Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rohan: No Passion for De Palma's Passion

When you think of Brian De Palma films, several things come to mind: extended tracking shots; the camera offering a first-person point of view; voyeurism; and twists and turns, with an occasional little bit of camp thrown in for good measure. At his best De Palma is (excuse the pun) untouchable at fusing tension with big-screen visuals, with films like The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, Carlito’s Way and Scarface. Yet he remains highly capable of delivering smaller-scale films such as Casualties Of War, Carrie, and the much maligned Snake Eyes.

Sadly, he’s made his fair share of junk, too, and it is in this category when Passion lies. It’s in the vein of his previous more ‘trashy’ films such as Dressed To Kill or Body Double minus the fun ‘camp’ value which the 1980s brought with them, and though the second half shows many classic De Palma trademarks, the film fails to ever ignite.

The story is a weak attempt at an erotic thriller, with love triangles and plenty of girl-on-girl kissing which is at no point ever remotely sexy, nor are the relationships or their demise ever believable; it’s one notch above a TV soap opera in terms of its writing and, surprisingly, its acting. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace give career-low performances, camping it up to extraordinary levels without ever convincing us this is the right tone the story demands. One can only wonder what direction De Palma was giving them, but the choices by all involved are consistently off the mark they need to be at to make the material believable.

The first half of Passion is unrecognizable as a Brian De Palma picture and one could be forgiven for
thinking someone else was directing it. That is, until the second half and (inexplicably) it’s all change. In come the trademark De Palma techniques in full force: Dutch angles, wide angle shots, split-screens, and first-person POV. They're all great to look at and remind us of what the director is capable of, but at this point they cannot save the film.

Considering De Palma hasn’t released a film in six years, Passion is a major disappointment and quite why such a talented film maker would choose this material is something only De Palma can answer. One thing is for sure; it does nothing to rebuild his tarnished reputation.

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