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Saturday, September 22, 2012
Dean Treadwell reported for Movie Geeks United Wednesday from the New York Film Festival, where he attended Tuesday morning's press and industry screening of Brian De Palma's Passion. Here is a transcript of Dean's review from Wednesday's episode:

Dean: Passion opened up with a beautiful score, and I was really hoping that it was who I was thinking it was, and then I was right. It opens up with the Pino Donaggio score. When his name pops up on screen, you know, I felt like we were in good hands from there on. Passion is everything you want in a De Palma movie. It is wry, it is well-crafted, it has all of those things that we love in De Palma movies. It has a masterful split-screen segment, it has playful uses of lenses and color. The film is actually, color-wise, it’s actually split—it has dominant colors in each three of its acts. The first act is, suitably for a movie called Passion, is dotted with lots of reds and purples. And basically, the film tells the story of a [vet] of female executives at a German advertising company named Koch. And they are advertising a new smart phone. And Noomi Rapace plays a producer who has come up with a great idea for a commercial where they use the smart phone as an ass-cam. And they put it online, and it creates a tremendous stir where, humorously, I thought, it gets something like five million hits in the space of five hours, or something like that. And I thought that was funny, you know, and so did the audience. Everybody was having a terrific time with it. Anyway, Rachel McAdams plays her boss, a higher up who actually steals the credit for the idea. She basically says, "You have the talent, but I made the best use of it." And she does this because she wants to move up in the company and go back to New York, and leave Germany. And this opens up a whole can of worms, which includes Noomi Rapace sort of spiralling downwards into sort of an addiction to sleeping pills. There’s the wonderful revelation that (and I’m not giving anything away here, because I don’t want to give anything away about the machinations of the plot) but there is a wonderful revelation about a twin sister—there’s a twin sister somewhere in here, which us De Palma fans love the idea of the twin sisters, because, you know… so there’s a little bit of Sisters, there’s a little bit of Body Double, because there’s a lot of kink involved in the film, a lot of kinky sex. Unfortunately, no nudity. Also, there’s a little bit of Dressed To Kill involved. When the film moves over to its second act, it becomes… all the passion is drained away, and it becomes sort of a… the visuals become sort of dabbled in this sort of icy blue feel. And this is Noomi Rapace’s sort of bottoming-out period. And then the final act of the film is basically painted in blacks and browns. It’s really wonderful. It’s a remake of a film that was done about three years ago called Crime d’amour, which starred Kristin Scott Thomas, and apparently wasn’t nearly as interesting, from what I hear from the people who’ve seen it. It wasn’t nearly as interesting, mainly because there’s another character that’s involved here, that is Noomi Rapace’s assistant. And in the original film, the assistant was cast as a gay man, but in this film it’s cast as a woman that sort of has a crush on Noomi Rapace. And so that creates a whole other layer of intrigue in the film.

Jamey Duvall: A couple of questions. I mean, gosh, I’m so excited, we have another De Palma thriller. And I think it’s the first one since Raising Cain, isn’t it? Or Femme Fatale. So it’s been ten years or so since he’s worked in this genre. So when you see it begin, and it’s clearly De Palma-esque, as we all know and love, and you see Pino’s name and that romantic, lush score, I can imagine it is, does it feel like you’re in a time vault, in a way? As a De Palma fan?

Dean: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is an absolute eighties, I would say a mid-eighties throwback. It absolutely feels like you’re watching this on Cinemax late at night. It’s got slinky saxophone on the score, you know, and everything is sort of steely and glassy in it, you know. And there’s times where you’re confused about space and about time. And that’s also, you know, a De Palma sort of mainstay for his thrillers. It’s really… I don’t want to oversell it, because, you know, I have to confess I like Femme Fatale a little bit more. Or some of his classics. But I would definitely put it up there with something like Dressed To Kill. I mean, it was fun.

Posted by Geoff at 11:20 AM CDT
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Friday, September 21, 2012

From Green Cine's Vadim Rizov's review of Brian De Palma's Passion:

"Detractors have largely given up on accusing De Palma of just selling Hitchcock rip-offs: the more he repeats himself, the clearer it is what makes him distinct. A more useful comparison might be David Lynch. Both De Palma and Lynch adore Vertigo, and both make movies in which their characters also often seem to be moving in a trance state. De Palma literalized this in 1978's The Fury, where telekinetic tyros in training are hypnotized to release their powers, but he uses the same visual language—slow zooms in on inexplicably fixed faces, somnambulant people wandering streets and hallways with no evident purpose—consistently."

Posted by Geoff at 6:04 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 6:28 PM CDT
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

As previously reported, Brian De Palma spoke with Anne Thompson before a live audience at the Toronto Film Festival on September 10th. That interview is now available to read at Indiewire's Thompson On Hollywood blog. In the interview, De Palma mentions that for a time he had been working on an adaptation of the John Farrow RKO film His Kind Of Woman, which had starred Robert Mitchum. De Palma told Thompson that he could not get the rights to it, though, and then the Love Crime remake came along. Regarding the latter, De Palma mentions that American distributors had come to producer Saïd Ben Saïd wanting to buy the rights for David Lynch. (Earlier reports have indicated the Ben Saïd decided he would be better off making the English version himself and then selling that to American distributors, and that is when he approached De Palma about doing the remake.)

Thompson asks De Palma how he came to collaborate with the original film's co-screenwriter, Natalie Carter. "Well, I wrote many versions of the script," De Palma answers, "and we were having problems casting the bad girl. We got people that were interested in playing Noomi's part, but not the bad girl. And we couldn't figure out [if] it was because something in the script was offending them. So I said to the producer, 'Maybe there's something I'm missing here, let's bring Natalie in.' And then Natalie put in some more material for the bad girl that was in the original script, but was not in the original movie. Then the girls arrived and had a whole different idea about how they were going to play the characters -- which, let me tell you, how shocked I was -- because we'd been working on this script for weeks and months and forever, and then the actresses come in and say, 'No, no, no, we don't want to do that, we want to do this.' Natalie and I had to go through all their scenes and re-write them with the stuff that they brought in the rehearsals."

De Palma discusses how the actresses improvised a lot, and then Thompson asks about that drawer glimpsed in the film's teaser trailer (see image above). "That drawer was created by Cornelia Ott, the production designer," De Palma tells Thompson. "And believe me, she had other things for that drawer that I said, 'I think that's a little too much.' But she carefully arranged all those things in that drawer, and she said 'What do you think?' And I said, 'Yikes! Okay!' I love the way Noomi picks these things up,'Holy mackerel, what is that?'"

Thompson asks, "So you didn't intend in the writing for that dynamic to exist?" And De Palma responds, "Well, it was important about the mask, we had to establish the mask. But all the toys that they use, you gotta hand that to Cornelia."

Also discussed is the film's play with reality and dreams. De Palma tells Thompson, "Well, because I get a lot of ideas when I wake up in the middle of the night, just like Noomi does in the beginning of the movie, the whole movie's filled with actions like that. She's constantly waking up and not sure exactly [whether] what came before was a dream or wasn't a dream. And Noomi's playing a clever con game with the audience all the time, because you believe that she is an innocent person, she didn't know what she was doing. 'The drugs made me crazy,' and you buy it."

Thompson notes that the Pino Donaggio score shifts directions throughout the film, beginning with a comedic tone. "Yeah," says De Palma. "Nobody writes those psycho dream things like Pino does, and there's a long section of Noomi's nightmare that has big surprises in it, and he's just the master of that. I mean, we did it in Carrie, we did it in Dressed to Kill, we did it in Raising Cain. And then there's the other music that's very lyrical, especially when Noomi's falling apart, but it's very touching."

The discussion then turned to shooting Passion on film as opposed to video:


AT: What cameras did you use and how many?

BDP: Well, we had one camera, and we shot on film.

AT: You shot in 35mm? Wow. Nobody does that anymore.

BDP: That's correct. The problem is that they only make digital things from it, and a lot of movies are released digitally.

AT: Are you decrying the death of 35?

BDP: Of course I am, but when we find a cheaper way to put it in the theaters, they're going to do it that way. Plus, we have the big problem with everybody looking at things on smaller screens. You could be in your bed with your iPad watching "Lawrence of Arabia," that's the problem.

AT: So how did you move the Steadicam around in this movie?

BDP: Well, there's only one really big Steadicam shot and that's when Noomi has her breakdown. And I wanted to give her the emotional length to be able to play the emotion, all the way up from coming down the hallway, into the elevator, into the garage.

AT: Now how many takes do you usually do? What would be your average?

BDP: Not a lot, we don't do a lot of takes. We usually tried different things that the girls would try to do, but after I got it I'd sort of look at them and ask, "Is there anything else you want to do?" And they'd either say yes or no, depending on how they felt about the scene.


De Palma also took questions from the audience, which are included in the transcript. Also mentioned in the interview is that De Palma plans to shoot the remake of Heat in Nice and in Normandy.

Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 5:02 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Glenn Kenny posted some thoughts about Brian De Palma's Passion, in which he refracts what works about the new film through a lens of what he felt did not work in De Palma's Redacted. Responding to his tweet about Passion from yesterday, Kenny expresses his feeling that the film "doesn't have enough sex." Here's how Kenny lays it out:

"My initial attempted aperçu about this romp was: 'Passion purports to be a Brian De Palma remake of Love Crime but is in fact a Radley Metzger remake of demonlover." As we all know Twitter isn't so great with nuance and while the above is thereby wracked with small but not entirely insignificant innaccuracies I'll still stand by it. In any event Passion is, by De Palma standards, as compellingly watchable as his 2007 Redacted was aesthetically and by extension morally repellent. The problems with Redacted were many, but the main—formal—one casts a useful light on what helps makes Passion work. That is, the various visual platforms from which De Palma told Redacted's story were so haphazardly contrived/executed as to very nearly scotch De Palma's rep as a visual "master." The 'surveillance video' didn't look like surveillance video, the computer screen chats didn't look like computer screen chats, etc. 'Brechtian' or not, this created the wrong kind of alienation effect. Someone or something must have made DePalma understand this since that time, because Passion shows he's done some homework. While I daresay a very sharp dissector could point out ways in which total accuracy eludes him, the phone-camera advertising spot and hotel sex file look convincingly and compellingly authentic, as does all the multi-screen Skypeing in the picture, and more. That these screens all appear in frames put on real celluloid film by longtime Almodóvar cinematographer José Luis Alcaine. Long a top player in the realm of split-screen and multi-bifurcated compositions, De Palma really makes his frames within frames within frames work for him here.

"And this, some will intuit, is in the service of saying something about The Way We Live Now. In a way the real world has caught up with a vision that De Palma has always been putting forward, one that he and his fellow movie brats intuited from Michael Powell's Peeping Tom perhaps: that we are always looking, and we are always looking not at what is, or more to the point, ought to be, in front of us, but at something we're putting in front of us, some screen containing some contrivance of what we would like to think is our desire. This vision has become, for De Palma, so distilled (some would say rarified) that his best work of the past twenty years or maybe even more (hey, I really LIKE Femme Fatale!) has almost everything to do with that idea and nothing to do with the way actual human beings behave or speak. So the ridiculously flat dialogue and almost pantomime performance styles on display in Passion will not come as any surprise to a longtime De Palma watcher, although they are likely to elicit some sort of 'That was stupid' reflex in non-adepts. No matter—does this thing even have a U.S. distributor yet? In any event, in adapting the tonally straightforward but full-of-myriad-plot-twists 2010 Alain Corneau thriller Love Crime (a far more conventional picture than his still brain-melting 1979 Serie Noire, the seediest of Jim Thompson adaptations, and that's really saying something), De Palma insists of course on reconfiguring it into a movie not about the duplicity of cinematic subjectivity and then cranking the volume of that subjectivity up to eleven once a strong prescription sleep aid enters the scenario of ruthless corporate one-upswomanship.

"[I]t's a hoot, all right, but it isn't quite Radley Metzger, which is to say in a sense that it isn't quite Brian De Palma either. It doesn't have enough sex, is the thing. At 72 hardly an enfant terrible any longer, De Palma is nonetheless palpably constrained. American female stars of the bankability caliber necessary to obtain foreign funding (if I read my credits correctly there's not one American dollar in this movie, so to speak) simply won't do the kind of thngs De Palma leading ladies of the '80s had little if any trouble with. Hence, the ostensible sapphic tensions between the characters played by Rachel McAdams (American Canadian [see comments], appears in her underwear) and Noomi Rapace (European, appears topless) don't really get all that much traction and the most explicit stuff here is in the reveal of sex toys. Being an old master doesn't cut certain kinds of ice these days, I guess. I almost feel sorry for the guy."

Posted by Geoff at 7:33 PM CDT
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At Cinema Viewfinder:

"This sets the stage for Passion's impressive climactic sequence, driven by Donaggio's score in much the same way the dreamy epilogues for Carrie and Dressed to Kill owed something to the composer's creepy scoring in those picture. De Palma, a formalist more attuned to the visually technical and emotional than to the plot-driven or intellectual, fashions a tag for the story that many may find outrageous and nonsensical given the leaps in logic required. But it demonstrates the confidence th[at] this reinvigorated director has in his abilities—and Donaggio's—to sweep the viewer up in Passion's phantasmagoric conclusion. Brian De Palma is back."

Posted by Geoff at 1:06 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 4:36 PM CDT
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"He’s beyond any convention of classical narrative filmmaking," states Peter Labuza in his review of Brian De Palma's Passion, which he calls "hypnotic." Labuza states that this is De Palma doing what he does best, and that the director is "beyond any convention of classical narrative filmmaking (though one might have to ask when he ever was) and engrosses you with his ecstatic vision."

According to Labuza, Passion parallels De Palma's Redacted from the start, "as Rachael McAdams and Noomi Rapace stare at a screen. They are master and servant in the world of corporate advertising, a sexual ferocity always willing to bubble over into soft-core pornography with every line of dialogue (plus a phallic bottle of liquor sitting right in front of them). Christine (McAdams) and Isabelle (Rapace) are working on a campaign for a smart phone, and during the middle of the night (as Christine indulges in some kinky mask and blindfold sex), Isabelle comes up with the idea for a campaign that involves an 'ass cam' joke in which her assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth, a redhead with a fire both on the outside and inside) walks around in tight jeans and the camera exposes those who stare. It’s one of the great De Palma jokes in the film, but also the most essential: the camera exposes true desire and want, and as we laugh, we also realize that the image being presented only though cameras shows what men (and women) truly think.

"Such a relationship to the exposure of reality is essential, because so much of Passion is about the deception of real life performance. Christine and Isabelle duel and spar around promotions, boyfriends (both are cheating, but it seems also on each other), and their own disdain for each other ('it’s not backstabbing' is a repeated quip). De Palma never gives us the inner exposure of his two women, they play around with clothes and make up. Isabelle always dresses in pure black, and when Christine adds on red shoes and lipstick, it’s an intrusion onto the body. Meanwhile, Christine goes for the garish and big—Hitchcock reds and blues (a cross that could also double as a dagger dangling from her neck and three watches hanging on her wrist), and in one scene, she sits on her couch garmented in a golden satin robe and black lingerie, spread out like a queen, or at least demanding to be one.

"As Passion proceeds the frames become more expressive and more subjective, switching at one point to almost five minutes straight of subjective point of view shots. But again, what can we trust in the world of performance? De Palma flurries his camera through the action—push ins, zooms, and in the film’s central piece, a brilliant split screen use that only reveals its true revelations at the end as it plays with again our vision of watching. And while he leads us down one road—the cinematic frames suggest one answer, the truth once again lies in the recorded image. Like The Black Dahlia, the most real thing on screen is that which we see though screens."

Posted by Geoff at 12:06 AM CDT
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 7:28 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:16 PM CDT
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Looks like Passion production designer Cornelia Ott was also at the Venice Film Festival. Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten posted a brief interview with Ott last week-- here is the main excerpt in English:

[Cornelia Ott] read the script, created visualizations, and communicated via Skype almost daily with the director. Brian De Palma had prepared his own storyboards... Based on these Cornelia Ott scouted locations: more than 30 found in Berlin, where the thriller is set. The locations were then transformed with set-components, such as specially designed and crafted furniture in Studio Babelsberg, says Ott. Thus the Schöneberg Town Hall became the London office of an advertising agency, and the lobby and foyer of the Bode Museum was where a reception was filmed. De Palma is not just about depicting external realities, says Ott. His films are complex and stylized. The film goes from reality to dream sequences and surreal scenes, which are reflected in the design of the sets. It took great effort to create a key sequence in the film, in which a murder occurs: For this Ott had to import a stage set in the Renaissance Theater, to film the dancers performing the ballet "Afternoon of a Faun".

Posted by Geoff at 1:38 AM CDT
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Monday, September 17, 2012
Fiction Factory in Germany announced today that it has just finished production on a series of filmed interviews for the upcoming French DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill and Blow Out. Releasing on November 21, the sets from Paris-based Carlotta Films will include interviews with Vilmos Zsigmond (on Blow Out), Angie Dickinson (on Dressed To Kill), Keith Gordon (on Dressed To Kill), Nancy Allen (on both films), and George Litto (on both films). The link above includes captures from each of the interviews.

Posted by Geoff at 7:32 PM CDT
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There are many many reviews and interviews left to get to, but here's a handful of interesting reviews of Passion.

Dread Central's Serena Whitney writes, "Passion is an impressive film that makes no concessions to the audience. The film's intricate, dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream structure and abstract style, which combines gaudy surrealism with often satirical moments of eroticism, requires a level of audience devotion from De Palma enthusiasts that few contemporary directors are bold enough to demand." Whitney stresses that "De Palma has clearly made this film more for the enjoyment of female viewers," and echoes The Swan Archives' Principal Archivist in stating that the film's trailer is misleading.

The Principal Archivist tells us that Raising Cain is probably the closest antecedent to Passion, with all of the "is she dreaming, or merely tired and disoriented or crazy" sequences in the new movie. He also says the Pino Donaggio score "seemed to me to be purposely parodying [Bernard] Herrmann's score for Sisters." The Archivist says that De Palma has "kept the best of the Corneau film (several of its most effective scenes are reused almost shot for shot), but rightly created some doubt in the audience's mind about who the murderer is, by providing other characters with solid motivations and by shooting the killing from the POV of the killer, and injecting some ambiguity about whether the alibi is dreamed."

Mountain Express' Justin Souther calls himself a De Palma fan, yet seems to find Passion somewhat of a guilty pleasure: "I want to preface my thoughts on Passion by saying that this is in no way a good film if judged by any normal critical standards. But as overheated, glorious trash, it’s De Palma at his finest, all bloody murder, lesbianism, and intrigue. I had a friend describe the film as De Palma playing the hits, which is approximately what it is -- there’s some (really excellent) split screen work, a little deep focus, and even a few 'it was all a dream' moments. But damn, if it’s not fun. You have to know what to expect going into a De Palma film, and if you’re open to his nonsense, you’re likely to have a good time. I saw it in a half-full press and industry screening, and about a third of the audience broke out into applause once the credits started rolling. It was kind of amazing -- especially since P&I screenings are notoriously bad audiences who are there to work, not enjoy some movies. I overheard a couple after the film discussing the film, and attempting to dissect it and analyze it, and it took everything in my power to not pull them aside and explain to them that it’s De Palma, and that’s all that matters. The film is a lot like De Palma walking through the audience giving everyone the finger, and a chunk of us really getting a kick out of that. Because a lot of us De Palma fans wouldn’t have it any other way."

Movies.com's Monika Bartyzel says Passion is fun, but not really a modern women's film. Her review opens with this: "The beginning of Brian De Palma's Passion plays out like the entry point in a professional battle. Rachel McAdams' Christine and Noomi Rapace's Isabelle look at a computer screen, frustrated over the misfires in their latest ad campaign. They talk shop, they drink, and just the slightest hint of competition breaks through the interplay as Isabelle briefly sits alone on Christine's posh couch – arms spread, palms down on the soft cushion like a plebeian sneaking a moment on the royal throne. There's a whiff of sexuality in the air and a playful melody suggesting a classic professional battle set on modern women's terms. But that would be sane, and Passion isn't about sanity. It's a mind-boggling feature of illogicality playing in the confines of De Palma's distinctive eye."

Posted by Geoff at 1:44 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 1:45 AM CDT
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