RELEASED LAST WEEK IN U.K., UPCOMING WEEK IN NORTH AMERICA
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
NEW Audio Commentary With Author Douglas Keesey (Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life In Film)
NEW Producing Obsession – An Interview With Producer George Litto
NEW Editing Obsession – An Interview With Editor Paul Hirsh
Obsession Revised – Vintage Featurette Featuring Interviews With Director Brian De Palma, Cliff Robertson, And Geneviève Bujold
If you pre-order from Shout! Factory, they are still offering "a FREE 18" X 24" ROLLED POSTER" featuring the new cover artwork by Sonny Day, although "due to a manufacturing delay," Shout! "can no longer guarantee early shipping on this title." The original poster art for Obsession will be included on the other side of the reversible sleeve.
The chapter on Obsession in Keesey's book, Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life In Film, delves into the highly intriguing biographical links between the film and De Palma's personal life:
Like Sandra, the young De Palma tended to idealize his mother and to demonize his father. If Michael, according to Elizabeth's diary, was "busy at work all day," so was De Palma's father. Elizabeth's feelings of abandonment ("sometimes I wonder if Mike loves me as much as his business") were then dealt a killing blow by the ultimate desertion-- his failure to pay the ransom money, which led to her death. Young Sandra felt equally deserted, sharing her mother's pain. We recall that it was Sandra's voice on the tape recording, pleading for her father to save them. As a result of his neglect, she vowed to get revenge and undertook a secret plot against Michael. As we know, De Palma's father compounded his workaholic "desertion" by sleeping with a nurse at the office, which led to a suicide attempt on the part of De Palma's mother. (She was saved by De Palma himself, who took her to the hospital.) De Palma then used the tape recorder his mother had given him for Christmas to try to avenge her, secretly capturing his father's phone conversations-- and later surreptitiously filming him-- to gather evidence of adultery so that his mother could divorce him. "I identify with the avenging child," De Palma once said in a direct comparison of himself to Sandra.
But the comparison doesn't stop there. Just as Sandra eventually realized how much her demonization of her father was due to Bob's manipulation of her to believe what he wanted her to believe-- the very worst about Michael's motives ("[He] just can't come up with the money, not for Elizabeth and not for you"), so De Palma came to see that "my mother had manipulated me": "My brothers and I had only had my mother's point of view, and she spoke of daddy as an outsider, leagued against us. She told us, 'He's the bad one; you, you're with me; blame him.'" In the children's eyes (Sandra's, De Palma's, and his brothers'), the father was as guilty and despised as the mother was innocent and idealized. (It is interesting to note that De Palma's brother Bart painted the portrait of Elizabeth that Sandra idolized.) However, both Sandra and De Palma later gained a more mature understanding to challenge their one-sided, childish perceptions of their fathers: "I gradually came to appreciate my father's point of view"; "in truth-- but I understood this only much later-- he was just a man who threw himself into his work so that he could forget his marriage troubles." Similarly, in Rebecca, Fontaine grows to understand that her husband/father figure Maxim isn't as demonic as she feared and her predecessor/mother figure Rebecca isn't as worthy of idolatry.
"I remember when, on Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird... he had a whole idea of shooting misdirections within his titles. Getting shots specifically for the opening titles that were slightly different -- from a different angle of a piece of action. And you learn very quickly you don't have time to get those. You're racing very quickly, always trying to beat the clock, and you run out of time. And what I did when I came to it was -- we found these guys called Filmograph -- an amazing video effects house in Los Angeles -- and they came and sent us two concepts for the titles [for Rogue]. And I liked both concepts so much, I said: "You know what? We're gonna use both concepts. One at the beginning, and one at the end." And they absolutely nailed it. They did it so well, they got two jobs out of it. And out of that, that's where we developed the 'curtain call.' The idea of seeing the characters come back at the end of the movie. And that was something unique to Rogue and then Fallout. In fact, it's the only connection -- stylistically -- that Fallout has in common with Rogue.
"So what we do -- [Editor] Eddie Hamilton and I -- we say to Filmograph: 'You tell the story back to us [in the opening titles].' And we give them the whole movie. And they take little clips and they throw things at us and we throw things back at them. And we more or less feel our way through it by the energy the images are giving off. And how they are juxtaposed. And we like to do at least one giveaway in the credits. We like to do one thing where we are tipping our hand a bit. If you're paying attention, there's a little bit of a spoiler in there."
Rotwang also includes a scene that quotes Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and De Palma's The Untouchables with a pram on a stairwell in a park in which Rotwang's possible murderers (forgot to mention, as the movie opens, Rotwang has been shot dead, and he had many enemies) are lurking on their victim. The funny low-budget catch is that the screaming baby is actually a Sony tape recorder that is easily switched off. Rotwang also alludes to Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, but the dinosaurs are plastic. Elsewhere, actor Udo Kier complains to the director of his "harsh tone," Blumenberg consistently urges his actresses to bare their breasts for the camera, and the German voice-actor who usually dubs the voice of Woody Allen is sometimes heard giving off-screen stage directions. Receiving mostly positive reviews as a biting satire full of political tension and darkly absurd humor, the film was originally advertised with the tagline, "Monty Python meets the Red Army Faction."
According to Variety's Elsa Keslassy, De Niro was fighting back tears while stating the above. Keslassy's report continues:
De Niro went on to draw parallels between his own Tribeca Film Festival and Marrakech Film Festival, both of which were born in 2001, “in the shadow of the tragic events of September 11” and have always strived to bring people together and – in the case of Marrakech fest – “serve as an inter-cultural bridge between nations.”
The Oscar-winning actor concluded his speech with a stringent criticism towards the current U.S. government.
“Sadly, in my country, we’re going through a period of grotesque version of nationalism. Not the kind of nationalism where we celebrate the quality and character of our diverse population; but rather a diabolic form of nationalism marked by greed, xenophobia and selfishness under the banner of ‘America First,'” said De Niro, who didn’t name the U.S. President in his speech.
“This stands in contrast with what brings us tonight. The arts don’t respect borders (…), the arts celebrate diversity, origins and ideas. Look at us here tonight we’re enjoying films from 29 countries; we’re united in our love for films and our common humanity,” added De Niro, drawing repeated ovations and cheers from the audience.
Scorsese introduced De Niro’s tribute with a moving, funny and vibrant speech in which he paid homage to actor’s “amazing body of work” before showing a sprawling and meticulous selection of clips – some of which were entire scenes — from De Niro’s films divided by themes cleverly titled “razor’s edge,” “touchable,” “lovestruck,” “once upon a time in America” and “king of comedy.”
Reflecting on De Niro’s unique talent, Scorsese said he had the “uncanny ability to get the viewer to empathize with some really horrific characters” and draw the viewer “to the humanity inside the monster.”
“Bob was in eight of my first 15 non-documentary features and we took on some pretty rough subjects in those pictures and Bob played some tough characters — psychopaths, sociopaths, every kind of paths you can think of (…) and he always conveys the audience not to judge.”
Scorsese also took the opportunity to pay homage to Bernardo Bertolucci. “He was and is and always will be a constant inspiration to me and I believe to so many others (…). I’m shocked and saddened about his passing.”
Both Scorsese and De Niro were greeted like rock stars by the Marrakech festival crowd and took time to sign autographs for locals outside of the gala venue.
The festival opened Friday night with a gala screening of At Eternity's Gate, presented by director/painter Julian Schnabel, along with co-writer and editor Louise Kugelberg and two actors from the film. Guillermo de Toro, who had conducted a Q&A with last month with Schnabel and star Willem Dafoe at the Body Double house in Hollywood Hills, was in attendance Friday, and will also present a masterclass at the festival.
TONTO is further described at The Swan Archives:
"It's a Series III Moog modular synthesizer, which Cecil expanded with modules from Moog, Arp, Oberheim, and others. It was used by Stevie Wonder on several albums, and is also heard on records by Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack, The Isley Brothers, Gil Scott-Heron and Weather Report, Steven Stills, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Little Feat, and Joan Baez. All those dials and jacks on the walls are actually part of the thing, and not some set-designer's fantasy."
"In 2013, the National Music Centre (NMC) acquired TONTO for their working musical instrument collection and the famous synthesizer was moved to Calgary to be restored for use," Beatroute's David Daley wrote ahead of TONTO Week. He continued:
In conjunction with the Alberta Electronic Music Festival, NMC is celebrating the completion of TONTO’s restoration with TONTO week, a series of events running November 14-18 that includes which include a rare screening of the cult film that helped make TONTO famous.
The Phantom of the Paradise is many things at once: a mind-bending horror film, rock opera, tragedy, love story, comedy and a cautionary tale for us mere mortals. There’s a reason why the movie ran almost constantly for a year in Winnipeg after it first opened and has earned permanent die-hard cult status around the world: it’s a damn good film.
Legendary director Brian DePalma both wrote and directed the story, drawing from the classic tales of Faust, The Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Grey. Rod Serling of the surreal TV show The Twilight Zone narrates an eerie introduction explaining how the music mogul Swan seeks the music to open his new rock palace “the Paradise” with: “..this film is the story of that search, of that sound, of the man who made it, the girl who sang it and the monster who stole it.”
Winslow Leach is a brilliant composer. Swan steals his masterpiece cantata and sends him to jail on false charges. Leach escapes from prison and is horribly injured and believed dead after he tries to destroy the pop-music pressings of the music swan stole from him. Things heat up when a lurking phantom kills the Paradise’s opening act “Beef” in a horrible onstage spectacle. The story get even stranger after that.
The diminutive Paul Williams (who also plays Swan in the film) wrote the music and lyrics for the soundtrack at the height of his song-writing career and each tune is quite successful on its own. Blistering rock performances by Swan’s musical incantation “The Undead” leave more than a few people chopped up afterwards. The chanteuse Phoenix sings a hauntingly beautiful love ballad after Beef is cooked alive onstage. Immediately an instant star, Phoenix is seduced by Swan which creates a love-triangle that doesn’t end well at all.
Don’t be thrown off by the movie’s campy 1970s aesthetic or apparent simplicity, this is a film lover’s film of the highest order with strong visual symbolism and a rich sub-text. It’s a dark parody and venomous critique of the star-making schemes of greedy producers and well worth seeing on the big screen. Love and death, hope and despair, doom and redemption all await the viewer in this unique rock and roll horror phantasy.
It was during that same period that TONTO had its Hollywood close-up. TONTO and Record Plant Studio B are featured in several key scenes in Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult movie Phantom of the Paradise, in which a Phil Spector–like producer (Paul Williams), imprisons and drugs a tormented Phantom (of the Rock Opera) composer until he completes his rock cantata. For fans like Rod Warkentin, organizer of Winnipeg, Canada’s annual Phantompalooza festival and Facebook page, “TONTO is like another character in the movie.” Following the film’s storyline in which the Phantom’s composition is purloined by its producer, Cecil was never paid for the use of TONTO, based on an unfulfilled promise that he could contribute to the movie’s score.
Peter Masterson (who played Walter) -- A friend of mine at the time, and still is, William Goldman, was writing the screenplay. And I had been aware of the work he'd been doing on it, because he was interviewing Betty Friedan and all the feminists of the time. That was a hotbed of feminism was the '70s, and the early '70s. So Bill set out to make this a feminist diatribe, basically. That was his goal.
Bryan Forbes: There was a draft, yes, by William Goldman, which I thought needed work on it, and so did Ed Sherick. He was, um, charming. He became, perhaps, progressively less charming. I don't think he likes directors, and he particularly doesn't like English directors, I don't think.
Edgar J. Sherick: Before Bryan Forbes came on... what the hell was the guy's name... Brian De Palma. I gave-- I liked Brian De Palma, because he'd done a picture called Sisters-- and I gave him the script to read it. He said to me, "This is my ticket to the big time." He loved it. So I said to Goldman, "I'd like to hire Brian De Palma." He said to me, "If you hire Brian De Palma, I don't want anything ever to do with the picture again!"
Bryan Forbes: I mean, it was a very good script, a very good draft that he'd done. But I felt it was capable of improvement...
Edgar J. Sherick: Bryan Forbes did some work on the script, much to Goldman's chagrin.
Peter Masterson: Bill and I were playing tennis one day, and he came and he said, "I just delivered the rewrite to Forbes." That afternoon, I had a meeting with Bryan, about something else, and he didn't know anything about it. He said, "Well, Goldman never turned in the script." I thought, wait a minute, Bill just told me he'd just turned in the script. What's going on here? And he says, "I'm gonna have to rewrite it myself."
Bryan Forbes: And finally I did a final shooting script myself. So there are lots of sacred and profane bits of me in that film, which are not Goldman.
Peter Masterson: And he was angry. he was a celebrated screenwriter, Academy Award winner as a screenwriter, and he didn't want somebody rewriting his material.
Bryan Forbes: He wrote a much more horrific ending, which I thought ran counter to the rest of the movie. So the ending was very greatly altered by me.
Edgar J. Sherick: He wanted to do something with the opening, which he did, and we actually shot Bryan Forbes' opening.
Bryan Forbes: I said when they leave the New York apartment, just before the credits start, the little girl, the daughter, says, "Daddy, I've just seen a man carrying a naked lady." And the father says, "Yes, that's why we're moving to Stepford." In retrospect, with hindsight, that has double meaning.
Peter Masterson: I remember one time, a little confrontation Bryan and I had on the set. It was a line I was supposed to say, "I was talking to some of the chaps on the train this morning." I said, "You know, I wouldn't say 'chaps'. Americans don't say that. That's an English thing." He said, "Well, what's wrong with saying it?" And I said, "Well, you wanna change it to the Twickenham Wives, it'd be all right.
Bryan Forbes: Well, we had a great deal of trouble casting the movie for various reasons. I suppose I must have interviewed 25 leading ladies, and for one reason or another, a lot of them fell by the wayside.
Peter Masterson: Bill Goldman's ideal model for it was Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper.
Bryan Forbes: I cast Diane Keaton. Had a great day with her, went over the script with her, how we'd do it, how we'd play it, etc. And she went off at 5 o'clock from my office, happy as a lark, as far as I was concerned. And the following morning about half past nine, she rang me and said, "I'm sorry, I'm not doing the movie." And I said, "Gosh, what happened between 5:30 and 9 o'clock this morning?" She said, "Well, I gave the script to my analyst, and he got very bad vibes from it, so I can't do it." I then tried to get Jean Seberg, but sadly she was close to doing what she did, because she committed suicide. And then another one was not allowed to do it for political reasons, because the money was coming from a big corporate company. And finally, and happily, I ended up with Katharine Ross.
[LATER in the doc...]
Bryan Forbes: William Goldman-- he wrote nasty things, and said that the lack of success of the film in America was entirely due to my casting Nanette [Newman, Forbes' wife], which I thought not only was a total exaggeration, because Nanette wasn't playing the lead anyway, and grossly rude, I thought... offensive.
Peter Masterson: And it also led to costuming the picture in a different way. The intent was that all the women in Stepford were Playboy bunnies. And because Nanette wouldn't have looked good in a Playboy bunny outfit or something like that, they wanted long dresses, which kind of toned down the whole thing.
Paula Prentiss: And I thought when he dressed us in the long dresses at the end, in the shopping market, that was great. Because it was kind of like Victorian dressing, which was the point-- you know, the point is women are still living in the Victorian Age, in a way.
Bryan Forbes: I don't mind what people say about me, but I'm like a tiger if anybody attacks my wife.
Peter Masterson: Yes, he was angry, and I don't think they spoke again. I could be wrong about that, but that's my guess.
[LATER in the doc...]
Peter Masterson: Bryan Forbes didn't know that I knew Bill Goldman. When we would shoot a scene, I would call Bill and say, "This is the scene. I can't remember what your original intent was." And he would tell me, "Well, you missed... if you could talk him into getting this back into the scene, try to do that. Bryan didn't know we were talking, and I couldn't tell him to put back stuff that was exactly like Bill had it, because he would suspect something, I think.
IN 2012, DE PALMA ALMOST DIRECTED A VERSION OF GOLDMAN'S 'HEAT'
De Palma had a more recent brush with a William Goldman screenplay in 2012, when Jason Statham wanted De Palma to direct him in a new version of Goldman's Heat. A 1986 film adaptation of Goldman's novel, for which he also wrote the screenplay, starred Burt Reynolds. The troubled production went through six directors and many rewrites. It was said that the 2012 version, which again had Goldman attached as screenwriter, went back to Goldman's original version of the screenplay. A press release in 2012 described the film this way:
This tightly-wound, fun action-thriller, tells the story of a tough recovering gambling addict (Statham) who makes his living providing protection in the rough edges of the gambling world. Statham’s character refuses to resort to gunplay, strictly using hand and edged weapon combat. When a dear friend is brutally beaten by a high-rolling mobster, he helps her get her revenge and he ends up in more trouble than he ever imagined.
Over at Polygon, Álvarez is asked by Matt Patches, "How do you know if you’re going too far into the perverse?" In answering this question, the director again brings up Hitchcock and De Palma: "Well, the MPAA will make sure you’re going too far [laughs], but when it comes to morals, I like to push the boundaries of taste. South Korean cinema is one of my favorites. And directors like Hitchcock or De Palma are the kind of the directors that I think I learned more from by watching their movies. Particularly De Palma, who is one of those guys that was never afraid to amp it up. Even the wardrobes are over the top.
I always like knowing that I really went for it, rather than thinking that, oh, I played that one too safe. There would never be a worse feeling to me in a movie than to think that I played it safe, that I was scared to go in too far. Actually, I look back at Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe and now this — I feel like an old conservative man! But I really try not to be afraid of going overboard."
Back at the Rome Film Festival, Álvarez told Lega Nerd's Gabriella Giliberti, "Undoubtedly I was inspired by the previous directors of this saga. I was in high school when I saw and loved David Fincher's film. He is a director I admire. I would not have imagined that in my life it would have happened that my name and his were put side by side in the same sentence. So surely there is a little bit of Fincher, but I went to the cinema of De Palma or Hitchcock more with this film. I was inspired by them because they are directors who have never been afraid to exaggerate, especially De Palma with his style a bit theatrical and 'operatic.' I did so, and every time I realized I had crossed the limit, I went even further in the scene. I didn't know if what I was doing would work but I still had to try it!"
Also at the festival, Álvarez talked to BadTaste's Gabriele Niola:
This saga seems unable to end. Now after Fincher we start again ....
FA: "Consider that I would never have made a second and third film after that of Fincher, to continue on that style and tone set by a master like him would be impossible. This is instead a story of another author, so it's all a bit less sacred, just be faithful to Lisbeth and you can do whatever you want. And besides, the studio gave me freedom, otherwise I would not even have started. I've never made a film in which I did not have total control."
So if I had to explain the style and tone of your Millennium how would you describe it?
FA: "Not Nordic Noir mystery but more pulp-- I like Brian De Palma and the Korean cinema. I like that territory between the melodramatic and the expressionist that perhaps also implies a sick revenge. Last night I saw the film and all these bright red clothes in the snow were very South Korean cinema but immersed in a fairy tale: we start with a town and we end up in the woods with snow and a cliff."
We start with Steffie, the catalyst in the scene above, having just seduced Kleinfeld on the dance floor and pulling him into the bathroom for a quickie. Carlito, of course, already has his attitude issues with Benny Blanco from the Bronx, and Steffie knows this-- the first time the viewer sees Steffie, from afar, she's talking to Saso but watching with keen interest as Carlito tells Benny Blanco about the "new ownership/new rules," and she witnesses, from afar, Benny's obvious respect for Carlito's legendary status. Soon, Steffie is dating Benny Blanco, before she moves on to Kleinfeld in the crucially pivotal sequence of the film pictured above.
At one point, De Palma directs Stephen H. Burum's camera eye from outside the blinds of Carlito's office window downward, to spy Steffie grilling Pachanga about Carlito's meeting with Lalin above. As De Palma shows throughout the film's first 90 minutes, Steffie is obsessed with new owner Carlito from that first time we see her. And while that first time we see her, the shot is lingered on a bit, at this point in the film, the first-time viewer has no way of knowing that this woman will be a pivotal player in the narrative (when we look over from Carlito's point-of-view, the focus is ostensibly on Saso, as Benny Blanco is pointing toward Saso as he mentions him). In this way, the shot of Steffie, at this early point in the film, is somewhat akin to De Palma having Bobbi show up in the frame during a pan on the stairs outside of the museum in Dressed To Kill, prior to our knowledge that Kate Miller is being stalked. Of course, Bobbi is merely glimpsed in the pan in question, but in both cases, a sort of subtext is visually suggested.
Shortly after first watching Carlito's encounter with Benny Blanco, Steffie approaches Carlito, who is sitting and watching a tall blonde woman across the room attempt to get her boyfriend to get up and dance with her. This scenario will be played out by Gail and Carlito much later in the film, at a different nightclub, where Carlito tells Gail, "I love to watch you." The line, of course, harkens back to De Palma's Body Double (Jake's line of dialogue in the porn film-within-the-film, "I like to watch," itself nodding to Peter Sellers's famous line from Hal Ashby's Being There). Carlito's fantasy of Paradise in the billboard at the film's end shows a dancing figure who is surely Gail, yet could also be tinged by this other blonde woman who only reminds him of Gail-- a sort of delirious vertigo at twilight as the bars are closing down. And, as Carlito stares, there's our Steffie, trying to get Carlito's attention, asking him why a good-lookin' dude like him doesn't have a woman. "Nobody but you, Stef."