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Domino is
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straight-forward"
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
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Listen to
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in the news"

Supercut video
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Washington Post
review of Keesey book

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

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Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
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Monday, September 13, 2021
'FIRE MUSIC' DIRECTOR WAS MENTORED BY DE PALMA
TOM SURGAL WAS ART DIRECTOR ON 'HOME MOVIES', ALSO APPEARED IN THE FILM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tomsturgal.jpg

At Filmmaker Magazine, Steve Dollar writes about Tom Surgal, who worked on Brian De Palma's Home Movies:
Many years in the making, Fire Music tells the many-stranded story of free jazz, a chronically misunderstood and often maligned expansion of the improvisatory African-American art form that exploded as a movement in the 1960s through the innovations of path-breaking titans like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra. Although this avant-garde has been around long enough to become its own tradition – its oldest living exponents are in their 90s – the music still remains somehow outside the mainstream. Even this week, Twitter was abuzz over Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon’s mockery of the German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, a pioneer of European free improvisation, in a bit called “Do Not Play.” He held up a copy of Brotzmann’s 1969 album Nipples, and then played a snippet from one of the musician’s signature gale-force solos. Times haven’t changed. As the film reports, critics at the time denounced the same records as “washing machine” music.

Filmmaker Tom Surgal’s “cinematic corrective,” which opens today in New York and next Friday in Los Angeles, offers an immersive primer told from the performers’ perspectives. It’s a rich and highly spirited account, driven by candid and extremely “real” interviews with a generational spree of artists, including Carla Bley, Sonny Simmons, Bobby Bradford, Roswell Rudd, Rashied Ali, Noah Howard, Tristan Honsinger, Paul Lytton, Karl Berger and many others, venerated by the form’s devotees if not always well-known to wider circles of listeners. These are intercut with a sometimes dizzying assortment of performance and archival clips, many painstakingly sought out. “Pretty much, if you don’t see it on YouTube it really doesn’t exist,” Surgal says. “I was amazed I was able to uncover what I did, and equally disappointed that I couldn’t come up with more of some artists.”

Surgal has been around the edgier precincts of the film industry since childhood. His father, the screenwriter Alan Surgal, wrote Mickey One, Arthur Penn’s surreal, noirish 1965 film with Warren Beatty as a stand-up comic on the lam. At the other end of the spectrum, Surgal’s mother Florence, now 104 years old, was a pioneering female television producer who first introduced the puppeteer and children’s TV legend Sherry Lewis to the airwaves.

“I was a little kid,” Surgal says. “Just to be on sets was definitely stimulating.” As a teenager, the filmmaker and musician was taken under wing by Brian De Palma. “Everything I’ve ever done in film I’ve learned everything from him,” he says, speaking recently via Zoom from his Tudor City home. “He taught me everything. Location scouting. How to shoot things. How to storyboard. A lot of things that didn’t come into play with this project: how to work with actors, how to cast. He is the primary influence on my cinematic life.”

That life led to art-directed downtown indies like Beth B.’s 1982 Vortex, and directing videos for bands like Pavement, the Blues Explosion and Sonic Youth, whose frontman Thurston Moore is a longtime friend and musical collaborator, and one of the executive producers of Fire Music (along with experimental guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco, among others).

As to what in the music captivated Surgal enough to compel the years of labor behind Fire Music, “that’s the hardest question to answer,” he says. “That’s like asking me what I like about sex. It’s not one thing. It’s highly varied. The free-blowing scene in New York is different from the way it took root in Chicago. The music in Holland was different than Germany was different than England. Throughout stages of my life just discovering that there are so many ways to run with this artistic ethos. It manifests itself in so many beautiful and varied ways.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Saturday, February 6, 2021
GIGI WILLIAMS GOT HER FILM START WITH DE PALMA
MAKE-UP & HAIR STYLIST ON 'HOME MOVIES' PREFERS TO WORK ON "THE WHOLE MOVIE" WITH INVESTED DIRECTORS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/gigiwilliams2021.jpg

Gigi Williams, the make-up and hair stylist who has worked with the likes of David Fincher (Mank, Gone Girl), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, Inherent Vice), Luc Besson (Léon), Paul Mazursky (The Pickle), Larry Cohen (A Return To Salem's Lot), and Joe Dante (The Howling), was interviewed recently by Gold Derby's Riley Chow, who asked her to talk about how she got started in film. It turns out that the first film Williams worked on was Brian De Palma's Home Movies. Here's a transcription of Williams explaining it in the Gold Derby video:
I was doing print work for Vogue. I worked for Diane von Fürstenberg. I was doing print and beauty. And, uh...then... I hated it. I hated it. It was awful. There was all these stupid people and the photographers all had their hands on all the twelve-year-old models. It was disgusting! And so I would only work four days a week. And that was a lot of money. I was making about two-thousand dollars a day back then -- it was in the seventies -- which is a lot of money. For a twenty-seven-year-old, twenty-six-year-old. And one day, I said to... I was like, I only work four days, I can't stand this, I hate it. And then one of my girlfriends said she was doing a movie with Brian De Palma and wanted to know if I wanted to test. To do the make-up. [Shrugging] I was like, yeah, sure. I did the test, I got the job. And that was my first movie. And ever since then, I've been working.

I did... I lived in New York, and I called... I knew The Ramones were doing a movie. So I called up the director for the Ramones movie, and I said, listen, I have to do this movie. And he goes, like, well, send me your book. So I sent him my book, and he calls me back, and he goes, "Your too overqualified. I don't have any money, I can't bring you to California. I would love to have you!" I said, that's okay. I'll get on a plane, I'll find a place to stay, and I did it for two-hundred dollars a week. Rock And Roll High School. And it was AMAZING! [she laughs]

I've just, I've always worked. I did Saturday Night Live. I mean, I've really... I did [the] Tom Ford movie. I've really... I gravitate towards directors. So, I don't like to do personals, really. I don't really like to work with just one actor. I like to do the whole film. I like to work with the directors. When we did A Single Man, Tom Ford came up at the end of the first day, and he said, So what'd you think? And I said, Oh, my God, we made art! He says [mocks seriousness], "Well, I hope we make art every day." And you don't really feel that, when you're working in the film business. A lot. I mean, it's far and few between, I feel very privilidged and lucky and honored that, you know, I've worked with the directors that I've worked with. Because they're not the directors that say, "Yeah, it's fine, let's move on." They're like, "No, let's do it again!"


Posted by Geoff at 12:40 PM CST
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Saturday, May 16, 2020
DE PALMA'S 'HOME MOVIES' TURNS 40
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FILM MADE WITH STUDENTS AT SARAH LAWRENCE, RELEASED IN NYC MAY 16, 1980
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/hmposter.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 5:37 PM CDT
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020
DE PALMA REMEMBERS STUDENT FILM WITH KIRK DOUGLAS
DE PALMA SAYS HIS STUDENTS CREATED & WROTE THE MAESTRO CHARACTER FOR KIRK TO PLAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/briandirectskirk.jpg

The Hollywood Reporter this week has a special tribute issue to Kirk Douglas, including this brief remembrance from Brian De Palma:
When I was teaching a filmmaking course at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1970s, Kirk joined me in producing a super-low-budget feature titled Home Movies. My concept for the course was to show the students how to make a low-budget feature by making a low-budget feature. Once the class had written the script, we sought out financing and started casting. Since Kirk and I had enjoyed working together on The Fury, I asked him to join our project.

He agreed immediately and even invested in it with me (along with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg). My students were shocked and surprised: "My God," they exclaimed, "we have Kirk Douglas in our student movie!" They created and wrote a character — a film school teacher called the Maestro — for him to play. I have fond memories of Kirk sitting on a tree branch with his co-star Keith Gordon in the middle of the night instructing him on the virtues of Star Therapy ("You must be the star of your own life," his character lectured, "not an extra!").

A star: No one embodied it better.


Posted by Geoff at 7:31 AM CST
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Thursday, March 8, 2018
LITHGOW ON STAGE WITH FORMER DE PALMA STUDENT
BRADLEY BATTERSBY WORKED ON 'HOME MOVIES', NOW HEAD OF FILM DEPT AT RINGLING
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/lithgowringling.jpgJohn Lithgow spoke on stage the other day at Ringling College in Sarasota, Florida. The moderator was Bradley Battersby, the head of Ringling's film department who got his start as a student of Brian De Palma's when the director taught a class at Sarah Lawrence by making Home Movies with students there in 1979, with stars like Kirk Douglas, Vincent Gardenia, and several De Palma house regulars. Battersby went on to work with fellow students on films such as The First Time before directing the noir Blue Desert (1991, starring Courteney Cox), followed by several more pictures, including The Joyriders (1999), which starred Martin Landau and Kris Kristofferson (and also featured Elisabeth Moss). The Herald Tribune posted an article with a video featuring some highlights from the on stage discussion-- here's a brief bit centered around De Palma:
Bradley Battersby: I was telling John that it was Brian De Palma who really influenced me in creating this program the way it developed. In that, you know, you put the young people with veterans-- the pros-- from the industry, and it just, it can take off, and be such a win-win for both parties. Because I think Brian got a lot out of it, stayed in touch with everybody for a long long time. So, pretty interesting. He gave you a number of roles, didn't he?

John Lithgow: Yeah, in three Brian films. Obsession, Blow Out, and Raising Cain. For some reason, he loved the idea of me, this sort of bland, benign WASP, ending up the villain of the piece... [laughter] ... the sadistic killer.


Posted by Geoff at 8:06 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2018 8:08 AM CST
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Monday, January 18, 2016
'HOME MOVIES' CO-WRITER RECALLS DE PALMA
DIDN'T FREAK OUT AS MUCH AS OTHER STUDENTS WHEN HE WOULD TOSS THEIR SCRIPTS TO THE FLOOR
Gloria Norris was a student of Brian De Palma's at Sarah Lawrence College, co-writing the class project, Home Movies, and also working as De Palma's assistant on the film, as a student director. Norris has been promoting her new memoir, KooKooLand, in which she details the traumatic extreme violence of her childhood, centered around her abusive father, Jimmy. In a profile article of Norris from earlier this month, Broadly's Mitchell Sunderland writes, "While a student at Sarah Lawrence College, where she transferred from Bennington, Gloria learned to appreciate her background. There she also connected with the director (and Sarah Lawrence alum) Brian De Palma. The auteur would toss students' scripts aside, sometimes on the floor, Gloria says, and tell kids his treatment would prepare them for Hollywood. While Gloria's peers freaked out over his behavior, she felt she could handle it because Jimmy had toughened her up as a child. A few years later, De Palma recommended Scorsese hire his former student as an assistant on the set of a boxing movie. She scored the job, and it launched her career in Hollywood."

[Note: the boxing movie was, of course, Raging Bull, which would likely have started filming very shortly after Home Movies.]

Norris' own Bio states that she was Scorsese's research assistant on Raging Bull, and quotes Richard Schickel's 2010 "Making of Raging Bull" article:

De Niro suggested a period of total isolation and immersion—no phones, no distractions of any kind. They chose the La Samanna resort, on St. Martin, in the Caribbean—a complex of separate villas. They shared one of them and installed a young assistant in another nearby. She was Gloria Norris, a recent Sarah Lawrence graduate who had worked with Scorsese’s pal Brian De Palma on his early picture Home Movies. Better still, her grandfather had been a fight promoter in New England, so she was no stranger to the boxing world. She brought “tons” of books along to help them with research. She remembers De Niro rising early to run along the beach. She remembers him and Scorsese talking out the script scene by scene in the mornings. She remembers Scorsese writing up the new material on yellow legal pads in the afternoons. She remembers “his handwriting was bad, so he’d have to read some of it out to me. It was full of profanity, and he’d get embarrassed saying those words to me.”

After that, Norris would retreat to her typewriter, and De Niro and Scorsese would sometimes head out in their Jeep to dinner in one of the several extremely good restaurants on the island.


Posted by Geoff at 1:15 AM CST
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Saturday, February 21, 2015
THERE WAS A TIME
WHEN DE PALMA'S 'HOME MOVIES' WAS SHOWN ON THE MOVIE CHANNEL

Posted by Geoff at 7:41 PM CST
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Sunday, October 14, 2012
MORE VIDEO FROM DE PALMA/BAUMBACH TALK
DE PALMA SAYS HE DOESN'T KNOW IF HIS PARENTS EVER SAW 'HOME MOVIES'
"THEY NEVER SAID A THING TO ME ABOUT IT"



After Noah Baumbach talks a bit about autobiographical elements in his own films (in which he notes that is is most often things no one would think are autobiographical that actually are autobiographical), moderator Scott Foundas asks Brian De Palma if he specifically looked for someone who resembled himself ("the you that you wished you had been at that age?") when he cast Keith Gordon in Dressed To Kill. "Well, we made Home Movies first," De Palma replies, "and that's where we found Keith. And then, he was such a good actor that when I was writing Dressed To Kill, I wrote the part for him. And of course, he went on to be quite a good director, too. It was quite an experience developing him, because he's extremely talented."

Foundas persists, "But did he in some way remind you of yourself at that age...?" De Palma replies, looking over at Baumbach, "Well, I don't think it's that... I don't think you think that way. [Baumbach nods in agreement.] You just, you know... you're not the best specter on yourself, you know. I think what happens when people make autobiographical films, the problem is they have the least insight into themselves sometimes. They usually miscast themselves. {Laughter from stage and audience.] You know, it's like, 'Why did you use that person? That's nothing like you.' And I think you have kind of blind spots about that to some extent."

The discussion in the rest of the video gets into the process of finding locations (and which comes first, the location or the idea). Here, De Palma stresses that if you're willing to do the work, you can find visually striking places that will look good on camera. "And I've told this to my film students, too: You've got to walk the location. And you should physically shoot every angle you're going to use, because if you can't take a picture of it, and it doesn't look right, don't use it. So I haunt the location, I walk all around it, and then when I finally think that it works for what I want to do, then you can also shoot video, too, having the actors walk in the different places. I mean, this is something, if you are hard-working enough, you can test out everything. Certainly in the day of the digital cameras, there's no excuses for having a crummy location. What I find in so much of what I see, all the time, is like, nobody's thinking about what anything looks like. I mean, you know, New York: helicopter shot of New York. Wow. [Laughter] Now there's an idea. I mean, I think they did it in the thirties, maybe the twenties, I mean, how many helicopter shots have you seen of Manhattan? You know, or a car driving up to a house. And also, in the beginning of movies, where they waste all this time, of, you know, coming into the city. You see the second unit going out there, shooting all those, you know, arriving in New York, arriving in Chicago, and all the titles go across. The audience is, in the beginning of a movie, you're ready for anything. You're all excited. And suddenly you start seeing this terrible travelogue... [Laughter]. Drives me crazy."

After Baumbach speaks a bit about beginnings of films, Foundas explains that he is now going to show a clip from Baumbach's Margot At The Wedding and a clip from De Palma's Carlito's Way. In each clip, Foundas' focus is on the introduction of a character: Margot in the first, and Penelope Ann Miller's Gail in the second.


Posted by Geoff at 11:37 AM CDT
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Thursday, August 9, 2012
DE PALMA TALKS TURKEYS
FORMER STUDENT SAYS DE PALMA "CONSTANTLY REFERRED TO ALL HIS FILMS AS TURKEYS"
The Oregonian News Network posted an interview with Anne Richardson, who runs the blog Oregon Movies, A to Z. Richardson indicates in the interview that she is a former student of Brian De Palma. It seems most likely that she would have been involved in the class De Palma taught at Sarah Lawrence College in 1979, where he taught students how to make a film by making Home Movies with them. In the Oregonian interview, Richardson is asked to tell her favorite story about the movies. "At film school," Richardson replies, "Prof. Brian De Palma constantly referred to all his films as 'turkeys'. When I was making my thesis film, I called him up to ask for advice on one particular shot. I was hugely honored when, as he was answering my question, he began referring to my film as a turkey."

Posted by Geoff at 10:54 PM CDT
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Monday, June 6, 2011
GET TO KNOW YOUR RABBITS & BEAVERS
SPIELBERG-PRODUCED SERIES MAKES SLY NOD TO DE PALMA'S 'HOME MOVIES'
In his review of Jodi Foster's The Beaver last month, Armond White makes mention of "the genial psychosis" of Harvey and the "ribald bunny rabbit Nancy Allen used as her unleashed id in the shrewdly titled filmmaking satire Home Movies." At the end of that latter film, directed by Brian De Palma, Allen discards her bunny, and it is picked up by a younger girl, and the bunny begins working on her id, as well. De Palma echoes this ending at the conclusion of Raising Cain when Jack brings Amy a bunny, and she drops it as she heads into the woods, where she is sure she can sense her father waiting for her.

The Steven Spielberg-produced Showtime series The United States Of Tara stars Toni Collette as a mother with multiple personalities. On a recent episode ("What Happens in the Corn Maze, Stays in the Corn Maze!"), Tara walks through a corn maze holding a bunny before her mind is taken over by the infantile "Chicken," who runs away and is eventually found sans bunny laying in a corn crib. At the episode's conclusion, Tara has a sudden feeling and goes back to the corn crib. Finding the bunny has been shredded, she is overcome with the knowledge that "Chicken" is dead-- one of her other personalities appears to have killed her.

The bunny seems a deliberate homage by Spielberg to De Palma's Home Movies, and, perhaps, to Raising Cain as well. Spielberg previously nodded to Home Movies about a decade ago with a key shot in The Terminal. In an interview with Vulture's Patti Greco last month, United States Of Tara creator Diablo Cody said that Spielberg is "always incredibly involved in everything he does. He does not just put his name on something. His soul and his input were with Tara throughout the entire journey, and I can’t believe I had the privilege of working with him." With his hands-on approach, Spielberg appears to have inserted a sly homage to De Palma's cinema. Unfortunately, United States Of Tara was canceled by Showtime last month, and is now playing out its final season.


Posted by Geoff at 8:54 AM CDT
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