Wednesday, September 04, 2013


When a director cruises into the late part of his career on the fumes of his past achievements, working and reworking familiar themes and stylistic strategies, mindful, perhaps even baiting the expectations of her or his audience, the result might be described as evidence of a hopeless rut or, perhaps more generously, comfort food for those fans who enjoy seeing the artist (hacks usually don’t bother with things like familiar themes or stylistic strategies) hanging out in places that somehow feel right, feel earned. It’s a long way from Rio Bravo to Rio Lobo, and it seems unlikely that anyone would prefer the latter over the former, but Howard Hawks’ final movie is enjoyable on its own terms just the same, not least of which for the chance it provides to enjoy the company of a master of Hollywood storytelling as he looks back on a long career, perfectly comfortable with the inevitable charges of endlessly repeating himself, fully aware that for the general audience it was never as much about him, the director, so much as it was about the images, the actors who embodied his ideals, and of course the tales spun.

The director who, after establishing himself commercially, begins to experiment with ways of telling stories, with the purpose of telling stories, is a much rarer phenomenon. George Lucas has clucked for years about his true desire to make avant-garde films, to use the phenomenal success of Star Wars to finance finding different ways to employ and interpret cinematic language. But whatever opportunities to fulfill that desire which have arisen have consistently given way to a sort of creative ennui. Lucas has become satisfied with lording over an empire of special effects, forever repackaging, extending or otherwise tinkering with the Star Wars legacy (and the films themselves) rather than channeling even a tiny percentage of his commercial clout toward much more than lip service in the direction of realizing his supposed true heart.

Lucas’ fellow ex-movie brat Francis Ford Coppola, however, has always, however compulsively, however foolishly, bet on technology to help him feel his way toward untested methods of visual and narrative movie magic, with the occasional commercial success funding his continuous courting of folly and perhaps even a breakthrough or two. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the man who made a fortune from The Godfather and then gambled it against movies like Apocalypse Now, One from the Heart and Rumble Fish, who created his own empire, one financed in large part by the Napa Valley grape, in order to spend his autumn years on experimental features like Youth without Youth and Tetro, would continue pursuing that searcher’s impulse, risking derision and obscurity along the way.

(In a recent interview, Coppola spoke of this experimental impulse: “What I was trying to do with those films was to make three student films in order to try and set a new trajectory and try to say, ‘Well, what happens if I have no resources?’ Now, having done that, my new work is going to be much more ambitious and bigger in scope and budget and ambition, but now building on a new confidence or assurance. The three little films were very useful. I'm glad I did it. I hope George Lucas does it, because he has a wonderful personal filmmaking ability that people haven't seen for a while.”)

Coppola has been accused of career complacency, of preferring to drink wine and cook elaborate meals and watch his daughter continue in his footsteps over pursuing further Hollywood success himself. And if it’s true, who really could blame him? But regardless of their uneven quality as art, Coppola’s late films have hardly been complacent. Wherever his muse eventually takes him, in them resides the spirit of a director in his mid ‘70s who continues to fiddle with his mastery of the art form, looking for fertile new ways of expression while approaching that task, often maddeningly, as if he knows nothing. His new movie, Twixt, aligns imperfectly with this spirit.

Strictly speaking, the story inside Twixt is probably the least interesting element in it. It involves Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), a near-burnt-out writer of horror fiction on a threadbare book-signing tour who makes a stop in a small Northern California town, where he encounters the somewhat too gregarious sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern), a serial third-person abuser who would like nothing more than to collaborate with Baltimore on a book about a notorious mass killing that took place in town years ago. It seems that several young orphans were poisoned by a priest who felt it best to murder them in their innocence before their souls could be stolen by a pack of occult-oriented bikers who lived across the lake. According to La Grange, the townspeople believe that the spirits of those orphans have remained adrift, haunting the town’s clock tower, which boasts seven faces, all of them bearing different, incorrect times. La Grange also hopes that Baltimore might help him solve a mysterious set of new murders, the latest victim being the girl with a stake driven through her chest who lies in the walk-in freezer morgue just off the sheriff’s office. La Grange blames those same occult bikers, who apparently still live across the lake, for the recent murders-- the orphan killings would appear to have occurred in the distant past, so why are those damn kids and their hogs and ducktails and rock ‘n’ roll still hanging around?

With one eyebrow cocked and his curiosity peaked, Baltimore shuffles around town, poking about for information, occasionally sitting in his hotel room, Skyping with his impatient editor (David Paymer), who demands a promised outline for a new book, and his impatient ex-wife (Joanne Whalley, Kilmer’s real-life ex), who threatens to sell his prized first edition of Leaves of Grass to pay bills. It’s no wonder the guy can’t sleep, and when he does he encounters none other than the spectral visage of Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin), who engages with him in discussions about the sacrifices necessary to turn hackwork into personal prose, and a mysterious little girl called V (Elle Fanning) who stands out gleaming-white amidst the stylized darkness of a nightmare forest, her golden hair braided and framing a pair of sunken, red-tinged eyes and a mouthful  of braces meant to reign in what look an awful lot like fangs. V reminds Baltimore not only of the town’s awful past but also of his own—at some point he lost a daughter, either emotionally or perhaps even physically, and it’s his attempt to reconnect with her by uncovering the town’s mysteries that keeps him and the movie stoked.

But for as elaborate and strenuous as the description of Twixt’s “plot” may sound, the movie itself has little in the way of traditional narrative urgency, and there are all sorts of clues early on that the story may not have been Coppola’s foremost concern. Why, for example, would Baltimore’s editor secure him a book signing in such a sleepy town, one which doesn’t even have a book shop? (He ends up tucked into the back of a hardware store, surrounded by lawn and gardening supplies.) And there’s far too much emphasis on Baltimore’s isolation—by the time we get to Kilmer improvising impersonations of gay 1960’s basketball players and Brando (doing Kurtz) into the camera, there’s only the most tenuous connection left (it seems) with the bravura visual stylist who captured Martin Sheen breaking down in a hotel room, apparently for real, and built an entire epic around his protagonist’s fragile mental stability.

If I’ve made Twixt sound borderline insufferable, well, for many it is. And much of the setup of the movie suggests a serious flagging of visual imagination on Coppola’s part, often seeming curiously immobile, much like the director himself, who can be seen, in a behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD (shot and edited by his granddaughter) presiding over the set on a chair from which he rarely rises. But to entirely discount Twixt (as the review linked above does) based on the notion that it doesn’t play like a conventional horror movie should, or the way past Coppola movies have, is to perhaps turn a blind eye to the things that make Twixt worth seeing.

The nightscapes imagined for Twixt invigorate Coppola like nothing else seems to. They are beautifully, sensually false-- Kilmer wandering about in blue-tinged shadows that are cut only by a heartbreaking moon that would have made Méliès smile, among woods which seem soaked in inky, inexplicable sorrow. Much of that sorrow is also supplied by Fanning-- even from the spectral plane through which she glides, she still hides those giant braces from Kilmer like an embarrassed schoolgirl would, and their conversations are strangely touching in ways that I think Coppola often keeps deliberately diffuse. For an extra frisson of disorientation, he photographs Kilmer and Fanning separately, merging her brilliantly lit form with the darkness in which Kilmer moves in such a way that subtly emphasizes her intrusion upon “reality” and keeps the viewer slightly tilted, emotionally speaking. Even the overly literal (and literary) conceit of Baltimore bonding with Poe as his drink-fueled spiritual guide works better than it probably should, because of our awareness of the writer’s unreal occupation of the space he shares in Baltimore’s dreams—Poe here looks like a walking, talking daguerreotype--  but also because their conversations, particularly the ones centered on how one makes literature resonate for the writer and the reader, lead Coppola to his real subject, how one grapples with grief-laden guilt.

I resented Coppola’s attempt to rationalize the narrative (and the very making) of The Godfather Part III by inserting himself into it as a surrogate for Michael Corleone’s painful redemption—it played cynically, like a crucial break in faith with the pact the previous two films made with the audience. But Twixt is a different beast—you can sense Coppola feeling his way around inside the movie as it unfolds, and it has the lumpiness, the occasional highs and the embarrassing lows of a project that hasn’t entirely been worked out ahead of time. His visual experimentation may not redeem the whole of the film, but it informs the basis of the feeling that drives its most affecting moments. By the time the story of what really happened to Baltimore’s daughter is revealed, in another goose bump-inducing visual moment which finds the movie’s two authors, one dead, one alive, at the top of a dreamscape cliff staring down at an event Baltimore has spent years avoiding (it indirectly references a tragedy in Coppola’s own life), it’s easy to forgive Twixt’s many narrative warts in favor of the empathy the director has achieved.

I understand why people won’t like Twixt, and I’m not convinced I would ever need to revisit it myself, but it seems unfairly callous, and willfully ignorant, to simply dismiss it as an inexplicable bomb, a landmark of senility in a once-grand career. Coppola may not have another purely great film in him, but it’s reassuring to know that he’s still out there pushing boundaries, searching for emotion, trying and sometimes failing to reinvent himself and his methods, even if no one seems to care.


Which brings us to the Strange Case of Brian De Palma. The man who directed masterpieces like Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Carlito’s Way and Casualties of War has always been a polarizing figure in modern cinema, accusations of misogyny, artistic cannibalism and narrative incoherence being among the usual and most relentlessly repeated complaints. The misogyny charges stand only if you can ignore the multitude of great and sympathetic roles there are for women in his films, or if you believe that every instance of pursuit and violation of females in cinema, or the absence of a pedestal upon which women must be constantly placed, counts as misogyny. Those shouting “Copycat!” too easily discount that the history of popular art forms (not just the movies) are filled with innovation and artistic breakthroughs that owe debts of form and content to previous works. And the truly great De Palma movies are incoherent only if one manages to ignore what he can so masterfully show, and the manner in which he shows it, as that visual mastery becomes integrated ever more confidently from 1970 to 1993 with the themes—sex, fear, duplicity, moral outrage, voyeurism, technology, paranoia—that define his work.

That said, I’ve never been what might be described as a blanket De Palma apologist, though I am aware of several people who would vehemently disagree with that self-characterization. I’ve never hidden the reservations I have for movies up and down the De Palma canon, including (but by no means limited to) Phantom of the Paradise, Obsession, The Fury, Scarface, Body Double, The Untouchables, Raising Cain, Snake Eyes and The Black Dahlia. In recent years, in fact, it seems his work has been marked by a sort of indifference that I find especially alarming, a tendency to repeat himself not because the material demands visual articulation in precisely the manner with which only De Palma, when he’s hitting on all cylinders, can bless it, but because, well, these indulgences are expected by audiences (which may now only be comprised largely of sympathetic critics and fans), the hallmarks of what has come to signify A Brian De Palma Film.

In 2006 I wrote this in a long assessment of the director’s critically lambasted adaptation of James Ellroy’s true crime book:

If anyone could get away with taking perverse pleasure in leaving the general audience behind, along with some fierce acolytes, I would expect it would be De Palma. But I would also expect to feel some of that pleasure myself, the thrill of a director discovering new avenues of expression that truly mean something to him. The Black Dahlia doesn’t seem like work for hire—I don’t think De Palma is capable of hackwork. It does feel like the work of a man who hasn’t quite figured out how to realize those desires to take his filmmaking in a different direction. Ironically, the signature De Palma set piece in The Black Dahlia, a murder that takes place on a vertiginous, three-level staircase, has a musty, indifferent feel to it, as if even the director knows he’s gone to this well once too often, and that he’s doing the sequence because, well, what would a Brian De Palma movie be without it? Matt (Zoller Seitz) even left a comment that expressed concern that The Black Dahlia is being judged in relation to what we expect from De Palma, and that such judgments seem unfair. But when the director undertakes another sequence like this staircase murder, essentially giving the audience what he imagines they want, judging De Palma in relation to his past doesn’t seem unfair because by staging this scene in the manner he does, De Palma invites the comparison himself.” 

Passion, De Palma’s latest, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival a year ago but is only now seeing release in the United States, in theaters and on video-on-demand platforms, is most certainly, as Matt Seitz suggested about the earlier film, being judged in relation to what we expect from De Palma. But with this film the polarized currents have been switched—it’s De Palma who’s playing into the expectations again, and not just with an isolated sequence, while the enthusiasm with which the movie is being greeted this time seems irrationally forgiving, not dismissive, as if the suggestion of past glories and a winking familiarity with those allusions is all that is required for the true believers to start issuing hosannas.

The sad reality is that with Passion the director seems to have succumbed to the sort of tone-deaf indifference The Black Dahlia, as awful and misguided as it was, could only hint at. This new movie finds De Palma at his most uninspired and lethargic from the word ”go,” his trademark sensuous camerawork anchored into dull, meaningless patterns, trading probing intelligence for a series of zone-outs and logy stares . It’s not fun to report that this director has finally fully committed what he’s oft been critiqued (and often wrongly) for doing—he’s made a movie that is almost entirely “plot,” at its most nakedly nonsensical, and the visual filigrees which have in the past served to illuminate themes and create tension seem like the bored afterthoughts of a burnt-out artist who can no longer be bothered to adequately prop up his own legacy.

Passion is a remake of a 2010 French thriller called Love Crime, directed by the late Alain Corneau and featuring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier. The movie got respectable reviews (I haven’t seen it), though it has a reputation for being on the trashy side, which is probably what attracted De Palma to the idea of remaking it. After all, as the director has suggested in interviews, "It's very dangerous to remake a classic… Leave it alone." Yet it’s hard to imagine that Corneau’s movie could be anywhere close to as enervated, as hermetically sealed off from the real world and the way real people behave, as De Palma’s version. The once-enfant terrible director spins a tale of interoffice intrigue and backstabbing that betrays an actual infant’s conception of the minutiae of business, to say nothing except in the vaguest of terms about what the business is and what it might have to do with the tale he ostensibly wants to tell. On the most basic level (and there is no other level in this film other than plot), Passion concerns Christine, a sex-obsessed and possibly demented ad executive (Rachel McAdams) who, with a smile on her face and suggestive professions of love, openly steals ideas from Isabelle, her mousy, blank-faced underling (Noomi Rapace), so that she might propel herself out of the Berlin office and into a more desirable position in New York.

(Frankly, if Berlin is as dreary and nondescript as De Palma makes it seem, who wouldn’t want to move? The beleaguered German city might as well be a monotonic Canadian stand-in, for all the missed opportunities to root the film in the sort of haunted social and geographic milieu it would seem to offer. Why even bother to change the locale from the original’s Paris if you’re not going to weave what makes Berlin Berlin into the fabric of the movie?)

But Christine doesn’t count on Isabelle’s own secret duplicities (or does she??), which include siphoning the sexual services of Christine’s sleazy Eurotrash boyfriend Dirk (Paul Anderson, bafflingly bad), who has his own secrets which threaten to undermine Christine’s plans. Those secrets involve an embezzlement scenario  that Christine, after covering up for years, has suddenly decided to quash,  a “little Ponzi scheme” which De Palma’s howler-laden screenplay has Isabelle later shrug off, when a little clarity might be appreciated, as “stealing some money” from the company.

The oily Dirk has shot a video of a sexual encounter with Isabelle on his smartphone, which Christine discovers and uses as the foundation for a campaign of private, and then public humiliation against Isabelle. When Isabelle overreacts to Christine’s brandishing of the evidence of her dalliance with Dirk, she naturally crashes her car up in a parking garage, the mechanical breakdown as well as her own nervous collapse all dutifully recorded on the building’s video security system--  about as dutifully and dispassionately, in fact, as De Palma’s own camera sits and surveys the scene.

It all builds to a scene so mind-bogglingly misconceived as to invite suspicions (or hopes, even) that De Palma has decided that knuckleheaded parody is the only way out—Christine gathers her staff for a casual meeting, with champagne and caviar, to chide them for certain office indiscretions observed by that same security camera, the climax of which is, of course, the video of Isabelle bashing up her car and sobbing hysterically while the sprinkler system douses her in an ostensibly photogenic shower. Christine glances her way with mock innocence, absolutely shocked that Isabelle would in any way be hurt by this unprecedented display of vindictiveness and misuse of productive office man-hours. But Isabelle, her mask-like face given over to twitches only slightly less perceptible than those of Clouseau’s Chief Inspector Dreyfus, has the last laugh—literally, when she erupts in a unexpected and ridiculous braying that has Christine questioning Isabelle’s sanity and the audience that of Noomi Rapace.    

And all this is before De Palma attempts to rouse himself from the visual stupor that has smothered the film up to this point. Never before have so many scenes in a De Palma film dribbled on so long and without apparent visual motivation or momentum, each scene seemingly padded at either end with a cushion of dead air that a crackling editor like Paul Hirsch would have massaged and trimmed right out of the picture. Never before has the camera in a De Palma film been so content to be simply a recording device, like the ones on the smartphones the director fetishizes here in his attempts to reconnect with the breezy playfulness that marked his early career. Apparently De Palma storyboarded this film as he has all his others, which seems to signify that his very aloofness and disinterest in his own movie has been, intentionally or not, designed directly into it.

Unfortunately, the design, as De Palma has envisioned it, includes dressing up the remaining plot action with all the recognizable tropes his remaining audience expects from A Brian De Palma Film in the hope of goosing our interest and, I suspect, his own. As the plot limps from humiliation to calculated murder, all the stops get pulled out— images shattered and bisected by multiple points of view; the perfunctory T&A and, of course, girl-on-girl seduction which, unlike it did in Femme Fatale, serves no function in the plot other than titillation; the sonically eclectic and di rigueur Pino Donaggio score, in which Maestro Donaggio comes, during the movie’s climactic escalation into head-spinning absurdity, as close to self-cannibalization as his director does (the brilliant score for Dressed to Kill is left especially ransacked); and of course, a split-screen sequence which by some reports puts the movie’s fans in a blissful state—it’s a desultory, thematically disconnected performance of Afternoon with a Faun juxtaposed with several possible scenarios of murder as the director begins his strategy of visual bait-and-switch, which is actually just another symptom of De Palma’s inability to make his technique resonate meaningfully with the subject at hand. (If he’s suggesting that what we’re seeing on the right side of the screen—Christine and Isabelle sliding in and out of doors and elevators in a distended prelude to death-- is also a sort of ballet, well, all I can say is, whiff!) The only thing missing is a drawn-out slow-motion sequence, which even the director must have realized would have retarded the pace of this already deathly dull movie past the point of recovery.

By the time we get to the series of endless reversals and scenes of people waking up gasping out of dreams into other dreams—or do they???—and scenes of police inspectors trudging up artfully framed stairwells, delivering flowers in the middle of the night as peace offerings to suspects they once believed were guilty but now realize are innocent—or are they???—the movie has disintegrated into a full-fledged disaster, the smoking ruins of which can’t be laid at the feet of anyone but De Palma. Rachel McAdams vamps it up with a modicum of pleasure, but she often looks confused and uncomfortable—she’s perhaps too smart for what De Palma expects her to do, yet you can practically feel her hoping for her big signature De Palma moment, that it’ll all turn out okay in the end. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.)

Rapace, on the other hand, is saddled with the emotional end of this tedious dialectic, and De Palma, never the most sensitive of directors when it comes to coaxing subtlety from his performers, is content to let the actress twist in the wind, braying and screaming and crying with no perceptible conviction, photographing her in extreme close-up so that her face looks like one of those emotionless, would-be kinky masks that seem to have been inserted into the story, well, just because. She’s a startlingly inexpressive actress anyway (part of which may be due to having to speak English), but without a director to coax nuance from a role that’s been conceived primarily as a piece in a misshapen puzzle which will never quite fit, she has little chance to look anything but lousy.

In a recent interview on the Web site De Palma a la Mod, the director spends an inordinate amount of time clarifying Passion’s visual strategies and, more importantly, plot points with the interviewer, and while reading the piece it struck me that no movie, especially one directed by Brian De Palma, ought to have to be so dutifully explained afterward. The problem with Passion (one of the many) is that De Palma so completely gives the second half of the movie over to an incoherent, defiantly absurd dream logic which encourages the audience to process events, visual tricks and even line readings not as deliberately disorienting but instead as unintentional howlers, fundamental lapses of narrative faith the detrimental effect of which no amount of “Thank God it was only a dream” backtracking can defuse.

De Palma’s “final girl” rolls over out of the movie’s last cold-sweat nightmare, only to find out that, as the director put it to the interviewer, “her problems are hardly over.” (Where have we seen this before?) What’s sort of new is the smash cut to a title card which reads “The End,” a Kubrickian joke/shocker that inspired spontaneous laughter among the audience I saw it with, not the sort borne of tension, by the way, but instead of disbelief, and perhaps even relief that this banal, juvenile train wreck was finally over. Would it be a tragedy if this were also “the end” of a director’s marking time by slavishly imitating himself, so bound by past glories that he can no longer see past them, no longer look forward, but can only instead continue spinning emptier and emptier variations for the faithful? 

Perhaps there’s something to all the doppelgängers suffusing his filmography after all. In an apparent instance of life imitating art, Passion seems to be the first Brian De Palma movie to have been directed by a body double. And though it may have first seen light in 2012, it’s still the worst movie of the current year.



Anne Richardson said...

Dennis, Brian De Palma's great subject all along has been America, not sex or violence or the complicity of the viewer in each of the above. Remove him from the engine which drives him as an artist, and you are left with all the surface stuff. None of the heart. De Palma, Parisian expatriate, is heart broken. His real artistic forebears are Emily Dickinson (Carrie, in a previous life), Edgar Allen Poe (the obsession with the double) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (guilt, shame, sex as punishment). Of his generation I think only Altman matches him in this department, but De Palma's engagement with the idea, and the disillusion, of America is more emotional than Altman's. A great artist who has been reviled for addressing exactly what is broken/duplicitous in the American Dream. I think in Passion he is trying to enter/enact a role of global citizen, and it just leaves everything he values at the door, as you point out.

Cannon said...

In that behind-the-scenes documentary for Twixt, you mention, Coppola loosely describes his film to the young, willowy Elle Fanning as a "Halloween party", which I found rather interesting. What can I say...I enjoyed this film for being its own little thing, whatever that thing may be; quirky, eccentric, idiosyncratic and, best of all, quietly curious about dreams and the night, and with a touch of amusement (on Kilmer’s part). As for Coppola’s twilight career in general, Youth Without Youth ranks among my Top 5 from his entire filmography.

And don’t count Lucas out just yet. For one, he’s no longer involved with Star Wars, so that’s done. He’s currently pushing to fund (entirely from his own pocket) a museum, to be located in San Francisco’s Presidio Park, dedicated to the history American popular arts that would include comics, illustrations, animation and film design; featuring both his own work along with a myriad of other works from artists such as Maxfield Parrish, N. C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell, to name a few. It may not be a new movie but it certainly strikes me as an inspired, passion project. After that, or during, who knows? He just might zero-in on making whatever tone poem feature film that catches his fancy. He certainly has the money for it.

Ryan H. said...

TWIXT and PASSION are two of my favorite films to be released this year, so I'm somewhat pleased to see a kinder stance taken in regards to TWIXT, and somewhat dismayed to encounter such a brutal takedown of PASSION.

The argument here seems to be that PASSION is an indifferently created Greatest Hits package by De Palma himself (which is the same stance that usual De Palma apologist Armond White takes in his review). Despite the fact that the last ten or fifteen minutes of the film are absolutely a Greatest Hits riff (with nods toward DRESSED TO KILL and RAISING CAIN), I think this complaint ultimately misses the mark. PASSION may use some of the familiar De Palma machinery, but there's more than just rehashing here, and De Palma's look at our surveillance culture is handled with some real wit and insight.

No moment in PASSION is more spectacular than the image on which the entire film pivots: Isabelle sobbing in a fake rain in a car park, all the while watched by a surveillance camera. De Palma's success in creating images such as these marks him as the only successful American follower of Godard.

This is not to say that I think PASSION is an unequivocal masterpiece. De Palma's strategy to divide the film into clearly defined stylistic halves is an approach that backfires; as a result, the film doesn't pick up until about forty minutes in, when De Palma gives himself the freedom to create real images. But even if it lags at the start, PASSION has moments that are as sharply conceived as anything in De Palma's canon.

Regarding the point of the split screen sequence, De Palma has clarified his intentions in interviews. First, the ballet is present to underline the eroticism of Christine waiting for her lover. Second, it's yet another De Palmian statement about the cinematic image as a form of deceit and manipulation. De Palma revisits this sequence later in the film to show us that he has used split-screen to con us, that Isabelle was never really watching the ballet.

Tom Beshear said...

Ellroy's The Black Dahlia is NOT a true crime book; it's a novel.

John K. said...

I caught up with both pictures this week, and find each to be a bit of a wank, albeit on the fun side. I think that I prefer Passion, but that mostly comes down to my favoring the thriller genre over horror. Oddly this passage of your takedown of the De Palma: "The problem with Passion (one of the many) is that De Palma so completely gives the second half of the movie over to an incoherent, defiantly absurd dream logic which encourages the audience to process events, visual tricks and even line readings not as deliberately disorienting but instead as unintentional howlers, fundamental lapses of narrative faith the detrimental effect of which no amount of Thank God it was only a dream' backtracking can defuse." could easily be applied to the Coppola. Of the two, De Palma at least has a handle on the material.

Jeff Gee said...

From Twixt’s imbd ‘trivia’ page: “Director Francis Ford Coppola had originally intended the film as a type of “live editing” experiment using groundbreaking digital editing technology. Coppola intended to act as a sort of conductor during every screening of the film, lengthening or shortening scenes and even changing plot elements depending on the audience response. This caused long delays in the film's release and ultimately proved impractical, forcing Coppola to do a locked edit of the film, integrating elements from all various permutations of the story.” (The imdb gives no source for this). So, we might imagine, the goofy Bruce Dern subplot might have resolved itself more goofily in one permutation, the self-referential shticks (Val Kilmer doing Brando as Kurtz, Kilmer’s ex-wife cast as his wife, even the oblique allusions to Coppola’s personal tragedy) might have come more to the forefront in another. As it is, the story makes very little narrative sense and Coppola’s heart really seems to be in the crepuscular dream sequences, and nowhere else. Really, would 60 minutes of Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning in a Traumnovelle constructed according to some sort of dream logic have been less commercial than this? I wish he’d gone for it.

mike schlesinger said...

Having seen both versions now, I must say that PASSION is good, but not great. Corneau's version is properly serious, but DePalma's is as well, lacking that wicked sense of humor that's practically his trademark. And while I'm sure Rapace relished a chance to play the victim for a change--and gain some weight--the casting is a problem: McAdams looks younger than Rapace, whereas in the Corneau, there was a 19-year difference in their ages. Still, on balance, I enjoyed it, and the camerawork and score were as supple as always. I just wish it had been more FUN.

stone said...

Cool! I like "Love Crime" very much.
Dennis,thanks for your sharing!