Passion is 's new baby. Though the movie is a reworking of 's Crime d'Amour, everything about it is pure de Palma. Sex, sensuality and murder are on the menu, served with a poise that makes Passion my favorite de Palma movie ever.
The action sees Isabelle () and Christine (), as ambitious advertising executives whose power play extends well beyond the limits of professionalism. The passionate pair will use any means in the struggle for who's on top.
Here's what I love about Passion...
1) The cinematic references
Brian de Palma's reputation as the poor man's Hitchcock is both inadequate and completely, joyously accurate. The methods of directors like Hitchcock and Clouzot would not have filtered down to a more mainstream audience if de Palma had not paid them homage. However, the primary influence on Passion is clearly , the great director of Giallo movies, a spate of bloodthirsty Italian crime thrillers from the late 60s onwards. Passion deftly ticks off everything on the Giallo checklist: Black leather gloves, hallucinatory sequences, commentary on the voyeurism of theatre and, naturally, hot babes.
Part Single White Female, part The Devil Wears Prada, part Opera, de Palma's Passion is not just devoted to his leading ladies, but to cinema itself.
2) Unabashed titillation
Highlights include an 'ass cam,' Christine's draw of sex toys, gratuitous shower scenes and muchos girl-on-girl action. Oh, and also a man in a bondage dog mask.
3) It's high and trash art combined.
Passion hits that note between homage and pastiche to the genres he loves. This is a combination I've only seen done with such aplomb by in Twin Peaks, which is simultaneously a traditional daytime soap opera and totally, dementedly surreal. Passion is the art of both the Gods and the gutter, a love song to the bare flesh of crime, eroticism and Passion in every form. Just when you think it's going all the way trashy - 'What are you doing? Kissing that bitch!' - the impressive climax brings a showcase of arthouse intensity. This artistry means that de Palma's knock-on effect on contemporary culture cannot be ignored: with his signature brand of stylised sleaze, de Palma set the template for the potboiling sexual sadism of CSI, Criminal Minds, and the modern reboot of Hannibal.
4) Passion passes the Bechdel test
The test, coined by awesome cartoonist Alison Bechdel, specifies that a movie only passes if it features:
Two female characters,
who talk to each other...
about something other than a man.
You would be surprised at how many movies fail this. The guys in Passion are really just props, or perhaps more accurately, weapons with which the women can hurt each other. Irritating, Audi-driving boyfriend Dirk () and plodding Inspector Bach () fall neatly into this category. This is no ensemble cast: the titular Passion is all about the ladies. The only other character who adds anything new to the mix is Isabelle's assistant, Dani (), but I don't want to give anything away. Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say it's queer programming or feminist cinema, it still puts women at the forefront of the action. And with one woman in Passion saying to another, 'Do you think that no-one can tell what you really want? Her c*nt,' they certainly ain't talking about no man.
5) Whatever he does, de Palma always brings Passion
Brian de Palma summarised his love for the femme fatales very simply: 'I just like to shoot beautiful women'...or stab them, or strangle them, or blow them up, whatever suits. He is often maligned for being Eurosleaze, but Passion is certainly not a cynical enterprise. Maybe he doth protest too much on this one, but this is what de Palma had to say:
What's sleazy about them? These women look fantastic. I spent a lot of time making them look as stylish as possible!
There you have it, some reasons why I am passionate about Passion. And, of course, the movie has a very basic appeal that needs no intellectualizing: how often do you get to see Regina George and Lisbeth Salander get it on?
Watch the trailer if you need any further convincing.
Quotes from Brian de Palma courtesy of The Guardian.