ONE FROM A FUTURISTIC DREAM, THE OTHER AS A LETTER TO THE FILM ITSELF
Two very interesting reviews of Passion were posted on the web today. OC Weekly's Alan Scherstuhl (who is actually the film editor for The Village Voice) takes an amusing view from a noirish future dream where "maybe everything around you is tilted a bit, and strips of light glow on the wall." In this dream, the reader watches the movie on a device originally meant for reading. Scherstuhl writes, "Here's a familiar, bravura split-screen sequence recalling Dressed to Kill in its pairing of high art (this time ballet) and kinky stalking, but this time, the effect seems less a new way of seeing than an acknowledgement of how we see already: With your web browser open, and the movie itself only taking up half of your device's display, your screen is already split. De Palma trisects it."
As the review comes to a close, Scherstuhl parodies Passion's many shots of the protagonist waking up from a dream:
"And then you wake up. You see the movie hasn't been lost and found. It's just getting a half-assed original release, dumped onto video on demand, gutted and ignored by critics. You put it on again to see if they're right. They're not: If a new Woody Allen film came as close to the spirit and quality of vintage Woody Allen as Passion does to vintage De Palma, the world would plotz. I mean, Christ, have you seen Blue Jasmine? At least De Palma doesn't think the Sweathogs have opened up a San Francisco chapter.
"You resolve to tell the world.
"Then you wake up.
"You watch Passion again. Then Love Crime. Passion is pretty good. If you cared enough to make a list, it might be your fifth or sixth favorite De Palma. You could even argue it's about something: the surveillance state, or sex on film, or some style-section piece De Palma may have read about how women sometimes don't support one another in the workplace.
"Then you wake up."
Dearfilm's Brian J. Roan writes a letter to Passion. "It is not often that a movie that begins as just a handsome and immaturely titillating exercise in high dramatics turns into a head-spinning tale the likes of which cannot easily be explained or delineated," writes Roan, "but my God do you pull it off. It is like being in a car, going languidly around the neighborhood with a pleasant pop song on the radio, when suddenly the driver snaps, throws the whole heap into reverse, breaks the speed limit, and begins viewing gardens and mailboxes as checkpoints on some psychologically unhinged rally car course.
"Brian DePalma, your director, treats this narrative shift as a kind of checkered flag for his own intense stylistic shift. At the beginning he shoots with clean light, level camera angles, and pretty standard mise en scene. Then, once the pedal hits the floor and the ratcheting tension is unleashed, all bets are off. What was a fairly routinely shot film becomes a classic neo-noir exercise, saturated in deep shadows, dripping with incredible texture, and laced with angles and pans and visual tricks that make one realize just how boring most films are shot. For a while nothing makes sense, but my God isn’t that the thrill of the new and the unknown? Don’t we go looking for thrillers and dramas so they can take us by surprise and leave us just as confused and unmoored as the protagonists?
"There’s something to be said for a film that is filled with arch performance, blindly executed moments of sheer bravado, and style the likes of which is rarely present nowadays outside of parody. When the music and action of a film fit together as a kind of bold, rebellious 'tada!' not out of satirical grandeur but through actual conviction, who can be strong enough to resist it? Why would you want to? When Rachel McAdams plays catty and bewitching with so much unadulterated glee and Noomi Rapace throws her eyes so wide and plays melodrama with such sweeping affection, who are we to tell them to hold back?
"Plus, no one with half a cinema-loving bone in their body could ever resist a film that culminates in a scene wherein a clever observer to the action is given a parlor scene, the kind of expository monologue reserved for private eyes and polices detectives. When the plot is being recounted with that serpentine slyness, when the new twists are added in, when motives and machinations are underlined with omniscient flashbacks and everything comes to a marvelous head… If that isn’t the kind of thing you think we need more in our lives, I don’t even want to know you.
"So cheers, Passion! You burlesque, you cabaret, you unabashed whirlwind of a film. I look forward to baffling people with you for years to come."