'PASSION', 'HAPPY VALLEY', 'RAISING CAIN', 'RELAX' MUSIC VIDEO
Two more interviews with Brian De Palma appeared online today. CraveOnline's William Bibbiani asked all kinds of interesting questions, including this one about the contrast between the first and second halves of Passion:
CraveOnline: I was kind of fascinated by how you shot this film because so often your films have a lot of virtuoso camera work and in the first half of Passion, you're relatively restrained. It's beautifully composed but it's a little restrained and then once the murder mystery begins, it goes off in a very different direction and the lighting changes and the camera work changes. Could you tell me about that decision?
BDP: Well, I have heard that but… In this genre, to some extent, you have to set up the characters, the rivalry, the point at which you've basically pushed one to murder the other and it's basically businesswomen, you know, working within an advertising agency so you're trying to restrict it, visually, to characters walking down hallways and talking to each other across desks. So, until we get to the night of the murder, we really can't introduce the surreal element, "Was she dreaming this? Did she take too many sleeping pills?" How she's fooling herself, us and the audience, that you can really kind of take off. So, that's the way it sort of laid its way out.
Later on, Bibbiani asks De Palma about the split-screen ballet/murder sequence, and how its "movie-ness" calls attention to itself. De Palma responds, "Well, I've been doing that my whole career. I'm always making you be aware that this is a movie. In this split screen, it's a trick because it's making you think Isabelle is at the ballet, while in fact, she's at the house and I'm using that tight close-up to make you think she's at the ballet and when I pull back, I show that she's, in reality, underneath the scaffolding at the house. So, you have to find a really good reason to use it and it's always surprising when you juxtapose two images and I had no idea how it was ultimately going to work. I kind of liked the initial idea and then I shot it and then we put it together and it kind of worked, really well. I liked the idea that you get so entranced with the ballet, you sort of forget that the murder is happening over there, on the other side of the screen, and they're both kind of love stories, on each side of the screen."
Bibbiani then says, "That's interesting because the villain… Well, that's a bad word for it. Christine is in many ways this cold, manipulative person and we don't necessarily have sympathy for her the whole time but you made it very clear, whenever you showed her on her own, that there's a genuinely emotional, kind of tragic element to her life."
And De Palma responds, "Yeah, and I think Rachel brought that to the character. That's not in the original film. I mean, every once in a while, she's completely cracking up. You know, the sad story about the twin sister, she has everybody crying. Whether it's true or not, who the hell knows? And then, when she's at home and the date cancels out on her, she completely freaks out. And you see a kind of woman unraveling and she does evoke a little sympathy for the character."
De Palma also talks a bit about the costume choices in the film, saying that Isabelle is "completely uninterested in what she's wearing so she goes completely in black throughout the movie, basically. She's the creator. She's the idea person. She doesn't really think about what's around her or what she's wearing, as opposed to Christine; all she is is a creation of what she wears and the style that she evokes."
'RAISING CAIN' - "I SHOULD HAVE LEFT IT THE WAY IT WAS"
Bibbiani starts to talk about the contrast between the "mad" way Raising Cain was shot and the more restrained shots used in the early scenes in Passion, leading De Palma to discuss the original cut of Raising Cain: "Well, the interesting thing about Raising Cain is that the way I originally wrote it, is not the way I ultimately released it. Interestingly enough, some Raising Cain aficionado got the film together and released it on the web the way it should have been constructed. And it kind of worked! [Laughs] I thought it was too complicated but the original idea of Raising Cain is you start with the wife's story, you don't start with his story, and you follow her story, all the way until she gets smothered in bed and then, you start to pick up his story. The problem was, I felt at the time, was that Lithgow was so commanding, so fascinating to watch what he was doing I didn't think that a movie could sustain this kind of soap opera beginning. You know, this woman getting involved with this old lover, threatening her marriage, did she sleep with him or didn't she? So, I started the Lithgow story and flashed back to the wife's story and in retrospect, I think it was sort of a mistake. I should have left it the way it was."
When asked about the possibility of releasing such a cut on DVD, De Palma replies, "Well, usually, a studio has to come to you and say, 'Look, we have a lot of demand here. Would you like to change anything? Would you redo it?' Which I did, with Casualties of War. I put some scenes back in that I took out of the initial release. Sure! I'd be interested to try to put it back the way it originally was edited."
'RELAX' - "A PORN MUSIC VIDEO, NOBODY'S EVER SEEN THAT BEFORE"
Bibbiani made sure to ask De Palma something he'd been wondering about for years:
CraveOnline: There's a scene of yours I've always loved in Body Double, which is the "Relax" scene. It's very fascinating because it's such a dark film, we've already had a horrific murder in it and it's about voyeurism and then when we actually enter the world of pornography, it's very heightened and very artificial and elaborate. It's almost comical. I was always kind of wondering what your thought was because that scene just comes alive, really suddenly and it's this great oner and I was wondering if you could talk about that and your decision to film that sequence.
BDP: Well, it was a combination of things. It comes right down to a lot of research with a real porn star and I sort of based the Holly Body character on her. And the thing that you discover with porn stars is that they have a hysterical sense of humor. I mean, they're very funny. So, when we got to the point of, the so-called, the actor goes into the porn film in order to get close to Holly Body, so he can find out what she had to do with the murder… This is at the point where people are starting to direct music videos. I think that's also the year I did Bruce Springsteen's first music video.
CraveOnline: "Dancing in the Dark?"
BDP: Yeah, and I think the Michael Jackson ones were first coming out. This was like, the era of the music video, I said to myself, "Why don't we make this into like, a music video? A porn music video, nobody's ever seen that before." Then I think one of the executives at Columbia came up with the song and then I heard the song and said, "This is perfect!" They were very unhappy with the video they had done, so I shot the video and put it in the movie, then gave them the video for them to use but they were not very happy with that, either so they went on and it turned into another video. So, I think there are like, 3 videos of Relax. We shot it way after the principle photography. I'm trying to remember how this happened but we went and shot it almost 6 or 7 months after the principle photography. We went back and shot the "Relax" video, then I put it into the movie so I'm trying to remember, what was in the movie before we put this in? [Laughs]
CraveOnline: I'd be very curious to find that out.
I don't quite remember.
After telling Bibbiani that he now has a script for Happy Valley and is figuring out how to shoot it, the following exchange takes place:
CraveOnline: Everyone's opinions on that are so strange to me.
BDP: I know. They're all over the place.
Do you have a specific take on it or are you going to try to keep this accessible for everyone?
BDP: I don't know. It's a very difficult story. All kinds of conflicting testimonies. You know, it's a terrible tragedy but we're going to try to make… It's strong stuff. What can I tell you? It's very strong stuff and it's very sad stuff.
CALUM MARSH INTERVIEWS DE PALMA
Film.com's Calum Marsh interviewed De Palma just yesterday, prior to De Palma's appearance on stage at the Film Society Lincoln Center. At the start of the interview, Marsh says that when he saw Passion at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, "it seemed that people had a hard time understanding what they were supposed to take seriously and what was supposed to be funny." Marsh then asks, "Do you want that to be ambiguous or is supposed to be pretty clear?"
BDP: It’s clear to me. [Laughs]
Marsh: It’s clearly funny to you?
BDP: I always have a kind of ironic sense of humor about the outrageousness of what these girls were doing to each other. That’s more or less throughout all of my movies, so I don’t know why it comes as a particular surprise to anybody.
Marsh: Do you think that people who aren’t particularly familiar with your filmography might have a harder time understanding that what seems to be played straight is more tongue-in-cheek?
BDP: Well, if you want to see straightforward mysteries, you just have to turn on your television set. They’re playing 24 hours a day. You can listen to people being interviewed, talking to each other, investigating things. It goes on ad nauseum. I try to do something a little different. That’s why it may appear that it’s not what you’re used to seeing day in and day out.
TEN MILLION VIEWS IN FIVE HOURS
Marsh continues to press a discussion of whether or not viewers watching Passion are meant to find certain things in the film funny. "For example," Marsh says, "there’s a moment in the film in which Isabelle is called in the middle of the night by her boss after she uploads a video from work to YouTube surreptitiously, and her boss tells her that the video has been seen 10 million times in five hours. That’s clearly a joke, because obviously there’s no way a video is going to be seen 10 million times in five hours." Here's what happens after that:
BDP: I took that statistic right off the web.
Marsh: …that a video was seen ten million times in five hours?
Marsh: …okay. That seems really improbable to me. And, I mean, that line gets a laugh—people think it seems absurd.
BDP: Well, that speaks to an audience being very observant of the rates at which YouTube videos are seen. I would hardly be one who would know that. I just took that statistic from a piece of information on the internet. I think it’s a correct statistic. It’s not meant as a joke.
Marsh: Okay. Well, were you at the screening in Toronto? Have you seen in with an audience?
Marsh: When I saw it there was a lot of laughter. And not necessarily at the film, but with the film, because I think it’s sort of a fun genre film that seems a little more playful than most films of that kind. You’re not parodying the genre, necessarily, but it does seem a little arch and a little silly. If you’re watching it with an audience and they’re laughing, do you feel like it they’re not taking it seriously when they should be taking it seriously?
BDP: It’s a murder mystery! These are women outrageously destroying each other! And sometimes I find it quite amusing.
Marsh: So do I. But murder mysteries usually seem more self-serious. I don’t think this film seems to be taking itself so seriously, and I don’t think people will watch Passion in the same way they might watch an ordinary murder mystery.
BDP: I’ve been making movies my whole life with this kind of ironic stance, in which sometimes the characters are doing things so seemingly excessive, but you can be amused by it. It’s nothing new to me. If you want to see straightforward murder mysteries, turn on your television set! They’re very drab as far as I’m concerned. I’m always pushing the envelope. Some people find that difficult to take, and maybe they laugh at it, but that’s I guess the risk you take.
"PEOPLE HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT BEAUTIFUL WOMEN SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME"
Marsh also presses De Palma about why the eroticization of the female form is more prevalent than that of the male form in thrillers such as Passion:
BDP: Men have been undressing women in various art forms since the beginning of visual art. You could make this film with two men, but, I mean, all you have to do is look on your television screen or go Googling or pick up a magazine, and what do you see? Women, dressed or undressed. That’s what people are interested in.
Marsh: If we’re so saturated in that then why are you interested in offering more of the same?
BDP: It’s a reality. It isn’t like we’re interested, it’s just how it is. They draw the eye. That’s why they’re there.
Marsh: Sorry, can you elaborate on that?
BDP: People have been looking at beautiful women since the beginning of time.
Marsh: And so you feel like just because they’ve been doing that since the beginning of time that makes it inherently interesting?
BDP: When was the last time you looked at a woman?
Marsh: Recently, I imagine.
BDP: Good. Then you’re like a normal individual to me. I have a rather attractive one right across the table.