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Domino is
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Exclusive Passion
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Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
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Thursday, May 13, 2021
HENRY CZERNY TALKS TO /FILM ABOUT MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
FISH TANK SCENE, WORKING WITH DE PALMA, TOM CRUISE, DALE DYE, ETC.
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/kittridge1.jpg

Josh Spiegel at /Film has posted a terrific interview with Henry Czerny, looking back at his role in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible:
What was the audition process like for the first Mission: Impossible?

I met with Brian de Palma [and] read for him. I’d already done Clear and Present Danger. This was another Paramount movie, so they had an idea of what happens when I’m playing [a character from] the CIA or whatever head. Anyway, I auditioned for Brian, and then I went off to do a film in Brazil. Halfway through that film, I got a call that Brian and Tom and the rest of them wanted me to come in and [play] Kittridge for them.

Did you have any connection growing up as a fan of the original TV show?

I did indeed.

As I rewatched the film, I was reminded that you get to deliver some very memorable dialogue associated with the show, such as “Your mission, should you choose to accept it”. How did it feel for you to bring this iconic dialogue to life on the big screen?

I was very tickled. My brother and I used to watch the show, so it was fun to share that with him specifically. Just the idea that, lo and behold, in the journey that [I’m] on, you’re going to be guy that says, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” in this Hollywood blockbuster? OK. OK, cool. That’s another flavor that I’ll enjoy.

What was it like to work with Brian De Palma?

For me, he was a visualist. One of the things he’s known for are his setpieces. Some would say [they’re] derivative, but everything’s derivative on some level. In terms of creating tension in a Hitchcockian way, he’s terrific. The break-in to the CIA is extraordinary, I think. And the lead-up to trying to find Ethan Hunt in the [apartment] building that we were in, in Prague where that was shot, was terrific. And of course the sequence in the Chunnel is extraordinary. You put Tom Cruise and Brian De Palma together, and you’re in for a good show.

Is it true that there wasn’t a finished screenplay when the film began shooting?

Kind of, yes. As a matter of fact, I went in to do the “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” prologue, I think, three times. I went up to Lucas’ ranch [Skywalker Ranch] just outside of San Francisco to [redo] voiceover for that. They were just trying to clarify some of the mission that people were confused about in some of the screenings. As a matter of fact, this one [Mission: Impossible 7] is even more fluid than the original, I remember. It’s pretty hard to imagine that on such a large-budget film, but one of the great things is that you get to go with a certain flow, depending on what’s showing up that week, to do with weather or locations or what actors are bringing. Both Tom and McQ [Mission: Impossible 7 writer/director Christopher McQuarrie] are extraordinarily adept at capturing something that seems to be more interesting than what might be on the page.

Going back to the first one, with the idea that the script might be constantly changing, do you roll with that as an actor?

No, I certainly don’t just roll with that. [laughing] I like to dig down. When action is called, I don’t want to have to be remembering my lines. I want to just forget that I even learned them and they show up in the moment. I’m not exactly Method, but I want the thing to fall out, as if you were that person. So that was a challenge. The aquarium scene, the “Red light/green light” scene – obviously, there was a lot of dialogue for Kittridge in that. The dialogue came not too far away from the day we were supposed to shoot it.

It was changing a little bit here and there. The gist of it was pretty much locked down a few days before we shot it. So I just spent a lot of time with the script, going over and over and trying to figure out where the nuances were. And why [Kittridge] was saying what he was saying, and all the sort of great stuff one normally does, just in a truncated amount of time.

What was Tom Cruise like as a scene partner?

Very focused. He was and always is. He’s profoundly focused, not just as an actor but as a producer. In anything he does, he commits to it 110% as it’s happening. You can see that in the stunts he does, in the preparation for the stunts he does. He doesn’t mess around. There is a certain playfulness about it, but when action is called, there’s no messing around. We’re gonna jump in here, as deeply as we can given the genre. So that was thrilling. It was great to act opposite that.

You mentioned the Hitchcockian tension, which comes to a head in the aquarium scene, as your character makes it clear that the opening setpiece was a mole hunt, and Ethan’s the presumed bad guy because he’s the only survivor. How did you work on achieving that tension – with dialogue coming so soon before the shoot – as the audience realizes Ethan’s on the run for the rest of the movie?

First of all, you have to lay in a belief that you have found the problem in the situation. And it’s your job to deal with that problem expeditiously and thoroughly. That’s the first thing, which is at absolute odds to what Ethan brings to the scene. Ethan’s point is, there’s a problem here. Kittridge’s point is, there’s a big problem here. And by the end of the scene, they both realize that each other is the problem. All the characters to a certain extent create heat for Ethan. Kittridge’s job is to put a fire within Ethan’s mind to solve what’s going on. He can’t use the CIA or the Impossible Mission Force to do it. He’s got to do it on his own. I had to come in with a surety, and make it clear to Ethan that his days as a mole are over.

You mentioned DePalma as a visualist in terms of your experience as an actor. I’m thinking about the canted angles he prefers, especially in this scene where the camera must have been placed at your feet looking up at your face.

Definitely. It was up the nose, [so] we made sure that there were no nose hairs that were going to keep people’s attention away from the scene.

That goes against the traditional shot/reverse shot angle for dialogue scenes. What was it like for you, knowing that you’re focused on the tension with the camera not in a normal location for the actor or the viewer?

That was weird, for sure, because one’s never been shot from that angle. But you know why he did it? To keep the aquarium in the frame at all times, to help with that tension. Ethan may be sinking in a pool; he’s a fish in a fishbowl. And of course what happens at the end is a [big] payoff. But basically, you just focus on what’s going on, what your character wants, what they’re getting back. Focus on that and let that fly.

And if there’s a problem with the delivery, or if the particular angle isn’t working or, or what you’re doing is not working given the particular angle, hopefully you have a director [who] will be able to explain it to you in a way that you can have somewhere in the back of the mind. So the next time you do it, you’re aware on some vestigial level that there’s a different approach necessary, even though the endgame is still the same.

I don’t want to play to the camera. Some people do. “You want my face? I’ll give you my face more.” And some people say, “Well, no, I wouldn’t do that.” Sometimes you’re in the midst of that usually in a television show.

While the first chunk of the film was shot in Prague, that restaurant with the aquarium was a set, right?

Yeah, it certainly was. It was in England. That was Pinewood Studios. That was not in Prague.

At the end of the explosion, it looks like you ducking over as the water is let loose – was it you or a stuntman?

Yes, that was just a big barrel of water. I think we reset the main event twice. There are bits and pieces that you pick up along the way. Once you’ve got the scene, all the essentials, then you go in and pick up what you can or what you want. If you have the time – and on these films, usually you do have the time. So, Kittridge being overwhelmed with water was basically a close-up again, of almost the same angle, camera protected, and a big bucket of water, a big barrel of water just off camera, coming down over some stuff and onto Kittridge.

What was that like? What was the feeling of having that barrel of water dumped on you twice?

Well, you’re part of the team. If you look at what Tom’s doing, and now that we have the franchise to look back on, this was just the beginning of what he was going to do over the next 25 years. His commitment and his wanting to be in the octagon, if you will, as the stuff is flying has become his trademark. That’s something he wanted to do. He doesn’t say “Yeah, I’ll be in my trailer while the stunt guy does my stuff.” No, [he] wants to do as much of it as [he] possibly can because that’s the thrill of it. There’s something about doing [stunts] in real time, as opposed to in the studio, months later with CGI and Tom is very much like that. So if he’s doing it, you know, I’m going to take a bucket of water, big deal.

As I was watching the film again, I was really struck by, as you said, this being the start of Tom Cruise doing something death-defying. I have to imagine that was pretty intense.

Yeah. And frankly, I don’t know how they got insurance to do some of the stuff. The stunts are becoming so incredibly amazing and require a great deal of precision. They prepare for months for some of the stunts he’s doing now. I’m not sure how long they prepared for [the aquarium], but certainly as he’s running out of the restaurant, there are any number of things that could not go the way they have gone in rehearsals and in preparation for the week ahead of it, and that’s Tom doing it. So there’s a lot of nail-biting when action is called and dude’s got to do the thing and run around the glass. They try and pepper it with rubber glass, but still. One slip and we’re not shooting for a few weeks. But they make sure [stunts] are as safe as they can be, but there’s always an element of risk to them. The outcome may be somewhat contrived, but the particulars within the road to the end of that outcome can be quite painful. And if not executed well, could send you to the hospital.

You spent a lot of time on the film with actor and ex-military man Dale Dye. What was it like to have him by your side, especially since your character has a kind of a love/hate relationship with Barnes?

Well, these are the colors that you bring to the rainbow of Mission: Impossible. You know, Kittridge gets bested by Ethan. So Kittridge tries to best somebody else. You know, generally in life, you’ve got a manager who’s being barked at by the CEO, and then he or she comes in and starts barking at the people under her or him to get rid of that feeling. I mean, Dale was terrific. I loved having him around because here’s the guy that – you know, do we have guns in the scene? Yes. How do we hold them? You know, we went through training to a certain extent, but to have somebody who’s been through it, on this fantastical ride – this is not the way the CIA operates generally, of course – but to have someone who’s been in the real field to just tweak it here and there within the genre that we’re shooting is invaluable. Yeah. It was lovely.

There’s so much dry humor to how you bring the dialogue to life. In terms of the direction, was there a sense of how the character’s personality would come to life? Or was that a choice that you made?

I think that’s a choice I made [laughing] because of my sense of humor to a certain extent, which can be overwhelming sometimes for other people, never for me. But also because I try not to deliver people who relish being bad guys. I think everybody wakes up in the morning thinking they’re not going to do that today, or if they are, there’s going to be something they love about what they’re doing. And the people who are the other end of the stick deserve it on some level. But the genre demands that we have good and bad to a certain extent. But one tries to flesh it out, as much as you can without tipping the genre. So, humor, if I can, will go in there.

I know that this iteration [Mission: Impossible 7] has perhaps more depth, but at the same time, a little more humor in it. Simon Pegg brings a beautiful color of humor to the franchise. It was lovely to see that nourished and blossom in the franchise. But…what’s the word I’m looking for? [The humor was] infused on purpose, let’s say. It was a conscious effort.

When the film opened, it was a big success. Was there any hope or expectation you had that Kittridge would find his way back in the second movie?

Yes, there was. How candid can I be here? Let’s see. Not that it’s all that important because it’s about something that’s in my imagination. I’ll give you a long story. So, [on] Clear and Present Danger, there was no time [to prepare]. When this came up, I thought, “Well, I best go to the CIA and see what the heck these guys really do if I can.” So I made appointments and I went to Langley, visited people and chatted about Clear and Present Danger.

And they basically talked me through how stuff might work. Of course, nothing classified, nowhere near it. I know it’s a fantasy project to a certain extent. This is not the way it works, but it’s kind of the way it works. So [they said] “Here are the particulars that we can share with you. We’ve got a liaison that will walk you through.” So that was great. So I put that in my pocket thinking when I come to the next iteration where I’m supposed to portray someone from that agency or the like, I’ll know more about it.

So I got the [Mission: Impossible] script, which was somewhat fluid. And I was new to Hollywood. This was my second big film. I thought, “Well, that’s my job.” And it has been my job in the past. I was in the theater for 10 years. You know, when you’re doing a new play, a workshop, you go away, you study up on who you’re playing and you bring bones to the writer. You dig them up and you bring them in. Some are used, some are, “No, thank you very much.” I tried that on Mission: Impossible, and of course it didn’t fit because it was not that kind of film. And it took me a while to figure that out. So as a young and full-of-it actor, I [thought] “Well, that’s interesting. They’re not really using all the stuff I brought them.”

We shot the film. That was all fine. That was great. Afterward I had a meeting with Paula Wagner [Mission: Impossible producer and Cruise’s former agent]. Even if I went on for 30 seconds, that would have been too long, given where I was in Hollywood at that time, about how we might really want to revisit Kittridge, given this and that. I have a feeling I just dumped a lot of dirt on top of me at that lunch.

So they moved on to Anthony Hopkins, thank heaven. And they had a different Kittridge each [film] and I think that was part of the plan. I think everybody was going to go, including Ving [Rhames]. They decided at some point to hold on to Ving’s character, as a part of the maypole, if you will, around which the rest of it dances. So I kind of burned my own bridge there. And lesson learned. Not “Don’t do your homework.” By all means, do your homework as much as you can, pack your bags, bring them, open your bags. And if anybody’s not interested in what you’ve packed, fine, just close them up and enjoy that you’ve learned a bunch of stuff. Just deliver as much as you can in the genre that you’re in.

With Mission: Impossible 7 delayed again, it’ll be 26 years for you between appearances. What was it like getting the call to return?

I got the call, by the way, 25 years to the day, practically.

Wow.

25 years almost to the day. I was in Brazil in mid-January in 1995 [when I got the first one]. And in 2020 in mid-January, I got a call from my representative saying that McQ wanted to talk about bringing Kittridge back. “What do you think?” [I said,] “Where are the clowns?” And they were serious. So I had a chat with McQ and he was very candid. “Look, I don’t know exactly, but I do know I wanted this character back. I want to dig around with Kittredge. Are you up to it?”

I thought about it for a couple of minutes and said “Let’s do it.” One of the cool things is, what has [Kittridge] been doing all these years? McQ wasn’t all that concerned about that. I was. I decided that he’d been to all the agencies on some level or other, had a good idea now of how the game is played and what his place is in this mechanism of national intelligence. I figured he’d been through all of them at this point, and he’d been schooled by Ethan 25 years ago. He’s known Ethan, he’s known he’s done these things, and he knows that Ethan is someone to go to, but he also feels that it’s not ever good to have one person controlling anything.

So that plays out a little bit. There’s a respect, but at the same time, it’s like fire. We need fire because we’ve got to cook, but you got to be careful with it. If you let fire do what it wants, you’re in trouble. The relationship that they had in the first one, Ethan schooling Kittridge on who the mole really was and catching the mole, was the springboard to 25 years of Kittridge going through different agencies so he wouldn’t be schooled again.


Read more of the interview at /Film.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 12, 2021
IMAGE ECHO - FROM 'SISTERS' TO 'RABID'
TO GO ALONG WITH THE 'CARRIE' POSTER SEEN IN CRONENBERG'S FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sistersrabid.jpg

Shots from David Cronenberg's Rabid (1977) that show Marilyn Chambers walking past a poster of Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976) have been popping up on the internet for years, but this is the first time I remember seeing the comparison above, between De Palma's Sisters (1973) and Cronenberg's Rabid. It is starting to seem like early Cronenberg, Scanners/The Fury and all, were undeniably influenced by De Palma. The above image set comes from Horror Über Alles on Instagram.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 11, 2021
'POETIC TOUCH' - ROGER DURLING ON 'SCARFACE'
ARE THE TWO BABYLON HITMEN ALSO ON THE BUS WITH TONY & MANNY?
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/babylonhitmen.jpg

Roger Durling, the executive director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, has taken to writing film "recommendations" as the Covid-19 pandemic began last year. A few days ago, he posted one for Brian De Palma's Scarface. "For your information," Durling states in the review about the two hitmen hired by Frank Lopez to assassinate Tony Montana, "the two assassins are shown to you earlier in the film, as they’re seated in front of Tony and Manny on the bus to Freedom Town. Nice poetic touch, since Tony himself is offered a green card to make a killing." I had never considered this before... is Durling correct? Here is Durling's review:
Dear Cinephiles,

“Okay, here’s the Story. I come from the gutter. I know that. I got no education, but that’s okay. I know the street, and I’m making all the right connections. With the right woman, there’s no stopping. I could go right to the top.”

I can’t recall a film that has grown so much in stature as “Scarface” (1983). When it first opened it was received with mixed to negative reviews. SBIFF’s beloved friend Leonard Maltin wrote that it “”wallows in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours, and offers no new insights except that crime doesn’t pay.” It went on to become a box office hit, and to inspire other films, and it has had a lasting impact on hip hop artists. When the film was re-released in 2003, director Brian De Palma nixed Universal Studios’ attempt to replace the original soundtrack with a rap score.

I was in cinema heaven back in 1983, fresh out of high school and seeing it at the Ziegfeld movie palace on West 54th street. At the time, I was seriously puzzled by the critics’ reaction to the work. “My father took me to the movies,” says Tony to the Feds, explaining his knowledge of the English language. “I watch the guys like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, I learn how to speak from those guys. I like those guys.” I believe the original detractors were turned off by the fact that Tony is ruthless, unscrupulous and fearless. He doesn’t change. It’s an unrepentantly decadent and amoral world we navigate for the entire running time. There are no redeeming qualities in this thoroughly unattractive protagonist. He’s laser focused on his greed and ambition, and that’s why we root for him. It’s a bitter take on the American dream.

There is one scene that caused walkouts even before it was finished: the notorious chainsaw sequence leads you to believe that you’re seeing graphic details of dismemberment. De Palma has the camera drift past the action unto the street and then return. Things transpire out of sight, but the built up tension is there, and I can imagine it proves unbearable for some to imagine what actually happened. Throughout the film there’s a sense of inevitability in the journey of Tony. The house of cards that he’s built (in this case it’s a gaudy, opulent mansion of gilded marble stairs and questionable taste which by the way was shot in Santa Barbara at El Fueridis) will ultimately fall down. It’s gravity.

It’s vulgar, excessive, decadent entertainment. There are some extraordinary set pieces besides the aforementioned botched drug deal. The shootout at the Babylon Club and the altercations that precede it are tremendous. The location is bathed in pink neon lighting, and repetitive mirrors line up the walls recalling Orson Welles’ “Lady from Shanghai.” Two henchmen wait to pounce on a strung-out on cocaine Tony. A creepy comic with a grotesque mask – “the one and only Artemio” – dances with the crowd, and the machine guns explode. (For your information, the two assassins are shown to you earlier in the film, as they’re seated in front of Tony and Manny on the bus to Freedom Town. Nice poetic touch, since Tony himself is offered a green card to make a killing. )

The music by composer Giorgio Moroder, who has won three Academy Awards including one for scoring “Midnight Express” (1978), captures with its electronic sound Tony’s cold and unrelenting drive at 156 beats per minute. It’s one of the most memorable. The song “Push it to the Limit,” which is used to demonstrate Tony’s rise in wealth and position after he kills Frank Lopez (a fantastically sleazy Robert Loggia) and takes over as the head cocaine traffic in Miami, has been used to score dark horse characters in “South Park” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” amongst many other instances.

This is still my favorite De Palma work with his signature slow sweeping, panning and tracking shots, through precisely-choreographed long takes lasting for minutes without cutting. Study the infamous scene in the bathroom. It’s delicious. He knows how to tease. The finale that threatens to derail into kitsch is perfectly over-the-top recalling Macbeth as the forest of assassins moves in on him. In this testosterone-filled environment, the two women in Tony’s world make an indelible impression. A very young Michelle Pfeiffer – rail thin and eyes like a shark – is his trophy wife, and she’s heartless and a perfect object of desire for him. As Tony’s incestual obsession, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is heartbreaking as the innocent sister who goes to the dark side. And what can I say about Al Pacino as Tony that hasn’t already been said? It’s a master class in total commitment, the accent, the swaggart, the physicality, they are absorbing. It’s on the verge of the precipice but never becomes a caricature. It’s miles apart from his quiet work as Corleone.

Tony Montana : “You wanna f*%k with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!”

Love, Roger



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Monday, May 10, 2021
/FILM LOOKS BACK AT 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE'
"AS MUCH A DE PALMA FILM AS A CRUISE FILM"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/mipremieremag.jpg

"As much fun as the film continues to be," states /Film's Josh Spiegel states in his look back at Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible, "its handling of Claire as…well, anything really, is its greatest miscue, and one that gets grosser with time, as in a moment near the end where Jim refers to his wife as 'the goods.'" Is this a weird FASHION OF THE DAY sort of criticism? "Gets grosser with time"?

A villain is a villain, and Jim Phelps is a particularly bitter and jealous one here. After quoting the Bible to Ethan Hunt, he (perhaps desperately) tries to dig it in that he purposely sent Claire to do the dirty work with Ethan. Whether Ethan is buying everything his mentor is trying to boast to him is another matter altogether. Calling it "gross" is perhaps this article's most questionable miscue.

Claire's involvement in the whole scheme is compellingly vague and mysterious, as she seems genuinely torn by competing impulses. Perhaps she's "living life at the gut level," with tragic consequences.

Aside from all that, an interesting look back at the film, I suppose. Here's an excerpt:

That’s the first 25 minutes of the tightly wound and constructed Mission: Impossible. But just as you might figure a film starring Tom Cruise – especially at this stage of his career – would really be about Tom Cruise, you might figure that a thriller directed by Brian de Palma has something up its sleeve. Just as it appears that the mission has gone off without a hitch, one by one, the members of the team are offed – by bomb, by knife, by strange sharp object descending from the top of an elevator. (Hasta lasagna, Emilio Estevez.) De Palma, the New Hollywood cohort of Coppola and Martin Scorsese (each of whom had directed Cruise a decade earlier), had long balanced his distinctive tendencies and influences, complex and often adult sensibilities, and mainstream success. So in the same vein as his being selected to direct the tense 1987 adaptation of another TV series, The Untouchables, De Palma got to try his hand at this one too, quickly making clear that the TV inspiration didn’t mean he wouldn’t make Mission: Impossible as much a De Palma film as a Cruise film.

So about 25 minutes into Mission: Impossible, the team of many turns into a team of one. The task at hand – recovering a list of undercover agents’ fake and real identities before the list gets into the hands of terrorist organizations around the globe – is completely ruined…until Ethan learns that the whole mission was a mole hunt to rifle out the sole survivor. The scene in which Ethan realizes he’s been set up as the IMF mole, and must go on the run to clear his name, is a perfect balance of Cruise’s sensibilities and De Palma’s. It’s a relatively simple back-and-forth, as supercilious CIA director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) lays out what seems like a pretty airtight case against our hero. But the dialogue, growing more suspenseful, is a buildup to a watery climax, as Ethan employs a useful gadget: a stick of gum that can be used as an explosive when smushed together, here detonating an explosion in a swanky Prague restaurant with aquariums aplenty so he can make his escape.

Some of the hallmarks of Brian De Palma’s work are absent from Mission: Impossible. It’s one of the least lurid films of his career, far less sexy (either intentionally or subtextually) in its depiction of a kinda/sorta love triangle between Jim, Ethan, and Jim’s wife Claire (Beart). As much fun as the film continues to be, its handling of Claire as…well, anything really, is its greatest miscue, and one that gets grosser with time, as in a moment near the end where Jim refers to his wife as “the goods.” But that scene with Ethan and Kittridge both visually and verbally, tracks with many of the helmer’s predilections. The true setup of the film, even as it favors Cruise, is a pitch-perfect way for De Palma to pay homage once again to Alfred Hitchcock; Ethan Hunt is the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time, accused of crimes he didn’t commit and forced to clear his name with increasing desperation. And the way De Palma films the scene is vintage, with the camera not only closing in on both Cruise’s and Czerny’s faces, but doing so via canted angle, as if the camera was placed at their feet, not over their shoulders.

Though Mission: Impossible is the rare PG-13-rated film in the director’s career (a few of his efforts, including Mission to Mars, were rated PG), the visual elements throughout the film mark this as a true De Palma effort. There are touches like the canted angles at the aquarium restaurant, split-diopter shots, and the constant use of disguises – not just a hallmark of the show, but of films like Phantom of the Paradise and Dressed to Kill. (And nowhere else in the franchise can you find the truly odd image of Tom Cruise in disguise as an old Southern-accented U.S. Senator arguing with political gadfly John McLaughlin.) And then, of course, there’s the centerpiece sequence of Mission: Impossible, in which Ethan, Claire and their new cohorts, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), break into the headquarters of the CIA to retrieve the real list of agent names and aliases right underneath the agency’s collective nose. That sequence takes place, as Ethan hisses while in an air vent, in “absolute silence.”

Each Mission: Impossible film has at least one truly indelible image in which Tom Cruise either re-cements his status as a movie star or tries to reshape it ever so slightly. There’s no doubt what that image is in the first film: it’s the sight of Ethan Hunt dropping spread-eagle to the floor of a highly secured CIA vault housing the aforementioned list of agent names. By holding out his arms and legs, it’s as if Ethan (by which it’s more accurate to say Cruise himself) can stop himself from hitting the ground by sheer force of will. Tom Cruise’s career is marked by images of him in movement, from sliding across the floor of his house in his skivvies to flying a fighter jet because he feels the need for speed. But Ethan’s ability to be relaxed and desperate all at once, in such a fraught situation, may be the most unforgettable image associated with the performer.

That piece of action goes hand in hand with Ethan’s explosive escape from the aquarium restaurant in establishing an important piece of the puzzle of this series: Tom Cruise doing his own stunts. On one hand, the stunts in this film don’t seem as death-defying as that of climbing up the side of the tallest building in the world or hanging on the wing of an in-flight airplane (as we will see in later films). But those stunts only became possible after Cruise dangled from a wire and literally saved his own hide by catching a bead of his sweat in a gloved hand. The sense of the thrilling is communicated here, as it is in the other films in the series, specifically because the audience is visually informed that an extremely famous person has put himself in harm’s way for entertainment.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 11, 2021 5:25 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 9, 2021
PAUL HIRSCH ON HERRMANN, ELFMAN, JOHN WILLIAMS
AND LexG's "BRIAN DE PALMA LIGHTNING ROUND" - PODCAST LINKS


In the latest episode of the Light The Fuse Podcast, Paul Hirsch talks briefly about almost working on Taxi Driver, and also several composers: Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, and a bit about moving from Alan Silvestri to Danny Elfman as composer for Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible.

Meanwhile, the latest episode of The LexG Movie Podcast has LexG letting loose on a "Brian De Palma Lightning Round." LexG has very vague notions of the earliest De Palma works, so he zooms through most of those works, and he goes on mostly recollections of having seen most of these movies however long ago he's seen them (he hasn't gone back to watch anything specifically in preparation for this episode, so several times, he'll ask a bit of forgiveness if he gets some details wrong or misremembers something). As a "lightning round" discussion, it's a fun sort of ride.


Posted by Geoff at 7:40 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 8, 2021
CHRIS MARTIN LEARNS ABOUT PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
"WHAT AN AMAZING ANSWER TO AN INNOCENT T-SHIRT QUESTION!"


In the video above, Toronto-based radio broadcaster Alan Cross interviews Coldplay's Chris Martin. In the final minute, before saying goodbye, Martin asks the host about his T-shirt:
Chris Martin: And let me ask you: I love that you have "Swanage" on your T-shirt. What is the significance of that?

Alan Cross: Oh! This is my sister's tribute band. My sister is a... Well, I'm from Winnipeg, Manitoba, originally. Uh, that is the city on the planet that is the biggest, has the biggest fan base for the movie Phantom Of The Paradise.

Chris Martin: Right...

Alan Cross: Brian De Palma film from 1974.

Chris Martin: Okay...

Alan Cross: And my sister has even got a Phantom Of The Paradise tribute band... Swanage was the name of the mansion where Paul Williams' character, named Swan, lived as he tortured poor Winslow Leach into making a cantata for the opening of his club, called the Paradise.

Chris Martin: What an amazing answer to an innocent T-shirt question!

Alan Cross: I will get you a T-shirt.

Chris Martin: [laughing] Thanks, man.



Posted by Geoff at 10:52 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 8, 2021 11:39 PM CDT
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Friday, May 7, 2021
UP IN A TREE - PAUL HIRSCH RECALLS 'RABBIT' ROUGH CUT
AND THE BITTER STRUGGLE FOR TREE SCENE - DE PALMA WANTED IT OUT, THE PRODUCERS WANTED IT IN
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In between Hi, Mom! and Sisters, Brian De Palma went to Los Angeles to make his first studio film at Warner Bros., Get To Know Your Rabbit. Paul Hirsch, who had edited Hi, Mom!, found himself back in Manhattan, cutting trailers for a "fly-by-night company" run by Sig Shore, as Hirsch describes in his book, A long time ago in a cutting room far, far away.... (out in paperback as of this week). In chapter four of the book, Hirsch, who had been editing a trailer for a film called Detective Belli, tells of meeting up with De Palma in late 1971 (almost 50 years ago) and attending a screening of a rough cut of Get To Know Your Rabbit, which would end up being released in 1972, a long delay after De Palma had been fired from the movie and locked out of the editing room:
The negative for Detective Belli was to be made in a lab in L.A. from materials supplied by the Italian distributor, and I was dispatched there in late 1971 to make sure everything was copacetic. Brian De Palma was also in Hollywood then, editing his picture Get To Know Your Rabbit. It was Brian's first studio picture, and he hadn't been able to hire me to work on it because I wasn't even in the New York union, not to mention L.A.'s.

I called him to say I was in town. He invited me to come see a rough cut of his movie, which he was screening that afternoon out at Warner Bros. I went and watched the picture with Brian, his editor, and his producer. When the house lights went up, all eyes turned to me, since mine were the only fresh eyes in the room. The producer asked me what I thought, and I tentatively offered that there was one scene in particular I thought they could do without, a scene in which Tommy Smothers is up in a tree.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, a silence fell on the room, and I could feel a kind of tension. Brian thanked me, and we made a date to get together for dinner later. He explained to me that night that the scene I had mentioned had in fact been the subject of a bitter struggle between Brian and the producers, Brian wanting it out, them wanting it in. They wrongly assumed that Brian had told me what to say. I went on to give Brian a more detailed list of suggestions, which hadn't seemed appropriate to offer in front of anyone else.

I returned to New York and shortly thereafter left Sig Shore's employ.



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 8, 2021 1:04 AM CDT
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Thursday, May 6, 2021
VOGUE PARIS - THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BATHTUBS IN CINEMA
INCLUDES TONY MONTANA'S IN 'SCARFACE'
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"It's hard to get more decadent and famous than the titanic-esque bathtub in Brian De Palma's cult film," says Vogue Paris' Jade Simon about the bathtub in Scarface. "The size at least matches the ego of the main character, played by Al Pacino." The article is titled "Interior inspiration: The most beautiful bathtubs in cinema," and includes seven bathtubs. Here's a couple more we'll throw in right here, just for fun:


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 7, 2021 8:37 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 5, 2021
FLASHBACK - TRAVOLTA REMEMBERS MAKING 'CARRIE'
AND CHRIS HEWITT INCLUDES MARGARET WHITE IN LIST OF "7 BEST MOVIE MOMS"...
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There is oddly no mention at all of Blow Out, but thanks to Rado for sending along this 10-minute-long Yahoo! Entertainment on Facebook Watch video from February of 2020, in which John Travolta recalls some of the significant roles from his career.

"What I remember about it is, it was fun to be on that set," Travolta says in the video, in regards to Brian De Palma's Carrie. "I didn't realize how significant that movie was going to be. Because not only, it got two Oscar nominations, and became a contender in history for maybe one of the better horror pictures ever made. It launched me, but it satisfied a lot of film history. This was a movie where, not unlike Grease, it was just a bunch of young, new actors, that were joining some thoroughbreds, and having at it. You know, and De Palma at the helm, and all for, all about fun. So, I think Carrie was an important movie on many levels, for sure. And the movie was a far more well-made movie than I had anticipated it would be. You know, it became an instant classic."

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune's Chris Hewitt includes Margaret White in his list of "7 best movie moms"...

In an homage to another scary movie mother, "Psycho," teenage Carrie (Sissy Spacek) attends Bates High School. She's bullied there but things are worse at home, where her zealot mother (Piper Laurie) terrorizes her. Laurie is brilliant in Brian De Palma's thriller because it's clear this unstable mom believes she's doing her job — protecting her daughter.

And one more article appeared this week about Carrie:

Eric Eisenberg at Cinema Blend
Adapting Stephen King's Carrie: Is The 1976 Horror Movie Still Queen Of The Prom?

As any Stephen King fan can attest, it’s a pretty magical thing to see the Master of Horror’s work properly realized on the big screen, and Brian De Palma’s Carrie, even more than 40 years after its original release, is not just still excellent, but reigns as one of the all-time great King adaptations. It locks into the disturbing heart of the seminal novel, making you feel every ounce of its protagonist’s pain, and burns images into your brain with its legendary third act – from the site of Carrie on stage drenched in pig’s blood, to the slamming doors, to people being burned, electrocuted, and crushed. No CGI required; just simple, practical effects, and it leaves an everlasting impression.

While it was made with a nothing budget, the film is visually spectacular, with cinematography that is both smart and stunning, and editing that is striking (the use of split-screen in the climax is a brilliant stroke, as you only feel more enveloped in the chaos as your eyes dart back and forth across the screen). The movie is most famous for its chaos, such as the brilliant hand-held camerawork as Carrie emerges from the gym showers desperate for help from any of her peers, but aesthetically it’s also gorgeous and poetic, with striking moments including Carrie being relegated to the background in an early classroom scene, her literally thunderous confrontation with her mother, and Margaret’s dead body holding the same position as the St. Sebastian statue in the prayer closet.

Not exactly being an epic (of which Stephen King has written many), the real power of the material comes from its characters, and the performances delivered by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are still flooring. Laurie’s Margaret remains one of cinema’s great psychologically terrifying villains, driven to pure madness by her zealotry, and Spacek both breaks your heart and sends chills down your spine when she reaches her breaking point. The movie doesn’t have the capacity to give the audience the full access to the Whites that the book does – for example, deeper insight into Margaret’s religion-driven psychosis, the story of how Carrie was conceived, and incidents from the girl’s childhood – but thanks to the actors’ genius turns you can perfectly read and understand their damage and pain as though it were psychically communicated.

It may not be traditionally frightening, and probably won’t induce nightmares in modern audiences, but Carrie remains haunting and affecting. Combined with its incredible significance in the history of Stephen King adaptations, it’s notably impossible not to put it on a pedestal, but that’s also exactly where it deserves to be. It’s a deeply dark and disturbing story as the author originally wrote it, and while the film presents a very different experience, it’s a masterclass in cinematic horror.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 4, 2021
THE BIG PICTURE PODCAST - TOP 5 SPY MOVIES
TWO OF THE THREE HOSTS INCLUDE DE PALMA'S 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' IN THEIR TOP FIVE
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On this week's episode of The Big Picture podcast, hosts Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbins are joined by Chris Ryan to bounce around each others' picks for top five favorite spy movies. Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible makes a strong showing on both Fennessey's and Dobbins' lists, and is discussed with enthusiasm. Other films mentioned include Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Alan J. Pakula's The Parallax View, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate, Frankenheimer's Ronin, Sydney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor, Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, Terence Young's Dr. No, Sidney J. Furie's The Ipcress File, and more.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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