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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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Thursday, December 16, 2021
ALEXANDRE DESPLAT ON THE USE OF TEMP TRACKS
AND WHAT IT'S LIKE TO HEAR ONE'S OWN COMPOSITION TRACKED ONTO A DIFFERENT FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/psychosoundtrackcover.jpg

In a "Composer Series" interview at Below The Line, composer Alexandre Desplat is asked by Edward Douglas about the use of temp tracks:
BTL: You work with a lot of other directors and filmmakers as well, a lot of people multiple times as you mentioned. Do any of the other directors you work with use temp music, either your own or someone else’s that they cut to, or do you generally get a dry edit with no music?

Desplat: Well, directors like Wes Anderson, like Roman Polanski, they don’t use temp. They never use temp, they don’t need it, because they have their own idea of what the music should be, and what the editing should be without using temp. Some others, they mix existing scores of mine or other composers. It’s a bit of a battle each time for the director to forget this temp that is heard again and again and again and again and again and again. And again. And again. And again. It’s always difficult to convince him that you can look for another sound, another pace, that the bass is not right, or the sound is not right, or the placement is not right, which is another story all along. I have to deal with it, and I try to convince the director that my choice is best. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.

BTL: I’ve spoken to quite a few composers about hearing your own past music over new images, and the composers I’ve spoken to know right away that it’s not the right music for those images. I’m not sure if that’s just a natural knack one has a composer or the instinct of not wanting to lose scoring work to his or her past self. How do you feel about temp music even if it’s your own?

Desplat: There’s this famous scene between Brian de Palma and Bernard Herrmann coming to a screening where he used his previous cues, previous music from Hitchcock, and Bernard Herrmann just stormed out, saying it was impossible to use that music in this film, because it was wrong. And I understand. When you see a film, and you hear the music that you’ve written for something else, it’s disconnected. It’s just not right. You know that there’s something else that can be cooked by the chef.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Sunday, October 10, 2021
'SISTERS' ON FSR 10 BEST HORROR-OPENING-CREDITS LIST
SCORED BY BERNARD HERRMANN, SEQUENCE WAS EDITED BY PAUL HIRSCH FROM A SWEDISH DOC LENSED BY LENNART NILSSON
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/lennart.jpg

"The main title sequence Benny had insisted on began to take shape," writes Paul Hirsch about Sisters in his book, A Long Time Ago In A Cutting Room Far, Far Away. "We found a Swedish documentary that featured the world's first intra-uterine photography of developng fetuses. Borrowing shots from it, I constructed a montage of close-ups of body parts: a hand, an eye, an ear, and so on. In the final shot we reveal that there are two babies, twins. It was very effective and laid the groundwork for the movie's backstory.

"Benny's music, when it arrived from the sessions in London, was astounding to me. The main theme was based on the universal child's singsong playground taunt, nya-nya nya-nya nyaahh-nyaahh. His deranged version of this melody included metallic sounds; tubular bells struck with hammers, which suggested knives; and also Moog synthesizers howling a kind of demented accompaniment. The effect is immediately unsettling, even overwhelming. Variety's review of the film would later say that 'Herrmann's score would make blank film compelling.'"

Two days ago, Meg Shields shared a few words about the title sequence from Sisters, as it was included at number seven on Film School Rejects' "10 Best Opening Credits Sequences in Horror Films"...

Featuring cinematography by accomplished Swedish medical photographer Lennart Nilsson, the opening sequence to Brian De Palma’s Sisters is an unnerving melding of the satanic and the sacrosanct: two fetuses, rendered alien, imposing, and devilish under Nilsson’s macro lens. As the titles roll and the embryonic humans loom, the aural anxiety is ratcheted up to a fever pitch thanks to the shrieking strings of Bernard Herrmann, whose plinking, swooping score endows each close-up image with an uncanny sense of monstrosity. A montage of sinister fetus close-ups is the perfect way to kick off a film at the intersection of Hitchcock, giallo, and the psychosexual sci-fi fare of David Cronenberg. Sisters embodies essential 1970s genre film wickedness. And what could be more wicked than endowing the unborn with a palpable sense of menace?

Posted by Geoff at 7:23 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 25, 2021 12:22 AM CDT
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Saturday, September 25, 2021
MANY OF DE PALMA'S WORKS GIVE 'THAT MALIGNANT FEELING'
"BUT SISTERS FEELS THE MOST THEMATICALLY APPROPRIATE TO RECOMMEND", SAYS COLLIDER WRITER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sisterssecrets4.jpg

"So you just watched Malignant," begins Gregory Lawrence in an article posted today at Collider. "First, I'm gonna ask you to take some deep breaths and drink a glass of water; I have to imagine that after experiencing James Wan's utterly bonkers dive into some of the wildest horror ideas committed to cinema in recent memory, you're a bit tired out. And now that you're rested and hydrated... it's time for more." Adding that "Malignant is a film that celebrates the horror genre in all its excesses and successes," Lawrence offers up "seven movies to watch after Malignant to keep those adrenaline levels pumping." Presenting them alphabetically (and perceptively including Leigh Whannell's Upgrade on the list), here's what Lawrence has to say about Sisters:
Wan cited Brian De Palma as one of the key influences on Malignant, and it's not hard to see why. The provocative filmmaker has crafted several pieces of entertainment that gleefully mush art and trash together, backflipping off the diving board of respectability into a pool of excess with the craft of an Olympic diver. Many of De Palma's works will give you that Malignant feeling, but his 1972 Sisters feels the most thematically appropriate to recommend. A psychologically driven slasher, the film stars Margot Kidder as a pair of titular sisters, one who is fundamentally decent and trying to get by, and the other who may have some murderous impulses she needs to get out. This violent, perverse, Freudian-on-uppers thriller takes several large turns when we learn the real nature of Kidder's twins, and while even mentioning this in relation to Malignant likely gives you an idea, it's still a particular genre pleasure to see unfold (and an essential piece of horror history to understanding Malignant).

Previously:
James Wan says Malignant draws on De Palma's Dressed To Kill & Raising Cain

Posted by Geoff at 4:47 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 7, 2021
'A DOMINO EFFECT WITH CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES'
THE SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS IN DE PALMA'S 'SISTERS' FEEL AS RELEVANT AS EVER, WRITES URSULA MUNOZ-SCHAEFER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sisterswindowcouple55.jpg

At Neon Splatter last week, Ursula Muñoz-Schaefer wrote about Brian De Palma's Sisters in an "Added To Watchlist" column:
If you spend any amount of time online, you’ve probably engaged in — or, at the very least, come across — conversations about the supposed politicization of popular media. Whether it be meddling right-wingers or snooty leftists, everyone seems to be under the impression that, for better or worse, genre films have evolved to reflect the increasing awareness of environmental issues, economic inequality, and race and gender politics that characterize our turbulent times. The horror genre in particular has become the target of much discussion between recent remakes of existing IP such as this year’s CANDYMAN and last year’s THE INVISIBLE MAN, the widespread acclaim of diverse new creators like Jordan Peele, and the wave of less successful knockoffs his films seem to be inspiring. Although many of these themes have certainly become increasingly overt in recent years, horror media has always been rife with blistering social critique, and the 1970s were proof of that. Brian De Palma’s psychosexual horror-thriller SISTERS is proof of that too.

Released in 1972, four years prior to his meteoric success with CARRIE, SISTERS remains a somewhat underrated gem in De Palma’s filmography, which also includes SCARFACE, BLOW OUT, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, and the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE among its many hits. Taking place in Staten Island, the movie follows a woman who attempts to investigate a murder case that goes ignored by the police. Suspecting her neighbor of the crime, she falls into a tangled web of dark secrets concerning said woman’s medical history and her caustic relationship to a mysterious twin.

There are several reasons De Palma’s fourth-most-popular horror scratches an itch few films can satisfy for me. For starters, its social implications feel as relevant as ever. Spoiling as little as possible, the man (Lisle Wilson) whose murder our protagonist Grace (Jennifer Salt) witnesses, is black. A hard-hitting journalist who’d previously written about corruption in the local police force, her claims are brushed aside by the detective who does not make an attempt to properly search the neighbor’s apartment for a body. He constantly belittles Grace and threatens to have her arrested for petty charges if she doesn’t lay off. The man’s race is brought up many times over the course of the film, with Grace implying that the police are racist for not taking the murder seriously and instead siding with the white woman (Margot Kidder) she accused of deadly assault.

Unbeknownst to the other characters, said white woman, Danielle, suffers from an undisclosed psychiatric illness, and lives under the medical and emotional care of her controlling husband, Emil (William Finley). Like in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, the initial murder victim is followed closely during the film’s first act, which establishes him as a decent man unfazed by the microaggressions he undergoes in his day-to-day life until he is brutally killed off. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the characters are being failed by what the film portrays as oppressive social and structural forces meant to protect them — resulting in a domino effect with catastrophic consequences.

SISTERS is also just a treat for movie and history buffs. As a big Hitchcock junkie, there are few things I love more than a good modern retelling of his work, from MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993) to STOKER (2013). SISTERS is unique in that it pays homage to the revolutionary narrative and audiovisual techniques from the Master of Suspense’s entire career through obvious references to scenes from his most iconic films.


Read the rest at Neon Splatter.

Posted by Geoff at 11:50 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 29, 2021
'IT FEELS LIKE IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU'
PODCAST DELVES INTO IDENTIFYING WITH GRACE - DISCUSSION OF 'SISTERS'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cleaningsplit045.jpg

On the latest episode of I Know Movies And You Don't, host Kyle Bruehl is joined by Ben McGinley and Galen Howard "to discuss Brian De Palma's unnerving and stylish ode to Alfred Hitchcock, the spiral into horror voyeurism, racial subtext, and female gaslighting in Sisters."

Posted by Geoff at 6:40 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 12, 2021
IMAGE ECHO - FROM 'SISTERS' TO 'RABID'
TO GO ALONG WITH THE 'CARRIE' POSTER SEEN IN CRONENBERG'S FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sistersrabid.jpg

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


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, May 1, 2021
OLYMPIA DUKAKIS HAS DIED AT 89
OSCAR WINNER FOR 'MOONSTRUCK' HAD EARLIER UNCREDITED ROLE IN BRIAN DE PALMA'S 'SISTERS'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/olympianamessmall.jpg

Olympia Dukakis, who had an uncredited role as the Staten Island bakery worker who remembers the names on the cake in Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973), died Saturday at the age of 89. Dukakis is best known for her Oscar-winning performance as the mother of a young widow (played by Cher) in Norman Jewison's Moonstruck (1987). As Carmel Dagan describes in a Variety obit, Dukakis tackled that role "with an extraordinary comic ethnic gusto characteristic of the movie as a whole."

Sisters was made in 1973, the same year that Dukakis and her husband, Louis Zorich, helped found the Whole Theater Company in Montclair, New Jersey (the first photo below, dated from 1973, shows Dukakis in the front chair with the rest of the company). In Sisters, Phillip is running errands for Danielle when he spots the 4 Corners Bakery, and asks the worker inside to decorate a birthday cake with the names Dominique and Danielle. The lady turns her head back to Dukakis, telling her this guy wants her to write names on a cake. "I'd like to see you try!" Dukakis scoffs back at her, and the co-worker take it as a challenge (and we get a classic eerie suspense queue from Bernard Herrmann). Later, as Grace begins investigating Phillip's murder, she stops at the shop with her mother, and asks the lady about the cake. The lady cannot even remember the names she wrote on the cake(!) but, even during a busy moment, Dukakis pulls herself into the conversation to say the she remembers the names: Dominique and Danielle.

Excerpt from a 2003 New York Times brief by Margo Nash about Dukakis promoting her autobiography:

The trim 72-year-old actress with the throaty voice and direct manner has appeared in more than 40 films, 100 plays and 26 television movies. She has played parts ranging from her Oscar-winning role in 1987 as Cher's mother in ''Moonstruck,'' which made her famous, to the transsexual landlady in television's ''Tales of the City'' and ''More Tales of the City.'' She has also directed, taught acting, helped found five theaters, including the Whole Theater, and won numerous awards.

She and her husband, Louis Zorich, were Manhattan theater actors when they moved to Montclair in 1970, seeking a peaceful place to raise a family. They also wanted to start their own theater company, and so with other acting couples, founded the Whole Theater.

The company's first play was ''Our Town,'' in 1973. For the next 17 years, the theater produced five plays a season, including the works of Pirandello, Euripides, Eugene O'Neill, Samuel Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson and many others, in productions that were critically praised. Among the actors performing were Jose Ferrer, Colleen Dewhurst, Blythe Danner and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as Ms. Dukakis and Mr. Zorich.


Excerpt from New York Times obit by Anita Gates:

Olympia Dukakis was born on June 20, 1931, in Lowell, Mass., the older of two children of Constantine and Alexandra (Christos) Dukakis, both Greek immigrants. Her father worked in various settings, including a munitions factory, a printing business and the quality control department of Lever Brothers. He also founded an amateur theater company.

Olympia graduated from Boston University with a degree in physical therapy and practiced that occupation, traveling to West Virginia, Minnesota and Texas during the worst days of the midcentury polio epidemic. Eventually she earned enough money to return to B.U. to study theater.

Even before she received her M.F.A., she threw herself into her new career, making her stage debut in a 1956 summer stock production of “Outward Bound” in Maine. She moved to New York in 1959 and made her New York stage debut the next year in “The Breaking Wall” at St. Mark’s Playhouse.

Her first screen appearance came in 1962, on the television series “Dr. Kildare.” Her first movie role was an uncredited one as a psychiatric patient in “Lilith” (1964). She received an Obie Award in 1963 for her role as Widow Begbick, the canteen owner, in Bertolt Brecht’s drama “A Man’s a Man” and another, 22 years later, for playing the grandmother of Mr. Durang’s character in “The Marriage of Bette and Boo.”

Along the way she married Louis Zorich, a fellow actor who had appeared with her in a production of “Medea” in Williamstown, Mass. Together they helped found the Whole Theater Company in 1973 in Montclair, N.J., where they lived while bringing up their children. The company produced the likes of Chekhov, Coward and Williams for almost two decades. Ms. Dukakis also taught acting at New York University.



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Sunday, January 31, 2021
COFFEE WITH ALIENS DISCUSS 'SISTERS' & 'LADY VANISHES'
PART OF SERIES RECOMMENDING FILMS NOW PLAYING ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL

Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CST
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Thursday, January 14, 2021
SWITCHBLADE SISTERS PODCAST DISCUSSES 'SISTERS'
FILMMAKER SUJATA DAY JOINS FILM CRITIC KATIE WALSH
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sistersphillipdaniellewindow.jpg

"I was SO happy when @sujataday chose the delightfully bonkers De Palma joint SISTERS for @SwitchbladePod," film critic Katie Walsh tweeted today. Walsh and filmmaker Sujata Day have a lot of fun discussing Sisters on the latest episode of the podcast Switchblade Sisters. Here are the podcast's episode notes:
We are joined by the multi-hyphenate, uber-talented writer, actor, director, producer Sujata Day. You may know her best from her role as Sarah on Insecure. But she also recently wrote, directed, and starred in her debut feature Definition Please, about a former spelling bee champion who must reconcile with her family and her past. She joins Katie Walsh to discuss Brian De Palma’s severely underrated Sisters. Katie and Sujata gush over the “bonkers” quality of the film. But Sujata goes further and points to De Palma’s use of split-screens and imaginative filmmaking techniques that directly inspired her work. Sujata also discusses scrappy filmmaking (she shot her film in two weeks), utilizing Indian music, and having complete creative control over low-budget projects.

Previously:

Barbara Crampton discusses Raw & Body Double with April Wolfe on Switchblade Sisters podcast


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, January 7, 2021
SAOIRSE ON THE 'PURELY VISCERAL' APPEAL OF 'SISTERS'
IN ORDER TO DESCRIBE IT, "YOU SOMEWHAT HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT AS TWO DIFFERENT MOVIES"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/sistersoperation0small.jpg

At A Fistful of Film today, "Saoirse’s Cult Corner" takes a look at Brian De Palma's Sisters:
If Obsession was de Palma’s riff on Vertigo, this is his riff on Rear Window, if, at first at least, from a different perspective. The film opens with a strange ‘Peeping Tom’ quiz show in which a real person is tricked into a compromising situation involving opportunities to prey on a vulnerable woman, here played by the iconic Margot Kidder. She pretends to be a blind woman for the show, and in a secretly filmed scenario, contestants have to guess whether the person being covertly filmed is going to grope her or not as she undresses, supposedly unaware of his presence. He doesn’t, and respects her privacy. After the airing of the game show they have a date together that’s going great until Kidder’s ex-husband, played by the phantom himself William Finley being, stupendously creepy, shows up.

What follows is a 45 minute set piece that plays like a one act play for half the movie. It involves a slow build to murder and then an investigation when a neighbouring journalist sees the murder. It is unquestionably one of the most tense things I’ve ever seen as de Palma utilises his trademark split screen with the utmost aplomb with amazing visual storytelling. It at many moments plays out like the opening of Orson WellesTouch of Evil, which de Palma had already homaged in his movie Phantom of the Paradise, except it uses edits to juxtapose two separate plotlines playing out tangentially in real time, (where Phantom of the Paradise uses much longer takes), this lets the audience make the sums in their head as to who will get away with what, winding the tension like a ratchet. The actual editing on show here, by Hollywood legend and editor of Star Wars, Paul Hirsch, is astonishing. If you know anything about Star Wars‘s making, Paul Hirsch and Brian de Palma, amongst several other people who are not George Lucas, are the sole reason Star Wars is a well edited film, and their skill comes together here in a showcase of some of the best editing you will ever, ever see. I almost think this would be my favourite de Palma if the whole movie played out like this first half, keeping in one apartment, as a journalist who has justifiably criticised the police force is constantly ignored by them until she can uncover murder, which is what the plot of this first half is, and it’s insane and it’s intense.

The rest of the movie is still par excellence as you’d expect from de Palma. It plays out for a time almost like a preemptive to Argento’s Deep Red, with our protagonist trying to make it as a female journalist and bumping up against colourful characters who she negotiates to try to get to the bottom of this mystery. She eventually makes it to a mental ward where Margot Kidder is now becoming institutionalised and things get… weird…

So where to describe the appeals of this movie? In order to do that you somewhat have to talk about it as two different movies.

In the movie it is for most of its runtime and first, it’s a tense, knuckle-whitening thriller that explores typical de Palma themes of police corruption. Part of the reason the cops are loathe to investigate this murder is that it’s the murder of a black man, reported by a woman who we are introduced to, looking for all the world like Jane Fonda in the middle of her revolutionary period, with columns pinned on the wall about how police have failed at their jobs and suppressed people of colour in America. The storytelling is impeccable, making sure, in the way that de Palma does, that each and every element is kept track of for the audience at every moment. It means that as an audience you have to do virtually no work but it’s still at atmosphere you could cut like a knife, in part because you’re wondering how this all plays out, but also because it just plays out like a Swiss watch in how each element moves absolutely perfectly. Margot Kidder as usual plays beautifully with a challenging role in a genre picture, making the most of some very difficult scenes. Even after the first 45 minutes end and we follow a more conventional mystery narrative, the storytelling is beautifully maintained, leading up to the climax, at which point very few of the remaining threads matter too much as it takes on a whole new tone…

So, I want to talk about the third act, but to do so would be majorly spoiler heavy, so I’m going to try to keep this brief and vague. The third act gets… psychedelic. It changes to flashbacks filmed in black and white that, while trying to evoke real photography we’ve been shown earlier in the picture, takes place entirely in the mental space of a character. So much of the third act revolves around breaking down the boundary between reality and fantasy. Breaking down the boundaries between what is imagined and what is real, and how much that boundary even matters. It involves hypnosis leading to not one, but two fascinating and haunting codas. What’s fascinating about this climax is how much it moves into pure psychological space. It’s a film that starts as an incredibly grounded riff on The Bird With The Crystal Plumage via Rear Window, and ends more like Carnival of Souls… It’s mildly astonishing, if over-exposited for my tastes, and made with a killer eye to style, within quite low budget confines.

So that’s Sisters, it’s the first movie where de Palma tried to make a movie with the kind of polish that he’d make his own and it is the perfect meeting between the anarchist, revolutionary, unconventional and difficult de Palma that I love, and the more straightforward and stylish de Palma that I like and everyone loves. Its appeals are hard to describe in words, because they are purely visceral. Sisters is a film you watch, not explain, so go watch it. It’s [f**king] great.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, January 8, 2021 12:07 AM CST
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