Thursday, August 15, 2013

Passion

Alain Corneau’s Love Crime has everything Brian De Palma could ask for: sex, death, jealousy and greed, with healthy doses of drugs and deception thrown in for good measure. Hell, in watching Corneau’s erotic French thriller, one could say it plays as rather… De Palma-esque. Noting that, it’s not at all surprising that just three years after the release of Love Crime, De Palma has remade it for American audiences. The result is a film that fits warmly into De Palma’s overall body of work, which, sadly, at this point, means it hits about as much as it misses.

Passion is set against Berlin’s trendy and competitive advertising world. Early in the film, the kind hearted Isabelle (Noomi Rapace, perfect in her innocence) is hit with an epiphany that results in a great campaign idea for her company. She pitches the idea to her controlling boss, Christine (Rachel McAdams, playing her bitchiest bitch yet), who steals the idea from Isabelle and is subsequently offered a huge promotion in New York City.

In return, Isabelle goes to the bosses and steals back the credit for her original idea, infuriating Christine in the process. From there, a war is waged. A war of deceit, wit and sex as power. To add to the tension (if not needlessly so) both women are aware of the fact that they are screwing the same man (because obviously two women this good looking couldn’t find different men to sleep with).
The core problems with Passion can be found in De Palma’s script. It’s too muddled and pointlessly heavy. In addition, some of the dialogue is distractingly low brow. It takes a lot to ruin a scene of Rachel McAdams sitting on a decadent couch, clothed in expensive lingerie, waiting with sexual anticipation. But that’s precisely what De Palma’s dialogue does. Essentially, the weaknesses in the script force tedious moments from the actors, which is a shame, given how talented both Rapace and McAdams are.

Now for the good. Passion may be De Palma’s technically best looking film since Body Double. Everything about the look of Passion – from its ice-cold palette to its sleek production design – do wonders at immersing us into the world of the film. Beyond being a technical craftsman, Brian De Palma likes to use his movies as a way to play. In Passion, he implores Dutch angles, lens whacking and, of course, split screen to capture the uneasiness of the story. These techniques, mixed with Pino Donaggio’s appropriately eerie score, are difficult for any filmmaker to pull off. The fact that De Palma even attempts to cram them all into a 102-minute film is commendable enough. But that they all work so well is proof of De Palma’s cinematic command.
In short, like the best of De Palma’s work, Passion looks and sounds amazing. Perfect even. And it has an amusingly layered plot to boot. But, like the worst of De Palma’s work, Passion gets bogged down with too many complex twists. You think the double crosses are through and then they Just. Keep. Going. becoming more diluted with each passing moment of forced Gotcha!

But I get it. Complex narratives and flashy execution is the De Palma way. That’s how he chooses to tell his stories. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Passion is nothing if not exciting, I just wish it knew when enough was enough. C-

14 comments:

  1. The only reason I want to see this is Brian de Palma though I do have Love Crimes in my DVR queue which I might watch next month. Yet, I'm aware that de Palma these days is hit-and-miss as re-watches of The Black Dahlia made me realize how wrong I was the first time I saw it as I felt it lost the psychological tone of the book and some of the casting wasn't very good at all. I haven't seen Redacted though I did enjoy Femme Fatale. Someone needs to get de Palma to work with a screenwriter who knows how to tell a story and give de Palma something to do.

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    1. I completely agree with you: De Palma could seriously benefit from a screenwriter, or at least a co-screenwriter. If you liked Femme Fatale (I do as well), then I think there are aspects of Passion you'll enjoy. It's certainly as De Palma-esque as that movie. But it does push the style a little too hard.

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  2. Awwww....this makes me sad. I almost bought this on VOD last week but didn't pull the trigger. I really love Rachel McAdams as an actress and REALLY want her to just leave all the rom coms behind and I'm glad she did this one and hope she keeps doing more adventurous parts like it.

    Knowing myself I'll probably still see this at some point and then wonder why I did.

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    1. McAdams is definitely tops here (as is Rapace), but some of her dialogue delivery will make you cringe. It's bad writing mixed with lazy direction. In a few scenes, I thought, "Really, De Palma... that's the BEST take you had of that scene? She's better than that."

      It's worth seeing if you're a fan of anyone involved, I just wouldn't set expectations too high.

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  3. Since I saw Love Crime and heard De Palma making American remake of it, my only concern was De Palma. I am not really big fan of his extravagance. MOre often than not, he goes too far in my opinion. It seems like he did that, yet again. Sigh.

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    1. Oh man, if you aren't a fan of all his stylistic flourishes, then you won't like a lot of Passion. This flick is basically an assembly of all the techniques he made famous. Fun for De Palma fans, but I can see it being eye rolling for others.

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  4. It definitely looks pretty,but to me it just ended up being another inferior remake of a great foreign film.

    Also, what was with the last 5-15 minutes?Seriously, it got wayyyyyyyy to confusing for no reason. Felt like De Palma just pulled some nonsensical twist out of his ass

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    1. Yeah, it just went way off the rails in its last 10 minutes. Way too much. If he would've held back a little, this could've been a pretty solid film. Too, too much.

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    2. I forgot to note said twist was not in the original...which is probably why it didn't work

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    3. Yep. I thought the same thing.

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  5. I haven't seen Love Crime, but I'm with you on this film. Technically superb, but flatly written. It's too bad McAdams and Rapace didn't have better material.

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    1. It really is too bad. I thought they could've excelled given a slightly stronger script. Damn shame.

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  6. Oh I only watched this one from De Palma. Maybe I am intended to watch the worst first, hmm. I have a similar score.

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    1. It was a well intentioned De Palma film, but no where near as good as some of his others. He's really made some solid films!

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