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A young businesswoman plots a murderous revenge after her boss and mentor steals her idea.
For more about Passion and the Passion Blu-ray release, see Passion Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth
Director: Brian De Palma
» See full cast & crew
Passion Blu-ray Review
De Palma reignites his.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 1, 2013
Noomi Rapace doesn't just have one of the most distinctive names in contemporary film, she has one of the most unusual looks as well. Not traditionally beautiful—at least in the "normal" Hollywood glamour-puss way—Rapace nonetheless has one of those faces it's hard to take your eyes off of. Her strangely flat features, with a nose that barely erupts from the plane of her elegant cheeks, and her wide spaced, almond shaped eyes, give her an almost alien aspect at times, something that suited her breakthrough role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo perfectly well. Brian De Palma's 2012 thriller Passion perhaps more fancifully casts Rapace as a seeming wallflower who nonetheless becomes virtual catnip to not one, but two, traditionally gorgeous women, including Rachel McAdams, who is about as close to Golden Era Hollywood ideas of star beauty as anyone in the film business today. De Palma has often been accused of being a second rate hack whose best material actually belongs to others—usually attributed to Hitchcock. That assessment may not be entirely fair, but even champions of De Palma's work may find parts of Passion derivative, though in this case De Palma seems to be cribbing from himself. That's not an entirely bad thing, however, for the director invests this film with some of the stylistic flair that energized some of his best early work. Passion is a problematic film on several levels, but as with Rapace's unusual appearance, it's hard to look away from it.
The inicipient voyeurism that has been so important in previous De Palma entries like Body Double is front and center from virtually the first moment of Passion, when the audience seemingly spies on the strangely intimate business meeting between Christine (Rachel McAdams) and Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). The two seems almost conspiratorial as they discuss—well, something, before collapsing into semi-drunken giggles. When a curt interloper named Dirk (Paul Anderson) suddenly shows up and plants a wet one on Christine, Isabelle realizes she's a third wheel and beats a hasty retreat, but not before Christine gifts her with an expensive scarf and reassures her that the two of them make a great team together.
It turns out that Christine is actually Isabelle's boss at a super luxe Berlin advertising agency, and the two had been working on campaign ideas for some insanely tight new jeans. Isabelle awakens in the middle of the night with a start, realizing she's just had a flash of inspiration and she calls her assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) to help her shoot a quick and dirty video to pitch to the clients. Isabelle's idea is totally brilliant and hugely impresses the client, but Isabelle is crestfallen when Christine takes credit for the idea herself, in order to boost her chances to return to corporate headquarters in New York. Christine's efforts to buy Isabelle's affections by sending her on a quick business trip to London seemingly backfire when Dirk tags along and begins an affair with Isabelle.
What then plays out is a rather convoluted cat and mouse game between Christine and Isabelle as they each jockey for power in both their careers and their personal lives. Christine is the very model of glamour and poise, but she's a machinating bitch, to put it succinctly. Isabelle on the other hand seems to be an introverted nerd, unable to effectively advocate for her needs, but who soon reveals herself to be as scheming as Christine. Dirk ends up as a pawn between the two, especially after it turns out he's been embezzling huge sums of money from the agency, a theft which Christine had been covering up but which she no longer is willing to do.
Passion is patently ridiculous quite a bit of the time, but it's also bizarrely entertaining. The second half of the film plays rather like the first half of another thriller positing two women and one man, Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects, especially once a murder takes place and one character's dalliance with prescription drugs plays into both the crime and the aftermath. But since this is De Palma, things are rarely as they seem, and the director wants to once more pull the Vertigo-esque wool over the viewers' eyes, with not one but several sleights of hand where the audience is led to believe one thing is happening, when in fact it really isn't. (There are a couple of outright references to Vertigo sprinkled throughout the film, which should not come as any huge surprise to longtime De Palma fans.)
Speaking of vertigo (the symptom, not the film), De Palma pulls out all the stylistic stops in this film, including a whole series of vertiginous angles once the drug angle starts entering the fray, as well as a seriously daft but hugely visceral split screen sequence that sees the left half showing a performance of the ballet set to Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun, while the right half depicts a rather gruesome murder. The killing is made even more bizarre due to the fact that the kinky sexual proclivities of the victim, which include mask wearing, play an important role in the crime. De Palma frankly seems to be aware that he's making something akin to a trashy paperback novel, but he seems determined to do so with a modicum of panache.
Ultimately, Passion may not even make much sense, but it careens along almost hypnotically on the combined force of the riveting performances by McAdams and Rapace, and to a lesser extent Herfurth and Anderson, as well as De Palma's intentionally playful take on the subject matter. The kinky sexual subtext, which includes a fairly ubiquitous lesbian aspect, keeps things just this side of salacious in typical De Palma fashion. De Palma has often been accused of emphasizing style over substance, and truth be told that assessment is probably going to be lobbed at Passion as well. In this case, however, the style supports the visceral performances in crafting a surprisingly fun, if unabashedly silly, thriller.
Passion Blu-ray, Video Quality
Passion is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is a fantastically sharp and well detailed looking high definition presentation the benefits from some really vividly saturated colors (despite the alabaster skin of the two leading female performers). Reds especially pop dramatically throughout this film, whether it be the slash of lipstick Christine paints on Isabelle's lips, the insane platform heels Isabelle dons at one point, or the bright sweater Christine wears in one board room scene. Fine detail is also exceptional, revealing seemingly every thread of the often luxe outfits Christine wears (or, for a non-costume example, take a look at Rapace's face in the second screenshot accompanying this review). Fine detail and shadow detail are very minimally compromised by De Palma's use of heavy blue color grading once the drug issue becomes a plot point. Many scenes feature cigarette smoke snaking seductively through the sides of the frame, and those elements resolve without any issues whatsoever.
Passion Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Passion's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is rather low key at times, but Pino Donaggio's score wafts through the surround channels magnificently, and a couple of fantastic set pieces, including a large party scene, and an ostensibly "quieter" scene featuring the nonstop ringing of an important (but hidden) phone feature superb spatial placement and immersion. Dialogue is very cleanly presented and there is no damage or any other problems to report on this well modulated track.
Passion Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Passion Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There seems to be a newfound interest in De Palma (yet again), due perhaps in part to the remake of his legendary Carrie. The director's fortunes have waxed and waned through the years, and Passion was met with at best mixed reviews when it played theatrically. I'd wholeheartedly recommend this film to longtime De Palma aficionados, for it revisits some of his favorite themes in an often excitingly visceral ways. Those who aren't quite so well acquainted with some of De Palma's eccentricities may find the film occasionally laughable, though even those folks will more than likely be transfixed by the performances of McAdams and (especially) Rapace. This Blu-ray offers great video and audio, and even without much in the supplements department, comes Recommended.
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Passion Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: November 5-12 - November 2, 2013
For the week of November 5th, New Line and Warner Home Entertainment are bringing the extended version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to Blu-ray. Other titles include the sixth season of Mad Men, White House Down, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Lovelace ...
• Brian De Palma's Passion Gets U.S. Release Date - September 5, 2013
Entertainment One will bring to Blu-ray director Brian De Palma's latest film, Passion (2012), starring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth, and Paul Anderson. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the United States ...
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