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"But then, with little warning, things veer into markedly stranger territory, as the decadent, almost classic melodrama of the film's first two acts suddenly gives way to full-blown theatrical maximalism, with erotic liaisons erupting into garish displays of unholy abandon. The film quickly becomes a catalogue of aestheticized depravity, with Judith's cautionary-tale descent into hedonism expressed as a thick slice of exploitation cinema. From exaggeratedly steamy sex sessions to car windows smashed in rage, from laser-lit dens of nightlife sin to last-minute soap revelations (including an honest-to-goodness AIDS scare), [Tyler] Perry's Temptation appears across its last act more like Brian De Palma's Temptation, relishing the excess to such a pronounced degree that it's hard to tell what's meant to be taken ironically. Like De Palma, Perry embellishes every sensual detail, making a real show of lust and caution, blowing up the emotion and the style in equal measure. It results in a bizarre sort of friction—one that's very much jarring, but in a perverse way also rather mesmerizing—that simultaneously heightens the pleasure of the melodrama while severely reducing its credibility.
"For better or worse, Temptation isn't Good Deeds, though at its core it contains a similar honesty, its form is drastically wilder, careening into a stylistic ostentation at odds with both the heart of the material and the director's body of work. Perry has never been an especially extravagant visual stylist, but he does have a tendency to depict on-screen romance with a warmth and intimacy that borders on sensual (particularly where the steam of a shower is involved). Here that quality comes to practically define the aesthetic, pushed to an extreme that, once the prospect of violence enters the picture, makes it seem ripped from Dressed to Kill. (Because Temptation involves infidelity and stars black actors, it's been compared by some critics to Obsessed, but in terms of look and feel it's much closer to Obsession.) It's never clear, however, whether these over-the-top embellishments are meant to encourage or discourage identification, and it's hard to reconcile the conventional seriousness of the film's first two acts with the ostensible absurdity of its last act. If the point is to expand an already Christian-themed morality play to suitably biblical proportions, the gambit isn't so effective. And if the point, as it often is with De Palma, is to both relish and critique its own showy artifice (perhaps it's a demented vision of infidelity's worse-case scenario?), it isn't apparent how that meta-strategy relates to the apparent earnestness of the beginnings. But in any case, the last-act foray into veritable camp is certainly provocative, a quality with value of its own."
We reported last week that several sites are listing Passion as a "limited release" on June 7th. Earlier this month, Canadian magazine The Gate tweeted that its interview with De Palma would coincide with the film's release in June.
Now, earlier this week, The Film Stage's Nick Newman wrote, "We’ve received word that Brian De Palma‘s Passion, a title anticipated by many around these here parts, is finally coming to U.S. theaters this July, courtesy of eOne." For whatever reason, this particular story was picked up and retweeted all over the place, and now it is widely assumed that Passion will open in July. But this does not explain why so many sites, as mentioned above, specifically list the June 7 date (for "limited release"). It is possible that eOne is planning a slow rollout for the film to spread across the U.S., which would delve into July (and maybe later) in some parts of the country. Or perhaps June 7 is the "limited release" date, and July (sometime in July) will see a wide/wider release. We can only hope. Anyway, back on March 8, one of our sources received word from the Passion publicity firm stating that Passion will be released in the U.S. in June. Perhaps that has been altered or modified since then.
This points to a key shift of narrative emphasis and structure from Vertigo to Obsession, the latter of which places significantly greater emphasis on the role of the manipulator. In Vertigo, the manipulator, Gavin Elster, fades from the picture around the halfway mark, but in Obsession, Lasalle remains a significant presence right up until the film’s climax. Obsession goes to great pains to emphasize Courtland’s business relationship with Lasalle, the details of which are explained in the opening minutes of the film and ultimately provide the key motivation for Lasalle’s villainy. De Palma further emphasizes Lasalle’s role in other ways, by directing John Lithgow to deliver an outrageous performance, accentuated by his outrageous Colonel Sanders appearance and accent—which puts the lie to Dumas claim that Obsession “may be said to be without humor” (59).
Lasalle may be built on the framework of Vertigo’s Gavin Elster, but in the way Obsession emphasizes his role as a devilish business partner, he seems closer to Phantom of the Paradise’s Swan, a manipulative businessman whose greed leaves no room for innocence. Swan and Lasalle both relentlessly seek to exploit the naïve in pursuit of their own interests. Take the Lasalle/Courtland confrontation scene, which has no precedent or parallel in Vertigo. Vertigo’s Scottie uncovers the scheme by himself, proceeding to very carefully deduce every feature and aspect of the plot, and takes his aggression out on Judy, not on Elster, who has since vanished from the picture. In Obsession, Lasalle reveals the plot to Courtland—Courtland is so desperate to believe that his wife has returned to him that he ignores all warnings and signs to the contrary—and taunts Courtland about his privileging of romanticism over financial gain. Like Phantom’s Winslow Leach, Courtland turns violent, murdering his manipulator.
Of course, the scheme hinges on romance, and once again we find substantial differences between the leading ladies in Vertigo and Obsession. Vertigo’s Judy/Madeleine remains defined by Scottie’s perception of her; she exists in the film only in relationship to Scottie. Obsession breaks away from this—leading Dumas to proclaim that Obsession fails locate 'the central theoretical issue in Vertigo (that la femme n’existe pas)' (59). But he does not consider the significance of this break, the shift from 'the woman does not exist' to 'the woman exists, but she is not who you think she is, and she is also a victim.' Amy/Sandra, Michael’s daughter who pretends to be his reincarnated wife, shares Michael’s tragedy, but from a different vantage point, and has become obsessed with her father’s failure and absence, and therefore mirrors Courtland in a way that Madeleine/Judy could never mirror Scottie. The love story of Obsession is the story of two damaged, exploited people, each playing a part in Lasalle’s scheme, never completely aware of their shared relationship with one another until the finale.
That final scene proves to be Obsession’s master-stroke, a brilliant revision of Vertigo which collapses reunion and loss into a single event. Where Vertigo concludes with a repetition of death, a brutal, devastating loss and a literal gaze into the abyss, in Obsession, the abyss is present in the reunion. Father and daughter are reunited at last, but what they have gone through has hopelessly shattered their relationship to one another and their sense of self (in the original cut of the film, their relationship had been demolished by consummated incest; concerns about censorship led to the transformation of their consummation of marriage into an ambiguous dream sequence, leaving incestuous overtones without sexual consummation). The camera whirls around them, in the same move from Vertigo’s famous 'reunion' sequence—but here, the camera is manic, spiraling out of control as Amy endlessly mutters 'daddy, daddy' and Courtland moves from shocked realization to mad laughter."