Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod


De Palma Discussion


Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

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


« September 2011 »
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30


De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
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

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema


Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor


Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod

Entries by Topic
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.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Casualties Of War
Catch And Kill
Cinema Studies
Clarksville 1861
Columbia University
Columbo - Shooting Script
Conversation, The
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dick Vorisek
Dionysus In '69
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
George Litto
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Ghost & The Darkness
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Hi, Mom!
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Newton 1861
Noah Baumbach
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parties & Premieres
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Peet Gelderblom
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Responsive Eye
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Rotwang muß weg!
Sean Penn
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Stephen H Burum
Sweet Vengeance
Taxi Driver
The Tale
To Bridge This Gap
Toronto Film Fest
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Friday, September 2, 2011
There is a lot of misinformation going around the web right now regarding a trial that began Wednesday in Germany for the man who attacked American soldiers at the Frankfurt International Airport in March of this year, killing two and injuring two others. Several reports are citing other sloppy reports that claim that the Frankfurt shooter, Arid Uka, told a court in Germany yesterday that he was motivated to kill American soldiers heading to Afghanistan after he watched the movie Redacted. However, this is not what Uka said at all. What he said was that prior to the attack, he had been influenced by radical Islamic propaganda online. According to Stars And Stripes, Uka told the court that the night before the crime, he followed a link to a video posted on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. According to a New York Times report from last March, Uka believed the video took place in Afghanistan. The video he viewed carried the title, “U.S. soldiers raping our sisters, wake up oh Ummah!” The video appropriated clips from Brian De Palma’s Redacted, sometimes with extraneous chanting and other audio over the clips. After the shootings, YouTube pulled the video from its site, but someone was able to capture it before it was pulled. It can be viewed at The Daily Caller.

According to German reporter Florian Flade, Uka, “a 21 year-old born in Kosovo, was member of a Facebook group spreading Islamic content.” It was on that group’s website that he found the link to the video described above. Campusblog captured parts of Uka’s Facebook page before it was taken down back in March. The blog claimed that Uka’s friends list “reads like a Who's Who of the German Islamist scene.” A separate New York Times article by Souad Mekhennet states that Uka had posted a link on his Facebook page to a jihadist battle hymn: “I can no longer stand this life of humiliation among you. My weapon is ready at all times.” The same article (from last March) states that “a German security official who is involved in the investigation but not authorized to speak about it said that Arid Uka had been friends with men known for their radical interpretation of Islam.” Mekhennet’s March 5th article mentions another video on Uka’s Facebook page:

On his Facebook page, Mr. Uka had a link on February 15 to a 4:42 minute-long Youtube video, with pictures of detainees in Guantanamo, chanting in Arabic with German subtitles: "I can not stand this life of humiliation." The video also features pictures of fighters and the clattering of machinegun fire.

German authorities believe that Arid Uka acted alone in the attack on March 2, 2011, and was not part of any terrorist organization, nor did he have any accomplices. A New York Times article by Jack Ewing and Souad Mekhennet from July 6 lays out what happened that day:

Mr. Uka, who had a temporary job sorting mail in the airport complex, went there armed with a pistol and two knives on the afternoon of March 2, prosecutors said, as they provided additional detail on the attack.

Authorities said that Mr. Uka spotted two airmen emerging from a baggage claim area in Terminal 2 of the airport, and followed them to an exit where a United States Air Force bus was waiting. Mr. Uka watched as 16 American military service members gradually arrived, then, shortly after 3 p.m., asked one of them for a cigarette and where the soldiers were heading.

After the airman confirmed that they were on their way to Afghanistan, Mr. Uka turned around, reached into his backpack and loaded a magazine into the pistol concealed there, authorities said.

Mr. Uka waited until almost all the airmen had boarded the bus, then shot one of them, 25-year-old Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, in the back of the head from about five feet away, prosecutors and Air Force officials said. Airman Alden died at the scene.

Boarding the bus, Mr. Uka then fatally shot 21-year-old Airman First Class Zachary R. Cuddeback in the driver’s seat and — repeatedly shouting “God is great” — seriously wounded two other men standing in the aisle of the bus, prosecutors said. One of them was blinded in one eye as a result.

The Air Force identified the two wounded men as Senior Airman Edgar Veguilla and Staff Sgt. Kris Schneider.

Mr. Uka next aimed the pistol point-blank at a 22-year-old airman who was trying to hide behind a seat, but the weapon jammed, prosecutors said. Mr. Uka then fled, pursued by an airman. He was captured by two German police officers in the terminal.

An Associated Press report about the trial, while not as detailed as the Star And Stripes report, stated that the clip Uka viewed from a Facebook link the night before the attack turned out to be “a scene from the 2007 anti-war Brian De Palma film Redacted, taken out of context.” The AP report was carried by most American media outlets. However, a BBC report simply stated that the video Uka viewed was “a scene from Brian De Palma's anti-war film, Redacted,” with no mention of context. This BBC report is used as the main source in a Daily Caller post with the headline, “Terrorist credits Hollywood for his recruitment.” This post by Neil Munro is blatantly inaccurate. It opens with the following statement: “A Balkan Muslim who killed two U.S. Air Force servicemen in March has told a German judge Wednesday that he was motivated after seeing the movie Redacted, made as a political statement in 2007 by Hollywood director Brian De Palma, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and several high-profile movie industry producers.” So now, all of a sudden, Uka had actually watched Redacted, in context and all? Definitely not.

That same paragraph is copied verbatim at the beginning of a Washington Times article, which in turn is linked to in an opinion piece by Yahoo’s Mark Whittington, who apparently thinks he is sourcing from the Washington Post (his link goes to the Washington Times article). With the headline, “Did Redacted Cross the Wrong Line Between Art, Life?”, Whittington seems to think that a man named “Arid Uki” was “one of the few” people in the world who “saw an anti-American, anti-war movie called Redacted.” Whittington stretches it again by stating that “a Muslim terrorist is citing an anti-American, anti-war movie directed by a famous American director as the motivation for his crimes.” (Redacted may be anti-war, but it is certainly not anti-American.) Meanwhile, Breitbart’s Christian Toto went back to the Daily Caller’s citing of the BBC article, which led him to state that Uka “saw the film [Redacted] and went on to kill two U.S. Air Force servicemen in March.” Toto continues, “Uka told a judge this week he was inspired by ‘the movie’s graphic depiction of U.S. soldiers raping a girl in Iraq,’ says The Daily Caller citing a BBC report.” As we have seen above, the video Uka watched was a video clip that appropriated clips from Redacted. These guys are suggesting that Uka watched De Palma’s movie in full and in context, which is so far from the truth it is incredibly embarrassing. Another one who sourced from the BBC article is Adam Martin at the Atlantic Wire, who posted the misleading headline, "Kosovo Man Says He Shot U.S. Airmen After Watching Redacted."

In any case, The Daily Caller’s Munro did get ahold of Redacted producer Jason Kliot, although he unfairly asked Kliot questions based on its own stretched truth (that Uka actually viewed Redacted). “I honestly had not heard about it,” Kliot told Munro. “I’m terribly sorry to hear that, but I don’t understand how my movie would impel anyone to commit murder. The real culprit here is the tragedy of war, it is not Brian De Palma’s brilliant film. I don’t see how people would be made to commit acts of violence [after watching Redacted], any more than they would for watching Fox News,” Kliot is quoted as saying.

Later in the article, Kliot is quoted again:

“War movies… show the nature of war,” Kliot said. “There is nothing more incendiary about telling the truth of what is happening in war.”

“Do Americans kill people in wars? Yes … [but] this is pro-American film, this is a pro-troops film… [because it shows the consequences] when soldiers are put in an impossible position,” Kliot said. “Right-wing nut-jobs” criticized the movie even though they had not watched it, he said.

Kliot said his movies show many sides of warfare, and cited his 2005 movie, The War Within, which shows a Pakistani preparing to murder Americans in New York’s Grand Central Station after he was radicalized by U.S. counter-terrorism policy. “Redacted is about ending wars, not starting them,” he said.

The Stars And Stripes article describes Uka’s confession on Wednesday (the first day of a trial that will take ten days, spread out on select Wednesdays between now and January). Here is the Stars And Stripes account of Uka’s confession (written by David McHugh and David Rising):

No pleas are entered in the German system, and Uka confessed to the killings after the indictment was read, telling the court "what I did was wrong but I cannot undo what I did." He went on to urge other radical Muslims not to seek inspiration in his attack, urging them not to be taken in by "lying propaganda" on the Internet.

Uka, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a crisp white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, smiled at his attorneys as he was brought in and his handcuffs were removed. But he wept repeatedly as he recounted the attack and watched the jihadist videos he said motivated him.

"To this day I try to understand what happened and why I did it... but I don't understand," he said, at times speaking so softly that court officials had to bring in a microphone and put it directly in front of him.

Cooperating with authorities and confessing can help reduce a defendant's sentence - but Uka refused to tell the court where he obtained the 9mm semi-automatic pistol he used, which Presiding Judge Thomas Sagebiel said meant his confession was incomplete.

Uka described becoming increasingly introverted in the months before the attack, staying at home and playing computer games and watching Islamic extremist propaganda on the Internet.

The night before the crime, Uka said, he followed a link to a video posted on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. It turned out to be a scene from the 2007 anti-war Brian De Palma film Redacted, taken out of context.

He said he then decided he should do anything possible to prevent more American soldiers from going to Afghanistan.

"I thought what I saw in that video, these people would do in Afghanistan," he told the court, his voice choking with emotion as he wiped away tears.

Uka conceded when asked by prosecutor Jochen Weingarten that the airman driving the bus had not been going to Afghanistan. On the bus on the way to the airport to look for victims, he said he listened to Islamic music on his iPod while nursing doubts that he'd be able to follow through with his plan.

"On the one hand I wanted to do something to help the women, and on the other hand I hoped I would not see any soldiers," he told the court.

He says he now does not understand why he went through with the killings.

"If you ask me why I did this, I can only say ... I don't understand anymore how I went that far."

Prosecutors introduced evidence from Uka's laptop, cell phone and iPod, which included hundreds of files containing jihadist videos, literature, sermons and songs.

One song went, "Mother be strong, your son is on jihad," and "do not mourn for me." A video showed rifle-toting Islamic fighters in Pakistan, and a bullet-holed target with "Obama" scrawled on it.

Posted by Geoff at 12:10 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 5, 2011 6:34 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, February 3, 2011
The association "L'ECLAT" will present three cycles of motion pictures, plus one full day of screenings, devoted to the philosopher Michel Foucault. The events will take place at the Villa Arson in Nice, France. The first cycle begins next Friday, and Brian De Palma's Redacted will be presented by philosopher Dork Zabunyan to close out the series' opening day on February 11th. Redacted will be screened as part of a study taking an archaeological approach in which the designated philosopher will consider each film's history and transmission, questioning that film's ability to capture, understand and represent history. The series is separated into four groups of films: "With Foucault," featuring archival, documentary, and other filmed Foucault appearances; "Of Foucault," featuring films that Foucault himself commented on; "Before Foucault," featuring films that reflect Foucault's thinking; and "After Foucault," which includes De Palma's Redacted and Peter Watkins' Punishment Park as contemporary films that seem to develop Foucault's thinking.

Posted by Geoff at 12:41 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 5, 2011 12:37 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The first decade of the 2000s have been over for a year now, and while it seems a long delay at this time to discuss Brian De Palma’s cinema of that decade, the truth is that, as film lovers have contemplated and gone over their favorites, decade lists have continued to be posted on the internet all year long. Each of De Palma’s four films from the 2000s has made someone’s decade list, and over the next week, I will be posting summary links to these lists with a post for each film.

After De Palma signed on to direct Disney’s Mission To Mars, he immediately asserted to his team of creators that the mysterious spherical artifact on Mars should be the Face on Mars, as it had become a part of popular culture. He told the design team he wanted it to look like a “sleeping goddess.” As can be seen in the montage of stills above, variations on the sleeping goddess would turn out to be the key visual motif of De Palma’s cinema for the decade.

As the decade began, the figure was an intimidating wonder, inspiring hope amidst its alluring aura of danger. By the end of the decade, she came to represent the tragic soul of the repressed, the redacted—her dead eyes open as if to remind us that our own eyes have been wide shut. In each film, the sleeping goddess silently calls out like a spiritual siren. The astronauts in Mission To Mars are initially and fatefully drawn to her anomalous mystery before learning how to communicate with her, ultimately to find that she has been lying in wait for them to arrive. In Femme Fatale, her sleep becomes a premonition to the dreamer, herself the sleeping goddess of her own dream, taking on the angelic form of the drowned, sleeping Ophelia to help guide the waking femme fatale to a less fateful moral decision. She appears again as Bucky sleeps during a stakeout in The Black Dahlia, the camera making a dreamlike move over the building he and Lee are watching to reveal that off in the distance, the dead, mutilated, posed-in-the-grass figure of Betty Short seems to summon Bucky’s subconscious. The shock of the sleeping Dahlia’s return at the end of that film was turned up to eleven one year later in Redacted, which powerfully concludes with a staged photo of the violated figure, her tortured sleep exacting a furious plea to the conscience of the mind’s eye. The film ends, the music quietly fades away, and De Palma leaves us with the terrible silence of death—a death that had been covered up. With its staged photo representing (imagining?) an image that might only exist in the mind’s eye of someone who was there, Redacted demonstrates that nothing stays buried forever…

Posted by Geoff at 2:18 AM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, June 14, 2010

In an article about Francis Ford Coppola posted today at The Telegraph, critic Sheila Johnston offers a brief assessment of Coppola's fellow "movie brats": "Today some of his peers are making gaudy, hollow baubles (Martin Scorsese); some (George Lucas, Steven Spielberg) are busily tending to their merchandising franchises; others (the Johns Milius and Landis) haven’t directed a feature for years. With the partial exception of Brian De Palma (with his controversial Iraq drama Redacted), Coppola is the only one to have entirely reinvented himself." I'm not sure how Landis wound up included in there (he was never really lumped in with the "movie brats" per se), although he is among their generation. While I do not necessarily agree with her assessments of Scorsese and Spielberg, it is true that De Palma and Coppola are doing the most interesting work of their generation right now. Lucas has talked about going back to making the personal, experimental cinema he's always wanted to make, but doesn't seem to know how to get started.

Johnston's article centers around Coppola's latest release, Tetro, which, along with his previous film, Youth Without Youth, marks his return to personal, independent filmmaking. "I am an amateur filmmaker now," he told Johnston. "They don’t have to pay me to work on a film like Tetro because the payment is just to participate in the cinema, which is a magical medium and one you can keep learning about. That’s my reward. I don’t make films for money. Or for my career." Johnston also offers some very interesting notes on the press release for the film:

Instead of the usual selective litany of career triumphs – and Coppola has enough of those to boast about: The Godfather films, Apocalypse Now, five Oscars, two Palmes d’Or – his official biography in Tetro’s press notes kicks off by describing his “financial hardship” and “years of 'work for hire’ – the disdainful legal term for those who serve at the pleasure of others”.

Meanwhile, I recently found this Premiere.fr interview with De Palma about Redacted that I don't believe I'd seen before.

Posted by Geoff at 11:07 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Brian De Palma's Redacted was released today in Argentina under the title Samarra. One particularly insightful review of the film was posted by Martin Stefanelli at ¡Esto es un bingo!. Stefanelli, who states that Redacted is the best movie on the invasion of Iraq, also states that the film hasn't even the slightest intention of telling the truth, suggesting instead that through its "classic" De Palmian gestures, the film constructs a narrative that is no truer than any news coverage. The narrative De Palma constructs, however, reunites images from scattered screens "with the intention of holding its own account of the war," according to Stefanelli. Above all, Stefanelli concludes, the film displays an enormous will to let roar an otherwise unheard voice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Paul Greengrass's Iraq-themed Green Zone was released a couple of weeks ago to indifferent critical reception. Some felt the film tried to turn a non-fiction story into a Jason Bourne-type action/adventure and played too loosely with facts, while some appreciated Greengrass turning the subject of the Iwaq war and the search for mysterious WMDs into something audiences could ingest. Prior to the film's release, Greengrass himself discussed with Coming Soon's Edward Douglas why he wanted Green Zone to be something different than his United 93, and how his three most recent films developed from an interesting continuum:

In actual fact what happened was, after I made "[Bourne] Supremacy" which was summer 2004 I actually went out to lunch with Stacey Snider, who's been running head of Universal. She said, "What do you want to do next?" I said, "Well, I don't know, but I definitely want to be between 9/11 on the one hand here and the war in Iraq here." I wouldn't have called it the war in Iraq 'cause bear in mind, we're only a year after (it started). I made that film throughout that whole thing. I started it just as they invaded really. I said, "I don't know quite what the story (will be), but I'll find a story that I want to make. Maybe it'll be a true story, maybe it'll be a fictional story. I just don't know, but I'll go off and I'll figure it out and I'll come back." She said, "Oh great, okay, off you go."

Well, one thing happened and another thing happened. As it turned out, though I didn't know that then, it became two separate films 'cause the following early summer I decided to make "United 93," one film about a true story, very scrupulously kind of fact-driven about that central event of 9/11. I always knew I was then gonna go and make "Bourne Ultimatum." As soon as I made that, it all seemed to make sense, because I went, "Oh, okay, I get it now. I'm gonna do '93' then I'm gonna go and do a big 'Bourne' movie and then I'm gonna do something about Iraq, I don't know quite what." So I'm doing "[Bourne] Ultimatum" and I'm puzzling away what that film beyond "Ultimatum" was gonna be. I'm talking with Brian Helgeland who's a mate of mine; we'd worked together on "Bourne Supremacy" and he's a fantastic writer, and I said, "If you don't want to come and do this with me," and he said, "Sure." We're going back and forth, and to both of us, it was very obvious, several things that were at the heart of this film. Firstly, the whole point of doing the film really only worked if you were making a film that had broad appeal. In other words, to follow it up by making another "United 93"-type film didn't feel quite right 'cause I'd sorta done "United 93." I did think about it. I did think about doing a small film, but it felt to me like other people were doing that.

Douglas then interjects, "Right, I was curious about that, because there were a lot of people making Iraq movies – Brian De Palma for instance." And then Greengrass continues:

Exactly and I sort of thought that to me, that didn't feel right. I wanted to make a film with broad appeal. Why? For this simple reason that you couldn't make a "Bourne" film--and this was my second one--without being very aware that there was a big audience of particularly young people who were coming out and really loved those movies. Of course, that audience was exactly the audience that was being asked to fight this war. The young boys who were being asked to go and fight this thing, were going to see "Bourne" movies. On the other hand, right around the other side of the spectrum, the young kids who were most opposed to this war were also going to see "Bourne" movies, see what I mean? They're not going to see small art house movies about Iraq, so to me it was like I want to make a film that those people are gonna want to go and see. It's a broad audience film, okay? Next, the whole point about the "Bourne" films was that when you distill a "Bourne" film down, what is it? Obviously, it's a conspiracy action thriller, which is a genre everybody loves.

Greengrass discusses his rationale that Green Zone needed to be somewhat recognizable as the very thing he and Matt Damon are known for. "So here's the question," he says to Douglas, "if you liked Bourne Ultimatum, will you be disappointed with this film?" Douglas then replies, "I don't know. It's hard for me to say because like I've said, I've seen far too many Iraq movies." To which Greengrass stresses...

It's nothing to do with Iraq movies. If you saw "Bourne Ultimatum" and liked it, would you be disappointed with this? 'Cause that's the prism through which people are gonna come to this, not through Brian De Palma's film 'cause they're never gonna have seen it. No disrespect to those movies, but that's the issue here. In "Bourne Supremacy" and "Bourne Ultimatum," I tried to push the envelope with those movies as close to the real world. "Ultimatum" felt like it was ripped out the headlines, didn't it? With the water boarding and the war on terror and all that stuff in there, and the journalism and the source and it felt very, very strongly contemporary.

Posted by Geoff at 2:29 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, March 5, 2010
After months of avoiding any kind of political slant toward the war in Iraq whatsoever in discussing her film The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow told 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl last week that her film is anti-war. Days before the CBS telecast, Bigelow confirmed to The Envelope's Steve Pond that The Hurt Locker is "definitely taking a very specific position" on the Iraq war, and war in general:

Pond: I keep reading about how the movie doesn’t take a political point of view, but it seems clear to me that you have a pretty strong point of view. As you say, it's a hellish situation and we have no business sending our men into it.
Bigelow: Well, that’s certainly my feeling. I’m a child of the ‘60s, and I see war as hell, and a real tragedy, and completely dehumanizing. You know, those are some of the great themes of our time, and we made a real effort to portray the brutality and the futility of this conflict.

Pond: So you would say that the movie does indeed take a stance?
Bigelow: I guess my feeling is that graphic portrayals of innocent children killed by bombs, and soldiers incapable of surviving catastrophic explosions … I think that’s pretty clear. And then also, to add to that, the movie opens with a quote, “The rush to battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” So it’s definitely taking a very specific position.

Bigelow's description of The Hurt Locker marks a decided contrast from earlier interviews, where she seemed to want to distance her film from works like Brian De Palma's Redacted and Paul Haggis' In The Valley Of Elah (adapted from an article by Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal)-- works that took undeniable stands against the war in Iraq, but were met with indifference at the box office and in the press. Bigelow's confession comes after much acclaim for her film, so perhaps now she feels more confident that being clear about the movie's point of view will not hurt the film's chances for success (especially since it has already played theaters and is already available on DVD). But articles such as FOX News' James Pinkerton's, in which he states that the reason for the Hurt Locker's success over most other Iraq-related films is its "quietly pro-war" stance, are suddenly more complicated. The film will surely continue to be looked at as mostly apolitical, but Bigelow's clear statements may lead viewers to rethink what her movie is trying to say.

John Pilger's rant against the Oscars ("Why the Oscars are a Con"), in which he called out filmmakers for being "pimps for a world view devoted to control and destruction," made the rounds a couple of weeks ago. Pilger derides The Hurt Locker as another in a tradition of American war films that glorify psychopaths as heroes:

I only fully understood the power of the con when I was sent to Vietnam as a war reporter. The Vietnamese were “gooks” and “Indians” whose industrial murder was preordained in John Wayne movies and sent back to Hollywood to glamourise or redeem.

I use the word murder advisedly, because what Hollywood does brilliantly is suppress the truth about America’s assaults. These are not wars, but the export of a gun-addicted, homicidal “culture”. And when the notion of psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an “American tragedy” with a soundtrack of pure angst.

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is in this tradition. A favourite for multiple Oscars, her film is “better than any documentary I’ve seen on the Iraq war. It’s so real it’s scary” (Paul Chambers CNN). Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian reckons it has “unpretentious clarity” and is “about the long and painful endgame in Iraq” that “says more about the agony and wrong and tragedy of war than all those earnest well-meaning movies”.

What nonsense. Her film offers a vicarious thrill via yet another standard-issue psychopath high on violence in somebody else’s country where the deaths of a million people are consigned to cinematic oblivion. The hype around Bigelow is that she may be the first female director to win an Oscar. How insulting that a woman is celebrated for a typically violent all-male war movie.

Before ranting similar disdain for James Cameron's Avatar, Pilger stops to contrast the fate of De Palma's "admirable" Redacted:

By contrast, the fate of an admirable American war film, Redacted, is instructive. Made in 2007 by Brian De Palma, the film is based on the true story of the gang rape of an Iraqi teenager and the murder of her family by American soldiers. There is no heroism, no purgative. The murderers are murderers, and the complicity of Hollywood and the media in the epic crime in Iraq is described ingeniously by De Palma. The film ends with a series of photographs of Iraqi civilians who were killed. When it was order that their faces be ordered blacked out “for legal reasons”, De Palma said, “I think that’s terrible because now we have not even given the dignity of faces to this suffering people. The great irony about Redacted is that it was redacted.” After a limited release in the US, this fine film all but vanished.

Meanwhile, Armond White at the New York Press has made a splash by shouting, "Wake Up and Smell the Oscars: They Stink! (Or why Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t need to win a statue because she’s better than that.)" White rants against the hegemony of Oscar prognostication in the media and film circles at the expense of any discussion of the art involved. White, who had originally written highly of The Hurt Locker, later began to state time and again in his reviews of other films that The Hurt Locker was "now overrated" by others. Recently, he mentioned Bigelow's film in two separate reviews of films released around Valentine's Day. In his review of Lasse Hallstrom's Dear John, White wrote:

Dear John could be The Hurt Locker of romantic movies when Green Beret Staff Sergeant John Tyree (Channing Tatum) loses his stateside girlfriend Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) while serving his country in Iraq. The film has little feeling for military experience, or the sense of patriotic duty that John enunciates during the opening narration: “I am a coin in the United States Army. My edges have been rimmed and beveled. I have two [bullet] holes in me, so I’m no longer in perfect condition."

John’s reference to coins and wounds makes a trenchant metaphor for his humble sense of sacrifice and exploitation. As one young man among millions, he takes a thankless military commission that many civilians presume is ordinary. John represents the type of heroism to which most people pay lip service but little real attention—unless it is politically convenient, like The Hurt Locker passing off action-genre tropes (and fashionable pessimism) as a true response to war. It’s worth appreciating that Dear John is just a different form of similar sentimentality. As in The Hurt Locker, the audience’s war fatigue is what’s exploited.

The civilian scenes where John and Savannah meet, fall in love and attempt to negotiate their future together don’t reference the current political moment except that the war seems far away—unconnected to people’s daily preoccupations. Sappy director Lasse Hallstrom only glancingly identifies John as the type of working-class Southern white boy who joins-up. John’s motivation—isolated from his disabled, uncommunicative father—(Richard Jenkins) isn’t any more serious than Jeremy Renner’s bogus pathology in The Hurt Locker. It’s a sentimental cliché.

A few days later, in his review of Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day, White called Julia Roberts' cameo, in which she "impersonates an Iraq war vet," a "mushy subplot" that was more significant than The Hurt Locker in that it "normalizes the war as a now acceptable—even heartwarming—part of contemporary American experience."

Posted by Geoff at 2:41 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 7, 2010 8:08 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
A new book out today by TIME magazine's Jim Frederick examines the real life story of the soldiers whose actions inspired the Brian De Palma film Redacted. Frederick's Black Hearts draws on interviews with soldiers from the unit known as "the Black Heart Brigade," with a critical eye toward the leadership, or lack thereof, involved in the soldiers' day-to-day activities. The book, subtitled "One Platoon's Descent Into Madness In Iraq's Triangle Of Death," does not mention De Palma's film. TIME magazine is running two excerpts this week: "The Downward Spiral of Private Steven Green", and "Anatomy of an Iraq War Crime".

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the New York Times' A. O. Scott posted an essay about the apolitical approach to the Iraq and Afghansitan wars taken by Kathryn Bigelow and others. Scott notes the cluster of war films from 2007 that dared to deal with the politics involved:

There have been some exceptions to this rule. Brian De Palma’s “Redacted” and Paul Haggis’s “In the Valley of Elah,” released in fall 2007, questioned the war in Iraq, one in anger and the other in sorrow and both with emphasis on the effects of the fighting on men in the field. Other films from that year, like Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs” and Gavin Hood’s “Rendition,” tried to dramatize debates then unfolding in the public sphere about the justice or prudence of American policy. None of these movies were particularly successful, either with audiences or in their earnest, cautious attempts to frame the issues of post-9/11 geopolitics.

It may be that movies, at least as they are currently made and consumed, can’t bridge the gulf between the theater of war and the arena of politics. It is also probably true that the soldiers who are the main characters in fictional and nonfictional war movies don’t talk much about the larger context in which they struggle to survive and get the job done.

Speaking of the politics involved in Redacted, Screen Addict takes De Palma and company to task for the film's product placement deals:

Amongst the credits – after a montage of gruesome and horrific war images – De Palma and his Producers (clearly unaware of the inherent irony) thank numerous luminaries of the military-industrial complex, including Samsung, Toshiba and Panasonic (all electronics manufacturers who have developed goods for military means, earning shedloads of money in the process).

Most notable among the ‘Product Placement Thanks’ is Nokia, a long-term army supplier across the world and a recent industrial partner of Siemens, a company notorious for their operation of factories which were converted into Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. More pertinent to the Middle East, however, is a Nokia-Siemens partnership which sparked controversy – albeit since the release of Redacted – for its plans to provide Iran with telecommunication systems that would allow unprecedented monitoring of its already repressed citizens.

All this is not to suggest that films should be made without the assistance of these companies, or that we should somehow boycott every product that has an investment in the military-industrial complex, these are businesses after all, and military is big, big business.

But with Redacted, Brian De Palma (and his Producers) seem to be taking goods and/or money from such organisations on the one hand, and seeming to preach against the interests of these organisations on the other. Call it an act of subversion if you will, but it seems to be just another symptom of the confused creative approach to a frequently confusing war.

Posted by Geoff at 5:25 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 8:46 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, January 15, 2010
A Variety article by Peter DeBruge, posted a couple of days ago, looks at the evolution of documentary techniques, highlighting recent films such as Redacted, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Bruno, and In The Loop, all films that, according to the article, have evolved the docu-form in the wake of the Blair Witch Project. Below is an excerpt led by thoughts from David Bordwell:

Of course, filmmakers didn't wait until 2009 to experiment with documentary techniques. As Bordwell points out, "From World War II on, nearly every country had some sort of neorealist impulse." In America, the crime genre combined docu-style shooting with voice-of-God narration in such late-'40s/early-'50s entries as The Naked City and Panic in the Streets. Later, directors who got their start in documentary, including Stanley Kubrick and William Friedkin, incorporated verite-based techniques in such films as Paths of Glory and The French Connection. "It reaches a culmination in Medium Cool, where you have that immediacy of filming in the Chicago riots," Bordwell adds.

Nearly 40 years later, Brian De Palma advanced the hybrid form with his 2007 Iraq War thriller Redacted, weaving jihadi websites and Al Jazeera-style footage into a tapestry of "found footage" not unlike the elaborate collage of District 9. By comparison, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker seems downright conservative, even though it marks a radical departure from the director's more classically constructed earlier work. To achieve the immersive effect she wanted, Bigelow turned to cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, whose background in documentaries had served him well with such verite-inclined directors as Ken Loach (Ladybird Ladybird) and Paul Greengrass (United 93).

"The reason she got in touch with me was because of United 93. She wanted that sense of immediacy and urgency," explains the d.p., who coached Bigelow in Greengrass' strategy of shooting long, continuous takes and letting the action move from one camera to the next. While the actors played close to the script, the camera crew was encouraged to improvise and avoid ever repeating the same take. "If in the end, the shot is out of focus, that's the equivalent of a beautifully framed shot because it betrays the emotion in it," Ackroyd says.

Posted by Geoff at 10:32 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, January 17, 2010 8:09 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Armond White at the New York Press begins his review of the new Iraq war-themed movie, The Messenger, by contrasting the acting style with that of Redacted:

Despite the many things wrong with Brian De Palma’s Redacted, the acting was superbly on-point. De Palma’s little-known cast got class differences right, even while the film’s rhetorical concept was slanting them into the typical Blue State condescension about working-class grunts. This bias infects the latest Iraq War movie, The Messenger, by writer-director Oren Moverman, who lacks De Palma’s instincts for actorly (human) truth. This story about two veterans (Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson) assigned MOS duty to deliver death notices to the deceased’s NOK (next-of-kin), is so bungled up with fashionable ambivalence about the Iraq War that every single behavioral detail is not just prejudicial but wrong.

Later in the review, White gives praise to the homecoming bar scene in Redacted, before reiterating his opinion that Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is "now overrated":

For Moverman, Iraq soldiers are already dead. The Messenger is a requiem for zombies at board and overseas. Moverman isn’t skilled enough to convey complex grief like Redacted’s homecoming bar scene; he leaves his actors hanging with specious dialogue all over their faces. Full-bodied Morton has a needful, open gaze but there’s no believable sense of her character’s social reality—she’s playing a conceit. So is Foster, who is always prone to over-acting; Foster confuses making pass at Morton with showing desperation. Or is that Moverman’s confusion? Moverman can’t keep up with his actors’ misguided intensity; his camera roams over the scenes’ emotional values.

At least Kathryn Bigelow’s now-overrated Iraq War requiem, The Hurt Locker, was skillfully directed—noir tropes disguised as a war statement. Yet Bigelow’s skillful film let slip a similarly obnoxious suspicion of its characters—as in its “War is a Drug” conceit that, like The Messenger, critiques masculinity but fails to understand the depths of human commitment. It’s a sorry state when morally befuddled political tracts pass for drama.

Meanwhile, This Island Rod's Roderick Heath states that "Redacted almost succeeds in burning the war movie itself down to the ground, as it keeps the spirit of enquiring, experimental narrative as defined in '60s art alive and relevant." Heath feels the "cultural memory of Vietnam," along with De Palma's earlier films about that war, looming over Redacted. Heath further makes the distinction that in Redacted, De Palma is not concerned with reproducing reality, but instead, "turns realism into a mode of expression."

Posted by Geoff at 3:19 PM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink | Share This Post