Screened at the Provincetown International Film Festival – June 22, 2013 – US premiere
Release Date: August 30, 2013
Runtime: 105 minutes
Studio: Entertainment One
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Rachel McAdams; Noomi Rapace; Karoline Herfurth; Paul Anderson
De Palma is up to his old cinematic tricks (that’s a good thing) in his latest, a remake of the French noir “Love Crime.”
Rachel McAdams, the best Hitchcockian blonde since Kim Novak in “Vertigo,” plays Christine, the head of an ad agency in Berlin. Noomi Rapace (“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” – Swedish version) is her employee, Isabelle, in what would be a sort of account executive position, I guess. The two have an ideal working relationship, until Christine takes credit for Isabelle’s campaign idea on a major account. Then the tug of war begins, which will include manipulation, humiliation and, eventually, murder. Oh, what fun!
De Palma is totally in his element with “Passion.” The film makes good use of some of his favorite themes of eroticism, voyeurism and murder. Of course, as has been the case with most of his films throughout his career, the Hitchcock influence is palpable, right down to a climactic shot of a winding staircase shot from above (“Vertigo”) and the act of spying (“Rear Window”).
This film is pure, unadulterated De Palma, the cinephile’s filmmaker. He is so in control of the medium that he is able to toy with the audience’s perception of what is going on versus what may be going on. His use of close-ups and split screen may seem frivolous and stylistic, but he is such a master manipulator that each flourish serves a distinct purpose for the audience. It’s such great fun to watch a De Palma film because you know you’re being messed with but in the service of an entertaining narrative. Like David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive,” the mother of all mindfuck movies, “Passion” is designed to be paid attention to. De Palma is also one of those directors who don’t shy away from exploring sexuality in his movies (witness “Dressed To Kill” and “Femme Fatale”), not just for prurient reasons, but as part of his characters’ motivations. McAdams and Rapace share many a lip lock in “Passion,” which will no doubt account for much publicity when the movie is released stateside. But it’s all in service to the story, never exploitative.
Rachel McAdams is so good here that you almost forget that she was in “The Hot Chick.” She embodies the icy blonde femme fatale so perfectly, it’s astounding that this is the first circumstance that I can recall where she’s played this type of role. Noomi Rapace was a good casting choice as well. She is beautiful, but not as dramatically so as McAdams, so she is well suited to play the second fiddle with some tricks up her sleeve. A major find in the cast is Karoline Herfurth as Isabelle’s assistant, Dani. A German actress, Herfurth is wonderfully subtle and cagey, a terrific talent that I hope we’ll see more of. Rounding out the principal cast is Paul Anderson as a colleague and occasional sex partner of Christine’s (and Isabelle’s) who she is in the process of pissing off by threatening to expose his financial improprieties.
“Passion” is fun. The outrageousness of the story and McAdams’ Christine threaten to push the movie over the top into high camp at times, but never succeeds. Pino Donaggio’s bombastic score is reminiscent of his previous scores for De Palma (“Dressed To Kill”) and, of course, Bernard Herrmann’s famous scores for Hitchcock. Cinematographer José Luis Alcaine does some beautiful tricks with his camera, shoots at off angles and uses lighting to his advantage to achieve the highest amount of unease in the audience. But this movie is all De Palma: a master filmmaker producing a crafty piece of entertainment for cinephile’s like me to fawn over.