TIFF 2012: De Palma’s ‘Passion’ is pulpy perfection

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Written by Brian De Palma
Directed by Brian De Palma
France/Germany, 2012

The North American premiere of Brian De Palma’s Crime d’Amour remake opened with a packed Winter Garden auditorium greeting the legend himself – accompanied by star Rachel McAdams – with a discernibly in-tune rendition of “Happy Birthday”, as it was indeed that day. For this unique occasion, of course, the birthday boy would bestow the gift. What a gift it is.

Noomi Rapace gracefully, viciously owns her role as the ambitious Isabelle;, ascending a multinational company ladder one rung below the sociopathic succubus Christine (a sinisterly focused McAdams, as though Mean Girls grew up). Professional power plays of catty words and sexual possession are maneuvered, and soon love, humiliation, hallucination and murder are on the table. Contemporary life’s integration with communication technology grows exponentially treacherous as the characters manipulate it against one another – a motif Sound on Sight learned during a post-show Q&A that the auteur conjured when in a café, hearing a phone ring and ring and ring while its owner sifted through a multitude of devices to determine which needed answering.

Aided by a delicious Pino Donaggio score and José Luis Alcaine’s genius cinematography, De Palma conducts this rousingly sensual caper from frame one to final bow as only a master can. With consistent drive, occasionally whimsical intensity and respectful awe for his beautiful stars within his always-inspired moving compositions, the man has crafted thorough euphoria for those so inclined. Gender-leveling sex toys, a myriad of modern technology and one particularly compelling mask come together as a new set of iconography to compliment such past successes as the Argento-esque Blow Out.

The operatic Passion is pulpy perfection. By now Brian De Palma could probably sleepwalk his way through such material, but to his credit he appears to still be giving it his tireless all.

– Tom Stoup

Learn more about Passion at TIFF 2012 here and the Toronto International Film Festival here.

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