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a la Mod:

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

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

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

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

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

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

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The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

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a la Mod

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

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Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

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(Blow Out)

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Deborah Shelton
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De Palma a la Mod

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

"In 2016," Adam Nayman explains at The Ringer, "the Toronto-based author and my friend Kevin Courrier was working on a book proposal based on a lecture series he had started entitled Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors, an examination of the past six decades of American cinema organized by various presidential administrations. Kevin passed away in 2018 after a long illness without writing the book, by which point I had taken over the lecture series. It is out of respect to him and the many long conversations we had on the topic that I’m introducing a monthly essay series at The Ringer that looks at the direct and subtextual representations of U.S. presidents and their social and political impact, beginning in 1960 with the campaign and election of John F. Kennedy and continuing through October to the Age of Trump—ending on a cliffhanger that may or may not have a sequel. By integrating some of Kevin’s film selections with more of my own, it is my hope to simultaneously reexamine a series of classic American movies and call attention to some neglected titles to further the idea of cinema as a fractured funhouse mirror that distorts and reflects in all directions."

The second part in the series, "States of the Union, Part 2: A Failure to Communicate," covers 1964-1967, "as Lyndon B. Johnson took office—just after JFK’s assassination and just before the Vietnam War." Even so, Nayman finds space in there to touch on Brian De Palma's 1968 film, Greetings:

Both box office hits, neither In the Heat of the Night nor Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was necessarily an explicit shot across Johnson’s bow: For that, you’d need to survey the margins of American moviemaking, where subversives were marshalling a belligerent resistance to LBJ’s efforts. The president’s central role in forming the Warren Commission to investigate the Kennedy assassination—and identify Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone shooter—was critiqued in Emile de Antonio’s 1967 essay-documentary Rush to Judgment, an adaptation of a book by lawyer Mark Lane that stands at the epicenter of subsequent conspiracy theories. De Antonio, the son of Italian immigrants who attended Harvard alongside JFK, would grow to be a thorn in the side of two consecutive U.S. presidents, lambasting Johnson via selectively edited clips in 1968’s scabrous In the Year of the Pig, which castigated American involvement in Vietnam, and 1971’s Millhouse: A White Comedy, which the filmmaker claimed earned him an (unofficial) place on Richard Nixon’s famed enemies list. In tackling JFK’s death and Vietnam, de Antonio distinguished himself as a genuinely contentious documentarian, adopting the fragmented, fractious filmmaking language of the French New Wave and applying it to his home turf.

Occupying an even more formally audacious space—and drawing direct parallels between Kennedy’s death and America’s overseas quagmire—was the young Brian De Palma, whose 1968 comedy Greetings was styled as a faux-vérité picaresque about three draft dodgers (costarring an impossibly young, handsome, and game-for-anything Robert De Niro) traipsing around New York City, hooking up, pulling scams, and getting off on their own voyeurism. The film opens with television footage of Johnson proudly addressing the country, proclaiming “I’m not saying you’ve never had it so good, but that is true, isn’t it?”—a dubious claim of prosperity rebuked by the remainder of De Palma’s wild counterculture farce. In the film’s incredible centerpiece sequence, a conspiracy aficionado played by Gerrit Graham pores over a photo spread of the Zapruder film and traces the trajectory of the fatal bullet on his half-conscious girlfriend’s body, a bit of choreography conflating sex and violence (and physics and pornography) in such a full-frontal manner that the movie was branded by the MPAA with a dreaded X rating. In a way, De Palma’s broad, politicized version of sketch comedy anticipated Saturday Night Live by a decade even as its style and tone were closer to the contemporaneous provocations of Jean-Luc Godard, who skewered Johnson and his policies in 1967’s La Chinoise, about a group of young Maoist revolutionaries plotting in Paris.

Already ensconced as the great modern auteur of French cinema by 1967, Godard had been lobbied by Warren Beatty to direct his upcoming gangster-Western hybrid Bonnie and Clyde; he declined, and Arthur Penn—a devotee of the French New Wave with Hollywood-style chops—stepped in and delivered one of the most influential American movies of the era, if not of all time. No less than the staunch hero of Cool Hand Luke, Bonnie and Clyde’s namesakes (glamorously inhabited by Beatty and the stellar, statuesque Faye Dunaway) took aim at the status quo, albeit as career criminals rather than misunderstood martyrs. What gave the film its power—and marked it as a piece of work closer in spirit to Godard, De Palma, and de Antonio than to In the Heat of the Night or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner—was its reluctance to flatter its audience.

No sooner has the viewer come to accept the Barrows’ thefts as bloodless, Robin Hood–style high jinks than the senseless, bloody death of a bystander recalibrates our moral compass; by the time the movie reaches its indelible finale, our judgment is once again rerouted by the excessiveness of the pair’s execution by an FBI death squad, a blood-soaked set piece collapsing the gap between Psycho’s shower scene (quoted via Dunaway’s desperate reaching out at the moment of her death) and the Zapruder film, with a little bit of Fail Safe in the form of birds taking flight right before the shots are fired. If it’s possible for a film’s ending to feel at once ambiguous and definitive, Bonnie and Clyde leaves the viewer feeling torn apart without necessarily knowing why. Its mix of lyricism, brutality, and ambivalence would seep into other landmark titles of the late 1960s, as the impending changing of the political guard only deepened the ideological fault lines at the center of American life—and cinema.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2020 3:57 AM CDT
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Nick McLean, the cameraman who, early in his career, worked frequently with Vilmos Zsigmond, discusses his work on Brian De Palma's Obsession and Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot in a new book he has co-written with Wayne Byrne, Nick McLean Behind The Camera:
Obsession was one of those rare opportunities, it was a chance of shooting in Florence, Italy, and in New Orleans, plus it meant getting to work with Vilmos again. It starred Genevieve Bujold, who i was already friends with because I had dated her sister back in the old days; they looked very alike but her sister really had her head together, unlike Genevieve, who was a bit of a maniac back then.

Cliff Robertson was another really good actor who made that film a pleasure to work on. He used to have this really smart ritual before each scene in order to get an idea of how he was going to be lit: Once the lights were set up, he would take a mirror to his face and he would walk exactly where his character was due to walk during the scene, and he did this in order to get a reading on the kind of light we would be using. I've never seen anybody else do that. If he found out that something was overexposed or there was something he didn't like, he would have us get on it and change it. I remember another great actor on that film who was just starting out: John Lithgow. He has gone on to have an amazing career and was an absolute professional.


De Palma has a lot of interest in the framing of his films and he can be very meticulous when he's working out a scene with the camera department. We would have a lot of discussions with Brian talking about the look of the film and he would give a lot of input into the compositions; he is the kind of director who likes to know exactly what you are going to shoot. But despite all the planning and precision, there's always the risk of something going wrong, especially when you are away on location and you are working with foreign crews. As such, we were presented with various problems. There was one scene where we had an incredible natural light from the sunset and we were rushing to set up the equipment and capture the scene with this amazing light, but the Italian crew were taking their sweet time and just said, "Don't worry, the sun will go down again tomorrow." We were going crazy trying to get the camera ready to shoot but the Italians didn't care, but with Vilmos and De Palma working on it, we got it. Another scene we had some difficulty with was the church scene with Genevieve. We really wanted the interior of that church but couldn't get permission and kept trying different ways of going about getting it, and then on the last week of shooting in Florence this Catholic nun came in and said, "I will get it for you." We said, "What do you mean? We've tried everything!" and she replied, "For 100,000 lire I will get it for you." It turned out she was the bishop's mistress, so with the money and with the connection, she got us into that church. That's the kind of stuff they don't teach you in film school!


De Palma went on to have an amazing career. It's like when I worked with Spielberg, you don't know beforehand that these guys are going to turn out to be major directors. The way I chose a lot of these films is just based on whether I liked the people; if I got along good with them in those first couple of meetings, I'd do it. It just so happens that they end up becoming these huge figures in Hollywood. But there was one director that I did make a deliberate effort to work with and that was Alfred Hitchcock. A lot of people were saying De Palma was the new Hitchcock but I actually got to work with the original Master of Suspense on Family Plot [1976].


I was a pretty hot camera operator at the time, a lot of people liked my work and so I was in demand quite a bit. One day I got a phone call from Hitchcock's cinematographer, Lenny South, and he told me that they had fired their camera operator. Now this guy was a very good cameraman but something was getting lost in communication between Hitchcock, Lenny and this guy, so they had to let him go. Lenny asked me if I would come in and audition for Hitchcock, which is something you don't do, but for Hitchcock I said, "I'll be there in a flash!" So I went in the next day. We were up in the mountains and Hitchcock would stay back and watch us setting up from the front seat of his car, a Lincoln Continental. He wouldn't get out of the car so Lenny would go up to the car to speak to Hitchcock about the shots, the car window would be cracked just enough for them to converse with each other. So seeing as the first camera operator got fired because he wasn't listening to what Hitchcock was saying to Lenny, I would make sure to go along and listen in so I knew exactly what he wanted. Hitchcock was very precise and would tell you exactly where he wanted his frame lines: "Lenny, I would like a close-up with the top of the frame line here and bottom of the frame line here"-- that was the kind of thing that the original camera operator wasn't listening to and therefore wasn't framing his compositions to the exact instructions that Hitchcock wanted, which meant he didn't last too long on the film. But I did listen in on these conversations between Hitchcock and Lenny so i knew exactly what to get and he was very happy with that.

You had to dress well on a Hitchcock film. I'm not talking suit-and-tie kind of deals, but a nice coat and neat pants-- and here I come, a Levi's guy. But for Hitchcock, I dressed up and looked the part. So I'm on the set and I'm told about the scene that we're going to shoot, which is a car going down this winding road and off a cliff. I say, "Okay, that's fine, but where's the other cameras?" And I'm told, "You're it! Hitchcock hires the best, and here you are, so you better get it!" Now I'm thinking, "Jesus, what if I miss this shot?" Most directors would have ten cameras on a shot like that, but we had one and that was me. I hadn't spoken to Hitchcock all day, and I'm getting ready to shoot when I hear the shuffling of feet and a chair pulling up beside me and it's Hitchcock; he says into my ear, "I presume your machine is functioning properly." In other words, "You better not screw this up!" So we start rolling, the car goes off the cliff, and we get the shot ... perfect! So Hitchcock gets up and walks away, never says a thing to me, he didn't even look through the camera lens because he knew exactly whether you got the shot or not just from observing how you moved the camera. He trusted that I got the shot and then got up and walked back to his Lincoln Continental when it was done. He never said a word, he just got up and shuffled away. Hitchcock really was the Master of Suspense because, boy, was I sweating it!

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 7:03 PM CDT
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Monday, April 20, 2020

Josh Lewis, co-host of the Sleazoids podcast, tweeted the other day that he was watching Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars for the first time. Posting images from the film's twister scene, of an astronaut being spun and ripped apart in the eye of the storm, Lewis tweeted that "this seems like a less than optimal way to go all things considered." In a followup tweet, Lewis wrote, "lotta replies to this are traumatized people saying their parents or school had them watch this because it was technically a disney movie lol."

Boredom Cultivator then responded, "Everyone says this movie is terrible but I watched it as a kid and there were multiple scenes that stuck deeply in my memory. I actually haven't re-watched it since but if it accomplished that I'm assuming it did something right." Lewis then added, "I liked it a lot!"

More responses followed:

Mark Asch: "a beautiful masterpiece, god-tier filmmaking, one of the greatest movies ever made"

DJSCheddar: "there are movies that I saw as a kid long before I ever knew anything about anything, but that despite not being big business or whatever, really stuck with me. this is one of them, to this day. really special"

quarantined fka ☕️ , fka ☕️: "I distinctly remember watching this with a friends family and all of them HATING it whereas I was p onboard"

the bane (the ape 🦧 parody): "dunno if the whole thing works but it goes hard"

Grafton Tanner: "Loved it when it came out. Haven't seen it since but looks like I need to"

Michael Snydel: "Remember being traumatized by this exact scene in the theater."

Will Mavity: "Man and he someone got that thing under the wire with a PG when you were having stuff stamped with a PG13 for 'thematic elements'"

Jake: "Best De Palma movie based on a theme park ride. At least until Disney drops their BLOW OUT attraction next to the Hall of Presidents."

Alex: "Haha oh man, I remember watching this as a little kid and the shot of Woody getting his face insta-frozen still sticks in my mind."

Jesse Hawken: "A handful of good scenes! Also: Guyliner Gary Sinese"

tsai ming-lad: "this goes so hard. great movie"

The Hipster Llama: "Ah I love this movie!"

Logan: "my favourite DePalma!"

Tyler Harford: "movie’s kinda underrated. has some of De Palma’s brilliant camerawork and i enjoyed its campiness and unintentional comedy."

OnryFans: "My high school had a series (8 - 12, can’t remember exactly) of bomb threats fall of my junior year. They’d check the auditorium first then stuff us all in there until it was over. We watched this once."

Chloe: excited to see how u feel about this one. moved me a lot."

Jesusfreak!: "Don Cheedle doing peek Cheedle before it was a thing."

billy: "Saw this in theaters at like age 8 and that scene ruined me"

The Scenic Route: "Still haven't forgiven this movie for mixing up chromosomes and base pairs."

Smarter than Every Economist: "Hahah this traumatized me as an 11yo"

Paresh Maharaj: "I remember seeing this movie in theaters but this is the only thing I remember (except maybe the ending)."

Collector of Unwatched Blurays: "Just watched this scene, and yeah, how did this get past not just the classification board, but also DISNEY?!"

C reel: "Man I saw this in the theaters when I was 10 this scene fucked me up"

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2020 8:26 AM CDT
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Sunday, April 19, 2020

"Live from my living room, surprise Saturday stream starting in a few minutes," Sasha Grey tweeted last night. "Vinyl only starting with salsa & Latin then maybe some funk on http://twitch.tv/sashagrey". The twitter post included the image above, which shows Grey sitting in her Los Angeles living room, in between two very large framed posters for Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise and Brian De Palma's Blow Out. The latter appears to have been signed by De Palma himself. A recording of Grey's live Saturday stream can be viewed on her Twitch TV channel.

In 2014, Grey starred with Elijah Wood in Nacho Vigalondo's Open Windows. When The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern told her that Open Windows "seems to combine the voyeuristic Rear Window conceit with the whole 'cam girl' phenomenon," Grey responded: "I think Blow Out was more of an inspiration. But with the cam girl thing, it’s interesting because there were a few girls who did this in the ‘90s when no one was doing it, made millions, and retired. But now, with the advent of Internet porn, people can see professional-quality material online, and now we’re regressing and going back to not caring about the quality. But the fascination goes back to having a connection with the person you’re watching and having this “intimate” experience. It’s a need to satisfy the soul. The Internet has brought us together globally, but also separated us. And people now don’t have that intimacy in their real lives, so they go online."


Sasha Grey in the house of Body Double

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, April 20, 2020 12:23 AM CDT
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Saturday, April 18, 2020

At Le Devoir, François Lévesque discusses how the split-diopter, or bifocal lens shot, "constitutes a real balm at a time of social distancing." The bifocal "makes it possible to play with distance via the simultaneous development of two elements, however isolated, in the front and in the background," writes Lévesque.

The article, with the headline, "So far, so close, the secrets of proximity in the cinema," includes image frames from Brian De Palma's Carrie and Blow Out. Lévesque discusses De Palma as "the undisputed master of the bifocal" --

The key is there, in the juxtaposition. De Palma’s work is replete with examples where the bifocal has not only narrative but psychological value. In Carrie, you can see the reaction of popular student Tommy (William Katt) at the front of the classroom and that of the ostracized Carrie (Sissy Spacek) in the back after reading a poem. Here, the bifocal makes it possible to “unite”, literally and figuratively, two students who seemingly separate everything.

In Pulsions (Dressed to Kill), Peter (Keith Gordon) sits in the police station waiting room while, beyond the bay window behind him, Detective Marino (Dennis Franz) and Doctor Elliott (Michael Caine) discuss the murder of his mother. The teenager, using a listening device, hears everything that is said in the office, and De Palma visually expresses this sound concept by using the bifocal: in the foreground, Peter listens, and in the background, the two men distill useful information without the sequence appearing explanatory.

A similar scene and intent can be found in Blow Out when Jack (John Travolta) in the hospital listens to two hard-pressed political advisers. In the left part of the plan, the profile of Jack in close-up, and in the right part, the advisers who are plundering further: in the ambient hubbub, Jack concentrates on a conversation concerning him; we hear what he hears, we enter his head. Note: a great montage of fifteen bifocals that the film contains was produced by Vashi Nedomansky (vashivisuals.com).

In Mission: Impossible, there are several segments filmed in bifocal, but one of the most memorable is that where the operator of the computer kept in a Langley vault returns earlier than expected: we see him from below, in the foreground, while Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hangs just above him. Will Hunt be caught in the bag? Suspense by amplified proximity...

In short, the bifocal gives more information in a single plane, in addition to highlighting the nature of the relationship between different characters, whether friendly or antagonistic. Or in love? Certainly. We think of the magnificent Paris, Texas, of Wim Wenders, and this sublime passage where Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), having found the elusive Jane (Nastassja Kinski), talks with her on the phone without her, on the other side of the peep show booth where she works, knowing who he is.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 7:08 PM CDT
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Friday, April 17, 2020

Melbourne illustrator Nick Charge designed this beautiful alternative poster (above) for Brian De Palma's Body Double. Meanwhile, The Pod Charles Cinecast podcast has devoted its latest episode to Body Double. A post at the Prince Charles Cinema Instagram page reads like this:
Hello! It's Jonathan (@tall4all) here from @ThePCCPodcast. This week on the podcast myself and co-host Fil (@dogz_i_metz) are joined by the The PCC Podcast's very first guest—all the way back from Episode 2 (The Warriors)—Front of House member Tamsin Cleary!⁠ ⁠

Tamsin is an incredibly knowledgeable student of film and aspiring film essayist. As a fan of cult cinema, Tamsin sat with us (via video chat) to discuss 1984's #BodyDouble and the psychosexual thrillers of Director #BrianDePalma. ⁠

Steeped in #Hitchcock influence, pals with New Hollywood legends #StevenSpielberg, #FrancisFordCoppola, #MartinScorsese and #GeorgeLucas, and a career that has seen more ups and downs than a rollercoaster; Brian De Palma may be one of the most underrated directors of his generation. This 88 min instalment takes a look at one of his most bonkers films; where 36 years on, we are still left wondering why it features a video for #FrankieGoesToHollywood's "Relax" smack-bang in the middle.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, April 18, 2020 9:18 AM CDT
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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gwen Ihnat interviewed Patricia Clarkson for The A.V. Club's "Random Roles" column, wherein actors are not told beforehand which roles they will be asked about. Thankfully, Ihnat asked Clarkson about her first film role, in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables:
The Untouchables (1987)—“Ness’ wife”

AVC: Your movie debut was in The Untouchables as Kevin Costner’s wife. That seems like quite the get for a debut.

PC: It was my very first movie, yes. I went in and auditioned for the casting director, the great Lynn Stalmaster. Beautiful man. Gave me my biggest break of my life—the first big movie. And he said, “Come back and meet Brian De Palma. But don’t be glamorous. You know, remember this is a Midwestern girl.” I was like, “Okay.” And I came in with a sweet little dress on and no makeup, and there was Brian De Palma. And he read Eliot Ness with me.

And the next thing I knew, like, the next day, they said, “We’re going to fly you to Chicago to meet Kevin.” I said, “Well, I’m in the middle of a play.” I was doing House Of Blue Leaves on Broadway. And they flew me in the morning, like on a Friday morning or something, and then they flew me back to make the show. Thank god Chicago is a quick flight. And I met Kevin Costner, and they told me right then and there in the room that I had it.

And Kevin hugged me, and my agent didn’t believe me at the time. “No, no, no, Patty, they don’t tell you.” He said, “Don’t—don’t get too excited.” I was like, “No, no, no! He told me I got the part!” And it was so sweet and lovely, and I had such a beautiful time. I have such a love still, a soft spot, for Brian De Palma. He gave me the first break of my life. He was very kind to me and added me to the courtroom scene. I was broke, and he added me to the courtroom scene, which meant I had to be paid for a whole month. Which was like, “Oh, my god!” I was like, “Brian, I love you!”

And Kevin was a doll, and I’ve seen him since, of course, and we always hug. He was really involved in post-Katrina in my hometown of New Orleans. He’s beloved there, and he’s a beautiful man, and still beautiful. He was hot then, hot now. [Laughs.]

The Dead Pool (1988)—“Samantha Walker”

AVC: You followed that up with another movie with another icon: Clint Eastwood.

PC: I was in—that’s the last Dirty Harry movie. I kept thinking, “C’mon, Clint, you’ve had all these movies. Do one last Dirty Harry. And bring back the journalist you had a crush on.”

I mean, that was—what a job. My father was beside himself. He couldn’t hang up the phone fast enough to call every single friend of his to tell them that I was doing a movie with Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry—I was going to be in a Dirty Harry movie. Some of my more New York friends were like, “Really?” I was like, “Yes.”

And I was cast off-tape. Clint Eastwood doesn’t meet in person. I just did a tape, sent it in, went into a casting director, and was cast. Showed up in San Francisco. The first time I met him—oh, my god—was in a big restaurant by the Wharf, and the producer and the cinematographer were there, and I got there, and I was waiting, the three of us. And suddenly, I hear screaming. I mean screaming. We’re at the back of the restaurant, and I hear screaming. And I turn around, and there’s Clint Eastwood walking through the restaurant, and it was—you know, the king had arrived. It was crazy. And he sat down, and he was incredibly dry and cordial and lovely.

I had a beautiful time working with him. And he’s very quick. So some of what you see in that movie is one or two takes, I’m not kidding you. He’d be like, “Was that good for you?” And I’d be like, “Wait, it it it—yeah? I think it was good.” “Okay, okay. Moving on! Moving on.” I’d be like, [Exasperated sigh, laughs.] “Yeah.”


Patricia Clarkson on meeting Brian De Palma

Posted May 10 2004
Seventeen years after her film debut as the wife of Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, Patricia Clarkson's career is having a resurgence. An interview article at the Washington Post discusses Clarkson's voice, "her most arresting feature." Described by the author as a "throaty" and "husky" voice that harkens back to the screen sirens of the 1930s and 1940s, Clarkson tells how she would walk into auditions "blond, pretty, whatever. But then I'd open my voice and they'd say, 'Hmmm.'" The article then mentions De Palma as "one director who wasn't put off," casting Clarkson in The Untouchables. "I think he liked that I looked a certain way and I had this voice," Clarkson told the Post. "Brian is irreverent and brilliant and funny and I think he just kind of liked it." Clarkson is pictured here with De Palma at the Tribeca Film Festival in May 2002.

Posted by Geoff at 10:48 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 16, 2020 10:52 PM CDT
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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Criterion announced today that it will release a new 4K digital restoration edition of Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve on July 14, with many special features, some old, some new. Of course, Sturges' film is where Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman take the title of their first novel from, and there are a handful of new reviews of the book from earlier this month:

Sam Tyler, SFBook

There is a certain flavour that a good pulp noir novel should provide and Are Snakes Necessary does this from the very start by introducing us to Brock. This is a self-centred man who starts the book thinking about is aching privates after an operation. So far, so pulp. Rather than stick with just the one character, this is an ensemble piece that shares the limelight equally among three or four characters. Other smaller roles are given time to shine as well.


This means that the characters are more rounded than in almost any other noir that I have read. You learn the motivations for a senator, his wife, his intern, his fixer, the women he hired for a con and that women’s lover. It is a potent mix but does lead to this being a slow burner. I found the sense of place and characters enthralling enough that I enjoyed the sedate pace. It has the feel of a Robert Altman film as you just followed interesting people around.


The noir elements don’t come to fore until the end. The various threads can play out and only come together as the tension rises. A remake of Vertigo plays a part in the end and it is that film that the book takes its style from. There is an enigmatic quality to the book as you follow characters who do not all seem to have a direction. The conclusion shows that De Palma and Lehman did have a destination in mind – the Eiffel Tower.

If you are used to your pulp noir being naked bodies and guns, then Snakes is not quite for you. The book does have these, but it is more about characterisation and story development. It feels like Wag the Dog written by Carl Hiaasen on one of his more acerbic days. To get the most from this book you must enjoy the journey. The duo of authors fills the pages with nice quips and asides that you would expect from the genre. It certainly lacks a little pace in places and perhaps there were one or two too many characters, but there is no denying that this is an accomplished read that will have fans of character development in good cheer.

Steve Taylor-Bryant, The Dreamcage
Whilst written within the Hard Case Crime kind of style, that 50’s – 70’s pulp detective novel, it is very much a modern story with iPhones, and vlogging, but it's also a timeless tale with its heart in the past books of the publisher. It's witty, it's tense, it's extraordinarily clever, and yet reads in short, snappy sentences, letting your imagination fill in any blanks. It's more of a film treatment or script overview than a traditional novel but having words on a page play out a De Palma cinematic gem in your minds eye is no bad thing. Some may not take to the succinct style and that’s fine, each to their own, but if you read Are Snakes Necessary? from cover to cover I guarantee your life will feel the richer for it.

So you can see where that’ll lead to too. Nick will ultimately end up in Paris working as a behind the scenes photographer on a remake of Vertigo, (which was based on the novel D’entre les morts by French crime duo Boileau-Narcejac). Paris is also where the novel will reach one of two climaxes – yes two!

So we have the fixer, the philanderer, the photographer, the ingenue and the woman scorned. Five well-fleshed out characters that intertwine more intensely as the novel goes on, although I was mostly interested in Elizabeth and, to a slightly lesser extent, Nick, than the others who were more stereotypical. I enjoyed the elements of political satire and the dark soap opera of the plot, done with tongue in cheek. De Palma and Lehman mainly let the characters drive the narrative for around two thirds of the book’s 240 pages before ramping things up in Paris, and then an extended coda. I enjoyed the more slowburn start and middle more than the latter stages of the book, especially the final chapters, which frankly, stretched the limits of plausibility a bit.

If you were expecting the more violent side of De Palma, this novel has its moments, but it’s not that kind of noir. There is moral ambiguity in abundance in the manipulation of and by key characters, and I sped through the pages. There was a cinematic feel to many of the scenes, but apart from the obvious Hitchcock homage and many possible influences at one key location which I shan’t reveal, I didn’t spot many other obvious references. (The title of the novel apparently comes from a book Henry Fonda is reading in the Preston Sturges film The Lady Eve.) In summary, this novel isn’t perfect, but it is definitely an engaging read. (7.5/10)

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In Bret Easton Ellis 1991 novel American Psycho, Patrick Bateman mentions that he has seen Body Double 37 times, renting it repeatedly on VHS. Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner's film adaptation, which was produced by Edward R. Pressman and released twenty years ago today, in 2000, does not explicitly reference Body Double, opting instead to show that Bateman is watching porn in one scene and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in another. However, an article today by Manuela Lazic at The Ringer suggests that the dance moves by one of the characters "are clearly inspired" by the dance in Body Double:
Bateman’s reflection and appearance are crucial to him in a pathological and modern way. Harron cleverly turns his lengthy morning routine into a cosmetics ad selling you an entire lifestyle. Bale’s descriptive voice-over speaks in velvety tones as a delicate piano (by John Cale) bathes the scene in luxurious serenity. Bateman’s sculpted body is presented in full as it is perfected through exercise and lotions. His outward appearance is the modern ideal, which he also confirms for himself by videotaping his straight sexual encounters, for which he carefully selects sex workers for their looks (one of them is asked to dance, and her moves are clearly inspired by Melanie Griffith’s in Brian De Palma’s 1984 erotic thriller Body Double, a film all about the illusory power of images). These moments, too, are athletic workouts: In the midst of acrobatic poses, Bateman winks at himself in the mirror, triumphant. He is the ultimate “boy next door,” as his fiancée Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) calls him: the poster boy for individualistic upper-class America.

See also:

Scott Tobias, The Guardian
American Psycho at 20: a vicious satire that remains as sharp as ever

Adam Pliskin, Elite Daily
The One Line In American Psycho That Will Completely Change The Way You See The Film

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:56 PM CDT
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Monday, April 13, 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/biggoodbye.jpgA few days ago, CrimeReads posted a brief chat with Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman about their novel Are Snakes Necessary?. When asked what is currently on their nightstand, the pair replied: "The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson. The Blue Angel by Francine Prose."

Regarding the cover art for their novel, De Palma and Lehman told CrimeReads, "The publisher initially showed us cover art that featured a girl in a bikini. We objected. There are no bikinis in Are Snakes Necessary? We love the current cover."

Here's a bit more from the interview:

CR: The story and hardboiled themes of Are Snakes Necessary? seem to fit neatly in your diverse repertoire, but what made you decide to explore these themes in a book, instead of a film?

BD & SL: I have more ideas than I can ever make films from. It seemed like it would be fun to try this as a book—though the story would obviously make for a good movie too.

CR: Your films draw so much on rich cinematic lineages of Hitchcock, Godard, and Antonioni—how does your writing draw on your filmmaking inspirations?

BD & SL: I started as a writer, not a director. I wrote many screenplays before I directed any movies. So I tend to think in terms of structure and plot and dialogue. A book also requires description—of characters and locations—and cleverly constructed prose. A new challenge.

CR: What was the genesis of the novel? Was it inspired by anything in particular?

BD & SL: We wrote the book before Trump was elected. It was inspired by two political scandals, the John Edwards scandal and the Gary Condit scandal which involved a Congressman and an intern who mysteriously disappeared.

Posted by Geoff at 7:57 AM CDT
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