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a la Mod:
Tiny Mix Tapes' Micah Gottlieb:
"The hallmarks of Brian De Palma’s cinema du look — sweeping camerawork, narrative reflexivity, visual and verbal double entendres — are fully present in this gleefully old-fashioned psychodrama of high-business office politics, which doubles (oh, those doubles!) as a canny survey of modern technology’s manipulative power. A blonde (Rachel McAdams) and a brunette (Noomi Rapace) pithily jab at each other’s throats in a Berlin advertising agency, a dome of shimmering glass in which MacBooks, smartphones, and security cameras become agents of deception. As ever, De Palma’s images range from starkly artificial to gracefully restless, a stream undercut by the severe beauty of his actresses: the ghostlike McAdams and Rapace’s tight grin seem built from a century’s worth of repressed desires. Indeed, the film’s latter half turns dream-life into a shaggy dog story, lit through Venetian blinds, which finally unspools as one girl’s fantasy of entrapment, stuck in a reality where she can never truly get off. Who said De Palma isn’t a personal filmmaker? With the sultry score by De Palma vet Pino Donaggio and a typically mesmerizing split screen sequence, Passion finds the director delightfully riffing on himself."
At the Brian De Palma Discussion forum, "bdpinnyc", who caught the film at the New York Film Festival, wrote that Passion owes a lot to Robert Altman's 3 Women, a film that some have mentioned in connection to De Palma's Femme Fatale, as well. "Well, I liked it and am eager to see it again as I need to take it all in some more," wrote bdpinnyc. "As with any DePalma film, there is more than meets the eye. On first glance I do not think it's one of DePalma's finest works, but there [are] a lot of interesting things happening in it. Curiously, the first half of the film has been criticized by some as being too plodding or straightforward and the back-end is all crazy DePalma and exciting. I rather liked the first half! The satire of corporate politics and vicious back-stabbing was fun for me as a corporate guy myself.
"The second half gets really interesting but I think the film loses of a bit of focus. Again, I need to re-see it to clarify where dreams start and end... and start up again. I won't give away the ending except to say that it was so similar to Dressed to Kill that it made me slightly uncomfortable. Was it a parody? There's certainly a twist. But even the Pino Donaggio score (which I loved overall) employed the same music cues from Dressed to Kill. I will say, it seemed to lack the crispness of DePalma at his best, and yet, there were many fascinating ideas at work, so I don't want to imply that he's gone soft in any way. I'm actually happy to see that many of the critics in NY have responded well to the film."
Cutting Edge's Niko Hendrix groups Passion in with a "bizarre trio" alongside William Friedkin's Killer Joe and Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt, all movies that, for Hendrix, show that these film icons are not concerned about prevailing conventions, and seem to be subscribing to the motto, "It's better to burn out than to fade away." Contrary to bdpinnyc above, Hendrix found that after very stiff early going, "Passion stirs the pot turns into a dislocated fever dream that seems completely built from De Palma’s subconscious and its slivers of sardonic pleasure. Thus, with the exaggerated score of Pino Donnagio, the whole thing becomes a caricatural tongue-in-cheek atmosphere in which De Palma decomposes all his demons in a string of elegant setpieces."
Knack's Piet Goethals states that it is clear from the beginning that De Palma has thoroughly revised the script of Love Crime, although the first half stays relatively faithful to the original. Once the murder is introduced, writes Goethals, the film's style becomes "stylish in an expressionistic realism and nightmarish atmosphere, full of oblique angles, a pressing play of light and shadow, theater masks, twin sisters, split screen and high heels. All this is deeply lathered with a swollen soundtrack by Pino Donaggio, who in his composition brings a synthesis of Carrie and Dressed to Kill.
"Formally, it seems like a De Palma 'best of' of his most remarkable stylistic servings. What happens is quite grotesque. The very slow start to the massacre, split screen, the impressionistic mood shades of Debussy on the soundtrack and the parallel mounting between ballet and manslaughter, is vintage De Palma. And the final, which tends toward autoparody."
Nashville Scene's Jason Shawhan reviews the NYFF slate. "Speaking of amazing female duos," writes Shawhan, "Brian De Palma's Passion marks a delicious return to form for the master of art-sleaze. Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams play beautiful corporate warriors doing awful things to one another, and the end result is a delirious fusion of Assayas' Demonlover and Mean Girls."
"An admirer of Bretchian distanciation who likes to keep the viewers aware of their emotional involvement in the film, De Palma values the medium of film first and foremost. 'You suck them in and annihilate them. Then you say, “It's just a movie, right? It's not real,”' he noted in an interview.
"He reached a wider audience with Carrie, the film adaptation of Stephen King´s horror novel, which garnered the actors Oscar nominations for their performances. In it, Brian De Palma made extensive use of split-screen and slow motion shots to tell the story visually rather than through dialogue. His film, The Fury, made an impression on Godard, who included De Palma in his project Histoire(s) du Cinéma."
"We’re then treated to a tight close-up of McAdams’s face against a bedpost. She is, judging by her half-hearted squeals, receiving mediocre oral sex. Suddenly, a man’s head emerges in the frame wearing a hybrid Phantom of the Opera Kabuki mask.
"This all looks like the start of a beautiful lesbian affair—that is, until Isabelle crafts a knockout ad campaign for the phone, a campaign for which Christine immediately takes credit. Christine, it seems, needs to knock this out of the park so she can receive a promotion and transfer back to the company’s Manhattan offices. Isabelle doesn’t take the move lying down, and immediately uploads her commercial to YouTube. After it goes viral, it’s Isabelle who receives all the kudos from the company brass, and the proverbial claws come out.
'PASSION' COULD EASILY BE RETITLED 'MAD WOMEN'
"Passion could easily be retitled Mad Women, with its sleazy ad biz setting and estrogen overload. When the pouty Dani (Karoline Herfuth), Isabelle’s redhead sexy assistant—who also has a crush on her—calls out Christine on her shady behavior, Christine replies, 'You want to eat my c--t, don’t you?' before violently kissing her, ripping her own blouse, and threatening her with a charge of sexual harassment. It’s a pretty jarring scene—especially the usage of the c-word—coming from the typically virtuous McAdams, whose cute visage, replete with a small face, a beauty mark, and kind, blue eyes is disarmingly sinister when she flips the switch.
"Later, after Dirk refuses to service Christine, she calls up every man in her phone until someone will come over and pleasure her. The action then cuts to Christine on the phone in a bathtub, as two hands place a shiny diamond necklace around her neck. Then the man’s face comes into frame, and he’s wearing a black leather pig-shaped gimp mask.
"While Passion makes several leaps in logic and is, like so much of De Palma’s recent oeuvre, overstylized, with flashy visuals and a Hitchcockian score, this kinky B-movie is redeemed by Rapace and, in particular, McAdams, who will hopefully take a trip to the dark side more often."
In a separate segment of the video, McAdams continues, "I hope it's a thrilling ride for them, and I hope De Palma fans will enjoy it. I hope there will be new De Palma fans because of it. I think he's doing a really unique thing. I think he's got his own stamp he's putting on his films, and I think it's very cool, I think it's brave, and brazen. So yeah, I hope new people will join the De Palma club."