Loading...

Brian de Palma Explains How His Erotic Remake Passion Is Better Than the Original 

Thursday, Aug 29 2013
Comments
9083694.t.jpg

Brian De Palma had a good reason for remaking the erotic French thriller Love Crime: He could do it better.

"I think it's very dangerous to remake a classic," De Palma says. "Leave it alone."

But the 2010 corporate cat-fight flick about female frenemies had a framework he loved — drama, sex, backstabbing, secrets — plus enough wet filler that he could sub out for his trademark De Palma sizzle. "You go through all these laborious flashbacks," he groans. "I just got rid of all of that."

Related Stories

  • Statue of Oscar Shooting Heroin Hits Melrose (PHOTOS)

    The controversial artwork that looks like an Academy Awards Oscar statue shooting heroin made its way to Melrose Avenue as the big event was taking place yesterday, the artist, Plastic Jesus, told us. The appearance on Melrose outside Urban Outfitters attracted a good number of passersby and tourists who wanted to take selfies...
  • All the Oscar-Nominated Shorts, Reviewed

    Who says award-season winners have to be epic? If you're looking for an alternative to the lengthy features vying for recognition and box-office glory, ShortsHD and Magnolia Pictures have on offer the full slate of 2014 Oscar-nominated short films. Divided into three categories (documentary, animation, live-action), each featuring five nominees,...
  • Evolution of the Oscar Gift Bag

    The Oscar gift bag began in 2001 as sort of a children's party favor for the nominees and presenters. You know, just a little $10,000 goodie bag filled with some candy and trinkets. It quickly morphed into a six-figure behemoth stuffed with mink eyelashes, silk kimonos, cashmere pajamas and $45,000...
  • We'd Like to Help the Academy

    The Oscars may be as much of a meritocracy as most high school elections, but that doesn't mean they can't serve as a force for good. Despite how easy it is to entirely dismiss the entire affair — and the endless glad-handing and yearly coronation of undeserving winners make it...
  • Brian De Palma’s Sexy Melodrama Passion, Starring Rachel McAdams

    Your life surges ahead as it is, pretty much, but maybe tinted blue. Maybe everything around you is tilted a bit, and strips of light glow on the wall, like an SUV with its brights on is idling on a ramp facing your window blinds. Your world looks not like...

His redo, Passion, has saxophones and slanted shadows and an almost oppressive color palette, plus Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as advertising executives Christine and Isabelle. Christine is the bitchy blond Barbie who has it all: the corner office, the expensive shoes, the hot boyfriend and a million excuses to flaunt her superiority over her mousy brunette underling.

If the film starred Bradley Cooper and Steve Carell, it'd be a comedy. But when women get competitive, films get nasty — think Single White Female, Obsession, The Roommate, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

"Men get very like two rams banging their horns together; women are wilier," De Palma explains. "They do things like, 'What did you do to your hair?' My first wife, her mother would look at her daughter and go, 'Did you cut your hair?' My wife would go, 'Oh, God — what did I do wrong?' "

Likewise, instead of direct confrontation, McAdams tries to kill Rapace with kindness, giving her an expensive scarf that she loops around Rapace's neck like a noose, and later buying her phenomenally pricey, ankle-breaking stilettos that seem designed solely to prevent Rapace from running away. In a clip that will have art-house dudebros high-fiving each other once the GIF goes live, McAdams even pulls Rapace to her for a soft, deep lip-lock.

"That mafia kiss of death!" De Palma says with a laugh. "It's playful and it's insidious."

Naturally, Rapace wields her own sly weapons. She doesn't just want to stand up to McAdams — she wants her job. Before one picks up an actual knife — what, you were expecting a deathless De Palma flick? — they cut each other with nice words like thank you, you're welcome and I'm sorry.

"Women can play a subservient role very easily — and know how to maneuver through subservience," De Palma says. "I don't think you'd see a man do that. That's putting his ego on the line."

McAdams and Rapace trusted each other enough to feel safe getting cruel. They'd been friendly since both tried to siphon screentime from Robert Downey Jr. in 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and, as actresses who've seen their share of girl-on-girl rivalry, were delighted to help De Palma ratchet up the stakes.

In one scene, McAdams was supposed to accuse Rapace's lesbian assistant (Karoline Herfurth) of grabbing her ass. When the camera rolled, McAdams subbed in a stronger word.

"Suddenly, Rachel says, 'Cunt!' I went, 'Yikes!' "

He kept it in.

Of course, De Palma himself has come under attack from women, mainly because his films enjoy serving them up as sex objects waiting to be stabbed. But a De Palma heroine gives as good as she gets. You wouldn't want to rile The Fury's Gillian or Femme Fatale's Laure — and you definitely don't want to upset Carrie. You can't even blame the extreme violence in Carrie on Stephen King. In the original, Carrie's cruel mother dies of an induced heart attack. "When I read that, I said, 'Oh, that's exciting. What, she's going to fall down?' " De Palma yawns. "That's when I got the crucifixion idea."

At 72, De Palma still projects himself as the enfant terrible of Hollywood, the man who'd rather follow his gut and his crotch than chase studio dollars. Even when singled out by Tom Cruise to kickstart the Mission: Impossible franchise — a hit that made as much money as the director's next three biggest successes combined — De Palma infamously refused to return for the sequel.

"When they asked me to do another one, I said, 'Why would you do that?' " he grumbles. "Making multiple movies like Jurassic Park 1, 2 — I think Steven's going to make Jurassic Park 5! — that never made any sense to me."

It's not that De Palma feels responsible for protecting Great Art. Without sarcasm or false modesty, he admits that directors do their best work before 60. ("Even Hitchcock — he made 80 movies, and personally I think his films started to deteriorate after The Birds.") He just wants to continue his career the same way he began it: as a pressure-free provocateur.

So it makes sense that Passion is a sexy, silly trifle. What will be harder is getting critics to underestimate his next film, Happy Valley, a Joe Paterno biopic starring eight-time Academy Award nominee (with one win) Al Pacino. But De Palma, who's yet to receive a single Oscar nomination of his own, is committed to going ignored.

"I'm telling you, these award things where people stand up and tell you how great you are, I avoid them," he insists with a shrug. "Fortunately, I've never had to deal with it."

Reach the writer at anicholson@laweekly.com

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Wed 16
  2. Thu 17
  3. Fri 18
  4. Sat 19
  5. Sun 20
  6. Mon 21
  7. Tue 22

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!

Around The Web

Slideshows

  • Nicolas Cage's 10 Best Movie Roles
    As video-on-demand continues to become the preferred route of distribution for a certain kind of independent film, much is being made of Nicolas Cage's willingness to slum for a paycheck, with recent examples including already-forgotten, small-screen-friendly items like Seeking Justice, Trespass, Stolen, and The Frozen Ground. (His character names in these projects -- Will Gerard, Kyle Miller, Will Montgomery, and Jack Halcombe -- are as interchangeable as the titles of the films.) Aside from citing the obvious appeal of doing work for money (a defense Cage himself brought up in a recent interview with The Guardian), it's also possible to back Cage by acknowledging the consistency with which he's taken on "serious" roles over the years.

    David Gordon Green's Joe, which hits limited release this weekend (more details on that here), marks the latest instance of this trend, with Cage giving a reportedly subdued performance as an ex-con named Joe Ransom. In that spirit, we've put together a rundown of some of the actor's finest performances, all of which serve as proof that, though his over-the-top inclinations may make for a side-splitting YouTube compilation, Cage has amassed a career that few contemporary actors can equal. This list is hardly airtight in its exclusivity, so a few honorable mentions ought to go out to a pair of Cage's deliriously uneven auteur collaborations (David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes), 1983's Valley Girl, 1987's Moonstruck, and Alex Proyas's Knowing (a favorite of the late Roger Ebert).

    --Danny King
  • Ten Enduring Conspiracy Thrillers
    With the approaching release this week of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many critics, including L.A. Weekly’s own Amy Nicholson, have noted the film’s similarities (starting with the obvious: Robert Redford) to the string of conspiracy thrillers that dominated American cinema during the 1970s. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the most enduring entries in the genre -- most of them coming from the ‘70s, but with a few early-‘80s holdouts added in for good measure. This is by no means an exclusive list, and more recent films like Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out (1987), Jacques Rivette’s Secret Defense (1998), Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State (1998), Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (2005), and Redford’s own The Company You Keep (2012) speak to how well the genre has sustained itself over time. Words by Danny King.
  • Behind the Scenes of Muppets Most Wanted
    "The endurance of the Muppets isn't just the result of the creative skills of Henson and collaborators like Frank Oz, or of smart business decisions, or of sheer dumb luck," writes this paper's film critic Stephanie Zacharek in her review of Muppets Most Wanted. "It's simply that the Muppets are just ever so slightly, or maybe even totally, mad. Man, woman, child: Who can resist them? Even TV-watching cats are drawn to their frisky hippety-hopping and flutey, gravely, squeaky, squawky voices." Go behind the scenes with the hippety-hopping Muppets with these images.

    Read our full Muppets Most Wanted movie review.

Now Trending