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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

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

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

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

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

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

Washington Post
review of Keesey book

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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Monday, December 23, 2019
'ASKING IF IT WORKS MISSES THE POINT' - 'DOMINO'
FILIPE FURTADO ON "BRIAN DE PALMA'S EUROPEAN NIGHTMARE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/buddhalaptop2.jpg

"If one wants to there’s a lot to see in those images," Filipe Furtado writes in a blog post about Brian De Palma's Domino, adding that "if you refuse, they are empty often cruel razzle dazzle." Furtado is getting at the heart of the tendency for viewers to either love or hate what De Palma is doing, with very little in between.

For instance, John DeFore writes about Domino as part of the Hollywood Reporter's staff picks for worst movies of 2019:

In his long and influential career, Brian De Palma has done things some might disapprove of. He has encouraged viewers' voyeuristic tendencies, stolen whole sequences (to excellent effect) from film pioneers and often been a king of the brainy, finely crafted guilty pleasure. But De Palma has rarely been guilty of dullness, as he is with this counterterrorism thriller starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, which offers just slightly more excitement than the average TV police procedural.

Someone like me will practically fall asleep reading what DeFore has written here, because he's doing it wrong. Domino is "dull"? You must not have been paying enough attention, because, to repeat from Furtado, "there's a lot to see in those images." Here's an excerpt from Furtado's Anotacões de um Cinéfilo blog post:
The editing is uncertain particular in the midsection. But the main problem seems to be production more than editing. De Palma has been very open about how troubling and cheap the shooting was and one might risk projecting into what we have, but a lot of it is very visible on the screen. On the basis of what we have, I assume it is more likely that it is the available version of what was shoot than the result of 150-minute movie becoming an 89 minute one. At a certain point, there’s a very good scene with Van Hauten visiting her comatose lover and bumping into his wife, that’s a character note that feels very out of pace into a rushed producer cut.

The third act in particular feels like a good chunk of whatever was planned for the Spanish part of the shoot never happened with a final scene that plays like an improvised soundstage wrap-up. The abruptness feels like DePalma, but it also rings hollow. While the first two acts work as a two-tier chase – Danish cops chasing CIA assset chasing Isis terrorist – but after we hit Spain, Eriq Ebouney (who gives the film best performance, the conviction on his face suggesting his own thing while everyone else is a puppet for De Palma’s schemes) disappears from most of it. There’s many large emotional holes that DePalma is working hard to cover not always with success and I’m not talking here about narrative. De Palma’s films often makes little logic sense, but they’ve always made an operatic emotional one and on those terms Domino is a mixed bag.

There’s a thrilling quality about watching De Palma negotiate the very low budget. Like late Welles it is a blast to see the magician exiled and operating with no means and still finding ways to arrive at new images (and make no mistake much of Domino feels refreshing new). There is a great terrorist attack midway through that staged as a You Tube video with production values to match, that is better than anything on the last Mission Impossible. That the attack happens at a film festival red carpet is both a self reference to Femme Fatale and an acid commentary about those events divorce from the world around it. All three main set pieces remind me that De Palma is one of the few American true masters left. At same time the film DTV cheapness is very noticeable. Production design is non-existent, every set personality free, the bullfight terrorist attack happens in an under populated stadium, the great cinematographer José Luis Alcalaine works hard to give the world a texture it might otherwise lack. Like much of European Welles, Domino is exciting art povera, the lack of resources are glaring in a conventional sense but also open avenues of meaning and feeling. A masterclass of making much out of nothing. Just witness the long close-up whose lens movement not only enforces the scene dramatic point, but exposes the entire investigative logic of the film images and the mix between cinema and policing it is based on.

Whenever Domino centers around the production and watching of images it is great De Palma. Chunks of it are just people watching video on computers, cell phones and on very rare occasions television (De Palma’s hasn’t lost his gift for Godardian annotations). Ebouney watching Guy Pearce’s CIA agent interrogating his son while clearly staging a show for his prisoner/new asset is as exciting as the major terrorist attacks (both of which are imagined as large pieces of media intervention, terrorism in a De Palma film is filmmaking even while cinema only exist here as raw materials for terrorism). Domino often doubles on itself a document about the production of images of power and horror and as a document on its own struggles at arriving at the same.

Is there another 79-year-old artist so excited to think about the new economy of images? Character’s notice the filmmaking merits of terrorists’ drone work. It is like Redacted You Tube videos have been even more expanded in the decade after. There aren’t many movies as attuned to how that new economy of images affect daily activities and how it mediates the transformation of life into product. As often in De Palma’s movies there´s something sinister and perverse about the production of images, the world just finds new horrible ways to arrive at them.

De Palma’s panopticon lingers. Capital and survillaince are inseparable. There’s a lot of observations about freedom of movement in contemporary Europe and how that plays against the sense of a large vigilance project. If Passion took place in an abstract late capitalist corporate hellhole, Domino wants to exist as part of an European union that made a deal with the devil. Government and terrorism as business partners to justify an imprisonment complex. Visual media serving the role of mediator for it. The visual traces it left behind the only commentary left. All the characters react to it with stupor, a new reality taken for granted. Policing is impossible without video, but so is terrorism. There’s no destruction if we can’t see it. A bitter victory of the symbolic in both spheres.

Pearce is having a lot of slimy fun in what might be described in De Palmian terms as the Gregg Henry part. There’s a large perversity in how this is a movie about an Isis guy (whose individual scenes are imagined as big a cliche as images of islamic terror gets) going through Europe producing terror events, while De Palma still stages all of Pearce scenes like he is the big Mabusian villain. His exit line “We are Americans, we read your mails” remains hanging over the final scene, half DTV absurdity, half serious, the same way the movie itself has that De Palmian angry grin. One never can know for sure if it is a serious investigation on police and image-making or an excuse for having fun with it. Knowing our master of ceremonies, it is probably both. That’s part of the reason even by this date, he still has as many hardcore fans as people ready to write him off as a past his prime huckster. If one wants to there’s a lot to see in those images, if you refuse, they are empty often cruel razzle dazzle. Asking if it works, misses the point. It hangs there, sustained like Coster-Waldau in the big Vertigo-inspired opener horrifying, callow, thrilling.


Posted by Geoff at 8:01 AM CST
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Saturday, December 14, 2019
KEITH UHLICH TOP 10 FOR SLANT INCLUDES 'DOMINO'
UHLICH LIST ALSO INCLUDES 'PAIN & GLORY', 'PETERLOO', 'IRISHMAN', 'UNDER THE SILVER LAKE'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tabletext2.jpg

Yesterday, Slant posted its list of The 25 Best Films of 2019, as voted by the online magazine's staff. Included in a companion article is the staff's individual ballots. Of the 16 critics who voted, Brian De Palma's Domino was mentioned only once, by Keith Uhlich. Here's Uhlich's ballot list:
Keith Uhlich

1. Peterloo
2. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
3. La Flor
4. The Irishman
5. Pain & Glory
6. Domino
7. The Gospel of Eureka
8. Chained for Life
9. Under the Silver Lake
10. Atlantics

Honorable Mention: The Dead Don’t Die, The Farewell, Gemini Man, A Hidden Life, High Flying Bird, Knives Out, In Fabric, Our Time, Shadow, Transit


Incidentally, José Luis Alcaine was the cinematographer for the two films in the middle of Uhlich's top ten: Pedro Almodóvar's Pain And Glory and De Palma's Domino.

Posted by Geoff at 12:12 AM CST
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Friday, December 13, 2019
DOMINO ON THE BIG SCREEN IN PARIS FRIDAY DEC 20
CRITIC THOMAS GRIGNON TO PRESENT THE FILM AT LE GRAND ACTION CINEMA


Brian De Palma's Domino will screen at Le Grand Action in Paris a week from today, Friday December 20th. According to the Facebook event page, the "exceptional session" will be presented by Thomas Grignon, a critic who reviewed Domino in October for Critikat.com.

Posted by Geoff at 7:50 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019
'CHAOTIC JOY' OF 'DOMINO' - FILM STAGE'S 2019 BEST LIST
NICK NEWMAN: "NEARLY MALICIOUS, DEEPLY SERIOUS ABOUT THE WOUNDS OF CONTEMPORARY TERRORISM"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dominobinoc2small.jpg

Yesterday, The Film Stage posted an article with the headline, "Where to Stream the Best Films of 2019." The article is meant to highlight notable films that may have slipped by readers. "This is far from a be-all, end-all year-end feature," Jordan Raup explains in the article's introduction, "but rather something that will hopefully be a helpful tool for readers to have a chance to seek out notable, perhaps underseen, titles from the year."

Included in the article is Brian De Palma's Domino, which is enthused about by The Film Stage's Nick Newman:

The latest from Brian De Palma hits film culture not unlike a moody son trudging to their graduation party at a parent’s behest, a master of big-screen compositions relegated to VOD for those who bother plunking down. That tussle between pedigree of talent and nature of distribution foretells the chaos within: at one moment lit like a Home Depot model living room–a fault I’m more willing to chalk up to incomplete post-production, less likely to blame on Pedro Almodóvar’s longtime DP José Luis Alcaine–the next photographed and cut as if an old pros’ sumptuous fuck-you to pre-vis-heavy and coverage-obsessed action-filmmaking climate, the next maybe just an assembly of whatever master shots the team could scrounge together during those 30 production days. To these eyes it’s a chaotic joy; nearly malicious, deeply serious about the wounds of contemporary terrorism, and smart enough to pull off a mocking of the circumstances around those fighting it.

Posted by Geoff at 12:47 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019
'DOMINO' MAKES VULTURE'S 2019 BEST MOVIES - SO FAR
DAVID EDELSTEIN - "WHAT KEEPS YOU ENTRANCED IS DE PALMA'S PACING"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bouzanface2.jpg

A week ago, Vulture posted its "Best Movies of 2019 (So Far)" list, and Domino is included. Despite his appreciation for Domino, David Edelstein continues to mistakenly believe that De Palma had a longer cut of the film (last June, De Palma clarified to us here at De Palma A La Mod that Domino "was not recut"). Here's Edelstein's paragraph about Domino:
A thrilling return to form for Brian DePalma — but also under-funded, shorn of nearly half its director’s intended running time, and occasionally ludicrous. The convoluted, right-wing-ish story centers on two Danish cops: Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, between seasons of Game of Thrones) and Alex (Carice van Houten, ditto) on the hunt for a Libyan immigrant (Eriq Ebouaney) who killed Christian’s partner, who was also Alex’s illicit lover. What they don’t know is that the Libyan is being protected by the CIA (led by Guy Pearce), which tacitly approves of his locating, torturing, and killing ISIS operatives to get to the sheikh who murdered his father. What keeps you entranced is De Palma’s pacing. In the key sequences, the action slows to a crawl — proof that the greatest suspense comes from helplessness in a world where you can see what’s coming but can’t think or move fast enough to forestall the horror.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 12:09 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019
BRADLANDS - BRIAN DE PALMA'S 'DOMINO' IS A PUZZLE
"LIKE SO MUCH OF DE PALMA, DOMINO MAKES US QUESTION THE NATURE OF CINEMATIC ILLUSIONISM"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bradlandsdomino.jpg

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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Wednesday, October 16, 2019
KIM NEWMAN ON 'DOMINO'
"FLASHES OF GENIUS MAKE IT A MORE INTERESTING WATCH THAN THE PROFESSIONAL PLOD OF MOST..."
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/armsraised3small.jpg

In the October issue of EMPIRE, Kim Newman begins his monthly video dungeon column with a brief review of Domino:
Early in Domino, Copenhagen cop Nikolaj Coster-Waldau bungles a routine call-out and gets his partner stabbed. As he’s dangling from a gutter à la James Stewart in Vertigo, accompanied by a lush orchestral Pino Donaggio score, this seemingly typical Scandi-noir is revealed as unmistakably the work of itinerant ex-‘movie brat’ Brian De Palma. A found footage sequence combines elements from Redacted (De Palma’s most interesting 21st century work) and Femme Fatale (his flat-out craziest/most fun) as a chic, brainwashed terrorist livestreams a gun attack/suicide bombing on the red carpet of a swanky European film festival. Sadly, thanks to budget cuts and a never-really-there script, Domino proceeds to fall over, but flashes of genius make it a more interesting watch than the professional plod of most direct-to-anything-but-a-cinema thrillers.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:11 AM CDT
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Monday, September 23, 2019
JAY POTHOF TALKS ABOUT WORKING ON 'DOMINO'
"I SAT AT THE TABLE w/CARICE VAN HOUTEN, HAD A VERY COOL SCENE w/GUY PEARCE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dominoson.jpg

Jay Pothof, who plays Ezra's son in Brian De Palma's Domino, recently talked to I Wanna Be A Model about working on the film. "It was a special experience," the 14-year-old Pothof says in the interview. "From the time of filming it took two years and I had to keep my mouth shut about that all the time. I was allowed to fly to Copenhagen for the filming. I played the son of a terrorist and sat at the table with Carice van Houten and had a very cool scene with Guy Pearce. The film will be released in the Netherlands on September 26, 2019. Only then will I see it myself for the first time."

Posted by Geoff at 1:03 AM CDT
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Wednesday, August 28, 2019
VORTEX OF RETRIBUTION - 2 GERMAN VIEWS OF 'DOMINO'
"A NICE LITTLE POLITICAL THRILLER" / "THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF IMAGES"
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With Domino opening in Belgium next week (September 5th), Gazet van Antwerpen's Kristin Matthyssen notes that the windmill in Oelegem "shines for 90 seconds" in the film. Meanwhile, reviews from Germany are starting to come out-- here are a couple of them, translated with the assistance of Google translations:

Fritz Göttler, Süddeutsche Zeitung

A nice little political thriller, "Domino" by Brian De Palma. The fight against ISIS, scene of Copenhagen. There is a suicide bombing on the red carpet, and for the finale one in the bullring of Almeria, with drone. The "Game of Thrones" stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten practice their job as Copenhagen cops with pleasantly old-fashioned methods, and De Palma conjures up Hitchcock again, in the stairwells and over the rooftops of the city, this time the beginning of "Vertigo," with James Stewart hanging from the gutter. Installed in a dozen terraced houses, the CIA stages their interrogations ice-cold under the unruffled gaze of a Buddha. When Coster-Waldau wonders how they would know a personal detail about him, he gets the answer: We're Americans, we read your e-mails.

Michael Kienzl, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
The Destructive Power of Images...

Brian De Palma has been known since the '70s as a visually stunning stylist. His specialty is in films with dual ground layers. Meanwhile, he films with low budgets in Europe. With "Domino" he has managed a convincing thriller.

The spectacular finale of "Domino" takes place in a Spanish bullring. Two police officers from Copenhagen are trying to thwart an Islamist terrorist attack. The scene is staged like a ballet. While the movements of the actors become soft and graceful through the use of slow motion, composer Pino Donaggio turns the tension screw with a slowly increasing Bolero rhythm.

A Stylist from "New Hollywood"

With visually extravagant moments like this, American director Brian De Palma has earned a reputation as a great stylist, melodrama and Hitchcock heir, especially in the 1970s and 80s. Often these were horror films and thrillers like "Carrie" and "Dressed to Kill", and later also major projects like the first part of the "Mission: Impossible" series.

But some flops made sure that he could no longer realize his films in Hollywood. "Domino" is now - after "Passion" shot in Berlin - already the second, purely European De Palma production.

The story combines various revenge stories: It's about two investigators who follow the murderer of their colleague from Denmark to Spain. He in turn hunts an ISIS terrorist who has his father's conscience - and is used by a CIA agent, who in turn wants to avenge his partner. It is not political but personal motives that develop into a vortex of retribution in which salvation is ruled out.

An Enrichment of Genre Cinema

With its estimated $6 million budget, Domino is a low-budget movie, so to speak. In part, you can see that too, for example because many scenes play in cars or interiors and the aesthetics are closer to that of television than to the cinema. And through the complicated production history, the film with its ISIS story also acts as if it would lag a few years behind.

From much of the criticism, the film was accordingly panned. But even if some things are a bit adventurous or thickly applied, De Palma shows in an impressive way how he represents an enrichment for the current genre cinema even under the most difficult conditions.

More than Hollywood on the Back Burner

"Domino" does not simply try to implement the savings version of Hollywood material. With a wink, he plays offensively with the fact that here a renowned US director suddenly films in Europe.

A running gag of the film is about the absence of firearms. Right at the beginning, the protagonist forgets his service weapon at home, which ultimately leads to the death of his partner. And when he wants to follow the murderer with his new colleague to Spain, the two have to leave their weapons behind at the security checkpoint.

Operatic Picture Excesses

Although De Palma's greatest strength here again is the operatic image excesses for which he is known, the film not only revels in his images, but also reveals its destructive power. For example, a terrorist uses a machine gun with a mounted camera to record both the perpetrator's and victim's reaction. Later, the recording ends up as a propaganda video on Youtube.

A CIA agent, on the other hand, uses surveillance images on a laptop to break a prisoner. The terror and also the fight against him lead in "Domino" to a showdown over who produces the more threatening images.


Posted by Geoff at 8:13 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 5:40 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 17, 2019
A.S. HAMRAH ON 'DOMINO'
AND THE APPARENT SIMILARITIES BETWEEN CARICE VAN HOUTEN & NOOMI RAPACE
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A couple of weeks ago, A.S. Hamrah included a review of Brian De Palma's Domino in a post at n+1. In one paragraph, Hamrah states, "The director seems to have contempt for both his leads," and I really don't follow where that idea is coming from. It seems more likely the critic is projecting his own such contempt on these two actors when he notes that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau "has a second-choice feel," and that "Carice van Houten, who exists in Domino like she’s waiting for each take to end so she can go outside and smoke, resembles Noomi Rapace in De Palma’s earlier film Passion, but why? In the past, the resemblance would have been evidence of directorial obsession. Here, it’s probably a coincidence."

In fact, De Palma had originally wanted Carice van Houten for the role of Isabelle in Passion, but she was not available during the planned shooting schedule. Noomi Rapace then took on that role. Maybe Hamrah is on to something then by noting a similarity. In any case, here's an excerpt from Hamrah's review:

Even in its partly realized form, Domino’s every frame is better than anything in Game of Thrones. In its less-than-ninety-minute running time, Domino links together CIA surveillance, terrorism, drone warfare, ISIS execution videos, and international film festivals. It all has a last-stand feel, in which De Palma excoriates today’s regime of easy-to-make but disposable images, which people, now all spies, use to brutalize each other. Scene after scene features piles of red tomatoes, there for critics to throw at De Palma so they can be tabulated and scored by review aggregators.

Politics for De Palma is a bizarre excuse for exploitation. This is one of his films in which he spares no one. Everyone is a torturer and a victim at the same time in Domino—confused, compromised, in for punishment. With some irony, De Palma sets up a Libyan terrorist (Eriq Ebouaney) as the film’s conscience. The CIA (in the person of the satanic-blasé Guy Pearce) forces him to work as a double agent, and the film’s plot comes to depend on him. Yet by the end De Palma abandons this downhearted terrorist without any more hesitation than he gave a minor character whose face gets dunked in a fry cooker.

A final scene, which could be the last of De Palma’s career, switches back and forth between a Spanish bullring and a hotel rooftop. The locations are linked by the threat of a mass killing and a camera drone, which De Palma uses to collapse the great distance between mass events and personal ones, a last gasp of mise-en-scène in the age of martyrdom videos on YouTube.


Posted by Geoff at 12:46 AM CDT
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