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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
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AV Club Review
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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

"I'm not sure I would ever do one of those AMC private theater rentals, but if I did, and they could let me show any movie I wanted, I would pack the house and listen to them enjoy Snake Eyes for the first time." That's just one of several fun things Collider's Gregory Lawrence writes in his article, "12 Best Brian De Palma Movies: An Intro to the Director's Stylized, Provocative Pictures," which posted today. A refreshing viewpoint, and very fitting, as Snake Eyes is released on Blu-ray today. Interestingly, Lawrence does not include either one of De Palma's two Al Pacino collaborations in his De Palma dozen, and the way he writes, it becomes obvious from the start that he knows his stuff, delving into De Palma's work with a welcome flair:
Sometimes, recommending a "classic filmmaker" feels a little like recommending vegetables. In an age when free time is sparse and real life is full of inherent struggle, why use the precious moments we have to watch movies that require mental taxation, sitting through slogs, or reckoning with works wholly unconcerned with basic entertainment?

I promise you: You will not have this problem watching Brian De Palma, one of our most singular filmmakers concerned with the ideas of cinematic "pleasure." His prolific body of work, from 1968 until today, is full of pure entertainment, of provocative subject matter, of genres stuffy cineastes often denigrate as being lesser-than. De Palma is an all-caps DIRECTOR, an artist who blows out his frames with delicious techniques, a visual stylist of the most propulsive order.

We've curated a list of De Palma's 12 most essential films, an intriguing list of entertainment that will shock you, titillate you, and simply demand your attention. From his sleazy horror-thriller odysseys to his mainstream thrill rides to his surprisingly political experimentations, these Brian De Palma films will never bore you, will always surprise you, and will leave you wanting more. Enjoy watching...

Meanwhile, in Film School Rejects' "Beat the Algorithm" column, Anna Swanson presents 12 films to watch if you like De Palma's Mission: Impossible (which is also on Lawrence's list for Collider). "Without Brian De Palma," Swanson begins, "there would be no Mission: Impossible. No repelling off the Burj Khalifa, no slow-motion doves, no mask disguises, no HALO jump. De Palma’s established fluency with genre cinema, commanding visual style, and obsessive cinematography made for a uniquely energetic cloak and dagger caper."

Beginning with Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, and moving on chronologically through Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, the fourth film in Swanson's dozen is De Palma's Blow Out:

We’d venture a guess that, for a lot of folks, there’s a good chance that Mission: Impossible is their first foray into Brian De Palma’s filmography. And if all those obsession-fuelled close-ups and paranoiac split diopter shots turned your crank, we’d recommend diving into the deep end with Blow Out, arguably the crown jewel of De Palma’s career and the thriller genre, period. Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a skilled sound recording artist who works on B-grade horror films. One night, while recording some new audio, he captures something unexpected with his sound recording equipment: a gunshot, a blowout, and a car crashing into a creek. Driven by curiosity and a fervent sense that the public ought to know the truth, Jack rages against the ensuing cover-up, risking not only his life but that of the young sex worker (Nancy Allen) he pulled from the watery wreck that fateful night.

Posted by Geoff at 11:52 PM CDT
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Friday, May 14, 2021

Joe Wright's The Woman In The Window premieres on Netflix today, and many reviews are mentioning Brian De Palma:

David Fear, Rolling Stone

If you’re among the legion of readers who breathlessly turned the pages of Finn’s novel, you know what’s on deck. If you haven’t, you might wonder whether you’re about to venture in a gaslighting parable, a Vertigo-style setup, another tale of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown or something far more sinister. To get into any plot details past this point is to play hopscotch in a minefield. What can be said is that Anthony Mackie and Brian Tyree Henry also show up, and like Oldman and Leigh, they too feel underused here; the film’s tweaked view of motherhood is a rich vein that’s never quite tapped; and you will need to endure an Overlook Hotel-level maze of plot twists and the kind of major suspension of disbelief that can leave permanent palm marks on your face.

You may also want to preemptively take some Dramamine, given director Joe Wright’s penchant for throwing in skewed, Dutch-angled shots to break up the monotony every few minutes. The filmmaker has always had a gift for cracking open literary texts and getting intriguing films out of them, finding a one-size-fits-all method of turning words on a page into sound and vision; even his experimental take on Anna Karenina manages to get enough Tolstoy on the screen that you recognize the book underneath the meta-theatrical flourishes. He’s also not afraid to swing for the fences when it comes to stylizing his storytelling — this is the filmmaker who, with Atonement‘s unbroken five-minute Steadicam shot of Dunkirk’s devastation, proved that there’s a gossamer-thin line between virtuosity and indulgence.

With Window, he throws in a few grand gestures: a hallucinogenic splash of red across the frame here, a snowy car wreck transposed into a living room setting there, a couple of ingenious modern variations on the ol’ split-screen composition. Mostly, however, the playbook consists of “ape Hitchcock,” followed by blank pages. (Though kudos to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s ability to inject menace into every dark corner and Danny Elfman’s Herrmann-for-all-seasons score.) When in doubt, throw in an old movie homage or, better yet, an actual clip of an old movie — Rear Window, sure, but also Laura, Spellbound, the Bogart-Bacall joint Dark Passage. These are all vintage thrillers that deal with idealized females and women in peril, mutable and mistaken identities, psychological deterioration, and the effects of trauma, which pertains directly to what The Woman in the Window is digging into with its tale of unraveling. Its inability to jolt life into this crazed, harebrained narrative, or to even sustain tension for longer than a few scenes, feels like it undermines any sort of goal of being considered in that company. You go in with high expectations about what this collection of talent can do with this batshit pulp fiction. You leave feeling like you owe Brian De Palma a thousand apologies.

Adam Nayman, The Ringer
In The Woman in the Window, Amy Adams plays a shut-in who is also a film buff. Every night, she swirls dark red wine in a thin-stemmed glass and falls asleep beneath glowing big-screen projections of classic thrillers from the 1940s and ’50s, babbling along to dialogue she knows by heart. Early on in the film, the camera tracks around a corner and catches a glimpse of Jimmy Stewart dangling precipitously from a ledge in Rear Window, simultaneously signaling the movie’s aspirations to greatness and underlining how short it falls. When Brian De Palma paid intelligent, self-conscious homage to Alfred Hitchcock in movies like Dressed to Kill and Body Double, he was derided by critics as a rip-off artist. Who knows what those same critics would say about Joe Wright’s work here, which suggests a destitute man’s De Palma, or maybe what it would look like if De Palma had really been slumming it all those years: a potentially juicy movie sucked dry of satirical sophistication or subversive purpose.

This is not to say that Wright is untalented. Take 2011’s semi-beguiling action-sci-fi hybrid Hanna, for example. The filmmaker took a standard-issue child-assassin story line—a teenage Bourne Identity—and coded it as a millennial fairy tale, complete with Cate Blanchett as a wicked-stepmother type emerging during the film’s amusement-park climax from the mouth of a gigantic, fiberglass wolf. (It is quite an image.) Wright’s refusal to just phone things in is admirable, and what makes The Woman in the Window watchable—at least for a while—is the tension between the rote-ness of the material and the striving aestheticism of Wright’s visual sensibility: all florid, Eyes Wide Shut–style backlighting, restless, prowling cinematography, and angles that play up the gorgeous, unsettling architecture of Adams’s character’s towering New York brownstone, with its intricate network of spiral staircases and vertiginously deep drop into a forbidding cement basement.

The visual gamesmanship of The Woman in the Window is relentless, and at times the baroque theatricality of the presentation works the way it’s supposed to, conveying the confusion of a woman caught between a drab, depressive reality and a hallucinatory fantasy life, unsure which is worse. But as hard as Wright works, he can’t come up with anything as strange or destabilizing as the behind-the-scenes narrative that led to his film being delayed, reshot, and shunted off to a streaming premiere via Netflix—a trajectory that was not the original plan.

The Woman in the Window is based on a best-selling, pseudonymous novel by the notorious fabulist Daniel Mallory, whose history of lies, delusions, and borderline plagiaristic writing practices was outlined in a phenomenal 2019 New Yorker profile by Ian Parker—an investigative piece that reads like a thriller. In it, Parker juxtaposed Mallory’s use of an unreliable narrator in his debut against the author’s debunked, real-life claims of his parents’ tragic deaths (research revealed that they were alive and well) and undergoing surgery for a cancerous brain tumor (which he did not have). “Dissembling seemed the easier path,” Mallory wrote in response to the article that went so far as to compare him to Patricia Highsmith’s duplicitous psychopath Tom Ripley—a character Mallory had falsely claimed to have written a dissertation on at Oxford.

Suffice it to say that a movie about a promising young novelist lying his way to the top of the publishing industry is potentially richer than yet another variation on the archetype of the middle-aged woman whose mind is playing tricks on her. Currently, Jake Gyllenhaal is slated to play Mallory in an upcoming Netflix series that promises to split the difference between Nightcrawler and Shattered Glass. (Sounds good, actually.) In the meantime, though, The Woman in the Window arrives as damaged goods, its ending reportedly rewritten by Tony Gilroy after a series of disastrous test screenings.

The scenario of a high-profile genre movie left for dead in the wake of an inter-studio merger and the onset of COVID-19 recalls the story behind The Empty Man, but there isn’t likely to be a cult around The Woman in the Window. The question instead is whether its glossy pile-up of big stars, ridiculous twists, and hand-me-down Hitchcock-isms are enough to qualify it as enjoyably kitschy middlebrow-slasher trash, or if it just falls short of so-bad-it’s-good status—if it’s just bad enough to be bad.

At this point, it’s worth asking whether Amy Adams knows the difference, or cares. The Woman in the Window completes an unofficial trilogy with Hillbilly Elegy and the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects in which the actress—whose past brilliance is undeniable—has striven almost fetishistically to give her characters rough, jagged edges. They’re the kinds of “transformational” roles that attract awards attention—or that’s the idea, anyway. (The Oscars didn’t bite on her hillbilly act.)

Here, her Anna Fox is a child psychologist on professional leave while she sorts through some undefined trauma of her own. Wright opens purposefully on a shot of his star’s puffy, bloodshot eye (shades of Janet Leigh’s posthumous close-up in Psycho, for those playing Wright’s game and keeping score). From her eyes on down, Anna is a wreck, and Adams’s performance lands somewhere between the condescending Appalachian karaoke of Hillbilly Elegy and the kamikaze charisma of her role in Sharp Objects, where she was guided by director Jean-Marc Vallee toward a surprisingly credible portrait of self-destruction. The gimmick of her character pathologically carving words into her own flesh only partially accounted for the ways the actress managed to get under our skin.

Back when Mallory was giving interviews about something other than being a serial liar, he claimed that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl inspired him to write his own book, but The Woman in the Window doesn’t move like one of Flynn’s thrillers. It’s locked in place, like a one-act play—an exercise in nervous tension and claustrophobia. And it isn’t funny, either, another deficiency that distances it from De Palma as well as Hitchcock, with their twin signature grins. It does, however, boast that irresistibly (and derivatively) Hitchcockian hook of a crime witnessed surreptitiously at a distance by a nosy protagonist—the voyeur imperiled by her own peeping.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Tracy Letts is a vibrant playwright, but the dialogue in “The Woman in the Window” is weirdly stilted, like someone’s chintzy mainstream-movie attempt at Pinter or Mamet. Adams’ performance is by turns commanding and tremulously self-conscious. And stuff keeps happening that’s so overwrought that the film, in its way, becomes a whirlpool of contrivance. Each time Anna tries to explain her actions, either to her husband or to a sympathetic not-quite-by-the-book police detective (Brian Tyree Henry), she seems paranoid and delusional. But, of course, if everything we were seeing was all just happening in her head, that could be its own kind of cheat. So the contrivances may have to be real after all! “The Woman in the Window” would like to be a contempo “Rear Window,” but it’s so riddled with things you can’t buy that it plays like a bad Brian De Palma movie minus the camera movement.

Jake Coyle, AP
But by hewing close to Anna’s own intense unease, “Woman in the Window” attempts something like the recent Oscar-winning “The Father,” which adapted its protagonist’s dementia. This is the kind of stuff that Brian De Palma would eat for breakfast. He, surely, would find more disturbing and lurid avenues to explore here.

Posted by Geoff at 5:53 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 14, 2021 11:59 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 9, 2021

In the latest episode of the Light The Fuse Podcast, Paul Hirsch talks briefly about almost working on Taxi Driver, and also several composers: Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, and a bit about moving from Alan Silvestri to Danny Elfman as composer for Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible.

Meanwhile, the latest episode of The LexG Movie Podcast has LexG letting loose on a "Brian De Palma Lightning Round." LexG has very vague notions of the earliest De Palma works, so he zooms through most of those works, and he goes on mostly recollections of having seen most of these movies however long ago he's seen them (he hasn't gone back to watch anything specifically in preparation for this episode, so several times, he'll ask a bit of forgiveness if he gets some details wrong or misremembers something). As a "lightning round" discussion, it's a fun sort of ride.

Posted by Geoff at 7:40 PM CDT
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Monday, May 3, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 29, 2021 6:12 PM CDT
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Monday, April 5, 2021

Thanks to Jochen for letting us know about a German podcast, Projektionen - Kinogespräche, which has posted a two-episode discussion about "The postmodern cinema of Brian De Palma." Marcus Stiglegger, an expert on genre films, and co-host Sebastian Seidler, a journalist, bring on a guest who is described as a De Palma expert: film scholar Andreas Rauscher. The first episode, according to Jochen, begins with a discussion on "parallels and relations between Godard and De Palma," before moving on to discuss Hitchcock within the context of De Palma's cinema. The second episode (Episode 22.2) is about De Palma's peculiarities, his fetishes and the split screen, according to the Projektionen podcast description.

Posted by Geoff at 11:49 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Italian website Club GHoST posted an article by Robert Frini that looks at the cinematic links between the films of Roman Polanski and Brian De Palma. Although Frini states that "there are no statements from the two directors that reveal interest in each other's work," De Palma, in fact, had included Polanski's The Tenant in his 1987 "Guilty Pleasures" article for Film Comment. "I liked The Tenant," De Palma stated, "because, I mean, Polanski throws himself out the window, commits suicide, and then crawls up and does it again. Fabulous."

Here's an excerpt from Frini's article, with help from Google Translation:

Having cleared the field, therefore, of an established and cumbersome inheritance, it is better to focus on the combination of Polański / De Palma. Similarities can be found between various films by the two authors. Starting with Repulsion, Polański's second feature film. Carol is a young manicurist who lives with her sister, Helen. Fragile from a psychological point of view, the girl is morbidly attached to her sister and suffers from Helen's relationship with her lover, whose presence she can hardly bear. Then when Helen and the man leave for a vacation leaving her alone, the young woman falls into a real state of madness, ending up locking herself in the apartment and killing both a suitor and the landlord.

Carol inaugurates a series of female characters from Polański's cinema who, with various nuances, are characterized by a whole series of problems related to relationships in general and with men in particular. Next to Carol is Sarah, the heroine of Please Don't Bite Me on the Neck! (The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck), 1967, and Rosemary, star of Rosemary's Baby, 1968. Sarah is a virgin and for this reason her father keeps her segregated, fearing that she could end up in the clutches of the vampire who terrorizes a district of Transylvania. Which in fact happens. Moving to a New York apartment with her husband, Rosemary is instead made pregnant by the devil. While in Repulsion the viewer can have no doubts about Carol's mental state (in case she wonders about the possible causes) in Rosemary's Baby Polański maintains a certain ambiguity: there really is a satanic sect or the protagonist, perhaps terrified of having a child, is he just imagining everything?

Not dissimilar from the female characters of the first part of Polański's career: one could add Simon Choule who commits suicide (and of which we learn something only through the other characters) in The Tenant, are those of the films of the seventies by De Palma. Le due sorelle (Sisters, 1972), stars Danielle, who suffers from personality disorders (she was separated at birth from a twin who died in the surgery) and who, prey to a raptus, kills a man after the adventure of one night. Danielle's relationship with her dead sister isn't much different than Carol's with Helen. The derivation from the cinemaof Polański in Carrie, which De Palma made in 1976, is evident. Not only and not so much for the diabolical theme that relates it to Rosemary's Baby (the latter also to The Phantom of the Paradise), as for the characterization of the character (you can even notice a physical similarity between Carol, Rosemary and Carrie, a certain physical fragility as well as psychological) and for how it is defined through the relationship with the others. In Repulsion as in Sisters and Carrie, the protagonists react to an attack from the outside world. In the first two in the form of a male intrusion into their private life; Carrie instead gives free rein to her telekinetic powers first against the oppressive and bigoted mother (who however is the projection of Carrie, is what she could become, as Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown is of her daughter / sister) who wants to prevent her from attending the dance at the end of the school year, then during the party when she is made the subject of a terrible joke. Like Repulsion, Carrie is based on a narrative structure that contrasts the interior (the house, but also the physical and psychological intimacy of the two women) and the exterior (the beautician where Carol works and Carrie's college). The relationship with the others unites Repulsion and Carrie also in the way in which the male characters of the two films relate to Carrie / Carol.

The same thing regarding the interior and the exterior applies to The Tenant, who also comes out in the same year as Carrie. It must be said, among other things, that for both Polański and De Palma the interior-house does not at all mean that the protagonists are safe in the home: not the tenant Trelkovsky, obsessed with the suicide of the previous tenant, nor is Rosemary (whose husband is part of the satanic plot) nor Carrie, because of her mother.

As for The Tenant, other points of contact with contemporary Carrie should be emphasized. In both, in the main sequence (Trelkovsky's suicide, Carrie's massacre) Polański and De Palma show in subjective what the two characters see (or think they see): Trelkovsky the inhabitants of the building who hunt him, threatening and diabolical (some with a forked tongue), Carrie students and teachers laughing at her. The point of view of the characters does not exclude an objective level, alternating with the subjective in order to create a hallucinatory dimension, which sows doubt in the viewer, as already mentioned with regard to Rosemary's Baby. And it is precisely this narrative choice, practiced with obstinacy by Polański and which casts a shadow of ambiguity on the protagonists (healthy or crazy?), that represents the main source of inspiration for De Palma. In addition, the sequence in which Trelkovsky throws himself out of the window and is surrounded by apartment buildings and drags himself on the ground is also reminiscent of the ending of The Phantom of the Paradise, with Winslow agonizing as the concertgoers cheer and mock him.

But there are other characteristics that the two filmmakers have in common and that should be explored. The circularity of the narrative (in What?, Chinatown, The Tenant, and in Obsession, Blow Out, Femme Fatale), on which in 1993 Polański expressed himself as follows: "It is a form of elegance that has always seduced in the cinema. I really like works where there is a beginning, a development, and an ending in which you return to the starting point "(Alberto Scandola, Roman Polański, Il Castoro Cinema, 2002).

The use of machine movements, for example the overview on the windows of the condominium made with Louma in The Tenant (he is the first to use this articulated crane) and the equally masterful use of the dolly in the sequence of the awards ceremony in Carrie. As well as the good intentions of the characters that have a nefarious effect in The Fearless Vampire Killers, Chinatown, Tess, and in Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Body Double. Also, in The Fearless Vampire Killers and The Phantom of the Paradise we find a common "classic" inspiration (respectively Dreyer's Vampyr and Julian's Phantom of the Opera), similar expressive choices (acceleration), the mixture of horror situations and humor, characters that are almost mirror-like (Von Krolok / Swan, Sarah / Phoenix, Alfred and Abronsius / Winslow, Herbert / Beef, Koukol / Philbin) and linked by an equally specular relationship: becoming vampires in the first and the contract with the devil and its consequences in the second.

The Tenant and Dressed to Kill share evident themes (the double, schizophrenia, the disguise of a woman) and some narrative situations that De Palma seems to take from Polański. In The Tenant, during the scene in the church, a little girl sitting a little further on stares at Trelkovski, while in Dressed to Kill a little Girl with her mother repeatedly stares at Kate in the elevator. Furthermore, when Trelkovski lets Stella entertain him, the girl wakes him up in the morning and he snaps up frightened, almost defending himself; Liz does the same in the Dressed to Kill finale. Trelkovski says he had a nightmare, but the viewer doesn't see it. De Palma, on the other hand, shows Liz's nightmare.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, March 12, 2021 5:40 PM CST
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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 4:43 PM CST
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Friday, January 22, 2021

Taste Of Cinema's Mansur Zeynalov posted an article last month titled "10 Great Movies To Watch If You Like Brian De Palma." The list includes two films that with Isabelle Huppert in the cast: Paul Verhoeven's Elle, and Curtis Hanson's The Bedroom Window, prompting Zeynalov to conclude that "one would wish [Huppert] to collaborate with De Palma on something." Other films on the list include Francois Ozon's Double Lover, Paul Feig's A Simple Favor ("Favor gonna kill you faster than a bullet", eh?), Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat, and Anthony Waller's Mute Witness, among others.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2021 1:52 AM CST
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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Jesse Hawken and John Semley discuss, primarily, two Brian De Palma films on the latest episode of the podcast Junk Filter:
Spoilers abound during our discussion, please watch Femme Fatale before listening as there is a stunning twist you don’t want us to ruin for you. Femme Fatale is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. No need to watch Domino first, or even at all! For the first of likely several Junk Filter episodes about Brian De Palma, Toronto-based writer John Semley joins the program for a look at two films that bookend De Palma’s post-Hollywood exile in the land of European film financing, 2002’s Femme Fatale (a masterpiece) and 2019’s Domino (not a masterpiece). Along the way we talk about the director’s career-spanning obsessions, the concept of “Pure Cinema”, how Femme Fatale can be compared to Raising Cain and Mulholland Drive, and the plight of the aged auteur with nothing left to prove. Plus John and I try to process the attempted insurrection in Washington and Twitter suspending Trump’s account in the aftermath.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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