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Domino is
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work that "pushes
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De Palma on Domino
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mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
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Washington Post
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Thursday, June 25, 2020

I found myself watching Passion the other night, thinking I was just going to watch the opening scenes. As happens often when I start watching a Brian De Palma film, pure enjoyment takes over, and I kept watching. The split screen sequence in Passion was just as mesmerizing and surreal as I'd remembered.

Then, today, I came across a quote from an interview with De Palma in the New York Times, published upon the release of Passion. For the article, Nicolas Rapold had wanted to sit with De Palma while the two viewed clips from older films that inspired parts of Passion, but De Palma playfully suggested they watch clips from his own films instead, saying, "I could only refer to my own films. Nobody does this but me."

As they watch the split screen sequence from De Palma's Sisters, De Palma tells Rapold, "The thing about split screen is: It’s a kind of meditative form. You can go very slowly with it, because there’s a lot to look at. People are making juxtapositions in their mind. And you can have all this exposition mumbo jumbo on one side."

The part of the quote that stuck with me was that split screen is "kind of a meditative form." It strikes me that De Palma's use of split screen has gotten more and more meditative in his later films: from the juxtapositions of fictions and truth in the complex split screen machinations of Snake Eyes, to the where-are-we-now and who's-watching-who blender of surveillance, thievery, and art in the split screen sequence from Femme Fatale. And then there is the split screen in Passion, which is so oddly beautiful and eerie at the same time. Rapold and De Palma watch that sequence for the article, as well:

Some filmmakers claim not to watch their own films, or say they only see the mistakes. Mr. De Palma displayed no such qualms as he pored over the split-screen sequence in “Passion.”

On the right-hand side, Ms. McAdams as Christine goes about her business after a party at home, showering undisturbed.

“I told her, ‘Just get yourself ready,’ and she could make that as long or as short as she wanted,” Mr. De Palma said. “I would just cut it.”

On the left, as the ballet unfolds, the image cuts from a tight close-up on Ms. Rapace’s eyes to the duet in progress. The piece is Jerome Robbins’s version of “Afternoon of a Faun,” in which a couple dance as if facing the mirrored wall of a studio. In Mr. De Palma’s hands, that means they’re looking dead into the camera.

Meanwhile, somebody’s now in Christine’s house.

“You’re lulling the audience,” Mr. De Palma said of the combination of sequences. “I had no idea how it would work. I just had an instinct about it. This is your very typical point-of-view murderer shot, but here juxtaposed against this beautiful ballet.”

The dance grows more intimate. Christine’s stalker comes closer. Art on the left, death on the right.

“And then whack!” he exclaimed.

It was a resounding end to the scene, but just another step in Mr. De Palma’s nightmarish world of suspense.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 26, 2020 12:49 AM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink | Share This Post

Friday, June 26, 2020 - 2:06 PM CDT

Name: "Dr Nix"

Such a masterful sequence. The colours,the play and the music is intoxicating. The background behind the character of the Faun the deliberate misdirection, it's staring you literally in the face that Noomi's character isn't where you think she is. I'll stick my neck out and state it's one of the best directed sequences of De Palma's career.

Friday, June 26, 2020 - 7:21 PM CDT

Name: "Harry Georgatosā€™"

Passion has a hypnotic quality to the pristine visuals that makes the film into a addiction and impossible not to watch it till the end. 

Saturday, July 4, 2020 - 11:29 AM CDT

Name: "palisades"

I completely adore this sequence and remember at the time thinking it was his crowning achievement of the splitscreen technique.

I always assumed the "Prelude" ballet was chosen deliberately as it was considered mildly shocking at the time for being about the sensual pursuits of nymph creatures which climaxed in a not-very-stubtle sexual fashion.

The same gratuitous pursuit is mirrored on the right frame, but instead of sex it's the orgasmic release of murder. The faun/nymph staring at Noomi/us implicates us in this prurient, yet irresistible act.

Saturday, July 4, 2020 - 11:37 AM CDT

Name: "palisades"

Just to follow up on that idea. Here's a verse from the poem that inspired Afternoon of a faun:

Their crimson flesh that hovers there, light

In the air drowsy with dense slumbers.

Did I love a dream?

My doubt, mass of ancient night, ends extreme

In many a subtle branch, that remaining the true

Woods themselves, proves, alas, that I too

Offered myself, alone, as triumph, the false ideal of roses. 

That pretty much sums up the ending(s) to Passion, right down to the roses.

There was a 1980 dramatisation of the night the original ballet premiered that's worth checking out called Nijinsky. Here's a clip of that fabled climax:


Sunday, July 5, 2020 - 11:22 AM CDT

Name: "Geoff"
Home Page: https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/blog

Interesting-- here's De Palma's explanation for why he chose that ballet, from the film's press release interview:

Asked, "Why would 'Afternoon of a faun' be the ideal ballet for this scene," De Palma replied:

"Because it is about the kiss of death. Isabelle kisses Christine like a mafia kingpin would kiss someone who is going to die. And in the choreography of Jerome Robbins, based on a very famous piece by Debussy, the dancer suddenly kisses the ballerina on the cheek and in a way violates her, just as Isabelle is violating Christine. The studio is a three wall set, and the dancers are facing the audience as though looking into the mirrored wall of the studio. It allowed me to have them look straight into the camera, which breaks the rule of the 4th wall and brings an odd quality to the scene. Alfred Hitchcock also used that first person camera sometimes, like in The Paradine Case. Later on, when Isabelle is arrested by the police, I used it again to maximize the interrogation scene."

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