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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 a la Mod

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Thursday, March 26, 2020
The Netflix docu-series Tiger King came into being when filmmakers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin set out five years ago to make a movie about people who dealt in reptiles. "Tiger King opens with the footage that reshaped the entire endeavor," writes Esquire's Gabrielle Bruney. "While the crew documented a south Florida reptile purchase, the buyer invited them to see what he had in the back of his van: a snow leopard." And thus the project "veered away from the reptile people,” Goode tells Bruney, “into big cat world."

According to Oxygen's Courtney Brogle, "The docuseries mainly tracks the rise and fall of Joe Exotic, a bombastic Oklahoma zookeeper who in January was sentenced to 22 years in prison for hiring a hitman in a murderous plot against a longtime animal rights activist enemy named Carole Baskin." Yet several articles this past week have wondered about another person included in the series: Mario Tabraue, who is believed to be one of the real-life inspirations for Tony Montana. As Bruney puts it in the Esquire article, "Tabraue breezily describes an informant's dismemberment, and still comes off as being among the most normal people featured in the series."

At Distractify, Mustafa Gatollari's headline reads, "Mario Tabraue Was Real Life 'Tony Montana' and Most Normal Guy in 'Tiger King'"...

The presentation of increasingly absurd and downright insane facts in Netflix's Tiger King docu-series is nothing short of masterful. Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin can't receive enough praise for the way each episode was shot and edited. The way it's paced, how much time and attention is given to each fantastical plot point is awe-inspiring, and the unprecedented access they had to the folks in the documentary, like former drug dealer Mario Tabraue, is astounding.

I don't know any other way to put this, but a man who was once one of the biggest mover of illegal narcotics in Miami — a man who was a part of all the unsavory bits of business that went into moving feel-good contraband with his father just so he could support his exotic animal habit — is one of the most "normal" people featured in the docu-series. Let that sink in.

The fact that Eric and Rebecca were able to get access to Tabraue's private zoo and feature him in the documentary is pretty significant, especially because he's an extremely private person who lives in a secure compound that's under 24-hour surveillance.

Hailed by many as the inspiration for Tony Montana in the iconic drug film, Scarface, Tabraue is now the owner and founder of the Zoological Wildlife foundation in Miami.

At the height of his operation, the Miami Herald reported that Tabraue was the alleged leader of a 10-year-long drug operation in the '80s worth about $79 million. In addition to spending money on big cats, the "kingpin" owned several machine guns and an enormous estate with a mirrored ceiling and a "throne" like Montana's in the movie with his initials emblazoned on it: MT (versus TM in the film). Like Tony, Tabraue is also a Cuban-American.

Even though Tabraue used his exotic animal import business as a cover for smuggling drugs into Florida, his love for the majestic beasts trumped his passion for hustling narcotics.

Tabraue was eventually arrested after being involved in the murder of ATF agent and informant Larry Nash. A New York Times article indicated that Nash was killed by Tabraue's cartel during a massive marijuana trafficking operation.

"A drug-smuggling ring that killed an informer and cut up his body while trafficking in a half-million pounds of marijuana has been broken, the Federal authorities said today. The ring also bribed police officers to protect their operation, said Richard Gregorie, the chief assistant United States Attorney here. At one time, the indictment charged, members of the ring used Miami police officers to collect, count and disburse drug profits," the report stated.

In addition to being charged with the murder of Nash, Tabraue was also accused of killing his first wife in 1981 after she threatened to reveal the inner workings of his drug trafficking operation to authorities. He was acquitted of this charge, but in 1989 he was found guilty of racketeering and was slapped with 100 years in federal prison.

He complied with authorities in prison, working as an informant, and was released after a dozen years.

After getting out of prison, Tabraue and his wife, Maria, run ZWF, which cares for exotic animals and offers small group tours where visitors can get a closer look his private zoo. Those who have visited the ZWF have left mostly glowing reviews and despite Tabraue's criminal past, his foundation appears to be unassailable with a huge priority placed on animal nutrition and wellness.

Although Tabraue isn't necessarily the focal point of Tiger King — Schreibvogel, Baskin, and Antle's zoos take up more screen time — it's apparent he's running a much different operation than Joe Exotic's zoo, which was not only way larger by comparison, but housed a lot more animals and, at time, found difficulty in feeding the creatures it housed.

Nowadays you can follow Tabraue's work with animals on his Instagram page, mariowildlife.

Mari Tabraue is mentioned in a review of Roben Farzad's 2017 book Hotel Scarface at Lad Bible:
The Hotel Mutiny, in Miami, was a pleasure palace where Hollywood royalty and rock stars mixed with America's most notorious cocaine kingpins. It was the inspiration for the famous Babylon Club in legendary gangster film Scarface *Say hello to my little friend*.

Now, a new book looks at life inside the hotel during its Seventies heyday. And author Roben Farzad, who has written the book 'Hotel Scarface', has given us a bit of an idea of all the bonkers stuff that led to Al Pacino and co. making a classic...

New Year's Eve, 1979, and behind the dimly lit bar at Miami's Hotel Mutiny, waitresses, hotel porters and cooks were stacking velvet whiskey totes full of cocaine.

These were the evening's tips at a legendary hotel owned by founder Burton Goldberg.

Sat amid crystal-lined tables were Hollywood royalty, rock stars and models - including Liza Minnelli, Ted Kennedy, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Eagles. But partying with them - as they did every night at the Mutiny - were America's biggest cocaine kingpins.

It was these who no longer paid staff for good service in currency. They simply - and openly - passed over wraps of drugs worth thousands of pounds.

In the Seventies, cocaine hit Miami with hurricane force and no place attracted the dealers and dopers quite like this luxury hotel in the city's affluent Coconut Grove enclave.

Among the regular drinkers were such notorious characters as bomber-spy-doper-Nazi-hunter Ricardo "Monkey" Morales, Mario Tabraue, the kingpin with leopards and a pet chimp that drove shotgun in his Benz, and Willie & Sal, the speed-racing 'Boys' who created a $2 billion cocaine empire.

For these men - and their tips - hostesses would always go the extra mile. They would hide weapons in cushions and breadbaskets. They offer discrete warnings whenever the cops were on the premises. One waitress was even adept at clicking her stilettos against new guys on the dance floor to check for an ankle holster on a suspected undercover officer.

How had a respected hotel come to this?

By 1979, South Florida was a failed state. It was raking in hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees, including thousands sprung from Fidel Castro's prisons and insane asylums. Hit men were among them, showing up in Miami with their weapons tattooed on the inside of their lips, raring for contract work.

The homicide rate was out of control. The county morgue was so overwhelmed that Burger King had to lease it a refrigerated truck for the overflow of murdered corpses. Race riots left swathes of the city in ashes.

But in its heyday, the lush, members-only Mutiny Club became an oasis within the chaos -- where you would go (if you could get in) to escape the mayhem, even while you were seated among those who were causing it and becoming rich on it.

The dopers. The beautiful women. The celebs. One hundred and thirty differently themed rooms, based on fantasies like bordellos, Star Trek and Arabian Nights. The Mutiny had it all. It was the Magic City's Studio 54.

Filmmakers Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma knew as much. That's why they themselves stayed at the Mutiny when in town to shoot Scarface, their Miami remake of the 1932 gangster movie.

Similarly, when Miami Vice started shooting in town, one drug lord scored roles on two episodes, in exchange for quality blow for the cast and crew.

But what ultimately transpired at the Mutiny was stranger than Hollywood could ever imagine.

In its decade of existence, the hotel was an unprecedented ecosystem for drug traffickers, law enforcement, celebs, spooks, refugees, parvenus, informers, and scammers, playing host to a drama of murder, corruption, betrayal, and recklessness.

It was a surreal free-trade zone, of sorts, where three generations of Cuban gangsters partied debaucherously and plotted their dominance of perhaps the single most lucrative commodity known to man.

But the Mutiny's infamous orgies and hot tubs would ultimately give way to a decade-long pursuit by the Feds. It would turn from pleasure palace to the front line in the war on drugs.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 27, 2020 8:20 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last week, The Ringer's Adam Nayman posted a social-distancing-related article, "Ten Movies That Are Better Than You’ve Heard."

"The question of what to watch while social distancing is ultimately less important than a lot of other things," Nayman begins. "But it’s also a reality that for a lot of people on self-imposed quarantine, renting or streaming movies will be a safe, significant time-filler—which is why it might be worth taking a bit of a risk in terms of what we’re watching. A case can be made that the time has never been better to rewatch old favorites or catch up with the classics, but what about some movies whose bad reputations previously made them seem like a waste of time? Here are 10 movies that are not only better than you’ve heard, but worth tracking down—and maybe talking or arguing about with your fellow shut-ins now that you’ve got the time to do so."

Nayman tops off his list at the end with De Palma's latest:


I wrote about Brian De Palma’s hot mess of an anti-terrorism thriller when it (barely) came out last year; if Domino was already DOA the second it hit VOD, it’s only been pushed further into the dirt ever since. The reason I’m recommending it again out of all the underrated movies out there is that it’s exactly the kind of film that benefits being watched when there’s time to process and think about it—to look past its thrifty production, evidence of meddling, and after-the-fact editing and look at what De Palma has to say about surveillance, governmental ethics, and violence as media spectacle circa 2020. The paradox of Domino is that on some level it’s a cheap, opportunistic, and wildly contrived genre movie. But it has enough directorial excellence in its DNA to, in some moments, look like a masterpiece, the same kind of outrageous, red-blooded entertainment De Palma was engineering at the time of Carrie and Scarface. Domino was a magnet for bad buzz and bad reviews, and yet it’ll endure on the strength of its bruised, submerged artistry.


Nayman on the Split-Screen Shot in Domino - The Ringer
Nayman - The Wild World of Brian De Palma
Adam Nayman on the "Formally Innovative" Redacted

Posted by Geoff at 7:51 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 7:56 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The photo above was taken by Doug Kuntz, and accompanies Charles' Arrowsmith's Washington Post review of Are Snakes Necessary?:
Pitched in style somewhere between a film treatment and tabloid true crime, this debut novel is silly and uneven, sure, but it’s also fun, a pastiche of hard-boiled crime fiction that doesn’t scrimp on the lurid pleasures of the genre.

Sen. Lee Rogers, the “Hunk of the Hill,” a man gifted with “Columbia Law School dazzle” but compromised by a “zipper problem,” is running for reelection in Pennsylvania. Fanny Cours, an 18-year-old videographer “in the full flush of carnality” and the daughter of an old flame of Rogers, is determined to join the senator’s campaign. Beefing up the supporting cast are ruthless campaign heavy Barton Brock, who’ll do anything it takes to protect his candidate; Nick Sculley, a photographer always on the lookout for a story; and Elizabeth de Carlo (or is it Diamond? or Black?), a jailbird-turned-agony aunt who’ll play anyone for anything. There are also a $5 million Basquiat, a remake of “Vertigo” and some implausible coincidences in the mix.

Jean-Luc Godard maintains, perhaps waggishly, that film tells the truth 24 times a second. De Palma, though, believes the opposite, and “Are Snakes Necessary?” litigates the competing claims. De Palma has spent a lifetime exploring the metaphysics of recording technology and of scopophilia, showing us how observation can deceive as much as it reveals. He has shown us the gaze, the camera lens, the telescope as mediums not just of looking but of participating, of penetrating. Think of “Body Double,” De Palma’s “Rear Window”/“Vertigo” remix, in which Craig Wasson’s voyeur becomes an accidental stooge in a murder case. Or of “Blow Out,” whose central crime is exposed when John Travolta syncs an audio recording with film footage of an accident. In both cases, the passive observer becomes the active protagonist.

Likewise Fanny, who shoots webisodes for the Rogers campaign aimed at revealing the real senator, turns out to be “the antithesis of the fly on the wall.” Fanny comes straight from the Godard school: Through her video work, she says, “I want to see, really see, the truth behind things. The naked truth.” Her more jaded colleagues are skeptical. “The camera is a come-on,” she’s told. “People instinctively flirt with it.” And sure enough, Fanny’s soon involved with Rogers and the campaign videos are starting to tell the wrong story: “Every time he looks towards the camera he’s batting his eyelashes,” her friend points out. Before long, the sinister Brock decides that something must be done about the problem intern.

Many crime writers, notably Elmore Leonard, have found ways of updating the hard-boiled genre while retaining its vim and demotic panache. De Palma and Lehman, while giving their story a conspicuously contemporary setting (Twitter, iPhones, 9/11, Ferguson), have aimed less at modernizing than simply transplanting its styles and tropes to the 21st century. As pastiche, this partly works, but it may have a distancing effect on readers.

“Her stiff yellow apron barely contains her voluptuous curves,” we’re told when we first meet Elizabeth de Carlo, the most fatale of the book’s femmes — and while she may in fact turn out to be an agent of violent female empowerment, there’s something retrogressive about her presentation. Perhaps a hint of cool irony can be detected here that some readers will enjoy, but it feels more like an opportunity missed.

The book’s chauvinistic dialogue is another sticking point. While it’s obviously an intentional stylistic effect, it feels anachronistic to see women labeled “doll” and “kid,” and it’s hard for characters to breathe when corseted by lines like “Now, be a good girl and get dressed.” Elsewhere, melodramatic overtones threaten to tip some scenes into the absurd: “This is a problem for me, Senator,” says Fanny at one point. “It’s a problem because you are married — to someone else.” It certainly lacks Raymond Chandler’s combative dazzle or the stylish malevolence of a James Ellroy.

Still, the chapters zip by with the pace and economy of scenes in a movie, and there are enough good jokes — notably the Chekhovian use of a bottle of perfume named “Déjà Vu!” — and plot twists to pass the time guiltily enough.

Scott Adlerberg, Criminal Element
We are in prime De Palma territory here; the list of De Palma protagonists who work with film or video—with images—who engage with the world through a lens of some kind, is long. While they may think they fully understand what they are seeing through their lenses, appearances can be deceptive. What the artiste-technician captures in the end, more often than not, is disturbing—even devastating. The quest to discover something, to shed light on a mystery or dig deeper into a situation, almost never, in De Palma, works out as intended.

Are Snakes Necessary? has three plot strands. One follows a beautiful young woman named Elizabeth. She gets recruited by a political operative named Barton Brock to help him conduct a dirty trick against a senatorial candidate. After that, she reinvents herself as the wife of a Las Vegas mogul, and then she reinvents herself again as something entirely different.

A second strand involves the photographer, Nick Sculley, who has dreams of publishing a photo essay book that will chronicle, in a way he imagines masterful, the progression of a couple’s relationship. He crosses paths with Elizabeth and they have an intense fling.

Last we have the videographer, 18-year-old Fanny Cours, who is idealistic and impressionable. Through a connection her mother had to the senator Barton Brock once devised a dirty trick against, she talks herself into becoming the senator’s official video chronicler for his newest reelection campaign. A series of webisodes she shoots will be posted on the senator’s Facebook page and will aim to show the public a side of Senator Lee Rogers that it has never seen before.

Things get complicated when the senator, a long-time philanderer, starts sweet-talking Fanny. She begins to fall in love with him and thinks his proclamations of affection for her are genuine. He happens to have a wife of many years, though, a woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and none of what transpires between Fanny and Rogers sits well with the senator’s fixer, the aforementioned Barton Brock.

Wasn’t Brock working against Senator Rogers earlier? He was, but this is politics, after all. Allegiances are mutable, and loyalty can be bought. Barton is nothing if not professional, and when he decides the senator must be protected if Rogers is to maintain his public reputation and win the election race he’s in, Fanny finds herself in danger.

De Palma and Lehman tell the story in the present tense, keeping the language tight but casual. The book does read something like a cross between a novel and a movie script, complete with short scenes and quick transitions. Backstory on the characters is supplied as needed, tersely, and the novel’s continual forward momentum carries you along.

De Palma’s films, the thrillers in particular, frequently have a dreamlike quality that embraces the absurd and the ludicrous, to most enjoyable effect, and Are Snakes Necessary? is no different. Through a chance meeting, Elizabeth winds up living in a place you’d never expect, doing a somewhat ridiculous job, but that plot development has a wonderful payoff in the end. What starts for Lee Rogers as a mere dalliance with a staffer turns into lurid melodrama at its finest. And when subterfuge is needed by someone, as we’ve seen in more than one De Palma film, what does the trick better than a skin-clinging mask? As explained, it’s “Some sort of rubber thing, the kind you pull over your whole head, like on Halloween. In the half-light it looks almost real.”

And, a brief Twitter post from Michael Pereira:
Finished reading Brian De Palma’s first novel Are Snakes Necessary (co-written by Susan Lehman) & it was a hell of a pulpy page-turner! Pure De Palma. A must-read for fans. Best thing he’s done since Femme Fatale.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 8:14 AM CDT
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Monday, March 23, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/coffeekoepp1.jpgDavid Koepp posted two pictures of Brian De Palma yesterday on his Instagram page, with the following caption:
Brian DePalma and I have met regularly for coffee for, like, 25 years. This was today. I brought my own chair. And my own coffee. #socialdistance #briandepalma #notesfromtheplague

Posted by Geoff at 8:14 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 22, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dionysuspremieread.jpg50 years ago today, Dionysus In '69 had its premiere at Kips Bay Theater in New York. Credited alphabetically as a film by Brian De Palma, Robert Fiore, and Bruce Rubin, it's a split-screen document of Richard Schechner's avant-garde play of the same name, which Schechner based on Euripides The Bacchae. Dionysus In '69 was staged in a New York City garage by Schechner's Performance Group as a work of in-the-round environmental theatre. Feeling strongly that it was an important work that "should be preserved on some level," De Palma approached Schechner and The Group about filming it, and they all liked the idea. De Palma put up a lot of his own money from savings, and with Fiore and Rubin (the latter recording the sound), filmed two performances in June and July of 1968.

"I was very strongly affected by the play when I saw it," De Palma told Cinefantastique's David Bartholomew in 1975. "Bill Finley had been playing Dionysus with The Group for some time. I came to see him and said, 'God, this is incredible,' environmental theatre, the way it affects the audience and draws them into the piece itself. This was the most exciting thing I'd seen on stage in years. So I began to try and figure out a way to capture it on film. I came up with the idea of split-screen, to be able to show the actual audience involvement, to trace the life of the audience and that of the play as they merge in and out of each other. I wanted to get the very stylized dramatic life of the play juxtaposed to what was really going down in that room at that time. I was floored by the emotional power of it. I shot one of the cameras and Bob Fiore the other. The editing took about a year, because I wanted to play with the different ways to use split-screen. I learned a lot and also about the kind of documentary realism that I would use later in Hi, Mom! and even in Phantom Of The Paradise."

Rubin talked about Dionysus In '69 in Justin Humphreys' book Interviews Too Shocking To Print! (2014)...

Brian called me and said, 'You've got to go see this play, Dionysus In '69,' which Richard Schechner had done down at the Performing Garage. I'd heard about it and I'd heard that Bill was in it and I found that really kind of fascinating because I heard that people kind of took their clothes off... And I went, 'That's not Bill! Bill's not going to take his clothes off in front of people!' The Bill Finley I knew was modest beyond belief and Brian kept saying, 'He's changed. He's really changed.' I was really more intrigued by that than anything else, that Bill would have changed so much. Not only did he take his clothes off, but he was buff... This guy never exercised, I thought, in his entire life, but he had turned everything around. And I think the transformation from the Bill Finley I knew prior to Dionysus and the Performance Garage to the Schechner years was one of the most profound transformations of any person I've ever known. He just became a different person: He was self-possessed in a way that I had never seen before; he was mature in a whole new way; his childlike sensibility was still there, but it had been grafted onto a person who had become really articulate, knowledgeable-- an incredible performer, audacious and daring in front of people, and bigger than life. The change was unbelievable to me. I had never witnessed that. I don't knwo if he and I ever talked about it-- I can't remember sitting down and having a conversation about it but I know we all sat and talked because we decided that we wanted to make a movie. Brian thought this would be great. Fiore would be another cameraman, I would be the sound man and editor, which was the way we looked at it. And we were going to do this idea that Brian had, which has become a signature for all of his films, which is a double-screen [split-screen], because Brian is a total voyeur, absolute voyeur, to this day, and he wanted the camera watching all the stuff that was goiong on away from the main stage-- the seductions that were going on. He really got off on it.

Bill was the one who kind of brought us all in to Schechner, and Schechner, of course, loved the idea of this preservation of a piece of work that he did. Most plays are never preserved and for him that was really remarkable. And Brian had a little bit of notoriety and Bill had the notoriety of Woton... The film, once it got made, Brian really got it to a big distributor-- a group called Sigma 3-- it was a small part of a much bigger company, sort of the art wing.

The day after the film premiered at Kips Bay Theater, the New York Times ran a review by Roger Greenspun:
RICHARD SCHECHNER'S "Dionysus in 69" played during 1968 and 1969 in a converted garage on Wooster Street. Brian De Palma made his movie version in the course of just two actual performances. It opened yesterday at the Kips Bay Theater.

Although rough in a few technical details, it is a film of extraordinary grace and power. With exceptional imagination and intelligence, De Palma has managed both to preserve the complex immediacies of Schechner's dramatic event (based on "The Bacchae" of Euripides) and to work those immediacies into the passionate and formal properties of his own creation.

Schechner approached "The Bacchae" not so much to re-interpret the play as to re-experience some of the impulses surrounding and informing it—to which end Euripides's lines were sometimes useful, and sometimes not. Schechner's troupe, the Performance Group, would by turns chant, or dance, make love, plot murder, whisper to the audience, or among themselves hold group therapy sessions.

With its nudity (partial in the actual production I saw; total in the film), its audience-participation orgies (timid and embarrassing in the production; sensual and enthusiastic in the film) and its range of theatrical invention, "Dionysus in 69" strives for a degree of sensuous presence that, paradoxically, I think it best achieves as filtered through the film.

De Palma uses a split screen, and he uses it in a variety of ways. Both sides of the screen always record the same moment in the production. But sometimes they will show different parts of the arena (the Performing Garage was a kind of multi-level theater in the round, with cast and audience often sharing spaces). Sometimes they will develop different points of view toward a single action. Sometimes they will place an apparently random event in formal perspective, and at the same time isolate important detail.

The sequences in which the chorus of Bacchantes in effect give birth to Pentheus (William Shephard) and Dionysus (William Finley, in a fine performance) is so treated, and it makes a kind of patterned energetic sense on film that it did not, for me, make in production.

And yet the film is a record of the production, slightly cut (the group therapy, blessedly, is gone), and not an attempt to extend the boundaries of theater through "cinema." Partly for this reason it is exciting as a movie, approaching its material with great brilliance and ingenuity, but never trying to supersede the material.

Between the two principal personalities involved (I'll except Euripides, who really deserves most of the credit—but in a different kind of review) a mutually enriching tension seems to exist. For if Richard Schechner's power looks the greater for being framed within Brian De Palma's cameras, so De Palma, a witty, elegant, understated young director (for example, "Greetings") seems to have found new ease and vigor and a taste for risks in meeting the challenge of this film.

The Cast

DIONYSUS IN 69, a film by Brian De Palma, Robert Flore and Bruce Rubin; directed for the stage by Richard Schechner; portions of the text adapted from "The Bacchae" of Euripides as translated by William Arrowsmith; released by Sigma III. At the Kips Bay Theater, Second Avenue and 31st Street. Running time: 86 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration classifies this film: X—no one under 17 admitted.)

Members of the performance group taking part in this film are: Remi Barclay, Samuel Blazer, John Bosseau, Richard Dic, William Finley, Joan MacIntosh, Vicki May, Patrick McDermott, Margaret Ryan, Richard Schechner, William Shephard and Ciel Smith.

Posted by Geoff at 9:11 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 28, 2020 8:43 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 21, 2020

SYFY WIRE yesterday posted a couple of Christopher McQuarrie quotes, culled from the new May 2020 issue of EMPIRE, regarding the new Mission: Impossible movie he is working on. Last month, McQuarrie had teased that Henry Czerny would be returning for the new installment, even though he has been absent from the franchise since Brian De Palma's initial film. "I realized Kittridge had to be right in a scene, and it was transformed," McQuarrie tells EMPIRE of the new one. He also describes Czerny's character as "a meddler."

The other part of the blurb SYFY WIRE has culled from the EMPIRE issue is a quote regarding Ethan Hunt going into space-- your guess is as good as mine where that conversation started. "He’s not going to space," McQuarrie is quoted. "Nor does he need to go to space. What’s beyond that? Plenty."

Posted by Geoff at 4:52 PM CDT
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Friday, March 20, 2020
CR Men's Tiana Reid posted a story today about The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye), which mentions a few films the pop star is currently obsessed with:
In 2019, Tesfaye went back to his early days, playing the Trilogy-era version of himself in the Safdie brothers’ film Uncut Gems. “I’ve been following the Safdies for years,” he says, a committed cinephile whose current obsessions include Claire Denis’ carnal thriller Trouble Every Day (2001), Brian De Palma’s neo-noir slasher Dressed to Kill (1980), Eckhart Schmidt’s West German, ’80s horror flick Der Fan, and Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money (1986).

On the big screen, he plays it douchey, “a kind of almost satirical version of myself,” he says. His fictitious double refuses to sing unless he’s in black light. He performs “The Morning” and does lines with a white girl (Julia Fox) who comments on his erection. “He’s going to be major—even though he’s from Canada,” Julia says earlier in the film. The line is played for laughs.

That “even though” is a bigger deal than it seems. Tesfaye was born to Ethiopian immigrant parents and raised in Scarborough, a region east of downtown Toronto, before he dropped out of high school, moving out to Parkdale in Toronto’s west side. For many of the young, black, brown, and poor people in Canada’s most-populous city, Toronto lacks industry connections of all kinds, affordable housing, and creative infrastructures, especially when compared to cities in the United States. In response to his upbringing, along with La Mar Taylor, Ahmed Ismail, and Joachim Johnson, the Weeknd now runs the nonprofit HXOUSE, a “Toronto-based, globally focused think-center” that works with young artists of many disciplines. Global capital obviously floods Toronto through real estate, technology, and development, but in an exorbitantly expensive rental housing market, the lofts of “Lost Music” are unaffordable. A condo company in Tesfaye’s old neighborhood of Parkdale, a 14-story new development, is eerily called XO Condos. Five-hundred-square-foot boxes, currently unbuilt, are being sold for upwards of $600,000 dollars. XO is, of course, also the name of the Weeknd’s record label, which includes Canadian hip hop acts Nav, Belly, and 88Glam.

Today, ostensibly, he’s made it. "I feel confident with where I’m taking this [new] record,” he reveals. “There’s also a very committed vision and character being portrayed and I get to explore a different side of me that my fans have never seen.” He says that the first drop, the anti-romance song called “Heartless,” follows where My Dear Melancholy left off. “It was the first song I wrote after that album, so it felt fitting for me to put it out,” he says. “I play a character in the video who becomes compromised and then overcompensates with all the sins that Vegas provides. It’s a great introduction to the next chapter of my life.” In the music video for “Heartless,” set in Las Vegas, this new character, with his Lionel Richie mustache, Herbie Hancock glasses, and a slappy grin, was in fact inspired by Sammy Davis, Jr. in the 1973 film Poor Devil. In one scene, he licks a frog. It’s an all-knowing corniness that can be a bit of a one-note gimmick, its arc to be determined by the forthcoming album.

In the final scene of the video for “Blinding Lights,” which premiered in January, this new jittery nouveau-riche character stares into the camera but also beyond it, blood between his teeth. The look is a mix of Joker and Béatrice Dalle in that aforementioned Claire Denis film he loves so much, Trouble Every Day. After a journey through a hall of mirrors, a good high, a good ass-whooping, it’s hard to tell whether he’s laughing or crying. There’s something funny and something tragic in that ambivalence. This sense that we play characters both louche and garish feels like where we are at the turn of this decade, after years when it seemed no one had a self.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 21, 2020 1:16 AM CDT
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Thursday, March 19, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakescrop.jpgTwo more reviews of Are Snakes Necessary today from the U.K. --

Geoffrey Wansell, The Daily Mail
Legendary film director De Palma (The Untouchables and Dressed To Kill) joins forces with a New York Times editor to write this engaging debut.

It’s pure pulp fiction, with a cast of characters who wouldn’t be out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Lee Rogers, a U.S. Senator, is cheating on his wife with a young videographer who is covering his campaign. Inevitably, rumours start and he asks his ‘fixer’ to sort out the mess.

The videographer flees to Paris, where she meets a photographer who is working on a new version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and who has been having an affair with the wife of one of Las Vegas’s richest men.

The stories quickly coalesce, with justice handed out in ever more lurid forms.

Told with great panache, it is richly entertaining, and the title is a homage to Preston Sturges’s film The Lady Eve, where Henry Fonda reads a book with this same title.

Jeff Noon, The Spectator
Brian De Palma brings his film director’s eye to Are Snakes Necessary? (Hard Case, £16.99), written in collaboration with the author Susan Lehman. The novel merges fierce political satire with the tale of a corrupt senator happy to cheat on his wife, despite her suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The latest object of his lust is a young videographer hired to record his campaign. Of course, things go from bad to worse and the senator is forced to call in a fixer to sort out the trouble. Terrible consequences ensue, all the way from Washington to Las Vegas to Paris. A globe-trotting sleaze-fest.

The story is pushed forward by the three drives of classic noir — sex, money and power, with the first two only seen as stepping stones on the way to the third. Everyone is either corrupt or on their way to being so. The book is giddy on its own pastiche. Yes, this is a film-maker’s novel, with the many short chapters acting like scenes in a movie and the characters painted in deft strokes, one or two emotions at a time. In truth, there is only one goal: to survive in the swamp pit. In which case, this might well be the best ever user’s manual on swamp survival.

Posted by Geoff at 6:48 PM CDT
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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

"You've got to believe in the movie when you make it." That is one of the key statements Brian De Palma makes in this terrific interview with Jake Coyle of Associated Press. Read on, also, as De Palma tells Coyle his new title for what has, up until now, been known to the public as Predator:
NEW YORK (AP) -- Movie theaters may be shuttered across the country, and projects delayed, but there is still newly released work of lurid and pulpy goodness from Brian De Palma.

The 79-year-old filmmaker has written his first work of fiction, "Are Snakes Necessary?" a crime novel he penned with his partner, Susan Lehman, a former editor for The New York Times. The book, full of snappy dialogue and sharp knives, bears plenty of the hallmarks of De Palma. Movies are baked into it (the title refers to a book Henry Fonda is seen reading in "The Lady Eve"). Martin Scorsese sums it up in a blurb: "It's like having a new Brian De Palma picture."

Just over two weeks ago, I drove out to East Hampton to meet De Palma (the director of "Carrie," "Scarface," "Body Double" and "Carlito's Way") at an inn near his and Lehman's Long Island house.

The conversation spanned his new book (a John Edwards-inspired tale about a senator having an affair with a young staffer), his grim thoughts about the advent of streaming ("The industry is eclipsing the artistry") and his plans for a movie partly inspired by Harvey Weinstein.

An abiding passion for cinema coursed through De Palma's reflections. Lately, he's been soaking up westerns. The day before, he said, he watched John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" again —- a movie De Palma, noted, that knew how to shoot a shoot-out.

Q: Why is "Are Snakes Necessary?" a book and not a movie?

De Palma: Too many ideas and not enough time to make all the movies. You write a lot of stuff that never makes it into a movie. With my partner, Susan, we just basically did it because we had fun doing it. We had never written a novel before, neither of us. I had an idea for a script I had never developed based on the Edwards campaign and the girl (Rielle Hunter, the woman he had an affair with) making webisodes, those little intimate things she shot. As I was watching this happen, being a director, you can see someone flirting with the camera. We started with that.

Q: Has the straightforward process of fiction writing been a welcome alternative to the struggles of filmmaking for you? Your last film, 2019's "Domino," had financial difficulties and wasn't released in the U.S. [a la Mod editor's note: Domino did have a limited release in U.S. theaters]

De Palma: It's a very sad situation. It was under-financed. I was there 100 days and shot 30. They weren't paying anybody and I had a whole bunch of people working for me. We finished it. But I was so disenchanted with the people who financed it ... that I said, "Guys, here it is. Good luck." And I didn't do any publicity for it.

Q: Did that sour you on making more films?

De Palma: I had never been in a situation like that except way back when I first was starting to make independent films like "Sisters," which I think was budgeted at $150,000.

Q: What struck me reading your book is how enduring your obsessions are. "Vertigo," for instance, makes a cameo. In the book, it's being remade.

De Palma: It was a very influential movie. I saw it in 1958 in Vista Vision, I might add, at Radio City Music Hall, I believe. It left a very strong impression on me, obviously. As I've gotten older and made a lot of films, I can see there's always lessons to be learned from Hitchcock the way he sets up certain sequences. And "Vertigo" is the whole idea of creating an illusion and getting the audience to fall in love with it and then tossing it off the tower twice. Very, very good idea.

Q: Are there any Hitchcock films you don't like?

De Palma: I thought the late Hitchcock stuff was not that good. When he got finally discovered by the French and all the critics started to write about him, that's when he was in his decline, I thought. I don't think he ever reached the pinnacle that he did after "Psycho" and "Vertigo."

Q: Do you think of your career as having a pinnacle?

De Palma: Sure. I've studied directors' careers my whole life. Susan doesn't like me to say this, but you get older. You have a very good creative period, but if you're making decent movies after you're 60, it's kind of a miracle.

Q: What's that pinnacle for you then?

De Palma: In my mid-50s doing "Carlito's Way" and then "Mission: Impossible." It doesn't get much better than that. You have all the power and tools at your disposal. When you have the Hollywood system working for you, you can do some remarkable things. But as your movies become less successful, it gets harder to hold on to the power and you have to start making compromises. I don't know if you even realize you're making them. I tend to be very hard-nosed about this. If you have a couple of good decades, that's good, that's great.

Q: You must have gotten accustomed to your films, years after critical or commercial disappointment, reemerging as cult classics.

De Palma: You've got to believe in the movie when you make it. The fact that the audience didn't respond to it and 30 years later they think it's a masterpiece is always gratifying. Your instincts were always right. I've always said that the movie you make is measured against the fashion of the day. That shouldn't stop you from trying to do what you think is correct, what works for you.

Q: A few years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, I saw a restoration of "Scarface" and was overwhelmed by the colors. I don't normally sit up close in a theater, but I did then.

De Palma: I did, too. I hadn't seen "Scarface" in years. I'm always amazed by the performances. The acting, it's like, "Yikes." It doesn't get old. It's extremely vivid.

Q: Do you think that kind of bold, widescreen filmmaking is still being practiced?

De Palma: The things that they're doing now have nothing to do with what we were doing making movies in the '70s, '80s and '90s. The first thing that drives me crazy is the way they look. Because they're shooting digitally they're just lit terribly. I can't stand the darkness, the bounced light. They all look the same. I believe in beauty in cinema. Susan and I were looking at "Gone With the Wind" the other day and you're just struck at how beautiful the whole movie is. The sets, how Vivien Leigh is lit, it's just extraordinary. If you look at the stuff that's streaming all the time, it's all muck. Visual storytelling has gone out the window.

Q: Is that what irks you most about today's films?

De Palma: The whole system is changing. You used to go out and make a movie. Our generation, we wanted to take over the studios. Which we did. I think what's so interesting about the generation I came up with, they got very rich, extremely rich, working within the studio system. Now, we're into this endless streaming. Everything has 10 parts and six seasons. It's sort of moved back to the old studio system where the producers and the writers are the king. The directors, who knows who directs one of these things from another? Then you have the whole Marvel universe, which is digital action stuff, all computer generated. When I made "Mission to Mars" and spent a year working on these shots with three or four digital houses -- one was working on the ship, one was working on the smoke, one was working on the dust -- I would storyboard a shot and it would keep coming back to me for a year as they added things. The shots are hopelessly expensive. You say: "What am I doing?" That's when I went to Europe and said I can't make movies like this anymore.

Q: "Mission: Impossible" is up to, what, it's seventh installment?

De Palma: Stories, they keep making them longer and longer only for economic reasons. After I made "Mission: Impossible," Tom asked me to start working on the next one. I said: "Are you kidding?" One of these is enough. Why would anybody want to make another one? Of course, the reason they make another one is to make money. I was never a movie director to make money, which is the big problem of Hollywood. That's the corruption of Hollywood.

Q: Are you still working on the Weinstein-inspired project, "Predator"?

De Palma: Yes, but I had an original title I went back to. When I heard about the whole "catch and kill" thing with the Trump scandals, I immediately said that's a great title -- long before Ronan (Farrow) got a hold of it. Fortunately, I copywrited it. So it's "Catch and Kill" now. It's basically a horror movie based on real things that have happened in the news.

Q: And inspired especially by Weinstein?

De Palma: Harvey Weinstein is part of it but being in Hollywood in the '70s, there were some abusive actions going on that irritated me quite a lot. When I was casting "Carrie," George Lucas and I were seeing every young actor in Hollywood.

Q: He was casting "Star Wars" at the same time.

De Palma: Yes, we were casting together because we were looking at all the young people. There was one director-actor who was also casting a movie and he was trying to (expletive) these girls while he casting -- which got me extremely annoyed. As a director, it offends me because the actor is just trying to get the job. To take advantage of that it, it's like a doctor doing something against the code of ethics. There was a particular actor-producer that was doing this and that's the sort of centerpiece of "Catch and Kill." The Harvey Weinstein character wanders into this. It's scary and it's fun.

Q: Do you have a target for shooting "Catch and Kill"?

De Palma: Hopefully in August.

Q: Women in your films has always been a flash point. Some have called your movies misogynistic. The bloody drill-bit scene in "Body Double" is hard to imagine happening today.

De Palma: That was the movie that was attacked relentlessly when it came out, but I can't tell you how many people come up to me and talk to me about "Body Double."

Q: Do you feel time has disproved those criticisms?

De Palma: They always considered I was somehow a misogynist director because I had women as focal points in my thrillers. Well, I'm sorry. I prefer to photograph women walking around rather than men. (laughs) I think some great philosopher once said: The history of movies is of men photographing women. I've always said: "If I have to follow somebody, I'd rather it be a beautiful woman than Arnold Schwarzenegger." I'm sorry.

Q: Hitchcock lamented never getting to film certain sequences he had always envisioned. As a practitioner of such set pieces ("Untouchables," "Carrie"), are they any you wished you had shot?

De Palma: Yes, they go into the books. I constantly point out whenever I'm asked about these long visual sequences and why they work -- and I never quite realized I was doing it -- when you have an action sequence, you've got to lay out the geography. The trouble is with 99% of directors, they don't. Hitchcock knows how to do it. I know how to do it. (Steven) Spielberg knows how to do it. (Stanley) Kubrick knows how to do it. You have to lay out the geography of the location so the audience knows where everything is before you set the action going, whether it's two armies colliding, it's a shootout in a train station or it's Cary Grant at a crossroads in the Midwest. The key is that you've got to slow everything down. If you look at every shootout you see, you have no idea where anything is. I've said this a thousand times and I think I'm the last practitioner. I'll go to the grave with it.

Q: Scorsese has wondered before how many movies he has left. What's your expectation?

De Palma: I think we're getting near the end here. I have a bad knee. William Wyler said when you can't walk, it's over with. Now, if you write these books, that can use up our creative imagination. But as long as I can do it, I will do it. But I'm not going to miss not doing it. (laughs)

Posted by Geoff at 8:13 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 9:12 PM CDT
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Last night, San Francisco native Sarah Goodwin posted the Carrie illustration above to her Instagram page, with the following caption:
I’m fine. Everything’s fiiine. 🙋🏻‍♀️
. . . . .
. . . . .
#carrie #sissyspacek #imfineitsfineeverythingsfine #covid_19 #shutdown #endtimes #stephenking #briandepalma #sarahgdrawsgood

Posted by Geoff at 8:14 AM CDT
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