Such are the vagaries of arthouse distribution these days that works by the masters now premiere on your cable box. Following in the footsteps of Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder and Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, Brian De Palma’s Passion opens this weekend in a scant few cinemas, but is already available via Video on Demand. I wish it were possible to see Passion on a big screen locally because it’s a kinky corker, the most gloriously lurid and downright De Palma-est Brian De Palma movie since 2002’s Femme Fatale, which I may have once watched twice in a row just to soak in all the sleazy, giddy abandon. (I might have done the same with Passion, but I’m not ready to admit as much in public just yet.)
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace headline this loosey-goosey remake of director Alain Corneau’s 2010 thriller Love Crime, which starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as cutthroat ad executives playing an increasingly deadly game of boardroom one upsmanship. De Palma’s most telling alteration to the original is to make them both voracious bisexuals, treating Corneau’s perfect murder plot as but a slender thread upon which to hang his bravura, look-at-me set pieces and a raging boner.
This is one elegantly silly movie, besotted with sinuous Steadicam shots, split-screen sequences and a cheerfully leering appreciation of the female forms on display. De Palma kicks it off with a knowing auto-critique of his own male gaze, as Rapace’s blockbuster promotional campaign is for a cameraphone, which she sticks in her sultry assistant’s back pocket and shoots all the guys on the street checking out her ass. That’s truth in advertising on a couple of fronts.
Putting a more playful spin on the themes De Palma clunkily explored in his last film, 2007’s wretched Redacted, Passion is preoccupied with surveillance cameras and the far-reaching impact of mobile web technology. It’s about getting away with murder in a world where nothing is private anymore. Everybody’s already playing for one camera or another every day of their lives, so McAdams and Rapace pitch their performances accordingly toward the rafters.
The former, in particular, is a hoot. Lounging around in lingerie and furs with a hot tub in her living room, McAdams is doing an all-grown-up riff on her Mean Girls character, with line readings heightened enough to be heard over Pino Donaggio’s fabulously florid score. Passion is delirious, exquisite trash.