Saturday, July 29, 2006

De Palma Image of the Day: The Fury

Eric and Zach have been doing De Palma Images of the Day.

Amy Irving, on the stairs, in the middle of a telekinetic episode, flashes back to a past event. Suddenly, she is completely surrounded by the event she’s witnessing, as if it were a film playing, all around her, to every side—she is completely enveloped by it. (De Palma shows us this envelopment by having the camera orbit her once, doing a 360.)

Now, here’s the really amazing part—Irving is in the foreground, but the event is rear-projected. So she’s both in the middle of the past event—because she’s surrounded by it on all sides—and removed from it because the event is rear-projected, and she’s not.

What does De Palma’s staging say about the reality of her (voyeuristic) telekinetic moment and its space-time paradoxes? That the moment finds her simultaneously in two time periods at once—she’s in the present, watching a past moment—but also in two spaces at once—both watching a 'film' (being outside it) and being surrounded by it on all sides, and thus, being inside it.

And as if all that weren’t enough—we could also read this moment as an allegory for the way we experience cinema: watching in the present something that 'occurred' in the past; and being situated in our own space but also having the film reach out in the dark and enfold us, so that we feel as if we were entering its space.

The above passage—among the most startlingly beautiful I’ve ever seen in a movie—lasts about forty seconds. Zach’s image captures the moment immediately following this passage, as soon as Irving's telekinetic spell breaks.


Blogger girish said...

A small detail I forgot to mention: see her right arm gently twisted around, held behind her back? There's a good reason for that too: it's holding Charles Durning's hand, a scar on which triggers the psychic episode, but Durning himself is not visible because the rear projection envelops her entirely.
Breathtaking--pure cinema.

July 30, 2006 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

What a great post, and a fantastic image. One of the things I love about De Palma (and this is personal, I know, tied specifically into my own movie coming-of-age in the late 1970s and early 80s) is how his work remains deeply beautiful and disturbing even in the face of academic criticism and theory. That is, I was entranced by The Fury when I first saw it and knew nothing about "film theory" and remain entranced today despite my partial knowledge of how images work, the economic systems of Hollywood, De Palma's deep indebtedness to Hitchcock, etc.

This isn't true of all filmmakers. Sometimes thinking too much about a director or a film kills off the mystery of attraction. Demystification can, and should be, a rough thing. But somehow De Palma hangs in there. His stature only grows with further analysis. And the Deep Menace that lies at the heart of his best genre films grows only more crazily alive with the passage of time. My own sense is that this is because De Palma's films are already a form of theory--of narrative theory in particular. He is solving puzzles of how to tell a story right on front of our eyes. In this sense, his films are experiments disguised as genre pieces.

July 30, 2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Beautifully put, Nick.

July 30, 2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Eric Henderson said...

Wow, three De Palma posts in a row. ;)

I have to conserve my thoughts on the guy now, but I will say "bravo again" and note that The Fury will be treated as the crown jewel in De Palma's canon as I write about it.

July 30, 2006 10:01 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

It's one I still need to see. After watching Dressed to Kill in a gorgeous 35mm print I promised myself to hold out for opportunities to see De Palma's films projected. But I caved to watch Blow Out several months ago. Perhaps I'll cave on this one too.

July 30, 2006 10:52 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey thanks, Eric. I hope you'll drop an email or post a link in the comments as soon as your Slant De Palma writings are up. I can't wait to read them.

Brian, I've only seen his films post-1992 (since RAISING CAIN) in the theaters. When I bought my first DVD player 7 or 8 years ago, my first investment was a stack of De Palmas; they are probably my most-repeat-watched DVDs.

July 30, 2006 11:42 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Some links:
--Filmbrain: "Birth of a Proto-Riot Grrrrl".
--Walter at Quiet Bubble: "Never been a n-gger".
--Dennis Cozzalio's answers to the cinema quiz.
--Nick Rombes: "Schloozers".
--Peet's 5 words challenge.

July 31, 2006 9:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Today and tomorrow will be spent mulling/working on the avant-garde blog-a-thon entry, and I expect to post tomorrow (Tuesday) late night. The latest person to join us is Ed Gonzalez, who'll be writing about Jean Epstein. This is one of those blog-a-thons where I have *no* idea how many people will take part: it could be five, or twenty-five, I don't have a clue. More, merrier, of course.

July 31, 2006 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Girish --

Thought I'd share this piece from The Sunday Mail in the UK with you and your readers: A list of fifty films to see before you die. An interesting list, with quite a few surprises -- and none more so than Lagaan, at #14. Not a bad film, but as the sole entry from India it is a bit dubious.

Fanny and Alexander at #28 followed by Pink Flamingos is a nice pairing.

I've seen all 50 (as I imagine most here have) so I guess I can die now.

They don't provide a complete list of who participated in the voting, but it appears to be people within the UK film industry.

I'm really hoping to take part in the Avant-Garde-a-thon, but the 120 degree weather in NYC is turning my brain to something resembling chowder.

July 31, 2006 12:51 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Brain: Imagine what the fifty titles would have been twenty-five or thirty years ago.

July 31, 2006 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Filmbrain, my understanding is that the 50 Films Before You Die list is somehow affiliated with the Film Four Channel, which, not coincidentally, has broadcast rights for those particular films.

July 31, 2006 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Ahh...nice one Darren. Didn't catch that.

Still, I was happy to see Come and See on the list.

July 31, 2006 3:06 PM  
Blogger andyhorbal said...

Filmbrain, my understanding is that the 50 Films Before You Die list is somehow affiliated with the Film Four Channel, which, not coincidentally, has broadcast rights for those particular films.

It's in their best interest, then, NOT to show these films so that their audience remains alive and able to purchase the consumer goods advertised during the commercial breaks, yes?

July 31, 2006 3:15 PM  
Blogger andyhorbal said...

Can somebody point me towards a good source to read on experimental/avant-garde film techniques being co-opted by narrative filmmakers and, more especially, directors of commercials and music videos?

July 31, 2006 3:16 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

5 on that list I haven't seen. Some dubious choices on that list, though, yes (Manhunter? Erin Brockovich? why are these films so important?)

July 31, 2006 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

While perhaps not exactly what you are looking for, this article, which is a write-up of a conference held at the University of Notre-Dame, does have some info you might find useful.

Somewhere at home I have an essay about AG influence on 60s American Cinema, but I can't recall which book it's from.

July 31, 2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hmm. They picked not Pather Panchali but Lagaan? Tsk tsk.
The one I haven't seen on that list is The Ipcress File.

Andy, Nick Rombes' blog Digital Poetics may have some posts on the subject in the archive--it's a strong interest of Nick's.

And look--Acquarello's got a post at Greencine Daily. And may I say that I've never tasted tapas...?

July 31, 2006 4:47 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

You haven't?!! Well, now you have the perfect excuse.

I'm looking forward to your blogathon, Girish. Along with my previous interview with Dominic, I conducted an interview with Jenni Olson today specifically for the blogathon. And there's one other I'd like to do on Jesse Lerner, if I get the time. Multiple entries okay?

August 01, 2006 2:01 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh yeah, Michael...

August 01, 2006 8:17 AM  
Blogger andyhorbal said...

Good call on Mekas over at GreenCine, Garish!

And Filmbrain, I meant to say thanks for the link to the UND conference.

August 01, 2006 2:55 PM  
Blogger andyhorbal said...

Girish. Yeeks!

August 02, 2006 7:21 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Heh heh. Andy, I get it all the time!

August 02, 2006 8:25 PM  

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