MORE TWEETS POP UP AFTER 'PASSION' NYFF PRESS & INDUSTRY SCREENING THIS MORNING
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
The Principal Archivist tells us that Raising Cain is probably the closest antecedent to Passion, with all of the "is she dreaming, or merely tired and disoriented or crazy" sequences in the new movie. He also says the Pino Donaggio score "seemed to me to be purposely parodying [Bernard] Herrmann's score for Sisters." The Archivist says that De Palma has "kept the best of the Corneau film (several of its most effective scenes are reused almost shot for shot), but rightly created some doubt in the audience's mind about who the murderer is, by providing other characters with solid motivations and by shooting the killing from the POV of the killer, and injecting some ambiguity about whether the alibi is dreamed."
Mountain Express' Justin Souther calls himself a De Palma fan, yet seems to find Passion somewhat of a guilty pleasure: "I want to preface my thoughts on Passion by saying that this is in no way a good film if judged by any normal critical standards. But as overheated, glorious trash, it’s De Palma at his finest, all bloody murder, lesbianism, and intrigue. I had a friend describe the film as De Palma playing the hits, which is approximately what it is -- there’s some (really excellent) split screen work, a little deep focus, and even a few 'it was all a dream' moments. But damn, if it’s not fun. You have to know what to expect going into a De Palma film, and if you’re open to his nonsense, you’re likely to have a good time. I saw it in a half-full press and industry screening, and about a third of the audience broke out into applause once the credits started rolling. It was kind of amazing -- especially since P&I screenings are notoriously bad audiences who are there to work, not enjoy some movies. I overheard a couple after the film discussing the film, and attempting to dissect it and analyze it, and it took everything in my power to not pull them aside and explain to them that it’s De Palma, and that’s all that matters. The film is a lot like De Palma walking through the audience giving everyone the finger, and a chunk of us really getting a kick out of that. Because a lot of us De Palma fans wouldn’t have it any other way."
Movies.com's Monika Bartyzel says Passion is fun, but not really a modern women's film. Her review opens with this: "The beginning of Brian De Palma's Passion plays out like the entry point in a professional battle. Rachel McAdams' Christine and Noomi Rapace's Isabelle look at a computer screen, frustrated over the misfires in their latest ad campaign. They talk shop, they drink, and just the slightest hint of competition breaks through the interplay as Isabelle briefly sits alone on Christine's posh couch – arms spread, palms down on the soft cushion like a plebeian sneaking a moment on the royal throne. There's a whiff of sexuality in the air and a playful melody suggesting a classic professional battle set on modern women's terms. But that would be sane, and Passion isn't about sanity. It's a mind-boggling feature of illogicality playing in the confines of De Palma's distinctive eye."
Kotek responds: "Do you think that's also characteristic of the fact that you've chosen not to define yourself in any specific genre? I mean, between Redacted and Black Dahlia and this, it's like you're continuing to explore film generally, and other people kind of want to know exactly what they're getting into."
De Palma: "Well, there's always a problem when you're experimenting with new forms. The first reaction is, "What is this? He makes these kind of films. I don't understand this at all." And there are so many catch phrases in relationship to the way I'm defined. "Hitchcockian," "magpie," a series of violence, "misogynist"-- I mean they've been quoted at me for decades, and then, like they never really look at the movie anymore. They sort of quote what's in the press booklet."
Kotek: "Are there any attributes that have been thrown at you that you like? That you embrace?"
De Palma: "Well, I do have my supporters, and they do see the way that I visually explore the subjects. They see the beauty and the poetry in my movies. And they are taken up by the emotion, and the kind of operatic feel to many of the sequences."
Kotek asks De Palma if he intentionally made Passion less explicit than the average erotic thriller. "I think this is a movie with women, by women, and for women. And over the years, having made many thrillers and other types of gangster movies, women don't like explicit sex scenes or explicit violence scenes. They get turned off, they look away from the screen, and this is really not necessary. Needless to say, we had the footage. The girls were not afraid to do anything with each other. But I felt that it wasn't really necessary."
After a brief discussion about Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams, Kotek asks De Palma how Passion came about as a German-French co-production. "Well, each film is financed differently, whether it's a studio, or some kind of European cofinancing. The studios are financed by European entities. So this film, because a lot of the financing came out of Germany, we would have to shoot the interiors in Germany. But when I discovered Berlin (and the movie was originally set in London), I said to myself, 'Why don't we shoot this in Berlin? This is an international corporation. It can be in any kind of big European city, and Berlin is fascinating. It has these great locations. Let's do the whole movie there."
Kotek: "So, does that effect the story?"
De Palma: "Not really. It's rather secondhand for me. I'm an American director living in Paris, making a film in Germany, and everybody's speaking a different language. When we want to talk together, we all speak English. I kind of like it because I get distracted by conversations that I can hear, off camera. So when I'm on the set and they're speaking Spanish or German or French, I don't understand what they're saying, and it's fine for me, because I can concentrate on what I'm doing."
Kotek also asks De Palma if there is a film of his own that he would ever remake. De Palma replies that he is 72 years old, so a remake of one of his own films (directed by him) is not likely in his future. He also talks about being at the Toronto Film Festival every year for his birthday, and how it was nice this year to have a crowd sing "Happy Birthday" before a screening of Passion.
"I’ve freelanced all my life,” De Palma told Semley. “I never had a safe office to go to. No insurance waiting for me. I started making independent pictures, scrapping together money. Here, at the end, it’s kind of the same thing.”
"EVERY OTHER ART FORM HAS EMULATED THE MASTERS OF THE PAST"
The discussion turned to the frequent criticism that De Palma rips off from Hitchcock:
Semley writes that "De Palma is aware of his own critical recuperation, if a little confused by it." He then quotes De Palma: "I think I’m making a movie that everyone’s going to have a lot of fun with. And then I’m told it’s only for the De Palma fans who are going to see it at three o’clock in the morning."
"IT'S NOT LIKE I HAVE A PAINT BOX OF THINGS I WANT TO STICK IN MY MOVIES"
Metro World News' Ned Ehrbar interviewed De Palma in Toronto, and got some very energetic responses:
That’s right. I mean, it’s like with Rachel — that phone call. When she gets the phone call about the guy who cancels the date, she heaved the phone [across the room]. I forget which take that was. (laughs) Wow! Unbelievable. And then she picks up the phone and figures out whatever she’s going to do next. She calls up an old lover and, “You want to come over?”
There is a lot of fluid female sexuality in this movie.
I just let the girls go with the scene and just sat back to see what would happen. The way that Dani [played by Karoline Herfurth] offered herself to Isabelle [played by Rapace] — “Kiss me!” — and then starts to undress her! (laughs) All the girls, all their intimate stuff, was all improvised. They just play it. They play it like they would play it if… They make it as real as possible. If something’s not working, we try something else, but they were all fantastic, and it was just fascinating to watch them.
Rachel McAdams’ character feels a lot like a grownup version of her character from “Mean Girls.” Had you seen that film already?
Of course. Oh, I knew Rachel could play it. I’d seen her play it before. Playing a dark, manipulative lady is a hell of a lot of fun, and she had a lot of fun doing it.
You use a split-screen during pivotal scene in the film. How have the reactions been to that?
It seems to work. Everybody seems to talk about it a lot. It’s not like I just have a paint box of things I want to stick in my movies. I look at the scene, and I think what’s the best way to shoot this? Also, I’ve never done a murder where you have a split-screen and you have these two fantastically beautiful women on each side, and then suddenly a knife slashes somebody’s throat and you see somebody with a mask splattered with blood. I’d never done it before.
Have you heard anything from the makers of viral video you recreated in the film?
I haven’t heard anything. But yes, I saw it on the Internet and I basically copied it for the movie. It went viral, everybody thought it was real, but in reality it was two advertising executives [in Australia].
You didn’t have to reach out to them about using the idea?
No. I think advertising copies everything, basically. I don’t think they get worried about being copied themselves.
What’s you take on festival audiences?
Oh, a festival audience is the best audience in the world, especially for a director like myself. There will be De Palma fanatics out there in the audience, so it’s not like you’re in front of a hostile audience. They’re the kind of people that love your movies and want to see what you’re doing. And Toronto especially has very enthusiastic audiences. Needless to say, I’ve brought so many movies here to the festival and seen the audiences’ reactions.
What do you like to see yourself at film festivals?
I go to see the obscure movies that will never get into Manhattan. I do it mostly by reading the descriptions, looking at the trailers, maybe getting some information or insights from some of my friends, and I just keep going and watching as much as I can.
RACHEL: "I FELT LIKE THE ONLY PERSON I COULD DO THIS WITH WAS NOOMI"
Entertainment Weekly's Solvej Schou separately interviewed McAdams (by phone) and De Palma (at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel) in Toronto. "I was intimidated by Brian at first,” McAdams told Schou by phone. “People have certain kinds of movies, and I thought he would be a certain way, but he wasn’t. Brian watched everything Noomi and I did. I think he does that with everyone. He’s really interested in his actors. He obviously loves film." McAdams also delved into her character: "Playing Christine was a challenge. She’s kind of wickedly delicious, but not too too much. Those characters can be more fun than the ingénue, the leading lady, where there’s the expectation of having the audience like you. I saw the film not too long ago, and I found the sexuality quite restrained, even for Brian De Palma. I found it more about possession, and not about wanting to have sex with each other, and be physical, but wanting to possess the other. I think he’s dealing a lot with vanity, and narcissism. You want the other person to reflect what you want to be. I felt like the only person I could do this with was Noomi. It certainly made it easier. I was nervous!”
De Palma revealed to Schou that the director friend who suggested he take a look at Rapace was Steven Shainberg, who had been considering Rapace for his film The Big Shoe. "He gave me all her Swedish DVDs, and I started to look at them," De Palma told Schou. "There’s some really wild stuff in there. He said, 'This is a really bright girl, and you should talk to her.'"
De Palma also discussed how the two lead actresses brought their own game to his film set. "They came with their own dynamic. They worked together on Sherlock Holmes 2, they knew each other extremely well, and they had this thing between them, that you could see them kind of vying, and they just brought it right into the characters. When we went into rehearsal, I had to watch what they were doing, and they did all kinds of things that surprised me."
When asked by Schou if he has high hopes for Passion, De Palma replied, "Yeah, because I think it’s very commercial. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good mystery, the girls are terrific. I haven’t done a movie like this in a while. Raising Cain was very successful. We made it for about $10 million. The budget on Passion was $25 million. I made more money on Raising Cain than I made on Mission: Impossible. I think Passion is going to be very successful because it’s fun. I saw it with the Venice audience. You know when they’re watching a movie, this [mimes typing on a cell phone] did not go on. I only saw one cell phone light go on. It was always the same person, who was obviously texting."
When De Palma explained that he wanted Jose Luis Alcaine for Passion because "he knows how to photograph women," Schou asked De Palma if beauty can sometimes overpower nuance. "Are you kidding?" said De Palma. "In contemporary cinema?? I was looking at Rust and Bone, and there’s this gorgeous woman, Marion Cotillard, in a dark corner, and maybe you see the edge of her nose, with no makeup. I made a movie about a stylish business world, and I want the women to look good! … Rachel looks magnificent, and Noomi is the black pariah, she’s always in black, with these bangs."
And in this passage, De Palma discusses his view that by the time they reach 60 years of age, most film directors have already done their best work:
I’m just recording what I know from what I read, and studying directors’ careers. Most directors did their best movies in their 40s and 50s. It’s a debilitating profession. It’s got all kinds of ways to screw you over. Being able to hold the power, doing what you have to do, is incredibly difficult, and you’re lucky if you knock off a few masterworks in that period. You bring up Woody Allen. Is anything better than [1979’s] Manhattan? I don’t think so. With Clint Eastwood, he’s never made a movie better than [1992’s] Unforgiven. That’s the reality. … Especially when you’re being reviewed in your own time frame, they’ll say, “It’s never better than [1980's] Dressed To Kill or Carrie.”
What do you consider your own peak, the best of who YOU are?
That’s really hard to say, the best of who I am. Most of the movies you thought you gave your heart and soul to were badly reviewed when they came out. You do take the arrows and slings of misfortune, and it affects your ability to make movies.
A remake of the solid Alain Corneau corporate thriller Love Crime, De Palma plunges without hesitation into the iconography, audience expectations, and conventions of noirs, sex thrillers, corporate intrigue, post-Hitchcock films and Brian De Palma movies themselves, retaining the shell appearance of all of these things but hollowing them from the inside out. The result is something out of late Resnais—a study of a study. And that study, of course, is of the cinema image. Remember how Rebecca Romijn watches Stanwyck in Double Indemnity at the beginning of Femme Fatale, as if taking notes? The characters in Passion have taken notes from Femme Fatale: an abstraction based on a fiction based on a fantasy. It is complex, dextrous, and awkward: Rachel McAdams plays and acts the seductive, power hungry blonde in a performance that is like a kabuki imitation of the type; Noomi Rapace is her underling, friend, object of love and obsession, our heroine and, therefore, at first, directed to act “normally.” (This film's skewering of cinematic female friendship is twisted, sinister, cynical and terribly interesting.) Like in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, but far more knowingly, cleverly, the director is here forcing a confrontation between two entirely different acting styles and kinds of characters. In Passion, one is ostensibly a hollow signifier, the other our, the audience's, psychological subject, person of empathy. Except the film, lurchingly structured in three fascinating sections, with the middle one styled radically differently, introduces a third character, another woman (which brings the collection to: a blonde, a brunette and a redhead), who begins to appear more normal as Rapace's character enters deeper into the story and begins to be abstracted by the movements and conventions of her plot. We lose our focus on one as another comes in. Where the film leaves us, after developing this schema and then following its "thrills" to the end, is truly disturbing.
I feel like I could talk about this movie forever—it comes so welcome after, in Cannes, suffering through the shockingly disrespectful cultural and cinematic ignorance on display in another ostensibly generic, and homage filled film, John Hillcoat's deplorable Lawless. De Palma's film is suffuse with a deep knowledge film history and aesthetics, and, in yet another remarkable engagement with digital video (after his first foray in his last film, Redacted), has constructed a film that questions our expectations, understanding, interest, empathy and perspective on them. The lucid, confrontational clarity of the digital images renders the film's hermetic artifice—despite being often photographed on location—even more dissonant, heightened and abstract. The archness of the film is absolute. It is a work of cinephilia but one which remarkably takes the form of a step forward—it's an object that exists in the continuum of the subject that it is studying.
I know you liked this film too, so I'll perhaps let you take the baton from my ramblings, because I haven't even begun to talk about De Palma's use of video in this, his close-ups which appear like nothing else in the festival, his total understanding of what's interesting in Rapace's face, of the startling falseness of McAdam's sub-Dressed to Kill simulacrum, the film's perverse and knowing humor and absurdity, its roleplaying, the images within images (him and Ferrara both, loving Skype video calls!), including a mini cellphone cam movie that is pure De Palma and also an advertisement for jeans. What else, what else? Oh, to leave you with another favorite: the film's one split screen sequence, a magnificent anti-set piece, yet so clever, placing a ballet performance in one screen with uninteresting plot mechanics in the other—only to culminate in a murder. Can you tell I'm excited? This film is strange and rich. I'm sorry I can't be more coherent and structured in this, as it appeared a lot of people didn't like if not downright hated or laughed at this movie, which I think is a mistake."
And then from Fernando F. Croce:
"Ah, Passion. Perhaps not the film of the festival for me (that’s still Like Someone in Love), but certainly the one that most tickled my cinephilia. Like Kiarostami’s film, it’s a wondrous feat (a series of feats, really) of misdirection. Who are these characters who look like Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace and Karoline Herfurth but are actually gimlet-eyed projections from cinema’s past? Abstractions, sure, yet when do abstractions exude such a feeling of heated flesh, of shards of fantasies being moved around the screen like drops of mercury? The layers upon layers of De Palma’s artifice dare us to find out. It’s a crazy, thorny spiral of a movie, not “campy” but funny. Think of McAdams, done up like a parody of Grace Kelly (her blonde hair for some reason looking like a wig) in her wood-paneled office with the word “IMAGE” spelled in red, blocky letters behind her. Or of Rapace ramming her car into a Coke machine (De Palma’s Godardian side is always present), followed by a crying jag and a sudden rain that are, like everything on screen, not what they seem. (A camera movement reveals the fire-alarm sprinkler drenching the character from above, and, of course, the security lenses recording it all.)"