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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
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
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De Palma a la Mod

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

In part one of his "In my book best of 2019," Business World's Noel Vera includes the latest works from Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma:
Finally there’s Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which helped sharpen my fondness for yet another disreputable filmmaker who deals with lurid pulpy material — only difference being this filmmaker has talent and likes to take vicious jabs at the political establishment, often to his disadvantage. Brian de Palma’s Domino is a mess, but no more so than his other seemingly tossed-off efforts (Body Double, Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars). It’s stylish and funny, with some of its best broadsides aimed at the CIA; there are audacious setpieces and you can debate how successfully they’re executed but De Palma has the balls to dare, and in my book dare well. The filmmaker, alas, has disowned his work, declaring this wasn’t the film he intended; on the plus side you hope (as in the case of Snake Eyes) that a director’s cut will be made available some day.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War will screen at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago on Saturday, January 18, and on Tuesday, January 21st. The screenings are part of a series centered around critic Pauline Kael, who wrote a deeply impassioned New Yorker review of Casualties Of War upon its initial release in 1989. The series, "Kael's Causes Célèbres," runs January 10-22, featuring "seven films that are especially important in defining Kael's taste and influence," Martin Rubin, associate director of programming at the Gene Siskel Film Center, states in the program notes. Also screening alongside the series is the recent documentary, What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael.

Here's Rubin's program description of Casualties Of War:

One of Kael's last great causes célèbres was CASUALTIES OF WAR, a film that divided critics and represented a marked change-of-pace for a director whose stylish thrillers she had long championed. Based on a real incident from the Vietnam War, it tells of a American reconnaissance squad, sexually and otherwise frustrated, who are incited by their sergeant (Penn) to kidnap a Vietnamese girl, over the increasingly urgent (and risky) objections of one of the soldiers (Fox). What's remarkable is how many of the characteristic elements of De Palma's thrillers and crime films (ominous p.o.v. tracking shots, split-focus widescreen frames, voyeurism, complicity, lingering guilt, the link between sex and violence, etc.) are adapted so effectively to a very different context, rendering the Vietnam War as an expressionistic nightmare rooted in reality rather than in genre tropes. 35mm widescreen.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

As a quick follow-up to its Cage-a-rama 2020 fest in Glasgow this past weekend, Matchbox Cineclub will screen Uncaged - A Stand-In Story this Thursday night at Genesis Cinema in London. The film is about Marco Kyris, who was Nicolas Cage's official stand-in from 1994-2005. Kyris will be at the screening to participate in a Q&A. The evening will open with a screening of Con Air.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 12:11 AM CST
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Monday, January 6, 2020

We might as well keep these coming all week long to start out the year--- today, The Guardian's Charles Bramesco has an article with the headline, "Apocalypse now-ish: what can we learn from films set in 2020?" The first film Bramesco discusses is Mission To Mars, and it includes the above publicity still. Here's what Bramesco writes:
Inspired in part by a defunct ride at Disney’s theme parks, Brian De Palma imagined what humankind’s first manned journey to the red planet might play out. It is because the answer turns out to be “direly” that the film focuses the majority of its run time on the second such trip, a last-ditch rescue to extract the cosmonaut left behind by an accident the first time around. Let Elon Musk consider this a warning, as he and his top people at SpaceX vow to launch some undoubtedly rich eccentric into the deepest reaches of space by 2024: real people’s lives will be on the line, and even in the best-case scenario, we may still have to reckon with our genetic origins as bastardized Martian-DNA descendants. Which would, at the very least, level the market value of 23andMe.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 7, 2020 12:00 AM CST
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Sunday, January 5, 2020

The other day, Gary Gastelu at Fox News posted an article with the headline, "This is the SUV Hollywood thought we'd be driving in the year 2020." The article includes the image above, from Mission To Mars, and begins like this:
The year 2000 was a wondrous time. The future had arrived! After surviving the Y2K threat anything seemed possible. Including traveling to Mars.

That was the plot of the Brian De Palma-directed action film “Mission to Mars,” which depicted an ill-fated trip to the red planet in the year 2020. Hey, that’s now!

Set mostly in space, it didn’t offer much of a vision of what Earth would look like 20 years in the future, except for an opening scene at a July 4th barbecue for a team of astronauts potrayed by Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle and Connie Nielsen and Jerry O’Connell. All box office draws in the days before streaming.

Unfortunately, everything at the party looks very … normal. There’s no future tech to be seen and you probably could’ve recreated most of the wardrobe on a shopping trip to Old Navy and Ann Taylor. That said, no SciFi film worth it’s CGI would be complete without a car of the future, and MTM has one of those. Sort of.

Sinise’s character, mission co-commander Jim McConnell, arrives at the party in a bizarre-looking silver two-seat convertible SUV called the VX-02, with the 2 in subscript signifying the molecular formula for oxygen.

The thing is, it wasn’t really all that futuristic. It was a concept for a drop-top version of the Isuzu VehiCross that had gone on sale the prior year. The two-door 4x4 was a wildly styled take on the automaker’s mainstream Trooper and engineered with a conventional body on frame construction and V6 engine, the sound of which the effects folks replaced with electric motor noises on screen. (In the script posted on IMSDB, it’s described as a Jeep with a capital J. Ouch.)

Isuzu had introduced the VX-02 at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show a few weeks before the film’s premiere, pitching it as the world’s first Off-Roadster, but the market didn’t take a swing. Given the limited interest in the regular VehiCross – with just over 4,100 sold from 1999 to 2001 – it never made it into production and Isuzu left the U.S. altogether by 2009.

Nevertheless, the VehiCross has become a cult classic that has spawned the #VehiCrossTag on Twitter to accompany photos of sightings of the increasingly rare machine, and the VX-02 did predict the future in one small way.

At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan unveiled the similarly oddball Murano CrossCabriolet convertible crossover, which went on sale the following year but was a commercial flop that was discontinued in 2014.

There was one more car at the party in “Mission to Mars” that is the antithesis of the VX-02. It’s a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette driven by Robbins' character Woody Blake that crewmate Luke Graham, played by Cheadle, suggests he should donate to a museum.

Blake’s response?

“Internal combustion, boys, accept no substitutes.”

Well, one person has: Elon Musk. And he's not only planning to go to Mars someday, but says he'll be bringing his electric Cybertruck along for the ride, which was inspired by 1982's "Blade Runner."

Who knows, maybe the VX-02 will finally go into production in 2038.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 6, 2020 12:13 AM CST
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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Forum des images in Paris will host a full-on Paul Schrader retrospective, "In the mind of Paul Schrader," January 8th through February 2nd. Schrader will be on hand for several of the screenings. The program includes films Schrader has directed, as well as films he has written for other directors, such as Brian De Palma's Obsession, screening January 15th (Schrader is not scheduled to attend that one). Also included are films that inspire Schrader, such as Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, which screens on the 15th right after Obsession.

Schrader spoke by telephone to someone in Paris (the interview is credited to DRBYOS), and the conversation, posted today at ArchyW, includes an interesting exchange in which Schrader discusses how his films are in constant dialogue with other films. He also talks about meeting De Palma and Martin Scorsese:

Because of your Calvinist education, you saw your first film at 17 years old. Having lived a childhood without cinema, does it make you different from filmmakers of your generation, early film lovers like Scorsese, Spielberg or Lucas?

I too have been influenced by films that have influenced my cinema, but these are not films discovered in childhood. This is my big difference from the filmmakers you are quoting. I started directly by loving Antonioni, Truffaut, Godard, Resnais, Rossellini, Dreyer … And you never forget your first love. I have never been seduced by films about children or directed at children. What interests me is to make the public think, to treat them as adults.

After having been deprived of cinema for a long time, how did you become a movie buff?

It started with my discovery of Bergman when I was studying at Calvin College (Protestant private establishment located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, editor's note), because he was preoccupied with the same spiritual issues that we discussed in the seminary. From there, I got interested in European cinema of the 60s and I fell in love with it. Then I went to study cinema at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

In 1972, you just wrote a book that combines spirituality and cinema, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer.

I wrote this book because I realized that there was a connection between my spiritual past at Calvin College and my secular present at film school. But the idea of ​​the book is that this relation of cinema to the sacred is a question of style, not content.

Apart from the obvious influence of Pickpocket and Diary of a country priest by Robert Bresson, of whom you have written or produced several variations, you do not seem to be a filmmaker who refers a lot to cinema…

I do not see what allows you to say that. Have you seen First Reformed ? It’s a film that is constantly in dialogue with cinema: the protagonist is inspired by that of Diary of a country priest, the decor by Communicants, the end by Ordet, the levitation scene by Tarkovski… And in Strange Seduction, filmed in Venice, there is a plan directly inspired by Last year in Marienbad and another oneOrpheus. There are references like that in all my films, but they are not necessarily obvious.

You seem to have been very marked by Japan. There are many references to this culture in your films, and not only in Mishima. It also shows in your taste for simplicity and refinement.

It comes from the fact that I was raised in a very austere Calvinist environment. Our churches are made up of four white walls decorated only with a cross. When I rebelled, I went to a culture that was basically very close: I fled Calvinist austerity by falling in love with Japanese austerity! It is a very human psychic mechanism: we believe we are freeing ourselves from the limits in which our education has locked us, but we are only changing cage!

Your cinema is also very marked by religion.

Yes, it's inside me, I was programmed with this software …

Are you still a believer?

I go to church every Sunday. Do I have faith? I'm not sure … Albert Camus said that you don't believe, but you choose to believe. The nuance is very interesting.

In First Reformed, you denounce a corrupt use of religion, for intolerant political ends or capitalist profits.

Spirituality and the church are two very different things. Spirituality is an intangible human need, while the church is a material organization, with rules, uniforms, dogmas … The Roman Catholic Church is the largest and most influential corporation in the world, it is a fact.

Many people associate your name with Taxi Driver of Martin Scorsese, that you wrote, rather than the films that you made. Does it annoy you?

Not at all. It is an immortal film, which entered American popular culture and which continues to be a reference almost fifty years later. I am not sure why and how we managed to hit the bull's-eye, but we got there. It was very liberating to start my career with this film, it immediately validated my work. You know, there are artists who work without ever being recognized, I was very quickly and that is what helped me to continue, and which still helps me.

How did you meet Martin Scorsese?

After studying at UCLA, I became a film critic in Los Angeles. One day I interviewed Brian De Palma. We met again to play chess, then we became friends (Schrader will write the screenplay forObsession, directed by De Palma in 1976, editor's note). He was the one who introduced me to Marty.

By the time you met him, had you ever written the screenplay for Taxi Driver ?

Yes, it dates back to when I was still a film critic. I wrote this screenplay out of personal need, not to sell it. It was like therapy: I realized that if I didn’t write this boy’s story, I would become like him.

The character of Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, is the matrix of many of your characters: solitary beings, divided between the search for purity and the temptation of violence.

There is a character who often returns in my scripts and my films. Let's describe it this way: a man sitting alone in a room, wearing a mask and waiting for something to happen, for life to manifest … This mask is his job, but whether he is a taxi driver, gigolo, dealer or priest, the same type is below. He's like a dead man waiting to be finally alive. Everyone finds their own way.

Posted by Geoff at 9:20 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:17 PM CST
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Friday, January 3, 2020

Today at National Review, Armond White presents "The 15th Annual Better-Than List." White chooses Pedro Almodóvar's Pain and Glory over the Safdie Brothers' Uncut Gems, and he chooses Brian De Palma's Domino over Rian Johsnon's Knives Out:
Pain and Glory > Uncut Gems Pedro Almodóvar’s gorgeous emotional autobiography showed wisdom while the Safdie Brothers’ ethnic carnival was callow. Antonio Banderas’s expressive regret and grace-filled recollections went deeper than Adam Sandler’s deliberately ugly, unfunny self-reproach.

Domino > Knives Out Brian De Palma reexamines his Millennial politics — depicting the War on Terror in a swift, effective genre exercise. Rian Johnson’s crass, pseudopolitical whodunit can’t tell where citizenship or humanity begins.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Today at Comic Book Resources, Anthony Gramuglia asks, "What Do These Sci-Fi Films Tell Us About Life in 2020?" After looking at 2020 predictions in films such as Annihilation Earth, Terminator: Dark Fate, Real Steel, A Quiet Place, Reign of Fire, and Edge of Tomorrow, Gramuglia turns his attention to Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars:
While most of cinema's predictions for 2020 rely on extremely advanced technology or outlandish creatures, one assumption about the future seems tantalizingly in reach with modern technology: a journey to Mars.

Mission to Mars is an almost forgotten 2000 sci-fi film that's loosely based on the defunct Disney attraction of the same name. In the Brian de Palma feature, scientists travel to Mars, only for something to go wrong on their first manned mission, which requires a second team to investigate what happened. Along the way, the scientists make first contact with alien life and learn where the aliens went after Mars became inhospitable.

The film didn't impress audiences, nor did it make much money at the box office. Still, of all the films that take place in 2020, it's the closest to reality. The human race has the technology to reach Mars within the next few years, and we may very well actually make our way to the rusty fourth planet from the sun. We have far more of a chance making it there than blowing up continents, after all. Mission to Mars might've been nominated for Razzies in its day, but it wins in regards to scientific possibility.

And so then... how does Domino fit in with this version of 2020?

Speaking of Domino, I happened upon a review of the Mission To Mars from 2006 (six years after the film's release), in which Slant's Eric Henderson argues for an auteurist approach to reading the film. Henderson's review of what he suggests is the start of "De Palma’s already richly rewarding 'old man cinema' period" seems to anticipate the back-and-forth views of Domino as "a De Palma film" these past few months:

Is Mission to Mars an auteurist litmus test for the Y2K generation in the same sense that Baby Face Nelson or The Girl Can’t Help It were in the theory’s salad days? Or is Mission To Mars the ultimate in hackery? Is De Palma etched into every CGI-loaded frame? Or can’t his personality overcome a budgetary tidal wave in the shape and magnitude of $80 million? While it’s tempting to shrug such questions off with a “go fiddle with your Hatari and jerk your Steel Helmet somewhere else, there’s formalism to be seduced here” (yes, even in this context of a critical appraisal of a singular talent), the impulse would rob an already gravelly underrated movie of its context. It would suck the air out of Mission to Mars like space robs Tim Robbins of his every last droplet of essential moisture. Leave a movie like Mission to Mars to fester among the slaves to the genre, and you’ll wind up with a bloated and laughably irrelevant Web page of technical gaffes over on IMDb. So while an auteurist reading of Mission to Mars might invite self-involved chatter over whether the movie or the viewer is supplying the meaning, at least you won’t find yourself sharing an oxygen mask with a caste of Trekkie outcasts. And Trekkies can’t dance in outer space.

Buena Vista undoubtedly conceived of a very different film than the Mission to Mars it released in theaters. Its once and future pie-eyed protagonist is played by Gary Sinise, revealing executives’ intentions; this was meant to be a space movie aimed at those for whom Apollo 13, in which Sinise brooded and kicked clods of dirt while everyone else got to board the Good Ship Patriotism, was just a little bit too dark. Why they hired De Palma is beyond me, but they must’ve felt intensely pleased with themselves when the movie earned a kid-friendly PG rating. But Mission to Mars isn’t only a warm, up-with-people sci-fi actioneer in an Event Horizon era. It’s also a fearless twist on the sadly still controversial theory of evolution, a completely anti-James Cameronian epic with a blockbuster budget and a completely becalmed man at the helm, and maybe the first chapter in De Palma’s already richly rewarding “old man cinema” period. And did I mention that De Palma gets the chance to redux Fiona Lewis’s gothic pirouette of death from The Fury, only this time the limbs actually fly off?

Sure, De Palma may have been able to direct movies with an AARP card in his back pocket since 1992’s Raising Cain, but without Mission to Mars and Sinise’s haunted memories of Kim Delaney, De Palma could’ve never found it within himself to make Femme Fatale, his answer to that immortal one-two “old man cinema” punch of 1964: Hitchcock’s Marnie and Dreyer’s Gertrud. While the obvious connection between these three films won’t necessarily win over feminists for whom auteurism is another way of saying “no girls allowed,” all three mark a decisive point of psychological capitulation on the part of otherwise resolute personalities.

Mission to Mars’ redemptive coda opened the door for the subsequent film’s continuing figurative and literal sanguinity. There are few sights more disturbingly beautiful in the De Palma canon than Jerry O’Connell’s miniature globes of blood dancing in the air as they drift toward a hole in the Mars-bound shuttle’s structure. At once referencing bodily danger and assisting the crew and allowing them to repair a potentially greater danger, the fluidity of the film—from its blood to its serpentine cinematography—testifies to its elegance. Not to say there’s not a little hardening in De Palma’s heart even at this stage. It’s more a reflection of our culture’s reactionary values than of De Palma’s radicalism that this film airs on the Disney-owned ABC television network without its poetically direct 3D diorama of Earth’s evolution, suggesting the redolence of a corporation in hysterical self-censorship mode. But even De Palma turns the majority of the film’s saintly NASA heroes away at film’s end, leaving them to turn around and return to a planet of genetic inferiority. A planet where gravity makes it awfully difficult to dance through air.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, January 3, 2020 7:42 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Syd Mead, the visual futurist who contributed pre-production conceptual art for Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars, passed away Monday in Pasadena, according to Los Angeles Times' Christi Carras. He was 86.

Other films that Mead created designs for include Star Trek the Movie, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, Tron, Aliens, Timecop, Mission: Impossible III, Elysium, and Tomorrowland.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 2, 2020 1:07 AM CST
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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Earlier this week, Adam Nayman at The Ringer posted his picks for "The 10 Best Shots From Movies in 2019," and included the split-screen shot from Brian De Palma's Domino:
Brian De Palma is the supreme split-screen filmmaker of all time. Think of the prom scene in Carrie, or the doubling techniques in Dressed to Kill, or the boxing match in Snake Eyes; his ability to choreograph parallel action while subdividing the frame into different planes of perspective and meaning has always verged on authentic genius. Nobody wanted to give De Palma’s new, more-or-less direct-to-VOD thriller Domino credit as an auteur work, but the fact is that at least three or four of its sequences have the verve and invention of the director’s glory days, including the spectacular—and spectacularly incorrect—set piece depicting a terrorist attack on a European film festival, broadcast on a social media feed that shows the killer’s face side-by-side with the victims glimpsed through her weapon’s high-tech crosshairs. The result of De Palma’s visual gamesmanship is a multifaceted massacre scene that could just as easily be filed under exploitation as critique; by conflating different kinds of “shooting” (the camera and the gun) and reflecting the murderer’s gaze back at us twice over, Domino forces us to think about what we’re looking at instead of simply consuming it (even as the villains’ plans are explicitly to transform political violence into online entertainment). Long after many of 2019’s more conventionally lauded movies have faded from memory, De Palma’s unapologetic virtuosity will endure.

The New York Post's Sara Stewart would disagree with Nayman-- she includes Domino on her list of the five worst movies of 2019, writing that "De Palma scrapes the bottom of the barrel with this retro cop thriller, squandering the charisma of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the process." In her review of Domino back in May, Stewart wrote, "His split-screen signature move is used to gratuitously violent effect in videos shot by the terrorists, while the Arab villains themselves are so cartoonish you wonder how any actor could agree to play them."

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 28, 2019 12:19 AM CST
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