New DVDs: Friedkin, Pennell, Otomo

french-connection-japan

Two pieces in the New York Times today, and boy are my fingers tired: Revisiting “The French Connection” in the company of William Friedkin (whose controversial remastering of the film for Blu-ray arrives this Tuesday) and the usual bunch of reviews, including the influential 1978 indie “The Whole Shootin’ Match” from the spectacularly self-destructive director Eagle Pennell, Katsuhiro Otomo’s game-changing 1988 anime “Akira,” and Francine Parker’s 1972 documentary on Jane Fonda’s touring anti-war revue, “FTA.”

297 comments to New DVDs: Friedkin, Pennell, Otomo

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘neoconservatism to this day, in its mechanisms, attitudes, beahavior, still shows its Trotskyite roots.’

    Yes, they is now believing in permanent counter-revolution instead of permanent revolution.

  • John M

    “Many conservatives also advocate home schooling, and the abandonment of public schools.”

    And a lot of liberals here in New York wouldn’t be caught dead sending their children to public schools, for fear of tainting their precious bourgeois upbringings.

    So…there’s hypocrisy on both wings. Shock of all shocks.

  • Brian Dauth

    Mike Grost: “Carrie blows up a public school, and the film seems to glorify her. Why can’t I mention this?”

    Mike: a straightforward question. In your view, how does the film glorify her? And if the film does glorify Carrie, in glorifying her, does it also glorify this particular action?

    No one is trying to censor you. But sometimes it might be helpful if you could unpack your statements so that other posters can understand the logic of your arguments. It is fine that you say a film glorifies this character or that action, but where disagreement might lie is in the evidence you adduce to support this observation (which was the case with THE WIRE a while back if you recall).

  • Brian Dauth

    One note about conservatives and support for public education: Mike is not wrong that a goal of the right has been the transformation/diminution of the public school sector. Some parts of the right have advocated for it for ideological/religious reasons: they do not want their children to learn what they do not approve of.

    Another part of the right have pursued this agenda out of a desire to tap into the vast amounts of money spent on education, and divert it to the “free market.” They have evinced a strong urge to bring the educational system into the profit making sector (or what used to be the profit making sector) through school vouchers, privatization, and charter schools. Economic conservatives have been hankering after these billions for a long time, and promulgated a “starve the beast” strategy to accomplish their goals.

    The Republican Party has provided a convenient home for these two groups where the larger numbers of the first group complemented the financial power/privilege of the second.

  • Mathieu

    Dave and Kent, thank you both for your comments.
    First of all I just want to clarify that I was not so much paying attention and being beaten down by the lazy cultural prejudices I was bringing up, but rather defending the people who bring up their directors as underdogs as a result of them. I realize that my feelings regarding film discussion are Utopian, but I assure you, I don’t let the reality limit what I’m trying to say. Also, I’m not trying to claim that Pauline Kael didn’t influence a large ‘school’ of critics, but I am saying that many people get lumped together with those critics just for certain comments and preferences, and that often such connections turn out to be false. When it comes to Armond White, I don’t think he is trying to distance himself from Kael, in fact he often praises her. But he makes it clear that praising her and being a “Paullette” are two different things. He also makes it clear that he benefited just as much from Andrew Sarris (something, correct me if I’m wrong here, that a Paullette wouldn’t do?), and that’s where it ends, that he developed his own voice. This is said by him in many interviews, here’s one if you’re interested:
    http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/winter2004/features/the_critic.php

    But I also think it has been unfair that Armond White has been slapped with another label besides “Paullette”, that of ‘contrarian’. I disagree with the man a lot, but I believe he should be listened to like anybody else without having that slapped on him from the get-go. Does everybody have to follow the norm to not be called a weirdo?

    Concerning my John Moore article, it was first written for the Slovenian film magazine Ekran, which benefits from a wide range of international contributors. However, it was always my intention to have it printed in English in another publication, and I have Ekran’s permission to do so. I would very much like to have it out there anywhere I can, and if any of you would like to read it and suggest something that would very much be appreciated. Dave, I unfortunately haven’t yet seen a film by Paul W.S Anderson, but I’m interested already. It’s a pity we sometimes have to stumble upon such directors by accident, because no one is pointing us in their direction. I saw my first John Moore as a part of a second run theater’s double bill (I was there to see the first film showing, and stayed for the Moore just to reap the 2 for 1 benefits). Very impressed and moved by what I had seen, I looked up his name, only to find he was one of the most negatively reviewed guys out there. I really want to share what I beleive are some great qualities of his, and what kind of great qualities can be found in filmmaking that otherwise would be tossed aside as trivial (that includes remakes, genre films, action films etc).

  • John M

    Brian, of course, you’re right. Many conservatives would like to turn public education–indeed, public anything–over to the free market.

    However, a quick once-over of the New York Times today would suggest that highly out-of-favor Republicans won’t have much luck with this anytime soon. I humbly suggest that Mike live in the present, and on planet earth.

    And anyway, your opinions are nuanced. Don’t forget the acrobatic interpretive display I was responding to, which asserts that portraying a principal as a dumbass is the same as undermining the notion of public education entirely. (Mike, you might wanna give Matt Groening a call.):

    “Public educators are depicted as evil bureaucrats – a deeply held belief of US conservatives. Public schools are evil places. The principal is incompetent, and cannot even get Carrie’s name right. The English teacher deliberately humiliates Carrie in class. At the end, Carrie destroys a public school – the most deeply held goal of many US right-wingers, although they want to cut off funds and close public schools, rather than burn them.”

  • Kent Jones

    Mathieu, I’m not interested in reading another interview with Armond, but thank you for asking. I agree – he should be listened to like other people; and he should listen to other people in turn. If he doesn’t like being called a “contrarian,” that’s tough. He’s earned it.

  • Tony Williams

    John M, Are we not forgetting the relationship of CARRIE to the 70s family horror film tradition?

    Also, Junko, although Kristol and Himmelfarb were former Trotskyists who moved the the Right in the 1950s (at a time when the Cold War proved all too convenient for this readjustment from superficial leftist “groupies”), how can you reconcile your second sentence with the writings of Trotsky and the role of a group such as the Socialist Equality Party?

    I’d recommend you look at their Web Site wsws.org. and look at their arts and culture section. Despite several problems we may have with the Fourth International, this movement is far from the past behavior of the renegade Bernstein and others.

    Remember, Mussolini was once a socialist. New Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling was once a member of the International Marxist Group. Does movement to the Right tarnish the original political philosophies?

    Certainly, not. It shows lack of dedication and the value of Lenin (but not Stalin’s) axiom of purging the Party of opportunist elements. Many current Cabinet members and MPs of Britain’s New Labour belonged to the radical left 30 years ago. But, at heart, they were opportunists who moved to the Right while Trotsky ended up murdered by a Stalinist assassin.

  • I am beginning to confuse Mike Grost with Armond White.

  • Mike B.

    John M and Brian,

    I’d really rather not get into a political discussion here, but strictly re readings of CARRIE: I’m one of the evil, billions-hankering “conservatives” interested in experimenting with charter schools as a means toward the public-education ends we all agree on (Barack Obama, whom I voted for, is another). I’ve seen CARRIE at least twice. I have never once, at all, had any sense whatsoever that its depiction of high school dovetails in any way with my views on education policy.

  • John M

    Mike B…yeah, I didn’t even bother getting into the fact that issues of public education, national security, and economics are all a little…how you say…complicated, from both sides of the aisle. I’ve spent a good amount of time in New Orleans the past few years–it’s become quite the testing ground for alternatives (charter schools included) to traditional public education. The city’s school system is about as rough as it gets.

    You’ve seen CARRIE twice, though…I can only assume the film’s advocacy of telekinesis might be having some effect.

    Did you type that comment with fingers or brainwaves?

  • Dave wrote: ” … he current crop of Lacanians lead by Nicole Brenez”

    Friendly correction, Dave: Nicole is not a Lacanian, and I am not a Derridean! I think there’s a fair bit sloshing around in both of our respective critical methods other than a couple of (almost ex-)fashionable big guns of French theory !!! This thread has got me imagining a great cartoon war of ideas: Sarrasites and Paulettes vs. Lacanians and Derrideans! But, as Nicole always says, it’s the films that come first and they suggest the tools we need to deal with them, not the theories/methods we ‘apply’ to them.

  • jbryant

    Mathieu: I’m sure you’re aware that Armond White is one of John Moore’s few defenders. Since I sometimes agree with White’s endorsements of, shall we say, critical underdogs, I’ll probably give Moore at shot at some point. His films can’t be any worse than such White favorites as “Torque” and “You Got Served.”

    I’m a big fan of Paul W. S. Anderson’s “Resident Evil,” and his recent “Death Race” had its moments. Don’t think I’ve seen his other stuff.

  • Brian Dauth

    John M: My post was not aimed at anyone in particular; apologies if you felt it was. I think it was more inspired by wanting on the afternoon when the Dow Jones average slipped below 6,800 points (and having spent the last 20+ years involved with providing public school-based family intervention services) to acknowledge that Mike is not totally off-base with his observations about the deep desire of conservatives to eliminate publically funded education (however much I may disagree with his interpretation of De Palma’s CARRIE).

    The Cato Institute’s Handbook for Congress has long advocated for this position and includes the line: “No matter where you sit on the ideological spectrum, abolishing the federal role in education is good government.” Republicans did not accomplish their ultimate goal, but it will take massive infusions of funding to get the public education system back to where it was just thirty years ago. And sad to say, while there will be billions spent for AIG, Citibank, and all the rest, the stimulus monies for education will do little more than restore only the most recent round of cuts education has suffered.

    Paradoxically and shamefully, it is only the threat now faced by middle class families and children with regard to the quality of education that might help build a powerful enough coalition to help the low-income, urban children I work with (though an article in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle indicates that the social safety is going to continue to fray.)

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/28/MN0K165OA5.DTL&tsp=1

  • Tony Williams

    Gee Adrian, As the Gipper once said to Oliver North, “What a great idea for a movie?” Perhaps reworking Star Wars into a battle between Paulettes and Lacanians, although definitions may differ over who will be the Evil Empire?

    Since Mike Grost has not read Robin Wood for 30 years, I have no sympathy since I ploughed through Lacan’s ECRITS and FOUR FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, to say nothing about some Zizek. “Boot Camp” is needed for some people over definitions but Nicole is right in your last sentence.

    “I have not nor ever have been a member of the Lacanian Party or the Derridean international conspiracy.”

    Finally, to end on a serious note, you make some very good points Brian. A young girl at the local Long John Silver’s told us whe was going into “basic” in three months time. She deserves better than ending up in Afhghanistan as a victim of Obama’s folly.

  • John M

    Brian, thanks very much for the link. It’s all so dismaying.

    Also, Tony, maybe I don’t get it: what is “Obama’s folly”?

  • Brian, thank you for your informed comments on conservatives vs the public schools.

    I read Robin Wood’s new edition of HITCHCOCK a year ago. And his essay on Ozu. Just haven’t read his article on horror films for 30 years. I also read his articles in CineAction when they come out.

    For the record, I have never been a religious fundamentalist, a conservative or a Marxist. I am a lifelong liberal Roman Catholic, political liberal, and follower of Gandhi.

    What I do have as a background is being a science fiction reader since childhood. In the sf community, the first question anyone asks about a fantastic work is “How does it treat science?” Real science is valued; pseudo-science like telekinesis is viewed as worthy of the Hall of Shame. People explore every aspect of how a work uses science in depth. I carry (proudly) this tradition onward.

    I have never used the term “Paulette”. More broadly, I have never criticized any follower of Pauline Kael for their personal association. Whatever merit or faults Armond White, say, has, they are found in his film criticism, not in his association with Kael.

    Portraying a principal as an incompetent bureaucrat may or may not be political. When the heroine goes on to blow up the school, you gotta wonder.

    Bottom line: CARRIE is very strong stuff. Attempts to portray a film that glorifies extreme violence, hates educators, blows up a school, promotes pseudo-science and present blonds as good and Italians as stupid, as matinee fun, is disingenuous.

  • jaime

    I know there’s been a lot of posting today, Mike, but I asked you a key question earlier… the comment is time-stamped 3:02pm.

    Also, how do you feel about Philip K. Dick?

  • Tony Williams

    John M,

    Obama is withdrawing troops from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan. Will he succeed where Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British Empire, and the former Soviet Union failed? I doubt it. So expect more coffins to return to the Staes.

    Mike Grost, I really don’t think CARRIE glorifies anything. Perhaps you should look at the SAW films, HOSTEL 1 &2, the work of Rob Zombie, and then go back to read what Wood wrote about it. I’m sure you will see a profound difference. Why does Carrie blow up the school? What actually provokes her? Is what she sees in front of her real or not? DePalma once referred to William Katt as “Goldilocks.” Are there not other wys of looking at the film?

  • Mike (G), here is the make-or-break, do-or-die question: did or did you not find De Palma’s CARRIE exciting/interesting/magnificent on the level of its image and sound stylistics, its use of space and place, its colour scheme, its editing patterns, its narrative construction upon rhymes and echoes, etc? ANSWER VERY CAREFULLY! A lot depends on it !!

  • Adrian and Jaime,
    I think you are asking the same question.
    I did not especially enjoy CARRIE on the level of visual style or story-telling.
    The big kiss is good (circular camera movement). The huge destroy-the-school episode is well staged and shows technical skill and creativity on De Palma’s part.
    Sadly, I know from experience that it doesn’t mean anything, when I fail to respond to a film. I am quite capable of looking at a great film, and just not getting it. It took me years to appreciate Tarkovsky!
    I tried to word my posts, so that they talked about “politics in CARRIE”, rather than “direction in De Palma”.
    I am willing to be educated in De Palma. Will keep going…maybe not right away.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Sometimes it’s fun to just sit back and relax, watching ardent cinephiles hurling (virtual) brickbats at each other.

    Kant (Emmanuel) had a point about art and society, but would he have considered CARRIE “art”? We’ll never know.

    True, with De Palma, irony is all-important — both the filmmaker’s and the viewer’s. Equally important is distancing, which De Palma manages through various devices in most of his films, and which the viewer must also take into account through an active participation to the director’s outlook. One of De Palma’s favorite tropes, used in CARRIE and many other films, is the symbolic re-creation of an event through a mise en scene that turns it into spectacle (in CARRIE, the menstruation-in-the-shower, a “realistic” event, is thus recreated and “staged” as a “show” by one of the characters for the benefit of an entire audience as the metaphoric blood, dropped from a bucket ex machina, drenches Carrie on stage).

    Cinema is spectacle and De Palma’s films are spectacles about cinema. Taking them literally, as Mike did CARRIE, is not the best possible approach. De Palma’s irony, his cynicism, his sardonic use of poetic (or quasi-poetic) justice can become unsavory. He can appeal to the viewers’ least admirable instincts (I remember being appalled by an audience’s delighted reaction to Angie Dickinson’s discovery that she has made love with a man who has a sexual disease in DRESSED TO KILL).

    By the way I watched CARRIE again a few weeks ago and was struck by how ugly it looked and how crude it felt. But I guess it’s neither here nor there.

  • I was struck how much the scenes at home in CARRIE recalled Curtis Harrington. The same unhealthy mother-and-grown-child duels; the same old wooden California homes; the eerie discoveries; the characters seen from outdoors from upstairs windows. Resemblance is especially close to THE KILLING KIND and THE CAT CREATURE, made just a few years before CARRIE.

  • Tony Williams wrote :”Obama is withdrawing troops from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan. Will he succeed where Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British Empire, and the former Soviet Union failed? I doubt it. So expect more coffins to return to the Staes.’

    Yes. I gather the “change” is that troops are in someway finally being withdrawn from Iraq–only to placed elsewhere– and that we may get to see pictures of the coffins in the media.

  • Jaime, I’ve read 25 novels by Philip K. Dick. Favorites are Solar Lottery, The Man in the High Castle, The Game-Players of Titan, Clans of the Alphane Moon, Ubik, A Maze of Death, Our Friends from Frolix 8. I admire Dick’s creative plots.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘how can you reconcile your second sentence with the writings of Trotsky and the role of a group such as the Socialist Equality Party?’

    I was trying to make joke about neo-conservative, not to criticize Trotsky. I cannot write English to make joke yet.

    But neo-conservative movement is counter-revolution world wide.

    On more point, political spectrum outside America is wider than conservative-liberal. There is Japan Communist Party with 16 seats in Diet, 500,000 members. Not revolutionary today, more like Kautsky USPD, but advocating for working class, against militarism and imperialism.

  • Tony Williams

    Junko,

    Thanks for the clarification. Yes, neo-conservatism is a counter-revolution.

    On American political concept, Obama is a “socialist” for the Republicans and Joe the Plumber!

  • Jaime

    “Jaime, I’ve read 25 novels by Philip K. Dick. Favorites are Solar Lottery, The Man in the High Castle, The Game-Players of Titan, Clans of the Alphane Moon, Ubik, A Maze of Death, Our Friends from Frolix 8. I admire Dick’s creative plots.”

    Don’t you find his reliance on extra-sensory powers (such as telepathy) problematic and anti-science?

    Also – may I suggest THE UNTOUCHABLES for your next De Palma? Whenever you feel safe about getting back into the water. It is pro-law-enforcement and has no supernatural elements whatever.

  • Tony Williams

    May I also recommend De Palma’s BLOW OUT also? A non-supernatural film although the ending may appear gratuitous, it is actually ironic.

  • jbryant

    I dunno, Jaime. Having aspects of Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps sequence magically appear during a gun battle in Union Station seems kinda supernatural to me.

  • Michael Dempsey

    Is the depiction in “Carrie” of mass murder and annihilation a simple, uncomplicated endorsement of same?

    If so, per Mike Grost, whatever artistry it possesses wouldn’t compensate for the evil it promotes. This also applies to “Psycho” and “A Clockwork Orange,” which (unlike “Carrie,” as far as I know) have reportedly provoked off-screen versions of their violence (causing Stanley Kubrick to have his picture withdrawn from British release during the years between its premiere there and his death in 1999). And let’s not forget “Taxi Driver”, Jodie Foster, and John Hinckley Jr.

    Among classic examples of this disjunction between a film’s artistry and the purposes this artistry serves, “The Birth of a Nation” springs too readily to mind. But “Triumph of the Will” may be a more insidious example — full of blazing technical wonderments that might add up to artistric triumph but for the small matter of their one and only purpose: wholesale promotion of Adolf Hitler and his entire program for Nazi Germany and the rest of the world.

    Many have sought a way to cut this film some slack. Understandably, they want to rescue its entrancing stylistics from the vile purpose that underlays them. But in the end “fascism” must trump “fascinating” (as Susan Sontag showed) even for those who don’t have a fascist cell in their minds or bodies.

    Ditto for De Palma if he’s guilty as charged. Is he?

    The case must be made, not just asserted. This requires what we haven’t had here yet: a precise dissection of specifics in “Carrie”, not just proclamations that showing a high school being blown up automatically equals urging the audience to go and do likewise — just as mere declarations of Riefenstahl’s guilt are insufficient without close analysis of what she put on the screen and why.

    The case would have to prove or at least present strong evidence that Brian De Palma explicitly intended to endorse violent murder and destruction, or that he carelessly and irresponsibly failed to consider the implications of what he was doing.

    Only then can he (and Hitchcock and Kubrick and Scorsese and Griffith and Riefenstahl and who knows how many others) be justly convicted of the charge Pauline Kael once leveled at “A Clockwork Orange” — that Kubrick was “sucking up to thugs.”

    And no conviction is necessarily final; periodic re-consideration may also be necessary in many cases.

    For example, in the current issue of “Sight & Sound,” Linda Ruth Williams severely criticizes Kubrick for what she considers his reprehensible approach to filming sex and sensuality. I find that I don’t agree with her ideas, but only after giving them due consideration because of the challenging way she presents them, backed by plentiful examples. What she wrote has obliged me to re-consider this element of Kubrick’s work. This is a great service, given the frequent tendency of cinephiles (me included) to want to canonize our favorites.

    So, Mike Grost and/or anyone who shares his viewpoint: please give us the same for “Carrie”, and then we can (to quote Paul Newman’s character in “The Verdict”) “let the jury decide” — with the proviso that this verdict, whatever it is, will not necessarily be cut in stone for all time.

  • Kent Jones

    Jean-Pierre – I haven’t seen CARRIE in a long time, but what you wrote about it looking ugly and feeling dramatically crude confirms my own suspicions. I went back several years ago to give it another look and couldn’t take it. Everything seemed paper-thin, and the high-school cruelty was pushed so hard that it defeated itself. As opposed to THE FURY, which still looks great and is genuinely intense and troubling, or most of CARLITO’S WAY or sections of SNAKE EYES. There’s so much of De Palma that looks terrific to me at first blush and then becomes troublingly flat, or is undermined by a nonsensical placement in the story. He’s always had an amazing eye – there are incredible uses of deep blacks in THE BLACK DAHLIA, for example – and a very exciting sense of scale and height, but I find that they’re tied to two constant problems: first, his complete disregard for narrative logic, and second, his carelessness with actors and extras. I know a couple of anecdotes about him, but the one that’s germane here came from a friend who worked on one of his movies, and it’s unsurprising: all he cares about, he told me, is the movement of the camera. So many lengthy stretches of his movies feel like those instances of nightmarish superreality in Hitchcock, like Martin Balsam “falling” down the stairs or James Stewart “falling” from the window into the courtyard. In De Palma, there are entire conversations that play like that, many of them featuring Nancy Allen. And the nastiness is like something out of a college underground newspaper in the early 70s. The moment in DRESSED TO KILL you describe is actually played for laughs as a dark, sick joke. Which is fine (with everybody but Mike Grost, I guess), except that it just sort of hangs there, like everything else in the movie. Nothing connects. Like in a nightmare, many people would say. But I think that’s an out for De Palma – his films don’t feel to me like nightmares but patchworks stitched together by an extremely talented “visual stylist” (as he once referred to himself in a hilarious mid-80s Film Comment interview with Marcia Pally) under the mistaken impression that his talent will take care of everything.

  • nicolas saada

    De Palma is God in France, at least in Cahiers du Cinema where I used to be a critic…a long time ago in a galaxy far away. I think I admire the pleasure he has making movies more than the films themselves.

  • On the other hand, Peter Coyote told me he had a great time being directed by ‘formalist’ De Palma in FEMME FATALE – as opposed to being directed by ‘humanist’ Almodóvar in KIKA, which he said was endless torture – and added that the film was a real lesson to him: he thought the script was silly, nonsensical, etc, but when he saw the film he finally understood De Palma’s ‘total design’ for the piece. For me, the line that De Palma is no good with actors, indifferent to them, can’t guide them, etc doesn’t match with what I see on screen. There are many fine performances in his work! – even if, beyond the princpal roles, things deliberately ‘taper off’ into caricature: but he’s good at caricature, too, rather like Eisenstein was with his ‘typage’! Remember, he had an early grounding in theatre, knew and mixed with several different acting schools and ‘troupes’ in the 60s, etc. And some actors like Lithgow have worked with him forever. Heck, even Pacino – who according to legend, had a tough time doing SCARFACE – came back for more with CARLITO, and that film is the perfect marriage between a star actor and a great director. And I defend Nancy Allen, too! She may be a ‘cartoon’ in his films, but that in itself is a triumph of stylisation. Many, many directors can’t do what De Palma does on that level. ‘Total design’ is indeed what he frequently achieves across all the stylistic levels. I think he’s paying attention to every detail (that’s what his legendary pocess of preparation on computer is all about), noit ‘sleeping between the set pieces’ as some claim.

  • Craig

    I agree with Adrian that DePalma’s films contain some amazing performances. I am thinking here of Genevieve Bujold in OBSESSION, Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt and Charles Durning in SISTERS, Angie Dickinson and Keith Gordon in DRESSED TO KILL, Sean Penn in CASUALTIES OF WAR, John Cassavettes in THE FURY, John Travolta in BLOW OUT, John Lithgow in BLOW OUT and RAISING CAIN, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie in CARRIE, Vanessa Redgrave in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, Michelle Pfeiffer in SCARFACE. This is certainly a better track record then someone like Oliver Stone who seems often committed to defeating his performers (think about Spacek in JFK, Daryl Hannah in WALL STREET, Meg Ryan in THE DOORS, Colin Farrell in ALEXANDER to name a few).

  • Mathieu

    Kent, I just posted the link to the Armond White interview because Dave asked for an example of White stating he was not a Paulette. Beleive me, there are a million things I’d rather be doing with my time then promoting Armond White’s responces. I do feel, however, that his very name evokes a certain wintery chill in these postings, one that comes from knowledge and dealings with him that I haven’t a clue about. I just happen to read him from time to time, and find him no worse than the mojority of critics writing for newspapers.

    Jbryant, I have read White’s enthusiastic review of “Max Payne”, and his “Flight of the Phoenix” words in David Edelstien’s year end film club. I do believe he likes Moore, but I just don’t see much investment by him in analysis of Moore’s work. In short, I feel his gushing lacks substance, and Moore deserves more rigorous examination; that’s my goal with my article, and seriously, if anyone wants to read it and suggest a publication for it, that would be great.
    I’m curious Jbryant, you say that Moore’s work “can’t be any worse than TORQUE or YOU GOT SERVED”, this seems like you really don’t expect it to ascend much higher either though. I may have misunderstood, but please try and keep an open mind, you might be surprised if you go in with no preconceived notions.

    Unfortunately, I can’t join in to the passionate discussions of CARRIE, as it is one of the few De Palma’s I haven’t seen. But to follow up on Adrian’s post on acting in De Palma’s films, I just wanted to mention a few of the genuinely great performances to be found in his body of work: Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham from SCARFACE, Sean Penn and Viggo Mortensen from CARLITO’s WAY, and John Travolta never being better than in BLOW OUT. Kubrick too was often accused of paying too much attention to style and camera positions and not enough to character and performances, but look at the incredible feats of acting in that body of work.

  • Kent Jones

    I’m glad Peter Coyote had such a good time making FEMME FATALE. He certainly had a better time than I did watching it. I guess it’s true – many directors can’t do what De Palma does with cartoon stylization (and believe me, it’s hard to forget his background in avant-garde theater). Few that I can think of would want to. Nancy Allen in DRESSED TO KILL or CARRIE? Fine with me. Nancy Allen in BLOW OUT? With her itty bitty “Noo Yawk” accent? I will say this – it’s a more nuanced conception than Dennis Franz’ caricature. Of course, I know that they’re both supposed to be pathetic figures in what Adrian calls De Palma’s “total design.” But that’s a problem for me too, because the design almost always seems faulty in some way – top heavy, or over-worked in some spots and under-worked in others, or trading in improbabilities that are off the charts. There are always stretches that work beautifully, but there are few De Palma movies that, for me, aren’t stopped dead in their tracks by some kind of misjudgment or inattentiveness. I’m glad everyone gets so much enjoyment out of them and sees so much greatness there. I see greatness too, spoiled by a strange complacency.

  • “But, as Nicole always says, it’s the films that come first and they suggest the tools we need to deal with them, not the theories/methods we ‘apply’ to them.”

    I wish I had the same impression of Brenez’s work as she does! She’s a classic example of a critic who’s in love with criticism, not films. How can you account for the review of “Body Snatchers” on your website without Lacan? And how do you come to your concentration on the “deconstruction of the cinematic apparatus” without Derrida?

  • jbryant

    Mathieu: My comment about Moore’s work probably not being any worse than some other White favorites was merely a lighthearted way of saying I’ll keep my mind open. As I also said in that post, I have sometimes agreed with White’s enthusiasm for otherwise maligned films, so I’ve no interest in pre-judging anything. I think it’s possible that some critics dismiss Moore out of hand because of his material (remakes of noted films, video game adaptations). Even at this late date, genre filmmakers face an uphill climb critically, at least among middlebrow reviewers (same as it ever was, of course).

  • Kent Jones wrote: “Of course, I know that they’re both supposed to be pathetic figures in what Adrian calls De Palma’s “total design.”

    Jack Angstreich once laughed with delight when I told him that De Palma should be a video game designer rather than a filmmaker after I saw SNAKE EYES, a film I thought was a series of meticulously filmed set-ups that ultimately lead to saying “fuck you” to the audience. (SNAKE EYES like playing a video game with great screens but arriving at a final screen/conclusion that rips you off. I felt like I was just a tool for the designer, an engagement only to show how how good the design is.)

    Kent wrote: “There are always stretches that work beautifully, but there are few De Palma movies that, for me, aren’t stopped dead in their tracks by some kind of misjudgment or inattentiveness.”

    I think BLOW OUT is an incredibly strong film UNTIL De Palma cannot resist having Lithgow’s character kill the woman at the bus?/train? station. I find the sequence so superfluous and mean-spirited that its noxiousness threatens to practically undue everything De Palma has accomplished. I do not consider this sequence a “vertical moment “, but rather almost pornographic in its gratuitous.

  • Kent wrote: “I’m glad everyone gets so much enjoyment out of [De Palma’s films] and sees so much greatness there.”

    Kent, I don’t think you need worry so much about the ‘everyone’ and the ‘so much’ – among the various ambivalent responses to De P expressed on this site, only Mathieu and I have dared walk the plank for his greatness! It’s a ‘minority report’!! WHich sort of brings us back to where we started on this

    And Dave, I assure you, if anybody loves films, it’s Nicole Brenez! And I, too, am now slouch in the film-love department !!! As I said, there’s certainly bits of theory in the mix of our respective writings, but neither of us (if I can speak for her too) identify with any particular theoretical method, school or ‘church’. (Nicole literally invented her own method.) And Dave, I have almost never used the word ‘deconstruction’ in 30 years of writing film criticism !!! And in only one article (maybe one you read!) have I quoted Derrida. Nicole certainly is conversant with many kinds of psychoanalysis but, likewise, she has almost never quoted Lacan. She quotes Karl Marx a lot more! And somebody such as Giorgio Agamben, who is a true poet, is my preferred ‘theory guy’, when I need him!

  • Brad Stevens wrote:. “it’s another case of Americans rejecting an artist whose stylistic excesses reveal an unpalatable truth about the emptiness of American culture (which seems to me to be one of De Palma’s central concerns).”

    I would venture to say that the overweight character in SNAKE EYES is a (easy)target for De Palma’s concerns of the emptiness of American culture. Yet I do not know if it is fair to attack people and their apparent lack of culture when they are living under capitalism. (Interesting how Brad states a “truth” but gives no evidence, only to lead me to the sense that since Brad has arrived at such a conclusion, it must be true.) In this regard, how is De Palma any different than the Coens, who also strike me as sharing De Palma’s “concern” of the cultural wasteland of America? How is De Palma more “generous” or “human”?

  • Corrections

    Brad Stevens wrote:. “it’s another case of Americans rejecting an artist whose stylistic excesses reveal an unpalatable truth about the emptiness of American culture (which seems to me to be one of De Palma’s central concerns).”

    I would venture to say that the overweight character in SNAKE EYES is a (easy)target for De Palma in his concerns for “the emptiness of American culture”. Yet I do not know if it is fair to attack people and their apparent lack of culture when they are living under capitalism. (Interesting how Brad states a “truth” but gives no evidence, only to lead me to the sense that since Brad has arrived at such a conclusion, it must be true.) In this regard, how is De Palma any different than the Coens, who also strike me as sharing De Palma’s “concern” for the cultural wasteland of America? How is De Palma more “generous” or “humane”?

  • Tony Williams

    JBryant, We must also remember the opening line of the Communist Manifesto, “A spirit is haunting Europe, the spirit of Communism” that can associate the founder of scientific-materialism with the supernatural itself.

    So there is nothing sacred – if you excuse my use of a supernatural term.

  • Jack Angstreich wants to make it very clear that he is not in the “anti-De Palma” camp, though my comment about his reaction was in no way meant to infer that he was such.

  • Brad Stevens wrote:. “it’s another case of Americans rejecting an artist whose stylistic excesses reveal an unpalatable truth about the emptiness of American culture (which seems to me to be one of De Palma’s central concerns).”

    Yes, we Americans just can’t stand seeing our glorious culture criticized! What in the world are you talking about? Do Richard Curtis’s stylistic excesses reveal an unpalatable truth about the emptiness of British culture? And assuming they do, does that make his movies any good?

  • Kent Jones

    As someone who is not a member of the anti-De Palma camp but has reservations about many of his movies, I will now stand up and be counted. Without shame, I admit it: I like Richard Curtis.

    Adrian, by “everyone,” I meant many, many more people than the ones who contribute to this blog. I am always running into someone who loves Brian De Palma’s films. I could throw a pebble out the window anywhere in Paris and hit someone who thinks he’s a supreme master. Thus the use of the words “so great.”