The Première files – Thomas Baurez

De Palma, my living room and Phil Collins



I had already met the ‘bear’. Or thereabouts. In fact, Brian de Palma and I are a story of missed encounters. 

The first time was at the Deauville American Film Festival in September 2007, where the filmmaker presented Redacted, a film critical of the American intervention in Iraq, a scud thrown in the face of cinema that could be seen as a reiteration of Casualties of War, a major - but still underestimated - work in his filmography, whose "director's cut" can be discovered at the Lumière festival. In short, in 2007, on the shores of the Normandy seaside resort, the bear got away from me in favour of a Lion. A Silver Lion that he had to pick up at top speed at the Venice Film Festival, which had the bad taste to be taking place at the same time.

So, I was left with my questions, which I was finally able to ask months later by telephone. It was then that I heard about his alleged unwillingness to deal with journalists. With my handset in my hands, I didn't think much of it. But I told myself that everything would be fine, so I decided to fire off some shots which de Palma was kind enough not to turn into missiles. We talked about the war, of course, but also about the scars left by Casualties of War, a film whose wounds he still seemed to bear (failures, controversies and a serious subject that he had chosen to treat unflinchingly). A few years later, during a master class at the Cinémathèque Française, Brian de Palma could not hold back his tears at the painful evocation of this movie, proof, if any were needed, that he was, perhaps, not a bear at all.


OUTRAGESOutrages (director’s cut), 1989

By phone in 2007. In my living room in 2013. Virtually, that is. The screen of my computer in the living room suddenly saw a close-up of the big man's bearded face. So I was in a way at his home in New York. 2013 was the year of the release of Passion. Passion, in which the director of Blow Out and Body Double returned to the dark thrillers that have made him a legend, set to the music of Italian composer Pino Donaggio, a man of melancholy, flowing tunes. "How do you guide a musician for a film?” Brian de Palma asked me to wait. He picked up a digital tablet in front of him and did a search. I immediately recognised the first chords of Phil Collins’s ‘In the Air Tonight’ coming out of the speakers. You know, that song cut in half at precisely 3 minutes 40 seconds, by the legendary, epic drum break? Which is more or less the art of the split-screen adapted to a piece of music. I couldn't believe I was listening to Phil Collins in my living room, with de Palma as the DJ. "This is what I told Pino," Brian explained to me as he cut Phil off, "I want the same mood!" And it doesn't matter if Pino goes in another direction to compose his Passion score, you have to start with something, even if it means deviating from it.


Categories: Lecture Zen