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.
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-