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

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

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

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

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

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
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Carrie...A Fan's Site


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Scarface: Make Way
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De Palma a la Mod

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

At RogerEbert.com, Carlos Aguilar asks Gaspar Noé, "Can you trace your interest in using split screen to a particular film or piece of art that you encountered before you started working on Lux Æterna in 2019? Or was this an aesthetic choice that was born specifically for this premise?"
As everybody else, I had seen many movies with the split screen effects. Movies from the seventies, like the ones of Richard Fleischer, like “The Boston Strangler.” I had also seen movies by Brian De Palma with split screen since, but probably the movie that impressed me the most about the use of split screen is a movie that was not released in the states, but it was released in France, although it was an American movie. In France it was called “New York 42nd Street,” but in America the name it had was “Forty Deuce.” It was a theater play that Paul Morrissey adapted into a film with two cameras. I guess it was for legal rights that it was not released here. You can barely find it on a bootleg DVD with French subtitles.

I was a film student when I saw that feature film that was shot from the beginning to the end with the split screen and I said, “Wow, that looks great. It's a great idea.” Unfortunately, they didn't really think how to make it more powerful. And so, I’ve had that movie in mind all my life. When I started shooting my previous movie “Climax,” the [fashion] brand Saint Laurent proposed to give money to make a short film. They said, “It can be five minutes long or it can be 70 minutes long. Whatever you want, but just use actors that are icons of our brand and use our clothing.”

I had an idea to do with Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg, but we had a limited budget, so we decided we could shoot this short film in five days. The first day of shooting, I tried to film it as I had I shot “Climax,” which means I wanted to shoot it with long master shots and we were so unprepared that at the end of the day, I had like a six-minute shot that wasn't working. And I said, “Well, now I have four days left. I cannot keep on working this way because I'm not prepared enough and there are too many people around.” I decided that from the second day on, I would shoot with many different cameras.

We had two cameras on the set and the guy who was playing the director of the making-of in the movie had a small video camera. I said, "Let shoot every single with two or three cameras and I'll see how to edit the movie, but it will not be a movie with just master shots." In the editing process I decided to use the split screen or the triple screen. I really enjoyed doing a very playful edit with one, two, or three screens inside the screen. One year after doing this short film that became at 52-minute movie and was shown theatrically in many countries as a feature film, I did another short film for the same brand called “Summer of ‘21.It's on YouTube and Vimeo. Once again, I filmed that with two cameras and it's a split screen fashion film that I am really proud of.

After those experiences with fashion short films, why did you feel that this formal choice could also work for “Vortex”?

Last year in the month of January, I came back from seeing my father in Argentina and my French producers suggested I do a confinement movie. Confinement movies are those kinds of productions in which you have one or two actors in one single apartment because we could not shoot in the streets. I said, “I have an idea. It's about an old couple. We could make it using split screen. We would see the lives of the two members of the couple. It would be shot with two cameras.” In my head, because I was already used to the split screen, I thought it would make even more sense than for the two shorts I had done before.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

At The Irish Times today, Simon Hattenstone profiles Sissy Spacek:
Mary Elizabeth Spacek was born on Christmas Day 1949 in Quitman, Texas. Her family were well established – her paternal grandfather was the mayor of Granger, Texas, her father a county agricultural agent and her mother a typist at the county courthouse. Her two older brothers called her Sissy and that is how it stayed.

Spacek’s childhood was idyllic. She fished with her brothers, rode a horse called Buck, went barefoot throughout the summer, watched matinees at the local picture house and performed in talent contests from the age of six. It all came to an end when Robbie, an outstanding athlete, became ill. At 17, she spent the summer with the actor Rip Torn and his wife, Geraldine Paige, in New York to “get out from under” the unfolding family tragedy. Spacek had planned to go to the University of Texas, but Robbie’s death changed everything. After finishing high school, she returned to New York in the hope of becoming a great folk singer.

It didn’t quite work out. In 1968, under the nom de plume Rainbo, she recorded a hilarious single called John You Went Too Far This Time, declaring her love for John Lennon while berating him for posing nude with Yoko on the Two Virgins album sleeve. She also sang with a group called Moose and the Pelicans, who released a likable version of She’s a Rebel. When she was dropped by her record label, she turned to acting. Within a few months of starting at Lee Strasberg, she had been cast by Malick in Badlands, where she met her husband, Jack Fisk, the film’s production designer.

With Badlands, she says, she discovered just what was possible in movies. “It was when I realised film can be art. And I was working with people – Terrence Malick, Jack Fisk, Martin Sheen [who played her boyfriend, Kit]– who had such passion. Their passion for their work ignited something in me. I had all that experience growing up, good and painful and joyous, and now I had a place to put it.” Spacek looked so different from most Hollywood starlets – red-haired, ferociously freckled, short, slight and childlike. She seemed feral one minute, serenely beautiful the next. Badlands taught her how little you had to do or say in films to make an impression. Often she expressed more with those huge blue eyes than with her words.

She lights up when she talks about Badlands. But, to be fair, she lights up when she talks about so many of her movies. In Coal Miner’s Daughter, she got to sing Lynn’s songs and won a gold disc for the soundtrack. “When we decided to go with Michael Apted, someone said to me: ‘Why did you decide to go with an Englishman?’ Well, he grew up in a coal-mining community and he didn’t bring any of the country cliches that are so prevalent. And gosh, what a great artist. You know, it’s all about the director.”

Despite winning the best actress Oscar for Coal Miner’s Daughter, it was Carrie that made her most famous. Even now, she says, teenagers show her their Carrie tattoos. “Who knew that Carrie would be around like 100 years later? Every year a new generation of young people see it.” As much as anything, Carrie is about the pain of adolescence. “So many kids feel tortured when they’re in middle school and high school. Bullied and misunderstood. Stephen King hit a nerve with that. It’s a universal story.”

Although 26-year-old Spacek was playing a schoolgirl in Carrie, she had already been working for eight years. Did she feel much older than the characters she played? Yes and no, she says. “I had maturity because of what I had lived through already, but I’ve always been connected to the inner child. I just am.” I can still see that inner child today, I say. She beams. “You think so? As a person, I do. I’m excited about people, I’m excited about work, I’m excited about children. I’m pretty passionate. I don’t feel lukewarm about things. I’m either all in or not at all.”

Incredibly, Spacek was nominated for five Oscars between 1977 and 1986. “I went from one film to another, working with great directors. It was a wonderful time. The artists ruled in the 1970s. We were making low-budget films that the studios didn’t care about, so they’d leave us to our own devices.”

Meanwhile, Carrie is mentioned in a review or two of Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:

Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe:

Drollery is in fairly short supply. In keeping with the Scarlet Witch’s witchiness, this is the closest the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to including a horror movie. Is Raimi returning to those “Evil Dead” roots? An eye emerges in a very familiar forehead. An alternate Strange looks like a cross between a zombie and the Phantom of the Opera. Skeletal souls of the damned fly through the air with the greatest of unease. In several sequences, a bloodied Wanda is the spitting (or bleeding) image of Sissy Spacek in “Carrie.”

Noel Vera, BusinessWorld's Critic After Dark
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch provides the electric charge that jolts this patchwork mess to life. Her quest to seek her lost children is a struggle any parent, or anyone who’s lost a loved one can understand. That furtive thought lurking at the back of one’s grieving mind: “Maybe if I bring them back” — the results may never be good, but we’re not being honest if we say we never entertained such thoughts.

And Raimi plays it up; wraps Olsen in shadows as she strides forth with red LED eyes, splatters her face with drying blood (Brian de Palma’s Carrie much?). As far as gore goes, this is Parental Guidance Raimi, barely worth mentioning, but one look at Olsen’s wild despairing face and you know where the true horror lies: this is love without hope seeking a way to keep itself alive, knowing what it’s doing is wrong wrong wrong, lying to itself constantly that maybe somehow somewhere there’s a way. I saw the movie with some people, and one of them remarked: “I kept rooting for the evil witch.” I can relate to that and suspect Raimi can too — at one point we see Wanda’s imagined children watching TV, and on the small screen was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I remember Woody Allen in Annie Hall saying “I immediately fell for the Wicked Queen.”

Multiverse of Madness is pretty good, perhaps the best Marvel since Raimi’s own Spider-Man movies and, really, it’s hard to fault the picture for anything save for flaws that don’t really matter (rigorous plotting, realism, characterization of everyone not played by Olsen). Oh! And timing — over a month ago A24 released Everything Everywhere All at Once and what Dr. Strange achieved for $200 million the Daniels did for only $25 million; the universes are wilder (Paint Universe and Dispersing-Cubes Universe vs. Hotdog Fingers Universe and Just Rocks Universe), the MacGuffin even more bizarre (Book of Vishanti, meet The Everything Bagel). Perversely, the fight sequences in Everything are superior because: 1.) very little if any of it involves CGI, and 2.) it’s performed mostly by Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh — talk about low-tech, they are perfectly capable of and do the action for real. Yes, Olsen was affecting but Michelle Yeoh, I submit, has the richer role, playing Loser Evelyn, Movie-Star Evelyn, Sausage Fingers Evelyn, and so on. And none of this is arbitrary; turns out almost every Evelyn is a result of a choice her character makes or fails to make (the rest were created by the choices of people who have affected Evelyn, or basically everyone else), suggesting the branching, bewildering complexity of even such an ostensibly low-profile life. In effect The Daniels now are what Raimi was when he first started, directing his own scripts with almost no resources — and this I see is where I first came in; pardon me while I let myself out the side door.

See also:
CBR.com: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness turned one character into a horror archetype by homaging Brian De Palma's Carrie

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2022 9:34 PM CDT
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Monday, May 9, 2022

"The Norwegian screenwriter and filmmaker Eskil Vogt has long been one of the most intriguing and innovative writer-directors of the Scandi new wave," writes Vogue's Erik Morse in a profile interview article about Vogt. "Last year’s Cannes Film Festival screened not one but two of Vogt’s recent projects—The Worst Person in the World, written with longtime collaborator Joachim Trier (for which both men were nominated for best original screenplay at the Academy Awards) and his own film The Innocents. Part supernatural fable and part familial melodrama, The Innocents peeks into the enchanting and sometimes sinister world of children when parents are not watching."

During the interview portion of the article, Morse asks Vogt about the influence of other such films:

There was a glut of child-possession and telekinesis films during the late 1970s and early ’80s, like The Omen, The Fury, Carrie, The Shining, and The Twilight Zone film. Were these films and that period of filmmaking important to you?

I was, and still am, a big Brian De Palma fan. Carrie and The Fury—I don’t think The Fury is his best movie, but there are some really interesting sequences in it. At that time, as a teenager, I also read a lot of Stephen King, and that’s very much a part of what you are describing. When I started to work on The Innocents, I didn’t think much about it in that context until I was quite far along, and I was ready to speak about it to my collaborators and my producer. I said, “Well, it’s about these kids who have these powers…,” and suddenly, at that moment, I realized: “Oh, no, am I making one of those films?” Because there are so many movies and television series being made now about young people with supernatural powers. But then I started to think about it, and I realized that my movie was about childhood with a capital C. It’s really about being very young—about the magic of childhood and that secret parallel world kids live in. And there are those feelings of imagination that you lose as you get older. Most of those other movies and series are about puberty; instead, I watched a lot of classic movies about childhood because what I felt I was doing more than making a scary movie or a supernatural movie was making a movie about how it felt to be a child.

What sorts of childhood films?

There is a French film called Ponette, which has a four- or five-year-old lead. Jacques Doillon made it. I think [Victoire Thivisol] won best actress in Venice. It was so inspiring to see how difficult it was and how great the result was. Also, some of those Spanish classics like The Spirit of the Beehive. I watched the Peter Brook adaptation of Lord of the Flies. I was very impressed by the acting in that movie. These films just gave me confidence that I could pull off the child acting. There is nothing more cinematic than seeing the transparent face of a child going through emotions and thinking things. It’s such a wonderful thing to capture with a camera.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Friday, May 6, 2022

Scream Factory's page for its upcoming Blu-ray edition of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale, which will be released on May 17th, has listed the following bonus features:
  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW De Palma Repertory Player – An Interview With Actor Gregg Henry
  • NEW Shaping De Palma – An Interview With Editor Bill Pankow
  • From Dream To Reality Featurette
  • Dream Within A Dream Featurette
  • Femme Fatale: Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
  • Femme Fatale: Dressed To Kill Montage Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer (English And French)

Posted by Geoff at 8:29 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 6, 2022 8:30 PM CDT
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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter both reported late last night/early this morning that Stephen H. Burum will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's 30th anniversary EnergaCamerimage festival, which focuses on films and cinematography and runs Nov. 12-19 in Torun, Poland. Variety's article by Peter Caranicas mentions that "Burum will be on hand at Camerimage, where some of his films will be screened." Caranicas also mentions a fun film that Burum shot that I like very much: Ken Kwapis’ and Marisa Silver’s He Said, She Said (1991). In fact, I believe the "cheesecake" scene that Burum shot for Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way two years later has some roots in a scene from He Said, She Said.

In any case, here's an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter article by Carolyn Giardina:

The California native attended at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television and gained his first professional experience working behind the camera in 1964 on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. In the Army, he worked on training films. Early work included Little House on the Prairie, for which Burum shot MagiCam inserts. He shared a technical craft Emmy Award for the visual effects on 1980 PBS science program Cosmos.

In 1976, Burum worked as the second unit cameraman and director on Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, whom he met at UCLA, and then on the second unit of The Black Stallion, directed by UCLA colleague Carroll Ballard. Burum’s first feature as a DP was 1982’s The Escape Artist, directed by Caleb Deschanel.

In the early ’80s, Burum again joined Coppola on The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. He also lensed Uncommon Valor, St. Elmo’s Fire and 8 Million Ways to Die. Burum went on to work with Danny DeVito, for whom he shot The War of the Roses and Hoffa.

The DP is best known for his collaboration with director De Palma, with whom he made eight films, including The Untouchables, Body Double, Casualties of War, Raising Cain, Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes and Mission to Mars.

A member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Burum received an ASC Award for Hoffa and additional nominations for The Untouchables and The War of the Roses. He was feted with the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

More recently, Burum returned to his roots by conducting film classes as part of the Kodak Cinematographer-in-Residence program at the UCLA Film School.

The news about Burum comes one day after it was announced that Paul Schrader will be honored with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at this year’s Venice Film Festival, which runs August 31- September 10. On that note, here's a bit from Nancy Tartaglione's article at Deadline:
In accepting the award, Schrader said, “I am deeply honored. Venice is the Lion of my heart.”

Schrader was last in Venice in 2021, with crime drama The Card Counter which he also directed and which starred Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish. Prior to that, his 2017 First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, debuted on the Lido and was later nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Schrader’s other directing credits include Cat People and American Gigolo. He also wrote such films as Obsession, The Yakuza and The Last Temptation Of Christ.

The decision on the Golden Lion was made by the board of the Biennale di Venezia, which embraced the proposal of the Festival’s Director, Alberto Barbera.

Commented Barbera, “Paul Schrader is a key figure of New Hollywood who, from the late 1960s on, has revolutionized the imagination, aesthetics, and language of American film. It is not an exaggeration to affirm that he is one of the most important American filmmakers of his generation, a director who is deeply influenced by European film and culture, and a stubbornly independent screenwriter who nonetheless knows how to work on commission and confidently move within the Hollywood system. The daring visual stylization that informs all his movies puts him among the most up-to-date exponents of a type of cinema that is unreconciled and subtly investigates contemporaneity. Schrader measures himself against this contemporaneity not only with tireless intellectual and compassionate curiosity, but also with a surprising ability to navigate film’s technological evolution, as well as its production and distribution systems. Thanks to this daredevilry (which not many filmmakers of his caliber are willing to attempt, in the mature phase of their careers), Schrader not only continues to work but in recent years he has also given us some of his most beautiful films.”

Posted by Geoff at 8:32 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

At Film Freedonia, Roderick Heath delves deep into Brian De Palma's Carrie. Here's a brief excerpt:
Carrie’s story advances with the rigour and inevitability of Greek tragedy, a likeness that only becomes stronger as it encompasses an offended heroine whose story counts down in distorted gradations of unified time and setting, and a stage that becomes an amphitheatre of carnage and breakdown, and where the mechanics of what’s happening unfold with predestined smoothness. Intrigues simultaneously reach out to Carrie to rescue her and destroy her, charted with mischievous detail and coming together in the prom. Hitchcock, never of course far out of range of De Palma’s points of reference, is nodded to in the suburban gothic of the White house and in the name of the High School. De Palma’s aesthetic for the film is as hot as Stanley Kubrick’s for The Shining (1981) would be cold, via Mario Tosi’s cinematography. De Palma’s deeply sarcastic romanticism continues with Carrie’s walk home early in the film along sun-dappled streets replete with shady trees and red roses that mimic and mock her menstrual blood, and mirrors this imagery towards the end as a sanctified and white-clad Sue makes the same walk towards the White house, or where it used to be. Strong anticipation here for the aesthetic David Lynch would apply to Blue Velvet (1986) of a stylised, utopian, too-good-to-be-true suburban life.

Collins’ forced exercise regimen for the girls’ punishment becomes a little aria of camera wit, tracking along at thigh-height with the teacher as the girls are put through their strenuous paces, rendered ridiculous as they bob in and out of the frame with increasingly frayed expressions. This is in itself a more deadpan and playful riposte to the precursor scene where Margaret lords over Carrie where De Palma conveys the application of authority more ominously from on high, as Margaret slaps her daughter’s face with a booklet with a chapter title, ‘The Sins of Woman’ and, with a similar rhythmic intensity to the exercising girls, tries to make Carrie repeat her chant of “The first sin was intercourse,” which also echoes the girls’ chant of “Plug it up!” By contrast, De Palma sees Tommy and his pals hitting the town to be fitted for prom tuxedos, vaguely recalling the lads about town in Greetings, except that De Palma starts fast-forwarding through their yammering, a good joke in its own right that engages in a playful way with De Palma’s delight in the texture of film itself, and also a curt thematic underlining: the boys aren’t the show in this movie. The detention exercise scene also provides a definitive character moment with Chris’s attempted rebellion turning distraught after Collins slaps her, and her appeal to her friends – “She can’t get away with this if we all stick together!” – gains only timorous shakes of the head from most and, from a revolted Sue, one “Shut up Chris, just shut up.”

Irving, who would be promoted to the role of gifted-accursed psychic in The Fury (1978), De Palma’s thematic sequel, has an interesting role as Sue, whose journey is in a way the actual core of Carrie although she’s not the focal point, as Sue represents a kind of assailed middle ground in the story, someone who grows up a little faster than her schoolmates but remains dangerously naïve in aspects. Glimpsed at first eagerly joining the pack attacking Carrie, she’s pulled aside by Collins when she first comes on the scene and angrily berated for her behaviour, and looks bewildered, as if pulled out of sleepwalking. Sue’s desire to do Carrie a good turn – “We don’t care how we look,” she tells Collins when the teacher confronts her and Tommy – is a noble gesture with troubling caveats, in obliging her boyfriend to make that gesture on her behalf, but not imagining there’s personal risk in it, and in accidentally handing Chris the perfect venue for her own cruelty. Sue’s working on Tommy resolves when he finally says he’ll do it whilst she’s doing homework and he’s watching a James Garner Western on TV, a deft little joke that suggests Tommy enjoys playing the white knight. Irving’s on-screen mother Eleanor was played by her real one, Priscilla Pointer. Eleanor’s early encounter with Margaret, who comes to her house soliciting donations, sees the way adult transaction counterpoint those of teenagers, Eleanor trying her best to fend off Margaret’s proselytising with awkward courtesy before flatly bribing her to go away, a gesture Margaret accepts but not without making sure the offender feels the frost her righteous gaze.

De Palma also taps the paraphernalia of Margaret’s religiosity for exceedingly dark humour and even darker psychology, setting up a motif that has its brilliantly sick pay-off by film’s end. Margaret’s exiling of Carrie into the prayer cupboard sees her share space with a statue of St Sebastian, riddled with arrows, upturned eyes painted with phosphorescent paint to better depict ecstatic agony. Good education for a life of martyrdom. Carrie already has Tommy in her sights as a fair idol, a newspaper clipping of his footballing exploits stuck to the side of her bedroom mirror, a mirror whose gaze she cracks in a moment of anxiety but manages to reforge mentally in time to avoid her mother’s attention. Katt is also tremendous as the genuinely good-natured Tommy, who eventually finds not just pride but real affection in playing Carrie’s beau for the night as he comes to comprehend there’s an interesting, potentially lovely person on his arm. He deftly knocks aside her not-at-all-illusioned stabs at releasing him from duty by assuring her he asked her out “because you liked my poem,” although he admits later he didn’t write it. Meanwhile Chris draws in other friends into her conspiracy, including Freddy (Michael Talbott), who left school before graduation and works now in the local slaughterhouse, and her friend Norma (P.J. Soles), who volunteer to be on the committee overseeing the election of the Prom King and Queen, intending to stuff the ballot for Carrie. Chris gets Freddy to help her and Billy kill a pig and collect its blood in a bucket, which they rig up in the rafters of the high school gym, where the prom will be take place, to pour the contents down on Carrie as a sadistic coup-de-theatre.

Carrie works beautifully as a metaphor for the sheer goddamn pain of growing up as a human animal. Where in the book Carrie had her powers from childhood here it’s explicitly connected with her new maturation, connecting them as devices of creation and destruction. For Margaret the ‘Sin of Woman” is not just to experience lust but to propagate at all. Spacek herself defined her understanding of Carrie as a “secret poet” who has no gift at expression and assertion until some strange kink of fate gifts her this powerful talent, as if her stifled will has forced some latent part of herself to grow like muscle. Or perhaps it’s a test provided from on high, or on low, connected to rather than breaking from her upbringing, and what Carrie then does with it can be seen a radical extrapolation of the Christian concept of free will. The more immediately troubling facet of Carrie’s prognosis lies in its understanding the pressure cooker nature of modern teenage life and the age of the school massacre, the school a social zone designed to force young people to become independent entities but instead all too often producing both dronish cliques and outcasts and rebels, experiences that most make part of their permanent identity for good or ill. King noted in his book On Writing that both of the girls he based Carrie on from his experience died young, one by suicide, their pain turned inward and septic, but Carrie the book and film sees a time when that kind of sickness will be turned outward and become the stuff of mass media causes celebre.

Notably, in The Fury when De Palma picked up the same basic plot motif of psychic powers as a metaphor for adolescent genesis and the fine line between creative and destructive potential, he turned the tables in making the popular, sporty kids stricken with the same power, with Robin Sandza the ultimate coddled man-child jock, and Gillian Bellaver a more focused and virtuous version of Carrie, finally blowing the false parent/authority figure to smithereens. Carrie certainly cemented precepts Horror cinema would extend for years afterwards, but also seems from today’s perspective to have left a deeper influence on popular storytelling to come, many of which would invert the film’s tragic apocalypse into heroic narratives. Works like the Harry Potter series and a vast swathe of superhero movies take up its wish-fulfilment thread whilst avoiding its bleak contemplation of social and psychological determinism. The wave of high school movies, whilst having more realistic narratives, like Pretty In Pink (1985) and Mean Girls (2003) might also be counted as its children. The film’s underpinning similarities to George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) as an adolescent fantasy about control and annihilation, despite the very different tonal and genre frames, is given extra piquancy by how many members of Carrie’s cast also tried to get in on the Lucas film.

In any event, Carrie’s climactic prom sequence is one of those cinematic set-pieces it’s hard not to relish in anticipation even as in involves terrible things, simply for the sheer verve of the filmmaking and storytelling force. The sequence divides in three miniature chapters, each keyed to a different emotional experience and a different style, beginning with a depiction of rising exultation, a midsection of simultaneous anointing and portent, and a climax that erupts in anarchy. These chapters also have metaphysical overtones connected with Carrie’s experience: heaven, purgatory, hell. Heaven, because Carrie’s entrance to the prom and her experiences seem like her deepest wishes coming true, as she connects with people for the first time, finding actual friends in Tommy, Collins and some other girls, with Sue watching on like a fairy godmother who’s made this particular pumpkin into a princess. Purgatory where the slow motion photography stretches time into a dream zone where triumph – Tommy and Carrie delighted to find they’ve been elected and ascend to claim their dues – and calamity – Sue and Billy hiding behind the scenery with their fingers on the rope – coexist, and finally the inferno released along with the torrent of blood.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 5, 2022 12:44 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

At The New York Times, novelist Megan Abbott reviews Magpie, a psychological thriller by Elizabeth Day:
Early in “Magpie,” a twist comes that made me gasp out loud. And it’s the kind of twist that makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve read before. And the twist marks the novel — at least for its first two-thirds — as one of the Grand Guignol school of thrillers of which Gillian Flynn remains the current master and, as much as countless book jackets in recent years have asserted otherwise, few have approached her virtuoso, go-big-or-go-home approach. These novels — much like their cinematic equivalent, Brian De Palma’s giddy, baroque and self-referential thrillers — place their characters in increasingly extreme situations, requiring them to make hairpin turns or Jekyll-Hyde transformations that risk straining credibility. We watch Marisa, Jake and Kate make choices that strain credibility or at least consistency of character. But realism isn’t the point. It’s not about how things are but how they feel — and the deeper truths that can be mined within that feeling.

As we’ve seen with novels like Jessica Knoll’s “Luckiest Girl Alive,” this expressionistic style can be a wildly effective means of excavating the pains and terrors of toxic relationships, partner violence, trauma, mental illness. In the case of “Magpie,” the near-constant fever pitch of the narrative matches how it feels to be suffering through pregnancy anxiety, fears of romantic betrayal, in-law strife, body horror. And the spiraling energy at the center of the novel captures the way fertility struggles can serve as a tripwire, upturning everything else in one’s life, laying bare all one’s vulnerabilities.

And we’re in it with Day, along for the ride as each baroque plot turn mimics the many shocks of womanhood. The whiplash is part of the fun. But it’s the smaller stuff that really sings, such as the way Kate and Marisa look at each other’s bodies with both envy and repulsion. Their gazes are shot through the punishing lens of childbearing potential and male desire. One is the “Thomas Hardy milkmaid” and the other, a Breton-shirted gamin — each, at different points, a more desirable, or grotesque, vision of womanhood.

The dilemma with such novels, however, is that once you’ve raised the pitch that high, once all bets are off and narrators have shown their inevitable unreliability, how do you bring it home in a satisfying way? Few have been able to approach the audacity of, say, Ira Levin’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” in their relentless, go-for-broke commitment to a tone that requires the novelist keep escalating until a final operatic close that is, against all odds, bigger (and darker) than anything that’s come before.

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CDT
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Monday, May 2, 2022

At MEL Magazine, William Katt talks to Tim Grierson about taking on the role of Tommy Ross in Carrie all those years ago:
Tommy was played by William Katt, who grew up in the Valley, his parents Bill Williams and Barbara Hale both actors. Now 71, he still can’t get over how different he was than the usual prom king — which, of course, is exactly why he was so good as Tommy. “I didn’t go to my own prom,” Katt tells me. But as luck would have it, after he graduated from high school he went to the proms of girls he was dating. “I ended up going to about three proms, and they were horrible. I never enjoyed going to the proms, and I just remember wanting to leave as quickly as I could. I have an aversion to being around a lot of people, and that started at a very young age — I didn’t like to be in a large group. But at the time, my dates, that’s what they wanted to do, and I wanted to appease them, so I would go.”

Katt’s always been a good-looking guy, though: Was he voted prom king at any of those later dances? “No,” he says with a laugh. “Usually, that was toward the end of the night when they would do that, and I was typically gone before then. [I did not] hang around with those kinds of people that would be running for prom king or queen. Usually those were the jocks, you know?”

What’s funny is that Katt actually was something of a jock — or, at the very least, he played sports. “I was a benchwarmer on the basketball team because I never got to be tall enough, but that’s about it,” he says. “After that, I just hung out with the musicians and the stoners. I didn’t date much in high school. [I was focused on] music and surfing. I was surfing on a team and doing surfing events on the weekends. That was the most important thing in my life — that and playing music and smoking joints. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time.”

Eventually, he got into the family business, switching from pursuing a music career to becoming an actor. He wasn’t dreaming of stardom, just steady work. “I love the theater,” he says. “That’s where I started, South Coast Repertory. Most of my career, I had done a play at least once every year or two years. But at that time, I was just happy to make a living.”

Many know that Katt was one of many up-and-coming actors who auditioned to play Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars. Around the same time, though, he also tried out for Tommy. “I knew I was out of the running for George’s film, and then Brian’s screen test came shortly thereafter. I forget the studio where we did it, but I did some reading with Amy Irving — that’s mainly who I did my screen test with. I don’t even remember screen-testing with Sissy, to be honest. I remember seeing everybody there, her and John [Travolta, who played the snide Billy Nolan] and Nancy [Allen, who was Chris Hargensen, the leader of the mean girls] and some of the other people, but I don’t recall actually doing a screen test with Sissy.”

Katt had known Irving, who played his onscreen girlfriend, before their screen test. “She had been studying in England, and when she got back to the States, we had mutual friends,” he recalls. “We hooked up and dated briefly, but mainly we were friends. We stayed friends for an awful long time.” But whatever Katt did during his audition worked for De Palma, even though Katt didn’t feel like he had much in common with the character. “It was a revelation to me that Brian would cast me as Tommy Ross because I was the antithesis of that,” he admits. “Maybe he was making a statement. It was the mid-1970s, and I think things were changing, how we thought about who our heroes were.”

But that wasn’t the only way in which Katt, who doesn’t consider himself a big horror guy, wouldn’t have seemed like a natural fit. He had read King’s novel — “I briefly skimmed the book, to be very perfectly honest” — but when he took a look at the script, “I didn’t really realize it was a horror film. It felt to me like a morality tale. It was the story of the ugly duckling, and the ugly duckling gets superpowers. And all these people get their comeuppance from treating this girl so badly and bullying her.”

When I ask about conversations he had with De Palma about the character, Katt replies, “We did about a week or two of rehearsals in his apartment in Hollywood. We would get together and do the scenes and improv, and he would make changes to the script. Once we got to shooting, though, he had done all the work with the actors and he was really all about the camera and lighting and everything else.”

Katt has talked about how he modeled Tommy’s demeanor off some of the football players he knew in high school, giving the character the same swagger. But he confesses that he didn’t necessarily torture himself to figure out how he could make someone so unlike him come to life.

“I had done a lot of theater before then,” says Katt, who was 24 when he filmed Carrie. “I had worked at the Taper and whatnot. I studied with Gordon Hunt in his scene-study classes. I did all that stuff. So I’d like to say, ‘Yeah, I dug in…,’ but that would be false. Really, all I did was, it was a lot of me. I think I am a nice guy. I try to be nice to everybody that I meet and gracious and always have my best intentions to like somebody and have them like me.”

He credits his mom and dad for shaping that part of his personality. “My parents were both just great people,” he says. “They were full of grace, and they were generous and gracious and just kind to everybody. I guess that’s the way I grew up.”

From Tommy’s first scene, when Carrie nervously mentions in the back of the classroom that she likes his poem — later, we’ll learn he plagiarized it — he seems to genuinely take a shine to her, no matter how uncool she is. He’s initially confused by Sue’s request for him to ask Carrie to prom, but he gets on board with the plan pretty quickly. And even when Tommy’s first attempt to ask her out fails — Carrie thinks it’s a trick — he keeps at it, the two starting to hit it off over prom night.

“You see certain people that you wouldn’t expect would ever end up together, and then they do because they’re exact opposites,” Katt says of Tommy and Carrie’s surprising rapport. “There’s something about the chemistry that works.” It wasn’t hard for him to build a connection with Spacek, who received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role. “I really liked Sissy, not in a romantic way, but just as a person, as a friend, who she is when she’s not on camera.” In fact, Spacek was already married to her husband Jack Fisk, an Oscar-nominated production designer who handled Carrie’s art direction. “She’s just lovely,” Katt says. “You can’t help but like her. So I just tried to let myself like the person I was talking to.”

Carrie exudes an almost clinical detachment to its characters, viewing them like lab rats or specimens in a Petri dish. The effect is alienating, which is the point, amplifying the queasy unease that’s a signature of high school. The normal rituals of teenage life — dating, going to class, playing sports, attending prom — are shot with such chilliness that De Palma invites us to see how surreal and awful these adolescent rites of passage actually are. Even Tommy’s garish prom tuxedo feels like a sly commentary on the requisite high-school-dance uniform.

Katt insists he had no input on his frilly tux. “They chose that,” he says, laughing. “It was horrible. There was tackiness about it, but it really spoke to that era. It was an actual tux — it wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was kind of clownish.” He can, however, proudly claim credit for his terrific mane of curly blond locks. “[That’s] my hair just the way it grew out of my head — curly and twisted like my brain,” he jokes.

Like Katt, Spacek was well into her 20s when she made Carrie, and while they look older than their characters’ actual age, it lends them a certain maturity that separates them from the often shallow and thoughtless teens around them. In King’s book, Tommy comes across as a bit of a dope — or, put more kindly, the typical horny teenager. But in the film, there seems to be a hidden depth to the guy — maybe something he hasn’t himself yet realized — and he locates it by spending time with Carrie. Between Carrie’s hellish home life tormented by her religious-fanatic mother (Piper Laurie, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress) and the social anxiety of high school, she doesn’t have many safe spaces. As a result, Tommy becomes a welcome oasis amidst an inhospitable terrain of cruelty. To their shared surprise, they find something in each other that no one else in the world can give them.

“I think Brian wisely decided that the audience had to like these people,” says Katt. “We had to think that Carrie and Tommy might have worked out. That she could fall in love with him.” He points to one of Carrie’s most memorable moments, in which they’re slow-dancing at the prom, the camera rotating around them in a dizzying, euphoric 360-degree fashion. “That’s a great scene,” Katt says. “They start spinning around each other. We end up laughing, and I think that’s the moment when Tommy [thinks], ‘I really like this girl.’ And I think Carrie felt the same. And the audience is going to buy it — you really cared about these people. So when the bucket comes down on their heads, it’s horrifying.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 3, 2022 12:13 AM CDT
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Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Mahoning Drive-In, which is "nestled in the scenic Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania," is planning a triple-feature "De Palma-Rama" on July 2nd. Here are the details from a Mahoning Instagram post:
This July 2nd, prepare yourself for “De Palma-Rama!”, a 35mm triple feature of masterfully macabre movies from Brian De Palma, the man who made you shiver and shake, quiver and quake with his cinematic sizzlers since the 70s!

We’ll present three De Palma classics, two announced and on 35mm, followed by a digital secret feature that’s sure to get your pulse racing well into the wee hours!

We begin with a trip to the prom. Your date…CARRIE (1976)!

Based on Stephen King’s bestseller about a quite girl who’s pushed too far, and enacts revenge on her tormentors, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen @nancyallen624 and John Travolta @johntravolta star in this telekinetic shocker. If only they knew she had the power!

Up next, John Travolta returns in a starring role as a sound man who accidentally records something that powerful people would prefer he hadn’t, and must race against time to piece together a mystery and save lives…including his own. BLOW OUT (1981), De Palma’s take on Antonioni’s Blow Up '66. This thriller expertly mixes suspense, mystery and horror into gritty noir mix.

Our third feature will be another De Palma classic, but in the spirit of his work, we’re going to keep you in suspense until it hits the screen!

Come early for themed eats, limited merch, live dj, raffles, photo ops & more..

General Gates at 6pm each night.
Showtime at Sundown.

Posted by Geoff at 11:48 PM CDT
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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Thanks to Ryan for sending us a link to this video (below), which was posted to YouTube this past February by Jeff Sabu. Ryan notes that the narrator on the documentary portions of this ten-minute production short for Brian De Palma's The Fury sounds like the same voice as that of the narrator in the documentary that Jay Cocks made for De Palma's Sisters about five years earlier. In any case, this is quite a discovery, as it includes some behind the scenes elements that most of us have never seen before.


Posted by Geoff at 6:39 PM CDT
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