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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
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Carrie: The Movie

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italkyoubored

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De Palma a la Mod
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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Friday, September 11, 2015
VIDEO: DE PALMA & BAUMBACH DISCUSS DTK
ALSO: ARMOND WHITE ON DTK AS "A GAY MOVIE LANDMARK"; CRITERION ESSAY BY MICHAEL KORESKY

Armond White, Out

"William Friedkin’s Cruising, another 1980 film, portrayed gay society through a sleazy serial-killer mystery set in New York’s Bondage-Discipline underworld. (Al Pacino played a heterosexual cop tantalized by forbidden behavior, neurotically seeing gayness only as a sex-and-death equation). But in Dressed to Kill, De Palma dramatized cruising as part of social life — the sexual license that even middle-class heterosexuals enjoyed. De Palma’s sophomoric lustiness derived from his earliest film burlesques (The Wedding Party, Greetings, Hi, Mom!, Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise) where counterculture ideas confounded the mainstream.

"For his first, truly adult film about sex, De Palma’s perspective matures in Dressed to Kill. Kate’s manhunt, set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, equaled the jailhouse symbolism of Jean Genet-Jean Cocteau’s Un Chant d’Amour (1950). It also explored the same existential territory seen in a breed of underground New York porn films like Sam Scott’s Non-Stop (where seemingly spontaneous, peripatetic episodes ranged from rendezvous at Manhattan’s West Side piers to street assignations in Greenwich Village). De Palma outclasses porn, but his artistic connection to Surrealist filmmakers from Hitchcock to Cocteau to Bunuel proves he was unafraid to depict subconscious, even outré, desires.

"Kate’s bored gallery browsing is depicted when she stares back at an Alex Katz portrait that mirrors her own impatience. Her sexual frustration is caricatured when she observes a painting of a gorilla whose oversized, hairy, supine nakedness mocks her own, suppressed, animal instincts. She abstractly writes in her memo pad, 'Pick up turkey.' (Come now, Brian!)

"It’s all prelude to her noticing the handsome man wearing sunglasses who invades her space and stirs her curiosity. Their cat-and-mouse politesse (a game of high-class silent flirtation) deepens Kate’s interest which De Palma sensualizes by having the camera follow them in slowly flowing perambulations through museum exhibit space. This silent sequence (except for Pino Donaggio’s tense, teasing music score) is a long, masterful pantomime, delicately acted by Dickinson. The desperation and feints of cruising are clearly presented in details so timeless that the sexual hunt is immortalized (including Kate feeling wanton and exposed as she stands before one of Eric Fischl’s satirical nudes)."

Michael Koresky's essay for the Criterion edition of Dressed To Kill

"De Palma the political filmmaker might seem at odds with De Palma the teasing sex-horror specialist, but these two halves of his split personality have worked in tandem throughout his career, and certainly do so in Dressed to Kill. This film is a minefield of potential offense—with its horrific butchery of a middle-aged woman and its full-frontal images of naked women shot like soft-core pornography—and, especially at a moment when studio output like Kramer vs. Kramer and Looking for Mr. Goodbar was being accused of containing reactionary responses to second-wave feminism (respectively, for demonizing a woman for abandoning her marriage and child and, like Dressed to Kill, depicting the murder of a woman trying to liberate herself through sex), it was bound to incite some anger. Indeed, feminist groups publicly protested Dressed to Kill, creating a perception of it as misogynistic. Yet the film is far more sympathetic to its women than its men, and more important, its recognition of its own voyeur-horror lineage, its ratcheting up of nearly every element—from the nudity to the graphic bloodletting to the extravagant camera work to the often absurdly drawn-out slow motion—to orgiastic heights, places the sadistic impulses of Hitchcock’s work (so, the Movies) explosively at the forefront. It’s both ghastly and erotic, impeccably crafted and dirty-minded, a luxurious wallow in the dream and nightmare that is cinema.

"Kate’s explicit shower reverie at the beginning is our first clue to the way De Palma is playing with Psycho’s indelible imagery in Dressed to Kill. The camera slowly peeks around a corner and flaunts in lewd close-up her naked breasts and genitals (aptly, actually those of a body double: Victoria Lynn Johnson, direct from the pages of Penthouse). What had once been impossible was, in 1980, not only permissible but also marketable; this is the true titillation, the dark heart of Psycho laid literally bare. The fact that the film ends with a second shower scene—also imaginary—underlines its relationship to Hitchcock as a game of surreal one-upmanship.

"In this and all the entries in De Palma’s grand project of showing us Hitchcock’s thrillers stripped of pretense and elegance—so that, for example, Vertigo becomes Obsession (1976), the double of the protagonist’s dead wife revealed to be his daughter; and Body Double (1984) brazenly combines Rear Window and Vertigo into a tawdry peep show, set in the underworld of Los Angeles porn—we can see De Palma the thrill hound and the confrontational artist. Janet Leigh’s cinema-shattering shower seems to be a primal scene for him, something he needs to return to over and over. His oeuvre is soaked with shower scenes, as parody (Phantom of the Paradise, 1974), locker-room fantasy (Carrie), tragedy (Blow Out, 1981), and travesty (Body Double). (Even 1983’s Scarface has one, a chain-saw massacre visited on the protagonist’s male friend—which our antihero is forced to watch.)

"Shower scenes, with their combination of sensuality and danger, are particularly right for a film as fueled by hallucinatory erotic energy as this one. De Palma himself says he was actually more influenced by Luis Buñuel than Hitchcock when making Dressed to Kill (and there’s certainly a touch of Belle de jour in the opening masochistic daydream). Its central murder is an event that occurs at the convergence of two characters’ sexual fantasies: Kate’s and her killer’s."


Posted by Geoff at 1:28 AM CDT
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Thursday, September 10, 2015
VIDEOS FROM VENICE
DE PALMA: "I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS SUCH AN AMUSING RACONTEUR"

In the above video from the Venice Film Festival yesterday, Brian De Palma is asked whether he'd discovered anything new about himself from De Palma, the new documentary from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. "Well, I didn't know I was such an amusing raconteur," De Palma replies with good humor. "I mean, since I'm behind the camera all the time, and I was usually the court jester in most situations, but I never saw myself in front of the camera. So to see me telling these anecdotes and finding them amusing was kind of a surprise."

VIDEO: ON REACTIONS TO FILMS, THEIR WEEKLY NY DIRECTORS GROUP, & TV AS PRODUCER/WRITER MEDIUM

Below are select transcripts culled from the two videos above, which show De Palma speaking from the Venice press conference yesterday:

SENSE OF HUMOR IN THIS BUSINESS, AND LUCK, TOO
"If you're in this business, you'd better have a sense of humor. Because when you make a film, the reaction is usually the opposite of what you expect. You know, you think, 'Oh, they're gonna hate it,' 'no, they seem to like this one.' And then, 'Oh, this is my great masterpiece,' 'Ehh, it's terrible!'" [Laughter]

DIRECTORIAL COMRADERY
"You know, when I started in this business, I was associated with a group of young filmmakers. And we all used to hang out together, we used to talk about our movies, actors that we thought we’d like to use. We’d review each others’ scripts. And we did that in the seventies, and then suddenly everybody got kind of big and kind of went to different parts of the planet, and I missed that kind of directorial comradery. And I was very fortunate, because we all lived downtown in New York, and I met Noah like twenty years ago, and then Jake about ten years ago, and they're very close to Wes Anderson. So we started a group that basically met every week, and had 'directors talk.' And it's a great thing to have, because we're the only ones that understand what we go through."

ON WALKING AWAY FROM 'HAPPY VALLEY' - TOO MANY MEETINGS, TOO MANY NOTES
"I find that television executives are very intrusive. I've never had so many meetings with so many notes, about a script that I developed for Al Pacino that he wanted to do, that they proceeded to try to influence it in a way that made it unworkable. And I got to a point where I said, 'Guys, I'm done.' So, you gotta understand about television: it's a producer/writer's profession. The producers and the writers run the show. The directors [shakes head no], they bring 'em in... [looks at Paltrow next to him] well, you've actually done this. They bring them in, Director A is over there, Director B does this section, Director C does this section, and if you can tell the difference from one episode to another, God bless you."


Posted by Geoff at 6:42 PM CDT
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PICS - RED CARPET FOR 'DE PALMA' DOCUMENTARY
AND JAEGER-LECOULTRE GLORY TO THE FILMMAKER 2015 AWARD PRESENTED TO DE PALMA

AND FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE, EARLIER THAT DAY...


Posted by Geoff at 12:40 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 10, 2015 12:49 AM CDT
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Wednesday, September 9, 2015
A24 ACQUIRES 'DE PALMA' FOR 2016 RELEASE
AND BITS FROM TODAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE IN VENICE

Variety's Dave McNary reported early this morning that A24 had acquired distribution rights to Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's De Palma, with an eye toward a release in 2016. As Deadline's Patrick Hipes notes, A24 successfully released the Amy Winehouse documentary Amy earlier this year, as well as Alex Garland's Ex Machina. Both films had decent theatrical runs. A24 will also distribute Lenny Abrahamson's Room this fall, and after that film's world premiere this past Saturday at the Telluride Film Festival, Deadline's Pete Hammond wrote, "Right now, this minute, A24 should get its Oscar campaign rolling because there are multiple possibilities for nominations."

Regarding De Palma, A24 said in a statement, "Noah and Jake have not only created a funny, nuanced and deeply insightful portrait of one of the world’s most masterful and uncompromising filmmakers, but they have made a film which explores the very essence of filmmaking, and presents a unique and enormously entertaining perspective on both the art and the business of movies."

'DE PALMA' ON-CAMERA INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED DURING ONE WEEK IN 2010
From the press conference in Venice and other interviews, it emerges that for their documentary, Paltrow and Baumbach filmed De Palma for one week in 2010, collecting about 30 hours worth of interview footage. De Palma, sitting in Paltrow's living room and talking about his career, wore the same shirt every day for continuity's sake. If you've seen Baumbach's recent film While We're Young, in which Ben Stiller plays a documentary filmmaker with his own excruciating continuity challenges, you might let out a little chuckle at details such as that.

"I'M A FINAL CUT DIRECTOR AND THAT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN IN THIS DAY & AGE"
Variety's Nick Vivarelli posted an interview today with De Palma, Baumbach, and Paltrow. "It really comes out of our friendship," Paltrow says in describing how the documentary came about. "Noah and I have known and admired Brian De Palma as a director since we were very very young. Making this movie comes out of us spending so much time with him, and talking to him about making films, and watching films. I can’t tell you how many films I’ve been introduced to by Brian, and Noah, and our group."

To which De Palma says, "And vice-versa."

More from this interview:

As directors there aren’t that many apparent affinities in your movies except that, in different ways, you all make personal pictures. Was De Palma a big influence?
Noah Baumbach: Yes. I think most of the movies I’ve made have some connection to my childhood, making something that purely comes out of your imagination. Brian’s movies had a major effect on me even before I’d seen them because as a child I would hear about them. I would hear my parents talk about them, I would see the ads in the subways. Even just the Dressed To Kill poster had an effect on me, independently from the movie, which I couldn’t see at the time until I was a little older. When I saw The Untouchables, it was the best thing that could ever happen to me. Now I have a friendship that’s almost twenty years old with Brian, a history, a personal relationship, and now this. The movie brings it all together. A silent narrative of the movie is precisely the personal relationship.

The film grew out of spending time with Brian for over ten years. Over how much time was it actually shot?
Jake Paltrow: five years ago we filmed for one week, and had Brian wear the same clothes every day to keep a continuity.

And then of course you had to weave in the materials, which you did with such directorial flourish.
Jake Paltrow: we wanted to maintain the rhythm of conversation, and let Brian’s storytelling direct us, in a way. The clips were brought in to illustrate things that Brian was talking about. It was often, like, ‘what clip from which movie would go well here?’

Brian, I don’t think you’ve talked that much about yourself before. How come?
Brian De Palma: because I’m basically a recluse. I only really talk about movies when I’m on a publicity tour. I had two French journalists follow me around for about seven or eight years, very bright people [Laurent Vachaud and Samuel Blumenfeld]. I talked to them and they produced a book that’s quite good. But it’s all in French and I’ve never read it.

Noah Baumbach: in terms of us, the friendship was already in place. So it was in some ways a document of it; in other words an extension of it. From when we met Brian the first time, we were peppering him with these kinds of questions anyway. It was really for us like: ‘let’s document this; let’s have it.’ Brian is a singular, unique, amazing filmmmaker; but it’s also kind of universally about filmmaking, only the way that someone as great and as personal as Brian can tell it.

It seems as though with these guys (Jake and Noah) you’ve recreated some of the same spirit there was among the New Hollywood directors in that era.
De Palma: it’s unusual to have a group of directors who are bright, talented – some even genial – who get along with each other, who are not competitive, who are not trying to cut each others’ throats for some job. I have been very fortunate to grow up with a group like that and to find a new group like this more recently. It’s a lonely profession unless you have other directors to talk to.

One thing that emerged from the documentary is that since “Mission to Mars” (in 2000) you have been working in Europe. It’s difficult, I guess impossible, for you to find financing within the U.S. studio system. Why?
De Palma: well, I’m a very troublesome director, because I’m a final cut director and that’s very difficult to obtain in this day and age. I discovered, when I was making Mission to Mars that they were spending a tremendous amount of money, and we didn’t even have enough money to finish the picture the way I would have liked to. I’m saying to myself: ‘we are spending a hundred million dollars on a movie. Yikes! This is crazy! And these days it’s more like three hundred million dollars. You don’t get much satisfaction worrying about what the grosses are the Saturday morning the movie opens; whether you are alive or dead.There is so much pressure on you that has very little to do with the quality of your work. I’ve made big hits, I’ve made big disasters, obviously it feels better to make a hit. And in order to make movies at that level you have to have that kind of success. It’s a terrible road to be on!

According to Michael Roddy's report on the press conference for Reuters, De Palma's advice to young filmmakers is that they must never give up, but that luck and a sense of humor were also needed in order to succeed. "There's no point in teaching film students unless you have this great ability to keep going no matter what they tell you," De Palma told reporters. "You must persist and you must also be lucky. You have to have talent, persistence and luck to survive in this business."

Discussing the documentary, De Palma said, "The genius of it was how they were able to take out their questions and then illustrate the film with all these pieces of other film, and to me its quite amazing."

THREE "FASCINATING EXPERIMENTS" - STAIRWAY SHOOTOUT, STEADY-CAM IN 'BONFIRE', MUSEUM PICK-UP IN 'DTK'

When asked to name his favorites of his own films, De Palma said that would be like a parent being asked to name a favorite child. Even so, he named three sequences in his films, saying, "All are fascinating experiments that turned out quite well"-- the stairway shootout in The Untouchables, the steady-cam shot at the beginning of Bonfire Of The Vanities, and the museum sequence in Dressed To Kill.


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 10, 2015 5:12 PM CDT
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'DE PALMA' REVIEWS: 'A BLAST', 'DELIGHTFUL'
"THE FASTEST, FUNNIEST & MOST EXHILARATING HOUR & FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES OF THIS YEAR'S VENICE"


Brian De Palma arrived at the Venice Film Festival yesterday and attended a cocktail party held for the jury and fellow director Jonathan Demme, who earlier had received the Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award. As the tweeted pic above shows, De Palma, Susan Lehman, Noah Baumbach, and Jake Paltrow also attended a screening of Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's stop-motion film Anomalisa. Later today, De Palma will be honored with the festival’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award. That ceremony will be followed by the world premiere of the documentary De Palma, which is directed by Baumbach and Paltrow. A press screening has already happened, and late last night, the reviews began posting to the web-- and they are highly positive. The film was presented without credits, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney, it "has the feel of a rushed edit, with jittery cuts in the interview segments and uneven audio." One imagines the film will be even more complete by the time it makes its North American premiere at the end of this month at the New York Film Festival. Even so, Rooney adds that "the bid to be comprehensive and cover every last movie (right down to the video for Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark,' in which the Boss plucks a then-unknown Courtney Cox out of the audience) makes it feel hurried at times, hurtling over career highlights to touch on minor entries possibly best forgotten. But there's a ton of great material here and a nonstop flow of expertly chosen clips. With further finessing to allow more time to breathe and savor some of the many virtuoso set-pieces that are a De Palma trademark, this could be a definitive study of the director's work."

Here are more review links:

Guy Lodge, Variety

"Acolytes of Brian De Palma’s flavorful, flamboyant filmography hardly need reminding of his acrobatic ability as a visual storyteller; what they’ll learn from De Palma is that in front of the camera, he’s a pretty marvelous raconteur too. The septuagenarian director provides an exhaustive but exuberant film-by-film account of a career spanning nearly half a century in Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s delicious documentary portrait — skimping neither on candid self-effacement or irreverent wit as he recalls such professional triumphs as Carrie, such dispiriting misfires as Mission to Mars, and the wealth of knowledge gained and opportunities lost in between. Elegantly linear in its setup, and reflecting at least one of its name helmers in its overriding mood of buoyant good humor, De Palma reps several Christmases come at once for fans, though it’s playful and perspicacious enough to engage all film-biz aficionados...

"The documentary duly begins with a seductive flurry of excerpts from Vertigo, the narrative of which is described by De Palma as a neat allegory for what filmmakers do: creating romantic illusions only to destroy them soon after. Hitchcock may be a standard point of film-studies reference, but De Palma is at polite pains to point out that he means it more than most: 'People call [him] influential,' he says later, 'but I haven’t seen that many people who actually follow his form except for me.'

"If such words sound conceited in print, he doesn’t project any such airs on camera — he’s equally forthcoming on where he believes he’s misstepped and why. It’s De Palma’s chronological, hindsight-advantaged evaluation of his 28 features (omitting 1970’s filmed stage performance Dionysus in ’69) that gives the doc its meat: His upbringing and Quaker education in Newark and Philadelphia, are covered genially at the outset, as are his years on the film program at Sarah Lawrence, where he began a long-term association with Robert De Niro. But such biographical material, including passing references to his three marriages, is kept to a minimum, as the man’s life is mapped more integrally through his movies...

"De Palma is the first to admit that now is no longer his time, having lost his taste for blockbuster cinema on the unhappy shoot of 2000’s expensive flop Mission to Mars — not coincidentally, his last U.S.-shot project. His four features since then, including the striking, ripe-for-reappraisal The Black Dahlia, were made more on his terms, though given the speed with which Baumbach and Paltrow rifle through them, perhaps he’s less willing to step back and survey his newest work.

"The film is hardly starved for detail by this point, having captured and sustained a lively atmosphere of mutual auteur appreciation usually best conveyed in print — in those landmark Hitchcock-Truffaut conversations, for example. We may never hear the younger helmers’ side of the interview, but De Palma addresses them at several points both with points of agreement and good-natured observation of the differences between their work and his. 'You start with character and work your way outwards,' he says, 'while I start with construction and work my way in.' In this particular portrait, both approaches have combined to most rewarding effect.

De Palma was presented at Venice with no credits, but is otherwise a polished, swift-moving package, bearing intelligent craft even in its well-lit talking-head material."

Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

"One of the many touchpoints mentioned in the course of De Palma, the new film from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, is Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend, but if they'd gone for the embellishment of a subtitle in the name of their interview-based doc, it could very well have been 'Brian De Palma: Breathless.' Because it is both literally and metaphorically so, a whistle-stop guided tour of De Palma's filmography in which the legendary director talks non-stop, with one anecdote jump-cut against the next so fast that often the breaths in between sentences are snipped out. The effect is almost disconcertingly rapid-fire at first, and initially it suggests Baumbach and Paltrow are going for something avant-garde. Then you think maybe it's an attempt to mimic the giddy headrush pleasures of De Palma's own high-octane style. And then, maybe four minutes in, you realize it's actually just because he has so damn much to say and all of it is utterly delicious -- in the time saved by removing those pesky inhalations, we probably get six or seven more pithy observations stuffed into this breakneck movie. So you settle in and try to hang on for dear life, like Tom Cruise atop that speeding train, as the fastest, funniest and most exhilarating hour and forty-seven minutes of this year's Venice whips by.

"Formally the film is nothing to write home about — while it's liberally interspersed with clips that seem precisely chosen to make you immediately pang to watch the film in question again in its entirety, all of the De Palma footage seems to have been taken from one long interview, with him facing the camera against the same unfussy background. And despite the names behind the camera, there's never a peep out of anyone else, with the occasions on which De Palma addresses a comment or an aside to 'you guys' meaning Paltrow and Baumbach, coming few and far between. But the two directors, who have known De Palma for ten years now, perform a much more valuable service by removing themselves than any onscreen interlocutors could — they make it feel like De Palma, talking to them as unguardedly and frankly as you would to friends of many years, is talking directly to us.

"Despite the astonishing length and breadth of the De Palma oeuvre, De Palma begins and ends with Vertigo, while clips of North by Northwest, Psycho, Strangers on a Train and others recur throughout. As clearsighted about this as everything else, De Palma does not just acknowledge the Hitchcock influence on his work, he embraces it and even, by the film's close, lays claim to owning it, suggesting that for all the talk of Hitchcock's influence it was really only him who took the responsibility for keeping that legacy alive by devouring it whole and transmuting it into something new.

"Really it's just a delight to spend this time in De Palma's company, because for someone who describes directing as 'creating romantic illusions,' he has refreshingly few about his own eclectic, eccentric and highly individual body of work. There are films he feels are better than their receptions suggest: 'I still think Bonfire of the Vanities is fine, it's a good film. Just don't read the book,' he suggests...

"Directors, he opines more than once, make their best work in their 30s 40s and 50s, tacitly acknowledging that his own output this century has not been his finest. But the bright-eyed, genial, sharp-as-a-tack filmmaker who takes us through his life's work so far in De Palma (endearingly peppering his commentary with exclamations of 'Holy Mackerel!') sure seems like one who could buck that trend and turn in at least one more late-career high. It's something that even De Palma apostates might be persuaded to hope for after watching Baumbach and Paltrow's giddy blast of a doc."

Demetrios Matheou, Thompson On Hollywood

"De Palma has been one of the densest and most exhausting two hours spent in Venice, in the best way possible. Whether one likes the American’s films or not, time spent with him is akin to attending a filmmaking masterclass whose every minute demands notation.

"And the film is, literally, focused on him: it doesn’t involve the views of colleagues or friends, narration of any kind, or the presence of Baumbach and Paltrow, other than when De Palma acknowledges their shared profession himself. The camera is fixed on the septuagenarian as he sits and reflects on his career, film by film, touching on his filmmaking process, the parallels between his life and movies, people he’s worked with, successes, failures, controversies...

"He’s a rum interviewee, frank, funny, not afraid to seem arrogant, as when he recounts the pleasure he’s had watching the Carrie sequel and remake, 'seeing other people make all the mistakes you avoided'. He can get away with such moments, because he’s equally forthright about the failures, whether ones that stank because of his own misjudgement (Bonfire of the Vanities) or the more painful sort, like Carlito’s Way, of which he’s very proud. And the way he speaks about writers, production designers and in particular composers suggests a true collaborator.

"There’s a film buff’s delight to be had in hearing his stories about Pacino’s novel way of escaping a demanding night shoot on Carlito’s Way, or Cliff Robertson’s shameless attempts to sabotage his more talented co-star Genevieve Bujold on Obsession, or Sean Penn’s more productive shenanigans to coax a performance out of Michael J Fox on Casualties ('Good old Sean, he’s exciting to work with'). But the greatest value is in listening to what makes the man tick as a director, whether personal history (Keith Gordon’s pursuit of his mother’s killer in Dressed to Kill was inspired by the young De Palma’s shadowing of his adulterous father) or the shooting strategies and technical approaches to his films, always with the aim of making his scenarios play out in new and exciting ways, and which make his style so singular."

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Like the recent By Sidney Lumet, which premiered this year in Cannes, the strength of De Palma is that its sole point of view belongs to the subject. It also helps that he's very good company. It's clear at times that he's in conversation with fellow filmmakers, acknowledging that they will have had similar experiences, but Baumbach and Paltrow remain unseen and unheard. De Palma ventures at one point that their movies start with character and work outwards while his do the opposite, but he seems to regard his work as no less personal.

"De Palma is candid about his failures, honest about his disappointments, and doesn't bother with false modesty where his great pictures are concerned. Speaking of the various remakes and subsequent adaptations of Carrie, the film that put him on the commercial map, he chuckles over the amusement of watching other people make mistakes that he avoided. He's sanguine about movies that were attacked upon their original release and then embraced years later, by which time the initial criticism — usually pertaining to his penchant for baroque violence, especially when perpetrated against women — has been forgotten or become irrelevant...

"While the overarching view of De Palma's body of work offered here could be more cohesive, the wealth of detail is compelling stuff. 'Being a director is being a watcher,' he says at one point, and he comes across as attentive to every aspect of the filmmaking process. That explains how something as seemingly routine as sound recording becomes a central plot point in Blow Out. (For those of us who adored that 1981 release from the start, it still hurts to hear of the studio's appalled reaction to it, in particular the fabulously operatic ending with its cynical sting.)

"His love of drawing attention to the director's tricks, and weaving that film craft into the very fabric of the plot is something De Palma acknowledges came directly from Hitchcock, citing Vertigo as a formative influence. (Hitchcock clips are sprinkled throughout.) Without self-aggrandizement, he even lays sole claim to keeping the Hitchcock legacy alive through artistic renewal...

"Hearing De Palma's version of conflicts with screenwriter Robert Towne on Mission: Impossible, and the crafty way he got Tom Cruise on board with his concept for the exhilarating train-top ending makes the director seem the smartest guy in the room. But he's wistful about how rarely in any career all the elements fall into place as they did on that hit and just a small handful of others. He's forthright about the mistakes he made on one of his most clamorous flops, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and seems downright saddened when admitting he was out of his depth on the big-budget, effects-driven Mission to Mars, which killed his appetite to work in Hollywood.

"As someone who has choreographed too many brilliant and memorably complex action sequences to mention — think the Odessa Steps homage from The Untouchables, for example, or the prom scene in Carrie — De Palma has earned the right to sniff at the clichés of so many previsualized Hollywood action scenes today.

"The personal insights are fairly basic in terms of his upbringing and perhaps a shade guarded concerning his marriages and relationships. But this is unapologetically a professional reflection and not a memoir. While De Palma doesn't appear to go in for much talk of thematic threads in his work, he does come close to geeking out when discussing some of his signature devices, like slow-motion, split screen, long takes, complicated tracking shots and that dizzying 360-degree pan around the editing room in Blow Out. That's the stuff that will make this exhaustive survey catnip to the De Palma faithful."


Posted by Geoff at 3:00 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 9:47 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 8, 2015
'DRESSED TO KILL' - NANCY ALLEN INTV & MORE
CRITERION EDITION IS RELEASED TODAY; 'DE PALMA' DOC IN VENICE TOMORROW


Above is a snapshot from this week's paper edition of Entertainment Weekly (September 11 2015 issue). Criterion today released Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, with some nice special features (as widely discussed over the past few weeks), and tomorrow is the world premiere of Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's documentary, De Palma, at the Venice Film Festival. De Palma will also be honored in a special event prior to tomorrow's screening in Venice. But today, it's (almost) all about Dressed To Kill. Here are two very nice links from today, with more to come as I have time in the next couple of days:

Wall Street Journal Blog - Nancy Allen interviewed by Michael Calia

"I think what I gleaned from that was it’s one thing when you shoot a movie on a soundstage. It’s very controlled and easy. You have to — and I don’t know if you’ve been on a soundstage before — but there’s just no energy there, and so you’re constantly having to create and recreate some sort of energy to make something come to life. New York is a rather energetic city, so there’s immediately that hum that’s under everything you do that really energizes, particularly when you’re running around and it’s a thriller. The city already has that kind of energy: fast-paced, on the go, running around. It really helped to energize the work, I think, and the intensity of what we were doing."

Nicholas Bell, IONCINEMA

"At the apex of Dressed to Kill is a transsexual serial killer, a dubiously designed villain whose provocative shock value has been drained, replaced by the judgmental disdain inherent in modern conversations concerning politically correct depictions of the Trans community.

"There’s no escaping the archaic depiction of the psychotic Bobbi, even though De Palma clearly took pains to avoid the virulence of homophobia, with macho cop Dennis Franz reduced to the epithet of ‘weirdo’ in his tacky verbalizations. Much like the closing psychologist’s commentary explaining Norman Bates’ mental afflictions in Psycho, we are treated to a similar sequence here as Nancy Allen lays down Transsexuality 101 for Keith Gordon at a fancy restaurant while old biddies listen on in horror directly behind them. But De Palma’s film isn’t aiming for cheap thrills, and Dressed to Kill is actually a much more significantly complex film than the particular Hitchcock title providing nuggets of inspiration.

"De Palma’s tale is an allegory concerning the reconciliation of sexuality with social expectation in a masculine, patriarchal system (reinforced by favored De Palma visual motifs like mirrors, and frequent use of doubling subjects). Clearly, the Bobbi/Dr. Elliott figure is a tortured soul, presented in a rudimentary portrait of battling gender roles a la multiple personality disorder (Bobbi’s voice mail messages eerily resemble those of Dee Wallace’s werewolf stalker in 1981’s The Howling, a similarity of genre tropes equating the notion of gender identity with the ‘trans-species’ underpinning of lycanthropy). But he’s stuck between two much more interesting characters, typified on opposing ends of the feminine spectrum—the mother and the whore.

"Dickinson’s privileged Manhattan housewife, decked out in a puff of blonde hair and completely white wardrobe, is shown pleasuring herself in the shower as her husband ignores her, idly glancing at her in the mirror as he shaves. The neglect of her sexual fulfillment gives way to a fantasy rape sequence, while shortly afterwards we see her husband hunched over her as she overreacts to his inattentive thrusts. Then, there’s Allen’s streetwise prostitute, Liz, arguably the most well-adjusted and well-developed characterization here. Having ownership over her body, clearly using it as a site of commerce on her own terms, she’s comparatively the only sex-positive component. De Palma book-ends the film with Liz’s shower sequence and it suggests something much more insidious. The traumatic experiences of the narrative have tainted her, and her shower sequence ends with the threat of violence previously absent from her sexual dynamic.

"The scenario, and several famous sequences, conveys the navigation of these sexual dynamics within the context of social spaces. Perhaps the most famous instance is a nine minute segment, completely free of dialogue, where Angie Dickinson is shown to be in a museum gazing at the humans passing by her as she continues the banalities of her own existence writing out her grocery list. Of course, she’s interrupted by the dark stranger, and we watch her deliberate her moves in a series of negotiations as complex as chess game. She balks at his initial touch in the museum, leading to a meaningful exchange of her white gloves (what happens with the thrown away glove outside the museum is as important as the one used as bait to get her into a taxi). These ‘pieces’ signifying her white privilege are like symbols from Greek mythology—an aerial shot finds her gliding diagonally down the steps of the museum, a descent bringing her down from the loft of culture into the base, primal desires engaged in within the taxi, one of several contained moving spaces haunted by the specter of sex and violence (the other being a subway sequence with Allen).

"Sexual pleasure and fulfillment outside of one’s assigned role or expectation equals death, and De Palma pumps Dickinson through the shame of venereal disease before providing another clue to her fallen status. Forgetting her ring in the stranger’s bedroom, she takes the elevator back up, only to be greeted by the enraged killer stalking her. The attempt to reclaim her ring, and ascend back into the ranks of her privilege is what seals her fate. Dressed to Kill is about the danger and fear associated in these acts of ‘de-motion.’ De Palma explores this further, not only as the perceived downgrading of the sex-change from male to female but also Caine’s occupational signifiers—as a man he’s a doctor, but a significant sequence finds his female persona donning the uniform of a nurse, hinting at the rippling effect of such a ‘reduction.’"


Posted by Geoff at 10:06 PM CDT
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Monday, September 7, 2015
'PHANTOM' FOOTAGE GOES TO ACADEMY FILM ARCHIVE
SWAN ARCHIVES DONATES MATERIAL, WILL BE PROFESSIONALLY PRESERVED & STORED
This past July, The Swan Archives put up for auction the original outtakes, deleted scenes, and other original materials it had managed to unearth and collect from Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. A reserve price had been met, but when the Academy Film Archive expressed interest in the materials, the Archivist happily canceled the auction. Here's how the excellent news was reported on the Swan Archives News page on August 25th, accompanied by a photo that included the Archivist, Paul Hirsch, and others:
Today, our Principal Archivist delivered our donation of the Archives' collection of outtakes, b-roll, and deleted scenes, in the form of 35mm negatives and interpositives, along with negatives of the TV spots and trailer and related ephemera, to the Academy Film Archive, an arm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in Los Angeles. At the AFA's facilities, the delicate footage will be catalogued, preserved, and stored professionally in the best possible conditions, so that it will be available for whatever use the future sees fit to put it to. Our Archivist (center) was joined for the handoff (and a nice lunch and "backstage" tour of the AFA's facilities) by, from left to right, AMPAS Acquisitions Archivist Howard Prouty; (Ed Pressman's wife) Annie Pressman; AFA Collections Curator Fritz Hertzog; AFA Senior Film Archivist Bill Black; Accessioning Archivist Rachel Rosenfeld from the Margaret Herrick Library; and (Phantom editor) Paul Hirsch. We at the Archives couldn't be happier with this conclusion to our adventure with this material. Now, with our own mission -- to shepherd the material to a hi-def release for the enjoyment of Phantom fans around the world -- accomplished, it's satisfying, and comforting, to know that the footage will be lovingly preserved alongside the tens of thousands of other culturally significant cinematic relics curated by the professionals at the AFA.

Posted by Geoff at 11:16 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 10:21 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 5, 2015


Posted by Geoff at 8:55 PM CDT
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Thursday, September 3, 2015
CARLITO MEETS TONY MONTANA IN MASHUP VIDEO
'HELL'S CLUB' EXISTS "OUTSIDE OF TIME, OUTSIDE OF ALL LOGIC"


In a new mashup video posted Monday on YouTube, titled Hell's Club, Antonio Maria Da Silva brilliantly blends nightclub footage from a range of films to create "a place [where] fictional characters meet. Outside of time, outside of all logic," as it reads in the YouTube description, which concludes, "TERMINATOR VERSUS TONY MONTANA VERSUS TOM CRUISE VERSUS CARLITO BRIGANTE VERSUS BLADE VERSUS JOHN TRAVOLTA VERSUS AL PACINO VERSUS PINEAD VERSUS THE MASK VERSUS ROBOCOP VERSUS DARTH VADER VERSUS MICHAEL JACKSON." As can be seen in the above screen shot, one part of the mashup has Carlito Brigante and Tony Montana staring each other down. Here's the video:


Posted by Geoff at 11:24 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 3, 2015 11:25 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015
LINKS - ALEX ROSS PERRY'S 'QUEEN OF EARTH'
DP SEAN PRICE WILLIAMS CITES DE PALMA AS HE DESCRIBES SPLIT DIOPTERS USED FOR PAINTING SCENES
This past February, after Queen Of Earth screened at the Berlin Film Festival, we noted some links between Alex Ross Perry and Brian De Palma. As Queen Of Earth makes its way through U.S. theaters (and also currently available on demand), here are some links from the past week:

Moviemaker - Sean Price Williams on the tools used for Queen Of Earth
"We shot on an Aaton Super 16mm. I shoot on Aaton all the time if I can, because it’s a comfortable camera. We used some Zeiss 16mm lenses, different speeds. Then we had the Fujinon zoom lens that we relied on while we were outside, which is a fun lens. We also used those split diopters—Brian De Palma is known for using those split diopters in his films. They can look cheesy, but I love Brian De Palma, especially at his cheesiest. I thought it would make sense to use them for the painting scenes."

Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice
"There's a lot going on in this modestly scaled movie: It's a meditation on the rickety foundations on which even close friendships can be built, and on the notion of whether or not nature — even with all its soothing sounds and comforting greenery — is really our ally. It's also a teasing admonition that we shouldn't believe everything we see, as well as a stylish, whispery love letter to psychological horror studies like Repulsion, Persona, and possibly Brian De Palma's Sisters."

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, A.V. Club
"In Queen of Earth, writer-director Alex Ross Perry—who does snippy black comedy better than just about anyone else on the current American indie landscape—dials down the humor that has defined his work to this point, and turns up the queasy psychological currents that have always gurgled underneath it. Walking a fine line between pastiche (think early Roman Polanski and Persona-era Ingmar Bergman crossed with the opening scenes of a backwoods grindhouse flick) and bona fide psychodrama, Queen Of Earth works much of the same subject matter—egoism, self-destruction, mutual loathing—as Perry’s earlier films; in fact, it’s not hard to think of it as a companion piece to last year’s superb Listen Up Philip, and not just because the two movies appear to share a fictional universe.

"And yet, there is an innate, affecting strangeness to Queen Of Earth, which is pitched somewhere halfway between actor’s showcase and creepy formal exercise, continually foreshadowing a burst of psychotic violence that never comes...

"Like all of Perry’s prior features, Queen Of Earth was shot on 16mm, though here he and his longtime cinematographer, Sean Price Williams, go for a slightly different, trickier formal palette. Both the director’s little-seen debut, Impolex, and his breakthrough feature, The Color Wheel, climaxed with talky, nearly-10-minute long takes that stuck the audience straight into the characters’ emotional trauma; here, he pulls one together early on, structured as a series of eerily intimate close-ups in which the slowly panning camera draws the viewer into Catherine and Ginny’s characters while establishing the connection (or lack thereof) between them. Brian De Palma-style split diopter shots—in which both foreground and background are in focus, separated by a fuzzy middle—recur, making for an effective visual metaphor for the central relationship."

Matthew Jacobs, Huffington Post
"Told in the vein of the classic genre that Perry describes as 'psychotic-women cinema' -- think Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Brian De Palma's Sisters with a touch of Rosemary's Baby and Woody Allen's Interiors -- Queen of Earth is an eerie look at the claustrophobia that sets in when childhood fixtures become relics."

Also note that for its cover story on Mistress America, the July/August 2015 issue of Film Comment includes an interview with Noah Baumbach conducted by Alex Ross Perry.


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 3, 2015 12:20 AM CDT
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