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a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

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a la Mod

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
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The Phantom Project

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De Palma a la Mod

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

In his Bradlands column at Sight & Sound, Brad Stevens has written a perceptively intriguing review of Brian De Palma's Domino. In the article, Stevens takes into account the complicated nature of the film's production, including the post-production (no, it was not recut from some longer edit, but yes, if De Palma had been involved in the post-production process, the colors would look deeper and the film dialogue would likely sound better, etc., etc.).

There is one small issue I have with Stevens' article. Near the end of it, Stevens writes: "When CIA agent Joe Martin (Guy Pearce) arrives on the rooftop, why does Christian suddenly know his name?" Christian knows to be looking out for a man named Joe Martin via Alex, who is in contact with Wold, and is relaying information to Christian. Joe Martin tells Christian that Wold told him he'd be there, and it is left for the viewer to understand that Christian has also been informed of who is coming.

Stevens links this matter with the more intuitive aspect of Ethan in Mission: Impossible figuring out that Jim Phelps' Bible "reveals him to be the pseudonymous mole ‘Job’" -- Stevens adds that the Bible itself "clearly does no such thing." That whole aspect of Mission: Impossible falls within Ethan's personal interpretations of events and what he knows about Jim Phelps, but the matter in Domino is hardly any kind of stretch, as the eliptical scenes of Alex calling Christian as she heads out of the stadium indicate she will be in further contact as she makes her way over to join him.

Otherwise, Stevens presents Domino as a highly intriguing riddle:

When is a film not a film?

If this sounds like the start of a joke, it is appropriate that the punchline should be: when it’s Brian De Palma’s Domino. For what we are dealing with here is a director who has spent much of his career hoodwinking both audiences and characters.

The deceptiveness of De Palma’s films is usually suggested by a sardonic tone, one insinuating that, just as the protagonists cannot be certain of what they saw, so the viewer cannot be sure this thriller or horror movie isn’t deconstructing the very narrative/visual forms in which it is theoretically embedded.

Even by De Palma’s standards, Domino is an oddity, its status as a product – an object which has passed through all those stages befitting a work intended for commercial distribution – being extremely problematic. Shot in various European locations during 2017, Domino completed post-production in 2018 (the year it is copyrighted), enjoyed its first public screenings in 2019, and begins with a caption reading “June 10, 2020”, implying a slightly futuristic setting while making an auteurist connection with De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000), whose first scene takes place on “June 9, 2020”.

Domino, which like the director’s previous feature Passion (the subject of an earlier Bradlands column) has gone straight to DVD in the UK, arrives accompanied by tales of behind-the-scenes difficulties.

Interviewed at the Fnac des Ternes bookstore in Paris last June, De Palma explained that “It was a very difficult situation, a film that was underfinanced. I was in many hotel rooms waiting for the money so that we could continue shooting. I was in many fabulous cities, waiting in hotel rooms. I was here 100 days in Europe, and shot 30. However, somehow we managed to make a movie out of this completely chaotic production situation, and hopefully you’ll be seeing it in your local cinemas sometime in the future.”

Despite currently being reluctant to discuss Domino, De Palma has denied rumours that the final cut, clocking in at 89 minutes, was shortened against his wishes (an erroneous original running time of 148 minutes has been cited by reviewers), informing the De Palma a la Mod website that “It was not recut. I was not involved in the ADR, the musical recording sessions, the final mix or the colour timing of the final print.”

These remarks would be little more than gossip did they not speak so directly to the experience of viewing the end result. For this is plainly an unfinished film, patched together from whatever materials happened to be available when the money finally ran out.

De Palma is playing his usual Oedipal games in Domino, whose protagonist, Christian Toft (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is a Danish police officer who uncovers a terrorist cell after being inadvertently responsible for the death of his older partner, Lars Hansen (Søren Malling). Lars is explicitly positioned as a father-figure to Christian (who refers to him as “my sort-of father”), and it is Christian’s clumsiness that causes his father/partner’s death: he ‘forgets’ his own gun, and has to borrow Lars’s, then, after Lars has his throat slit, manages to lose this gun as well, ‘accidentally’ dropping it as he pursues Lars’s assailant. Christian’s inability to retain the symbolic phallus (he is, in a sense, doubly castrated) is thus almost comically overdetermined, the pursuit (a homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo) having a suitably dreamlike tone.

Needless to say, after ‘accidentally’ killing the father, Christian must complete his Oedipal trajectory by sleeping with the mother. And since Lars’s wife Hanne (Paprika Steen) is not a viable object for Christian’s desires (she is too obviously ‘the mother’), the film is obliged to provide an alternative in the form of Lars’s young lover Alexandra Boe (Carice van Houten), who, it turns out, is pregnant by Lars. The emergence of an amorous/sexual relationship between Christian and Alexandra is guaranteed not only by the Oedipus Complex, but also by the demands of the narrative, romance being unavoidable in a movie which has two attractive male/female leads investigating a crime together. Yet this romance never actually happens, presumably because De Palma was prevented from shooting scenes relating to it.

There are echoes here of De Palma’s Mission: Impossible (1996), in which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must kill his own “sort-of father” Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) after having sex with the symbolic father’s much younger wife, Claire (Emmanuelle Béart). And while there is no ambiguity about Ethan’s having slept with Claire (indeed, this proves to be part of Jim’s scheme), the film remains surprisingly coy on this matter, fading to black after Claire kisses Ethan’s hand. That this act of displaced incest has been ‘repressed’ is all the more striking in that De Palma shot footage showing Ethan and Claire making love, some of which turned up in the trailer (see frame grab below).

Of course, repression is hardly a concept incompatible with Freudian theory, and if evidence of the Oedipal crime is obscured in Mission: Impossible, it is entirely absent from Domino due to an ‘accident’ of production. And as all good Freudians know, there is no such thing as an accident.

Domino proves to be doubly illusory, uniting its protagonist, who keeps ‘accidentally’ losing his phallus/gun, with its director, who ‘accidentally’ loses crucial parts of his film. And this illusion is passed on to the viewer, who had every reason to believe she was watching a completed work.

Domino (a title which, appropriately enough, is meaningless) thus has less in common with De Palma’s earlier output than it does with that version of Erich von Stroheim’s abandoned Queen Kelly (1931) assembled in 1985, juxtaposing fragments of Stroheim’s footage (including stills from lost sequences) with intertitles covering vast acres of scripted material that never went before the camera. Reviewing this for the Monthly Film Bulletin (September 1985), Richard Combs noted a shot of an ocean liner which “lasts several seconds – an eternity, it seems, given the information it conveys, compared to the flurry of titles and stills which have just tucked away so many dramatic developments and reversals in a twinkling”. For Combs, these a-rhythms, “the narrative disappearing after doing busy little mountains of work”, recalled the cinematic practises of Straub-Huillet.

Something of this quality is discernible in Domino’s finale. Despite containing several typical De Palma set pieces in which events that might have occupied a few seconds in ‘reality’ are stretched to breaking point, the film concludes with a brief rooftop scene wherein multiple plot developments are breathtakingly piled on top of each other with no concern for logic, plausibility or consistency. This scene obviously had to be shot hurriedly and at little expense in order to provide some kind of climax, the effect being both absurd and oddly disturbing, as if the film’s primary motivation were to finish unreeling before it could embarrass itself any further.

Which is to say that it does ‘accidentally’, and by contraction, what De Palma’s set pieces (themselves often simultaneously absurd and disturbing) do ‘deliberately’, by expansion. Even random details which, in the absence of those presumably unrealised sequences that might have explained them, make no sense have their antecedents in De Palma’s previous mischievously misleading films, whose main principle of construction would appear to be the aporia. When CIA agent Joe Martin (Guy Pearce) arrives on the rooftop, why does Christian suddenly know his name? One might as well ask why Mission: Impossible demands that the Bible Jim Phelps has stolen reveals him to be the pseudonymous mole ‘Job’ when it clearly does no such thing.

Although the director’s admirers have found little to praise in Domino, this film maudit might appeal to those who usually reject De Palma’s oeuvre as excessively controlled, too micro-managed for anything unplanned to seep in. It even evokes memories of Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 (1971), in which stories and identities are subjected to a process of infinite improvisational expansion that can only end with a return to point zero.

Like so much of De Palma, Domino makes us question the nature of cinematic illusionism, forcing us to ask what purpose images serve beyond the conveying of narrative data which is their ostensible reason for being. That it does this inadvertently is precisely the reason for its fascination.

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CST
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Sunday, November 3, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/jillandal.jpgIn an article about Martin Scorsese's The Irishman at GMA News Online, Al Pacino is asked by Janet Susan R. Nepales about his relationship with Robert De Niro:
The names Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have been mentioned in the same sentence over the years to define a generation of actors. Can you talk about your relationship? He told us there are things that he can discuss with you but can’t discuss with other people because you are in a similar situation.

Really? (Laughs) No, I’m joking. Of course, I met him when he was a young man; we were in our mid-20’s. I met him on 14th Street — I was living on 14th Street between Avenue B and C at the time with my wonderful girlfriend, who was Jill Clayburgh, who’s passed on.

So we were very close, we were together many years and she knew Robert from Sarah Lawrence and they worked together in films with Brian De Palma. I met him on the street, and I was introduced to him. I’ll never forget it. I thought when I met him that he was an interesting guy.

I even said to her, who is this guy? Interesting guy. He exuded a sort of thing, I didn’t even understand it but I felt it. She said, oh he’s a great actor, I worked with him. Then I remember him. Something happened in the course of our lives that brought us together but probably was because we happened at the same time, unknown until I guess ’69, ’70, something like that.

Then our careers started paralleling and we were compared to each other, etc. There was a lot of stuff about all that. We would meet from time to time in the course of it. Probably it was a little different back then when you became famous, it was not something that was talked about much or readily accessible. We were caught off guard so to speak, that what happens to you when you get in that position. There’s a period of adjustment.

Bob and I would occasionally meet and we would talk about it, about what was happening to us. That gave us a bond that we’ve kept throughout. I feel toward Bob like a brother and I trust him. I have Bob to thank for getting this part. This was his idea. This whole project was. He got Marty and got me with Marty, who I had never worked with before. So that’s the kind of thing we have and the kind of person he is.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 4, 2019 12:06 AM CST
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Saturday, November 2, 2019


Posted by Geoff at 5:14 PM CDT
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Friday, November 1, 2019

"On Halloween 45 years ago," begins Billboard's Katherine Turman in an article posted yesterday, "director Brian De Palma's comedic/horror/rock opera Phantom of the Paradise landed in theaters. It was a commercial and critical failure at the time, but the film's sardonic take on the music biz made it a cult favorite, thanks in no small part to the stellar 10-song soundtrack from Paul Williams, who portrayed the film's Faustian industry mogul, Swan, while also lending his singing voice to the titular phantom.

"Phantom proved unexpectedly influential on generations of musicians -- Daft Punk have reportedly seen it together more than 20 times -- and is now beloved by obsessive fans of all ages. The 1974 movie was director/writer De Palma's eighth (two years before Carrie), and the story uses elements of Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray and the Phantom of the Opera to weave a torrid tale, as the original tagline goes, of a composer who 'sold his soul for rock 'n' roll.'"

Turman interviewed Williams for the article. Here's an excerpt:

Was Jessica Harper cast when you were writing the songs? Did you know you'd be writing for her specifically?

No, I was writing the songs in advance of her being cast. But there is a moment in the film that is kind of a recreation of how she was cast in the film, because we were casting, listening to girl singers in New York. Brian had already read Jessica, I guess. The song that I had everybody sing for the audition was "Superstar" [the Bonnie & Delaney song that was a hit for the Carpenters]. I thought it was a beautiful song, and it was probably close to the mood of what I was hoping "Old Souls" would be when it was sung.

I'm walking by Jessica, and she's singing to herself, 'Long ago and oh so far away…' And then she came in to audition for Brian and I, and she sang, 'Long ago and oh so far' in a Broadway voice. At least that's the way I'm remembering it. I think I said to her, 'Sing it to yourself.' And when she did, it was indicative of how brilliant the performance would be when she actually did it on film.

Was it true that she beat out Linda Ronstadt for the part?

I think that Linda Ronstadt was someone that Brian looked at. I think that his concern was probably because Linda was so brilliant, probably the fame would get in the way. None of us in the film were really, really famous at that point.

When you first started working on this, did you have the whole script in front of you?

Yes, and it's interesting, because I didn't have a copy of that script, and I just got an email from a former manager who's still a really good friend. He said, 'I just found a bunch of stuff of yours that I wanna give back to you, including the Phantom of the Fillmore,' which was the original script. So that'll be interesting to look at that.

But the story changed, and I think it became more and more reflective of the kind of news as entertainment. I've said this many times, but my favorite line and I think the heart of the picture is 'an assassination live on coast-to-coast television -- that's entertainment.' I think the turning point was in the original script, Beef was killed in the shower. The idea of having the Phantom just threaten Beef and then actually having him killed onstage [happened]. The kids are seeing so much theatrical violence, and Brian made a point of making that theatrical violence look obviously theatrical. You see the foamy head, you see all the strings and all. But it's wonderful. That leap in the story where the kids see a real murder and they think it's part of the show, I think, is maybe the most powerful message in the film.

How did you decide what scenes needed music? Was that between you and Brian?

It evolved. I was wonderfully comfortable and confident with my road band. And they got it. So the first big change was that I said, "Brian, instead of using, for example, Sha Na Na, I'd like to see the same band evolve through all these characters from the Beach Boys to the '50s Sha Na Na kind of thing to the music of the spheres" or whatever. But I think that the content of the songs, I was always pretty much given that task.

Are there any songs that didn't make it into the movie?

I think the only one really was "The Hell of It," which we used it for the intro. "The Hell of It" originally was a graveyard scene when Beef is being buried. You see the open grave and the casket above the grave, and you notice, you see a microphone, so you follow the cables back to a hearse that has a recording board inside, and Swan is in there recording the funeral live on Death Records. And I actually did a little thing at the end of the song that I wanted to have. Brian said, "Let's have the people kinda doing a little circular dance around the coffin, and then as the coffin is lowered into the ground, have a little girl run forward and start tapping on it, auditioning for Swan." That's what inspired the kind of [Godfather composer] Nino Rota, "da da da da…" Very Nino Rota, I hope.

And the best part of the job, too, [was] to be able to satirize the kinds of music that I loved. I was writing all these codependent anthems and 'ouch, Mommy' songs, but I was loving the music that was coming out of Laurel Canyon, you know. I loved the Beach Boys; there were so many different kinds of music that I loved and was able to satirize them.

I'm really, really pleased with the movie, and I'm overwhelmed at the way it's grown through the years. The big philosophical/spiritual lesson, I suppose, is don't write something off as a failure too quickly.

The lyrics to "The Hell of It" have always killed me, because they're so brutal: "Though your music lingers on, all of us are glad you're gone." It's so mean!

Thank you. I'm thrilled to hear you say so. It seems to me I should've written songs for Despicable Me, just based on that. I'm sure you'll let them know. [laughs]

You mentioned that maybe Phil Spector was an influence for your character. Did you base Swan on anyone in particular?

It was on the page. For the songs, probably one of the biggest mistakes I think that hit songwriters try to do is when they sit down and work on a musical, they try to write hit songs. I don't think that was ever anything -- if it was in my mind, it got shoved to the side. To me, the task is to advance the plot and tell the audience who the characters are and lead them to the emotions you want them to feel.

Do you have a favorite song on the soundtrack?

It just shocks me that it hasn't been recorded -- I think "Old Souls" will always be my favorite. I think that Jessica's performance is so brilliant, and I would love to someday see that song… If the things we dwell on are the things that we create, co-creators are our future. I'm gonna have to add that one to the mix, just go, "You know what? Wouldn't it be lovely to see Jessica Harper have a huge hit record right now with 'Old Souls'?" I don't know if it would get any better than that. But yeah, I think that the elements of high romance and the concept of past lives is powerfully presented in that song, and especially in her performance.

It struck me when I re-watched POTP in the era of #MeToo, there were the casting couch scenes and references to a "f-g." Would that be in if the film was made now?

Well, I think if you wanted an example of somebody disgusting, somebody that is reflective of the character of the boss -- it's a classic example of trickle-down obscenities and all. I don't know if it would be made right now. I think that the fact that the casting couch, essentially rape, scene that is in the film and is quote/unquote "funny" is not funny at all. And it's a character element and who Philbin is and what the operation of Swanage and everything that goes on. Like that moment in the back of the limousine is as equally unsettling as that "We'll go to Swanage and celebrate." And of course, the only thing Swan enjoys more than taking somebody else's woman is having that person watch. For a [cuddly] little guy, we did take it to a really awful place.

I saw the film first when I was 12 or so, and I thought the scene Jessica and Swan in bed was the height of romance, which shows where I was then!

Well, oddly enough, I think part of the success with young girls that age is Swan is incredibly androgynous and he's scary and powerful and all those things, but I don't know if physically I was ever threatening at all. I'm shocked when somebody says that my character scared them, and I was like, really? Really?

Someone told me Donovan Leitch was trying to get a live stage version of Phantom of the Paradise going some years ago. Is anything like that happening now?

You know, what we do is we talk about it regularly, so there can be one thing that I can respond like a hamster when you drop a carrot in the cage! It runs over and starts chewing on the carrot; I run over and start chewing on the idea. It would be lovely to see this happen before I'm room temperature. I actually wrote some additional songs, and it's one of those things that may happen someday. There have been some challenges, and I think we're getting… I'm very Jiminy Cricket about my world and all, so magical thinking totally works for me. So I will say that it's something that I think will probably happen within the next few years.

Did you write those additional songs just because you were inspired in the moment, or—

No, we were actually working on it at the time, and I'm not sure what happened, because somebody else was using my body at that time [i.e., under the influence]. In other words, I'm talking about writing a few additional songs 30 years ago. So I would have to examine all of that again. But in the meantime, the phone keeps ringing. I don't chase any of it. I get up in the morning, and I say, "Lead me where you need me." Which sounds very idyllic, but that's how I live my life. It's endless surprises, and I couldn't be more grateful.

Posted by Geoff at 7:52 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, November 2, 2019 8:47 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Posted by Geoff at 12:54 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"Overwhelmed not by the film's violence but by its 'bombast,'" Jen Johans states about Brian De Palma's Scarface on her Film Intuition blog, "the first time I saw Scarface twenty plus years ago, I thought De Palma's approach was ridiculously over-the-top. But funnily enough, try as I might, I found that I could not get the film out of my head. Long after I hit eject, it rattled around in my brain like gunfire. Cinema is my addiction, after all, and because the right movie can get my adrenaline going, Scarface fired my synapses as if it were a drug to the point that I felt like I had seen the film multiple times before I actually sat down to watch it again.

"By now, far more well-versed in De Palma's filmography (beyond, of course, my personal favorite, The Untouchables), this time around, I found myself far more easily caught up in the Montana family circus than before. The satiric epitome of the Me Decade as well as just a terrific gangster picture that comes (as they all do) with a warning against flying too close to the sun because you crave the feeling of warmth that you get from its rays, Scarface works extraordinarily well on a number of levels."

Earlier in the essay, Johans contrasts the ways Tony Montana interacts with Elvira and Gina:

When Manny makes the mistake of saying aloud that Tony's sister is beautiful, we learn that the Achilles' heel of 1983's Tony is the same as it was back in 1932. Taking the conversation from a two to a ten in seconds, Pacino's Tony shouts, "you stay away!" before warning Manny that "she is not for you."

Needless to say, that definitely telegraphs the future for would-be forbidden lovers, Manny and Gina. Yet it also reveals that, although paternalistic, in place of their American father who ran out on them years earlier, Tony's need to protect the chastity of his sister borders on an obsession that De Palma frames in a creepily romantic light from their very first scene together.

From the knock on the door to Gina running after him into the night, the moment plays less like the return of a black sheep son and more like a boyfriend who's been banned from the house since he's not the kind you take home to mama. And although this incestuous undercurrent ran through the original as well, between Tony and his sister in both versions of Scarface and James Cagney's character's obsession with his mom in White Heat, you get the impression that Freud would've had a field day with these gangsters and their Madonna-whore hang-ups.

Still, while his love for Gina is covert, Tony's most overt object of romantic obsession in Scarface is undoubtedly Elvira, the blonde, leggy goddess played by then-newcomer Michelle Pfeiffer. The girlfriend of Robert Loggia's character Frank who, incidentally, is his boss, when Tony first sees Elvira, she wears a backless teal gown that, depending on the light, flashes green like money or as blue as the ocean he crossed on his way from Cuba. Pacing with her back to him inside a glass elevator like a caged tiger, even before he sees her face, Tony knows he has to have her.

A thing to be acquired that's much too wild for him, like the chainsaw used in a bathroom in an early drug buy scene that's straight out of a horror movie or an actual tiger that he brings home as a pet, Elvira is something he feels that needs to be tamed. And sure enough, when Tony makes an early play for her, Elvira asserts her dominance like a predator by telling him not to call her "baby" before swatting him away with her paw.

Finally, "freeing" her from her gilded cage of life with Frank by (of course) taking him out because this is the law of the jungle after all and only the strong survive, Tony pulls back the sheet on her bed in the middle of the night with her deceased boyfriend's blood still on his hand to tell her she's coming with him. Having never even kissed her (consensually), unlike the scenes where Tony gives his sister an engraved heart shaped locket or watches Gina try on clothes, throughout Scarface, there's nothing romantic about his interactions with Elvira.

Not sure what to do with her once he's gotten her, since it was most likely the thrill of the chase that was his strongest aphrodisiac, we realize even before Tony does just how incompatible the two are as lovers. In their first dance together, Tony insults her while trying to size up her sex life with Frank, which is intriguing because we're not exactly sure she's better off with him since, despite the fact that Tony talks a good game in front of Manny, for all we know, the two seldom make love as it's never shown.

For a film that's known for its excess, the lack of a love scene in Scarface is significant. In fact, the only time sex is even mentioned is when Tony and Elvira fight, which doesn't bode well for their satisfaction in that department. Tony wants her to have his children but there's a reason why animals don't mate in captivity (and that's before an avalanche of cocaine is added to the mix). Proposing marriage by tying it into his rise to the top only confirms this isn't a courtship, it's a business deal, after all. Tony takes her out of one cage and puts her right into another.

By then, however, he's as addicted to power and status as she is to cocaine. But as the film continues, he matches her enthusiasm in that as well, at one point snorting so much from a mountain of coke on his desk that the drug sits on his nose like a dollop of whipped cream, making him feel even more paranoid and invincible than before. Right on cue, of course, that's when the bullets really start flying.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2019 12:08 AM CDT
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ComingSoon.net's Grant Hermanns spoke with Paul Williams and Edward Pressman at the Fantasia Fest this past July. In the interview, posted today, Pressman talks about "re-establiishing" Phantom Of The Paradise about five or six years after its initial release, by taking it to selected cities, to get Fox to re-release it. He also talks about efforts to get Led Zeppelin to sign off on the restored version of the film. Here's an excerpt from Hermanns' article:
Pressman describes the feeling prior to release as one of excitement before it opened to disappointing reviews, feeling a lot of that stemmed from “people [confusing] it with Rocky Horror Picture Show,” with the mix of genres of comedy, horror, musical and a love story.

“It was a lot of things combined in an original way,” Pressman said. “I never thought it would last. We did make a serious attempt to revive the film in the last five or six years after it opened and we re-released the film ourselves and created our own posters. We went to Little Rock, Arkansas and it worked and we went to Memphis and it worked again, and then we went to Dallas, and we re-established the film so that Fox was willing to re-release it. At that time, that was a major accomplishment.”

Despite the film’s lackluster reviews from critics and box office failure early upon release, the film found a major following in both Winnipeg and Paris, with the soundtrack selling over 20,000 copies in Canada alone and becoming certified gold. Williams recalled visiting Paris “maybe four or five years ago” and finding it at a theater, where he learned Phantom disappears for a while before returning for screenings 45 years after its release.

While Williams and Pressman love the impact the film has made over the years, writer/director de Palma has kept quiet on the film since its release, even being absent from the documentary surrounding its cult following, but Pressman assures he is not distancing himself from it.

“I talked to Brian as late as last week, he’s a fan of the film,” Pressman said. “He was very happy to hear that the film is going to be brought back with the original cut, and he wrote a letter to try to help make that happen. I think he definitely has a warm feeling to the movie.”

Though the film mostly holds a positive legacy, with critics warming up to the project over the years, one hitch it has seen over the years has to do with the name of Swan’s media conglomerate “Swan Song Enterprises,” as Led Zeppelin had a label of the same name at the time and all references had to be deleted from the film, aside from background visual references, but now a movement is underway to get the rights from the classic rock band to correct this and add it all back in.

“The remaster is done and we just need to get Led Zeppelin to sign off on it,” Pressman said. “So that’s what Brian de Palma wrote a letter along with Edgar Wright and Brett Easton Ellis and a number of other luminaries, Paul Williams, obviously, to try to get them to end this 40 year standoff.”

In exploring the possibility or doing an updated version of the rock opera for modern audiences, both Pressman and Williams believe it would be great to see and have cited the Baby Driver director as the perfect person to helm the project.

“If anybody was going to do Phantom and bring it up to date and all, I love Edgar,” Williams said. “I think that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 30 years from now will have the same kind of fans that Phantom does right now. I saw Shawn of the Dead and I loved it. I mean, Baby Driver, the fact that he shot the film to the songs, that he cuts on it and it’s also that it’s imperceptible. You don’t realize it. I never got lost in that. Then I met him and turned out he had done Bugsy Malone, it’s like Grease here in London.

Earlier this month, the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival screened a version of Phantom Of The Paradise that had been reconstructed by Ari Kahan of the Swan Archives. At Fantasia Fest this past July, Paul Williams thanked Ari Kahan on stage. "So," Williams told the audience, "one of the things that Ari did, is, he managed to find the footage that was replaced. We thought it was lost forever, but he found it. I think that was your doing, right? [applause] And he found the footage. He has reconstructed Phantom Of The Paradise with all the original [footage]. So there is this absolutely pristine version of the film, exactly the way that Brian De Palma wanted you to see it. And, we're trying to get permission to now, once again, display all of it. That's the kind of archivist that Ari is, and it's terrific."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2019 7:49 AM CDT
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Monday, October 28, 2019

Earlier today, Chicago Review Press posted to its blog an excerpt from Paul Hirsch's new book, A Long Time Ago In A Cutting Room Far, Far Away (out Nov. 5th). The excerpt is from Hirsch's chapter on Carrie ("My First Hit," reads the title). "It is one of the strictest rules in my makeup that the editor must be loyal to the director," states Hirsch in the excerpt. He then mentions that Carrie producer Paul Monash would put Hirsch's loyalty to his director, Brian De Palma, to the test (which likely is detailed beyond the excerpt, further into this chapter of the book). The excerpt ends with Hirsch providing details about editing the split screen sequence in Carrie.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 7:43 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 26, 2019
OCTOBER 26, 1984

Posted by Geoff at 1:23 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 26, 2019 8:52 AM CDT
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Friday, October 25, 2019

For the past few weeks, 25 Years Later has been running a series of article essays about the cinema of Brian De Palma. The latest of these, by Laura Beerman, is one of the very best. Titled, "De Palma: Tell the Truth | But Tell it Split," and using subhead quotes about perspectives and ways of seeing from De Palma's documentary The Responsive Eye, Beerman discusses the ways in which De Palma presents multiple truth perspectives simultaneously. "My personal favorites are his voyeuristic 80s thrillers including Blow Out and Dressed to Kill, Beerman offers. "It’s in these films that de Palma’s pin really leaves you wriggling, layering detail on both sides of the frame and dispersing narrative to the point of near breakdown until we come to the central point: when De Palma tells the truth—like Emily Dickinson—he tells it slant, or in his case split. After all, what is 'The Truth'? Can we ever really know it and are we always better off when we do?"

Beerman's essay is illustrated with many frame captures from De Palma's films, so it is best to read it as-is on the 25YL site. That said, here's one small passage:

In one segment of The Responsive Eye, de Palma’s traveling camera captures a perspective shift—a complex work of pointillism that appears to change from 3D to 2D based on the proximity of the observer. Famed art theorist and perceptual psychologist Rudolph Arnheim touches on the shift that happens to the witness spectator: “Partly you are the victim of it, partly you are the rebel against it.” Because in a de Palma film, even a documentary, perspective changes everything.

De Palma’s witnesses are both victim and rebel. The more their positions shift relative to their original “seeing,” the harder it is to know what’s real. In Blow Out, a past tragedy drives Jack Terry to become a sound engineer who ultimately records a fateful car accident. Sally too starts as a victim. When she realizes she’s been duped by Manny she rebels, shifting from unwitting participant to truth seeker. The closer Jack and Sally get, the harder it gets to prove the truth as McRyan’s killer steals the incriminating film. Jack tears his studio apart, only to find his sound library—the entirety of his professional life—has been erased. Any hopes of a stable state are gone. De Palma captures that through two other techniques: spinning panoramas and a final overhead shot of Jack surrounded by whirring machines, piles of blank tape and empty cases.

It’s an almost pointillistic vision, like the one at the MOMA. We have detail. We have perspective. But we don’t have the truth, not a way to prove it anyway. Certainty is replaced with shock, disbelief, and betrayal. The obvious detour here is Blow–Up, the 1966 Antonioni film about a photographer who, in developing his film, discovers he’s captured a murder. To uncover the truth, he enlarges the image until there’s no image left, only pixel and shadow. When he returns to the crime scene, the body is gone.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
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