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Saturday, February 1, 2014
'AFTERNOON OF A FAUN' DOC
LOOKS AT LIFE OF TANAQUIL LE CLERCQ, OPENS IN NY WED., BERLIN FEST IN FEB.
Nancy Buirski's documentary Afternoon Of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, looks at the life of "Tanny" Le Clercq, the ballerina for whom choreographer Jerome Robbins created his staging of Afternoon Of A Faun. Brian De Palma has said he'd always been fond of Robbins' version, and adapted it as part of his latest film, Passion. The documentary premiered at the New York Film Festival last year (one year after Passion played there), and will open this Wednesday, February 5th, at Film Society Lincoln Center, and will also screen at the Berlin International Film Festival this month.

Variety's Ronnie Scheib, reviewing the film after its New York screening last October, says the documentary "has a lot going for it: extraordinary footage of the exquisite dancer in signature roles created for her by master choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins; a romantic triangle involving those artistic giants; full-blown tragedy as Le Clercq is struck down by polio in her prime; and enough terrible ironies to fill several documentaries. Questionable emphases sometimes skew the film’s proportions, but between the beauty of the dance imagery and the lyricism of passages culled from Le Clercq’s personal letters, Faun often soars.

"Buirski opens and closes her film with excerpts from the titular Debussy pas de deux, choreographed by Robbins and featuring Le Clercq and partner Jacques d’Amboise. The soft-focus kinescope footage, shot from a particularly felicitous camera angle, highlights the elegant, articulated movement, coltish grace and gestural wit that distinguished the incredibly long-legged Le Clercq from the petite, compact ballerinas that preceded her, inspiring choreographers to experiment with moves they had never before envisioned. Balanchine 'discovered' her at his School of American Ballet when she was 14 and soon shaped many of his seminal ballets around her unique talents...

"Le Clercq became Balanchine’s third wife in 1952, the revered ballet master winning out over her best friend and confidant, Robbins, whose impassioned letters to her fill the soundtrack and whose choreography for her often fills the screen. The docu’s final irony finds a tired Le Clercq postponing her Salk polio vaccine before setting off on the troupe’s European tour, fearing it might further debilitate her, then succumbing to the disease weeks later in Copenhagen."

Below is the BIFF trailer for the film, followed by a video of Buirski discussing the film on stage at the NYFF last year.
(Thanks to Rado!)




Posted by Geoff at 2:15 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 1, 2014 2:21 PM CST
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Thursday, January 23, 2014
KIM NICOLINI ON THE STEPFORD WOMEN OF 'PASSION'
"A MORE ACCURATE PORTRAIT OF WOMEN IN THE NEW ECONOMY THAN MOST FILMMAKERS WOULD DARE TO CREATE"


Writing for CounterPunch, Kim Nicolini calls Brian De Palma's Passion a "psycho-economic post-feminist thriller" that is "ferociously entertaining." Nicolini writes about the film with a stunning and fierce clarity, stating right away that "Passion is yet another De Palma exploration of the psycho-economics of sex as it plays out in the artifice of cinema." (Also check out her great piece on De Palma's Scarface in the recently published paper #4 of La Furia Umana-- I'll post about that soon, as well). Here are some excerpts from her CounterPunch piece:
-----------------------------

Marketing is a lie. That’s what it does and how it makes money, by selling lies. These women are the products of the very system they work for. They are self-created lies, femme fatales who are constantly shifting until we don’t know who’s who or what’s what.

However, these aren’t just any women. These are women who have subverted their “organic” female identity to survive and thrive in the man’s world of big business. The movie opens with Christine and Isabelle sharing a drink. When they both choke on what they’re drinking, Christine laughs and says, “It’s organic!” Of course it makes them gag. Both women are synthetic products, and organic is like poison to their plastic souls. This movie is largely about the bastardization of the “organic maternal” within the economic professional sphere, about how women subvert the “maternal feminine” to attain power in the global economy. Of course they’re going to choke when they swallow something organic...

With their clothes, shoes and hyper-performed yet subverted sexuality, these women are like high-end office furniture, lamps or mirrors who reflect the environment they occupy. Their interior selves merge with the exterior of the film – the cars, fancy apartments, slick offices. Their motives are driven by interior desire, yet they are also symptoms of the exterior world. They are mere pieces within their economic environment, yet they are also symptoms of it. Their interior and exterior have become the same thing, a reflection of the economic world, a terribly ugly beautiful surface. Their professional economic environment causes the women to act how they act and molds them into what they become.

Passion is a kind of science fiction of the now narrative, a thriller about the mutation of the female cosmology when it’s placed within the global economic sphere and becomes entwined with the market and the forces of power that drive it. Sure these women are vengeful, calculating and in many ways as synthetic as their environment. They are hyper-female yet coldly economic, but they are also seething with sexuality because in De Palma’s movies (like Scarface) sex and economic power are the same thing. These women use sex to maintain their position of dominance and control. Is it attractive? On the exterior they are sexy as hell, even when they are slashing each other’s throats. On the interior, well, these gals have forfeited their interiors so that question doesn’t really matter.

Do they have choices to not be their jobs? Well, it’s not a choice that De Palma gives us. The women’s actions are motivated by artifice, and they in turn become artificial beings, with their designer clothes, executive offices, and marketing campaigns. They are like Stepford women who have graduated from the kitchen and moved into the high rise office building...

We may not be sure who is out to get who, but one thing is for sure – all these women are out to get each other one way or another as they angle for power and position. I refer to this movie as post-feminist cinema because certainly this is not an image of women that feminists would feel comfortable with, but it’s also a more accurate portrait of women in the new economy than most filmmakers would dare to create. There are multiple references to Medusa within the film – the mythic female who turns men to stone when they look at her –, but these women are already stone. It’s like a reverse parable – they have been turned to stone by gazing into and occupying the male world.

Don’t get me wrong. These women may occupy and vie for power within the male marketplace, but they do not act like men. They act like women. They look like women. But they are women from whom the maternal has been excised by economic forces. In one scene, Christine learns that one of her lovers has a daughter, and she is appalled, horrified, and disgusted . . . almost as if she’s choking on an organic drink. She just wants to get fucked. She doesn’t want to breed. The mere idea of the maternal feels like swallowing poison to her.


Posted by Geoff at 1:39 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 1:42 AM CST
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Monday, January 13, 2014


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Thursday, January 9, 2014


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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
'PASSION' MAKES LISTS OF THREE MORE CRITICS
INCLUDING ADRIAN MARTIN, FOR SIGHT & SOUND 2013 POLL


Last week, we compiled 2013 best movie lists from several critics who placed Brian De Palma's Passion either in their top ten for the year, or otherwise gave it honorable (or, in one case, dishonorable) mention. Thanks to Carsten for directing us to Sight & Sound's lists of the best films of 2013. A few of the individual ballots from critics placed Passion in their top five:

Adrian Martin (Goethe University)

Jealousy
Passion
You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
Detention
Stray Dogs

Martin also compiled the year's "Ten Best Confrontations" for Fandor's Keyframe blog, and again included Passion, writing, "One occasionally reads nonsense on the order of: 'Brian De Palma is not a director of actors.' The wonderful 'kissing confrontation' in Passion between Christine (Rachel McAdams) and her assistant’s assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth), undoubtedly improved by the actors from what was in the script, proves otherwise: McAdams’ mock outrage as she rips her shirt open and begins to imagine her sexual harassment complaint–having just forced a kiss onto the (at this stage) helpless minion–is an hilarious expression of the power relations elsewhere expressed, in a much darker key, by the film."

Sergio Angelini (British Universities Film & Video Council)

Blue Jasmine
Broken
Hyde Park On Hudson
Passion
Rigor Mortis

"Brian De Palma refashioned Alain Corneau's Love Crimes into the criminally neglected Passion, a sly and inventive take on narcissism in the PR industry that includes a typically audacious use of split screen."

Matthew Thrift (Critic)

Norte, The End Of History
12 Years A Slave
To The Wonder
It's Such A Beautiful Day
Passion


Posted by Geoff at 12:08 AM CST
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Thursday, January 2, 2014
'PASSION' - 2013 YEAR-END LISTS AND MENTIONS

As we transition into the new year, several 2013 year-end lists of best and worst movies have, of course, included Brian De Palma's Passion. Here are some of them:

Editors and Contributors at La Furia Umana 

1.  Leviathan
     The Canyons
3.  Camille Claudel, 1915
4.  Passion
     The Immigrant
     To The Wonder
7.  Le Dernier Des Injustes
     Spring Breakers
     Venus In Furs
10. Mille Soleils  
 
Toni D'Angela, La Furia Umana  
 

(No order)

To the Wonder

The Canyons

Passion

Flight

The Immigrant

Le dernier des injustes

Mille soleils

Venus in Furs

Norte, the end of History

The Unspeakable Act 
 
Carlos Losilla, La Furia Umana 

 

  1. 1.  Passion

  2. 2.  The Immigrant

  3. 3.  Stray Dogs

  4. 4.  Camille Claudel 1915

  5. 5.  The Canyons

  6. 6.  The Master

  7. 7.  In Another Country

  8. 8.  Viola

  9. 9.  To The Wonder

  10. 10. Before Midnight

 Ricardo Adalia Martin, La Furia Umana 
 
  1. 1.  Alegrías de Cadiz

  2. 2.  L'inconuu du Lac

  3. 3.  Spring breakers

  4. 4.  Passion

  5. 5.  Nobody's Daughter Haewon

  6. 6.  Three Disasters

  7. 7.  Les Saluds

  8. 8.  Viola

  9. 9.  Los ilusos

  10. 10. Mapa

 Aureliano Tonet, Le Monde 
 

1. La Bataille de Solférino

2. Inside Llewyn Davis

3. Tirez la langue, mademoiselle

4. L’Inconnu du lac

5. Passion 
 
Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com 
 
(Listed without numbers) 
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Passion
The Wolf of Wall Street
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
American Hustle
Before Midnight
Gravity
The Bling Ring
Bullet to the Head
 
"Brian De Palma's remake of the 2010 French thriller Love Crime—detailing the increasingly brutal attempts by co-workers Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace to climb the corporate ladder—wass a sexy and stylish knockout of a film and his finest and most consistent work since his 2002 masterpiece Femme Fatale. Darkly funny, breathlessly exciting and teasingly erotic in equal measure, this was the work of a master director firing on all cylinders and the end results put most other contemporary movies of its type to shame." 
 
Shawn Stone, Metroland 
 

1. Gravity

2. Before Midnight

3. The World’s End

4. Fruitvale Station

5. Frances Ha

6. Spring Breakers

7. Blue is the Warmest Color

8. Passion

"Brian De Palma is back, baby! This remake of a French thriller is sleek, sexy and—of course—bonkers."

9. American Hustle

10. Rush 
 
Patrick Cooper, Bloody Disgusting 
 
1.   Cheap Thrills
2.   The Conjuring
3.   Drug War
4.   Lord Of Tears
5.   Passion
6.   Prisoners
7.   Savaged
8.   Spring Breakers
9.   Stoker
10. You're Next 
 
"Brian De Palma took a few years off after The Black Dahlia – that lazy shrug of a film. In 2013 the master craftsman came out swinging with Passion – his best film since 1992′s Raising Cain. He didn’t break any new ground with Passion or reinvent himself – instead he did what he does best: present a sexy as hell Hitchcockian thriller with style out the ass. Honestly, De Palma hasn’t seemed this confident since the ’80s.Passion is basically his thesis film containing all of the elements that have made him one of the best thriller directors of our time. Pretty much 100 percent of the marketing revolved around the Rachel McAdams/Noomi Rapace lesbian stuff, but that makes up such small part of the film. The rest is classic De Palma: style, sex, doppelgangers, and stylish sexy doppelgangers. The final scene is devilishly comforting for what it is. It’s so great to know De Palma is still out there doing his thing." 
 
Gerard Alonso Cassado, Fotogramas  
 
1. PASSION
2. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
3. A PERDRE LA RAISON
4. THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS
5. FRANCES HA
6. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
7. URANES
8. THE CONGRESS
9. LAURENCE ANYWAYS
10. YOUR LOST MEMORIES
11. DJANGO UNCHAINED
12. ME AND YOU
13. MAGIC, MAGIC
14. MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL
15. PARAÍSO: AMOR
16. SPRING BREAKERS
17. THE GREAT GATSBY
18. STOCKHOLM
19. MAPA
20. STORIES WE TELL 
 
Glenn Heath Jr., San Diego City Beat 
 
"Brian De Palma's kinky Passion" is listed among Heath's "10 superb honorable mentions."
 
Noel Murray, The Dissolve 
 
Murray lists Afternoon Of A FaunPassion as his Scene of the year:
 
"Brian De Palma’s Passion starts out as a fairly flat and faithful adaptation of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime, but then after about half an hour, De Palma loosens up and starts making his most visually expressive and delightfully delirious movie since Femme Fatale. In Passion’s best sequence—and one of the best setpieces of De Palma’s formidable career—a ruthless businesswoman played by Rachel McAdams is stalked by a killer on half the screen, while the other half shows her protégée (Noomi Rapace) watching a performance of The Afternoon Of A Faun. The score rises to a peak, and the dancers look directly into the camera, underlining Passion’s theme of misdirection. De Palma keeps pulling viewers’ eyes back and forth, while heightening the tension to the point of distraction. He also calls back to some of his earliest films, like Dionysus In ’69 and Hi, Mom!, where the theater played a central role. Passion isn’t one of De Palma’s top-tier films, but it’s playful and creative, and the Afternoon Of A Faun sequence is a model of how to layer images and move characters with a multiple frames. 
 
Anne Billson, The Telegraph  
 
"The Lana Turner Award for Best Breakdown goes to Noomi Rapace in Brian De Palma's preposterous thriller Passion (so preposterous it went straight to DVD in the UK). Noomi, wearing a career girl trouser suit, is checkmated by her scheming boss-cum-love-rival (Rachel McAdams). In the carpark afterwards, she crashes her Peugot into a vending machine, sets off the sprinkler, kicks the car and sinks to the ground, dripping wet and crying hysterically as the camera rises to capture the scene with a crane-shot. Welcome to Planet De Palma, no relation whatsoever to life as we know it, but packed with more barking mad coups de cinéma than the rest of the year's films laid end to end. It also has the best shoes."
 
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon  
 
Douglas places Passion at number five on his "Terrible 25 of 2013" list. 

Posted by Geoff at 3:04 AM CST
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Friday, December 27, 2013
'PASSION' AS COSTUME DRAMA

SEVERAL ESSAYS IN VARIOUS LANGUAGES NOW UP AT LA FURIA UMANA

Several essays about Brian De Palma's Passion are now available to read online at La Furia Umana . I haven't yet read them all, but I am quite taken with Sara Freeman's essay, Kisses and Dress-Up: Cinematic Cruelty in Brian De Palma's Passion . Freeman links the power struggles in Passion to the cruel and tragic high school situations in De Palma's Carrie. "Besides possibly hinting at [Passion's] very own dual identity," Freeman writes, "what at first appears to be a fun, catty back and forth between Christine and Isabel frequently turns into blatant abuse, almost like a contemporary version of Nancy Allen’s merciless treatment of Sissy Spacek’s Carrie."

Although Freeman gets the timeline of Passion wrong when she discusses three things that happen in the film back-to-back "at almost precisely the halfway point" (all three happen well before the halfway point), she does a nice job of explicating how the characters in Passion seem to exist in virtual worlds of their own individual participation. "As women who work in the advertising industry," writes Freeman, "both Christine and Isabel live for the thrill of social media acceptance and technological ingenuity. Their livelihood depends on their ability to create faces for different companies and brands and they themselves have adapted to that methodology as well. From the very first shot of Christine and Isabel sitting in front of the cold metallic screen of a Mac Book and the many computer monitor reflections and Skype video chats that follow, it’s clear that the presentation of image, realistic or not, is the most important element of the character’s lives. 

"This air of virtual reality lends the film an odd sense of miscommunication because it’s almost as if each character is living inside her very own Facebook profile or twitter account. Like dress-up for grown-ups. Resembling the two other movies released this year that comment on the high school and college era’s use of social media, Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, Passion examines how this capability has affected adult participants. Rather than take selfies of themselves smoking crack or wearing Paris Hilton’s high heels, the women in Passion remove their personalities from the equation to present their own version of the ideal contemporary career woman. They’re simply cipher cunts hiding behind the safe-guarded guise of technology, even when they appear to be talking face to face." 

Earlier in the essay, Freeman discusses the importance of the clothing worn by the two main characters. "This movie is really about the clothes," states Freeman. "Clothing, the most important part of anyone's appearance, can be precisely tuned to project much in the same way a Facebook page or an Instagram feed can. Women in particular know the power clothing can have over the imaginations of their peers. In essence, Passion is a costume drama disguised as a flick about female competition and crime solving. Like any fierce cinematic bitch with a large bank account, Christine is dressed to the nine’s in designer duds and fancy make-up. She favors bold colors, sexy necklines and the most crimson and fuchsia of lipsticks. Isabel, on the other hand, is almost completely void of color and sex appeal. She wears boxy black collared shirts paired with loose slacks, blunt, Edith Head-esque bangs and a thin swish of brown eyeliner.

"Christine’s attire matches her persona perfectly – she oozes confidence, easy charm and store bought charisma. The clothes she wears are as beautiful as she is, but something’s not quite right with the whole package. Like a vulnerable little girl little girl playing dress-up to escape her abusive parents, Christine wears just a tad too much make-up, colors her hair a shade too blonde and her silky clothes just aren’t the right color or shape for her body. She’s a cheap imitation of a powerful career woman as well as an imitation of past De Palma heroines. Utilizing almost exact replicas of costumes worn by Margot Kidder in Sisters (large black hat and black circular sunglasses) and Scarlett Johansson in The Black Dahlia (‘40s style turquoise slacks and sweater), Christine treads upon the familiar territory of feminine identity in De Palma’s filmography. In those two movies, the question of individuality and the battle for uniqueness are at the center of these character’s stories – the conjoined 'twins' in Sisters fought for separate lives yet Danielle stills feels responsible for Dominique’s misdeeds and Johansson’s boring Kay struggles to be noticed by both of her police beaus after a dead girl and her lookalike steal the limelight.

"Isabel by contrast, is meek and mousy in demeanor and appearance. She is the true puppet master of the duo. With an alarmingly sincere and affected way of carrying herself, she weaves her way into and out of Christine's strange power plays with none of the reservations or lack of conviction that eventually sink Christine and her schemes... Maybe. Or maybe not. What we're left to sift through in the end is enough for a whole other essay. Perhaps the most important question lies with Isabel - When did her dual identity begin? Was it present all along? Was it constructed just to compete with Christine? To the film's credit, these questions are never answered.

"Christine and Isabel brawl for leadership and distinctiveness by using their costumes like boxing gloves. In one of the first scenes of the movie, Christine gives Isabel a chic periwinkle scarf to liven up her wardrobe. She wears it occasionally and, as I mentioned earlier, it becomes a key piece of evidence in the murder mystery. As the more obvious of the two, Christine is trying to bring Isabel down by modeling her in her image – in one scene she dresses Isabel in whore-red high heels and lipstick for a networking event knowing full-well that it would embarrass her. She also frequently kisses Isabel in an attempt to dominate her completely. Even Christine’s lipstick is venomous. It’s fascinating to watch these two characters interact with one another on screen because they move through space so differently. Isabel is seemingly the wallflower who envies Christine for her confidence and secretly wants to be her. Christine envies Isabel for her brilliance and overcompensates by being the biggest bitch possible."


Posted by Geoff at 11:01 PM CST
Updated: Friday, December 27, 2013 11:49 PM CST
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Saturday, December 21, 2013
BEN SACHS ON SPIKE LEE'S 'OLDBOY'
"THE MOST IMPRESSIVE MOVIE OF ITS KIND TO HIT CHICAGO SINCE DE PALMA'S 'PASSION'"


I saw Spike Lee's Oldboy a couple of weeks ago. While I prefer Chan-wook Park's original (which I revisited again right after seeing the remake), Lee's film is a stylistic tour de force, with some nice personal touches. In his review of Lee's film, the Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs links it stylistically to Brian De Palma's Passion.

"Taken as stylistic exercise," writes Sachs, "Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy... may be the most impressive movie of its kind to hit Chicago since Brian De Palma's Passion. Lee ornaments the film with elaborate tracking shots, theatrical lighting schemes, and multitiered compositions containing screens within screens. He shifts dramatically between 35-millimeter, 16-millimeter, and even 8-millimeter film, and playfully disregards conventional flashbacks, editing, and good taste. Regardless of whether Lee succeeds here as a storyteller, he communicates such pleasure in the filmmaking process that you might appreciate it for the showmanship alone.

"Full of gruesome acts of revenge and dirty family secrets, the film is a sick extravaganza comparable to recent efforts by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and Danny Boyle (Trance), but it's a more controlled work than either. The directorial curlicues don't feel random—indeed, the film has a sustained, streamlined momentum that feels unlike much else in Lee's body of work. The Brooklyn-based director has never lacked for energy or imagination, but his movies tend to be all over the place in terms of what they want to say and do. To see him working with such focus is striking. If the movie is just an exercise, then at least it's a purposeful one. Lee's trying new things here, working in a different register than he normally does."


Posted by Geoff at 1:30 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 1:32 AM CST
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Saturday, December 14, 2013


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013


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