Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:

De Palma a la Mod


De Palma Discussion


Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

-De Palma attached
to The Truth and
Other Lies

-De Palma wants
Lights Out to be
M:I meets Wait
Until Dark

-40th anniversary
Carrie 2-disc Blu-ray
out Oct. 11th

-Shout's Raising Cain
Blu-ray to include
Gelderblom's Re-Cut
(Due Sept. 13)

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


« September 2016 »
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30


De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
Fan Page

The House Next Door

Kubrick on the

FilmLand Empire

Astigmia Cinema


Cultural Weekly

A Lonely Place

The Film Doctor


Icebox Movies

Medfly Quarantine

Not Just Movies

Hope Lies at
24 Frames Per Second

Motion Pictures Comics

Diary of a
Country Cinephile

So Why This Movie?

Obsessive Movie Nerd

Nothing Is Written

Ferdy on Films

Cashiers De Cinema

This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

The former
De Palma a la Mod

Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
All topics
Ambrose Chapel
Bart De Palma
Beaune Thriller Fest
Becoming Visionary
Betty Buckley
Bill Pankow
Black Dahlia
Blow Out
Blue Afternoon
Body Double
Bonfire Of The Vanities
Boston Stranglers
Bruce Springsteen
Capone Rising
Carlito's Way
Casualties Of War
Cinema Studies
Columbo - Shooting Script
Daft Punk
Dancing In The Dark
David Koepp
De Niro
De Palma & Donaggio
De Palma (doc)
De Palma Blog-A-Thon
De Palma Discussion
Demolished Man
Dionysus In '69
Dressed To Kill
Eric Schwab
Femme Fatale
Film Series
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Fury, The
Get To Know Your Rabbit
Happy Valley
Hi, Mom!
Home Movies
Inspired by De Palma
Iraq, etc.
Jerry Greenberg
Keith Gordon
Key Man, The
Lights Out
Magic Hour
Magnificent Seven
Mission To Mars
Mission: Impossible
Montreal World Film Fest
Mr. Hughes
Murder a la Mod
Nancy Allen
Nazi Gold
Oliver Stone
Paranormal Activity 2
Parties & Premieres
Passion  «
Paul Hirsch
Paul Schrader
Pauline Kael
Phantom Of The Paradise
Pino Donaggio
Prince Of The City
Print The Legend
Raggedy Ann
Raising Cain
Red Shoes, The
Responsive Eye
Rie Rasmussen
Robert De Niro
Sean Penn
Snake Eyes
Sound Mixer
Star Wars
Stepford Wives
Taxi Driver
Toronto Film Fest
Treasure Sierra Madre
Tru Blu
Truth And Other Lies
TV Appearances
Untitled Ashton Kutcher
Vilmos Zsigmond
Wedding Party
William Finley
Wise Guys
Woton's Wake
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
You are not logged in. Log in
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Duncan Gray has posted an essay at Fandor's Keyframe blog that examines the dream aspect of Brian De Palma's Passion within the context of movie dreams and noir expressionism. Here's an excerpt:
Passion was treated as minor De Palma, and fair enough for a thriller built from an array of elements—doppelgangers, split-screen murders, music by Pino Donaggio, voyeuristic sexuality—that De Palma had used, more memorably, decades earlier. Still, it has something that so many mainstream American movies today are lacking: an appreciation for cinema’s irrational power over its audience. And De Palma, old-school enough that he closes Passion with a title card reading “The End,” made a film that’s best understood through the psychodramatic lens of classic noir, while at the same time working a twist on his own formula.

In discussing Passion as a dream narrative, one must be careful, because that’s a game that can keep the audience guessing. The heroine goes to bed at the beginning of the film, and subsequently is shown falling asleep and suddenly waking up nearly half a dozen times. De Palma adapted his script from a French thriller called Love Crime (Alain Corneau, 2010), from which Passion gets its Euro-chic setting, the framework of its murder plot, and a battle of feminine cunning that should appeal to anyone who feels the word “bitch” may be used admiringly. But Love Crime plays the material relatively straight, with a very different ending. The feverish dream angle belongs to De Palma’s version alone.

So the best place to start is the one sequence I can say with confidence is “real,” the opening scene. Isabelle (Rapace) and Christine (McAdams), two coworkers at an ad agency, are meeting at Christine’s apartment after hours to discuss the latest campaign. As they share a drink and a few laughs, it’s instantly clear which of the two is dominant. Christine has perfect confidence, perfect style, perfect taste, a perfect apartment. Isabelle is much more timid and repressed. Buttoned-up in an asexual black pantsuit (which she’ll wear for most of the film, despite Christine’s many colorful costume changes), Isabelle is clearly in the thrall of her mentor, and thrilled that such an alpha-female would keep her as a confidante. She admires Christine—is it just professional, or something else? Then Christine’s perfect boyfriend arrives, and Isabelle, sensing that she’s become a third wheel, excuses herself and goes home. We see Isabelle drifting off to sleep, and then the story begins in proper: a tale of intrigue and murder as convoluted as any of Alfred Hitchcock‘s—and much clammier than Richard Wanley’s.

As a thriller, Passion has too many implausible twists to name. But as a glimpse into Isabelle’s psyche, it’s a hypnotic clash of identities. Isabelle competes with Christine. She sleeps with Christine’s boyfriend. Christine suddenly kisses Isabelle—a moment they scarcely dwell on—then teaches her to undo her top buttons to hook a male client. (“You’re more like me than you think,” Christine teases her.) And throughout this, the film’s style tilts towards insanity. Rapace plays Isabelle as a perpetually stunned figure, acting for most of the film like a helpless spectator, even to her own actions. The script is often daftly illogical; in one scene, Christine goes from threatening Isabelle to inviting her to a dinner party within a few seconds. Midway through, the film suddenly shifts into full-blown noir expressionism, with wall-to-wall canted angles and Venetian-blind shadows. The plot mechanisms by which someone may or may not get away with murder are as complex as they are irrelevant. Passion is more a series of anxious fantasies: to be Christine, to fuck Christine, to kill Christine. Though of course, in a nightmare, can you count on someone to stay dead?

The crowning moment, where Passion adds something valuable to De Palma’s canon, is the final set piece. This scene is De Palma in overheated form, the sort of ludicrous sequence that gets excruciating suspense from being so drawn out, and it involves a murder taking place in Isabelle’s apartment late at night, just as a police inspector drops by to “pay his respects.” There are numerous things that are logically “off” with this scene, not the least of which is why the inspector, who by this point in the contorted plot has been thoroughly fooled, would choose to pay a social visit in the middle of the night. But the sequence builds to a fever pitch, and then climaxes with the money shot: Isabelle convulsing awake, in the same bed she’d drifted off to sleep in after that opening scene—only now with a crucial, impossible detail.

De Palma is self-aware filmmaker, not above referencing himself as well as his predecessors. The final shot of Passion, a high-angle view of the heroine waking up from a nightmare, is nearly identical to the shots that closed Carrie and Dressed to Kill. But here, De Palma adds one of his most mischievous touches: When Isabelle wakes up, the murder victim is still there, lying on the floor next to the bed, perfectly preserved from the prior sequence. As a finale, it’s a bonkers paradox: the construction of the editing means that this final sequence (if not the entire plot of the film) simultaneously must be a dream and can’t be a dream. There is no logical explanation, nor can there be, nor should there be.

This kind of gamesmanship may turn some audiences off, as if the chain has been yanked a little too hard. But for such a modest, apparently trashy film, it’s also a sophisticated touch, and it relies on an audience willing to be subservient to the pure sounds and images that envelope them. It goes back to Richard Wanley’s epilogue, regaining his bearing after his feature-length nightmare; or to the hero of Caligari, confronting his horror back in real life; or to anyone who’s seen a scary movie late at night and finds it difficult to shake the unease. What De Palma’s Passion toys with, in a modern, old-fashioned way, is an idea both dreamlike and quintessentially cinematic: the fear (or hope) that what you’ve seen will be waiting for you on the other side.


By mere coincidence, The Film Stage concluded its "Summer of De Palma" collection of essays that same day by posting Brian Roan's essay on Passion...

Here is where De Palma, formerly so sedate and conventional, throws off his cape to reveal the cinematic mad genius underneath. The first act’s rote dramatics melt away, leaving behind a mad dancing skeleton that begs to be witnessed. In line with Isabelle’s deteriorating sense of security and mental stability, the film morphs into an elaborate and expert exhibition of neo-noir and Old Hollywood tropes, both stylistic and thematic. Canted angles, deep shadows, split screens. What began as a tired retread of ’90s-style potboilers becomes what only De Palma can make: a stirring melange of modern edge and classical styling.

This is the power of De Palma and the thing that makes him, for all the world, one of the most interesting American directors. Most of what he does is nothing that hasn’t been done before. He’s using techniques that have permeated the history of cinema from the very beginning. But he employs these tricks with so much skill and nonchalance in execution that their very being within a movie becomes bold. Unlike Tarantino, who trucks in homage that verges on parody (to great effect), De Palma works entirely in earnest creation. He isn’t doing these things to signal his cinematic bona fides, but to more eloquently get across his point. The point, in this case, being that Isabelle has completely broken mentally.

Passion‘s mounting dream logic is almost Lynchian, bizarre things occurring and resolving with seemingly no impact on narrative. The bafflement of the audience rises with the paranoia and franticness of the protagonist. It’s an operatic, arch transposition of mental state onto aesthetic presentation. It is, as previously stated, Lynchian in narrative, but more akin to Irving Rapper in terms of tone and aesthetic, making it at once seemingly more accessible while also forging an even deeper wedge between the film and a more modern audience.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2016 12:13 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, April 11, 2016
Jim Ridley, the Nashville Scene writer and editor, died April 8. "He had collapsed after suffering a cardiac event in the Scene offices on March 28, and never regained consciousness," stated Nashville Scene's Jack Silverman in a post. "He was 50 years old." Ridley was one of the sharpest film critics around, and his review of Brian De Palma's Passion, from 2013, cuts deep into the movie with insightful wit to spare. Here's an excerpt:
Passion is a Brian De Palma movie for a world chilled by narcissism and held rapt by its own reflection. The director has devoted his career to the warping impact of surveillance culture, where everyone is a watcher or passive voyeur — in front of the big screen, the TV, the computer monitor — and conversely, everyone is watched. Long before the laptop, the iPhone and Skype, there was De Palma Nation, a place where everybody was either on camera or behind one. Because of the bulky, prohibitively expensive equipment, the latter group was limited — either to professionals, like John Travolta's sound engineer in Blow Out, or obsessives, like Keith Gordon's gadget-prone amateur sleuth in Dressed to Kill.

But technology has surpassed the spycam society forecast in early De Palma classics like Hi, Mom! and Sisters. Anyone with a cellphone can be both star and director of his own YouTube-documented life, which sounds like nothing so much as the setup for one of De Palma's loopy, sinuous erotic thrillers. In fact, it's a pretty apt description of Passion, a wickedly funny exercise in the audience misdirection and technocratic hoodwinkery that's been this filmmaker's stock in trade for nearly five decades. Its corporate milieu is an orchard of gleaming little trademark Apples, most of them concealing worms.

De Palma borrows the hothouse plot of Alain Corneau's 2010 French thriller Love Crime — its co-writer, Natalie Carter, gets a dialogue credit here — but gives it a cold-to-the-touch sheen and a clammy metallic palette that's at ironic odds with the title. (It was shot on 35mm but transferred to digital, which mutes the steamy lushness that marks De Palma's thrillers.) When color bleeds through this sterile environment, it's typically the siren-red lipstick worn by Christine (Rachel McAdams), a coolly kinky executive at a Berlin advertising agency where the glass planes and slashing angles suggest the Apple Store of Dr. Caligari.

So self-obsessed she likes her lovers to wear a doll-mask facsimile of her own features, Christine is grooming an avid protégé, Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), who covets her boss's power and modernist digs down to the upholstery on her sofa. De Palma poses them in the frame like mirror images, and Christine can't help but try shaping her underling into a human selfie. "You need some color," she coos to Isabelle, applying her lipstick as well as her lips.

But Isabelle isn't such an eager apprentice once Christine hogs the credit for her viral smartphone ad campaign — a spot that only looks like an updating of the reality-TV "Peeping Toms" gag that opens De Palma's 1973 Sisters, but is in fact a replica of an actual guerrilla YouTube ad. The ad mixes the director's favorite ingredients, sex and spying — and so does the mad soap-opera-on-steroids revenge fantasy that follows, as Isabelle sleeps with Christine's shady colleague-lover (Paul Anderson) and her boss rigs a nasty public payback.

Each step of this battle is registered on screens, even screens within screens, creating a hall of mirrors that fires the gaze back at the gazer: the "ass cam" that secretly films leering gawkers, the sex tape where the parties stare into each other's eyes only when they watch themselves on a monitor. Imagine what this plethora of recording devices means to the man who once called film 24 lies a second. De Palma plays this mediated alienation for queasy-funny effect, as when Isabelle lies in bed with her hands in masturbatory position — only they're poised over her laptop rather than her lap. The two women's fight is personal, all right, but so much of it is waged on a digital playing field that they might as well be videogame avatars. But some things you still have to do the old-fashioned way. That's when a knife comes in handy.

Shot by Almodovar's longtime cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine — the Spanish director's resolutely De Palma-esque melodrama The Skin I Live In was good practice — Passion shows De Palma reveling in the blatant craziness of his contrivances. (This features perhaps the quintessential De Palma line of dialogue: "You have a twin sister?") Rapace's Edvard Munch cheekbones and startled eyes do the heavy lifting of her performance, but McAdams, firmly back in Mean Girls mode, delivers her vicious lines with venomous zest. De Palma introduces more and more variables into the scenario, leading to a split-screen showstopper where high art and low crime compete for the viewer's attention. Guess what wins.

Posted by Geoff at 12:55 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, April 9, 2016

Here are a few select transcripts from the video above:

What is your impression of the evolution of the thriller genre?

De Palma: That’s really hard to say, because mysteries are done a lot on television, all types of forms. They explore every story and character form you can imagine. But since I’m more of a visual storyteller, I find inspiration in the ‘40s and ‘50s where you told your stories more visually, rather than relying on the dialogue to explore the mystery.

Can you share your recollections of filming Passion?

De Palma: Well, you know, it’s made from a French film—I know both of the actresses that were in the French film—in fact, I talked to Ludivine yesterday. Unfortunately, when the film was made, the director was very ill, and so there was a lot of difficulty getting through the material. And I sort of felt from the actresses that they were not given the kind of range to explore their characters. In retelling the story in English, I had two actresses that knew each other very well, that took the story and their involvement into all kinds of bizarre directions, that made it a lot more intriguing. And I added a certain surrealistic element to it that I think improved the original.

Any opinions on current trends in new films?

De Palma: Of course there will be new fantastic movies. One disturbing problem is, of course, a lot of the new generation is watching movies on telephones and iPads and computers, so they’re not used to seeing things on a large screen. Which I think is a great loss, because some of the great classics are composed for the large screen. I mean, I don’t see how you could explain Once Upon A Time In The West or some of David Lean’s great movies unless you show this largeness, the scope that he portrayed on the screen. So that’s going to be kind of lost, but with every new technical invention, like I’m looking at right now, there are great advantages, and you discover new forms in order to tell stories.

Which filmmakers inspire you?

De Palma: Well, I live in New York and I spend a lot of time with a group of young directors that live downtown. And I quite like their work. One is Wes Anderson, and the other is Noah Baumbach. And they make movies entirely different than I do, but I find their work quite original. And I’ve known these directors for years. We try to meet once a week, and talk about cinema, and what’s going on, and what we like and what we don’t like.

Posted by Geoff at 2:19 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 10, 2016 2:57 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Dim The House Lights began an “occasional column” this week called “Double Vision,” and the second installment finds Ross Birks linking Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale with his most recent feature, Passion. “If you’re going to pair up two Brian De Palma erotic thrillers,” Birks writes, “nine times out of ten you’d go for Dressed to Kill and Body Double. Upon recently revisiting De Palma’s canon for the umpteenth time, however, I found a better pairing: Femme Fatale and Passion. Made ten years apart these two films showcase a late-career De Palma returning to the genre he helped define with a newfound enthusiasm and experimentation."

In between writing about the two films, Birks notes how Raising Cain, made ten years prior to Femme Fatale, "foreshadows what De Palma would explore" in these two later works. "In that film," Birks writes, "John Lithgow plays Cain, a psychologist suffering from multiple personality disorder and De Palma constantly shows us the world from Cain’s POV in each of his different guises making reality increasingly difficult to pin down. The same can be said for the final act of Passion. After being accused of murder, Isabelle (Rapace) appears to regress into her own consciousness. De Palma teases the audience with multiple fake outs and double fake outs, sometimes never clarifying what is real and what isn’t."

While Birks does not leave out mention of the use of dreams in De Palma's previous films, his focus on these three actually makes for an intriguing trilogy, each conveniently ten years apart (it is an odd recent phenomenon that a movie's film festival screening year has become its official year of release: Passion, which played several fests in 2012 but was not officially released in any country until 2013, is referred to in most cases, even the IMDB, as a 2012 film). Each of the three feature long, extended dream sequences in the middle of the film. The dream at the center of Femme Fatale is clearly delineated, yet the whole film comes to seem marked by a transcendent sort of dream logic that feels sprung from multiple dreamers. As such, it does make for a graceful centerpiece in a trilogy that would keep any audience on its toes, as the nightmares from Raising Cain and Passion keep the viewer guessing what is dream, what is real, and by the way, whose dream are we in now?

Birks continues, "Passion‘s centerpiece, at least from a De Palma obsessive’s point of view, is an extended split screen sequence that intercuts a ballet performance with a stealthy murder in the giallo tradition and culminates with Isabelle jolting awake in her bed just as Christine (McAdams) has her throat slashed open. For a time, it isn’t clear if the previous scene really occurred or was just a variation of what actually transpired. From then on the film becomes hyper-real, bathed in expressionistic shadows and Dutch camera angles that are at odds stylistically with the film’s rather composed first hour. Even the story becomes excessively nonsensical with twist piling on after twist to the point of absurdity. The 'it was all a dream' trope has become one of the most groan-worthy in cinema so De Palma’s commitment to it in both Passion and Femme Fatale is all the more daring and admirable. It’s as if he saw utilizing that twist as a challenge in itself and wanted to explore the possibilities. Perhaps if he was subtler about it audiences would have been more receptive (see Mulholland Dr.) but De Palma has never been about subtlety, which is actually one of things I respond to most in his work."

Posted by Geoff at 4:19 AM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, May 1, 2015
An excerpt from Alfred Eaker's review of Brian De Palma's Passion, posted at 366 Weird Movies:

"Whittling down De Palma’s diving board to Hitchcock is also woefully inadequate. When an art critic listed 90 of Picasso’s influences, the artist wrote back: 'You forgot Gauguin.' Sergei Eisenstein, Jean-Luc Godard, Andy Warhol, Orson Welles, Michelangleo Antonioni, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, Irvin Kirshner, Martin Scorsese and Robert Flaherty have all informed De Palma’s work and are filtered through his pre-existing sensibilities, which include a background in mathematics and avant-garde narrative. This diversity renders De Palma far more eclectic than any of his predecessors or peers.

"Contrary to the claims of populist criticism, an aesthetic path is rarely linear. De Palma’s malleability is evident in his returns to low budget satire (1980’s Home Movies), observational cinema (2007’s Redacted), and the Warholian pop vibe via mod thriller of 2002’s Femme Fatale and 2012’s Passion.

"De Palma once again makes use of a grandly dated split-screen, juxtaposed to Pino Donaggio’s hyper-lush score, dressing and undressing the oozing, ribald, kinky milieu. More than once, De Palma quotes Dressed To Kill, throwing in Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as the AC/DC couple who go the distance to liven up a potentially dull advertising firm with dark red lipstick, Skype, high-heeled Euro fashion, chic Debussy, explosive sex tapes, provocative primary colors, slow-mo pursuits, and a gleaming stiletto.

"True to form, De Palma milks manipulative bad acting from his two leads, which punctuates the obligatory opulent set piece (an impressionistic ballet) and unfolding illicit crime caper.

"Passion giddily enjoys being a movie for the sake of movies. A few bourgeoisie critics have complained that De Palma is simply stuck on repeat mode, but if you are willing to entertain his inviting disregard for neorealist trends, you may discover a deepening of his art and be transported into a celluloid Canaan."

Posted by Geoff at 12:21 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Last week, a trailer for the upcoming Antoine Fuqua film Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, hit the web. "If you saw the trailer," states Forbes' Scott Mendelson, "you probably noticed Rachel McAdams as the 'girl' in the picture. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate, as she gets killed in the first third of the trailer, which in turn sends Gyllenhaal into a downward spiral. There was a moment ten years ago when she seemed primed to be the next big female movie star. But now she gets 'fridged' in male-centric melodramas and gets to be 'the girl cop' in True Detective season 2, which is quickly becoming something of a career rehab home for former movie stars and would-be movie stars who never quite made the sell. I have written so very much about the lack of female-led multiplex releases over the last decade or so, and I have long believed would-be 'It Girl' McAdams to be among its primary victims. You can’t be the next great movie star when Hollywood isn’t making movies for you to star in."

Mendelson's mini-recap of McAdams' career mentions Passion as one of her rare genuine lead or co-starring roles:

"Rachel McAdams had the bad luck to spring to stardom just as the so-called female-centric studio release was becoming something of an endangered species. She of course came to fame in 2004 and 2005 with a flurry of high profile vehicles. She was, in 2004, a defining villain in Mean Girls and the co-lead in the generational romantic drama classic The Notebook. She had three major roles in 2005, including the heroic lead in Wes Craven’s Red Eye, a supporting role in the Sarah Jessica Parker-led ensemble The Family Stone, and the 'prize to be won' romantic interest in New Line Cinema/Time Warner Inc.’s Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn comedy smash The Wedding Crashers. Take one guess which role would come to define the next decade of would-be stardom. She took a break from acting for a couple years and returned in two low-budget independent films. Married Life was a martial fidelity drama starring Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, and McAdams as the would-be temptress. The Lucky Ones (Lions Gate Entertainment) was an underrated and little-seen drama co-starring Tim Robbins and Michael Pena about three Iraq war vets adjusting to life after service.

"She returned to so-called mainstream movies in 2009 and it is at this point the pattern began to emerge. By 2008/2009 we were seeing a real lack of not just female-centric films but movies that required more than one role for a woman matching McAdams’s respective gender and/or age. She is a young blogger journalist in the (terrific) Russell Crowe/Ben Affleck/Helen Mirren/Robin Wright thriller State of Play (Universal) who exists mostly to be schooled on the purity of old-school journalism and she was 'the girl' in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes for Warner Bros. She reprised that role in a glorified cameo for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, because the film didn’t have room for two major female roles and Noomi Rapace taking that slot this time. She was the co-lead in The Time Traveler’s Wife in 2009 (even though for all intents-and-purposes it is Eric Bana’s story) and she co-starred as a memory-impaired young spouse alongside Channing Tatum in The Vow. She did have a genuine lead vehicle in 2010, starring as an ambitious morning show producer trying to work with Harrison Ford’s cantankerous news vet in Morning Glory.

"And aside from Brian De Palma’s blink-and-you-miss it 2013 erotic indie drama with Noomi Rapace entitled Passion, that’s it for lead roles or even arguably co-starring roles for Ms. McAdams. She played the girl-to-be-discarded in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris and one of Ben Affleck’s handful of would-be love interests Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, played 'the girl' in the father/son time-travel drama About Time, and was basically the only woman in an otherwise male-centric ensemble in A Most Wanted Man, which was notable for being Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final starring role. [Editor's note: this description really gives short shrift to that film's other distinguished female turns from Nina Hoss and Robin Wright.] Her output for 2015 involves being the one woman in a sea of dudes (Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery, and Billy Crudup) in the 'Boston Globe investigates Catholic Church sex scandals' drama Spotlight, being the married former lover of star Bradley Cooper as he also 'bonds' with Emma Stone in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha for Sony, and the aforementioned 'gets accidentally shot so Jake Gyllenhaal can have a sad' role in Southpaw. Oh, and she’s also in the cast of True Detective season 2 as the lone female cop in a cast that includes Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Taylor Kitsch.

"The vast majority of McAdams’s mainstream roles in her post-stardom career have been 'the girl' in an otherwise male-dominated cast. That is arguably because that was becoming even more of the so-called status-quo right as she was becoming a would-be movie star. Her relative lack of mainstream starring vehicles is mostly due to the fact that so few female-centric star vehicles get made in Hollywood anymore. There are few female-centric films that get made in Hollywood, especially the kind of somewhat melodramatic dramas or thrillers that used to give someone like Ashley Judd a career. The kind of mainstream films, be they romantic comedies, family melodramas, and everything in-between, that once starred Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock are all-but-extinct in modern Hollywood. The Hollywood of the 1990′s had room for Meg Ryan vehicles, Sandra Bullock vehicles, and Julia Roberts vehicles with room to spare. They were romantic comedies like French Kiss, family melodramas like Something to Talk About, or even supernatural comedies like Practical Magic. Those films don’t get made anymore, to the point where now even something like a female-driven romantic comedy like Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck is considered a 'big deal.' [Once] you age out of the young-adult literary adaptations and/or the newest live-action adaptation of a Walt Disney animated feature, you’re basically stuck playing 'the girl.' And just as importantly, the male-centric films that do get made usually have room for just one or two major female roles in the cast."

At Agency Post, Matthew Chernov (who a couple of weeks ago included Dressed To Kill's Liz Blake on his "12 Hookers with Hearts of Gold" list for Variety), anticipating the final season of AMC's Mad Men, yesterday posted "The 12 Greatest Advertising Movies Ever Made," or "a list of 12 movies that could teach Don Draper a few things about the business." Included on his list is De Palma's Passion. "Brian De Palma’s welcome return to the erotic thriller genre is actually two movies in one" states Chernov. "The first is a stylish black comedy about advertising executives stabbing each other in the back to get ahead. The second is a surreal horror film about a masked psycho slashing necks to get revenge. Swedish sphinx Noomi Rapace plays a mousy copywriter whose conniving boss steals credit for her viral ad campaign, setting in motion a gruesome string of murders. As the body count rises, Passion proves that advertising can be a cut-throat business."

Also included on the list is Robert Downey Sr.'s Putney Swope. Chernov writes, "Robert Downey Sr. wrote and directed this counterculture satire about a lone black man on the executive board of an advertising firm who’s accidentally put in charge by the white members during a secret election. Renaming the agency 'Truth and Soul, Inc.' the new chairman fires his fellow board members and institutes a policy forbidding them to accept business from companies that manufacture alcohol, tobacco and war toys. Eventually, the U.S. Government takes notice and declares the firm a threat to national security. Shot in black and white, the outrageous TV commercials seen throughout the movie appear in color."

Posted by Geoff at 1:47 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, April 4, 2015 2:21 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, February 16, 2015

I thought I had covered all of the 2013 top ten and best-of lists that included Brian De Palma's Passion with three posts from about a year ago: January 2, 2014, January 8, 2014, and February 6, 2014. However, I should have known to check the individual lists of the critics from Cahiers du Cinéma. Even though Passion did not make the magazine's final top 10 for 2013, De Palma's film did appear on three of the individual lists. Here they are:

Nicolas Azalbert

1.  Educação sentimental
2.  La Vie d'Adèle
3.  L'Inconnu du lac
4.  Spring Breakers
5.  Frances Ha
6.  La fille de nulle part
7.  Passion
8.  La Fille du 14 juillet
9.  Camille Claudel, 1915
10. No  

Jean-Sébastien Chauvin

1.  Lincoln
2.  Shokuzai
3.  La fille de nulle part
4.  Les Rencontres d'après minuit
5.  Passion
6.  L'Inconnu du lac
7.  La jalousie
8.  Cloud Atlas
9.  Gravity
10. La Vie d'Adèle  

Stéphane du Mesnildot

1.  The Immigrant
2.  L'Inconnu du lac
3.  Shokuzai
4.  Passion
5.  The Grandmaster
6.  Les Rencontres d'après minuit
7.  Gravity
8.  La Vie d'Adèle
9.  Django Unchained
10. Le Congrès  

Posted by Geoff at 12:10 AM CST
Updated: Monday, February 16, 2015 12:26 AM CST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, November 24, 2014
Ute Bergk, the set decorator on Brian De Palma's Passion, was interviewed recently by Travis Bean at Film Colossus. Bergk's work on Passion was the main focus of the discussion. Discussing how production on the film was on-and-off for years, Bergk tells Bean, "There was a point where [De Palma] was thinking, 'Oh, we’ll do it all in London.' And then I mentioned all the cars would be driving on the left side, and he didn’t like that at all."

I'm posting a lot of the highlights from the interview below, but you might as well just go read the entire thing at Film Colossus-- it's a very engaging interview, and is almost exclusively about Passion.


Discussing how she came to be the set decorator on Passion, Bergk tells Bean, "The Production Designer Cornelia Ott, who is a friend of mine, she got the script and got me involved, and we budgeted over and over and over again, because they couldn’t make up their minds where they wanted to shoot, and they had certain actors in mind that didn’t kick in at the right time, at the right point.

"So it was at least over a year before we got storyboards from Brian De Palma. Which were brilliant! He does them all himself. And it’s like a Bible. Because the film took so much time to kick off, he worked them over and over again, so when the filming finally started, it was so straightforward. He had it all planned out. It was fascinating. It was really precise.

"He’s one of these directors that just knows: he’s coming in in the morning, he’s not saying anything, and he’s working with people who he trusts for whatever reasons, and he’s just watching them work for a little while, and then he asks if everybody is ready, and he starts to shoot."


A little later in the discussion, Bean asks, "So if Brian (is it OK if I call him Brian?) is coming on set and not talking to many people, is he talking to you? Or is it pre-planned, where he’s talking to you beforehand? Or is it more organic, where you get there and set things up?"

Bergk replies, "It’s very planned. He never arrives anywhere without expectations. He knows exactly how the room will be set up before he gets there. We would present it all in little models or sketches or photos. And for every location he would have a little folder, and we would explain, 'This is the sofa she sits on,' etc. Like in one of the offices, where you see the white arrangement of very sophisticated white leather sofas: 'This is where the Japanese board is going to sit.' Very rarely will he say, 'Oh, I don’t like this at all.' It’s usually the other way around. And because the arrangements are so classic, you kind of go that route and not allow yourself to be off stylistically. You don’t want to go overly pop, or overly sophisticated."


In one enlightening passage of the interview, Bergk tells Bean about meeting with cinematographer José Luis Alcaine: "I remember that Jose came in, and obviously we did not know each other when we started, and that working relationship came into play very quickly. Because the moment Noomi (Rapace, playing Isabelle) was confirmed for the film, I got a call saying, 'We start prepping ASAP.' Now basically.

"And I said, 'Really? Finally?!'

"And of course, off we went, and Jose came in. José was always trying to discuss things with Brian, which was quite funny, because Brian would always make excuses, like, 'I’ve got to go to the dentist.' Because I think Brian totally trusted him and what he was going to do. So he didn’t want to control him whatsoever. And that was great. That’s why it was so good to work on this movie, because there was freedom.

"And so, I had this long meeting with José and went through all the practicals, which was quite important for the whole film, because, at that point, I wasn’t very knowledgeable of Brian De Palma and unaware of how important all of that is. Because there are sequences, for example, where the entire scene is basically lit by the practicals. And if you see the two different offices (Isabelle and Christine, played by Rachel McAdams), one is white, and one is white-and-black. And if you look closer at what there is in terms of practicals, it’s totally different.

"We had this glass desk in Christine’s office because we wanted to see her legs. And it’s all very sexy and round…and a bit bitchy. Isabelle’s office is the other way around: it’s all very cruel, almost frozen. You see this black, bold standing light in the background, which is pretty much what I thought was her. And it’s a very complicated light fitting because it’s lit in a very complicated way, but José liked it because, for all the dream sequences, he used this black-and-white lighting, which that light fixture naturally gives him.

"And that was a very interesting discussion! I’d never had that before. But obviously that was so important for the whole film. The more time you spend with these guys, the more you get into it. You learn what’s important, that you have to find just the right standing light to place next to Isabel’s bed during her dream sequence. That took me weeks to find!"


When asked by Bean where she went to find decorations for Passion, Bergk replies, "It depends where you are. Passion was shot in Berlin, and we didn’t shoot many sets in the studio. We built a few additions to existing locations, and we’d incorporate architectural details. But the thing with Berlin is: it’s not such an advanced industry, as it is in London [where Bergk resides]. Berlin does not really have facilities.

"So, for Passion, it was all very contemporary. It’s not like you had to do lots of research into some period details. It was contemporary, it was very classic. If you work with Brian De Palma, you know that you have to have mirrors. You will see the ceiling, which is very unusual, because a lot of directors don’t show the ceiling in movies at all. So that’s a very interesting research subject actually: who is looking up in the film?

"And because the style was contemporary, most of the stuff you see is available in shops. It’s very high-class furnishing. In the first scene you see a sofa in Christine’s apartment, and that’s one I had made, which was possibly the most expensive piece of furnishing in the entire film. But I thought it was worth it—there was something existing and I adopted it, changing its color and shape. This kind of film is not rough. It’s a very delicate film.

"There’s this nice sequence where they’re sitting in front of a huge television and a character gets drunk, and he gets drunk on a Fendi, a luxurious settee—and it is so uncomfortable. I saw it in an exhibition. To sit on it is fine, but to get drunk on it is very uncomfortable. It’s not like a sofa that you fall into. And he was supposed to fall into it, but he couldn’t because it has wooden a frame. So when he does fall into it, he makes this sounds like [insert uncomfortable *oomph* sound effect], which is exactly what was needed for this sequence. So that was a good find."


The interview ends with a discussion of the ballet sequence in Passion:


I feel obligated to ask about the ballet sequence, just because it makes me giggle with excitement every time I watch it. I know in the actual ballet studio, there isn’t a lot in there, it’s mostly blue and white walls. Did you contribute anything specific to that sequence? Working with the idea that it would be displayed partly on a split-screen? Or that there would be a lot of empty space to deal with?

Ute Bergk

It was actually more of the other way around. I sent you a video, did you get it?


Yeah yeah, I watched it!

Ute Bergk

That was the original version of the performance. There’s a foundation behind it, and you are very much controlled by this foundation. The choreographer came over from the States and she was very controlling about everything. If you see, in the black and white footage I sent you, in the beginning, the curtain is on a pole and goes up, above the stage, which is where we shot. It was quite difficult to do, because we had this theater setting and everything just goes up, and not up and around. And we had to do it that way. They had to see that pole going up. So we had to build a structure to do that with.

Basically, you have to find the right materials. We had to slim it down because we shot it on a quiet part of the stage, which is in the Renaissance Theater, which is not big at all. So there was a model built that was put into this existing space. And to drape white fabric without having any frills in it is not easy.

The whole ballet sequence—we knew it would be very important, so we shot it for three days in that theater with those two wonderful dancers. And it was crystal clear that the stage design at that point was part of what the story tells. And specifically, in that performance, the audience is the mirror. They dance behind their exercise rails to warm up, and what is behind is basically nothing. It’s like a rehearsel room. And all you see is the door they come in and a window. And that’s all. The rest is up to them. And that was as simple as is. Brian, at that point, was just focused on the dancers.


Well definitely. They’re looking right into the camera, and effectively looking right at you. I’m fascinated by that aspect of the film. Not only the characters are being watched—he’s looking right at the audience and acknowledging their presence in the movie.

Ute Bergk

It was a very artistic approach, obviously. To have the audience as the third part, see that in certain kinds of artwork, like Manet’s paintings for example. The artist plays with the subject as well. So it’s very interesting to address it in that way—it’s a very De Palma style of filmmaking to address the audience. And then the split screen…I still get goosebumps thinking about it.


Posted by Geoff at 11:23 PM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, October 17, 2014
Christopher Cole has written a terrifically insightful piece at Clothes On Film about the clothes in Brian De Palma's Passion, with details and quotes from the film's costume designer, Karen Muller-Serreau. Cole is particularly interested in the power dynamics at play in the film. "Ice-blonde Christine is a Grace Kelly lookalike who craves attention," Cole states, "usually wearing the most noticeable colour in the room; the solid colours help her stand out without patterns to get in the way."

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Muller-Serreau says she wanted to give Rachel a “contemporary Hitchcockian feeling with shapes that have a modern vintage style in bold colours.” Christine begins the film in an ice-blue shirt and palazzo pants combo topped off by a blueberry-vanilla coloured scarf tied artfully around her neck, while Isabelle’s black dress shirt and pants pop against the white walls and light-coloured furniture of Christine’s house. She has to be dominant so she gives the scarf as a gift to Isabelle, wrapping the blueberry-vanilla scarf around Isabelle’s neck; it stands out against her black coat.

The following morning, Christine struts her stuff down the path in her front yard in a double-breasted blood-red overcoat that would scare the bejeezus out of Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964); Christine looks like a spoilt little rich girl about to be chauffeured to private school. If Christine sometimes looks like a child playing dress-up, there’s a scene late in the film where she wears a striking black overcoat worn with a wide-brimmed hat, round sunglasses and teal stiletto sandals. It’s a coat that Muller-Serreau wanted to look like a little girl’s coat, so she based it on a classic child’s coat since Christine’s twin sister died in childhood.

Isabelle, the second-in-command, wears black for most of the film signalling her lack of identity. Since Muller-Serreau didn’t have colour to work with for Isabelle, she gave her shape and texture. There’s a suit jacket with heavy shoulder pads that hint at Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945) and a side-breasted military jacket she wears when she has the upper hand. Her Edith Head hairstyle, fringe and all, helps make her look like she stepped out of an old movie.

One particularly inspiring moment is when an angry, depressed Isabelle at an office reception wears a black dress shirt and pants with a black tie. Underneath the slightly sheer shirt is a black bra. She’s dressed in a stereotypical male outfit, but despite the butch quality of the outfit, she still wants to be desired sexually as a feminine woman. Muller-Serreau says Isabelle’s look was supposed to be a “uniform”, presenting Isabelle as a “soldier” — a soldier who wants to be seen as a sexy woman.

While Isabelle wears only one colour, her assistant Dani wears many colors, and is the only person who threatens Christine’s status as the most colourful person in the room. She often wears animal prints and sometimes pairs it with clashing horizontal stripes. Her costumes are meant to garner attention, like the denim daisy dukes she wears paired with tights and knee-high stiletto boots, and an asymmetrically zipped purple leather motorcycle jacket. However, she also achieves elegance in a violet lace shirt. It’s a look Muller Serreau describes as “feminine and sexy” and that it’s a departure from the “butch lesbian cliché.”

Dirk wears braces with his pinstripe suits and checkered suits; the braces hark back to a much earlier era. His costumes consist of all suits, except for when he wears a tank top in his bedroom post-coital. Lying on a bed, his thin frame is more evident here, making him appear more vulnerable. He confesses secrets while smoking in a cigarette, becoming more feminine in his gestures and voice: he seems to be imitating Christine when he tells Isabelle that the blueberry-vanilla scarf looks better on her. It’s a perfect example of how men are emasculated in this film, and how the characters are much different in private.


Posted by Geoff at 3:20 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (8) | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Posted by Geoff at 6:49 PM CDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post

Newer | Latest | Older