk whose estranged husband complains about “more of your mother’s religious crap.”) Meanwhile, vampirism—though freaky— gets idealized. But when Abby’s father (Richard Jenkins) mutilates himself after fouling-up a blood-raid/murder-spree and she goes on her own feeding frenzies— including neighborhood lovers and the only cop in town—the gruesome bloodletting lacks the beautiful moral symmetry of the all-time great adolescent horror movie, Brian De Palma’s 1976 teen classic Carrie. Apparently, neither Reeves nor critics remember De Palma’s part-satiric, part-melodramatic demarcation between Carrie’s pathetic need to belong and her tragic acts of revenge.

True to millennial faithlessness, Let Me In rejects Carrie’s complexity, emphasizing both Abby and Owen’s misery. Young scholar Jesse Tucker wrote a brilliant essay describing De Palma’s final twist (where Carrie’s hand grasps her schoolmate’s) as a forgiving gesture toward commiseration. Reeves flips that beautiful motivation in the scene where Owen ignores a reach for help from one of Abby’s victims. It’s an obscene devolution of the genre. Children should not be exposed to this lurid display of helplessness and pessimism—and adult viewers should be wary of the nihilistic indulgence.

In November of 2007, Jesse Tucker wrote a review of Carrie in which he presented the intriguing metaphysical interpretation (mentioned by White above) of the final scene in De Palma's film:

A dreamlike sheen hangs over the ending. Sue, the only survivor, sleeps, while in her subconscious she lays flowers on the charcoal pit where Carrie's house used to be. Everyone knows the ending, with Carrie's hand reaching to grab Sue's from another world. It's a shock many people experience come October. But De Palma doesn't use it merely to send us away from the film with a jolt. The gesture is a final, failed attempt to connect. Throughout the film we see the secret pain of abuse, the shock in Chris' face when her boyfriend slaps her, Carrie flinging her advancing mother across the room. Briefly, we see the happy domesticity of Sue's home life. Carrie, beyond the grave, is trying to forge a bond between these girls who exists on the opposite spectrum of life. It fails as Sue wakes up screaming. The other girl is regulated back into the darkness.

(Thanks to John!)

Posted by Geoff at 9:25 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 1, 2010 9:28 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Since last week's post about the steadicam shot in Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas, and how he had wanted to try to make it one minute longer than the elaborate steadicam shot in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, I've located a bit from a Cahiers du Cinéma interview in which Scorsese discusses that Untouchables scene. In 1996, Cahiers du Cinéma celebrated its 500th issue by inviting Scorsese to guest-edit the issue, and devoting it to Scorsese's "passion for cinema." The translated interviews/essays were published in Projections 7, edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue, in 1997. In the issue, Scorsese refers to De Palma as his "pal," and a member of his own extended family, which also includes, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Joe Pesci, Francis Ford Coppola, and Jay Cocks, among others. Here is what Scorsese had to say in 1996 about De Palma as a filmmaker:

Brian is a great director. Nobody can interpret things visually like he does: telling a story through a lens. Take the scene in The Untouchables where Charles Martin Smith is shot in the elevator. Look at that steadycam shot; he's not just moving the camera to show you that we can go longer because we have the steadycam. Francis used to tell me, "Marty, we can start a shot and go up to the Empire State Building and come back down. Anybody can do it. You have to know how to move a camera a little bit, that's all." A lot of people use the steadycam and don't know what they're doing. What Brian does with it is tell the story, progressing the story within the shot. That's just one example. Then in Carlito's Way there's a scene entering a night-club and the camera tracks up. It's extraordinary, his visual interpretation. He deals with stories that enable him to do that sort of thing. So when you get a real De Palma picture like Raising Cain or Body Double, you're getting something really unique. He's provocative. He goes, "I'm going to do this again. Hitchcock did it - so what? Who cares? I'm doing it this way." Brian knows. We always talk about that together.

Posted by Geoff at 2:01 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:05 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Spanish filmmaker Miguel Ángel Vivas's Kidnapped won the award for Best Horror Feature at this year's just-concluded Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. Fest goers began tweeting about the film after seeing it on Saturday, with several comparing it to the work of Brian De Palma. Matthew Kiernan tweeted that "KIDNAPPED is Brian De Palma's wet dream of a movie. Non-stop extended takes and split screen. Works pretty well." Giles Edwards tweeted that Kidnapped is the "best film the new and modern Brian De Palma never made. Sorta." Cinematical's John Gholson hated it, however, writing, "Funny Games meets Brian De Palma would be an apt description for the gimmicky Kidnapped, the harrowing tale of an affluent family forced to turn over all of their cash to violent hooded thugs. Vivas treats his characters (and the audience) rough, unleashing a tiresome feature-length onslaught of relentless tears, screaming, and sobbing amidst occasional bursts of queasy shock-value violence." Gholson goes on to describe what he sees as the film's notable technical achievement, even if it is used in what he finds a "reprehensible" manner:

The most reprehensible part of the affair is that it forces you to suffer along with the family for one single, remarkable technical moment; a split-screen camera move that is the film's centerpiece and the only real pay-off for so much rampant ugliness. Vivas himself seems immediately disinterested in his own film after he pulls off his De Palma trick, and concludes the movie with such obvious disregard for his own characters and his audience, that the only natural response, whether you like the film or not, is to leave the theatre completely shell-shocked.

Ain't It Cool's Capone, however, has a different take on Kidnapped, writing that he found the flow of the film rather engaging. "By keeping edits to a minimum," states Capone, "Vivas makes this ordeal feel like it's unfolding in real time." Capone concludes that:

KIDNAPPED is a film that takes a familiar sub-genre of horror and somehow manages to both class it up and degrade it. The occasional use of split screen to show what's going on in two different places (either within rooms of the house or showing us activity in the house and on the road with the father) is never used as a gimmick; it's only brought in to enhance very specific events that I won't spoil. I won't lie, KIDNAPPED is rough at times, but the way director Vivas allowed the action to unfold almost organically is astounding. This is easily one of my favorites of this year's Fantastic Fest.

Posted by Geoff at 11:49 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:01 PM CDT
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Sunday, September 26, 2010
You may recall a year ago, when the Globe and Mail's Rick Groen reported that Gaspar Noé was excitedly asking around at the 2009 Toronto International whether anyone had seen Brian De Palma in the audience for Noé's Enter The Void. This weekend, Enter The Void has finally opened in select North American theaters, and Noé has been mentioning De Palma to interviewers as a key influence on his latest film, which he worked on for about a decade. Discussing his film with Filmmaker Magazine's Brandon Harris this past summer, Noé stated he had in mind Kenneth Anger's Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome "or some of Brian de Palma’s movies," adding, "I really like aerial shots and everything in the one with Nicholas Cage. Snake Eyes I think." Harris then confirmed the movie title, and added that "Snake Eyes also has a bravura long tracking scene," to which Noé replied, "A good one."

Noé discussed his use of the camera as a point of view in the film with Prospect Magazine's Justin Villiers, explaining that Irreversible was a kind of experimental preparation for the new film:

I was working on Enter The Void many years before Irreversible, so I had been thinking about using such a free-flowing camera. It’s been done a lot before, but never in such an expanded way. There are many shots in Brian De Palma’s movies when the camera is flying over someone’s head, there is a similar shot in Taxi Driver, as well as in Lars Von Trier’s Europa or even in Mishima by Paul Schrader. There’s also, in Minority Report, one long shot that hangs above the set. I like those shots, but I’d always dreamed of having a movie where for one full hour you’d be flying above the sets. I’m happy that no one else did it before me.

When asked by IFC's Nick Schager where the central idea for Enter The Void came from, Noé laid out his influences from the beginning:

When I started studying cinema, I was watching “Eraserhead” over and over. I also discovered “Altered States” and I discovered maybe LSD and mushrooms at the same time. And I thought it would be good to do a movie from the perspective of the main character, like “Lady in the Lake,” but in which you would follow the guy and his hallucinations. Then I read these books about life after life, and the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” and I thought it could be even better if the guy dies and you see him floating above the living, like all these reports of out-of-body experiences. Also, I really, really like all those astral shots, which are often in Brian De Palma’s movies, where the camera is floating above people.

You don’t see many movies that really impress you during a lifetime, but “2001” was maybe my major cinematic shock. Then among the latest ones, “I Am Cuba” convinced me that the movie had to be shot with master shots. I saw it before shooting “Irreversible,” but “I Am Cuba” affected both “Irreversible” and this one.

Noé further elaborated to Schager on his inspirations for his use of point of view shots:

One day many years ago, maybe when I was in my late teens or early 20s, I took some mushrooms with friends, and then I went back home and they were playing “Lady in the Lake” on TV. That’s when I decided that the first part of the movie should be shot in first-person perspective. When it comes to the flashbacks, that doesn’t come from any other movie. I just thought that, in my own memories or in my dreams, I always see myself like a shadow on the right or left side, but I feel my presence. My dreams aren’t constructed like POVs, but that’s the way I perceive my own past or my own future or my own dreams. I’m sure that’s the same for most people, so I decided to leave it that way.

When it comes to the actual visions, I was just inspired by all these accounts of out-of-body experiences, as well as images -- like I said -- from Brian De Palma, and “Zentropa” [the U.S. title of Europa] by Lars von Trier, who had some aerial shots that were really pretty.

Noé also mentioned De Palma while discussing the difficulty of describing in words the visual experience of art:

There are movies that are more cinematic and movies that are more narrative in a literal way. I guess it's easier to talk about "Irreversible" or about "I Stand Alone" than to talk about this one, because maybe the best parts of the movie are some visual aspects that are more difficult to transfer to words. For example, my father is a painter, you see his paintings in the movie. The painter pretends to paint paintings that actually were my father's paintings. Sometimes I read reviews about his exhibitions and think, "How can people describe abstract or expressionist painting?" and yet, this movie had many references. When I started shooting it, I was thinking of course of "2001: A Space Odyssey," of "Videodrome," of "Altered States," some shots in Brian De Palma's movies where the camera is floating above or "I Am Cuba" for the long master shots. But also, I had in mind Kenneth Anger's "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" and "Eraserhead," which are dreamy movies that are very hard to describe. You cannot describe colors, not when you have 20 colors, so you just say "it's colorful." I knew this movie should be more visual than the previous ones, but that's also why people are more pissed off, because for some people, it's too visual, too experimental. I got much better reviews than I've ever had in my life with this one, but I also got the worst reviews I've ever had with this one. One (critic) said, "This is the worst piece of sh*t that has ever been shown in the Cannes Film Festival" just because of the flickering effects, the out-of-focus effects, at a point make you feel very stoned. For people who don't like feeling stoned, then they refuse the experience and they feel as if they've been brought somewhere they didn't want to go.

You can see some of the shots being discussed above on a YouTube video put together by BUF, the company that did many of the visual effects in the film.

(Much thanks to Peet!)

Posted by Geoff at 9:20 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010
GQ has posted an incredible oral history of the making of Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas, which was released 20 years ago this week. 60 or so cast and crew members were interviewed for the article, including Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Michael Ballhaus, and Ray Liotta. In the following excerpt, Larry McConkey and others discuss filming the Copacabana shot. Illeana Douglas, who was dating Scorsese in those days, talks about how Scorsese wanted to one-up Brian De Palma by making the shot a minute longer than the long steadicam shot in The Untouchables. Here's the excerpt:


Larry McConkey (Steadicam operator): The impression I had when Marty walked us through the Copacabana shot was that this is going to be the most boring, worst thing I've ever done. We're walking across the street, down the stairs, down a hallway, in the kitchen.... What is this shot about?

Douglas: They didn't know that the Copacabana tracking shot was going to be such a big deal. It wasn't like, "Okay, we're going to do the greatest Steadicam shot in history."

Joseph Reidy (first assistant director): It's probably the hardest orchestrated single shot I've ever been involved in. McConkey: There were 400 or more absolutely precise timing moments. It was totally impossible, mathematically.

Kristi Zea (production designer): This was the mating dance. Henry's arrival into the Copa, the way he came in, and how the whole thing was designed to impress the hell out of Karen. You wanted the audience to be part of her being impressed.

Johnny "Cha Cha" Ciarcia (Batts's crew number one): Marty Scorsese was in trouble for extras, so one of the casting directors called me. I live on Mulberry Street. I know the whole world. I went and I made a deal for $10 a person. We had five busloads of people on Fifth Avenue for the Copa. I set it all up.

Zea: He wanted a long preamble before they get into the space. The Copa didn't have a long enough walk before they actually get into the nightclub. So we had to build a hallway, and we literally took the walls away while the camera was in motion, so that they were gone by the time Ray and Lorraine showed up in the main room. The delivery of the camera into that big space had to be done like a ballet. Henry is saying hi to everyone, everyone knew who he was. And then the table flies across the camera and lands smack dab in front of Henny Youngman, and suddenly there's champagne coming over courtesy of these other guys.

McConkey: Marty watches the first rehearsal, and the only thing he said was, "No, no! When the table comes in, it's got to fly in! I came here as a kid and I saw this!" They'd flip on a tablecloth, the lamp goes on top of it, somebody plugs it in, they put down the plates... It was like a magic act.

Douglas: I believe they only did like seven takes. I've been involved in Steadicam work where you literally work all day to achieve what Marty achieved in that shot.

Liotta: One take was because at the end of it, Henny Youngman forgot his joke.

Zea: "Take my wife..."

Ballhaus: He forgot his line that he had said about 2,000 times!

Douglas: Brian De Palma had just done this incredibly long Steadicam shot in The Untouchables, and Marty said it would be funny to try to do it one minute longer than De Palma's. The world perceives this as "Oh, the Copacabana scene!" But what it really is, is directors behind the scenes having fun fucking with each other.

Posted by Geoff at 7:49 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, September 26, 2010 12:39 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The latest news of the (said to be) new and improved version of the Carrie musical on Broadway comes from '60s pop icon Lesley Gore of all people. No, she's not appearing in the show (at least, not as it stands now), but her brother, Michael Gore, composed the songs for the 1988 stage version of Carrie, and has now reteamed with his original collaborators (lyricist Dean Pitchford, and librettist Lawrence D. Cohen) to revamp the whole thing. Last November an all-star cast was assembled for an industry reading of the revival. Now, Leslie Gore tells Broadway World's Pat Cerasaro that her brother Michael and Pitchford have rewritten the entire second act and are "heading in for, I think, another reading and then I think they are then going to go into production."

Meanwhile, while getting ready to post an essay about De Palma's film version of Carrie, Wonders In The Dark's Troy became obsessed with the screenshots of Sissy Spacek he was looking through, and decided to forgo the essay in favor of "copious" shots of Spacek in the film. Troy writes that, while looking throught the shots, it became apparent that Carrie White could "only be played by one person, Sissy Spacek. Her face and mannerisms allow her to be the perfect sympathetic monster — beautiful, innocent, fragile, and pitiful, yet still managing to be chillingly believable as she exacts an inferno of bloody terror on her tormentors."

Posted by Geoff at 3:00 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 18, 2010
The Toronto International Film Festival winds down this weekend, and Brian De Palma was spotted as recently as yesterday, when Guardian critic David Cox tweeted that De Palma was sitting behind him at a screening for Tsui Hark's Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Regarding De Palma, Cox tweeted, "Don't think there's time to get him to explain FEMME FATALE." Regarding the film, which is said to have stunning visuals, Cox tweeted that it "was a flamboyant way to bring my festival to a close. It even had fire turtles." On Monday (September 13th), Empire Movies' Liam Cullin tweeted that he saw De Palma waiting in line for a screening of Steven Silver's gonzo journalist film The Bang Bang Club, which Screen Daily's Mark Adams was quite impressed by. Based on true events, The Bang Bang Club follows "a band of freewheeling, hard-partying, daredevil photographers in South Africa of 1994, in the turbulent moments of the final days of apartheid" according to Adams. "The sequences of them photographing the violence around them," writes Adams, "a violence the[y] start to become immune to – is wonderfully staged, and a scene of Ryan stumbling onto a brutal photograph of a killing that will win him a Pulitzer Prize is quite memorable. So too a similar (though very different) scene where Carter travels to the Sudan and take a photo of a starving girl stalked by a menacing vulture, which will eventually win a Pulitzer for him as well."

Meanwhile, De Palma' name keeps popping up in reviews of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Empire critic Damon Wide on Monday blogged, after seeing Black Swan in Toronto, that "At the moment, the film, for me, is still too fresh to filter, but I suspect that once it has settled, and I've stopped wondering why it reminded me of films as diverse as Brian De Palma's Sisters, P&P's Black Narcissus and John Cassavetes' Opening Night, it will reveal itself as a film of great power and longevity." Jorge Mourinha calls Aronofsy's film a "smart shocker of the sort Brian de Palma knew how to do so well in his prime, with a strong lead and confident handling making the slightly overwrought plot work." Writing from the Venice fest early this month, TIME's Richard Corliss also mentioned De Palma in his Black Swan review:

I've also heard from folks at Venice who think Black Swan is a junky horror show and [Natalie] Portman way too strident. Me, I'm of two minds about a movie that wants to be a nail-ripping thriller and a statement on an artist's unholy communion with her role. It's reminiscent of older, better movies: the late-'40s backstage dramas A Double Life (Ronald Colman plays Othello, becomes fatally jealous of his actress ex-wife) and the classic ballet melodrama The Red Shoes; and of films about tender, troubled psyches in the films — I won't say which ones — of Roman Polanski, Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and David Fincher. Black Swan also takes a view of women that might kindly be described as old-fashioned.

And finally, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir sees a De Palma influence in the Guillermo del Toro-produced Julia's Eyes, a horror film directed by Guillem Morales. O'Hehir writes that Julia's Eyes, "which reassembles much of the creative team that made The Orphanage in 2007," is "altogether a chillier, slicker and colder affair, formal and beautiful in composition and shot through with a sadistic eroticism that strongly suggests Brian De Palma." O'Hehir concludes, "I doubt this project occupied much of del Toro's attention, and it's fundamentally an exercise in genre and style -- but what style! The brooding skies and gray-green trees, the closely packed prewar houses, the naked bodies in a locker room full of blind women, the deepening shadows as Julia's sight gives way and evil comes ever closer. Even the deep, dark crimson when we finally see blood. (Despite this movie's moodiness, it's not without its share of gruesome gore.) In the long arc of Guillermo del Toro's career, Julia's Eyes is a minor side project -- but we can only wish that one in 20 American horror films were this well made."

Posted by Geoff at 11:24 AM CDT
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Eli Roth revealed to Love Film that he prided himself on watching Brian De Palma's Scarface 56 times on VHS in his youth. He talks about how he would consider the plight of the man "with the big nose" in the club who dances to Frank Sinatra's Strangers In The Night and gets machine-gunned to death. Roth says he and his friends would stop the tape and deconstruct the back-stories of minor characters. "Think about this poor guy," says Roth about the big-nosed dancer. "He went to work that day, he was just doing his job. He was just trying to entertain, and then these guys came in and just machine-gunned him. And like, what's his wife gonna say, like, was this guy married? And then, like he doesn't come home from work that night. I would sit and obsessively think of the back-story for every minor character in the film."

Posted by Geoff at 8:56 PM CDT
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