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Saturday, November 9, 2013


Posted by Geoff at 3:21 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
'PASSION' DVD HITS THE SHELVES IN RED
If you went DVD shopping today, Brian De Palma's Passion probably stood out amongst the other new releases, as the cover art was framed by its red plastic shell. Even the Blu-Ray edition is red instead of the usual blue. And to accentuate the lipstick color, the robe worn by Rachel McAdams in the film has been altered for the back cover (and the disc label-- see below) from green to red. Well, that's one way to help the product stand out amongst its competition.


Posted by Geoff at 11:00 PM CST
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Posted by Geoff at 12:03 AM CST
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
'PASSION' IN CLEVELAND FRIDAY & SATURDAY
PROJECTED FROM BLU-RAY
Brian De Palma's Passion comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray in the U.S. this Tuesday, November 5th. But people in Cleveland can see the film sooner when the Cinematheque at the Cleveland Institute of Art screens De Palma's latest from Blu-Ray, in what the Cinematheque website calls the "Cleveland premiere." Passion screens Friday November 1st at 9:30pm, and Saturday November 2nd at 7:30pm.

Posted by Geoff at 9:05 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
JOHN KENNETH MUIR ON 'PASSION'
DE PALMA TURNED MATERIAL INTO "A WORK OF ART TOTALLY OF HIS OWN DESIGN"
John Kenneth Muir posted his review of Brian De Palma's Passion today, stating that De Palma "corkscrews" Alain Corneau's Love Crime, "and in the process creates a work of art totally of his own design, one that focuses intently on the ideas of narcissism and voyeurism in the Web 2.0 Age." SPOILERS - Muir further writes that "Passion is a thriller about blackmail, extortion, and one-upmanship in the epoch of the 'Send Button,' when one flick of a finger can ruin a career, destroy a life, or send someone to jail for murder. Specifically, Passion is veritably obsessed with the vindictive release of private or guarded information into the public arena, and the catastrophic fall-out and public humiliation that occurs in its aftermath. It is this public humiliation, and fear of such humiliation, that leads to the film’s double murders."

Muir later delves into Christine's story about her sister:
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The key to understanding Passion rests with Christine, the character played to icy perfection by Rachel McAdams.

Early in the film, she recounts to Isabelle a story about her twin-sister, Clarissa. Specifically Clarissa was killed because of Christine’s actions. Christine was riding a bike when she was distracted by the bike’s mirror, and an oncoming truck hit the girls. Only Christine survived.

"I just wanted to see myself…and I saw my reflection," Christine reports of the tragedy.

Another scene reveals that Christine keeps a creepy white mask -- one that is molded to resemble her facial features -- because, again, she wants to "see" herself.

And in the absence of her twin, that is not always easy.

Accordingly, Christine goes through the film and through her life attempting to re-make others in the image she wants to see: her own. In particular, this means that Christine creates "users" and "manipulators" like herself, and indeed, that’s the journey Isabelle takes in the film. She goes from being a relatively normal person to a competitive player, to a monster who becomes Christine’s "double" and equal. By film’s end, she has been re-fashioned in Christine’s desired image, but she is not able to handle it, perhaps because she possesses the conscience Christine abundantly lacks."

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Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:16 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013
CHRIS O'NEILL ON 'PASSION
IN-DEPTH LOOKS AT SPLIT-DIOPTER SHOT, SPLIT-SCREEN, ETC.


Chris O'Neill, who programmed and presented Brian De Palma's Passion at its Irish theatrical premiere this past July at Triskel Christchurch, has posted an in-depth essay about that film at Experimental Conversations. This thoughtful piece on Passion focuses on several aspects of the film, including a specific split diopter shot (the rest of this post may contain SPOILERS -
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De Palma has a masterful ability to fill a frame with multiple visual elements, yet he can still balance conveying essential narrative information with details that enrich the film as a whole. His use of the split diopter lens, which allows for the image to display separate depths of field in one shot, is relatively restrained in Passion yet is subtly effective in what it achieves. In one sequence there are three points of focus in a single shot. Dirk lies in bed smoking a cigarette. He is framed in the foreground on the left hand side. In the background, Isabelle stands in the bathroom with her back to the camera. Isabelle's face is reflected in a large mirror, while other ornamental objects are either situated on the bathroom counter or seen as reflections in the mirror from the other side of the room. In the dialogue exchange between the two characters, Isabelle learns more about Dirk's relationship with Christine, and discovers Christine's adventurous sex life which includes a variety of sex aids including a strap-on and a Venetian carnival mask modelled on her own features. This sequence runs a little over two minutes, but within this limited amount of time De Palma conveys the interior design of Dirk's home which reflects aspects of his personality (an ornament shaped like a penis, a sculpture of an obedient dog), Dirk's contemptuous attitude towards Christine ("Whatever Christine wants, she gets"), Isabelle's inquisitive nature ("What's it like with her?" she asks before rooting through a drawer full of sex aids), and the toys that Christine uses with Dirk that reflect dominance (the strap-on) and narcissism (the mask).
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O'Neill closes by framing Passion within the context of De Palma's recent late-career cinematic freedom (having no need to prove himself at this late stage), and also contrasts its dream elements with those of Raising Cain:
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De Palma uses dream sequences in many of his films but he rarely lets on that they are dreams until the climax of the scene snaps the narrative back into waking reality. This is usually announced with a blatant 'waking from a nightmare' moment of a character starting bolt upright and screaming in their bed. Such sequences, however, tend to be isolated set pieces rather than central elements in the narrative structure. A possible reason for this is that for many years De Palma was concerned about pushing the audience a step too far and causing them to reject the whole premise of a film. An example of this is his 1992 picture Raising Cain. As scripted, that film had numerous dreams within dreams but the film was re-edited for clarification after it tested poorly at preview screenings.

However, since going into self-imposed exile from the Hollywood studio system following Mission To Mars (2000), De Palma has been working on smaller scale independent productions, many of them based in Europe. A director of his stature no longer has anything to prove, and producers approach him knowing his previous work and, therefore, his quirks and capabilities. Thanks to this freedom, De Palma has been indulging in more playful and challenging cinematic techniques. The 'alternative universe' scenario of Femme Fatale (2002) is a good example of this, where a large section of the narrative is in fact the lead character's premonition, warning her where life will lead if she makes the wrong decision. With Passion, he returns to the initial dream-within-dream concept of Raising Cain and this time goes through with it, seemingly unconcerned if the audience sometimes gets lost. The constant twists, red herrings and false endings are disorientating on initial viewing, but subsequent viewings reveal a precise logic behind these overlapping elements. For example, on revisiting the film it becomes noticeable that images in the dream sequences are marked out by a much heavier blue tint than is used in the remainder of the film. It is clear that De Palma is having fun with the form, and he saves a final laugh for the very end: the screen cuts to black and ‘The End' appears in simple white lettering before the closing credits roll. This title playfully anticipates a collective sigh of relief from the audience: there will be no more bewildering twists and turns. It's over, the viewer can finally relax.

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Posted by Geoff at 12:48 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 12:50 AM CDT
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Saturday, September 28, 2013
'PASSION' UNUSED SHOTS RECONSTRUCTED
DELETED SCENE PERHAPS MIGHT HAVE "EXPLAINED" TOO MUCH?
SPOILERS - In Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia, there is a scene in which Bucky tells Kay that Lee's tragic past with his sister explains a few things, to which she shoots back at him, "No it doesn't." A similar tragic story of a sister in the past functions to "explain a few things" to Isabelle in De Palma's latest film, Passion, but the viewer, and eventually, Isabelle, are left wondering if any of it is true or not.

De Palma a la Mod reader Patrick has sent in the ordered stills at left, reconstructed from seemingly random unused Passion stills that have been floating around the internet. These stills appear to show a brief deleted scene from Passion at the Bode Museum party. If you've seen the film, you'll recall that at the party, Isabelle spots Dirk up at the top of the stairs, and he signals to her not to let Christine know he is there. Isabelle then tells Christine she is leaving, but Christine begs her to stay. Isabelle tells Christine no, and that she will grab a taxi. This would be where the scene to the left would come in. Here is how Patrick imagines/speculates what is happening in each frame, with my own notes in red (and if you have any ideas, by all means, share them in the comments):

1. After claiming she's off to "grab a taxi", Isabelle first walks over to Dirk, and Christine spots them make out behind her back [Perhaps "making out" is a bit strong-- would they do that knowing Christine might possibly catch them in the act? It would be enough for Christine to merely spot a glimpse of Dirk in the area where Isabelle is headed to put two and two together.]
2. Genuinely hurt, she gazes after the couple walking up the stairs towards the exit [Or perhaps the first frame shows her watching Isabelle leave, while the second frame shows her spotting Dirk just managing to head toward the exit at the top of the stairs, as Isabelle is still climbing]
3. Being who she is, Christine quickly regains her composure
4. …and ominously plots revenge!

Patrick's fourth frame reading would perhaps indicate why these shots may have been cut from the final film. They might make it too obvious to the viewer when, the next morning, Christine tells Isabelle the story of her sister. As it stands, Christine's attempt to bond with Isabelle in this scene seems perhaps genuine. But had it come after the deleted shots above from the Bode Museum, the viewer might immediately sense that Christine is lying and plotting revenge. In this same scene, of course, Christine turns on Dirk, as well, and in between, makes it (almost confusingly) clear that she is aware of something going on between Dirk and Isabelle.

However, it has always seemed to me that in De Palma's film, Christine is more hurt by Isabelle's leap-frogging taking away of her plans for New York than for any indiscretions she may have had with Dirk. By leaving out the shots above, the viewer is left to speculate whether or not it was always part of Christine's weird scheming to put Isabelle and Dirk together-- and who knows, maybe even with the deleted shots above, maybe she had, in fact, meant for the two of them to have a fling. Going back to The Black Dahlia, think about the New Year's eve party, in which Lee watches Bucky and Kay kiss each other, and De Palma's camera focuses on Lee watching them, his feelings on the matter difficult for the viewer to discern. Has Lee been plotting for these two to be together? Has Christine been doing the same? De Palma sets up the long looks from Christine in Passion's opening minutes, as Christine watches Isabelle leave her house after wrapping Dirk's scarf around her neck. Is she already thinking of a Dirk offering this early on? It might explain a few things, but no it doesn't.


Posted by Geoff at 8:08 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 9:55 AM CDT
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Sunday, September 22, 2013


Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
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Friday, September 20, 2013
RACHEL, WE LOVE YOU THIS MUCH


The picture above from the set of Passion was posted today on eOne's Facebook/Passion page.

Posted by Geoff at 6:55 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
LOLA: WITH DE PALMA, 'IT'S ALWAYS THE FIRST TIME'
ADRIAN MARTIN & CRISTINA ALVAREZ LOPEZ, ABSORBED IN 'PASSION'
THAT & 3 OTHER ESSAYS ON DE PALMA IN NEW ISSUE OF LOLA

The new issue of the cinema journal L O L A went live yesterday, and it includes a dossier of four essays on the films of Brian De Palma, leading with a beautiful take on Passion (titled "To the Passion") by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin. Here's the inro to that article:
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At least since The Fury (1978), commentators on the films of Brian De Palma have been keen to catch him in the act of mannerist frenzy: self-quotation, self-summation, self-anthologisation – upon material that is itself, of course, already borrowed as a handy template from previous masters and masterpieces. De Palma’s cinema today, in this view, can only be the end result of an ever-more baroque plunge into spirals of citation and reworking: an intriguing, post-postmodern business to some, mere self-exhaustion and diminishing returns for others.

As with all the best De Palma films, watching Passion (2012) should remind us of a contrary truth: when it comes to the exhilarating thrill, the wallop of cinema that his work gives us, it’s always the first time. Of course, there are broadly similar games with devious plots, POVs, split-screens, identity switches/disguises – play with the five senses and with every kind of media screen – in at least a dozen of his previous movies. But we were not thinking of Dressed to Kill (1980) or Raising Cain (1992) or Femme Fatale (2002) while we were absorbed in Passion: that type of unravelling always comes later. Nor were we trying to construct a hyper-intellectual contraption (in the manner of a recent woeful book) to ‘account for’ or explain away the intense, complicated, visceral pleasure we derive from his films.

When one of the main characters dies at the precise mid-way point, when the dreams and the dreams-within-dreams begin to unfold, when the camera tilts calamitously in a room or tracks in slowly to a face, when the plot lines pile up and converge on a single, catastrophic point … when these events, great and small, happen, we are not immediately flipping through the De Palma back catalogue; we are in the moment, the screen moment. Something that shakes us, that resonates, is happening there – we definitely know this by the final frames – and it is our task as critics to figure out what forces are involved, what has been deftly drawn into the fray. This task has nothing to do with taking the old Pauline Kael line that De Palma’s cinema is all about (and only about) energy, ‘pop vitalism’ and all-American vulgarity: such so-called ‘defence of trash’ too often clogs up the response-pores of even De Palma’s most public devotees.

Passion is not (as we are hearing a lot at the moment) a wilfully ‘ridiculous’ film (it is especially depressing to hear this said as praise!) or a self-consciously trashy one: these kinds of responses always tell more about the person uttering it than about the filmmaker in question. De Palma has gotten to a position in his career that is a little reminiscent of Samuel Fuller in his early-to-mid 1960s prime: his films mix vigorous, generic structures with sincere samplings of culture high and low (from viral YouTube videos to Jerome Robbins’ ballet choreography of Afternoon of a Faun); they meld expressionistic and melodramatic aesthetic patterns with a cold, hard edge of social criticism. And none of his films are so stringently, steely cold as Passion.

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ADRIAN MARTIN ON 'CARLITO'S WAY'
Also in the issue is Martin's "A Walk Through Carlito's Way", an "edited and lightly recast transcript of a talk/demonstration given as part of a day-long master class on film style, organised by the Department of Media at Macquarie University and the Australian Screen Directors’ Association, at the Museum of Sydney in April 2006." Martin looks at De Palma's schema of the pool hall scene in Carlito's Way with expert attention to detail.

ALAIN BERGALA ON 'OBSESSION'
In "Time Denied: An Apotheosis of the Imaginary", Alain Bergala looks at the assumption of the image in De Palma's Obsession. "The major difference between Scottie in Vertigo and Michael in Obsession, states Bergala, "is that Michael is in a deeper sleep than Scottie. He wants to believe in the reality of his waking dream with a deep and naïve conviction. The whole film is an obstinate refusal to wake up, to leave the bliss of the imaginary. He rushes like a bull towards the first illusion that is offered to him – this woman who is the reincarnation of his dead wife."

In one section of the essay, Bergala discusses how De Palma's camera movements in Obsession follow the slowness of Stanley Kubrick's in Barry Lyndon: "A slow zoom-in draws the viewer into the bottomless pit of the imaginary. In Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud’s book of interviews, De Palma talks about the Kubrick of Barry Lyndon (1975), of the slowness of that film, of ‘the impression that everything was happening in slow motion: the movements of the camera and the actors. You really got the feeling of perceiving time in a different way, as if we had actually returned to the 18th century’. In the same interview, he claims, regarding the zooms that are used systematically in that film, that he would be bored, personally, to repeat the same technique throughout an entire film. And yet this is what he does tirelessly in Obsession, where he multiplies the long, fluid shots of the undulating imaginary."

"RESPONSIVE EYES AND CROSSING LINES"
In the fourth essay, "Responsive Eyes and Crossing Lines: Forty Years of Looking and Reading", Helen Grace presents an episodic look at her experience within the landscape of feminism over the years. In episode 3, she recalls the protests against De Palma's Dressed To Kill while in London in 1980:

"We saw Dressed to Kill, fearing that we would be shocked and horrified, and that we might come out convinced that screen terrorism was necessary. Instead, we watched a film which seemed to say more about masculine anxiety than about the fears that women were expressing in relation to the film. We kept waiting for the horror – and when it came, we enjoyed it. We wondered if we had seen the same film that people had been complaining about, so we went to one of the street meetings to discuss our problems. We found out that, in fact, none of the women had seen the film at all, and they did not want to hear our opinions about it.

"And this turned out to be a general feature in every situation in which a ‘citizen censorship’ movement called for the boycott of a film to which one group or another took offence, whether it was feminists and gays objecting to a Brian De Palma film, or Christians protesting the screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary (1985) five or six years later. It was exactly this period of the ‘80s when some strands of feminism seemed indistinguishable from right-wing Christian extremism in the anti-democratic gestures of, for example the Dworkin-MacKinnon Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance (1983) – which, fortunately, did not succeed. In any case, it was anti-pornography activism that first drew my attention to Dressed to Kill. And that is how I came to be a De Palma fan."


Posted by Geoff at 12:03 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 12:06 AM CDT
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