For much (all?) of his career, I feel that Brian De Palma and his movies have been underrated and underappreciated. The man is a master storyteller and his use of camera techniques and moves are second to none. He is a true visual artist and one with a style that is very easy to recognize; you always know when you are watching a Brian De Palma film. Sure he has had a number of failures along the way, particularly recently with “Redacted” and “The Black Dahlia” being particularly underwhelming, and it is perhaps this recent form that saw his latest film “Passion” be almost completely overlooked by audiences. This is a shame too because “Passion” is a great film and it shows De Palma at his most playful since 1992’s “Raising Cain”.
What De Palma has done with “Passion” should not go unheralded because he has taken a terrible French film (“Love Crime [Crime D’Amour]”) and remade it into something that is not only watchable but something that is stylishly cinematic while also making the film his own. Surprisingly, the first half of “Passion” is very faithful to the original film, however it is when the second half begins that De Palma takes over and he flexes his cinematic muscles showing off all of the flare and bravura his is known for. This truly is a film of two halves, particularly when it comes to visual style. This story of office politics and jealousy that ends up leading to murder, is handled in quite a flat visual style for the first half of the film. Daylight features prominently and most shots are taken front on without the use of any strange camera angles. Also colour seems to be quite prominent in the opening half of “Passion”, but this is to be significantly drained in the second half when darkness and shadows start to take over as one of our characters begins to withdrew within their mind which may be about to break. Suddenly the film explodes into cinematic trickery, with dutch angles and tricky camera moves becoming the norm, as De Palma seems to use every trick he has in his book and it is deliriously entertaining. Even if you have seen the original film and therefore know the twist, it doesn’t matter because it is the way De Palma presents the reveal that makes it so entertaining.
Another thing that I love about “Passion” is that this is obviously Brian De Palma enjoying himself and having fun with his audience, because this is a film that does not take itself too seriously. It is a fun and entertaining thriller, brilliantly put together, but that is it; it is not trying to be anything more than it is. For those that think that Brian De Palma lost it many years ago, you only need to watch the final scene of “Passion” to know this is not true. This scene is the best thing the director has done in I do not know how long. It is a thrilling sequence that is at times ridiculous and entirely derivative of past De Palma scenes, but it is so exhilarating to watch and sends the movie off on an absolute high. If nothing else, “Passion” is worth seeing for this scene alone. Finally, I must get on my soapbox and say that Australian distributors need to get on board with De Palma’s films because this is the fourth consecutive film from the director to go straight to DVD. Luckily I was able to see “Passion” on the big screen (where it should be seen) at MIFF this year, but it is a disgrace to think that one of our greatest living directors is having a hard time getting his films cinematically released.