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Thursday, October 4, 2012
Peter Labuza has written about Brian De Palma's Passion for his own blog, disussed it on his Cinephiliacs podcast, and now writes about it again for Indiewire. This time, Labuza includes Passion in an article that groups together three films at the New York Film Festival that "question our evolving relationship to the digital." The other two films are Leos Carax' Holy Motors and Alain Resnais' You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. "Of the three," writes Labuza, "Passion is the most optimistic, even if it tells a gruesome story of betrayal and revenge."

Discussing the technology on display in Passion,Labuza writes, "De Palma’s obsession with the digital image -- camera phones, security footage, amateur sex tapes -- becomes not only essential to the narrative, but a startling vision of how technology runs our society and reveals truth...[skipping a potential spoiler]... De Palma shot Passion on 35mm, a red herring if there ever was one, to juxtapose celluloid and digital images. Andre Bazin suggested film captures light from the moment of reality, and thus has an indexical relation to the real. But in De Palma’s world, the real itself is an illusion, and one can only place their faith in digital."

"The decision to take the narrative from the 2010 French film Love Crime by Alain Corneau might seem odd," writes Labuza, "and some of the angry reactions to Passion have approached the film naively by examining it only as camp (an easy task when you have lines like 'Do you think I don’t see what’s going on in that dyke brain of yours?'). But to dismiss Passion as nothing more than a film with an occasional interesting camera movement seems ignorant, if not downright lazy."

And camp is precisely the approach taken by Film School Rejects' Caitlin Hughes, who seems to assume that De Palma was aiming for camp. The opening of her Passion review tries to Film School the reader: "Good camp films know what they are doing. They manipulate the audience into feeling exaggerated sorts of emotion and possess a sort of bravura that makes them unabashedly watchable. Based on Alain Corneau’s 2010 film Love Crime, Brian De Palma’s new offering, Passion, is definitely campy, but oftentimes it borders on just plain stupid. It is aimlessly over-the-top with eye-rolling twists and turns – for nearly the last quarter of the film, De Palma wastes the audience’s time with fake out after fake out (just kidding, guys – she was dreaming… TIMES FIVE!). The director lacks the artfulness in filmmaking that he once possessed in classics like Dressed to Kill." (The latter film is classified by Hughes as "good camp.")

Hughes seems to be confused by the film: "Passion’s mostly generic look makes you yearn for the saturated filmy-ness that was indicative of De Palma’s earlier work. This film could be made by anyone and lacks many of the notable De Palma stylistic traits. Toward the end, he suddenly switches to heavy-handed chiaroscuro lighting, which then also abruptly stops. No symbolism behind this is made evident. This inconsistent cinematography in combination with De Palma regular Pino Donaggio’s bizarrely ‘80s-TV-movie-sounding score makes for quite the odd final product. Passion is so teetering on the edge of bad that it might end up being screened ironically in a couple of years, as Showgirls is now."

Hughes followed up her review a couple of days later with a side-by-side "cat fight" between Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls and Passion. Hughes' final verdict:


"Showgirls wins out in 4 out of 7 categories, but Passion is only just trailing behind. Will Passion become a camp classic in years to come? It’s hard to say. While it has the prestige of being directed by Brian De Palma and of starring A-list actresses, its content is fairly ridiculous. There is a heavily-featured sex mask, after all.

"It will, undoubtedly, be included at camp classic screenings, but it might take a while for its campiness to marinate in pop culture. Passion is campy, but Showgirls is beyond campy, thanks largely to Elizabeth Berkley. Cristal and Nomi have a pop culture rivalry for the ages that while they come close, Christine and Isabelle can’t quite match their hilarious badness."

Posted by Geoff at 1:18 AM CDT
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