NOTES THAT HITCHCOCK IS THE EXCEPTION TO AGING DIRECTOR RULE
This past Friday, Samuel Blumenfeld, who has been interviewing Brian De Palma consistently for a number of years (mostly for the book, Brian De Palma: Conversations with Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud), posted an article about De Palma and Passion for Le Monde. With much help from Google translations, here is an English version of the article, titled "The Passion According to Brian"...
Brian De Palma is 72 years old. For him, the passing of time is a concern. When he began navigating between France and the United States, at the time of Femme Fatale (2002), then the Black Dahlia (2006), he feared he was already past his age. "Let's be clear. No director has done his best films after sixty, he explained. I am aware of this iron law." Since then, he started looking for exceptions. He found at least one, in one of his favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock. The latter, classified as the living dead after Topaz, had made a triumphant return in 1972 with Frenzy, contradicting the common view that announced the end of his career as a shipwreck. Hitchcock was then 72 years old.
At the same age, Brian De Palma became aware of a biological principle. In discovering Michael Haneke’s Amour, which depicts an elderly couple dying, he took note of the fact that this film speaks more to him than any movie superhero saving the planet. Trintignant resembles him, not Superman. Pending the end, De Palma survives in the manner of Hitchcock: he has made, with his new work, Passion, arguably the best film in the latter part of his career. Passion is the adaptation of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime (2010), starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier, the professional rivalry and love between the boss of an advertising agency and her assistant.
The director of Phantom of the Paradise carries Corneau's film to a whole new level, and marks a return to the mid-1980s, when his thrillers Dressed To Kill, Blow Out and Body Double allowed him to experiment with forms borrowed from, among others, Hitchcock. "For questions raised by a narrative, Hitchcock contrasted with visual responses. It is very difficult to improve the film grammar after him, he had ten years of experience in the silents, which is an achievement invaluable. If I could, today I would make a film with no words."
Passion is like a journey into the grammar of De Palma. Masks, hair platinum blonde and brunette with the couple from hell Rachel McAdams-Noomi Rapace, a shower sequence, twin sisters, a scene shot in split screen - screen divided into "boxes" - long virtuoso shots, surveillance cameras, smartphones used as intrusive objects in a world where privacy has disappeared, an element found in his cinema since the 1960s. So often imitated, even parodied, Brian De Palma reveals to us with Passion that he is the custodian of an art soon to be lost.
Of the new Hollywood generation, where he was together with Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and Lucas among the most illustrious representatives, De Palma is one that is the most biased. He remains the only one who after a long exile felt that the Hollywood system offered him the greatest artistic comfort. "I don’t miss it anymore. I left after Mission To Mars in 2000. There are more than 400 digital shots in that movie. Then you spend your life in front of a computer. I do not want to do it again, not at my age, not at this point in my career." A certain form of exile is included in the cinema of De Palma. Obsession takes place in Florence, Mission: Impossible in Prague, Femme Fatale in Paris, and Passion in Berlin. "Now, cities are digitalized. The director no longer travels, he uses a hard drive. Suddenly, all places are alike. Yet, if a film does not maintain a strong connection to a place, it becomes impossible to watch. "
While the connection with his peers is important to him, it has slackened over time. George Lucas is isolated in the space opera universe he created. Coppola reigns over his agribusiness empire. When De Palma wants to meet with Scorsese, he must make an appointment with his secretary. He dropped out. Recently, he convinced Steven Spielberg to take the subway. He remains for him the easiest to reach. His new partners are called Wes Anderson, director of The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom, who, like him, lives part of the year in Paris, and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding). "Our generation has made money like never before. We have become too rich." The new fashion in Hollywood, according to him, is no longer collectible houses, sports cars or works of art, but the yachts. The director boarded the biggest of them, "as if they were visiting the court of a king", owned by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. "I've never met a guy so annoying." Suddenly, De Palma left the boat. To return to Paris. Where it is much less boring.