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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
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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, February 6, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakessmall.jpgTribune de Lyon's Luc Hernandez and others report that Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman will attend the Quai du Polar festival in Lyon, France, this March. The fest, which focuses on crime fiction and detective stories, runs the weekend of March 29-31. In preparation, the Lumière Institute in Lyon will host a Brian De Palma retrospective this month, beginning with Casualties Of War on February 14th.

Posted by Geoff at 7:45 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 5:55 PM CST
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Tuesday, February 5, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/coercivetheater.jpgPhilippa Snow writes about Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom! for ARTFORUM, as the film is scheduled for three 35mm screenings on Wednesday, February 6th, at Film Forum in New York City:
ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH Brian De Palma’s 1970 film Hi, Mom!, a white woman, dazed and recently raped, gives a fuzzy exit interview on camera. “Well, [New York Times theater critic] Clive Barnes was really right,” she says. “It was some experience. I’m gonna tell all my friends that they’ve gotta come.” The experience that she’s referring to is Be Black, Baby, an immersive opportunity (and Hi, Mom!’s film-within-a-film centerpiece) for well-heeled whites to, per the title, temporarily “be black.” If this white woman and her kin had predicted correctly that they would be given “soul food,” and be made up roughly and inelegantly with black shoe-polish, they do not seem to have guessed that they would also be robbed, gaslit, faced with furious demands to see ID, interrogated on the subject of their livelihoods and personal lives, hypersexualized, beaten and sexually assaulted, and then arrested by a white NYPD cop. The happening’s artist-cum-terrorist showrunners, who are African American but wearing whiteface, are as pale as death, and do not seem afraid to kill. The fact that the participants, if rattled, see their ritual humiliation as a dazzling work of art is owed to an embarrassing, embarrassingly recognizable strain of privileged white faux-wokeness. The fact that this scene takes place in a film both written and directed by a white man makes it doubly charged, recursive in its condemnation of white tourism in black lives.

Be Black, Baby is the third of five acts in Hi, Mom!, the fourth effort by the Hitchcock-loving, sleaze-artiste auteur. It is the perfect nucleus around which a chaotic story swirls: A Vietnam vet, broke and keen to game the sickest parts of New York’s system, becomes a peeping-tom-pornographer, then an actor, then finally a radical determined to quite literally explode the bourgeoisie. The protagonist, Jon Rubin, is played by Robert De Niro, a fact less significant in 1970 than it is now. The movie’s introduction to a grinning Rubin, yanking down a cloth that’s covering a mirror to reveal himself behind the camera, must have looked then like a broad allusion to the director’s ongoing themes of doubling and observation. In the wake of 1976’s Taxi Driver, it now functions as a meta joke, a “gotcha” shot whose punchline depends on the megawattage of its star. Meta now, too, is the scene where he auditions to appear in Be Black, Baby as the aforementioned white cop, only to be told that he looks too incapable of brutality or insanity to get the part. “I think I can play a cop, you know,” he swaggers. “I know I can. I can do anything.” Like Travis Bickle, Rubin is a firm believer in the cleansing properties of vigilante violence. His first scheme for making money is to buy a camera, hole up in his dive apartment, and then film the couples living in the opposite block through the readymade screens of their front-room windows; finding that his movies lack the necessary action, he seduces the girl living opposite in order to become the lead in his own porno, a conceit that’s more De Palma than De Palma in its invocation of the twin desires to see and be seen, to fuck and watch the action, to be both directing and directed.

When the stag film fails, he hawks his camera and procures a television. On that television, he sees the black activist group taunting white New Yorkers in a series of faintly Surrealist vox pops, and the next move in his nihilist career presents itself in black-and-white simplicity. De Palma’s love of cinéma vérité is deployed—both in the broadcast that makes Rubin first seek out the group of radicals and in the Be Black, Baby footage—to invigorating, sick effect: filmed on a hand-held camera, lit like shit and void of color, both scenes feel less like fictional exercises than like real-life powder kegs. The best thing De Palma does in the electrifying “theater” sequence is show how idiotic and banal the rich, entitled white person’s general idea of blackness is. Asked to examine the black ringleaders from head to toe by touch, the ticketholders sound like children being handed salamanders at a petting zoo. “So this is an afro!” one exclaims. “It’s like a sponge!” “It’s like angel food cake,” says the blonde white woman who ends up violated with a broom handle. “I expected it to feel like wire wool.” When she assures the troupe that “You’re the actors, we’re the audience, honey,” it is less a throwaway line than a perfect distillation of the white gaze on black bodies, even if it’s improvised. “It really makes you stop and think,” one audience member beams, his face as bloodied as if he had been at war.

In general, white men seem to love to “stop and think,” perhaps because it is the cheapest, lowest-maintenance form of “atonement.” A voyeur by nature, it is difficult to separate De Palma’s love of looking from his status as an outsider on the particularly thorny subjects of black pain, white exploitation, and police brutality, however excellent the Be Black, Baby sequence is in its inventiveness and execution. He is, in classic De Palma style, within and without, the accuser and the implicated, and his placing of a worthy, right-on bearded white man in the otherwise entirely African American activist troupe might be read as barbed self-satire. “The most Hitchcockian riff that De Palma ever examined,” Eric Henderson wrote in a 2004 reconsideration of Hi, Mom!, “is the capacity for the human psyche to harbor intense, complicated divergence.” A divergence necessarily occurs in the minds of the audience members of the Be Black, Baby skit, who simultaneously believe that they deserved the beatings and the rape by dint of the historic evil of their race, and that their willingness to be debased somehow absolves them of the same historic sin. Jon Rubin, after playing at being a cop in Be Black, Baby, marries and impregnates the girl in the building opposite, then leaves a bomb sequestered in her laundry room. He has not actually destroyed the all-American nuclear family, just like being painted black and brutalized is no real foil for white supremacy. With the imperfect and exhilarating Hi, Mom!, De Palma plants something unsafe and explosive underneath his audience, and runs.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 12:11 AM CST
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Monday, February 4, 2019

Several reviews of Arrow Video's box set, De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films, have popped up in the past couple of weeks. Here are some links:

David Brooke, AIPT!
3 takeaways from De Palma & De Niro: The Early Films

Given how these films are a bit long, paced oddly at times, and can lose your interest it’s actually quite impressive how good the cinematography and editing is in these movies. DePalma plays around with speeding up films, jump-cutting mid-conversation, and playing around with perspective. The opening of Greetings is a good example of this showing a skyscraper with different apartments and then cutting in footage of different rooms over the windows. It’s an effect that I’m sure at the time was painstaking and difficult, but it looks seamless. The use of light and contrast works wonderfully in The Wedding Party thanks to it being in black and white.

Story-wise each film has its merits. The Wedding Party has the feel of something modern, post-2000, but was made so long ago it’s a marvel. It’s a conversational film not unlike Clerks although it’s far less controversial. Greetings tackles the Vietnam War in ways nobody was doing at the time. Its comedy can sometimes hit the mark, and it’s certainly controversial in how it uses language. It’s a black comedy that works in bits. Hi, Mom!, which serves as a sequel to Greetings, has an excellent first act involving DeNiro’s character selling a porno businessman on voyeurism films. Unfortunately for him he falls for one of the girls he’s peeping on. The film devolves a bit after this into a film within a film, but it’s compelling here and there.

One of the most shocking elements in watching all three of these films is how raw they are. DeNiro has yet to discover the psychotic in Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle or the gangster that defined his career. He’s generally speaking playing a normal guy in his 20s. In fact, The Wedding Party was shot when he was 20 years, if my math adds up, and is his first on film work. He’s not bad in the role-playing an average guy and it makes you wonder if he carried on doing comedies or standard dramas if he’d be as popular today.

DePalma’s directing is incredible considering this is where he started. There are definite signs he’s playing around and learning as he went, but much of these films hold up and are watchable.

Thomas H Green, The Arts Desk
Greetings, from 1968, established De Palma as a rising star of Greenwich Village’s alternative film scene and is known for its anti-Vietnam draft stance. Viewed cold in 2019, its lo-fi, sub-Jean-Luc Godard narrative jumble soon becomes tiresome as we follow three pals chatting about Vietnam avoidance techniques, wandering around New York, and “computer dating”. It’s a dated mash-up of counterculture and titillation, half arthouse, half grindhouse, summed up by a sequence where one of the protagonists, obsessed with Kennedy assassination conspiracies, uses a nude woman to illustrate where the bullets hit.

What Greetings did give us, however, is De Niro’s creepy character, Jon Rubin, a peeping Tom who’s the only one to end up in Vietnam (where he’s given the film’s best lines). Rubin was resurrected for 1970’s Hi, Mom!, a fascinating film in a different class from the other two. It’s still very much in thrall to Godard but with a dynamic energy and originality all De Palma’s own.

Rubin is now a filmmaker who touts to a porn producer the idea of voyeuristic footage shot through apartment windows. The first half of the film is concerned with that and De Niro’s wooing Jennifer Salt’s Judy to comic effect, but the second half expands dramatically on a sub-plot, shot in black and white with a raw funky soundtrack, wherein an Afro-American theatre troupe offers an encompassing theatrical experience for white people called Be Black Baby. These sequences are superbly conceived, gripping, visceral and shocking, and alone worth watching the film for; brilliant satirical film-making.

The other aspect that makes Hi, Mom! vital viewing is that Jon Rubin is essentially Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, right down to the way he dresses, a disturbed Vietnam vet with a porn habit who’s psychologically/psychotically confused by the counterculture’s values. There are Be Black Baby sequences in which De Niro plays a cop that are a direct dry run for some of Taxi Driver’s most famous scenes (“You talkin’ to me?”). Martin Scorcese simply took Rubin from Hi, Mom!, distilled him, and wiped away all the satirical comedy

Roger Carpenter, We are Movie Geeks
De Palma is well-known for his use of split screen and though there is no actual use of the technique present in Hi, Mom!, there is a terrific scene when De Niro, as Rubin, describes his idea of filming ordinary lives through his window to a woman he wants to be a part of the film. They are standing in the street to the left of the screen. As De Niro describes a fictional woman coming into her apartment, on the right side of the screen, a light is switched on and viewers see a young woman enter a room and watch as she mirrors the action described by De Niro. It’s a simple yet brilliant way to use split screen without resorting to expensive opticals yet subtle enough that it took a second viewing for my brain to realize just what De Palma had done and how well-planned the scene was.

All three films, The Wedding Party, Greetings, and Hi, Mom!, represent De Palma’s earliest work and allows film historians to understand De Palma’s influences much earlier than his more famous films like Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, Obsession, Carrie, Blow Out, and Dressed to Kill. For viewers who only know De Palma as a horror director, these films also allow one to view De Palma doing some high quality comedy. Viewing De Niro as a 20-year-old, first-time actor is also fairly amazing. Already confident in his abilities, one can see from these films that he was obviously going places.

OKC Film Society After Dark
"In this episode, the gang is joined by filmmaker Mickey Reece to discuss Greetings and Hi, Mom!, Brian De Palma’s two early, revolutionary comedies and other sundry items."

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 12:02 AM CST
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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Last week, Cinephilia & Beyond posted an article by Tim Pelan, full of details about the making of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, along with many pictures from the set of the film, video from various source materials online, links to two PDF versions of the David Mamet screenplay, a link to an interview with De Palma from a June 1988 issue of Video magazine, and more.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Pelan's article:

Screenwriter David Mamet came up with a Stanislavski quote to describe The Untouchables: “Tragedy is just heightened melodrama.” Brian De Palma, director of The Untouchables, practically has “heightened melodrama” in his list of job requirements. De Palma and Mamet, Capone and Ness. A no-brainer, in retrospect. Yet both were just bodies for hire. The writing gig was first offered to the late Pulitzer-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Whatever the reason for her dismissal, the Chicago-born Mamet, who grew up with folk tales of Capone and his cronies, ended up taking the job for “a shitload of money,” off his own Pulitzer success with play Glengarry Glen Ross (The Writer’s Guild of America still wanted to give Wasserstein a credit however). As for “The Chicago way”? Just Mamet jazz, man. You take something, burn it down to the ground and then you build it back up again. And that’s how you get Capone! In 1984, producer Art Linson enthused with Paramount Studio’s president Ned Tanen about adapting The Untouchables television series into a film. Tanen envisioned a “big-scale movie about mythical American heroes.” Mamet saw it as a kind of Western, about “the old gunfighter and the young gunfighter… It occurred to me, what happens if this young innocent, who’s charged with defending the law but only understands that in an abstract way, meets an old disenchanted veteran, the caretaker of the law, soured at the end of his career because of the corruption in the city?” De Palma was approached, off the back of a couple of box office disappointments, after Mamet turned in his third draft. He also appreciated the Western angle, a kind of Magnificent Seven vibe. He considered The Untouchables to be “different from anything I’ve done in the past, because it’s a traditional Americana picture, like a John Ford picture.”

The film opens with its own “opening crawl” if you like, De Palma riffing on pal George Lucas. Before that some very film noir titles, with marching shadows cast across the credits by the letters of the title accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s “Strength of the Righteous” theme. Sycophantic gentlemen of the press wait in silence upon Capone (Robert De Niro), wrapped in hot towels for his morning shave in his opulent hotel suite—off to the left in an overhead descending crane shot, whilst text illuminates:

1930. Prohibition has transformed Chicago into a City at War. Rival gangs compete for control of the city’s billion dollar empire of illegal alcohol, enforcing their will with the hand grenade and tommy gun. It is the time of the Ganglords. It is the time of Al Capone.

Art director William A. Elliott and De Palma envisioned that Capone and his environs should be reminiscent of the court of Louis IV (“He’s the Sun King”), hence the sunburst motif in his suite’s inlaid wooden floor. Everyone waits for him to speak, or for a burst of anger, tamped down, when the barber pricks his skin after a question about illegality. He laughs it off instead. “Responding to the will of the people,” against the strictures of the Volstead Act (Prohibition of booze) is so much hyperbole to the suck-ups. “People are gonna drink,” he smirks… “all I do is act on that.” Like Donald Trump and his “build that wall” mania, Capone plays on people’s base desire, whilst he lives large in the pampered luxury of his own Trump Tower, the Lexington Hotel (I suppose the main difference between Capone and Trump is the former was an actual hard case, three people dying by his hand, or bat, and he has a working business brain, making actual money hand over fist). “My image of The Untouchables is that corruption looks great,” De Palma says in the DVD extras, “like Nazi Germany. It’s clean, it’s big, everything runs smoothly. The problem is all of the oppressed people are in some camp somewhere, and nobody ever sees them. So the world of (Capone’s) Chicago is a slick world, a world that’s run by big money and corruption. And it has to look fabulous.” Outside and in—De Niro even wore the same Sulka and Co. branded silk underwear as Capone.

In contrast, Kevin Costner’s white knight Treasury agent Elliot Ness, brought in from outside the corrupt city limits to tackle Capone head on, is introduced anonymously in his modest home, face not even revealed as he takes his morning coffee. His wife Catherine (the luminous Patricia Clarkson) sees him off to work after reading about a car bomb that kills a young innocent, caught up in Capone’s enforcer Frank Nitti’s crackdown on those who don’t buy their watered-down booze. Ness is revealed face on finally at the police headquarters, this time to a cynical press. Did this choir boy wear a hair shirt under his wardrobe?

Never has the old adage—when the legend becomes fact, print the legend—been more apt. Ness and Capone never met, and going to jail for income tax evasion is not very suspenseful. “So I made up a story about two of the good guys,” Mamet recalled. “Ness and Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery, playing a jaded beat cop), the idealist and the pragmatist.” The real squad comprised Ness and nine handpicked men. The film whittled the number down to a manageable four, the remainder comprised of Andy Garcia as cadet crack shot George Stone (real name Giuseppe Petri, kicking against inherent force racism), and Charles Martin Smith as the almost comic relief accountant Oscar Wallace, who unlocks the trick to bringing down Capone. De Palma and Linson originally wanted Garcia for the Nitti role, but he wisely pushed for his star making turn here (“You got him?” “Yeah, I got him.” We’ll get to that gem of a scene later.). Billy Drago, a one-time stuntman with stiletto bladed cheekbones and sly eyes did however make an indelible mark as Nitti, aided also by wardrobe. The natty killer always dresses in white suits, like “an angel of death.” As for Wallace, De Palma’s direction to Smith was, “I want the audience to be laughing with your character right up until ‘boom!’ (spoiler) you get it.”

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Posted by Geoff at 2:42 PM CST
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Saturday, February 2, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/piercingsplit.jpgNicolas Pesce's Piercing opened yesterday in theaters and streaming on demand. It is Pesce's second feature, following his singularly strange and vivid feature debut from 2016, The Eyes Of My Mother. Piercing, which had its world premiere last year at Sundance, is an adaptation of a novel by Ryū Murakami, and stars Mia Wasikowska and Christopher Abbott. In a review at Rue Morgue, Shawn Macomber writes that the film "has the vibe of Brian De Palma co-directing with Michael Haneke and David Lynch. Piercing is menacing, darkly funny, subversive, grotesque, sexy, challenging, stimulating, immersive and monumentally fucking weird."

In a discussion with The Film Stage's Mike Mazzanti, Pesce mentions De Palma as he talks about the development of the split screens used in Piercing:
There are visual components in both The Eyes of My Mother and Piercing that speak to a kind of slow cinema interest; they’re very observational at times. When you’re prepping a film, do you look to bring specific aesthetic sensibilities to each script you write, or does it first depend on the story and the material and what they require?

It starts off as whatever pops into my head. I sort of have a mental library of movie moments that are perpetually collaged, whether that’s to contextualize movies, or my own life, or my own movies. So, I think that it starts with whatever naturally comes to me—as I’m writing it, reading it, whatever—and then once I know what it looks like in my head I start realizing more where those references are coming from. Sometimes I’m not aware of it, but by the time we were making Piercing, I knew we were making a giallo movie.

Going off of that, this feeling of the commonplace is counteracted by the viscera and the sense of psychopathy in the air from Reed.


Which is punctuated by the sharp cutting. While violence and observation are far from being mutually exclusive, they create an interesting dichotomy in Piercing, and sometimes an emotional detachment or distance. How do you go about balancing these visual and conceptual ideas during prep and also in the edit?

It’s really on a case-by-case basis. I think something that’s always been fun for me about filmmaking is that there’s always been a level of experimentation to it. There’s always discoveries that come during every stage. There’s this idea that starts in the book; you’re in their perspectives but you don’t actually know what’s going on.

So, for each character, the things that are going on in their heads are drastically different. So, I thought, how could we communicate these two worlds, but together in the same place, but so disconnected? So, very quickly I was thinking split-screen. Part of it is stylistic—I love Brian De Palma, and he dealt very much in the wheelhouse of what we were doing—but it also conceptually tied in really nicely, this kind of idea of contrasting views of the same thing.

So, we had always known that split-screens were going to be an element of the movie. But initially, it was only planned for the one sequence with Reed on the phone with his wife. And, as we were editing, we were like, this does work the way we wanted it to—where can we find other places to do it? And so, the two other places are key character moments; the first is where Jackie and Reed meet for the first time, and we’re showing how different their lead-ups are to the same moment.

Then, at another moment, Jackie and Reed finally think they’re on the same page—they’re flirting on the couch, they both think they know what’s going on, and they’re both with it—and there’s a moment where something is off, and they both don’t know what’s wrong but they realize they’re on the same page, and we jump back to split screen again. So, you have to find techniques that play into the stylistic choices that you’re trying to make, but it also has to be an element that’s helping the narrative or at least the emotion along, as well.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2019 12:35 AM CST
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Friday, February 1, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cyboogie1.jpgThe staff at Brooklyn Vegan notes that the video for the new song by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Cyboogie, "pays homage to Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult favorite Phantom of the Paradise. The video was directed by Jason Galea.

Posted by Geoff at 2:48 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 30, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/spiralfarm.jpgPiper De Palma, daughter of Brian De Palma, makes her feature film debut in Spiral Farm, which had its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival this past weekend. The film was written and directed by Alec Tibaldi, who wrote the lead role of 17-year-old Anahita specifically for Piper. "I had worked with Piper on my first two short films," Tibaldi tells Scott Iwasaki at The Park Record, "which were first times for both of us. They were her first time acting and my first time directing." Regarding Spiral Farm, Tibaldi tells Iwasaki that Piper "was influential in creating this character. She and I had conversations about what she could bring to the role before the script was written. Because this is her first feature, it felt like she was taking a chance with me and I was taking a chance with her. I really had to trust my instincts, which told me she would be great. But there were moments when I would doubt myself."

Reviewing Spiral Farm for Film Threat, Paul Parcellin writes, "Piper De Palma, daughter of director Brian De Palma, gives a lovely, wistful performance as the introverted Anahita, who struggles to break free from her roots and find her place in the world."

Slug Magazine's Makenna Sutter-Robinson includes many details about the film in her review:

The film Spiral Farm explores betrayal, passion and sensuality as it occurs in and around the life of 17-year-old Anahita, living on Spiral Farm Commune with her family. The film begins with a meditation involving the commune members, which appears to be no more than 10 people. Though they discuss their intentional, generous way of being, they also make an ambiguous statement about outsiders being unhappy with their way of life. It is clear that Anahita is not as invested in the practice as those around her, and this uninterested, reserved demeanor remains constant through the entire film.

Later in the day, she finds her unstable mother with a man she used to date and his teenage son, Theo, who steps into the frame with obvious charm, drawing the attention of Anahita. Frustrated that her mother has invited them to a ceremony that night, Anahita goes on with her daily responsibilities, which include taking care of her sister’s child, Ocean. Later, when the family questions Anahita’s virginity and joke with her about the attractive stranger, the sexual nature by which the film is driven surfaces. After drinking a seductive herbal elixir, the introspective, self-betterment ceremony becomes something like a sexual revelry, and her best friend sleeps with Theo. The conflict of desire and denial within Anahita becomes apparent.

The family dynamics are complicated, revolving around Anahita’s sister as she travels between the commune and the city, and Anahita’s mother, who is uncomfortably sexual and uniquely detached from reality. A conflict between her mother and sister grows as her sister’s desire to get off Spiral Farm and move her son to the city actualizes—however, Anahita ends up following in her footsteps with dreams of moving to the city to pursue dancing. Neither her sister nor her mother believe that she is capable of leaving, and the internal debate that arises when she overhears this in a conversation, mixed with the navigation of her feelings for Theo, drives the rest of the film.

What begins as a perceived romance in the intentionally compassionate community becomes convoluted with her mother’s instability and the deterioration of her sister’s commitment to Spiral Farm. When Theo finds out that Anahita dances, he takes her into the city for an audition. They decide to spend the night in a motel, but what initially begins as a pursuit is returned with a cold, unassuming distance. This sort of climax without any real resolution repeats, taking varying forms, throughout the film.

Director Alec Tibaldi parallels the intimacy of the story with the way it is captured. Focusing each shot with undeniable intention and stretching time with a great deal of silence, the film is experienced as both a work of art and a candid view of Anahita’s life as she grows and hurts. Working with specially curated music, Tibaldi builds a soundscape perfectly matched with the eerie moments and the dreamy.

At times, the evolution of relationships felt unnatural, however, this was also fitting to the vibe of the film in its resting place of a commune. Tibaldi captures an odd simplicity in bad faith, and works to uncover the paradoxical elements of an attempted utopia. Spiral Farm has the ability to haunt you with its relevance and leave you in amazement with its nuanced imagery and simple, unexpected beauty.

Posted by Geoff at 9:26 PM CST
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Friday, January 25, 2019

According to producer Els Vandevorst, Brian De Palma's Domino will be released later this year. The film has been sold to an as-yet-unnamed U.S. distributor, "and later on will be released in several different countries, including the co-production countries," Vandevorst stated in an email to De Palma a la Mod. No precise dates can be provided yet, but Vandevorst expects they will announce them "soon after the Berlinale."

Posted by Geoff at 8:24 AM CST
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Monday, January 21, 2019

"In anticipation of M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, two writers go back and forth on the style and politics of Brian De Palma’s multiple-personality thriller Raising Cain." Thus goes the introduction to a post at AlcoHollywood from last week, with the headline, "Of Two Minds: Dissociating Ourselves from Raising Cain." The two writers are Gena Radcliffe and Chris Ludovici, with the latter's words in italics, in order for the reader to differentiate between the two as they go back and forth.

"Brian De Palma’s movies aren’t about sense, they’re about emotions," Ludovici states early on. "His movies are visually opulent and voyeuristic, they’re about watching people do things, and what they do is betray one another. From his personal passion projects to his massive studio blockbusters the issue of trust and how it’s impossible appears again and again."

Looking at the original theatrical version of Raising Cain, Radcliffe states, "It’s rare to find a movie that would benefit from being longer, but Raising Cain could have used another twenty or even thirty minutes. It’s edited down to within an inch of its life so that the entire plot confusingly feels like it takes place on the same day. Key elements are explained rather than shown, and the characters are thinly drawn, verging on stereotypes — the wisecracking cops, the concerned best friend, the handsome love interest, the German-accented psychiatrist. Jenny is an aggressively off-putting 'heroine,' and all we really know about her is that she’s a doctor who had an affair with a dying patient’s husband, kissing him right in the hospital room. We don’t even really know much about Carter, other than he has multiple personalities, and is hyper-focused on his young daughter, in a way that could be unhealthy, but who can say for sure, because it’s never explored."


Radcliffe later continues:

Still, it can’t be emphasized enough that John Lithgow makes a feast of his roles, playing sinister, sympathetic, campy, and compelling all at the same time. The scenes when Carter’s "twin” Cain mocks him are both funny and tragic, in a “Gollum looking at himself in the water” way. De Palma’s love of Hitchcock-style imagery serves this movie particularly well, a good reminder that you’re not watching anything that’s supposed to be a realistic depiction of DID. Raising Cain isn’t a bad movie, it’s just confounding, an interesting premise that needed more structure, and more fleshing out.

And, as it turns out, there’s a twist in the making of the movie itself.

The strange pacing and editing were a last-minute decision for De Palma after the original cut tested poorly with audiences. Why anyone thought that a psychological thriller would work better if it was harder to follow is unknown, but that’s how it was released, much to De Palma’s regret. Twenty years after Raising Cain was released, a filmmaker from the Netherlands, mostly just for the hell of it, recut the film so that it more closely resembled the original script. Nothing was added or taken away, scenes were merely moved around so that the plot was somewhat more linear. The recut got back to De Palma, who was so pleased with it that he petitioned to have it added to the 2016 Blu-Ray release, claiming that it was the way the movie was always meant to be seen.

In the interest of good journalism (and because I had to see if it really did improve whatever the hell is supposed to be happening), I watched the recut, and you know what? It actually works pretty well. It opens with Jenny reconnecting with Jack, and her bizarre excitement over the prospect of cheating on her husband, which is reminiscent of Dressed to Kill, though she doesn’t pay for it in quite so gruesome a fashion as Angie Dickinson does in the earlier movie. The gauzily lit, soap operatic “lovers reunited” plot ends with a flashback of Jack’s terminally ill wife seeing them kiss and literally dying instantly, providing a delightfully effective bridge from romantic melodrama to psychological thriller.

After about the 45-minute mark, the “director’s cut” more or less follows the theatrical cut. While the movie still, in the end, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it no longer quite feels like being thrown into the deep end of a pool without a life preserver. Not having to focus so much on trying to figure out what’s happening (it’s safe to assume that probably about 45% of it is only occurring in Carter’s fractured mind) allows plenty of opportunity to really see just how great John Lithgow is. He’s not just sad and a little scary, he’s hilarious, abruptly changing his facial expressions from “evil” to “innocent” in some scenes like he’s a human Looney Tunes character. It’s obviously an intentional choice, and even better when compared to how straight all the other actors play their roles. Lithgow is at his best when playing perhaps the most dangerous personality, “Margo,” who says nothing, smiles sweetly, and headbutts old ladies; regrettably she doesn’t show up until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. If Raising Cain still feels too short, it’s simply because we don’t get enough of Lithgow taking a potentially touchy subject matter and brilliantly, gleefully, riding it into camp oblivion.

Meanwhile, interspersed with Radcliffe's words, Ludovici continues to describe the autobiographical aspects of De Palma's work:
There’s a war raging inside of Brian De Palma. As a child he won a regional science fair by building his own computer, he went to college to study physics before being seduced by filmmaking. His best films and sequences have an almost clockwork construction, they’re known for their long uninterrupted takes that suggest fascination but also distance. His movies are often simultaneously horrific and clinical in a way that suggest a bloodless, pitiless scientist running rats through a lethal maze.

But that intelligent, scientifically minded child had a chaotic home. His father (a respected Philadelphia doctor) was a serial adulterer and the young De Palma followed him around and photograph him with various women, he even created a time-lapse camera so that he could stake various locations out without being there. Once, he threatened his father with a knife after ambushing him and one of his conquests at his office.

That tension between the thoughtful intellectual and the furious adolescent is the fuel that makes De Palma’s work go. And it changes the purpose of detached distance that he also seems to take from his subjects too. Maybe he doesn’t hold his subjects at arm’s length because he doesn’t care about what happens to them; maybe it’s because he doesn’t trust what he would do if he got too close.

At their core, his DID movies are about how, at the end of the day, we also can’t really trust ourselves. We might think we’re better and more knowledgeable than the people around us, but we’re not even safe from ourselves. There are no safe places in Brian De Palma’s world – not even inside our own minds.

Read the whole thing at AlcoHollywood.

Posted by Geoff at 12:15 AM CST
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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Christopher McQuarrie on Twitter tonight:
Tonight’s #RedWineCinema:

Brian De Palmas’ The Untouchables

Shortly afterward, McQuarrie added, "An extraordinary intro to a villain contrasting a hero ill-equipped to prevail."

Brian Koppelman, co-screenwriter of the unproduced Untouchables prequel Capone Rising, responded to McQuarrie's initial tweet: "I know every shot and line by heart."

The Nerdy Hub then challenged both of them: "What is the last line of the movie without checking google (even though I can’t check to see if you did or didn’t lmao)".

McQuarrie responded, "Probably have a drink", and then Koppelman added, "'I know some of you take a drink' earlier in the movie is such a great Mamet characterization though language."

Posted by Geoff at 10:49 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 19, 2019 10:58 PM CST
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