Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brian DePalma on Passion

Brian De Palma talks ‘Passion’

A scene from Passion.
Brian De Palma delves into the world of corporate and sexual villainy in Passion; his first film since Redacted in 2007. De Palma’s fascination with sex, mystery and illusion is right at home here. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace are boss and underling in a Berlin office, navigating their way through their complex relationship. When McAdam’s boss steals Rapace’s big idea, she launches a psychological war that leads to murder. Passion keeps us off kilter in so many ways, the women’s sexuality, the nature of their relationship and as a riveting cat-and-mouse thriller. We spoke with DePalma in Toronto.
What intrigued you about Passion?
Brian De Palma: I thought the relationship between these two women was terrific and the premise was quite good. I didn’t think it was a great idea to show who murdered Christine, but then you have another 40 minutes of “Now I know who did it!” and now I can explain to the audience how she did it. I tried to avoid that, so the audience was guessing who did it right toward the end of the movie. Because there was an older and younger woman there was an implied sexuality with it, the girls played it broadly, they teased each other and manipulated each other.
Passion has many characteristics of film noir, the angles, the lighting, the tone and characterisation. Was it your homage?
BDP: [Rapace’s character] takes a lot of drugs and says she doesn’t know what she’s doing exactly, so she’s wandering around in a haze and she doesn’t know what is exactly real or what did not happen. That’s how the noirish look takes place. She is pretending, she is a murderess and she is fooling everyone in the film as well as the audience. She says “I don’t know what happened, I took so many pills, help me!” You’re supposed to empathize with her! I love film noir like anyone else. I like those shadows and blinds and have a chance to use tilted angles.
The women are archetypical — a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. Was there something specific in those choices?
BDP: Not really. Rachel came with her blonde hair, Noomi decided to go black; she creates everything in her brain and is not concerned about what’s around her. Rachel is the politician, the wheeler dealer. Noomi is constantly thinking and trying to get ideas. And [Karoline Herfurth] is the beloved assistant who is in love with her boss. I saw her in Perfume and she had this great red hair and I said let’s keep it red. The characters have certain characteristics but they have to fit into the murder mystery.
The music was interesting, strangely jarring.
BDP: The music cues are very specific. Go to work music, then it’s the erotic music and then the lyrical sad music when Noomi gets humiliated and this simple piano thing and she stumbles down the hallways and goes into the elevator and gets into her car. Then we have the dream music, boom boom, this strange obsessive odd stuff and then we have the dream music at the end which is emotional and climatic. I work closely with music directors, and all music directors are different. Bernard Herrmann, never give him a temp track. I did and he almost murdered me. Stop, stop, I can’t hear that. And I think it was Vertigo I was playing for him!
You used a lot of two shots, making sure they were both in the same frame.
BDP: I tend to not like intercuts and over the shoulders. I find it very boring and I see it on television all the time, any idiot can do it. I like the actors to play the scene out in a wide shot. They did that in the movies in the forties and fifties all the time. And why are we not doing that? I want to see the whole actor’s body; I don’t want to see his head all the time, what about their whole body? It drives me crazy! Aren’t people getting bored?
There are so many different eyes in the film, the camera phone, Skype, security cameras. And the eyes are often aligned with the camera.
BDP: I am very aware of the new technology and we’re carrying around cameras all the time. With Google glasses you’re going to be walking around going “What happened to me yesterday? I’ll just play it back on my glasses”. And I have this point-of-view shot of everything I did. And the problem with that to some extent is people are doing that instead of living life, which I have observed everywhere. It’s very strange and I tried to reflect that in the movie.
Are you interested in video game story production?
BDP: I know a lot about them. It’s fascinating to me as an ex-computer builder, but it’s too much to do. They need help, God knows, because the storylines are all derivative of the others B genres. The dialogue is pedestrian. At least they’re starting to use actors so the lines read better. It’s evolving. The graphics are going to look better and more real life, like movies, and when they can evoke a few emotions rather than just running around shooting people, that’s going to be a big step. That’s going to happen. But so much work would have to go into it to make it really work. It makes my head spin.
Has the studio system changed?
BDP: They offer you movies occasionally to see if you want to do them or not. I’ve always been able to work within it. If your budget gets big you have more meetings which was true of Mission to Mars, the most expensive movie I ever made. I remember around the early 90’s, around Bonfire of the Vanities, when you start to get stacks of notes. It was a lot more hands on with the studios. In the beginning… the day of the director, you could bull your way through them like Scarface. They had a preview in Texas and they’d take cards and the walkouts and the cards with “This is the worst film I’ve ever seen” and things like that. I just said “Sorry. That’s it, I’m not changing it”. That was lucky in those days and it got harder and harder. I don’t think young directors have the final cut the way we used to do. They don’t get to control the cut. It makes directors of my generation not popular.
So how do you compete with younger filmmakers?
BDP: A tremendous amount of talent and experience. I’ve seen and done everything, which probably doesn’t mean much. I’ve made independent films for nothing and I’ve made big sci fi epics. But they don’t cast directors like that. It’s who has the biggest box office hit and can we put it together. And the studio heads have lunch and put things together. People are not hired because of their experience and talent usually.
Passion is currently playing in select cities across Canada.

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