(An explanation of the title of this post, a reference which I think is fitting both for this movie and its maker, can be found at, sigh, wikipedia. A good rendition of the pieces, by Ivo Pogorelich, can be found on youtube: part one, part two, part three. For those who find the subheading too pretentious might prefer the alternative, “Brian De Palma’s Passion, or: Planet Ice”, a title which I felt suited the cold machinations of the film, but one that I ultimately found too banal. What follows contains SPOILERS for Passion, Love Crime, and The Black Dahlia. It is not a review, but an attempt at an in-depth examination of Passion, and therefore assumes that the reader has seen the movie, and makes no attempt to explain the plot. Two appendices to this post, going over the different approaches by Passion and Love Crime in their storytelling are “Brian De Palma’s Passion and Alain Corneau’s Love Crime: A Brief Style Comparison Part One” and “Brian De Palma’s Passion and Alain Corneau’s Love Crime: A Brief Style Comparison Part Two”. On September 16th, 2013, De Palma a la Mod put up a link and recommendation of this post. Those familiar with the site know it to be the preeminent source for all things De Palma. Those unfamiliar with it are missing out. I am deeply grateful for the kind gesture.)
In his last feature film, Brian De Palma took someone else’s material, James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, and gave it a subtle re-working: though the book’s external structure remained, the story was transformed into a hidden network of sex, with Lee Blanchard wanting Bleichert, Blanchard’s wife, Kay Lake wanting Bleichert, and Bleichert wanting both. The movie’s revelation was Bleichert staring across at Madeleine Linscott and realizing that she was his double, a woman who acted on all her desires, sleeping with whoever she wanted, while Bleichert kept his passions hidden. The film was a new genre, an unerotic thriller, where sexual desire imprisoned you, and Dahlia ended with Bleichert glumly returning to the house where we see a slice of Kay Lake’s mouth, a detainee of the seraglio1. Passion feels like a companion piece, a movie that takes an existing work, Alain Corneau’s Love Crime (written by Corneau and Natalie Carter), and gives the characters’ motives an explicit sexual quality that was only occasionally implied in the first film. It is another in the genre of unerotic thriller: sex not as sex, but sex always as an expression of power. Where Dahlia was overwhelmed by its own poison, Passion has an energy the other lacks. Whatever their cruelties and misdeeds, we identify with Isabelle, and we are enraptured by Christine, and for the film to work we must have these connections. The movie’s energy is essential for what might be the its secondary purpose; De Palma has acknowledged that this is the dusktime of his career2, and given that Passion is often a scene-by-scene remake of Love Crime, it might be seen as an instruction kit to future film students, a legacy more helpful than anything De Palma might say in an interview: look, this is how you take the same material and tell the story visually, with greater dynamism and economy.
Dahlia was a portrait of Hollywood written in venom; Passion is a portrait of the corporate state drawn in arsenic. I do not think the title is an idle one – it is most definitely a play on the eternal passion, The Passion, as in The Passion of the Christ, a ridiculing of the modern ideal of corporation as creed, corporate life as the new religion, the corporation as a new christianity. The company which Christine and Isabelle work for is Koch Image International, and the coincidence of the name with a villainous fraternity is not, I think, idle either3. The film is by an older man, yet it is a provocation on the order of Harmony Korine, undetected by viewers and critics: a corporate world re-telling of the Christ story. Christine’s name is a carryover from the original, but with a specific meaning: Christine.
Christine becomes a martyr, but she has also been a martyr in the past, somehow she is an eternal martyr. Her twin sister saved her own life:
When I was six years old, my parents bought me and my twin sister a bike…’cos we liked to share everything.
You have a twin sister?
So we would take turns riding it to school. And Clarissa was so much better on the bike than I was. She could pedal standing up and, you know, ride no hands. So, one day, it was my turn and I was just so determined that I was…gonna show her I could be just as good as she could. I started pedaling faster and faster and she had to run like hell to keep up with me. And then I-I let go of the handlebars and I felt like I was flying. And it felt so good. I just wanted to see myself, so I-I looked…into the window and I caught my reflection. And then I-I don’t know what happened. I swerved into the street and…This truck was coming right at me. And then I suddenly felt my sister push me from behind out of the way and I flew over the handlebars. And the last thing I remember…was this horrible thunk.
When she gives this speech, she of course wears a cross, but one appropriate to a corporate god: we’re unsure if it is has any significance other than jewelry, and most importantly, it has a very sharp end, so sharp you could stab someone with it.
Christine has a disciple, but this disciple is a Judas, and gives her what is known as a Judas kiss:
Somehow, she rises from the dead after a few days:
In “Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, or: Two Women” (under the section “The Woman In White, The Woman In Black”), I tried to give a brief overview of an under-discussed aspect of the director’s work, the way his women characters wear black and white clothing to play with the ideals of good and bad women; a woman wears white, but only in disguise, or the woman in black is actually the woman in white. Something a little different is done with the costumes of the three main women, an example of how character can be forcefully conveyed, visually, by costume. Passion is a re-telling of the christ story, but as a pagan tale. Christine starts out in the same mysterious gray as the title character of Femme Fatale before she takes on her new identity; then it becomes clear she is a sun god, and she is the only one to wear white outfits, then every color of the prism. She is a god of a materialist age as well, so she always wears jewelry, often ostentatious diamond pieces, and lives in a house with roman pornography and a Louis XV sofa.
There is only one color she does not wear, and this appears in the shoes she wears in her resurrection. The death and return to life of the pagan god represented the cycle of the harvest, so of course the one missing color is the obvious one in a revived pagan god, a return to spring: green. She is a pagan god, but also a god of an uber consumer age, so the color of the resurrection shows up on pricey heels that Christine once loved:
Her disciple, Isabelle, occasionally wears dark olive, once a grey hoodie, but with two exceptions, otherwise always wears black, and visually, this carries more than any dialogue might. She is Christine’s disciple, and she is in Christine’s shadow, even after she dies. Isabelle is granted one piece of light in her dark costume, a white scarf from the sun god. There are two other times when she wears the color. Once is in relation to her mentor: when she takes over Christine’s role as Dirk’s bed partner, she has on a white shirt. The other is when she is indicted for murder and they search her house: her hands make a prayer form, she pleads with the detective to look for her scarf, all while she wears a white sweatshirt. The implication of purity here is false: she committed the murder. Isabelle is entirely shadow herself, cryptic to the audience and to Christine. The movie reprises the same trick as the original, having a beautiful actress, Ludivigne Sangier in Love Crime, and Noomi Rapace, now, convincingly play someone who think themselves awkward and unattractive: the dark clothes of Isabelle are those of a woman who wants to hide her own physical form. Isabelle is ambiguous internally but physically as well, a woman who often appears as androgynous, even wearing a dark tie in one scene. It also feels as if she changes height: at work, it’s as if she has the awkwardness of a tall woman towering over her colleagues, and yet in the scene when her house is searched after her arrest, she is seemingly as small as a child.
All the qualities of Isabelle flow through her appearance and her gestures. In Love Crime, she had a constant deer eyed look – you weren’t sure for a while if she was mentally impared, or if she was thinking obsessively about something, way off, out of contact with her facial features. Passion‘s Isabelle is something different, a woman who appears entirely normal until you look straight at her, and there’s something of a protective emptiness there, the woman willing herself into something unreadable. She is described as a sphinx by Christine in the original Love Crime, but Passion drops the line as redundant. Christine has no idea where Isabelle is from, and she never learns. The Isabelle of the original had a sister to whom she was close, but this movie provides no such family details. Love Crime‘s Isabelle reveals that she wanted to be loved, but Passion‘s Isabelle doesn’t even give us that – she certainly feels something for Dirk and Christine but what exactly that feeling is, and how much it is tied up with material aspiration – she eats in an exclusive restaurant with Dirk, she clearly wants Chrisine’s house, her bonding moment with Christine involves her buying expensive shoes for Isabelle – is left unresolved. All this mystery is helpful for making what takes place more believable, the audience having no idea quite what is beneath Isabelle’s opaque facade4. The mystery also makes Isabelle a useful instrument for the narrative, a protaganist of which we know nothing, and upon whom anyone in the audience can project themselves.
The limo dialogue in Passion, a crucial scene in both movies, the closest we get to an explicit explanation of the characters of Christine and Isabelle:
You’re very secretive, you know.
Yes. I mean, we’ve been working together, what, eight months, and I don’t even know where you’re from. Or what you want. What’d you want?
I don’t know. What do you want?
Well, I used to want to be admired.
I admire you.
Hmm. Well, now I want to be loved.
CHRISTINE gives ISABELLE a long kiss on the lips.
You need some color.
She applies lipstick to ISABELLE’s lips.
Isabelle, of course, stares out at the audience while Christine mentions how little she knows of her, as if we know something of Isabelle that the other woman does not – yet there is nothing in the look. We are in the same situation as Christine, our eyes meeting this woman, and we see nothing but a blank, either an emotional emptiness that is the outcome of an unknown cause, or a purposeful shield, whose cause, whether it be inborn or the result of some trauma, remains unknown.
The dialogue for the same scene in Love Crime:
I bet you were a secretive little girl.
I don’t know. Maybe.
Sure. Like you are now. A real little sphinx. You know, I can read sphinxes’ minds.
And what do you see?
You didn’t like yourself much.
I wanted to be loved.
I wanted to be admired. It’s now I want to be loved. There’s a lipstick in my purse Try it. It’ll highlight your eyes.
ISABELLE applies the lipstick.
Love Crime portrayed Isabelle as transformed after the murder, into someone with gorgeous untamed hair and a confident frisk to her walk, but this makes Isabelle’s character more defined, more easy to understand, and no such hints are there with Passion‘s Isabelle – she remains a mystery to ourselves, as well as perhaps to herself. All the qualities we see in her before the murder are there afterwards, and her dress remains entirely the same.
Isabelle from Love Crime, the before and after obvious:
Isabelle from Passion, after she is freed, indistiguishable from before:
Isabelle’s own disciple, Dani, was a man in Love Crime, and is transformed into a beautiful woman in Passion. Isabelle might be considered a median between Christine and Dani, someone with a mix of the control, intelligence, and ambition of her mentor, and the animal spirit of Dani, the impulsive energy that drives her to murder. Dani has the stereotypical red hair of the passionate and hot-tempered, the figure and manner of a wood sylph or sprite. She speaks too loudly and too emotionally. Her jeans are always sensually tight. Where the clothes of Christine imply a regal power, Dani’s always signify something primal and anarchic. Her outfits are full of bright color, perhaps garish, perhaps a little louche. She is closest to an animal spirit, and she sports things with leopard spots. Her sensibility is chaotic, and she’s the only one to wear stripes.
IN DREAMS, END RESPONSIBILITIES / THE FUTURE OF THE ILLUSION
All of De Palma’s films deal with the psychology surrounding images, what we wish to see and why we wish to see it, and Passion is an examination of the theme done with the spare, effortless touch of a master. Christine and Isabelle must come up with a new ad campaign, and Isabelle’s successful proposal is Dani walking around in tight jeans with a camera in an ass pocket, the spectators captured as they gawk her. Dani is exploited for the purpose of the ad, but she is complicit in the exploitation. The spectators look at her for the most obvious reason, and the camera looks back at them looking. The shot that sets this up is Isabelle in mild costume, in sunglasses, and Dani’s earrings, her background a maze of dressing room mirrors, the viewer uncertain at first where the camera is or who is being watched – but of course this is shot as well from Dani’s back pocket.
Dani participates in this ad because of her love for Isabelle, though Isabelle is unaware of the strength of her feeling. Isabelle is simply playing when she refers to Dani as her girlfriend, yet this sequence isn’t just a fantasy for men, it is a fantasy for Dani as well, to truly play this part. That this put-on is real, that this is an actual amateur production, that people are truly caught unawares is the appeal of the ad – when the company wants to re-do the ad with professional actors, Isabelle circumvents them by uploading the original ad to youtube.
The company party featuring Isabelle’s humiliation on closed camera, the humiliation of all on various closed cameras, is a variation on the ad’s idea of being caught unaware, though you are not caught in the act of looking, you are simply caught – it is expected that you surrender your privacy in a corporate space. You are humiliated in pictures, and you must find it funny and nothing more. You must. You must comply, you must be a willing participant because the corporate god, Christine, wills you to be so. I have quoted Henri Bergson’s thesis from his Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic before5, and I quote it again, because I think it properly captures what is behind Christine’s laughter at Isabelle’s humiliation in this scene:
Here I would point out, as a symptom equally worthy of notice, the ABSENCE OF FEELING which usually accompanies laughter. It seems as though the comic could not produce its disturbing effect unless it fell, so to say, on the surface of a soul that is thoroughly calm and unruffled. Indifference is its natural environment, for laughter has no greater foe than emotion. I do not mean that we could not laugh at a person who inspires us with pity, for instance, or even with affection, but in such a case we must, for the moment, put our affection out of court and impose silence upon our pity. In a society composed of pure intelligences there would probably be no more tears, though perhaps there would still be laughter; whereas highly emotional souls, in tune and unison with life, in whom every event would be sentimentally prolonged and re-echoed, would neither know nor understand laughter.
Discounting any empathy we might have with this person portrayed, there is something ridiculous, which provokes laughter, in the situation of a woman smashing her car into a pillar. We only have to ignore her weeping afterwards. This is a movie that takes the point one step further: there is something ridiculous, something which provokes laughter, in a spoiled, wealthy woman who expects to get laid and instead gets her throat slashed; we only have to ignore her murder. Emotional distance taken to his most extreme, where children can find laughter in the physical comedy of the throes of death, their very infancy making them unaware of the seriousness of it all, can be found in a passage in Jim Thompson’s “This World, Then The Fireworks”, a passage which embodies Bergson’s thesis6:
We burst into laughter simultaneously. It was so funny, you see. It was funnier even than Charlie Chaplin in the movies, or Krazy Kat in the funny papers.
The man on the floor didn’t have a head, hardly any head at all. And that was funny, wasn’t it? And it was funny the way Mom was laughing, spraying out pink stuff and making shiny red bubbles with her mouth. But the funniest thing, what we laughed loudest about was Dad and the woman. The woman who was the wife of the man without any head. The wife of the man Dad had killed to keep from getting killed.
Dad and the woman. Dad who went to the electric chair, and the woman who committed suicide. Standing there naked.
That it is Christine’s own ruthless sensibility and own ruthless sense of humor there in her own murder is conveyed by the mask worn by Isabelle – it is a mask that is a cast of Christine’s own face. Juliette Daniel, an actress in the infamous The Room makes clear why she doesn’t go to screenings of the movie where people often laugh at her, laugh at her during her love scenes: because the laughter hurts7. Christine’s murder is the same reply delivered with a knife: it hurts. Where Love Crime conveyed Isabelle’s reaction to her humiliation at the company party through a series of shots of her stricken, then possessed by a strange blankness8, Passion improves on this, by instead having Isabelle join in the laughter, but with a laugh that puts a chill in the viewer’s spine, a laugh that is shot through with madness. The scene is followed by an economic gesture which establishes myriad elements in one sweeping shot: Isabelle sits on a bench looking at the poster for “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn”, while ordering the pills from a doctor, the camera spinning around until it settles on her face, entirely opaque, surrounded by the green chaos of the trees, the leaves an indistinct, unfocused cluster that conveys the primal mess in her head, an inside that is cold and infintely fractured.
The relationship between Christine and Isabelle in the original is that of a mother and daughter, touched by a very subtle erotic note. With Passion, the erotic is made a major note, made explicit, and made unerotic. One wonders whether Christine feels any attraction for Isabelle at all; what one doesn’t question is that Christine gives Isabelle a deep kiss to demonstrate that it is within her power to do so. She gives this kiss for the same reason she “kidnaps” her, to play with this woman, to manipulate her. The movie makes clear that Christine has many lovers, that she’s sexually adventurous, but there’s no hint that she actually enjoys the act of sex, in and of itself. In the one moment we see of her in the midst of sex, she tells Dirk to stop: she isn’t aroused at all. Here, Dirk wears a mask that is a cast of her own face – Christine’s sexual fantasy is sex with herself. For Isabelle, a great part about sex is the power you have over your partner. In a prelude to the act, a lover gives her a necklace while wearing a dog mask. Her drawer of novelties contains a strap-on, presumably to be worn with partners whether they be male or female. She humiliates Isabelle by watching her sex tape, and forcing Dirk to break up with her. She humiliates Dani by revealing that she knows she’s a lesbian, by kissing her against her will, by telling her that no one would believe Dani’s word against a corporate superior in a sexual harassment case. In this movie, sociopathy makes you a better corporate employee, and sex is an expression of your sociopathy. Domination expressed by sex is there in the judas kiss, in Dani’s blackmail of Isabelle, and in the murder scene.
This masterful sequence at the center of the film, one of De Palma’s finest, boils down the director’s obsesssions into a few short minutes and the sparest of gestures, featuring a version of “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn” where the dancers look out at us as we look at them, seemingly perceiving what we ourselves desire, what we expect in this sequence, just as the ass cam captures the spectators as they stare. The ballet is one aesthetics of movement, and the camera moving about Christine’s house is another. The dancers see us looking at them, but they also somehow see us as we play a role on the right side of the split screen, an intruder in this woman’s house. We are seen as observers of an artistic work, but something other than an artistic work, a fantasy of seeing Christine destroyed. As we move closer and closer to Christine’s murder, we are given a close-up of the female dancer on the left, a look that is unsettlingly both seeing and unseeing. “Afternoon of a Fawn” is an unmistakably sensual piece of music, and there is something equally sexual in the intrusion into Christine’s house. The camera enters her bedroom and captures her while she is getting dressed. She expects us, the visitor, to be a sexual partner. The killer might be Isabelle, but the killer is masked, and so the killer could be anyone, and the murder is filmed from the viewer’s perspective, so the killer is all of us. We look at her, while the killer’s hand holds her face with the forcefulness of a lover, and Christine looks back at us as if we are a lover, the dancer in turn looking at us as we play this role, but with the cool distance of the performer. Christine suddenly recognizes that the masked figure is Isabelle because of her eyes, the eyes incriminate her, and her face is overwhelmed with fear. This is a movie where sex is always in the service of power, and the sensuality of this sequence makes further sense in this context: it is a sex scene, without sex, exclusively about domination, this unattainable woman suddenly in our grasp, under the power of the viewer, caught in fear, and it ends with an ejaculation, her throat spurting with blood, blood which falls on us, the white mask of the killer9.
This sequence perhaps embodies the idea that movies are often a kind of mad fantasy in which we fall sway, one which we then leave for sanity. Sometimes the film involves a character engaging in violent retribution before order is restored, or a dream of obscene wealth before they return to normal, or only slightly wealthier, life. Here, we have a character, Christine, who is extraordinarily charismatic, for whom we can understand Isabelle’s attraction, yet who also has all the qualities of the archetypal villain. She has no details which might make her more human, rather than an ideal for veneration or hatred – the one personal story she tells about herself is completely made up. Where Bleichert in Dahlia was a blank allowing him to be the ideal proxy for vicarious erotic adventures, Isabelle is a blank who serves as a proxy victim. We wish to see Christine punished for what she did to Isabelle, punish her as a proxy for people who’ve humiliated us, the viewer, and yet we do not wish any guilt for doling out this punishment. In Love Crime, it is obvious from the outset that Isabelle is the killer. Here, it is left unclear, and Isabelle is at her most sympathetic in the scenes after her arrest, and we do not wish her to be guilty.
In Love Crime, we’re shown Isabelle transformed by Christine’s betrayal, and then changed again by her killing. The Isabelle of Passion, appears unchanged – the betrayals of Dirk and Elizabeth hurt her deeply, yet there is no sense that something in her character has been re-forged. Arguably, the same callousness that Christine shows is there in Isabelle. Christine is deeply manipulative, and Isabelle has no problem with being equally manipulative, though she does not quite have Christine’s skill at it – yet. A key line, not there in the original’s scene, comes at the business party. I bold it:
Well, you see that guy over there, the bald guy, with his nose in his drink?
He’s a very big fish for our company. If you land him, you can run the account.
Oh, I-I can’t. I’m not like you. I don’t know how to do this.
You’re more like me than you think.
Isabelle must attempt to seduce this man to get what she wants; she perhaps accedes to Christine’s kiss for this purpose as well. Christine is a woman who wants men to wear a mask of her own face when they have sex with her, she is in love with herself, and this is why she is drawn to Isabelle: because this woman is so much like her. In Love Crime, Christine tells Isabelle that she’ll force her to resign; Passion has Christine making the threat not to Isabelle, but to Dani. Despite all that has happened, she wants Isabelle to stay. It is Dani, the one of intemperate and passionate feeling, that she views as the malign influence. This makes sense because all the ill consequences of the movie arise when these people truly have feelings for each other, and the games they play have hurtful consequences, and cannot be laughed away. Isabelle is someone who keeps herself closed off to most people, so that when her openness to Dirk and Christine is abused, it is more devastating than they realize. Just as Christine is manipulative of Isabelle’s affection for her, taking it for granted that it will always be there, so Isabelle is aware of Dani’s devotion to her, and exploits it. What she does not know is the depth of that feeling. The underlying passion of each goes unacknowledged by the other, and for each it ends up destroying them.
That Isabelle knows Dani is in her power, and that she assumes a deference on her part, is there after Isabelle gives Christine her judas kiss, in a line which will then be twisted back on Isabelle. It is not in the original, and makes clear again the way that Isabelle does not change in this movie, but always is a queen in waiting:
Isabelle, what are you doing?
What’d you mean?
Kissing that bitch? I saw you. After all she done?
Don’t take that tone with me. Who do you think you’re talking to. Shut up and go back to work.
After Dani reveals that she knows Isabelle is the one who killed Christine:
What do you want?
First of all, I don’t like that tone of voice. Change it!
This movie began with Dani in the tightest jeans possible supposedly for the purposes of work, but actually out of her devotion to Isabelle. Christine kisses Isabelle, and she perhaps does not resist because she wishes to get ahead. This strange mix of love and servitude reaches its nadir at the tail part of the film, where Dani treats Isabelle, a woman she loves, as something like a life-size doll to be undressed.
The final sequence is a resolution of the idea of movies as revenge fantasy, images without consequence. Isabelle finds herself under someone’s will again, her escape from Christine only resulting in her confinement under Dani. The final dream sequence embodies all that is within her, a fear that she will be exposed for the murder, but also the simpler fear that she, this cryptic character, will be exposed, the way the sex tape exposed her. Isabelle does not want to be punished for the murder, and yet she wants to be punished. She wanted Christine dead, but she also wants her alive again. In this dream, both things happen, with Christine’s twin alive, and Christine’s twin magically appearing behind Isabelle in order to choke her to death. We in the audience wished Christine would die, without Isabelle being guilty, and in another movie we would have been granted this wish entirely: a villain like Christine would be killed, and after the hero was wrongly accused, the true killer would turn out to be someone else. We now wish Isabelle to escape her confinement from Dani, and yet we don’t want her to be a murderer. The audience is given its wish and it is taken away at the very same time, a reflection of this idea of images without consequences, dreams without any connection to reality. We wish to dive into a mad fantasy of revenge, and then return to the sane world; we are here given our fantasy, but we are forbidden an escape. Isabelle chokes Dani to death, in a sequence nearly as graphic as Torn Curtain, with Isabelle’s face twisted into something of animal-like fury, yet it turns out to be but a dream, perhaps everything was a dream, but no: Dani is dead, strangled by Isabelle in her sleep.
De Palma has said in an interview that he believes a director’s best work may well end in his fifties10. This movie, I think, refutes that statement.
(Two appendices to this post, going over the different approaches by Passion and Love Crime in their storytelling are “Brian De Palma’s Passion and Alain Corneau’s Love Crime: A Brief Style Comparison Part One” and “Brian De Palma’s Passion and Alain Corneau’s Love Crime: A Brief Style Comparison Part Two”. On August 21st, 2013, a lengthy section was added dealing with the way Christine and Isabelle are similar. On August 31, 2013, a brief correction was added to footnote 3. On May 6, 2015, the gif of Christine’s murder was added. On that same day, this post underwent a badly needed session of copy editing. On May 8, 2015, the section referencing Jim Thompson’s “This World, Then The Fireworks” was added.)
(All images from the movie Passion copyright SBS Productions, Integral Film, France 2 Cinéma, and associated producers; images from the movie Love Crime copyright SBS Films, France 2 Cinéma, Divali Films, and associated producers.)
2 From “Brian De Palma Maybe Has Peaked, And He Knows It” by Rich Juzwiak:
Are you actively working on your next project?
Yes, I’m working on a Joe Paterno movie with Al Pacino.
How is it going?
It’s going good—we have a very good script. And now we’re in the process of budgeting.
What is it like to reunite with Pacino?
Two, old warriors going up the mountain one more time.
3 From a board meeting scene:
Though I think the portrait of corporate sociopathy well fits the company name, it turns out the choice of name had none of the implied affiliation.
From “Brian De Palma talks about his stylish new remake, Passion“, an interview with Ben Kenigsberg:
AVC: The advertising agency is called Koch Image International. Is that a jab at the Koch brothers’ media saturation?
BDP: No. I’m searching for a German name. I look at German names, and I come up with something that seems to be effective, J.J. Koch. The art director calls me up, “What’s the name of the company?” I look at all these German names, and I come up with one I think that I like.
4 Isabelle’s house is a further reflection of her own opaque character: where Christine’s place has the expensive, anti-septic feel that gives it the feel of an extension of her office, what we see of Isabelle’s is mainly a large bed – suitable for someone whose mad dreams first give inspiration to the ad that shapes the plot, and then madder dreams which overwhelm the characters – and a wall of cupboards whose contents remain hidden to us, a great metaphor for Isabelle’s own soul.
We might see this by also comparing their houses to the dwellings of the respective characters in the original movie.
Christine’s house in Love Crime, an expensive but warm mansion:
Isabelle’s house is a similar warm, slightly smaller, but still luxrious mansion:
Some shots of Christine’s office in Passion:
Some shots of Christine’s house in Passion:
Isabelle in bed, and Isabelle’s house, filled with drawers that are opened and searched when she’s arrested:
Though Isabelle’s office has a very distinct look from her apartment, as opposed to Christine’s, we see this theme of closed cabinets holding at secrets we can only guess at in her office as well:
Note the way that the houses are used effectively to convey visually in a succinct manner, something about the characters of Christine and Isabelle in Passion, whereas this opportunity goes unused in Love Crime: there, we can say of the owners of both houses that they have money, that one has much more than the other, that they both have refined, elegant tastes, and that is all.
In the ten years since shooting this scene, Juliette has learned how to laugh with Room fans, even while they’re laughing at her. She attends Room Q&As and fan conventions. She posts polite, smiley face-laden responses to people that quote the movie on her Facebook page. But she will not, under any circumstances, attend a public showing of the film that made her famous.
“I just don’t feel the need to subject myself to that,” she said when we spoke recently. “What is it that Tommy says in the movie? ‘Express yourself and do whatever you want, just don’t hurt anybody.’”
She laughed. “Yeah,” she said. “Well. It hurts.”
8 The scene where Isabelle is humiliated at the office party in Love Crime, a few shots from the moment directly afterwards, and a final close-up when she starts working on her plan:
9 That we are complicit in these images and all the images of the film, that we, the audience, want these sequences is there in the outward look that Isabelle seemingly gives us, the audience at two other points in the movie. This is not to suggest that we are condemned for wanting these things, only that there be honesty that certain things do not occur and recur in movies and the press out of happenstance, but because of the audience’s own desires. Isabelle looks out at us right after she has the idea in bed for the ass cam ad, the one where the passers-by themselves will be watched, and right before she is humiliated by the surveillance video which catches her having a breakdown.
10 From “Brian De Palma Maybe Has Peaked, And He Knows It” by Rich Juzwiak:
There is a widely held belief that artists peak at some point. Do you ever think about that?
I agree with that. I think Tarantino said something like that too, I think that it’s true. And I’m a great student of directors over the many years. I’ve read all the books and watched their work, and I think you made your best movies in your thirties, your forties, your fifties. And if you do anything good after that, God bless you.
So, for the record, you’re saying that you peaked?
Could be. Could be. When you’re got movies like Carrie and Untouchables and Scarface out there, I don’t know.
That’s awfully humble for somebody who spends his days directing people.
Well, it’s just a reality. Making a really great movie is a kind of convergence of a whole bunch of things that happen at a certain time in your life. And it doesn’t happen a lot.