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Brian De Palma
What was that, anyway? An exhilarating suspense carried with style but lacking in content or an intriguing whodunit that seems to live and breathe with sensuality but it's just a giant tease to cause some stir in the audience? De Palma's awaited return "Passion" has him returning to his days of "Dressed to Kill" and "Sisters" with a touch of "Basic Instinct" (this one directed by Paul Verhoeven) but failing in all accounts to look like any of those. Not only the man is out of ideas by remaking this (the original is a French film), he's also completely lost and confuse and the latter spread fast among us viewers so accustomed to see him completely in charge of what's he doing, always referencing the master of suspense and trying some innovations.
It doesn't go all the way down. There's admirable qualities in the story that involves jealousy, possession, lust, ambition, murder, mystery and other associated matters. In an advertising agency, the ultimate power comes from Christine Stanford, a hateful shrew (Rachel McAdams, brilliant) who is deeply admired by her dedicated protégée Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), who does anything to earn her respect by coming up with great ideas to promote the company and the clients' products. The ideas work, she's heading to be promoted but the boss takes up further and gets the credit for the idea. There's misunderstanding, outrageous acts by both sides of the issue, tense work environment and then tragedy takes place with a lousy investigation on course. And who killed Christine?
We're told that this is a story about passion. But it's more about intrigue, manipulation and domination than just desire. There's something going on between assistant and chief but we don't know exactly what. The first seems to be fascinated with the woman of power and action while the second is just using of all possible ways to get her things done, to explore everyone around her but ultimately is someone with some small weaknesses. Like "Basic Instict" it goes with the premise everyone's bisexual in a way. Or perhaps, they just "shift" of preference to follow their goals (as evidenced, Isabelle has an affair with Dirk, Christine's boyfriend). And that's where De Palma's movie deserved more outcry from the LGBT community than all of what Verhoeven's movie got. Not just because of that, but specially the way all the female characters are treated (and we have to include Isabelle's assistant, played by Karoline Herfurth). They're presented as manipulative, insensitive, mean spirited among other things, people who'll do anything to succeed, and here comes the sad example of the movie, weakened due to what they are in their sexual nature, represented on a tasteless scene where Christine schemes to fire Isabelle's aide on the grounds of being harassed by her. But those protests are pointless, the best one can do is really bad-mouth the movie.
"Passion" is not a bad movie, it just makes a lot of wrong turns on the way that it looks bad. The script when it comes to give us realistic elements (such as the work routines both the agency and the police, second half of the film) is a completely mess using of unbelievable situations, inauthentic reactions and behavior, very ridiculous at times. The weakest part was the public humiliation suffered by Isabelle. Since the idea is to come up with unbelievable situations, she should have pulled the George Costanza card ("Oh yeah? And I've had sex with your boyfriend!") as a way to get revenge from her boss rather than laugh hysterically sounding like a sick hyena. And if those "real" moments don't work how come they expect us to buy the cinematic and definitely illogical moments, like the mystery, the crimes, the plot twist? And we cringe to the dialog, cheap and absurdly spoken for most of the time.
But De Palma isn't completely lost and insecure. He creates some wonderful moments, most notably the Hitchcockian climax but using of a modernity element to built tension. Let's face it, he creates some interest and we follow along. Yet he insists in dividing the screen pretending he's serious about focusing simultaneous actions at the same time, technique he explored better in other movies and here is just dull. Call me nuts but I see more quality in "The Bonfire of the Vanities" than in this thing. OK, I'm a little biased because I love that movie despite its flaws. But still.
And I couldn't forget to mention how deceitful this picture is. De Palma is a master in involving us with seductive women, gorgeous femme fatales, sexy creatures who demand our attention and the main characters. However, Rapace, McAdams and Herfurth although beautiful they don't share that magnetic and powerful quality which Melanie Griffith had in "Body Double" or Michelle Pfeiffer in "Scarface". They were sexy and friendly yet they meant trouble. Here, the characters pretend to be too innocent or trouble is already exposed on their faces.
"Passion" lacks of sensuality, eroticism and excitement; his only advantage is to be a little more bold in the kissing department. In the end it's just a minor suspense, almost embarrassing considering who's involved and it's time for him to move on to another direction, trade of genre once and for all. It generates interest, a little entertaining but nothing we can be passionate about. 6/10
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