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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
PEACHES INSPIRED BY 'PHANTOM' & 'TOMMY'
SAYS SEEING THOSE TWO FILMS AT VERY YOUNG AGE AFFECTED "EVERYTHING I DO EVER SINCE"


Peaches Does Herself is a semi-autobiographical musical, written by Peaches and shot by Robin Thomson, that is (according to Rolling Stone) "culled from a 10-date live stage production" she presented in Berlin. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. On the TIFF website, Noah Cowan describes the film as "a wild transsexual rock opera." Vanguard's Leslie Hatton asked Peaches, who is from Toronto, what movies served as inspirations in transforming the stage show into a movie. "I saw Phantom of the Paradise and Tommy at a very young age," Peaches replied, "and it's affected everything I do ever since." She added that she is also inspired by Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing. Peaches mentioned Phantom Of The Paradise and Tommy to Rolling Stone, as well, and also added The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Busby Berkeley musicals (the latter an influence from her mother).

"This is not a documentary, but it's a way to understand me in a fantastical way," Peaches explained to Rolling Stone's Karen Bliss. "It's also subversive – an anti-jukebox musical. Actually, the songs relate more to what they're actually about in the musical than something like Mamma Mia, where they make up another story, or We Will Rock You, where [they have] this cheesy future crap. There's enough of a story there for me to have originality, but I also – not even parodied, but gave homage to all my favorite musicals. Like the speech at the beginning, the professor – that's kind of borrowed from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the scene 'I Feel Cream,' when they bring in all the sets and all of a sudden we're in love. That to me is so Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris, all those Gene Kelly [and] Fred Astaire movies."


Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 12:04 AM CDT
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Monday, September 24, 2012
IFC IN TALKS TO ACQUIRE 'PASSION'
SAYS THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

According to the Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel, IFC Films is in negotiations to acquire domestic distribution rights to Brian De Palma's Passion. International Creative Management (ICM), which represents De Palma, is negotiating the deal on behalf of the filmmakers, according to Siegel. Passion was produced by Saïd Ben Saïd, who also produced Alain Corneau's Crime d'amour, and is executive produced by Alfred Hürmer and Valérie Boyer. The film will screen three times at the New York Film Festival, which opens this Friday (Passion screens Saturday night).

Siegel notes that IFC acquired domestic rights to a number of films at the Toronto International Film Festival, including Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha, which stars Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film). De Palma attended an NYFF press and industry screening of that film on Thursday, where Movie Geeks United's Dean Treadwell noticed De Palma and invited him to be on the radio broadcast again sometime to talk about Passion (De Palma enthusiastically said yes, but it won't be until around the time the film gets released-- you can hear Treadwell's report below). De Palma and Baumbach, who have been friends for a while, will appear on stage together at NYFF on October 7, discussing their film influences, showing clips, and answering questions from the audience.


Posted by Geoff at 6:53 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 12:34 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 23, 2012
30-MINUTE DE PALMA INTERVIEW FROM TIFF
"I'M A GREAT STUDENT OF DIRECTORS' CAREERS"

Brian De Palma was interviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival by The Hot Button's David Poland...

(Courtesy of Go Into The Story's Scott Myers.)


Posted by Geoff at 11:32 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2012 11:48 PM CDT
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J HOBERMAN ON 'PASSION' & DUMAS BOOK
LIKE 'REDACTED', 'PASSION' IS CONCERNED WITH CYBER RECORDING, DIGITAL DUPLICITY, & NEW TYPES OF CINEMA
J. Hoberman posted about Brian De Palma's Passion on his Blouin ArtInfo blog today, ahead of the start of the New York Film Festival this Friday. Hoberman calls Passion "sleek, slick, humorously kinky," and suggested that the film continues the play with cinematic forms De Palma displayed in his previous film, Redacted. Hoberman also takes a look at Chris Dumas' book, Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible, and finds that Passion is a good example of Dumas' conception of De Palma as "a sort of intuitive film theorist who, like Peckinpah and Coppola before him, has reached a place where he can only make movies that are allegories for making movies." Here's how Hoberman lays it out:
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"A German-produced, English-language remake of the late Alain Corneau’s last feature Crime d’amour, a bit of boardroom intrigue released here last September as Love Crime, Passion has a prime spot on the festival’s first Saturday night (and is showing twice more after that). As in the Corneau film, it’s predicated on a battle royale between two cool chicks—in this case, advertising hotshot Christine (Rachel McAdams) and her protégée Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). McAdams makes a most excellent bad girl—in part because, as his wont, De Palma elicits some truly 'bad' acting.

"The promise of AC-DC workplace romantic triangle is only one of Passion’s deceptive attractions. Basically, De Palma’s movie is a playful, shamelessly manipulative movie about shameless manipulation—not least of cinematic forms. Like Redacted, Passion concerned with cyber recording and digital duplicity and, also like Redacted, new types of cinema—including sex tapes, Skype conversations, and an 'ass-cam' you stick in your back pocket to monitor who’s checking you out. It’s also showboat film-making, full of expressionist angles, baroque lighting, nested narratives, and inconsequential film school references (not just to Vertigo but De Palma’s own Dressed to Kill).

"De Palma may be an inveterate trickster but his compulsion to extra-textualize Corneau’s original is both a way of taking ownership of the material and a form of free-association less rigorous than, but not unlike, Raymond Roussel’s method for composing his surreal novels. Thus, Passion’s split screen set piece, involves both a slyly seductive performance of the ballet Afternoon of a Faun and an obscurely unfolding criminal plan, mainly because both (as will only later be clear) hinge upon stolen scarfs.

"It was while in Toronto, browsing the well-stocked bookstore at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre, that I discovered Chris Dumas’s high-powered, witty, and provocatively (as well as suitably) disreputable Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible. Dumas, who writes like a PhD student who wise-guyed himself out of film school, Dumas clearly identifies with his subject. By his logic, it was precisely because De Palma — a cineaste of the ’60s and thus contemporary to the whole Cinema Studies enterprise — took it upon himself to rewrite, or travesty, the two Cinema Studies deities Hitchcock and Godard, that his oeuvre has found so little academic support. (In that sense, Un-American Psycho is something like the return of the Cinema Studies 'repressed.')

"Dumas’s De Palma is a sort of intuitive film theorist who, like Peckinpah and Coppola before him, has reached a place where he can only make movies that are allegories for making movies. Blatantly global, predicated on theft and betrayal (as well as plots and image-making), Passion is a case in point.

"In the best of all possible worlds, De Palma would only direct remakes and all remakes would be directed by him. Still, it is strange that this one has yet to find a US distributor. Can an openly commercial mocksploitation film possibly be too cerebral? As Oscar Wilde observed, 'There is always something ridiculous about the passions of people whom one has ceased to love.'”

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MORE ON THE DUMAS BOOK
Meanwhile, someone who is not so impressed with Dumas' book is Adrian Martin, who, in a review posted in the current edition of Screening The Past, states that the book "is full of sloppy, careless mistakes," and "poorly constructed as an argument." For examples of the mistakes, Martin writes, "The bibliography lists Tony Conrad as the author of The Hitchcock Murders – Tony Conrad, the 'underground' filmmaker, wow! Alas, it’s really that old fogey, Peter Conrad. In a chapter devoted to Godard, James Roy MacBean is described as a once-regular contributor to Film Comment – ah, that would be Film Quarterly. Godard’s films Numéro Deux and Ici et Ailleurs are dated as 'early 1970s' – they are 1975 and 1976, respectively. And on and on it goes."

Dumas responds: "As a longtime fan of the music of Tony Conrad, I am truly ashamed to have carelessly cited him as the author of Peter Conrad's dreadful The Hitchcock Murders. I hope Tony can forgive me. -- Chris Dumas"

Another error in the book involves De Palma's Obsession, which Dumas describes as one of De Palma's works for hire ("he neither originated the project nor wrote the script"). Of course, De Palma did originate the project, and in fact Paul Schrader's screenplay is based on a story by Schrader and De Palma. When I asked Dumas about this, he said someone else had told him the same thing, and acknowledged that the error left a hole in the book's thesis that he hopes to retrospectively correct with a potential presentation in the near future. One of Martin's biggest problems with Dumas' book is the dismissal of Obsession, "in my opinion one of De Palma’s greatest and most powerful works," states Martin. Referring to the book's title (which itself reflects Dumas' thesis that Film Studies cannot "see" De Palma because his cinema is exactly what Film Studies strives to be), Martin adds, "Talk about a blind spot!"

For myself, despite the mistakes, Dumas' book provides a unique view of De Palma that correctly identifies Godard as the basis from which to understand De Palma's continued "use" of Hitchcock (or, to paraphrase Dumas, De Palma's developed operation of the Hitchcock machine, which Dumas states is understood "as the sum of Hitchcock's appropriable narrative and technical gestures"). Dumas analyzes the way the Godardian, political De Palma turned toward Hitchcock's grammar as a way to develop his own filmmaking skills. "De Palma, therefore," states Dumas, "becomes not a 'Hitchcockian' - the way that, say, M. Night Shyamalan has become a 'Hitchcockian' - but, rather, takes on the operation of the Hitchcock machine as un Godardiste." In this vein, Dumas further posits the idea of De Palma as film theorist, and at one point suggests that Raising Cain might also have been called "Some Thoughts on Hitchcock's Authorship." Martin himself admits that he can "see some small truth" in Dumas' thesis, but feels that Dumas is prone to overstatement.

The book also includes well-selected and juxtaposed stills, mostly from De Palma films, but also some other directors here and there. (Martin himself finds the series of stills featuring faces returning the camera's gaze, such as the still of William Finley that graces the book's cover, the book's highlight.) I also appreciate a book such as this for those instances in which it brings to light a reference in a De Palma film that I may never have thought to look at otherwise, such as when Dumas notes the influence of Anthony Mann on De Palma's The Untouchables and Femme Fatale (Dumas suggests that the latter's "supremely illogical dream structure" is "clearly borrowed from Strange Impersonation," a claim I have yet to investigate for myself).

A.V. Club's John Semley also appreciates the book's close readings of De Palma's films, stating it is one of the "great strengths of Dumas' theorizing."

ZIZEK ON 'REDACTED'
One other note of interest regarding Dumas' book: Slavoj Žìzek is presented as "un Lacaniste" who makes the mistake of operating the Hitchcock machine while ignoring De Palma, who, as a theorist in his own right, entered Hitchcock studies prior to Žìzek. Prior to the completion of Dumas' manuscript, Žiz̀ek had never once seemed to have mentioned or written about De Palma. However, in his latest book, Living In The End Times (2010), Žiz̀ek spends a paragraph with De Palma's Redacted, in the context of a discussion of U.S. military interventions around the globe. Below is that paragraph and, for context, parts of the ones that surround it on pages 174-175:

-------------------------------------------

"Can we still conceive of heroism as the simple attitude of risking-it-all for our (democratic) Cause? This brings us to the final feature: what exactly is the conflict in which the U.S. is heroically ready to participate, in defense of the weak 'postmodern' states? The struggle against a conglomerate of religious fundamentalists and corrupt dictators? Is this the true struggle? When Madeleine Albright defined the US as 'the indispensable nation which doesn't need any counterbalance, because it balances itself, she was being truly fatuous: this self-aggrandizing Hegelian-sounding definition is simply wrong-- the US is precisely not able to balance itself, for it has to be reminded of its limitations again and again by some external counter-force.

"No wonder that Brian De Palma's Redacted was boycotted by the US public: it portrays rape and murder as part of the US army's obscene subculture, a form of 'group solidarity' in collective transgression. The supreme irony is that the gang rape incident which the film stages happened in the summer of 2006 in Samara-- and the film makes a reference to the 'Appointment in Samara' story, nicely left half untold. This legend was retold by W. Somerset Maugham: a servent on an errand in the busy market of Baghdad meets Death; terrified by its gaze, he runs home to his master and asks for a horse, so that he can ride all day and reach Samara, where Death will not find him, in the evening. The good master not only provides the servent with a horse, but goes to the market himself, looking for Death to reproach it for scaring his faithful servant. Death replies: 'But I didn't want to scare your servant. I was just surprised at what was he doing here when I have an appointment in Samara tonight...' What if the message of this story is not that a man's demise is impossible to avoid, that trying to twist free of it will only tighten its grip, but rather the exact opposite, namely that if one accepts fate as inevitable then one can break its grasp?

"It was foretold to Oedipus's parents that their son would kill his father and marry his mother, but the very steps they took to avoid this fate (exposing him to death in a deep forest) ensured that the prophecy would be fulfilled-- without their attempt to avoid fate, fate could not have realized itself. Is this not a clear parable of the fate of the US intervention in Iraq? The US saw the signs of the fundamentalist threat, intervened to prevent it, and thereby massively strengthened it. Would it not have been much more effective to accept the threat, ignore it, and thus break its grasp?"

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Incidentally, Žiz̀ek himself makes a mistake in stating that the incident that Redacted is based on actually took place in Samara (it actually happened in Al-Mahmudiyah-- De Palma's film begins with a clever bit of wordplay, deemed necessary by the studio to avoid lawsuits, that probably threw Žìzek off: "redacted visually documents imagined events before, during and after a 2006 rape and murder in Samara").

Posted by Geoff at 6:43 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 7:23 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 22, 2012
MOVIE GEEKS ON 'PASSION'
FILM HAS THREE ACTS, EACH WITH ITS OWN DOMINANT COLOR SCHEME
Dean Treadwell reported for Movie Geeks United Wednesday from the New York Film Festival, where he attended Tuesday morning's press and industry screening of Brian De Palma's Passion. Here is a transcript of Dean's review from Wednesday's episode:
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Dean: Passion opened up with a beautiful score, and I was really hoping that it was who I was thinking it was, and then I was right. It opens up with the Pino Donaggio score. When his name pops up on screen, you know, I felt like we were in good hands from there on. Passion is everything you want in a De Palma movie. It is wry, it is well-crafted, it has all of those things that we love in De Palma movies. It has a masterful split-screen segment, it has playful uses of lenses and color. The film is actually, color-wise, it’s actually split—it has dominant colors in each three of its acts. The first act is, suitably for a movie called Passion, is dotted with lots of reds and purples. And basically, the film tells the story of a [vet] of female executives at a German advertising company named Koch. And they are advertising a new smart phone. And Noomi Rapace plays a producer who has come up with a great idea for a commercial where they use the smart phone as an ass-cam. And they put it online, and it creates a tremendous stir where, humorously, I thought, it gets something like five million hits in the space of five hours, or something like that. And I thought that was funny, you know, and so did the audience. Everybody was having a terrific time with it. Anyway, Rachel McAdams plays her boss, a higher up who actually steals the credit for the idea. She basically says, "You have the talent, but I made the best use of it." And she does this because she wants to move up in the company and go back to New York, and leave Germany. And this opens up a whole can of worms, which includes Noomi Rapace sort of spiralling downwards into sort of an addiction to sleeping pills. There’s the wonderful revelation that (and I’m not giving anything away here, because I don’t want to give anything away about the machinations of the plot) but there is a wonderful revelation about a twin sister—there’s a twin sister somewhere in here, which us De Palma fans love the idea of the twin sisters, because, you know… so there’s a little bit of Sisters, there’s a little bit of Body Double, because there’s a lot of kink involved in the film, a lot of kinky sex. Unfortunately, no nudity. Also, there’s a little bit of Dressed To Kill involved. When the film moves over to its second act, it becomes… all the passion is drained away, and it becomes sort of a… the visuals become sort of dabbled in this sort of icy blue feel. And this is Noomi Rapace’s sort of bottoming-out period. And then the final act of the film is basically painted in blacks and browns. It’s really wonderful. It’s a remake of a film that was done about three years ago called Crime d’amour, which starred Kristin Scott Thomas, and apparently wasn’t nearly as interesting, from what I hear from the people who’ve seen it. It wasn’t nearly as interesting, mainly because there’s another character that’s involved here, that is Noomi Rapace’s assistant. And in the original film, the assistant was cast as a gay man, but in this film it’s cast as a woman that sort of has a crush on Noomi Rapace. And so that creates a whole other layer of intrigue in the film.

Jamey Duvall: A couple of questions. I mean, gosh, I’m so excited, we have another De Palma thriller. And I think it’s the first one since Raising Cain, isn’t it? Or Femme Fatale. So it’s been ten years or so since he’s worked in this genre. So when you see it begin, and it’s clearly De Palma-esque, as we all know and love, and you see Pino’s name and that romantic, lush score, I can imagine it is, does it feel like you’re in a time vault, in a way? As a De Palma fan?

Dean: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is an absolute eighties, I would say a mid-eighties throwback. It absolutely feels like you’re watching this on Cinemax late at night. It’s got slinky saxophone on the score, you know, and everything is sort of steely and glassy in it, you know. And there’s times where you’re confused about space and about time. And that’s also, you know, a De Palma sort of mainstay for his thrillers. It’s really… I don’t want to oversell it, because, you know, I have to confess I like Femme Fatale a little bit more. Or some of his classics. But I would definitely put it up there with something like Dressed To Kill. I mean, it was fun.


Posted by Geoff at 11:20 AM CDT
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Friday, September 21, 2012
VADIM RIZOV ON 'PASSION'
MORE USEFUL TO COMPARE DE PALMA TO LYNCH THAN TO HITCHCOCK

From Green Cine's Vadim Rizov's review of Brian De Palma's Passion:

"Detractors have largely given up on accusing De Palma of just selling Hitchcock rip-offs: the more he repeats himself, the clearer it is what makes him distinct. A more useful comparison might be David Lynch. Both De Palma and Lynch adore Vertigo, and both make movies in which their characters also often seem to be moving in a trance state. De Palma literalized this in 1978's The Fury, where telekinetic tyros in training are hypnotized to release their powers, but he uses the same visual language—slow zooms in on inexplicably fixed faces, somnambulant people wandering streets and hallways with no evident purpose—consistently."

Posted by Geoff at 6:04 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 6:28 PM CDT
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Thursday, September 20, 2012
DE PALMA TALKS WITH ANNE THOMPSON
"I GET A LOT OF IDEAS WHEN I WAKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, JUST LIKE NOOMI DOES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE"

As previously reported, Brian De Palma spoke with Anne Thompson before a live audience at the Toronto Film Festival on September 10th. That interview is now available to read at Indiewire's Thompson On Hollywood blog. In the interview, De Palma mentions that for a time he had been working on an adaptation of the John Farrow RKO film His Kind Of Woman, which had starred Robert Mitchum. De Palma told Thompson that he could not get the rights to it, though, and then the Love Crime remake came along. Regarding the latter, De Palma mentions that American distributors had come to producer Saïd Ben Saïd wanting to buy the rights for David Lynch. (Earlier reports have indicated the Ben Saïd decided he would be better off making the English version himself and then selling that to American distributors, and that is when he approached De Palma about doing the remake.)

Thompson asks De Palma how he came to collaborate with the original film's co-screenwriter, Natalie Carter. "Well, I wrote many versions of the script," De Palma answers, "and we were having problems casting the bad girl. We got people that were interested in playing Noomi's part, but not the bad girl. And we couldn't figure out [if] it was because something in the script was offending them. So I said to the producer, 'Maybe there's something I'm missing here, let's bring Natalie in.' And then Natalie put in some more material for the bad girl that was in the original script, but was not in the original movie. Then the girls arrived and had a whole different idea about how they were going to play the characters -- which, let me tell you, how shocked I was -- because we'd been working on this script for weeks and months and forever, and then the actresses come in and say, 'No, no, no, we don't want to do that, we want to do this.' Natalie and I had to go through all their scenes and re-write them with the stuff that they brought in the rehearsals."

De Palma discusses how the actresses improvised a lot, and then Thompson asks about that drawer glimpsed in the film's teaser trailer (see image above). "That drawer was created by Cornelia Ott, the production designer," De Palma tells Thompson. "And believe me, she had other things for that drawer that I said, 'I think that's a little too much.' But she carefully arranged all those things in that drawer, and she said 'What do you think?' And I said, 'Yikes! Okay!' I love the way Noomi picks these things up,'Holy mackerel, what is that?'"

Thompson asks, "So you didn't intend in the writing for that dynamic to exist?" And De Palma responds, "Well, it was important about the mask, we had to establish the mask. But all the toys that they use, you gotta hand that to Cornelia."

Also discussed is the film's play with reality and dreams. De Palma tells Thompson, "Well, because I get a lot of ideas when I wake up in the middle of the night, just like Noomi does in the beginning of the movie, the whole movie's filled with actions like that. She's constantly waking up and not sure exactly [whether] what came before was a dream or wasn't a dream. And Noomi's playing a clever con game with the audience all the time, because you believe that she is an innocent person, she didn't know what she was doing. 'The drugs made me crazy,' and you buy it."

Thompson notes that the Pino Donaggio score shifts directions throughout the film, beginning with a comedic tone. "Yeah," says De Palma. "Nobody writes those psycho dream things like Pino does, and there's a long section of Noomi's nightmare that has big surprises in it, and he's just the master of that. I mean, we did it in Carrie, we did it in Dressed to Kill, we did it in Raising Cain. And then there's the other music that's very lyrical, especially when Noomi's falling apart, but it's very touching."

'PASSION' SHOT ON FILM WITH ONE CAMERA, AND ONE BIG STEADICAM SHOT
The discussion then turned to shooting Passion on film as opposed to video:

-----------------------------------------

AT: What cameras did you use and how many?

BDP: Well, we had one camera, and we shot on film.

AT: You shot in 35mm? Wow. Nobody does that anymore.

BDP: That's correct. The problem is that they only make digital things from it, and a lot of movies are released digitally.

AT: Are you decrying the death of 35?

BDP: Of course I am, but when we find a cheaper way to put it in the theaters, they're going to do it that way. Plus, we have the big problem with everybody looking at things on smaller screens. You could be in your bed with your iPad watching "Lawrence of Arabia," that's the problem.

AT: So how did you move the Steadicam around in this movie?

BDP: Well, there's only one really big Steadicam shot and that's when Noomi has her breakdown. And I wanted to give her the emotional length to be able to play the emotion, all the way up from coming down the hallway, into the elevator, into the garage.

AT: Now how many takes do you usually do? What would be your average?

BDP: Not a lot, we don't do a lot of takes. We usually tried different things that the girls would try to do, but after I got it I'd sort of look at them and ask, "Is there anything else you want to do?" And they'd either say yes or no, depending on how they felt about the scene.

------------------------------------------

De Palma also took questions from the audience, which are included in the transcript. Also mentioned in the interview is that De Palma plans to shoot the remake of Heat in Nice and in Normandy.

Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 5:02 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012
GLENN KENNY ON 'PASSION'
FRAMES-WITHIN-FRAMES-WITHIN-FRAMES PRESENT AUTHENTIC VIEW OF 'THE WAY WE LIVE NOW'

Glenn Kenny posted some thoughts about Brian De Palma's Passion, in which he refracts what works about the new film through a lens of what he felt did not work in De Palma's Redacted. Responding to his tweet about Passion from yesterday, Kenny expresses his feeling that the film "doesn't have enough sex." Here's how Kenny lays it out:
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"My initial attempted aperçu about this romp was: 'Passion purports to be a Brian De Palma remake of Love Crime but is in fact a Radley Metzger remake of demonlover." As we all know Twitter isn't so great with nuance and while the above is thereby wracked with small but not entirely insignificant innaccuracies I'll still stand by it. In any event Passion is, by De Palma standards, as compellingly watchable as his 2007 Redacted was aesthetically and by extension morally repellent. The problems with Redacted were many, but the main—formal—one casts a useful light on what helps makes Passion work. That is, the various visual platforms from which De Palma told Redacted's story were so haphazardly contrived/executed as to very nearly scotch De Palma's rep as a visual "master." The 'surveillance video' didn't look like surveillance video, the computer screen chats didn't look like computer screen chats, etc. 'Brechtian' or not, this created the wrong kind of alienation effect. Someone or something must have made DePalma understand this since that time, because Passion shows he's done some homework. While I daresay a very sharp dissector could point out ways in which total accuracy eludes him, the phone-camera advertising spot and hotel sex file look convincingly and compellingly authentic, as does all the multi-screen Skypeing in the picture, and more. That these screens all appear in frames put on real celluloid film by longtime Almodóvar cinematographer José Luis Alcaine. Long a top player in the realm of split-screen and multi-bifurcated compositions, De Palma really makes his frames within frames within frames work for him here.

"And this, some will intuit, is in the service of saying something about The Way We Live Now. In a way the real world has caught up with a vision that De Palma has always been putting forward, one that he and his fellow movie brats intuited from Michael Powell's Peeping Tom perhaps: that we are always looking, and we are always looking not at what is, or more to the point, ought to be, in front of us, but at something we're putting in front of us, some screen containing some contrivance of what we would like to think is our desire. This vision has become, for De Palma, so distilled (some would say rarified) that his best work of the past twenty years or maybe even more (hey, I really LIKE Femme Fatale!) has almost everything to do with that idea and nothing to do with the way actual human beings behave or speak. So the ridiculously flat dialogue and almost pantomime performance styles on display in Passion will not come as any surprise to a longtime De Palma watcher, although they are likely to elicit some sort of 'That was stupid' reflex in non-adepts. No matter—does this thing even have a U.S. distributor yet? In any event, in adapting the tonally straightforward but full-of-myriad-plot-twists 2010 Alain Corneau thriller Love Crime (a far more conventional picture than his still brain-melting 1979 Serie Noire, the seediest of Jim Thompson adaptations, and that's really saying something), De Palma insists of course on reconfiguring it into a movie not about the duplicity of cinematic subjectivity and then cranking the volume of that subjectivity up to eleven once a strong prescription sleep aid enters the scenario of ruthless corporate one-upswomanship.

"[I]t's a hoot, all right, but it isn't quite Radley Metzger, which is to say in a sense that it isn't quite Brian De Palma either. It doesn't have enough sex, is the thing. At 72 hardly an enfant terrible any longer, De Palma is nonetheless palpably constrained. American female stars of the bankability caliber necessary to obtain foreign funding (if I read my credits correctly there's not one American dollar in this movie, so to speak) simply won't do the kind of thngs De Palma leading ladies of the '80s had little if any trouble with. Hence, the ostensible sapphic tensions between the characters played by Rachel McAdams (American Canadian [see comments], appears in her underwear) and Noomi Rapace (European, appears topless) don't really get all that much traction and the most explicit stuff here is in the reveal of sex toys. Being an old master doesn't cut certain kinds of ice these days, I guess. I almost feel sorry for the guy."


Posted by Geoff at 7:33 PM CDT
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TONY DAYOUB ON 'PASSION'
"BRIAN DE PALMA IS BACK"
At Cinema Viewfinder:

"This sets the stage for Passion's impressive climactic sequence, driven by Donaggio's score in much the same way the dreamy epilogues for Carrie and Dressed to Kill owed something to the composer's creepy scoring in those picture. De Palma, a formalist more attuned to the visually technical and emotional than to the plot-driven or intellectual, fashions a tag for the story that many may find outrageous and nonsensical given the leaps in logic required. But it demonstrates the confidence th[at] this reinvigorated director has in his abilities—and Donaggio's—to sweep the viewer up in Passion's phantasmagoric conclusion. Brian De Palma is back."

Posted by Geoff at 1:06 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 4:36 PM CDT
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LABUZA ON 'PASSION'
"HYPNOTIC"... DE PALMA "ENGROSSES YOU WITH HIS ECSTATIC VISION"
"He’s beyond any convention of classical narrative filmmaking," states Peter Labuza in his review of Brian De Palma's Passion, which he calls "hypnotic." Labuza states that this is De Palma doing what he does best, and that the director is "beyond any convention of classical narrative filmmaking (though one might have to ask when he ever was) and engrosses you with his ecstatic vision."

According to Labuza, Passion parallels De Palma's Redacted from the start, "as Rachael McAdams and Noomi Rapace stare at a screen. They are master and servant in the world of corporate advertising, a sexual ferocity always willing to bubble over into soft-core pornography with every line of dialogue (plus a phallic bottle of liquor sitting right in front of them). Christine (McAdams) and Isabelle (Rapace) are working on a campaign for a smart phone, and during the middle of the night (as Christine indulges in some kinky mask and blindfold sex), Isabelle comes up with the idea for a campaign that involves an 'ass cam' joke in which her assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth, a redhead with a fire both on the outside and inside) walks around in tight jeans and the camera exposes those who stare. It’s one of the great De Palma jokes in the film, but also the most essential: the camera exposes true desire and want, and as we laugh, we also realize that the image being presented only though cameras shows what men (and women) truly think.

"Such a relationship to the exposure of reality is essential, because so much of Passion is about the deception of real life performance. Christine and Isabelle duel and spar around promotions, boyfriends (both are cheating, but it seems also on each other), and their own disdain for each other ('it’s not backstabbing' is a repeated quip). De Palma never gives us the inner exposure of his two women, they play around with clothes and make up. Isabelle always dresses in pure black, and when Christine adds on red shoes and lipstick, it’s an intrusion onto the body. Meanwhile, Christine goes for the garish and big—Hitchcock reds and blues (a cross that could also double as a dagger dangling from her neck and three watches hanging on her wrist), and in one scene, she sits on her couch garmented in a golden satin robe and black lingerie, spread out like a queen, or at least demanding to be one.

"As Passion proceeds the frames become more expressive and more subjective, switching at one point to almost five minutes straight of subjective point of view shots. But again, what can we trust in the world of performance? De Palma flurries his camera through the action—push ins, zooms, and in the film’s central piece, a brilliant split screen use that only reveals its true revelations at the end as it plays with again our vision of watching. And while he leads us down one road—the cinematic frames suggest one answer, the truth once again lies in the recorded image. Like The Black Dahlia, the most real thing on screen is that which we see though screens."


Posted by Geoff at 12:06 AM CDT
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