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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Sunday, August 14, 2022
PASTE MAGAZINE ON DE PALMA'S 'PALATE CLEANSERS'
"RAISING CAIN IS VERY MUCH THE SIGHT OF A FILMMAKER JOYFULLY FREEING HIMSELF FROM THE SHACKLES OF RESPECTABILITY"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/palate.jpg

At Paste Magazine this past Friday, Jesse Hassenger writes about Raising Cain as a "De Ranged" De Palma "palate cleanser" movie. "It had been a while since De Palma had made one of his signature Hitchcockian thrillers," Hassenger explains. "His last one, at this point, was Body Double, eight years prior. So in the summer of 1992, De Palma returned to screens with Raising Cain, and accidentally established a new tradition: The once-a-decade straight-shot of palate-cleansing De Palma madness, to be revisited in 2002 and 2012 (though sadly not, so far, in 2022). It was, as the poster for Raising Cain concisely advertised it, a full course: “'De Mented. De Ranged. De Ceptive. De Palma.'”

The later two films Hassenger is talking about, of course, are Femme Fatale and Passion. However, I would argue that Body Double would surely be the prototypical "palate cleanser" films for De Palma. The 1984 film came on the heels of De Palma's ratings battles with the MPAA, as well as the heatedly negative reception to Scarface - which itself followed the financial failure of what is widely considered to be De Palma's finest film, Blow Out. As such, Body Double is a complete letting-loose, a chance for De Palma to get it all out of his system, wild, funny, and fearless, before getting back to the back-and-forth business of Hollywood compromises.

Here's a bit more from Hassenger:

De Palma had done feature-length dream-logic freakouts before Raising Cain. But what separates Cain from Dressed to Kill or Body Double, besides a number of years spent on non-thrillers for big studios, is how much it feels like a valve being turned on, releasing his pent-up indulgences. Its predecessor, The Bonfire of the Vanities, offers the awkward spectacle of De Palma occasionally applying virtuoso technique to material that’s at once grotesque and defanged—a limping monster of a seriocomic adaptation, where the serious performances don’t fit and the comic notes are held long and loud. Despite his experience working with big stars (The Untouchables), big budgets (Scarface), novel adaptations (Carrie) and dark comedy (take your pick), De Palma feels out of his element in Bonfire. He engineers a thrilling single-take opening scene featuring a drunken Bruce Willis, with screwball timing applied to dirtbag flair, and it barely feels connected to anything else in the movie. Even at its choppiest, in the original theatrical cut, Raising Cain feels all of a piece.

The pattern would repeat, under different circumstances, ten years later with Femme Fatale in 2002, and then ten years after that with Passion in 2012 (not released commercially until 2013, but surely the 2012 New York Film Festival audience that cheered in delight for Passion was as good as it was going to get for that movie). Femme Fatale, which turns 20 this autumn, is best of De Palma’s palate-cleansing trilogy, embracing dream logic to such a degree that it actually tightens the movie up, and enriches De Palma’s obsession with watching others and ourselves, processing events through a camera. (No accident that the opening shot is Rebecca Romijn’s character reflected in a TV screen as she watches Double Indemnity.) Meanwhile, Snake Eyes and Mission to Mars, the De Palma movies that preceded Femme Fatale, only have brilliant passages, fighting against the invisible restraints of big-studio moviemaking.

It’s unlikely that De Palma designed (or De Signed?) these three movies as neatly separated once-a-decade events, but in retrospect it makes them each look like an “erotic thriller” (the designation often applied to De Palma’s thrillers, and even moreso to their imitators) grown progressively more tangled and less recognizable. On paper, Raising Cain looks vaguely in step with other summer 1992 thrillers like Single White Female or Unlawful Entry, where domestic space is violated by an interloper in disguise. Cain is ultimately less reassuring: The threat comes from inside the family, and the disguise becomes literal, with the movie ending on Lithgow popping up from nowhere in drag as one of his character’s alternate personalities. Further down the line, the drift away from sexuality in American cinema is visible when setting Femme Fatale against more popular 2002 thrillers like Panic Room or Enough. (Unfaithful is the exception that proves the rule: A sex-saturated hit that was director Adrian Lyne’s last movie until earlier this year!)

By the time De Palma got to Passion in 2012, this style of movie had fallen so out of fashion that the opening section feels particularly stilted, despite the presence of Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace. Passion is its own hoot, replete with split-screens, knowing references to twins and opportunities for McAdams and Rapace to uncork—and looked positively alien in its day. None of these movies got especially sterling reviews when they were released; all of them look more comfortable next to each other. Cain and Fatale even share a particularly memorable image of a figure materializing behind a character, as well as a pet phrase (“cat’s in the bag”) and the threat of impalement by truck.

Notably, Raising Cain is the only movie in the palate-cleansing trilogy to be followed up by more mainstream triumphs: Next up for De Palma was Carlito’s Way, one of his best movies (by his own estimation, too), and Mission: Impossible, one of his biggest hits. These movies aren’t necessarily better, or, for that matter, less De Palma (Mission: Impossible and Raising Cain both open on surveillance video). But the ability to make a successful and satisfying movie in the studio system can be fleeting in the best of circumstances, and De Palma’s later-period genre workouts really do feel like he’s working something out. Femme Fatale may be the purest expression of De Palma’s sensibility; Raising Cain may be his purest exorcism.


Posted by Geoff at 10:09 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 15, 2022 6:05 PM CDT
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Friday, August 12, 2022
VIDEO - CHARLIE ROSE INTERVIEWS BRIAN DE PALMA
UPON THE RELEASE OF 'RAISING CAIN' IN 1992

Posted by Geoff at 7:27 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 12, 2022 7:28 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 11, 2022
4K 'DRESSED TO KILL' FROM KINO LORBER OCT 25
2-DISC SET, NEW INTERVIEWS WITH NANCY ALLEN, KEITH GORDON, FRED CARUSO, AUDIO COMMENTARY BY MAITLAND MCDONAGH
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/kino4kdtk.jpg

Kino Lorber's 4K Blu-ray edition of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill will be released October 25th. Here are the special features and technical specs, according to Blu-ray.com:
DISC ONE - 4K BLU-RAY:
  • NEW DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Critic and Author Maitland McDonagh
  • Optional English Subtitles
DISC TWO - BLU-RAY:
  • NEW Strictly Business - Interview with Actress Nancy Allen
  • NEW Killer Frames - Interview with Associate Producer and Production Manager Fred C. Caruso
  • NEW An Imitation of Life - Interview with Actor Keith Gordon
  • Symphony of Fear - Archival interview with Producer George Litto (2012)
  • Dressed in White - Archival interview with Actress Angie Dickinson (2012)
  • Dressed in Purple - Archival interview with Actress Nancy Allen (2012)
  • Lessons in Filmmaking - Archival interview with Actor Keith Gordon (2012)
  • The Making of Dressed to Kill - Documentary (2001)
  • Slashing Dressed to Kill - Featurette (2001)
  • Unrated/R-Rated/TV Rated Comparison: 2001 Featurette
  • An Appreciation by Keith Gordon - Featurette (2001)
  • Archival Audio Interview with Actor Michael Caine (1980)
  • Archival Audio Interview with Actress Angie Dickinson (1980)
  • Archival Audio Interview with Actress Nancy Allen (1980)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:10)
  • 7 Radio Spots
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

Posted by Geoff at 11:40 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
NO SCHOOL'S JASON HELLERMAN ON DE PALMA'S PASTICHE
"DE PALMA CAN SEE THE STORY SO WELL THAT I THINK, LIKE A GREAT JAZZ ARTIST, HE LIKES TO RIFF"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/dtkelevator10a.jpg

Yesterday, No Film School posted an article written by Jason Hellerman, with the headline, "Brian De Palma's Pastiche Is Highly Underrated for Its Originality" - here's an excerpt:
When some people brush De Palma aside, they usually cite his reliance on other movies to make some of his magnum opuses. Yes, it's easy to see De Palma riffing on Hitchcock. Dressed to Kill takes sequences from Psycho and liberally borrows plot beats. Body Double takes the plot from Rear Window and adds in some Vertigo as well.

He borrows the title of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup and the plot of Coppola's The Conversation for Blow Out. And The Untouchables' finale is a clear homage to the Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin.

Because he does this, many people have labeled him as "unoriginal." That's not remotely the case. De Palma can see the story so well that I think, like a great jazz artist, he likes to riff. While we laud people like Quentin Tarantino for doing this, I think we need to remember that De Palma was a pioneer. He studied classical Hollywood and found the parts he thought he could update.


Posted by Geoff at 10:09 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 13, 2022 2:41 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 9, 2022
'RUSSIAN DOLL' CINEMATOGRAPHER NOTES 'BLOW OUT'
NATASHA LYONNE & ULA PONTIKOS INCLUDE VISUAL NOD TO DE PALMA/ZSIGMOND FILM IN EMMY-NOMINATED EPISODE, "NOWHEN"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/nowhen.jpg

"There were more than 550 television shows in contention this Emmy season," states The Wrap's Jason Clark, "a daunting task for voters to parse and the driving engine for the 'Is There Too Much TV?' chatter mill. But in the case of the Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour) category, the nominations were an impressive overlay of the evolution of the half-hour series. All six nominees, drawn from 86 eligible contenders, are technically comedy series — but more urgently, they’re a bold representation of how that genre has blended into popular entertainments that are not afraid to go to darker, more diverse places while delivering the laughs. The six nominees in this category have a distinguished range of backgrounds in television (and rather sweetly, all are rooting for each other) and spoke to TheWrap to take us inside their nominated episodes."

Here's Clark's section about one of those nominees, Ula Pontikos:

RUSSIAN DOLL (Netflix, “Nowhen,” Season 2, Episode 1)

Ula Pontikos didn’t shoot any episodes of the first season of “Russian Doll,” but she was behind the camera for every episode of Season 2. “I’ve never slotted into somebody’s work,” said the U.K.-based Pontikos, who took inspiration from mood boards and storyboards created with the directors, along with Douglas Hofstadter’s 2007 self-referential nonfiction book “I Am a Strange Loop.” “I love deconstructing the script, and part of the challenge as a cinematographer is to really figure out what the world is.”

In Season 2, the free-spirited Nadia (cocreator Natasha Lyonne, who also wrote and directed this episode) takes a subway ride back to 1982 in a new adventure that eventually finds her retracing her family’s Holocaust legacy, often while existing in the body of her pregnant mother (Chloë Sevigny), which she discovers in a mirror effect at a pivotal moment in this episode. “We really did not want to do that on a green screen,” Pontikos said. “Part of the charm of this project is to kind of make it quite lo-fi and fun.”

“Nowhen” is complete with subway scenes that span different decades, all shot in three and half days with a myriad of cost-saving techniques and with visual nods to films close to that era, including Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out” and Alex Cox’s “Sid & Nancy.” “I spent hours walking around the Lower East Side trying to figure out, on a limited budget, how we could have a key light source and yet not lose that quality of that tungsten light, which is so dominant in the ’70s and ’80s,” Pontikos said.


Posted by Geoff at 8:50 PM CDT
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Monday, August 8, 2022
WAKE UP!
FEMME FATALE & RAISING CAIN
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/ffwakeup9.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 10:56 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 8, 2022 11:02 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 7, 2022
30 YEARS AGO TODAY - 'RAISING CAIN' WAS RELEASED
AUGUST 7, 1992 - JOHN LITHGOW STARS IN A BRIAN DE PALMA FILM, PRODUCED BY GALE ANNE HURD
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/hobermanquoteadsmall.jpg

 


Posted by Geoff at 4:24 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 7, 2022 10:50 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 6, 2022
VIDEO - A GUIDE TO THE FILMS OF BRIAN DE PALMA
FROM ROUGE - THEY SKIP DE PALMA'S 2 WAR FILMS, "SOME MOVIES I'M JUST FINE NEVER HAVING TO SEE"

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 31, 2022
HERZOG - 'FILMS ARE MY VOYAGE & WRITING IS HOME'
FINANCIAL TIMES ASKS, "WHY ARE SUCCESSFUL FILMMAKERS WRITING NOVELS?"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/snakescover.jpg

"Films are my voyage and writing is home." That is how Werner Herzog responds to the Financial Times' Theo Zenou, who is "trying to understand what writing prose means to Herzog." The headline for the article, which was posted on July 28, is "Why are successful filmmakers writing novels?"

Along with Herzog's novel The Twilight World, the article mentions Michael Mann's Heat 2, David Koepp's Aurora and Cold Storage, Quentin Tarantino's novelization of his own film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and, of course, Are Snakes Necessary? which was written by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman. Here's a brief excerpt from Zenou's article:

But what may appeal most to filmmakers is the autonomy that comes with writing. Charles Ardai, De Palma’s publisher at Hard Case Crime, thinks this ultimately explains why so many filmmakers turn to novels: “It’s enormously appealing to a director or screenwriter to generate a piece of art solitaire. This is a way to go from being one of an ensemble, even the most important one, to being a soloist.” Koepp concurs, adding “everybody on a movie is an assistant storyteller”. A novel is “more fulfilling because it’s more yours”, he says, “there are no other opinions to consider”.

And then there is the absence of budgets and shooting schedules. Herzog, in typically vivid style, likens the filming process to “open-heart surgery”, which must be completed “under limited time conditions”. While publishers can be stalled, film shoots, like operations, are ruthlessly unforgiving. “You cannot do open-heart surgeries stretching out over two weeks,” Herzog says. “You have to do it in half a day, otherwise the patient is going to be dead.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 1, 2022 12:13 AM CDT
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Saturday, July 30, 2022
MARY ALICE DIES AT 85
TONY AWARD WINNER FOR FENCES IN 1987 WAS CAST 3 YEARS LATER AS ANNIE LAMB IN 'BONFIRE'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/maryalice.jpg

Mary Alice, who played the role of Annie Lamb in Brian De Palma's adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire Of The Vanities, died Wednesday of natural causes. She was 85.

Prior to her career as an actress, Mary Alice was a teacher in Chicago. In 1967, she moved to New York, taking parts in theater, film, and television. In 1974, she starred in the PBS movie The Sty of the Blind Pig. In the 1976 film Sparkle, which was inspired by Diana Ross and the Supremes, she played Effie Williams, "the single mom raising daughters played by Irene Cara, Lonette McKee and Dwan Smith," as Mike Barnes puts it in The Hollywood Reporter. Mary Alice appeared in episodes of various TV series throughout the years, and in 1977, she acted opposite Morgan Freeman in Cockfight at the American Place Theater in New York. According to theNew York Post obituary by Erin Keller, Mary Alice "played Bostic, a dorm director, in the Cosby Show spinoff for two seasons in the 1980s. In those years, she also portrayed Ellie Grant Hubbard in All My Children. Her performance as Rose in the 1987 production of August Wilson’s Fences earned her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. In 1992, she won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for I’ll Fly Away."

Three years after winning the aforementioned Tony Award, Mary Alice portrayed the key role of Annie Lamb, the mother of the boy injured in the hit-and-run accident that lay at the center of The Bonfire Of The Vanities. That same year, according to The Hollywood Reporter obituary by Mike Barnes, "Alice played Nurse Margaret opposite Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in Awakenings, directed by Penny Marshall", and also "the family matriarch dealing with a disruptive guest (Danny Glover) in Charles Burnett’s To Sleep With Anger."


Posted by Geoff at 10:10 PM CDT
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