MURDER A LA MOD - MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FEMME FATALE
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a la Mod:
Andra Akers and Margo Norton browse the racks and try on dresses at Paraphernalia and other NYC boutiques while discussing men and love in 'Murder à la Mod,' 1968. As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, 'Murder à la Mod' is Brian De Palma's solo directional debut and was thought lost for decades, until it was rediscovered ten years ago. With it's all-white interior, Paraphernalia was “a determinedly with-it New York boutique” (in the words of Mademoiselle magazine) that opened in September 1965 with backing from the mass-merchandiser Puritan Fashions (who was also responsible for launching Mary Quant on to the American fashion scene with their Youthquake concept). Located on Madison Avenue between 66th and 67th streets, Paraphernalia was really the first of its kind—a boutique that displayed clothes like an art gallery, all sleek chrome surfaces and hip salesgirls. Ulrich Franzen designed the interior, while the clothes were designed for the in-house label by all the hippest young designers—the first cohort included Deanna Littel, Carol Friedland, Joel Schumacher, and 23-year-old Betsey Johnson, while later Dimitri Kritsas, Michael Mott, Elisa Stone, and Diana Dew all designed for the label. It’s unique situation—money, support and the manufacturing capabilities of the mass-market—allowed Paraphernalia designers to create truly avant-garde designs from plastic, metal, and paper, along with ones that lit up, at the same time as keeping all prices under $99. For a couple of years Paraphernalia was the place to shop and be seen—the Velvet Underground played the opening and Warhol's stars often picked up a new outfit on their way out for the night. Unfortunately the desire to keep prices down forced the production of more clothes and the franchising of stores, leading to an oversaturation of the market and a diffusion of the brand name—by the mid-70s Paraphernalia was no more. It's always exciting to come across these legendary boutiques on film, especially when shot in an unstaged, guerrilla manner such as this. I don't know the name of the other boutique(s) they visit, so if anyone recognizes them please let me know. 🖤🤍🖤
On October 30th, McLaws Helms posted clips from the cemetery sequence in De Palma's film, with this description:
Andra Akers and a mysterious trunk collide in Calvary Cemetery, Long Island City, in Brian De Palma's solo directional debut ‘Murder à la Mod', 1968. Released in only one cinema in NYC at the time, this film was thought lost for decades and only found again ten years ago—if you are a fan of De Palma this film is definitely worth a watch as it lays out so many of the stylistic, technical and thematic fixations that have defined his later films ('Carrie' et al). Her outfit is really the crème de la crème of mod fashion, though I'll post the best fashion clip from this movie in a few days. 🖤🤍🖤
Rarely seen after its initial release in a single New York theater, Brian De Palma’s feature debut is a stylish murder mystery set in the adult-film business in 1960s New York City. Exhibiting many of the same styles and thematic preoccupations that the auteur would soon be famous for, the film is a thrilling homage to great genre films before it, equal parts Powell’s PEEPING TOM, Kubrick’s THE KILLING and Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. The story begins when seedy filmmaker Christopher (Jared Martin) tries to trick his girlfriend, aspiring actress Karen (Margo Norton), into starring in one of his partner’s skin flicks. Obstructing his plans is the bizarre prankster Otto (William Finley), who stalks the building where they’re shooting. In Hitchcockian fashion, Christopher’s luck runs out when a series of seemingly unconnected events leads to a shocking murder scene.
The seven films presented here display a provocative, free-wheeling, politically subversive sensibility, rich with sarcasm and gleeful satire, bent on jolting the audience into thinking about what they’re seeing rather than lulling them with fantasy or romanticism. Undoubtedly, it is this rigorous and contrarian agenda that keeps most audiences and critics from fully embracing De Palma, but perhaps also makes him both the most frustrating and addictively watchable filmmaker of his generation.
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