(This post is an appendix to the post, “Brian De Palma’s Passion, or: Le Gaspard de la Nuit”, an attempt at an analysis of that movie. A second appendix, making another comparison between the way both movies storytell one moment, is “Brian De Palma’s Passion and Alain Corneau’s Love Crime: A Brief Style Comparison Part Two”. What follows contains major SPOILERS for both Passion and Love Crime.)
This appendix attempts to look at how Love Crime and Passion handle a piece of plot exposition to isolate the approach of Brian De Palma in conveying the same material, or more roughly speaking, the same information, in a manner that is both more visually dynamic, and more succinct. Though I give some introduction, it is ultimately superfluous, as the contrast should be obvious to any viewer. I give an example that is not inherently kinetic, is arguably anti-kintic, where the visual dynamism can be attributed to the style itself.
In this moment, Christine’s ex-boyfriend, Philippe (Patrick Mille) in Love Crime and Dirk (Paul Anderson) in Passion, are arrested for the murder of Christine after a blood stained scarf is found in their car. Crime gives us the information over three scenes, including a flashback where we see Isabelle actually place the scarf on the ride home. Passion makes this into a much shorter moment, part of Dani’s revelations, with Isabelle placing the scarf in Dirk’s car after he crashes it and crawls out drunk – the business of Dirk being drunk allows for this piece of exposition to much more compact. This revelation also comes only after this scene, so we’re unsure if Dirk is even guilty or not of the crime. The rest of the exposition for this moment is done all in one scene, in a single, elegant shot that moves from Dirk being informed of the possibility of his arrest, to the search of the car, the finding of the scarf, and his arrest. The camerawork alone is not sufficient for this to work, and at each moment there is something that an actor does, such as the police inspector showing Dirk the warrant, then folding it up when the man reaches for it. Though the camerawork is fluid, lyrical, at no point does any one act in this scene in a way that we might take to be unrealistic. That it is all done in one shot makes the dramatic movement all the more powerful, from the wide open shot of a prosperous executive on his way to work, to a close-up of a man under arrest, and with damning evidence against him, for murder.
All four parts, the two in each movie, are all well-cast, enough of a visual subject for the camera to rest on them. However, I think a very smart move was made in having someone like Paul Anderson play the part of the executive Dirk, for the simple reason that he doesn’t look like an executive, as Patrick Mille does – one could imagine Anderson playing a revolutionary or poet without difficulty. This is something very different from mis-casting; at no point do we doubt Anderson in the role. Instead, there is a tension from the appearance of the person and the expected look of someone in the profession, something we encounter in our own lives – “it’s funny, x doesn’t look at like a fireman, doctor, etc.” This tension, Dirk’s background, is never resolved, and it is unnecessary to resolve it – the tension itself makes the character that much more compelling.
The accompanying dialogue is in the subtitles.
The arrest scenes of the two movies side by side in a youtube clip.
There is then a cut to the camera panning back from the car, in the midst of being searched:
Cut to the scarf being discovered:
Cut back to Phillippe and the inspector as they see the discovery, the policeman who made the find bringing the scarf over, while another policeman gets in place behind in order to handcuff him:
A close-up of the hand-cuffing:
We then cut to the flashback, when Isabelle planted the scarf. Each image has a cut in between:
We now have the voiceover of the inspector, explaining to Phillippe what he thinks he tried to do, and we cut to an angle to the right of Isabelle:
We cut back to a point to Isabelle’s left:
Back to the profile shot:
We cut back to the garage; Phillippe insists he’s innocent:
The inspector replies:
Alternating angles for the conversation:
A new angle for Phillippe taken away:
A cut then to the prosecutor’s office, with Isabelle and her lawyer, after she has been freed:
Cut to Elizabeth:
The scene here continues on, but this roughly captures all that is conveyed in comparison scene in the re-make.
This scene will have no annotations, as it is a single shot where the camera moves from one point of action to another, without any cuts, with the close-up on Dirk ending in a dissolve.
(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.)