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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


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Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Posted by Geoff at 11:52 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 23, 2022

"I don't know where to start with this," says Bill Simmons, co-host of The Rewatchables podcast as Ennio Morricone's "Strength of the Righteous" theme from The Untouchables drives the episode's intro underneath. The Untouchables is the featured film on this June 23rd episode. Simmons profers that "there's a prototype with this movie that resembles football, to me. Where, just a lot of elements have to come into place, but the best thing is... like when the Chiefs had Mahomes on a rookie contract. It's like, wow, this is great. This is the biggest advantage you can have. The Untouchables has Costner on a rookie contract. He is going to be the biggest start in the world two years later, but we don't know that in 1987, when they're filming this in '86. You have him on a rookie deal, and then you can spray the money around. You can get De Palma. You can get De Niro for 18 days. You can get Connery. You can get David Mamet to write the script. But the key is Costner on the rookie deal."

Enthused, co-host Chris Ryan then adds, "And you've still got your scouting department out there finding Andy Garcias in the fifth round! Watching 8 Million Ways To Die tape and being like, 'I love this guy!'"

A bit later, after some brief discussion of the film's budget and how the filmmakers essentially made a hundred-million dollar movie for about 20-million, Ryan continues: "Not only what a bargain, but also it goes across the board, beyond even the big names that we just mentioned, where, when you watch a movie like this, you're seeing like every single part of what goes into making a movie at its absolute best. Like, the cinematography is great, the outfits are amazing, the production design is amazing. I know that stuff isn't that fun to talk about, but it is kind of like, this is when Hollywood was really Hollywooding. Like they REALLY made... and when you watch it, still to this day - there's some slower parts of it - but ... this is a really really really entertaining movie that just delivers, like, every single time."

Posted by Geoff at 11:34 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Yesterday, William Kuechenberg posted The Cracked Guide To Cult Movies: Phantom Of The Paradise. "Of all the entries in this series, Phantom of the Paradise is almost certainly the one with the most coherent plot," Kuechenberg states in in the "What's this movie about" section near the start of the article. "It centers around the villainous record producer and music magnate Swan, who looks like if cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch got really into coke." Here's a bit from Kuechenberg's "What makes it a cult movie" section:
It’s a kickass movie, first of all, with awesome set design and costumes and a story that would make the Théâtre du Grand Guignol think they should tone it down a little. The movie shares DNA with several cult films, which kind of puts it in that orbit by default. For example, Jessica Harper, the actress who plays Phoenix, also plays Janet Weiss in a kinda-sorta sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show called Shock Treatment. It also doesn’t hurt that movie is a musical with music that honestly rips ass. “Rips ass?” Is that what the kids are saying? Or, wait, is that farting?

The point is the music is legitimately good, thanks in no small part to Paul Williams. Williams plays Swan, but he also wrote and sang most of the film’s music. You might know Williams from his extensive work with the Muppets, or if you’re dealing with new and exciting forms of back pain like I am you may know him from his cameo on Dexter’s Laboratory:


There’s something inherently funny and fascinating about seeing a man responsible for writing some of the most important music of our childhoods – playing the literal devil and being a huge horny sleazebag on screen. It’s awesome.

Phantom of the Paradise is also a cult film because it’s one of those movies that was never commercially or critically successful but had a huge influence on later artists. When director Guillermo Del Toro (or as US audiences know him, “Billy the Bull”) was a teenager in Mexico City, he waited in line for Paul Williams to sign his copy of the Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack. Many years later, he’d ask Williams to write the lyrics to the stage adaptation of Pan’s Labyrinth. Edgar Wright also cites it as a huge influence. Daft Punk claim to have seen the movie together more than twenty times – and when you remember that the hero of a story is a man in a black suit with a metal helmet obscuring his face that sings in a mechanical cadence of another man over songs he composes on a synthesizer, you start to wonder if perhaps Phantom of the Paradise is more responsible for the birth of electronic music than readily-available MDMA and a music industry looking for an ever-cheaper production model.

Finally, the movie is of note to big music nerds like me for one very particular reason. I’ve mentioned several times that Winslow writes his music on “a synthesizer,” but it would perhaps be more accurate to say he composes his music on “the synthesizer:”

The gigantic instrument he’s sitting inside of is TONTO. No, not the Native American character Johnny Depp racistly portrayed in – holy crap, 2013? Didn’t we know better by then? No, this TONTO is an acronym for The Original New Timbral Orchestra, and if you don’t know the name you’ve definitely heard the sound. Stevie Wonder utilized it on many of his most famous songs, including the iconic riff in “Superstition” that’s so damn funky it’ll make you want to start wearing a vest with no shirt in daily life. It shows up in a huge range of hits from the 70s and beyond.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2022 12:13 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 18, 2022

Criterion this past week announced its upcoming September releases, which includes a 4K UHD and Blu-ray edition of Brian De Palma's Blow Out. This edition features a new 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The package will have one 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and one Blu-ray with the film and special features.

This past week also entered into the timeline marking 50 years since the Watergate break-in and scandal. Steph Green at Inverse posted an article Friday with the headline, "50 years ago, America’s greatest political scandal changed movies forever." Green's article begins:


The above could easily be a newspaper headline from 1974, the year Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace after being caught on tape ordering a cover-up of the Watergate scandal two years earlier. Instead, it’s the tagline for The Conversation, a movie released that same year, which dealt directly with both the ethics of surveillance and the psychological fallout of paranoia.

Political scandals have existed since politics began, and since the birth of cinema itself, the silver screen has reflected these upheavals and the mistrust they cause. Decades before Watergate, we saw film noir play upon post-war disillusionment. Then the beckoning fear of communism throughout the 1950s wound its way firmly into the cinematic conversation, where movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Topaz (1969) transliterated the Red Scare into celluloid and blew it up onto the big screen. Throw in events like the 1963 assassination of JFK and the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969, and you already have a country increasingly distrustful of the narrative being fed to them.

But when Nixon’s administration covered up its involvement in the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s offices — perpetrated by burglars paid via a secret slush fund operated by the president’s re-election campaign — a new cinematic catnip was born. It wasn’t a neighbor that was a potential secret Red agent, or a series of unsubstantiated claims about an assassination. Nixon got caught, he confessed, and he resigned.

It seemed, for the first time, that the lid had been lifted on the most powerful organization in the entire country. From that moment, the Watergate scandal had an enduring effect on the cinematic landscape that followed. Fifty years on, it boasts the legacy of being — of, possibly, all the events in American political history — the ripest for adaptation: rich with reveals, twists, and a lingering sense of dread.

“Conspiracies involving murder by federal agencies used to be found in obscure publications of the far left,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert in early 1975. “Now they're glossy entertainments starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.” He didn’t seem too happy about this, even if he ultimately gave the movie in question — Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack — a positive review. “How soon we grow used to the most depressing possibilities about our government,” Ebert mused. “Hollywood stars used to play cowboys and generals. Now they're wiretappers and assassins, or targets.”

The movie, which saw Redford star as a bookish CIA researcher, follows a classic conspiracy formula. A small fry finds himself in over his head and is determined to rise above the big dogs to expose corruption. One of many conspiracy flicks of its kind in the mid-1970s, academics saw this deluge as an opportunity for audiences to synthesize their real-life anger at political organizations into something tangible, with such movies acting as “resolutions for inadequately explained socio-historical traumas.”

Many at the time, however, saw these movies as toothless attempts to emulate the level of corruption happening in real life, unable to coalesce the economic imperatives of studio filmmaking with a genuine political message. In a 1976 pan of Condor, Patrick McGilligan decried it as “evasive, exploitative and politically vacuous.” If you look at how the plot is beefed up with a dicey Faye Dunaway romance/kidnap subplot, you can see where he’s coming from here.

While today it’s considered a masterpiece, Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View similarly failed to escape criticism. The movie starred box-office mainstay Warren Beatty as a television journalist who becomes aware of a secret organization that recruits political assassins and kills off witnesses. The Senate hearings for Watergate were in full swing during production, and members of the cast and crew would sneak off to Beatty’s trailer to watch proceedings unfold during downtime. Sure, the book the screenplay was based on was unmistakably tied to JFK trutherism, but the entire thing whiffs of Watergate jitters.

Writing in The New York Times in 1974, just three days after Nixon’s resignation, Stephen Farber disparaged the upward tick in political conspiracy movies. He criticized Parallax as “probably the most mindless and irresponsible of the lot [...] exemplifying the emptyheaded, fence-straddling approach to controversial issues that has made Hollywood's political movies such a joke.” He continued: “Today's mass audience wants to believe in omnipotent, omniscient, indestructible conspiracies.”

Two years later, Pakula would direct the definitive Watergate flick, All The President’s Men. The two films (which complete his “paranoia” trilogy, alongside 1971’s excellent Klute) differ starkly in their degree of optimism. In one ending, Nixon resigns as Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward triumphantly type up their exposé. In the other, a government apparatchik says with chilling, deceptive finality, “There is no evidence of a conspiracy.”

But both were equally astute in how the very fabric of the filmmaking makes us feel. The jarring split diopter shots in All The President’s Men force us to discount no detail, to keep an unnaturally sharp eye on the figures that operate in our periphery. In Parallax, Pakula shot his characters at a long distance, giving the effect of a sniper tracking their movement, drowning them in sparsely-populated frames that emphasized their isolation and smallness.

Some filmmakers peddling their paranoid wares distanced themselves from potential accusations of half-baked posturing by looking inward. It was certainly a stroke of perverse serendipity that Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation was written before the 1972 break-in ever occurred because it is inadvertently one of the most sophisticated and striking films about Watergate-era paranoia to come out of that decade.

“When Watergate happened,” Coppola says in a May 1974 Filmmakers Newsletter interview with Brian De Palma, “I was really frightened that people would expect it to be about spies and tapes and that sort of thing, and then be very angry that it wasn't. Right from the beginning, I wanted it to be something personal, not political, because somehow that is even more terrible to me.”

The film’s famous opening, voyeuristically surveying a crowd in San Francisco’s Union Square, cinematizes the paranoia of the time — relaying the intense feeling of an invasion of privacy. Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul, a surveillance expert, is wracked with guilt over his role in a wiretapping sting that went wrong. Drawn into a new investigation entirely conducted through the manipulation of audiotapes, the film is a chilling examination of the effects paranoid conspiracies have on our lives, shaping us into individuals who are unable to trust.

“Nobody wants to know about a conspiracy,” John Travolta’s sound engineer character Jack explains, wide-eyed and frantic, in Brian De Palma’s 1981 paranoia thriller Blow Out. “I don’t get it.” His character is also sucked into a political cover-up that plays out in a multimedia hall of mirrors: television, telephones, photographs, wiretapping, dubbing. When he thinks that he has inadvertently recorded a murder, the audio trickery — like that in The Conversation — instantly would have reminded contemporary audiences of that final nail in Nixon’s smarmy coffin: the “smoking gun” tape that proved, unequivocally, that the president had lied to the public about his involvement in the Watergate whitewash.

Blow Out uses the blue and red tones of the star-spangled banner as color motifs throughout, and the film’s finale, a tragedy that takes place at a jubilee celebration of Philadelphia’s liberty bell, is heavy irony for this so-called symbol of American justice. At its very heart, the movie epitomizes Nixonian anxiety.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Today at Variety, an article by Selome Hailu carries the headline, "Barry Cinematographer Breaks Down References and Framing of Devastating Season 3 Finale." The article begins with a "SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched 'Starting Now,' the Season 3 finale of Barry." The article begins with cinematographer Carl Herse discussing the tone of the series, and the way he works with showrunner/star Bill Hader:
“One of our big references is the Coen brothers’ balance between tragedy and comedy and how they find that line, allowing something to be meaningful but also comical and absurd at the same time,” Herse says about working with Bill Hader, who co-created the show, stars in the title role and directs many episodes, most recently including Season 3 finale “Starting Now.”

“Bill is very specific as a director. A lot of times on TV shows, you have showrunners who have a writing background but are not necessarily as visual, episodic directors who are trying to get many coverage options for the showrunners to decide what direction they want to go with,” Herse adds. “On our show, ‘coverage’ is a dirty word. Bill is extremely intentional with the camera. A lot of times, the director and I will not want to move an actor if they want to stand or enter or exit a scene in a specific way. But because Bill is an actor, he can speak to the actors from their perspective, which allows us to design shots ahead of time.”

Moving through the season finale, Herse talks about how the point-of-view focus in the episode's final sequence was inspired by The Untouchables:
Herse explains the way the final sequence switches from third-person to first-person perspective as Barry lurks into Jim’s home, inspired by the scene in Brian De Palma’s 1987 film “The Untouchables” when Jim Malone (Sean Connery) is stalked in his own apartment. Barry silently observes and prepares to shoot Jim until he hears the word “Freeze!,” shocking him into stillness. Barry is depicted in a wide-eyed close up as disembodied voices yell at him to drop his gun. Like in the previous scenes with Hank and Cristobal, information rolls in at the same rate that Barry processes it. Jim turns around slowly and Barry realizes that Jim set him up. SWAT team members emerge from the darkness, revealing Cousineau standing behind them and Barry realizes that Cousineau was in on it.

Herse emphasizes that whereas a more conventional production would have shot Barry, Cousineau, Jim and the SWAT team from various angles to compile later on, “this is an example of a scene where there is no coverage in the way that people think of television coverage. Bill likes to shoot scenes in a way that can only really be edited in one way and he will only shoot a scene one shot at a time so that you won’t wear the actors out, so they only have to reach those heights a few times.”

Though Jim only appears in the last three episodes of the season, “Starting Now” ends with him. The final shot of Jim standing outside of his home and framed within his living room windows. The camera peers at him from inside as blue and red lights flash and sirens soften.

Posted by Geoff at 10:07 PM CDT
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Monday, June 13, 2022

Look for La-La Land Records' expanded two-CD edition of Giorgio Moroder's music from Scarface to be available to order beginning at noon (Pacific Standard Time) tomorrow, Tuesday, June 14th. Here's the press release:
La-La Land Records and Universal Pictures proudly present the fifteenth title within the acclaimed Universal Pictures Film Music Classics Collection – SCARFACE: EXPANDED MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK, music by Academy Award-Winning composer Giorgio Moroder (MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, AMERICAN GIGOLO, CAT PEOPLE, FLASHDANCE). This limited edition 2-CD set marks the world premiere official release of Moroder’s original film score to 1983’s landmark big-screen gangster drama, SCARFACE starring Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Loggia, and directed by Brian De Palma.

When legendary director Brian De Palma needed the perfect musicscape for his game-changing gangster opus, he called upon renowned composer and electronic and pop music pioneer Giorgio Moroder to deliver – and did Moroder ever deliver… with an absolutely iconic synth film score and a treasure trove of infectious accompanying pop/rock/dance songs.

Produced by Neil S. Bulk and Dan Goldwasser, and mastered in high-resolution by Chris Malone, this expanded re-issue of the SCARFACE soundtrack unleashes Moroder’s classic film score on Disc One, while Disc Two features the original mix of the 1983 Soundtrack Album, showcasing the film’s songs by Deborah Harry, Elizabeth Daily, Paul Engemann, Amy Holland and more, as well as Bonus Tracks that include source music, the extended versions of “Rush, Rush” and “Scarface (Push It To The Limit),” and the song “Success.”

Limited to 5000 units, this special edition features exclusive, in-depth liner notes by writer Tim Greiving and sharp art direction by Dan Goldwasser. Finally… the world – and the music of SCARFACE – is yours!!!

Additionally, a Digital Download version of SCARFACE is forthcoming from Back Lot Music on 9/9/22”


DISC 1 (77:30)
1. Main Title – Scarface 3:42
2. Rebenga 2:10
3. Chainsaw / Tony Rescued 3:54
4. I Got The Yeyo 0:45
5. Elvira 4:01
6. Night Drive 0:30
7. Gina 2:55
8. She’s Not For You 2:09
9. Bolivia 1:09
10. Sosa / Talk To Frank 2:33
11. Omar Out / Don’t Fuck Me 1:07
12. Proposal 2:45
13. Tony Spots Gina / Tony Slaps Gina / Tony Guilty / Shooters 2:48
14. What About You? / Open Fire / Tony Escapes 2:48
15. Just Paranoid 4:44
16. Lopez Begs 1:35
17. Bye Bernstein 1:56
18. The World Is Yours 2:06
19. Plant The Plastic 1:30
20. The Chase 4:05
21. 409 Citrus Drive 4:52
22. Paranoid Tony / Gina’s Grief 2:30
23. Back To The House 1:47
24. Tony’s Grief / Attack Begins / Crazy Gina / Attack Continues 4:09
25. Gina Dead / Chi-Chi Wasted 1:15
26. Finale (From The Motion Picture “Scarface”) 3:28
27. End Title – Scarface 6:36
28. Trailer Music (Unused) 3:01

DISC 2 (79:00)
1. Scarface (Push It To The Limit) 2:58 Performed by Paul Engemann
2. Rush, Rush (Album Version) 3:38 Performed by Deborah Harry
3. Turn Out The Light 3:31 Performed by Amy Holland
4. Vamos A Bailar 3:43 Performed by Maria Conchita
5. Tony’s Theme 3:10 Performed by Giorgio Moroder
6. She’s On Fire 3:44 Performed by Amy Holland
7. Shake It Up 3:45 Performed by Elizabeth Daily
8. Dance Dance Dance 2:34 Performed by Beth Andersen
9. I’m Hot Tonight 3:13 Performed by Elizabeth Daily
10. Gina And Elvira’s Theme 5:01 Performed by Giorgio Moroder

11. Scarface (Push It To The Limit) (Extended Version) 5:12 Performed by Paul Engemann
12. Rush, Rush 4:48 Performed by Deborah Harry
13. Right Combination 3:42 Performed by Beth Andersen
14. Car Getaway Source 1:09
15. Cuban I 2:28
16. Cuban II 3:23
17. Cuban III 2:27
18. Muzak I 4:45
19. Muzak II 3:18
20. Muzak III 3:03
21. Disco I 3:04
22. Disco II 1:58
23. Success 4:00 Performed by Joe Esposito

See also:
Video - Giorgio Moroder discusses his themes for Scarface

Posted by Geoff at 11:44 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 13, 2022 11:46 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 12, 2022

"Caught in flight during the rehearsal of Stereo, his new rock show dripping with rhinestones, the creation of which opens the Montpellier Danse festival on Friday June 17, Philippe Decouflé, a leading personality on the contemporary scene since the 1980s, displays a leaping form." So begins an article by Le Monde's Rosita Boisseau. Eventually, Boisseau asks Decouflé about his inspirations for Stereo. Here's an excerpt, with help from Google Translate:
“Stereo” is first and foremost a danced rock concert. Is this a return to basics?

Yes, probably a little. Among my first spectacular shocks, there are concerts of Kid Creole and the Coconuts or B-52s and Talking Heads. I also remembered a show by American choreographer Karole Armitage called Drastic Classicism, which was punk and rock. I also share this passion for rock with my daughter Louise, who is a bassist, with whom I am collaborating for the first time. I created a trio around her composed of guitarist Arthur Satan and drummer Romain Boutin. Together, we chose standards like Oh! Darling, by the Beatles, or even Get It on, by T. Rex, but new songs have also been composed. And, of course, we play with the clichés of rock but also pop, disco.

What was your working method for “Stereo”?

I started from the music and started to imagine situations on it, overall pictures or a sequence written especially for a dancer. But, in general, the dance and the music work together and we no longer know who triggers what at a given moment. As I was immobilized for weeks due to a broken leg, I designed quite a few moves from and on the performers.

You have worked since your beginnings with loyal collaborators. You like to say that performers are irreplaceable. How did you meet the new performers who are in “Stereo”?

I am lucky to be surrounded by an exceptional team. We've all known each other for years. For Stereo, I find the set designer Jean Rabasse and the costume designer Philippe Guillotel, who were at the heart of the ceremonies of the Albertville Olympic Games that I choreographed in 1992. And there is also with me Olivier Simola for the video, Alexandra Naudet, who assists me with the choreography, and Begoña Garcia Navas in the light. Their trust is very important. I met two new performers during an audition. There were a lot of dancers and I plugged everyone into a 220 volt socket to see which ones lit up the strongest. We are going to spend two or three years together for the Stereo tour and it is better that it works between us.

Finally, your artistic trajectory is also a collective adventure…

Yes of course ! Alone, I would never have done anything. If I have ideas, they are then transformed and embodied by the dancers and my team. I am a kind of guide, I channel them. I feed them and they feed me reciprocally. I consider each of my partners as a specific color on a palette and their mixture creates emotions that allow the show to take shape.

Dance, circus and theatre, through the presence of the actor Baptiste Allaert, blend together here as in most of your plays. What issues does this braiding of techniques respond to?

I like that dance welcomes acrobatics as an enjoyable complement, that it also gives pride of place to acting. In my plays, the dancers, acrobats and actors do everything. They sing, play an instrument and even take on technical roles. I still have in me the fantasy of total theater inherited from the German Bauhaus and the American choreographer Alwin Nikolais (1910-1993) with whom I studied at the National Center for Contemporary Dance in Angers at the very beginning of the 1980s. likes to stage as many living elements as possible in order to combine them. Each performer uses their technique but also finds themselves in incredible sets far from the image of an army of identical beauties. I like that everything overflows.

Cinema, which is also your passion, has fueled this show. What films have inspired you?

There are many. I will quote Stop Making Sense, by Jonathan Demme, around a Talking Heads concert. David Byrne appears there alone with his guitar, then the bassist arrives, the drums arrive and they are finally an incredible number on stage. The construction principle inspired me at the beginning of the creation of Stereo. I also remember that my film Caramba opened the midnight session of L'Escurial, in Paris, at the end of the 1980s, before Stop Making Sense. There is also Phantom of the Paradise, by Brian De Palma, which I saw when it was released in 1974, and which was such a shock that I did two screenings. Finally, for its relationship to time slipping, to repetition, Groundhog Day, by Harold Ramis, whose humor I also appreciate.

Posted by Geoff at 8:12 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Flashback to the Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1987, and the headline, "FLICK OF THE WEEK: A GREAT SCRIPT FOR `UNTOUCHABLES`," by Gene Siskel:
Our Flick of the Week is Brian DePalma`s "The Untouchables," the first really good film of the summer season, giving us a much different view of Treasury agent Eliot Ness from the stern, tough Ness played by Robert Stack on the 1959-63 TV show.

Here, Ness (Kevin Costner in a star-making performance) plays Ness as a young, innocent, Gary Cooper type who is forced to beg a tough but honest Chicago cop (Sean Connery) for help on how to "get Capone."

With two other recruits who can`t be touched by corruption, Ness slowly and painfully learns that an eye for an eye may not be a bad philosophy when dealing with a totally corrupt system.

Ethics aside, the filmmaking by DePalma is stylish and alternates between shocking surprise and hold-your-breath quiet.

Only a needless scene of Ness and Canadian Mounted Police stopping an illegal liquor shipment seems out of place. The time wasted could have been better spent with more scenes of Robert De Niro, quite chilling as Al Capone, a role that requires skill to rise above caricature.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet deserves credit for giving DePalma the best script he has ever filmed--one with a great rooting interest as well as violent ironies.

"The Untouchables" is violent to be sure, giving it an R rating. It is playing at the United Artists, Esquire and outlying theaters. ***1/2

Posted by Geoff at 10:56 PM CDT
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Friday, June 3, 2022

Excerpt from 6/1/22, Chicago Sun-Times: "Made the Chicago way, The Untouchables endures," by Richard Roeper:
When we talk about “The Untouchables,” the first scene that leaps to mind is the famous exchange between Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness and Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica in East Garfield Park, when Malone tells Ness if he wants to get Al Capone …

“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. THAT’S the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.”

That’s the scene Barack Obama quoted during the 2008 presidential campaign. That’s the scene that likely cemented the best supporting actor Oscar for Connery. It’s iconic. It’s fantastic. But as we observe the 35th anniversary of Brian De Palma’s Chicago-centric classic’s opening in June 1987, I’ve come to love another snippet of dialogue even more than the aforementioned quote. It’s the moment when Ness confronts a judge in his chambers and justifies his actions: “I have foresworn myself. I have broken every law I swore to defend, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right!”

All of a sudden, this taciturn man sounds downright Shakespearean in his eloquence in a moment of great passion and it’s not the least bit plausible but it’s great, and that’s your David Mamet screenplay right there. For all its moments of stunning violence and outlaw rage, “The Untouchables” is also unforgettable for Mamet’s brilliant dialogue and his wildly inventive plot, which contains two pieces of historical fact:

1.There was an infamous Chicago gangster named Al Capone.

2.There was also a prohibition investigator named Eliot Ness who formed a team of agents known as the Untouchables.

On those two counts, “The Untouchables” stays true to the facts. That’s about it. All right, so we might be engaging in a little hyperbole of our own here, but great swaths of “The Untouchables” are pure imagination. Jimmy Malone is a fictional construct. The raid at the Canadian border, the courthouse shootout, the famous staircase scene in Union Station … none of if happened. (Nor did Eliot Ness throw Frank Nitti off the roof of a downtown building. More than a dozen years after the events depicted in “The Untouchables,” Nitti shot and killed himself in a railroad yard a few blocks away from his home in Riverside.)

Does it matter? Not really. We love “The Untouchables” because it’s essentially a 1930 Western pitting the underdog good guys led by Eliot Ness against the rotten-to-the-core bad guys of the Capone-helmed Chicago mob, and it’s filled with that memorable dialogue and a myriad of beautifully executed set pieces. It’s a key chapter in Kevin Costner’s ascent to movie stardom, as “No Way Out” was released later in that same summer of 1987, followed by “Bull Durham” in 1988, “Field of Dreams” in 1989 and “Dances with Wolves” in 1990. (Pretty good run!) “The Untouchables” was also an early touchstone in the career of Andy Garcia — and of course we got that career-crowning, Academy Award-winning performance from Connery as the Irish Chicago cop with the Scottish accent.

De Palma and his director of photography Stephen H. Burum set the flourishing visual tone early on, in twin scenes introducing us to Capone and then Ness. The first time we see Robert De Niro’s Al Capone, it’s an overhead shot as Capone holds court with reporters while getting his shoes shined, a manicure and a shave. Here is a man of opulence; here is a man of power. Here is a man who flaunts his criminal ways in public, telling the media, “There is violence in Chicago of course — but not by me and not by anybody I employ and I’ll tell you why: because it’s not good business.” Whatever you say, Scarface.

We cut to the Ness household, all warm and cozy and understated, as Eliot Ness reads the newspaper with the headline about a 10-year-old girl who was killed in an explosion caused by Capone’s henchman Frank Nitti. After a loving exchange with his saintly wife (a perfectly cast Patricia Clarkson), Ness heads out to his first day on a new assignment: taking down Al Capone and the Chicago syndicate. It’s clear from the get-go he’s a decided underdog.

Much of the fun in rewatching “The Untouchables” (released Tuesday in 4K Ultra HD) is spotting all the Chicago locales. (A notable exception: the railway raid, with Montana filling in for Canada.) The café blown up in the opening scene is now the site of the Houndstooth Saloon in Lakeview; the pedestrian deck of the Michigan Avenue Bridge is where Ness meets Jimmy Malone; the site of Capone’s infamous baseball bat-bashing of a wayward underling is the Crystal Ballroom of the Blackstone Hotel on South Michigan Avenue. As we see from the address scribbled on Frank Nitti’s matchbook, Jimmy Malone lived at “1634 Racine,” an apartment that has since been supplanted by University of Illinois-Chicago structures. As for the “Lexington Hotel” where Capone is holed up — the first floor is actually the Chicago Theatre.

The Untouchables” is heavy on the fiction, but thanks in large part to those great Chicago locales, it feels palpable and real.

Posted by Geoff at 8:39 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2022 12:55 PM CDT
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