Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod

E-mail
Geoffsongs@aol.com

De Palma Discussion
Forum

-------------

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

-------------

Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

------------

AV Club Review
of Dumas book

------------

« February 2020 »
S M T W T F S
1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Interviews...

De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


Enthusiasms...

De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site

Phantompalooza

No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags

Directorama

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
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the
Guillotine

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema

LOLA

Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor

italkyoubored

Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds

EatSleepLiveFilm

No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod
site

Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
BAMcinématek
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Books
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Cannes
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Carrie
Casualties Of War
Catch And Kill
Cinema Studies
Clarksville 1861
Columbia University
Columbo - Shooting Script
Conversation, The
Cop-Out
Cruising
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dick Vorisek
Dionysus In '69
Domino
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Fatal Attraction
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Fire
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
George Litto
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Ghost & The Darkness
Greetings
Happy Valley
Havana Film Fest
Heat
Hi, Mom!
Hitchcock
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jared Martin
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Laurent Bouzereau
Lights Out
Lithgow
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Mod
Montreal World Film Fest
Morricone
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Newton 1861
Noah Baumbach
NYFF
Obsession
Oliver Stone
Palmetto
Paranormal Activity 2
Parker
Parties & Premieres
Passion
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Peet Gelderblom
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pimento
Pino Donaggio
Predator
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Redacted
Responsive Eye
Retribution
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Rotwang muß weg!
Sakamoto
Scarface
Scorsese
Sean Penn
Sisters
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Spielberg
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Stephen H Burum
Sweet Vengeance
Tabloid
Tarantino
Taxi Driver
Terry
The Tale
To Bridge This Gap
Toronto Film Fest
Toyer
Travolta
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Untitled Hollywood Horror
Untitled Industry-Abuse M
Untouchables
Venice Beach
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
BONG JOON-HO HAS AFFECTION FOR DE PALMA
ALSO, HITCHCOCK, PECKINPAH, AND CONTEMPORARY KIYOSHI KUROSAWA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/bongjoonhowalkercenter.jpg

Thanks to Chris Dumas for sending along this link to an AV Club article from last fall, in which Katie Rife interviews Bong Joon-ho, who won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscars earlier this month for his Best Picture winner, Parasite. The interview ends with this bit:
AVC: Who are your favorite directors of all time, and who are some younger directors you’re excited to see more from?

BJH: Among contemporary directors, I really admire the horror films of Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. In the generation above that, I have affection for De Palma. But I think that if you climb up that pyramid [Draws a triangle with his hands.] at the very top is Hitchcock.

AVC: I agree.

BJH: I’ve admired him since I was little, and I think I’m under his umbrella as well.


More recently, three days after the Oscars, Bong visited Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was the featured guest at the Walker Art Center’s 30th Anniversary Film Dialogue series. Former Variety critic and current Amazon development executive Scott Foundas interviewed Bong on stage. The photo above, from the Walker Center, was published as part of Peter Diamond's recap of the event for Mpls St Paul Magazine.

Diamond, however, left out the mentions of Brian De Palma and Sam Peckinpah, so here's an excerpt from Citypages' Bryan Miller:

Quadruple Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho arrived at the Walker for the 30th anniversary of their Dialogues series just days after he made history at the Academy Awards with his masterpiece, Parasite. He told interviewer Scott Foundas he’d taken Monday to rest from the night’s festivities, then boarded a plane Tuesday for Wednesday’s talk that concluded a partial retrospective of his work. He was still reeling.

“It happened four days ago. Three days ago?” Bong asked, and not rhetorically. “It feels like three years ago.”

It was, he said, a great thing he needs time to process. “It’s still hard to understand.”

He demurred when former Variety critic and Amazon development executive Foundas inquired about his surreal Sunday night, being crowned Best Director and receiving a Best Picture award, but the auteur opened up when the audience couldn’t stop asking about it during the later Q&A.

Bong admitted he thought Parasite’s best chance was for Best International Feature—pausing to apologize for his presumption to fellow nominee Pedro Almodovar, whose Pain and Glory he called “a beautiful movie”—and after he won he felt tremendously calm, expecting nothing more from the rest of the ceremony.

Then the presenters kept saying his name again, and again, and again.

When he took to the stage to accept the award for Best Director, he had no planned speech. He happened to lock eyes with Martin Scorcese. On the spot he felt moved to pay tribute to the Irishman director, which led to the moving standing-O for Scorcese. After that, Bong said he wished he could share the award with his fellow nominees, dividing it into five parts “with a Texas Chainsaw.” “I still don’t know why I talked about Texas Chainsaw. Very strange,” he admitted on Wednesday, chuckling.

In his homeland of South Korea, he’s known as "Director Bong," a fittingly authoritative title for an artist whose films are so precise and supremely controlled. Yet it belies the jolly nature of the man with the boyish mop of hair, who carries himself with graceful nerdiness and isn’t shy about sharing his big, generous laugh. He arrived onstage wearing all black—from socks to suit to undershirt—but he punctured any dour auteur vibes when he started spinning Foundas’s rotating chair as they turned to watch a clip from one of his films. His genuine humility was on display when he confessed he thought his debut film, Barking Dogs Never Bite, was “disappointing” and “amateurish.”

“I’m so happy Barking Dogs wasn’t included [in the retrospective],” he said, laughing as he waved the program in the air. “Never watch that!”

Seven films into his career, Director Bong has earned a global reputation as an undisputed master. It’s fitting that he’s the first director to make a non-English-speaking Best Picture winner, as he’s truly an international director, shifting as fluidly between Korean and English (with some help from a translator on Okja and Snowpiercer) as he does between film genres.

American genre movies are “the blood flowing through my veins,” he explained; you don’t ever think about the blood in your veins, you just know it’s there. He first glimpsed these American movies in edited form on then strictly censored Korean television, and got an unfiltered look at the films of Hitchcock and DePalma and Peckinpah, which were unedited but also untranslated, on the U.S. military’s Armed Forces Korean Network. Years later he’d see the same movies translated in his college film club and contextualize the images burned into his brain. His aim became to merge “the joys of genre with the realities of Korea.”

Foundas screened clips from several movies while Director Bong shared an array of fascinating tidbits of their origins—like how he wrote Mother for actress Hye-ja Kim and would have scrapped it if she hadn’t agreed to star, or how he pondered the first half of his acclaimed Parasite for four years, but only conceived of the twisty second half of the film in the final few months of writing the screenplay, which dug deeper into the class-conscious themes that pervade his work.

Foundas joked that when they spoke a few years prior, Director Bong explained he had to go back to South Korea to make a smaller movie out of contractual obligation to the producers of Mother—the film that would eventually become Parasite.

“You couldn’t have made it sound less significant,” Foundas marveled.

Director Bong said he felt “happy” and “safe” in Parasite’s intimate world, working with his frequent collaborator, actor Song Kang-ho.

Funny, because nothing about Director Bong’s work feels safe. He’s become the face of the incredibly rich Korean film culture that includes massive talents like Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, and Lee Chang-dong. This group of filmmakers, Director Bong says, have more of a loosely shared aesthetic as opposed to a conscious collective movement like Dogme 95 or the French New Wave.

“We’re the first generation of Korean cinephiles.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2020 1:45 AM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, March 16, 2019
GONZALEZ GAVE VANESSA PARADIS COPY OF 'BLOW OUT'
FILMMAKER DISCUSSES INFLUENCE OF DE PALMA & OTHERS ON 'KNIFE + HEART'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/knifeheartposter.jpgLast October, Knife + Heart director Yann Gonzalez told Film Inquiry's Hazem Fahmy that he showed Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise to actor Jonathan Genet, in preparation for his role in the film. Now, Gonzalez tells Kyle Turner at Filmmaker Magazine that he gave star Vanessa Paradis a DVD of De Palma's Blow Out, among others, to give her an idea of the style of acting he was going for:
Filmmaker: Did you do any kind of preparation with Vanessa Paradis before shooting?

Gonalez: Not really. Vanessa needs to be on set to really feel her character. We met several times before though, often with Kate Moran and Nicolas Maury, but it was more like a way to get to know each other. The only thing I did is to offer her some DVDs in order to help her understanding the kind of acting I had in mind for Anne. Possession by Zulawski, Neige by Juliet Berto, Blow Out by Brian De Palma: very intense, sometimes over-the-top performances, more cinematic than realistic. The blonde hair, green raincoat and red boots did the rest!


Meanwhile, back at the time of the Cannes premiere of Knife + Heart, Gonzalez discussed De Palma in more detail to Sugarpulp:
In the galaxy of favorite influences that guide you and that you often quote (Werner Schroeter, Paul Vecchiali, R.W. Fassbinder…), this film brings to light a new figure: Brian De Palma.

My co-writer and I share a great passion for De Palma; this is a common thread that has clearly led us both. In terms of emotional thrillers, De Palma is the king, with films such as Carrie, Blow Out, and Dressed to Kill.

These are also the first films I showed my producer, Charles Gillibert, to demonstrate to him in what direction I wanted to take Knife+Heart, proportionally speaking, of course. De Palma has this unabashed, playful side, weaving constantly between fiction, reality, the cinema, fantasy, and voyeurism.

He also has an absolute love of the cinema. Knife+Heart starts with a 16mm editing table and finishes up on a sort of stellar “projection”… The love of the matter that makes up cinema itself is very much present. A cry of love and rage is etched into the actual film with a knife and is only visible once it’s been through the viewer… I really liked the idea that a woman’s desperate love situation could slip its way onto the film itself.

How did you profile the 70s treatment? The film never falls into the “period film” cliché, it’s much more subtle than that.

I was really worried about it looking like an academic reconstruction, and with my Director of Photography, Simon Beaufils, we very quickly got the idea of working using light to work on the period. Today, all Paris streets are lit using sodium lighting, which gives a horrible yellowy-orange light. So we strived to find the blue-green neon glow of French films from the late 70s / early 80s. Obviously there was a lot of very important and precise work on costumes and settings but, above all, I didn’t want a film that would look outdated. It also had to be able to talk about today’s world using faces and bodies from today. That’s why I called on iconic figures of present-day nightlife, such as Simon Thiébaut who plays Dominique, the head of the transgender gang; or the choreographer for the club scene, Ari de B, who came on set with all his dancers. There’s something very contemporary that shines out through our fantasy 1979 Paris.

Color is extremely present and particularly flashy. It has strong visual presence…

The film shows messed up, euphoric characters, and I wanted a visual portrayal of the inner quandaries they are struggling with. I didn’t want to shy away from going deep inside their minds and extracting images. I love this idea of embracing experimental practices and bringing them into slightly more mainstream cinema, even if I’m aware of the fact that I don’t make the most mainstream films in the world (laughs)! There’s a whole “fringe” that has nurtured my love of the cinema and I want to bring that into my universe, make it more visible. I’m thinking for example of Paul Sharits’ films that used strobing to give a flicker effect to images and I picked up on that to portray the killer’s negative image “memories”.

How did you go about working on the music with your brother, Anthony Gonzalez? What desires guided you in this particular project?

We wanted to recapture the Gialli ambiance of the 70s, to feel that sinister yet sentimental tone. But we also needed to distance ourselves from that in order to create something contemporary, and not find ourselves in a pastiche of the genre and its music. Faithful yet unfaithful at the same time… We are both poetical and even sentimental, in a certain way. We wanted to dive in headlong, particularly as melancholy and poetry are found in numerous 70s horror film sound tracks, from films by Lucio Fulci to those by Mario Bava – I’m thinking in particular of the harrowing sound tracks of Don’t Torture a Duckling or Twitch of the Death Nerve.

And here again, this principle of pleasure came rushing back: I got Anthony to listen some old sound tracks from straight and gay porn films. He quickly gathered the musical codes and finally, the most beautiful tracks in Knife + Heart the most pleasurable ones, are probably the ones he recreated for the film’s fake porn movies.

For this sound track, Anthony worked once again with Nicolas Fromageau, who he’d already worked with on the first two M83 albums and who’s a childhood friend. For the three of us, there’s something about Knife+Heart that’s strongly linked to our teenage years and the films that fostered our love of cinema.

The films I liked as a teenager were a little more “strange”. My brother is four years younger than me and he told me a few years after the fact that he and Nicolas used to sneak into my bedroom in Antibes to watch my videos by Jodorowsky, Richard Kern and Jean Rollin… And they were quite marked by that! The sound track to Knife+Heart was a way for Nicolas, Anthony and I to come back to our first loves, our first powerful images and sensations from the cinema.

How did you deal with shooting the porn scenes? They’re extremely suggestive, but you don’t actually see anything head-on.

I didn’t want the sexuality to veil Anne’s tragedy, her adventure, which for me is the film’s backbone. It’s first and foremost the portrait of a woman and it just so happens she produces porn films. We kept all the imagery and the substance and had great fun with that but without showing the coarsest of images because to top it off, that’s not what I retain from porn films of the period. I wanted to come back to a sort of innocence and naïveté that you saw in the first porn films. It was before AIDS came on the scene and there was an obvious enjoyment in playing together, and taking pleasure together and some films even mixed heterosexual and homosexual sex scenes. Nicolas Maury dealt really well with this playful aspect in the fantastic way he has of playing with genders, identities, and even his own femininity when he portrays a transgender version of Vanessa in several scenes.

It was important to make these scenes moments of comedy and to bring a certain joy into the sex. The aim was to make the viewer want to be a part of things. I think that a young heterosexual male could quite easily want to live within the film. For me it’s a much more important gesture, and much more political than showing sex scenes in order to shock the middle class… who aren’t actually shocked by much and haven’t been in a very long time!

In any case, your cinema contains more of an erotic element rather than veritable pornography.

For me, cinema is ontologically erotic. We mentioned De Palma a little earlier. We could also have mentioned Verhoeven, Argento, Fulci and dozen other great or lesser masters who aren’t so well known. I miss that subversion in today’s cinema. Sexuality cuts through feelings; it’s part of what forms a person, part of his or her story. Anne is tormented by her sexuality, through her work but also because of the way she loves. The use of voyeurism inherited from De Palma recurs throughout the story: Anne spies on her editor through a spyhole; two boys are spied on by one’s father as they have sex… It’s something that is repeated throughout the film. There’s a very erotic desire that isn’t mine, it belongs to the film itself, to its very essence. We’re in a time of regression and puritanism that I wanted to go against whilst recapturing the lifeblood of cinema.


Posted by Geoff at 1:32 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, March 9, 2019
SXSW REVIEWS OF PEELE'S 'US' MENTION DE PALMA
CRONENBERG, KUBRICK, ARONOFSKY ALSO CHECKED, YET PEELE'S BOLD VISION IS HIS OWN
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/usposter.jpg"I want to do what Hitchcock did, what Spielberg did, what Brian De Palma did — dark tales," Jordan Peele told an interviewer on the red carpet at last year's Academy Awards. His second feature as writer/director, Us, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival yesterday in Austin, Texas, and early reviews popping up are mentioning Brian De Palma and other filmmakers. Yet each review also stresses that while Peele might wear those references on his sleeve, the bold vision behind the film is uniquely his own. A couple of the reviews mention De Palma in specific relation to a standout split-diopter shot Peele uses in Us. However, Peele is surely familiar with Steven Spielberg's use of split-diopters in Jaws, as well-- one of these reviews mentions that the boy in Peele's film wears a Jaws T-shirt. Here are some excerpts:

Britt Hayes, Birth. Movies. Death.
On its outermost surface, Us is an effective survival horror thriller in the vein of The Strangers, featuring phenomenal performances from all involved. Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss make a decadent meal out of their supporting parts as friends of Gabe and Adelaide, but Nyong'o's performance rules them all with a transcendent duality that demands repeat viewings.

As with Get Out, Peele recontextualizes his influences into strong aesthetic choices; the opening credits sequence – a slow zoom out from the eye of a caged rabbit, revealing it as but one of many – evokes the cerebral horror of Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg. In particular, the influence of the former's Sisters and the latter's preoccupation with the body/self as foreign object are apparent throughout. Us is so layered in meaning it may as well be an immersive experience; a metatextual funhouse mirror akin to the one young Adelaide encounters in her early flashback. It's a film about mental illness and a film about trauma and PTSD. It's a film about imposter syndrome and never quite feeling as though you've earned the things you have or the people who love you. It's a film about our country, as Adelaide sharply observes that these "others" are Americans – and we are our own worst enemy, just lying in wait for the moment when we can easily topple our own lives and all we've built around them.

It's a film about the part of ourselves that we hate the most; the weak, needy part that's all unseemly desire and craven id; the part that we refuse to acknowledge because it is the absolute worst of us, or so we think. What if you ignored that part of yourself and refused to nourish it, but it found a way to grow in the shadows? What if it found a way to feed itself, and learned to approximate your movements and sounds? What if it got out? Imagine being confronted by this existential concept made feral reality; imagine the reckoning.


Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
If the opening scenes are deliberate, once Us gets going, it goes; the efficiency of the turn is striking, as is the confidence with which Peele sets his scenes, moves his camera, and freaks us out. In scene after scene he creates a mood of offhand, everyday spookiness, and then turns the screw with genuinely disturbing imagery. The visual strategies foreshadow the identity of the invaders, each of whom seems a bizarro replica of a member of the family; Peele is constantly framing his characters in mirrors, glass reflection, and even, late in the film, a thematically appropriate De Palma-style split diopter shot. The cinematographer is Mike Gioulakis (his credits also include Glass and It Follows), and he spends much of the film, which is set mostly over one long night, playing with light and dark and dark skin, in backgrounds and shadows.

The editing is sharp – there’s a suite of cross-cut one-on-one confrontations, once each of our protagonists meets their doppelganger, that’s sort of staggering – but Peele is always careful to give his actors their moments. (Elisabeth Moss has one, carefully applying lipstick in a mirror, that is absolutely chilling.) Every performance lands, thought Nyong’o has the movie star role, and plays it as such; her payoff moments deliver, but she’s unnervingly creepy when playing her character’s villainous half.

And yet, with all those virtues noted, Us can’t quite match Peele’s debut. Part of that is just a question of timing; Get Out is a terrific thriller that also arrived at precisely the right moment, in the morning-after hangover of a stupefying presidential election, and seemed a timely reminder of the evil that our smiling friends and neighbors are capable of.

But if Get Out was accidental Trump commentary, Us is decidedly deliberate, particularly in its third-act explanations and revelations, and when Peele preceded the SXSW screening by announcing, “the movie is about a lot of things,” he tipped his hand a bit – particularly in the opening stretches, there’s a fair amount of seemingly random setup and sheer oddity, bunnies under opening credits and vague on-screen text about underground tunnels and a lot of details about the 1986 Hands Across America project. Some of it pays off, but in a way that makes those elements feel like side scrawlings in a director’s notebook, plot points created to accommodate stuff he thought would be cool to throw into the movie, rather than growing organically from the material.

Get Out was the latter, and as a result, it was tight as a drum. Us is not that, which isn’t entirely a criticism. Such ambition – a sophomore filmmaker grasping to make a big statement, and fumbling a bit in the process – is not only forgivable, but admirable. Ultimately, he’s hoping to provoke thought, self-examination, even anger.

“My favorite thing is the idea that people will leave ready to have a conversation with whoever they’re with,” Peele explained in the post-screening Q&A. “I have a very clear meaning and commentary I’m trying to strike with this film, but I also wanted to design a film that’s very personal for every individual.

“In the broader strokes of things, this movie is about this country. And when I decided to write this movie, I was stricken by the fact that we are in a time where we fear the other. Whether it is the mysterious invader that we think is gonna come kill us and take our jobs, or the faction that we don’t live near that voted a different way than us… we’re all about pointing the finger. And I wanted to suggest that maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil is us.”


Monica Castillo, RogerEbert.com
As he did with “Get Out,” Peele pays significant tribute to the films that have influenced him in “Us.” Though this time, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus, as I spoke with others who saw the movie, we focused on different titles that stood out to us. For me, “The Shining” looked to be the film that received the most nods in “Us,” including an overhead shot of the Wilson family driving through hilly forests to their vacation home, much like the Torrance family does on the way to the Overlook Hotel. There’s also a reference to “The Shining” twins, a few architectural and cinematography similarities and in one shot, Nyong’o charges the camera with a weapon much like Jack Nicholson menacingly drags along an ax in a chase. However, “Us” is not just a love letter to one horror movie. Peele also pays tribute to Brian De Palma with a split diopter shot that places both Adelaide and her doppelgänger in equal focus for the first time in the movie. There’s also a tip of the hat to Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” in terms of dueling balletic styles and a gorgeously choreographed fight scene that looks like a combative pas de deux.

Posted by Geoff at 10:17 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, February 28, 2019
REVIEWS FOR NEIL JORDAN'S 'DE PALMA-ESQUE' GRETA
ISABELLE HUPPERT IN TITLE ROLE, OPENS IN U.S. THEATERS THIS WEEKEND
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/greta.jpg

We've heard Brian De Palma sing the praises of Neil Jordan in the past, and now critics of Jordan's new film, Greta, are seeing what they perceive as homages to De Palma. Here are some review links and excerpts:

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press:

Imagine you're a 20-something living in New York City and you spot a particularly nice and structured green leather handbag on the subway. Do you report it to the MTA? Ignore it and move on? Claim it and its contents for yourself? Return to the owner?

For Chloe Grace Moretz's Frances, a wide-eyed transplant to the big city, it's obvious: You go alone to hand-deliver the bag to Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), who, according to the identification card you find, is a tiny, nice-looking woman in her 60s. This is the first of many mistakes Frances makes in writer and director Neil Jordan's ("The Crying Game," ''Michael Collins") stylish and knowingly over-the-top "Greta," a dark, Brian De Palma-esque fairy tale about the dangers of trusting a lonely soul. She might just turn out to be a wolf, right?


Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
The psychological thriller Greta gets off to a promising start: As a camera discreetly follows Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz through a New York City subway, Julie London sings a silky version of “Where Are You?” and director Neil Jordan’s name appears on screen. Viewers familiar with Jordan’s previous work — from his script for Mona Lisa to the game-changing The Crying Game — will understandably feel prepared to encounter the kind of twisty but sophisticated puzzlers he’s best known for.

Er, not so fast.

As an exercise in style, Greta turns out to be a maddeningly mixed bag. Its New York setting (which should be another character in this tale of modern urban manners) is continually undercut by obviously foreign filming locations — Dublin and Toronto did the honors here — and its themes of vulnerability, obsession and ritualized violence are no less drearily familiar for being given a pseudo-feminist patina. An intriguing two-hander bursting with potential instead becomes something we’ve seen before — up to and including bizarre pivots into sadism and body horror.

Moretz plays Frances, a recent Smith College graduate who has moved to Tribeca with her best friend Erica (Maika Monroe), a wealthy fellow Smithie with no discernible job other than practicing yoga and tossing off cynical bon mots about crystal meth, colonics and how the Big (rotten) Apple is going to eat Frances alive. When the quiet, polite Frances finds an abandoned purse on the subway, she takes pains to find the owner, who turns out to be a French woman named Greta (Huppert), an eccentric but kind piano teacher who invites Frances for tea and conversation. Their relationship blooms, in part because Frances recognizes a nurturing figure she’s been missing since her own mother died, and soon the two are spending more and more time together, to the increasing consternation of the possessive Erica.

Alert readers will see the words “Huppert” and “piano teacher” in the same sentence and immediately sense impending doom. While Greta has none of the torturous rigor of Michael Haneke’s 2001 film The Piano Teacher, Jordan and co-screenwriter Ray Wright borrow heavily from other movies, especially classics from the paranoid canon of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

With a nod to Fatal Attraction here and one toward Single White Female there — not to mention brief homages to Brian De Palma all the way through — Greta feels as time-warped as its title character’s cozy but slightly confining apartment. Despite some clever work with cellphones and text messages, the story and atmosphere feel impossibly forced, shoehorned into a milieu that never feels authentic enough to elicit real dread.

The artificiality isn’t helped by an intrusive and cliched score, which prods the audience toward jump scares and creepy reveals with the uninvited pushiness of a musical mansplainer, and which returns time and again to a tiresome motif from Liszt’s maudlin “Liebestraum.” When Greta and Frances adopt a sweetly decrepit mutt named Morton, the foreshadowing couldn’t be clearer, and his fate hangs over the proceedings like a soulful, sad-eyed threat.

As those proceedings ratchet up, logic and intelligence give way to plot mechanics and pulp thrills. On behalf of Smithies everywhere, this one is here to tell you they’re brave but not this stupid.

Greta might pretend to turn the tables by presenting the sexualized predation of a young woman at the hands of a female malefactor instead of a male one. But the fetishistic leer is just as troubling and offensive. Disturbance eventually gives way to derangement in a story that grows exponentially more irritating the more preposterous it gets.

As Morton might say: When it rains, it pours.


Sean Burns, WBUR
The films of Irish writer-director Neil Jordan are all fairy tales at heart, though usually on the grimmer side of Grimm. Perhaps best known in this country for “The Crying Game” and “Interview with the Vampire,” Jordan can always be counted on for a tricky mix of literary sophistication and vulgar delights, brought off with a thick atmosphere of sinister enchantment and the showman’s flair of a wily Irishman spinning a yarn that’s half-malarkey and twice as enjoyable for it.

Greta” — his first film in eight years — has more malarkey than most. Built out from the bones of a Friday night slasher pic, the screenplay (credited to Jordan and Ray Wright, from a story by Wright) infuses its generic stalker plot with all sorts of wild and wooly weirdness, fashioning it into a high-camp showcase for international art-house treasure Isabelle Huppert.

She gives a gloriously nutzoid performance here, punctuating her placid demeanor with delicious flashes of mania. The movie is what the kids used to call a hoot.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Frances, a timid Boston gal fresh out of school who’s just moved to big, scary New York City. She’s currently crashing with her ridiculously wealthy college roommate Erica (a very funny Maika Monroe) whose parents bought her a comically oversized SoHo loft for graduation. (In a visual gag designed to torment anyone who has ever endured Manhattan real estate woes, Frances rides her 10-speed bike around inside the apartment.)

One day Frances finds a forgotten handbag on the subway, and like a Good Samaritan looks inside for ID and sets about returning the purse to its rightful owner. (“This is New York,” Erica scolds. “You should have called the bomb squad.”) The bag belongs to Huppert’s Greta, a lonely widow living in a cluttered apartment lined with overgrown ivy.

This highfalutin’ French version of Eleanor Rigby has been longing for a friend like Frances, and the two take to one another almost instantly — though attentive viewers might already be wondering about that muffled pounding coming from the wall behind Greta’s piano. “Construction,” she claims.

It’s not exactly a surprise where all of this is headed, so credit “Greta” for getting down to business right away and dropping a big reveal most movies would save for the end of the second act somewhere around the 30-minute mark. It feels like Jordan wants to get all the pesky plot stuff squared away as quickly as possible, so he can concentrate on having Huppert terrorize young Moretz in increasingly baroque fashion as the movie jumps the genre rails into bonkersville.

Jordan and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey conjure a collection of gorgeously evocative images. Moretz has the face of a cherub in a church painting, and maybe the most startlingly beautiful shot finds her crying at the movies with her eyes hidden behind 3D glasses, a vision of sorrowful kitsch.

As “Greta” gets kookier the visuals become more vividly expressionistic — Huppert’s shadow stretching long across the length of the living room floor like the wicked queen in Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” while Moretz dons a little red riding hoodie.

Greta” is a feast to look at and pretty much a riot to watch, taking fiendish delight in the story’s inherent predictability by piling one fake-out on top of one another. There’s a dream within a dream sequence here that employs the same audience-taunting tactics as Brian De Palma’s “Raising Cain,” and it became unfortunately clear during the screening I attended that not everyone in the crowd was in on the joke.

The director got into a bit of trouble and seemed to be banished for a little while after the calamitous reception of his last Hollywood picture, 2007’s “The Brave One” — a fascinatingly misguided attempt to remake “Death Wish” with Jodie Foster as an NPR talk show host in the Charles Bronson role. It’s a deeply weird movie that felt mostly like a semiotic exorcism for its star’s complicated history of portraying victimized women, while also trying to work as a trashy fantasy for the four people in the world who wanted to watch Terry Gross gun down rapists.

I’m relieved to report that “Greta” does not take itself nearly as seriously, while still carrying over Jordan’s knack for making New York City look like a forest primeval. (Everyone in his movies always seem to be on their way to grandma’s house.)

The nutty pleasures of the film’s final act come primarily courtesy of Huppert’s wackadoo flourishes — considering the internet’s affection for the actress, this will probably be the most meme-d movie of 2019 — and an extra level of irony for anyone who was traumatized by her career-defining performance in Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher.”

Yet some of these scares still carry a Freudian kick, like a child’s toy chest re-purposed as an instrument of torture or the sinister properties of stuffed animals. Meanwhile, baking gingerbread cookies hasn’t been so perilous since the days of Hansel and Gretel. “Greta” is Jordan’s most gonzo fairy tale since 1999’s unfairly derided “In Dreams,” and in Huppert he’s found his ideal Big Bad Wolf.


Glenn Heath Jr., San Diego City Beat
A renowned Irish auteur whose diverse filmography jumps between genres, Jordan twists and contorts conventional thriller tropes to maximize Greta’s unshakeable neediness. The unpredictability of her actions eventually seeps into the aesthetics—a riveting and lucid sequence midway through the film pivots between dream and reality with effortless precision.

Blurred lines are Greta’s specialty. The gaps between companionship and obsession, kindness and guile, trust and doubt are much thinner than most like to admit. Frances experiences the slippery slope firsthand; most interestingly, though, Greta’s tactics merge digital stalking (texting and photography used with malicious glee) with old school confrontation.

Relying heavily on Huppert’s singular presence to keep its maniacal momentum alive, Jordan’s film uses her visage to successfully balance the tone between campy and creep out. This pushes Moretz into permanent victim status without much to do aside from screaming and clawing for life, the scared-straight woman to Greta’s big bad wolf.

Unlike Jordan’s previous film Byzantium, which tweaked the vampire construct with an impressionistic style, Greta (opening Friday, March 1) falls more in line with the neo-stalker narratives perfected by Brian De Palma. But it’s a film less concerned with voyeurism or sex than the idea of ultimate control manifesting itself in two ways: emotional and physical. When Greta is denied the former, she transitions to the latter. Huppert’s performance consistently lives between these two competing elements, giving her character volatility that is also rooted in desperation.

But what is the core of Greta’s particularly nutty frenzy? Jordan refuses to psychoanalyze and only infers answers. The film positions her as an omniscient and unstoppable force that is nostalgic for a time when domesticity could mask the destructive power dynamics between abusive parents and their children. Fables have a way of revealing the nightmarish implications of utopian façades, and Greta does exactly that.


Dann Gire, Chicago Daily Herald
Sometimes, a greasy cheeseburger hits the spot. Nothing high quality. Nothing particularly good for you. Nothing fancy. Just a cheeseburger.

Neil Jordan's "Greta" qualifies as the cheeseburgeriest thriller I've seen since 2018's "The Strangers: Prey at Night."

It won't win Oscars, unless the Academy approves categories for "Best Performance of a Dim Detective" or "Best Screenplay With More Holes Than a Machine Gun Target."

This long-fused thriller sneaks up on you. Just when you think it can't get slower or more boring, it attacks!

A sudden burst of playful suspense awkwardly inverts genre cliches, carefully avoiding the butcher knives, cheap jump-scares and heroes-resorting-to-savagery expectations in R-rated stalker films.

Instead, "Greta" (written by Jordan with Ray Wright) tries to out-DePalma Brian DePalma, especially with a daring twist on the obligatory dream sequence.

Even if these reworked devices don't quite work, thriller fans should appreciate the persistent attempts.

Courageously accomplished French actress Isabelle Huppert, never one to shy away from odd or challenging characters, plays Greta with full-throttle relish, fitting for a cheeseburgery performance where she emotionally simmers for a long, long time before flipping out.


Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink | Share This Post
Sunday, February 17, 2019
SPOILER IMAGES - MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE & WIDOWS
SHOCK REVELATION SHOT IN STEVE MCQUEEN FILM SEEMS DIRECTLY INFLUENCED BY DE PALMA IMAGE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/clairevision1.jpg





The images above from Steve McQueen's Widows, showing a character sabotaging his sham of a heist and blowing up a van to kill his gang of thieves and fake his own death, full of regret while holding the cell phone remote, seem directly influenced by the beautifully-rendered shot of Claire blowing up a car with Hannah inside of it, remote in hand as she turns her face toward the camera, from Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. While both shots come at a point late in each film, meant to shock the viewer with disbelief in what is being shown, there are differences in subjectivity.

In McQueen's film, we are seeing Liam Neeson's character recall the event in his own mind, seemingly filled with regret about the deaths he has caused. In the De Palma shot, we are seeing a subjective possibility within the mind of Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, which is why Claire (Emmanuelle Béart) hauntingly turns to look directly at the camera eye, looking at Ethan with a cold stare. Deeply in love with Claire, Ethan immediately tries to wipe that image from his mind, struggling to find a way that it could have been her husband Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) who did the dirty deed. In De Palma's film, the shot is static, and shown in slow motion. McQueen's shot is a choreographed slow dolly or zoom before the film cuts back to Liam Neeson in present day. Both shots are meant as a shock to the system, so to speak.


Posted by Geoff at 9:48 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2019 10:07 AM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, February 2, 2019
NICOLAS PESCE ON SPLIT-SCREENS IN 'PIERCING'
STEMMED FROM IDEA IN NOVEL OF HIDDEN PERSPECTIVES, & ALSO STYLISTICALLY CITES DE PALMA
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/piercingsplit.jpgNicolas Pesce's Piercing opened yesterday in theaters and streaming on demand. It is Pesce's second feature, following his singularly strange and vivid feature debut from 2016, The Eyes Of My Mother. Piercing, which had its world premiere last year at Sundance, is an adaptation of a novel by Ryū Murakami, and stars Mia Wasikowska and Christopher Abbott. In a review at Rue Morgue, Shawn Macomber writes that the film "has the vibe of Brian De Palma co-directing with Michael Haneke and David Lynch. Piercing is menacing, darkly funny, subversive, grotesque, sexy, challenging, stimulating, immersive and monumentally fucking weird."

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

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

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

Yep.

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2019 12:35 AM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
HITCH & DE PALMA ARE THE MASTERS FOR FEDE ÁLVAREZ
"DE PALMA IS ONE OF THOSE GUYS THAT WAS NEVER AFRAID TO AMP IT UP"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/girlspidersweb.jpgAt last month's Rome Film Festival premiere of his new movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Uruguayan director Fede Álvarez brought up Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma as key inspirations for him as a filmmaker (his previous features are the Evil Dead remake and Don't Breathe). According to Cinecittà News' Nicole Bianchi and Artribune's Margherita Bordino, Álvarez said of adapting the fourth book in the Millennium series (which was written post-Stieg Larsson), "The main thing to do is not a comparison between book and film, but a personalized transposition, different from that of others. The fourth book was a 'Scandinavian Agatha Christie', a kind of crazy James Bond. I was very interested in the development of Lisbeth Salander."

Responding to the idea of Lisbeth Salander as superhero, Álvarez said, "I do not like superheroes, I find them oppressive: Lisbeth is presented as a superheroine, but then I try to expose her to perennial destruction. There is always an element of self-revelation in the character, so this inspires me, the fact that she is human in the end. This film has a tone that I think has a relationship with my previous ones, in particular the suspense of my last film. Hitchcock said to shoot a scene of love as if it were one of death, and vice versa, and here this suggestion was greatly followed. For me he is a master along with Brian De Palma."

Over at Polygon, Álvarez is asked by Matt Patches, "How do you know if you’re going too far into the perverse?" In answering this question, the director again brings up Hitchcock and De Palma: "Well, the MPAA will make sure you’re going too far [laughs], but when it comes to morals, I like to push the boundaries of taste. South Korean cinema is one of my favorites. And directors like Hitchcock or De Palma are the kind of the directors that I think I learned more from by watching their movies. Particularly De Palma, who is one of those guys that was never afraid to amp it up. Even the wardrobes are over the top.

I always like knowing that I really went for it, rather than thinking that, oh, I played that one too safe. There would never be a worse feeling to me in a movie than to think that I played it safe, that I was scared to go in too far. Actually, I look back at Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe and now this — I feel like an old conservative man! But I really try not to be afraid of going overboard."

Back at the Rome Film Festival, Álvarez told Lega Nerd's Gabriella Giliberti, "Undoubtedly I was inspired by the previous directors of this saga. I was in high school when I saw and loved David Fincher's film. He is a director I admire. I would not have imagined that in my life it would have happened that my name and his were put side by side in the same sentence. So surely there is a little bit of Fincher, but I went to the cinema of De Palma or Hitchcock more with this film. I was inspired by them because they are directors who have never been afraid to exaggerate, especially De Palma with his style a bit theatrical and 'operatic.' I did so, and every time I realized I had crossed the limit, I went even further in the scene. I didn't know if what I was doing would work but I still had to try it!"

Also at the festival, Álvarez talked to BadTaste's Gabriele Niola:

This saga seems unable to end. Now after Fincher we start again ....

FA: "Consider that I would never have made a second and third film after that of Fincher, to continue on that style and tone set by a master like him would be impossible. This is instead a story of another author, so it's all a bit less sacred, just be faithful to Lisbeth and you can do whatever you want. And besides, the studio gave me freedom, otherwise I would not even have started. I've never made a film in which I did not have total control."

So if I had to explain the style and tone of your Millennium how would you describe it?

FA: "Not Nordic Noir mystery but more pulp-- I like Brian De Palma and the Korean cinema. I like that territory between the melodramatic and the expressionist that perhaps also implies a sick revenge. Last night I saw the film and all these bright red clothes in the snow were very South Korean cinema but immersed in a fairy tale: we start with a town and we end up in the woods with snow and a cliff."


Posted by Geoff at 10:07 PM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, November 10, 2018
MORE DETAILS ON DONAGGIO CUES USED IN HOMECOMING
ASIDE FROM OPENING DTK THEME, MUSIC FROM 'BODY DOUBLE'/'CARRIE'/'RAISING CAIN' APPEAR IN LATER EPISODES
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/homecomingep1b.jpg

Amazon Prime's Homecoming, which premiered last week, opens with the same music that opens Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, which was scored by Pino Donaggio. Instead of moving through a hallway toward a bathroom, as in the opening moments of Dressed To Kill, the camera at the start of Homecoming (each episode of which is directed by Sam Esmail) moves from a close-up inside an aquarium of fish, and pulling back to reveal its placement in a large office where Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) is setting up her desk and looking at the file of a recently-returned young soldier she is about to meet for the first time. When he enters her office (continuing the same shot, with Donaggio's DTK theme still playing underneath), he looks at the aquarium, saying it's nice, and asks her if she likes fish. "Not especially, it was here when I got here," she responds with the distracted nervousness of meeting someone for the first time. "I decided it's...soothing." As he has a seat and the two settle in for the start of their first session (at this early point in the story, we are not really sure what the session is about), the camera moves toward the window behind her desk, looking outside of it before a cut takes us to the other side of the window and Donaggio's music gets louder, the camera pulling back to reveal a courtyard scene outside, where a bird walks into frame and lifts itself up onto a ledge, perching and making a sort of deep squawking noise as the episode's title is revealed in large white letters. From here the music abruptly ends as the episode cuts to a different window but in a different, much narrower aspect ratio and quieter music, in what is revealed to be a flash-forward.

Donaggio's "Telescope" from De Palma's Body Double is used in the opening moments of episode 5 ("Helping"), in a sort of playful twist on the kind of romantic preparations taken by Gloria in Body Double, Jenny in De Palma's Raising Cain, or Kate in Dressed To Kill. The music is cut-off abruptly to enhance a bit of humor, yet the end of the episode calls back to this opening in an absurdly dark fashion. The beginning and end of the episode also manage to call back to the opening moments of episode 1, pairing the two Donaggio themes into a unifying thematic strategy.

I have only watched the first seven episodes so far, and I understand there is more Donaggio to come in one of the three remaining episodes. I can tell you that Episode 4 ("Redwood") brilliantly uses Donaggio's suspenseful "Bucket of Blood" cue from De Palma's Carrie to show the investigator visiting the location of the Homecoming facility during one of the flash-forward sequences.

"When we started talking about music, I started talking to my editors about those classic scores by Pino Donaggio, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams and John Carpenter even,” Esmail tells IndieWire's Chris O'Falt. "I just started thinking, this is going to be really unfair to ask a music composer to ape David Shire’s Conversation theme. That’s just ridiculous, or to ask someone to ape Michael Smalls’ theme from Klute."

O'Falt's article goes into the challenges of getting the rights to use so many varied pieces of existing scores, and includes a handy episode-by-episode list of all the scores used:

Esmail broached the subject with music supervisor Maggie Phillips when she first interviewed for the job. She found the idea discomfiting. “People have licensed a score piece here or there, but there’s no real paper trail for older scores like there is for the other music we license,” said Phillips. “There was no way of estimating costs, at all, and the people we were licensing from wouldn’t even know. The NBC-Universal clearance team and my team, no one had ever done this before.”

Still, Phillips took the job and it became an extensive research project to determine who owned the scores’ publishing rights, and then the actual recordings. Once that was determined, another journey began: locating the recording and digitizing it for the show. (While there might be obvious appeal in a “Homecoming” soundtrack comprised of the best thriller scores from the 20th century, that was a licensing bridge too far.)

Pre-existing scores meant tremendous time and expense. Sometimes Phillips discovered dead ends, or scores that couldn’t be licensed. Phillips and NBC-Universal also had to work with unions to make sure dozens of session players would be paid for scores they played decades ago. However, Phillips’ bigger concern became the creative side.

“Most editors are used to sending a scene to a composer, and having a composer hit those beats and write to those beats and emotional storylines to make it work,” said Phillips. “On ‘Homecoming,’ the editors, and our one music editor, had to to carve it out of preexisting score written for a different movie. We’d have to combine a few scores, and there were times I had to tell them to replace some scores, because they were too expensive after they had carefully crafted it to work with their scenes.”

As the first few episodes hit the editing room, Phillips and the editors started to see an even bigger creative problem. In the 10-episode series, there are longer, key scenes between Heidi (Julia Roberts), a counselor helping veterans adjust to everyday life, and Walter (Stephan James), a young soldier back from a tour in the Middle East. The show ultimately arcs around their many-layered relationship.

“It’s a weird tone between the two of them,” Phillips said. It’s slightly romantic, it’s a little emotional, but you don’t want to push it too hard. It should be pretty subtle, and the scores that we were using were really big scores… a lot of these things we found to put under those scenes felt very heavy handed.”

Often, published scores don’t include quiet moments of “underscore,” but rather the showy moments of action, drama, and emotion. Phillips started to doubt the feasibility of using entirely pre-existing scores.

“I called one of the producers and I was like, ‘I really don’t know if we’re going to be able to do this,’ and it was mostly because I was trying to help the editors find stuff for that first scene between Heidi and Walter,” said Phillips. “So they sat down and talked to Sam, I wasn’t there, and Sam was like, ‘Absolutely no. I want all pre-existing score.'”

Esmail recalled the moment he realized there was no turning back on his concept. “Music is everything to me,” said Esmail. “It’s the heart and soul of a movie or TV show to me because it can be such an injection of tone, and I think tone is everything to a story. So I just took a moment and said, ‘We should embrace this.’ This is too critical for me to ask someone to be derivative, which is also not very fair to them, but also, I wouldn’t want that. I would always constantly compare it to the real thing, and just thought it was so critical to the kind of tightrope walk that we’re doing with tone in the show that I just thought, ‘Let’s just go for it.'”

Phillips agrees that using older scores as temp music would have been a mistake. Music supervisors and composers refer to this as “temp love,” in which creators fall in love with the temp music and ask composers to mimic it. Like many, Phillips believes it’s not only a horrible way for a director to collaborate with a composer, but it’s also why so many scores in the last 15 years sound the same.

Phillips did get Esmail to use a few more modern scores for the show’s quieter moments. She also established a “No YouTube” rule for the editors: Not only were many scores pulled off the internet knock-offs that wouldn’t match, Phillips also wanted to secure the original recording before the editorial team started cutting to it.

Now that she has the final product, Phillips is impressed by how organic the music feels to the show, and the future possibilities for television scores.

“You don’t hear scores this big in TV, and it added so much of the tension,” said Phillips. “It’s a thriller, but it’s a slow burn. It’s not like you are wondering what’s behind the corner. The scores make it feel very thematic and heighten the tension and add to that edge-of-the-seat feeling you’re getting while you watch it. I don’t think it’d be like that without that big dramatic score on top of these scenes.”

So would she recommend using pre-existing score to other creators? “No,” laughed Phillips. “This ended up working because it was so organic to how Sam saw the show and shot the show. He’s a crazy genius, who was backed by a producing team willing to spend the money to see the process through.”

Below is list of the scores used in “Homecoming,” by episode.

Episode 1

“Dressed to Kill,” composer Pino Donaggio
“All The President’s Men,” composer David Shire
“Marathon Man,” composer Michael Small
“Vertigo,” composer Bernard Herrmann

Episode 2

“Klute,” composer Michael Small
“Duel,” composer Billy Goldenberg
“The Gift,” composers Daniel Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans

Episode 3

“Capricorn One,” composer Jerry Goldsmith
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“The Car,” composer Leonard Rosenman
“Chariots of Fire,” composer Vangelis
“Gray Lady Down,” composer Jerry Fielding
“Star Chamber,” composer Michael Small

Episode 4

“The Amityville Horror,” composer Lalo Schifrin
“The Day The Earth Stood Still,” composer Bernard Herrmann
“The Hand,” composer James Horner
“Carrie,” composer Pino Donaggio
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“L’Apocalypse des animaux,” composer Vangelis
“All The President’s Men,” composer David Shire

Episode 5

“Body Double,” composer Pino Donaggio
“The Taking of Pelham 123,” composer David Shire
“The Conversation,” composer David Shire
“Escape from New York,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“Narrow Margin,” composer Bruce Broughton
“The French Connection,” composer Don Ellis

 

Episode 6

“High-Rise,” composer Clint Mansell
“Scanners,” composer Howard Shore
“The List of Adrian Messenger,” composer Jerry Goldsmith
“Copycat,” composer Christopher Young
“Creation,” composer Christopher Young
“Three Days of the Condor,” composer Dave Grusin

Episode 7

“Gray Lady Down,” composer Jerry Fielding
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“The Andromeda Strain” (TV Series), composer Joel J. Richard
“Christine,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“The Parallax View,” composer Michael Small
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“The Fog,” composer John Carpenter
“Halloween 3,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth

Episode 8

“The Conversation,” composer David Shire
“Christine,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Halloween 3,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Altered States,” composer John Corigliano
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“The Fog,” composer John Carpenter

Episode 9

“Body Heat,” composer John Barry
“Dove Siete? Io Sono Qui,” composer Pino Donaggio
“Raising Cain,” composer Pino Donaggio
“Legend,” composer Tangerine Dream
“Oblivion,” composer Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese
“All The President’s Men,” composer Michael Small
“The Eiger Sanction,” composer John Williams

Episode 10

“The Dead Zone,” composer Michael Kamen
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“Opéra sauvage,” composer Vangelis


ADAM NAYMAN ON THE VISUAL STYLE OF 'HOMECOMING'

Meanwhile, at The Ringer, Adam Nayman delves into the visual style of Homecoming:

The all-around excellence of Amazon’s new 10-part thriller Homecoming has been covered already on The Ringer; not since that show about mean rich guys (I think it’s called Succession? Can anyone help me with this?) has an original series gotten so many Twitter-verified writers so excited. Fortunately, the hype is justified, at least on a level of pure craft. The Ringer’s Alison Herman correctly describes Esmail’s aesthetic as “heavily stylized, filled with split screens, overhead shots, and a constant accompaniment in an intricately composed composite of nail-biting scores,” to which I would only add—in case there’s any ambiguity—that this kind of audiovisual ingenuity is very much a Good Thing. Even in a year when directors like Atlanta’s Hiro Murai have already demonstrated serious chops in the TV format—and even without the knowledge that Esmail is trying to find a way to visualize material that began in podcast form—the Mr. Robot helmer’s bravura showmanship is worth celebrating. So how about doing it with some of the same detail-oriented focus that the show has itself? I thought you’d never ask.

The first shot of Homecoming’s pilot is also the first opportunity for Esmail and his team to play a game of spot the reference. As the camera tracks back from the aquarium in therapist Heidi Bergman’s office, Pino Donaggio’s satirically overwrought score from Dressed to Kill plays in the background. The obvious in-joke is that Brian De Palma’s 1980 thriller hinges on a plot twist involving a psychiatrist with a secret, and the shot’s slow, elegant movement copies De Palma’s style.

As the camera locks into place and Heidi prepares to deliver the first line of the show, the blinds on either side of her create a frame within a frame whose dimensions mirror the 1:1 aspect ratio used in the flash-forward scenes. Even within the reality of the show’s 2018 timeline, Heidi occupies a narrowed position, suggesting a lack of knowledge despite her authoritative position behind her desk. More importantly, the show’s visual signature has been established almost subliminally.


Posted by Geoff at 2:11 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 10, 2018 2:21 PM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Thursday, October 25, 2018
'HOMECOMING' BORROWS FROM DONAGGIO'S DTK SCORE
ESMAIL PREVIOUSLY USED DONAGGIO THEME FROM 'BLOW OUT' FOR EPISODE OF 'MR. ROBOT'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/homecoming2.jpg

According to Vulture's TV critic Jen Chaney, Amazon Prime's new series, Homecoming, which is directed by Sam Esmail, has "a score that sometimes literally borrows from older films — like Alan J. Pakula’s Klute and Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill." Here's the whole paragraph, for more context:
There are moments in Homecoming that are positively Hitchcockian, particularly with regard to Esmail’s choice of imagery. In episode three, there’s a vertical shot of Carrasco descending a flight of stairs that’s deliberately evocative of Vertigo. In a later episode, Esmail deploys a Hitchcock zoom so glorious it deserves an Oscar, even though, yes, I know, Oscars are not given to TV shows. Elements like that and a score that sometimes literally borrows from older films — like Alan J. Pakula’s Klute and Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill — infuse Homecoming with a classic conspiracy theory thriller spirit that makes it feel a bit old-school and thoroughly contemporary all at once. That’s an appropriate combo for a series based on something modern (a podcast) that has the feel of a throwback (a radio serial).

UPDATE OCT. 27 - HOW ESMAIL EXPANDED 'HOMECOMING' PODCAST INTO TV SERIES

The Wall Street Journal's John Jurgensen posted an article October 27th with the headline, "The Surreal World: TV Delves Into Paranoia, Anxiety and Misinformation." The article includes a discussion about Homecoming, and some interview comments from Esmail:

Homecoming” initially was a podcast, released by Gimlet Media in 2016 and featuring a surprisingly star-studded cast. Catherine Keener, who was the first to sign on, played Heidi Bergman, the character Ms. Roberts portrays in the TV adaptation. Oscar Isaac was Mr. James’s audio counterpart as the troubled veteran, while David Schwimmer played a hard-charging company man who launched the Homecoming program (played on TV by Bobby Cannavale).

The podcast’s creators, Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz, also wrote and executive-produced the TV adaptation. When Mr. Esmail signed on to direct it, he expanded the story for a different medium by drawing on the tense cinema of the 1970s. For example, most of the music in “Homecoming” is from that era, using scores borrowed from movies directed by Brian De Palma, Alan J. Pakula and John Carpenter.

Mr. Esmail developed the style for “Homecoming” with many of his “Mr. Robot” collaborators, including cinematographer Tod Campbell and production designer Anastasia White. They tried to create a world in which characters deal with incomplete information in settings that feel askew.

The octagonal office where Ms. Roberts conducts counseling sessions creates a fishbowl effect. “You can move the camera around and it always feels circular, like there’s no way out and anyone can look in,” Mr. Esmail says.

In an unusual visual technique, “Homecoming” uses standard widescreen shots during the scenes from the past—before the Homecoming program unravels—but narrows the frame to a square when the story flashes forward.

That adds a claustrophobic urgency to the therapist’s quest for facts, Mr. Esmail says: “Boxes within boxes.”

As a director, Mr. Esmail is known for that kind of unorthodox camera work, intentionally framing characters off-center or surrounded by odd spaces. “Sam would walk into a room and his first question would be, ‘Does the ceiling come off?’ because he wanted to shoot from above,” Mr. Bloomberg recalls.

“We want absolute control over how we design the shot,” Mr. Esmail says, especially for scenes of people in a facility designed for surveillance. “They’re under a microscope.”


In an episode of Mr. Robot two years ago, Esmail opened with a flashback using Pino Donaggio's theme from De Palma's Blow Out. The episode's intro also brought to mind De Palma's Dressed To Kill and Carrie. Here's what I wrote on August 18, 2016:
Last night's episode of USA's Mr. Robot (season 2, episode 7, "eps2.5h4ndshake.sme"), which was directed by the show's creator, Sam Esmail, opened with a flashback set to Pino Donaggio's theme from Brian De Palma's Blow Out. The theme is the first significant sound heard in the episode (after a couple of footsteps), runs over the opening title and beginning of the credits, and includes a direct homage to De Palma's Carrie, a film which was also scored by Donaggio.

The episode opens with a hint of the way Donaggio's music brings us into Kate Miller's world in the first part of De Palma's Dressed To Kill. The Blow Out theme, lush and melancholic, is accompanied by a camera (us, the viewer, a.k.a. Elliot's "friend") consistently pushing in toward Joanna Wellick, the wife of Tyrell Wellick, a character we are so far led to believe is no longer alive. The flashback is centered on a gift, earrings, that Tyrell had given to Joanna just before a social gathering. As the camera gets closer to Joanna, and Donaggio's music offers sad reflection, Tyrell appears, and even when the scene shifts to the gathering (which includes the woman Tyrell murdered last season, leaving us without a doubt that we're in a flashback), the movement keeps moving from wide shot and, with help of a dissolve, into Joanna's face, seemingly moved by the earrings, the camera eventually providing the viewer a close-up view of an earring in Joanna's ear which, via a match-cut, takes us out of pre-Tyrell's disappearance and into a more present-day, post-Tyrell flashback, where Joanna is tending to her baby in a stroller on the street.

Donaggio's theme here enters into its sparse piano portion (the part that Tarantino used for a tender texting moment in Death Proof), as the episode's opening credits also begin. An older woman is walking by, and Joanna smiles at her, but the woman turns out to be one of the many angry members of society walking around the city in the wake the E Corp hack. Targeting Joanna (and while we as viewer are still focused on the fact that she is wearing the expensive earring gift), the woman suddenly throws a bucket of what appears to be red paint onto Joanna, while shouting, "Capitalist pig!" The use of the word pig, a bucket, and the color red (whether actual pig's blood or red paint) mark the moment as an overt homage to De Palma's Carrie, as does the way Joanna then begins to scream out at the world while splattered in red, yet we can't hear her screams, only the quiet piano of Donaggio's theme from Blow Out, as the title "Mr. Robot" starkly appears overlayed upon Joanna's rage.

As Donaggio's theme trails off to its poignant final notes, the scene shifts once again into present day, as Joanna is now gazing upon a new gift set on top of her kitchen counter: a framed ultrasound sonogram of the baby she and Tyrell created. Joanna has been receiving gifts that seemingly come from Tyrell, who may be dead, and as the camera looks up from the countertop to Joanna sipping on a glass of wine as she looks down at the gift, we hear Elliot's voice ("I see you"), and for a moment, juxtaposed against Joanna's face, we sense that Elliot has been sending the gifts, and perhaps watching Joanna, until we realize Elliot is addressing us, his "friend," the viewer. Or is he...?

In any case, it is a brilliantly-conceived opening sequence by Sam Esmail. Looking forward to seeing how it all fits in once we know the truth about everything that is actually going on.


Posted by Geoff at 8:06 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 27, 2018 12:24 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, September 21, 2018
'ASSASSINATION NATION' & MAYBE DE PALMA, MAYBE NOÉ
SEVERAL TAKES ON SINGLE-TAKES IN SAM LEVISNON FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/assassinationnation.jpg

Sam Levinson's Assassination Nation opened in theaters today, and most reviews, positive or negative, seem to mention a single-take sequence of one kind or another, often mentioning Brian De Palma, and sometimes mentioning Gaspar Noé. So, here we go:

Armond White, National Review

Levinson surveys social and political controversies such as narcissism, waterboarding, and 4Chan extortion as sick jokes, but he fails to provide comic relief. A feminist gag about remaking Straw Dogs bombs: “Instead of Susan George being raped, it’s Dustin Hoffman.” “Hasn’t Nancy Meyers already done that?” It’s self-congratulatory and presumes Millennials’ unlikely cultural savvy. Through Levinson’s own cultural arrogance, the middle-class double standards look just like the banal American Beauty, and his vision of political turmoil turns into The Purge. Anarchists and lynch mobs wear masks atop masks, leading to the siege of a black family’s home staged in laughably blood-spattered imitation of De Palma’s Scarface. The capper is Lily’s declaration against hypocrisy: “Don’t take your hate out on me; I just got here!”

Rob Thomas, The Capital Times
Eventually, and unconvincingly, they focus on Lily, and the second half of “Assassination Nation” becomes straight-on horror as Lily and her friends try to escape the vigilante mob and, eventually, turn the tables on them. Levinson shoots the violence with a lot of style and energy — there’s a brilliantly staged single-take shot of a house under siege, the camera panning from one window to another, that seems a clear homage to Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out.”

But under the style there’s not much to “Assassination Nation,” and the film’s attempts at making some larger point about mob mentality or the destructive power of social media — usually a speech by one character with an American flag strategically placed in the background — feel forced. Like in the “Purge” movies, “Nation” is a commentary on how horrible other people are, while reassuring the audience that we’re not anything like that.

The film’s attempts to tie its mayhem to the #MeToo movement at the end feel about as heartfelt as Kendall Jenner joining the protesters in that Pepsi commercial. Oh, and if you don’t know who Kendall Jenner is, “Assassination Nation” is definitely not for you.


Nick Schager, Film Journal International
Masked men are soon forming posses and hunting for fresh meat—female, in particular, which shifts Assassination Nation’s focus away from pricking modern online paradigms and toward cultural misogyny. Lily, Sarah, Em and Bex (who’s transgender) are cast as prey and, afterwards, as noble avenging feminist angels. Alas, their persecution at the hands of Charlottesville-esque white psychos (highlighted by a sub-Brian De Palma-style sequence shot from outside a home’s windows) might have had more bite had Levinson not first spent so much time depicting his heroines as thoroughly awful. As with an upside-down image of a bat-wielding girl standing on the American flag while stalking cheerleaders practicing an eroticized routine in a darkened gym, everything here is laughably underlined in a vain attempt to Say Something Meaningful about contemporary teenagerdom and America. The only thing conveyed by this wildly moralizing, exhaustingly edgy film, however, is its own shock-tactic self-love.

Adam Nayman, Cinema Scope
The red, white and blue split-screen that showcases the horny, house-partying girls of Assassination Nation is the first—and maybe best—bit of neo-Godardian gamesmanship in Sam (son of Barry) Levinson’s state-of-the-union horror comedy. Suffice it to say that there are more plausible candidates to make satire great again than the guy who directed The Wizard of Lies, to say nothing of the fact that this ostensibly anti-misogynist plunge into distaff objectification and abjection, with incessant sexual violence (and jokes about rape jokes!) is written and directed by a white dude—a well-meaning one, to be sure, one who has read his Arthur Miller and duly reduced its essence to emoji-style bullet points.

So, sad face: after half the population of the city of Salem has its data hacked by an Anonymous-style e-terrorist, the men turn on the hot, horny high-school girls who’ve so shamelessly inflamed their desires via their Instagrammed existences. It’s a clever set-up, permitting the ticking of various politically correct boxes while exalting in all kinds of wretched excess, hence the entirely smug “trigger warnings” that frame the proceedings (an conceit worthy of Gaspar Noé, and all that that implies). But the more that Assassination Nation tries to be about everything—hysteria, hypocrisy, media hypnosis and, of course, Donald Trump—it sacrifices precious specificities of character and context. Plus, casting Joel McHale as the Purge-masked face of toxic masculinity isn’t as effective as, say, unleashing James Franco in Spring Breakers (yet another film that Levinson is chasing without quite catching up to). Everything you need to know about this film is contained in its most self-consciously bravura sequence, an extended, single-take home invasion that’s at once accomplished, self-impressed, sadistic, and redundant.


Jordan Raup (from Sundance last January), The Film Stage
Throughout the scattered build-up and visceral release, Levinson has plenty of ostentatious touches, some of which work better than others. During a party, he breaks down the frame into a triptych in a perceptive comment on how what should be an intimate experience is distilled into vertically-oriented, social media-ready clips apt for public digital consumption. Less effective is a single take which floats around the house as the town zeroes in on their victims. By the fifth or sixth minute, it’s clear more tension would have been felt if this was simply a well-executed series of shots inside the home.

And finally, the hosts of Build Weekend Watch end up their discussion of Levinson's film with an off-the-cuff discussion of De Palma, in which each one picks their favorite De Palma film-- and between the three of them, they manage to pick my three favorite ones... although Camilleri needs to go back and look at the pointed police station exposition scene in Raising Cain again, for sure...
Ethan Alter: There is one scene that sort of summarizes the movie, to me, and what it does well and what it mostly doesn't, is there's a long set-piece, with a bunch of Purge-like points (where everything's broken down), the townspeople are attacking the teenage girls who are running. And they're attacked at their house-- the scene is done sort of halfway between Brian De Palma and Gaspar Noé, with a lot of upside down camerawork, trying to do all-in-one-shot Steadicam where you can sort of see where they cut, but they're trying to create the impression of it all being a single-take. It should be, again, a three-minute sequence. They drag it out for eight minutes. And at that point, at about the five-minute mark, you're like, oh, okay, they're just showing off.

Ricky Camilleri: Sounds like Brian De Palma.

Ethan Alter: Yeah, there is truth in that.

Karen Han: I love him, though!

Ricky Camilleri: I love Brian De Palma, but there is definitely a sense, of, you know... Raising Cain is a movie where there are some one-shot wonders in there. Like, this is about nine minutes of just floating through a police station for literally no reason, but... God love ya, keep it up, man.

Ethan Alter: Yeah.

Ricky Camilleri: And the thing with Gaspar Noé, I love Gaspar Noé, and I love the upside down camerawork, and I love when he shocks. Because I feel like all of the things that he is doing, is, he's not putting anything on, he's just naturally who he is, and he can't help it. Love him or hate him, that's what he's going to do. It's not like he walked into a room and said, "Oh, I'm gonna be like this director." Whereas this director seems like he may have done that, and said, "Gaspar Noé." Want to move onto the next movie, guys? What do you think? Got more about Assassination Nation? We good? You wanna just talk about Brian De Palma for a little while?

Ethan Alter: Yeah, we could do that.

Ricky Camilleri: What's your favorite Brian De Palma movie?

Karen Han: Phantom Of The Paradise. Absolutely.

Ethan Alter: Oooh, good choice. Good choice.

Ricky Camilleri: Okay, we'll throw some rocks right now. What's your favorite De Palma?

Ethan Alter: It's cliché, but Carrie. Carrie is just, proto-Stephen King, proto-seventies horror, it's great. It still plays well.

Ricky Camilleri: I'd go Blow Out. The fireworks sequence in Blow Out, with the camera going around, is incredibly beautiful. I saw it for the first time on the big screen and it blew my mind.


Posted by Geoff at 10:35 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post

Newer|Latest|Older