Brian Russell De Palma (born September 11, 1940) is an American film director and writer. In a career spanning over 40 years, he is probably best known for his suspense and thrillers, the horror film Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Scarface, The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible.
De Palma, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Vivienne and Anthony Federico De Palma, an orthopaedic surgeon. He was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, eventually graduating from Friends’ Central School.
Enrolled at Columbia as a physics student, De Palma became enraptured with the filmmaking process after viewing Citizen Kane and Vertigo. De Palma subsequently enrolled at the newly co-ed Sarah Lawrence College as a graduate student in their theatre department in the early 1960s, becoming one of the first male students among a female population. An early association with a young Robert De Niro resulted in The Wedding Party, the film had been shot in 1963 but remained unreleased until 1969, when De Palma’s star had risen sufficiently. De Palma followed this with various small films for the NAACP and The Treasury Department.
During the 1960s, De Palma began making a living producing documentary films, notably The Responsive Eye, (1966) and Dionysus in 69 (1969) De Palma’s most significant features from this decade are Greetings (1968) and Hi Mom! (1970). Greetings was entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won a Silver Bear award. His other major film from this period is the slasher comedy Murder a la Mod.
In 1970, De Palma left New York for Hollywood at age thirty to make Get To Know Your Rabbit, starring Orson Welles. After several small, studio and independent released films that included stand-outs Sisters, Phantom Of The Paradise, and Obsession; then he directed a small film based on a novel by Stephen King.
The psychic thriller Carrie is seen by some as De Palma’s bid for a blockbuster. In fact, the project was small, underfunded by United Artists and well under the cultural radar during the early months of production, as Stephen King’s source novel had yet to climb the bestseller list. De Palma gravitated toward the project and changed crucial plot elements based upon his own predilections, not the saleability of the novel. The movie featured a young and relatively new cast, Sissy Spacek, John Travolta and Nancy Allen who became his wife from 1979 to 1983. Carrie became a hit, the first genuine box-office success for De Palma. It garnered Spacek and Piper Laurie Oscar nominations for their performances. The “shock ending” finale is effective even while it upholds horror-film convention, its suspense sequences are buttressed by teen comedy tropes, and its use of split-screen, split-diopter and slow motion shots tell the story visually rather than through dialogue.
De Palma followed Carrie with The Fury, a science fiction psychic thriller that starred Kirk Douglas and Carrie star Amy Irving. The film boasted a larger budget than Carrie, though the consensus view at the time was that De Palma was repeating himself, with diminishing returns; however it retains De Palma’s considerable visual flair.
De Palma courted controversy with the release of Dressed to Kill (1980). It centres on the murder of a housewife, and the investigation headed by the witness to the murder, a young prostitute, and the housewife’s teenaged son. Several critics said that De Palma was pushing the envelope with the film’s graphic sex scenes, including Dickinson masturbating in the shower and later being raped in a daydream passage; a common criticism was that De Palma was exploiting sex for the purpose of keeping it on screen.
He followed Dressed to Kill with the excellent, and underrated Blow Out (1981), a thriller starring John Travolta as Jack Terry, a movie sound effects technician who, while recording sounds for a low-budget slasher film, serendipitously captures audio evidence of an assassination involving a presidential hopeful. Nancy Allen co-stars as Sally Bedina, the young woman Jack rescues during the crime.
De Palma’s gangster films, most notably Scarface, The Untouchables and Carlito’s Way, pushed the envelope of violence and depravity, and yet greatly vary from one another in both style and content and also illustrate De Palma’s evolution as a film-maker. In essence, the excesses of Scarface contrast with the more emotional tragedy of Carlito’s Way. Both films feature Al Pacino in what has become a fruitful working relationship. Later into the 1990s and 2000s, De Palma attempted to do dramas and a few thrillers plus science fiction. Some of these movies (Mission: Impossible) worked and some others (Mission to Mars, Raising Cain, Snake Eyes, The Bonfire of the Vanities) failed at the box office. Of these films, The Bonfire of the Vanities would be De Palma’s biggest box office disaster, losing millions. Another later movie from De Palma, Redacted, unleashed a torrent of controversy over its subject of American involvement in Iraq, and supposed atrocities committed there. It received limited release in the United States.
Film critics have often noted De Palma’s penchant for unusual camera angles and compositions throughout his career. He often frames characters against the background using a canted angle shot, split-screen, 360 –degree pans, slow sweeping, panning and tracking shots are often used throughout his films. Split focus shots, often referred to as “di-opt”, are used by De Palma to emphasize the foreground person/object while simultaneously keeping a background person/object in focus. Slow-motion is frequently used in his films to increase suspense.
The legendary Pauline Kael wrote in her review of Blow Out, “At forty, Brian De Palma has more than twenty years of moviemaking behind him, and he has been growing better and better. Each time a new film of his opens, everything he has done before seems to have been preparation for it.” In his review of Femme Fatale, Roger Ebert wrote about the director: “De Palma deserves more honor as a director. Consider also these titles: Sisters, Blow Out, The Fury, Dressed to Kill, Carrie, Scarface, Wise Guys, Casualties of War, Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible. Yes, there are a few failures along the way (Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars, The Bonfire of the Vanities), but look at the range here, and reflect that these movies contain treasure for those who admire the craft as well as the story, who sense the glee with which De Palma manipulates images and characters for the simple joy of being good at it. It’s not just that he sometimes works in the style of Hitchcock, but that he has the nerve to.”
Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez known as Jean Reno (born July 30, 1948) is a French-Spanish actor. Working in French, English, Japanese, Spanish and Italian, he has appeared in films such as Subway, Nikita, Léon: The Professional, Mission: Impossible, Godzilla, Ronin, and The DaVinci Code.
Reno was born in Casablanca, Morocco. His Spanish parents were natives had moved to North Africa to find work and escape the Franco dictatorship. He moved to France at the age of seventeen and studied acting in the Cours Simon School of Drama.
Reno’s career began in French cinema, where he appeared in many of Luc Besson’s films, including Besson’s first film, L’Avant Dernier (1981). The two have continued to work together throughout their careers, in films produced, written or directed by Besson. These include Le Dernier Combat aka The Last Battle (1983), and Subway (1985), the ones that have achieved the most critical and commercial success include: Nikita (1990), the English-language films The Big Blue (1988), and Léon: The Professional (1994). Additionally, Reno did the voice-over for Mufasa in the French-language version of The Lion King, a role originally performed by James Earl Jones.
Reno has starred in such high-profile American films as French Kiss (1995), Mission: Impossible (1996) with Tom Cruise, Ronin (1998) with Robert De Niro, and Godzilla (1998). He has not neglected to work in French productions either—e.g., Les Visiteurs (1993) The Crimson Rivers (2000) and Jet Lag (Décalage horaire) by Danièle Thompson (2002), which was also a box-office success in France and L’Empire des loups (Empire of the Wolves). In 2006, he had a prominent role in the abysmal remake of The Pink Panther and its sequel, he also portrayed Captain Bezu Fache in The DaVinci Code.
Undoubtedly, his best role is that of Léon, the lead role in Léon: The Professional (1994). The English-language French thriller was written and directed by Luc Besson, as well as Reno, it starred Gary Oldman as corrupt DEA agent Stansfield; a young Natalie Portman, in her feature film debut, as Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl who is taken in by the hitman after her family is murdered; and Danny Aiello as Tony, the mobster who gives the hitman his assignments.
Léon: The Professional is to some extent an expansion of an idea in Besson’s earlier 1990 film, La Femme Nikita (Nikita). In La Femme Nikita Reno plays a similar character named Victor. Besson described Léon as “Now maybe Jean is playing the American cousin of Victor. This time he’s more human.” The film received generally favourable reviews, although most of them focussed on the unusual relationship between the seasoned hitman and his 12-year-old apprentice, which was a breakout turn by young Natalie Portman, and of course Luc Besson’s stylish direction.
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