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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
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Last week, we compiled 2013 best movie lists from several critics who placed Brian De Palma's Passion either in their top ten for the year, or otherwise gave it honorable (or, in one case, dishonorable) mention. Thanks to Carsten for directing us to Sight & Sound's lists of the best films of 2013. A few of the individual ballots from critics placed Passion in their top five:

Adrian Martin (Goethe University)

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
Stray Dogs

Martin also compiled the year's "Ten Best Confrontations" for Fandor's Keyframe blog, and again included Passion, writing, "One occasionally reads nonsense on the order of: 'Brian De Palma is not a director of actors.' The wonderful 'kissing confrontation' in Passion between Christine (Rachel McAdams) and her assistant’s assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth), undoubtedly improved by the actors from what was in the script, proves otherwise: McAdams’ mock outrage as she rips her shirt open and begins to imagine her sexual harassment complaint–having just forced a kiss onto the (at this stage) helpless minion–is an hilarious expression of the power relations elsewhere expressed, in a much darker key, by the film."

Sergio Angelini (British Universities Film & Video Council)

Blue Jasmine
Hyde Park On Hudson
Rigor Mortis

"Brian De Palma refashioned Alain Corneau's Love Crimes into the criminally neglected Passion, a sly and inventive take on narcissism in the PR industry that includes a typically audacious use of split screen."

Matthew Thrift (Critic)

Norte, The End Of History
12 Years A Slave
To The Wonder
It's Such A Beautiful Day


Posted by Geoff at 12:08 AM CST
Updated: Monday, February 16, 2015 12:37 AM CST
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

As we transition into the new year, several 2013 year-end lists of best and worst movies have, of course, included Brian De Palma's Passion. Here are some of them:

Editors and Contributors at La Furia Umana 

1.  Leviathan
     The Canyons
3.  Camille Claudel, 1915
4.  Passion
     The Immigrant
     To The Wonder
7.  Le Dernier Des Injustes
     Spring Breakers
     Venus In Furs
10. Mille Soleils  
Toni D'Angela, La Furia Umana  

(No order)

To the Wonder

The Canyons



The Immigrant

Le dernier des injustes

Mille soleils

Venus in Furs

Norte, the end of History

The Unspeakable Act 
Carlos Losilla, La Furia Umana 
  1. 1.  Passion

  2. 2.  The Immigrant

  3. 3.  Stray Dogs

  4. 4.  Camille Claudel 1915

  5. 5.  The Canyons

  6. 6.  The Master

  7. 7.  In Another Country

  8. 8.  Viola

  9. 9.  To The Wonder

  10. 10. Before Midnight

 Ricardo Adalia Martin, La Furia Umana 
  1. 1.  Alegrías de Cadiz

  2. 2.  L'inconuu du Lac

  3. 3.  Spring breakers

  4. 4.  Passion

  5. 5.  Nobody's Daughter Haewon

  6. 6.  Three Disasters

  7. 7.  Les Saluds

  8. 8.  Viola

  9. 9.  Los ilusos

  10. 10. Mapa

 Aureliano Tonet, Le Monde 

1. La Bataille de Solférino

2. Inside Llewyn Davis

3. Tirez la langue, mademoiselle

4. L’Inconnu du lac

5. Passion 
Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com 
(Listed without numbers) 
Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Wolf of Wall Street
Inside Llewyn Davis
American Hustle
Before Midnight
The Bling Ring
Bullet to the Head
"Brian De Palma's remake of the 2010 French thriller Love Crime—detailing the increasingly brutal attempts by co-workers Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace to climb the corporate ladder—wass a sexy and stylish knockout of a film and his finest and most consistent work since his 2002 masterpiece Femme Fatale. Darkly funny, breathlessly exciting and teasingly erotic in equal measure, this was the work of a master director firing on all cylinders and the end results put most other contemporary movies of its type to shame." 
Shawn Stone, Metroland 

1. Gravity

2. Before Midnight

3. The World’s End

4. Fruitvale Station

5. Frances Ha

6. Spring Breakers

7. Blue is the Warmest Color

8. Passion

"Brian De Palma is back, baby! This remake of a French thriller is sleek, sexy and—of course—bonkers."

9. American Hustle

10. Rush 
Patrick Cooper, Bloody Disgusting 
1.   Cheap Thrills
2.   The Conjuring
3.   Drug War
4.   Lord Of Tears
5.   Passion
6.   Prisoners
7.   Savaged
8.   Spring Breakers
9.   Stoker
10. You're Next 
"Brian De Palma took a few years off after The Black Dahlia – that lazy shrug of a film. In 2013 the master craftsman came out swinging with Passion – his best film since 1992′s Raising Cain. He didn’t break any new ground with Passion or reinvent himself – instead he did what he does best: present a sexy as hell Hitchcockian thriller with style out the ass. Honestly, De Palma hasn’t seemed this confident since the ’80s.Passion is basically his thesis film containing all of the elements that have made him one of the best thriller directors of our time. Pretty much 100 percent of the marketing revolved around the Rachel McAdams/Noomi Rapace lesbian stuff, but that makes up such small part of the film. The rest is classic De Palma: style, sex, doppelgangers, and stylish sexy doppelgangers. The final scene is devilishly comforting for what it is. It’s so great to know De Palma is still out there doing his thing." 
Gerard Alonso Cassado, Fotogramas  
19. MAPA
Glenn Heath Jr., San Diego City Beat 
"Brian De Palma's kinky Passion" is listed among Heath's "10 superb honorable mentions."
Noel Murray, The Dissolve 
Murray lists Afternoon Of A FaunPassion as his Scene of the year:
"Brian De Palma’s Passion starts out as a fairly flat and faithful adaptation of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime, but then after about half an hour, De Palma loosens up and starts making his most visually expressive and delightfully delirious movie since Femme Fatale. In Passion’s best sequence—and one of the best setpieces of De Palma’s formidable career—a ruthless businesswoman played by Rachel McAdams is stalked by a killer on half the screen, while the other half shows her protégée (Noomi Rapace) watching a performance of The Afternoon Of A Faun. The score rises to a peak, and the dancers look directly into the camera, underlining Passion’s theme of misdirection. De Palma keeps pulling viewers’ eyes back and forth, while heightening the tension to the point of distraction. He also calls back to some of his earliest films, like Dionysus In ’69 and Hi, Mom!, where the theater played a central role. Passion isn’t one of De Palma’s top-tier films, but it’s playful and creative, and the Afternoon Of A Faun sequence is a model of how to layer images and move characters with a multiple frames. 
Anne Billson, The Telegraph  
"The Lana Turner Award for Best Breakdown goes to Noomi Rapace in Brian De Palma's preposterous thriller Passion (so preposterous it went straight to DVD in the UK). Noomi, wearing a career girl trouser suit, is checkmated by her scheming boss-cum-love-rival (Rachel McAdams). In the carpark afterwards, she crashes her Peugot into a vending machine, sets off the sprinkler, kicks the car and sinks to the ground, dripping wet and crying hysterically as the camera rises to capture the scene with a crane-shot. Welcome to Planet De Palma, no relation whatsoever to life as we know it, but packed with more barking mad coups de cinéma than the rest of the year's films laid end to end. It also has the best shoes."
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon  
Douglas places Passion at number five on his "Terrible 25 of 2013" list. 


Posted by Geoff at 3:04 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2015 11:36 PM CST
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Monday, December 30, 2013


OpEdNews' Joan Brunwasser last week posted an interview with Robert Avrech, screenwriter of Brian De Palma's Body Double. Avrech discussed working with De Palma, and the screenplay he wrote about the Yom Kippur War that led to De Palma hiring him for Body Double.

"I was in Israel in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War," Avrech tells Brunwasser, "and I wrote a pretty powerful script about three women whose husbands were on the front lines. The script cut back and forth between fairly brutal scenes of war, and the more mundane, but tortured lives of the waiting wives. The structure was complex, but it read effortlessly, and the characters were quite vivid. I knew that this script was special. It was just a gut feeling that finally I had written something that was professional and entertaining.

"After I returned to America, I sent the script to every agent in NY, Naturally, my queries were completely ignored. But then, a year later, I got a call from director Brian De Palma, who had read my script--his agent thought it was really good and dropped it on Brian's desk. Brian told me he greatly admired my script. He asked me to come to his office for a meeting. He had no interest in making my script into a movie, but he had an idea for a thriller and wanted me to write it. He thought I had the right sensibility to author the movie he had in mind. Both Brian and I greatly admire Alfred Hitchcock so we were pretty much on the same page aesthetically. That's how I came to write Body Double, a superb thriller that immediately thrust me into the Hollywood limelight."
Brunwasser asks Avrech whether it is difficult to craft a screenplay based on someone else's idea, and if, being a "young pup," he was intimidated upon meeting with De Palma. Avrech responds, "I have written original scripts (A Stranger Among Us), scripts based on novels (The Devil's Arithmetic), scripts based on non-fiction best sellers (Into Thin Air).

"Writing a screenplay based on an idea by someone else, if the idea is solid, is just another corridor in the (futile) search to craft a flawless, air-tight narrative. What happens with me, and I suspect, all professional screenwriters, is a process of  of internalization: The story becomes you. 

"Brian De Palma came to me with a very general idea for Body Double. I immediately responded to its Hitchcockian theme of an innocent man drawn into a murder by a beautiful woman (Deborah Shelton), who then sets out to solve the mystery with the aid of a beautiful blonde (Melanie Griffith). Both Brian and I were, and are, huge fans of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Together we screened Rear Window and Vertigo, and discussed the narrative strategies Hitch used in both films. So in a sense, I was working off of De Palma's ideas of Hitchcock's ideas."

Continuing with Brunwasser, Avrech notes, "One must also keep in mind that movies are a collaborative endeavor. The Hollywood screenwriter works alone only when he's at the keyboard. In truth, a professional screenwriter is always working with a studio/network, a line of producers, a director, and of course, when the film goes into production, his words then become the property of the actors. Obviously, the army of technicians who go into the making a multi-million dollar Hollywood production are vital: the cinematographer, the set designer, the costume designer, the prop people, etc.

"Another issue when working from someone else's idea is there are only 36 plots in the universe of narratives. Thus, every story is a reworking of an old myth or legend that we have seen and heard countless times. The trick is to reinvent these 36 stories in a manner that makes them feel new and original. So, in a very real sense, a screenwriter is always working from a classic idea. And in the end, it's really just one idea: because all great stories are... love stories.

"I was hugely intimidated by Brian De Palma... for about ten minutes. And then, as with all Hollywood celebrities with whom I have worked, he became just another homo sapiens, with all the virtues and flaws one finds in our species."

Posted by Geoff at 11:38 AM CST
Updated: Monday, December 30, 2013 11:47 AM CST
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Friday, December 27, 2013


Several essays about Brian De Palma's Passion are now available to read online at La Furia Umana . I haven't yet read them all, but I am quite taken with Sara Freeman's essay, Kisses and Dress-Up: Cinematic Cruelty in Brian De Palma's Passion . Freeman links the power struggles in Passion to the cruel and tragic high school situations in De Palma's Carrie. "Besides possibly hinting at [Passion's] very own dual identity," Freeman writes, "what at first appears to be a fun, catty back and forth between Christine and Isabel frequently turns into blatant abuse, almost like a contemporary version of Nancy Allen’s merciless treatment of Sissy Spacek’s Carrie."

Although Freeman gets the timeline of Passion wrong when she discusses three things that happen in the film back-to-back "at almost precisely the halfway point" (all three happen well before the halfway point), she does a nice job of explicating how the characters in Passion seem to exist in virtual worlds of their own individual participation. "As women who work in the advertising industry," writes Freeman, "both Christine and Isabel live for the thrill of social media acceptance and technological ingenuity. Their livelihood depends on their ability to create faces for different companies and brands and they themselves have adapted to that methodology as well. From the very first shot of Christine and Isabel sitting in front of the cold metallic screen of a Mac Book and the many computer monitor reflections and Skype video chats that follow, it’s clear that the presentation of image, realistic or not, is the most important element of the character’s lives. 

"This air of virtual reality lends the film an odd sense of miscommunication because it’s almost as if each character is living inside her very own Facebook profile or twitter account. Like dress-up for grown-ups. Resembling the two other movies released this year that comment on the high school and college era’s use of social media, Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, Passion examines how this capability has affected adult participants. Rather than take selfies of themselves smoking crack or wearing Paris Hilton’s high heels, the women in Passion remove their personalities from the equation to present their own version of the ideal contemporary career woman. They’re simply cipher cunts hiding behind the safe-guarded guise of technology, even when they appear to be talking face to face." 

Earlier in the essay, Freeman discusses the importance of the clothing worn by the two main characters. "This movie is really about the clothes," states Freeman. "Clothing, the most important part of anyone's appearance, can be precisely tuned to project much in the same way a Facebook page or an Instagram feed can. Women in particular know the power clothing can have over the imaginations of their peers. In essence, Passion is a costume drama disguised as a flick about female competition and crime solving. Like any fierce cinematic bitch with a large bank account, Christine is dressed to the nine’s in designer duds and fancy make-up. She favors bold colors, sexy necklines and the most crimson and fuchsia of lipsticks. Isabel, on the other hand, is almost completely void of color and sex appeal. She wears boxy black collared shirts paired with loose slacks, blunt, Edith Head-esque bangs and a thin swish of brown eyeliner.

"Christine’s attire matches her persona perfectly – she oozes confidence, easy charm and store bought charisma. The clothes she wears are as beautiful as she is, but something’s not quite right with the whole package. Like a vulnerable little girl little girl playing dress-up to escape her abusive parents, Christine wears just a tad too much make-up, colors her hair a shade too blonde and her silky clothes just aren’t the right color or shape for her body. She’s a cheap imitation of a powerful career woman as well as an imitation of past De Palma heroines. Utilizing almost exact replicas of costumes worn by Margot Kidder in Sisters (large black hat and black circular sunglasses) and Scarlett Johansson in The Black Dahlia (‘40s style turquoise slacks and sweater), Christine treads upon the familiar territory of feminine identity in De Palma’s filmography. In those two movies, the question of individuality and the battle for uniqueness are at the center of these character’s stories – the conjoined 'twins' in Sisters fought for separate lives yet Danielle stills feels responsible for Dominique’s misdeeds and Johansson’s boring Kay struggles to be noticed by both of her police beaus after a dead girl and her lookalike steal the limelight.

"Isabel by contrast, is meek and mousy in demeanor and appearance. She is the true puppet master of the duo. With an alarmingly sincere and affected way of carrying herself, she weaves her way into and out of Christine's strange power plays with none of the reservations or lack of conviction that eventually sink Christine and her schemes... Maybe. Or maybe not. What we're left to sift through in the end is enough for a whole other essay. Perhaps the most important question lies with Isabel - When did her dual identity begin? Was it present all along? Was it constructed just to compete with Christine? To the film's credit, these questions are never answered.

"Christine and Isabel brawl for leadership and distinctiveness by using their costumes like boxing gloves. In one of the first scenes of the movie, Christine gives Isabel a chic periwinkle scarf to liven up her wardrobe. She wears it occasionally and, as I mentioned earlier, it becomes a key piece of evidence in the murder mystery. As the more obvious of the two, Christine is trying to bring Isabel down by modeling her in her image – in one scene she dresses Isabel in whore-red high heels and lipstick for a networking event knowing full-well that it would embarrass her. She also frequently kisses Isabel in an attempt to dominate her completely. Even Christine’s lipstick is venomous. It’s fascinating to watch these two characters interact with one another on screen because they move through space so differently. Isabel is seemingly the wallflower who envies Christine for her confidence and secretly wants to be her. Christine envies Isabel for her brilliance and overcompensates by being the biggest bitch possible."

Posted by Geoff at 11:01 PM CST
Updated: Friday, December 27, 2013 11:49 PM CST
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The University of Chicago's Doc Films will host a Brian De Palma retrospective on Wednesdays, beginning January 8 with Scarface, and concluding on March 12 with Femme Fatale. Most of the films will be screened from 35mm prints, but Phantom Of The Paradise and Body Double will each be screened in DCP. The series includes an intriguing choice at its halfway point: on February 12th, it will screen Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura.

Dan Wang, who programmed the retrospective, writes in its introduction, "When Brian De Palma was to give a Q&A at Lincoln Center in Manhattan this summer (on the occasion of the wider release of his latest film, Passion), I asked the guy at the ticket office if he expected a long line. He doubted it. 'De Palma isn't really relevant anymore,' he said. I ended up sitting on the floor at the back of the hall behind a concrete pillar, despite showing up an hour and a half early; half the line was turned away.

"One can see what he means. De Palma's favorite themes--dangerously erotic women, voyeurism, psychological horror--seem like the titillations of faded era. Compounding these obsessions is his insistence on an extremely smooth, controlled and virtuosic style that's hopelessly far from current anti-formalist vogues. Recent hits like Aronofsky's Black Swan (2010 ) and Soderbergh's Side Effects (2014 ) tell De Palmian stories but dress them up in camera and video production styles currently in fashion (i.e. on YouTube ) ;hence the rejection of De Palma's importance is also the rejection of a particular, classical way of making films.

"De Palma is still relevant because his films remind us of the exhuberant joy of intelligent filmmaking--of an attitude to film worlds that Godard called, in reference to Hitchcock, the 'control of the universe.' Even his worst films have moments that leave one gasping at their beauty; his best ones feel like a confirmation of everything movies ought to be. In this partial retrospective (De Palma has an output that sprawls in genre and ambition of some thirty films ), we feature a mix of De Palmas: movies of psychological horror (Sisters, Raising Cain), gangster films (Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito's Way), a musical (Phantom of the Paradise) and, of course, classic, pervy, Hitchcockian, joyous De Palma (Hi, Mom!, Body Double, Femme Fatale)."

And here is the retrospective's description of the L'Avventura screening: "Before Blow-Up moved De Palma, L'Avventura won a prize at Cannes. People saw something new: framing a shot like composing a painting; objects as well as characters telling a story and provoking a mood; spontaneous, even random, dialogue. One can be impatient. One can also let go of expectations of quick excitement and tidy plot resolution, absorb the imagery and the sadness of the characters, turn inward, and reflect on a different movie experience."

Posted by Geoff at 1:09 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Last week we linked to a Hollywood Elsewhere post in which Jeffrey Wells called Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street the new Scarface. Reviews of Scorsese's film are proliferating online, and many of them mention that Brian De Palma film, but one review skips that and mentions a different De Palma film instead. "In a way," writes Seattle Weekly's Brian Miller, "this is the movie Brian De Palma tried and failed to make out of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities (a book Belfort read in prison, inspiring his memoir). Maybe we’re more prepared to laugh now because we’ve weathered worse financial calamities."

The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek states, "There are hints of greatness" in The Wolf Of Wall Street, "one or two artfully constructed scenes that remind you why you look forward to new Scorsese films in the first place. But as a highly detailed portrait of true-life corruption and bad behavior in the financial sector, Wolf is pushy and hollow, too much of a bad thing, like a three-hour cold call from the boiler room that leaves you wondering, 'What have I just been sold?'"

In the concluding paragraph of her review, Zacharek compares Wolf unfavorably to Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, and brings Scorsese to task, writing, "Scorsese is one of the few great old-guard filmmakers with the clout to make movies on this scale, and this picture — dreary, self-evident, too repetitive to be much fun even as satire — is what he comes up with? Some have already favorably compared this with Brian De Palma's Scarface, in that it invites us to revel in its characters' amorality from a safe distance, and at epic length. But that's a slippery, surface-level comparison. Scarface is violent as hell, and operatically blunt, but, oddly enough, it's not an aggressive picture. It rolls forward in crazy, melodramatic waves, without pushing its points about the horrors human beings are willing to commit in the name of capitalism. It doesn't have to, when there's a chain saw to do the talking. Scorsese, on the other hand, belabors every angle of this lukewarm morality tale. It's self-conscious and devoid of passion, and there's no radiant star at its center. Who would choose DiCaprio's depraved, squeaky Jordan Belfort over Al Pacino's twisted, basso profundo Tony Montana? The Wolf of Wall Street has everything money can buy, and still, it comes up empty."

Posted by Geoff at 3:31 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 3:33 AM CST
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Monday, December 23, 2013
Experimental Film Society member Rouzbeh Rashidi "asked members of EFS, some of its friends, associates, critics, programmers, and filmmakers to send in lists of their twelve favourite filmmakers for publication on the EFS website. The criteria were simple: to list the filmmakers who had the most impact on your life and art." Brian De Palma appeared on five of the lists submitted.

In his introduction, Rashidi adds, "Contributors all found the task hard, even almost impossible, but in the end they all submitted a list of more or less twelve names. I personally am a huge fan of such lists and make them all the time. They are fun, revealing and, I believe, something we're all curious about. Obviously, they are subject to change as we grow and develop, and the love/hate relationship we inevitably have with them (so much has to be left out!) is amusing and challenging. I was very surprised with the results and hope you enjoy reading them."

Those listing De Palma as one of their twelve favotite filmmakers are Hamid Shams Javi, Kamyar Kordestani, Adrian Martin, Michael Koresky, and David Del Valle. Check out the lists here.

(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 9:57 PM CST
Updated: Monday, December 23, 2013 9:59 PM CST
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Saturday, December 21, 2013
Il Giornale's Antonio Lodetti caught up with Pino Donaggio in Venice, where the composer discussed his beginnings, as well as upcoming projects. Along the way, of course, he discussed his work with De Palma. Here is an excerpt from the article, translated with the help of Google Translator:

Such destiny struck one morning when, on board a steamer at 6 am, back from a concert, he was noticed by a young producer. "He said I had the face to write music on a film of parapsychology, maybe he smoked too much. However, the film was starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, I composed the score, and director Nicolas Roeg was delighted. Thus was born the soundtrack to Don't Look Now, which came out in Italy as A Venezia... un dicembre rosso shocking, and in England it was awarded as the soundtrack of the year." So, fate again, he arrived for a meeting with Brian De Palma. "It was just after the death of Bernard Herrmann, the composer of his confidence, but Brian had listened to the music of [Don't Look Now] on the disc of the same name , which he had bought in England, and I wanted at all costs to work with him. Thus was born the winning combination of Carrie. We understood each other on the fly, even if I lived in his house and, not knowing the language, we understood gestures. But there was a translator for the job and he was happy with what I wrote. I’m called on for the suspense films, in fact last year I set to music his Passion. He trusts me so much that only listens to my work in the hall with the orchestra, the finished work."

Donaggio tells Lodetti that he is working on a fictional movie about Enzo Ferrari with Robert De Niro, and also an adaptation of Giulio Andreotti's The Listener, to be directed by Carlo Lizzani. That latter project has Al Pacino attached to star.

Posted by Geoff at 1:37 PM CST
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I saw Spike Lee's Oldboy a couple of weeks ago. While I prefer Chan-wook Park's original (which I revisited again right after seeing the remake), Lee's film is a stylistic tour de force, with some nice personal touches. In his review of Lee's film, the Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs links it stylistically to Brian De Palma's Passion.

"Taken as stylistic exercise," writes Sachs, "Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy... may be the most impressive movie of its kind to hit Chicago since Brian De Palma's Passion. Lee ornaments the film with elaborate tracking shots, theatrical lighting schemes, and multitiered compositions containing screens within screens. He shifts dramatically between 35-millimeter, 16-millimeter, and even 8-millimeter film, and playfully disregards conventional flashbacks, editing, and good taste. Regardless of whether Lee succeeds here as a storyteller, he communicates such pleasure in the filmmaking process that you might appreciate it for the showmanship alone.

"Full of gruesome acts of revenge and dirty family secrets, the film is a sick extravaganza comparable to recent efforts by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and Danny Boyle (Trance), but it's a more controlled work than either. The directorial curlicues don't feel random—indeed, the film has a sustained, streamlined momentum that feels unlike much else in Lee's body of work. The Brooklyn-based director has never lacked for energy or imagination, but his movies tend to be all over the place in terms of what they want to say and do. To see him working with such focus is striking. If the movie is just an exercise, then at least it's a purposeful one. Lee's trying new things here, working in a different register than he normally does."

Posted by Geoff at 1:30 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 1:32 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013
The Black List of best unproduced screenplays for 2013 was unveiled this week. It includes two screenplays about the making of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and at least one of them includes Brian De Palma as a character, along with fellow "movie brats" Martin Scorsese, John Milius, George Lucas, and (of course) Spielberg. That screenplay, titled The Shark is Not Working, was written by Richard Corinder. Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere shared these samples from Corinder's screenplay:

In his post, Wells says the script is "about 28 year-old Steven Spielberg going through hell to make Jaws in ’74 and ’75." He adds that he's "skimmed through about half of it. It’s funny, smart, very well-written, entertaining. But I mainly like it because it simultaneously (a) makes fun of Spielberg for being a talented but shallow popcorn shoveller, and (b) admires and sympathizes with the poor guy for managing to survive a hellish production experience. The big breakthrough happens when Spielberg hits on the idea of (a) barely showing the shark and (b) deciding to rely on John Williams‘ creepy music to excite the audience’s imagination."

The other Black List script about the making of Jaws is The Mayor of Shark City, written by Nick Creature and Michael Sweeney. Wells points to a SpecScout coverage page for the latter screenplay, in which the truncated synopsis is as follows: "STEVEN (5) is at the cinema with his father ARNOLD (age 35). They are seeing The Greatest Show on Earth, Steven’s first movie experience. The young boy is blown away by the magic of cinema, and is captivated by his wonderful imagination. Steven’s imagination takes over as the screen is spilled open by a giant wave of rushing water. STEVEN (27) a scrawny man with shaggy hair awakens from a nightmare. He is being tormented by the film shoot he is directing, Jaws. The film production is now over 80 days over schedule. It is now a year prior to the shooting of Jaws. A young and energetic Steven Spielberg enters RICHARD ZANUCK’S office (38) a hotshot producer at Universal studios. Steven notices the manuscript titled Jaws that captures his eye. Without permission, he steals a copy of the script to read. Immediately, he is engrossed in the engaging story of a killer shark. His vivid imagination takes over as he dreams of what the movie can look like. Steven knows that he must direct this film. He begs Zanuck for the opportunity but is told that they already have a director for the project. Meanwhile, PETER BENCHLEY (33) the..." [the synopsis cuts off there for casual browsers]

The locations listed at SpecScout for The Mayor of Shark City are as follows: "1950s/1960s Locations/Decor for FLASHBACKS Old Movie Theater, middle-class home, Vietnam mockup on soundstage, submarine, aircraft carrier, fighter plane cockpit, underwater, fantasy meteor shower, fantasy animatronic Disneyworld-style ride. 1970s Locations/Decor Universal studio bungalow, Hollywood hills home, New York upmarket club, Hollywood production and studio executive offices, Martha's Vineyard, Old fishing ship, Soundstage (Universal Studios stage 12), Harbor, Hotel, Bar, Diner, Beach, Ferry, Cabin, Ocean, Tavern, Small town Movie Theater, Large Movie Theater, Cinerama Theater, Drug Store, Sunset Boulevard."

Posted by Geoff at 12:56 AM CST
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