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In regards to the film score provided by frequent collaborator music composer Pino Donaggio, De Palma notes, “The cues are specific. In the beginning it is go to work music. Then it is the erotic music. Danni [Karoline Herfurth] is in love with her boss [Noomi Rapace] who won’t go out to dinner with her. Danni is hurt as she looks out the window. There is the lyrical sad music when Noomi gets humiliated. It is a simple piano thing as she stumbles down the hallways, drops everything, and goes into the elevator and her car. Then we have the dream music which is this strange obsessive odd stuff and we have the dream music in the end which is emotional and climatic. With Pino, I worked on temp tracks for each of the cues. I changed them. As he composed something I said, ‘No. It’s not right. Maybe I’m giving you the wrong direction.’ I’ll try something else until we came to something that seemed to work for the particular section of the film. One of the most difficult things was Noomi’s breakdown because I used the opening of Contempt; there is nothing more beautiful than that.”
There was nothing thematic or archetypal about having a blonde, a brunette and a redhead on the big screen. “Rachel came with her blonde hair,” recalls Brian De Palma. “Noomi decided we should go with the black look for her because she creates everything in her brain and is not concerned with what’s around her. Rachel is the politician, the wheeler and dealer. Noomi is constantly thinking and trying to get ideas. Danni is the beloved assistant who is in love with her boss. I saw Karoline [Herfurth] in Tom Tykwer’s Perfume; she had this great red hair and I said, ‘Lets keep it red.’” The American helmer kept in the mind the genre of the tale. “This is a murder mystery. The characters have certain aspects but they have to fit in to the architecture of the murder mystery. In this movie everybody seems to be in love with Noomi, a very mysterious girl.”
Someone asked De Palma about situations in which a director is told by a studio to convert a film into 3D. "That’s a sad position to be in as a director because you shouldn’t do it. 3D is a specific technique like split screen, split diopters, long steady cam shots, and montages. It needs a specific use. To throw it in in order to charge five or six dollars more for the glasses is a mistake and you’re going to finally say, ‘I’m not going anymore because this has nothing to do with 3D.’"
When asked about his long-planned adaptation of Gardner McKay's Toyer, De Palma replied, "It was bought by a guy who went out of business so I don’t think we’re going to see that one."
The end of the discussion takes off from Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which looked at the lives of the young Hollywood filmmakers of De Palma's generation in the 1970s. De Palma chose not to participate in the book. "The first thing you discover," De Palma told the TIFF group, "and this is probably true of a lot of biographies is, ‘Who talks to the biographer?' Is it the bitter ex-wife, the unhappy girlfriend or the partner who got screwed out of a deal? They do a lot of talking. The people who like and respect the filmmakers they don’t talk at all like me. That’s why you see me very little in this book. I would know all of those situations. I was there in the 1970s. I saw it all. I could see this was taking a gossipy, drugs, girls, rock ’n’ roll, and I shied away from it immediately.”
Regarding those Hollywood days early on in his career, De Palma told the TIFF group, “We worked hard trying to get into the studio system. We helped each other. We helped with scripts and casting. [Paul] Schrader came to me with Taxi Driver . I read it. I gave it to Marty. I introduced Marty [Scorsese] to Bobby [De Niro]. I helped Marty with Mean Streets . We were all living in the same area. I got an email from Steven [Spielberg] the other day. I met Steven because my girlfriend at the time Margo Kidder knew him from the lot at Universal. The first time I met Steve we were going to homosexual baths in Manhattan scouting locations for Cruising which I reminded him of and we started to laugh."
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."