Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mr. Beaks Talks Passion With Brian DePalma from Ain't It Cool News

Passion Poster

for the entire interview go here:
Ed here: I look at long careers this way. Have they given me more pleasure than not. In the case of filmmaker Brian DePalma the answer is definitely yes.

Ain't It Cool News:

PASSION is back-to-basics Brian De Palma: a sexy, slippery corporate thriller infused with just enough kink to call to mind the full-blown eroticism of classics like DRESSED TO KILL, BODY DOUBLE and FEMME FATALE. Based on the 2010 film by Alain Corneau, it's an unusually contained movie for the director; this is close-quarters combat between two ambitious women (Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace) desperate to maintain and/or acquire power within a major advertising agency. Their battlefield is the company's Berlin office and the bedroom, and, this being a Brian De Palma film, there are cameras observing every last inch. Surveillance is a given. They're watching. We're watching. It's a twisted little game of shifting and constantly unreliable perspective.

PASSION also finds De Palma picking up where he left off eleven years ago with FEMME FATALE. While that film was a genre study of a female archetype resisting her predetermined-by-gender doom, this latest work unfolds in a workplace seemingly controlled by women. There are men knocking about, but they're pawns relegated to the periphery of De Palma's narrative (this is his first movie without a major male character); there's nothing to overcome here but another woman. Though two films aren't enough to categorize this as a phase (especially when they're broken up by two testosterone-heavy movies), it appears pretty obvious that De Palma, after decades of pondering male inadequacy, would prefer to keep cinematic company with women exclusively.

But by his own admission, De Palma isn't currently in a position to dictate the direction of his career; the next film is basically the one that finds financing first. In fact, had he managed to get THE BOSTON STRANGLERS or THE UNTOUCHABLES: CAPONE RISING off the ground at Paramount, it's likely PASSION would've never been made. So the extent to which there is a phase nowadays, even for one of our greatest living filmmakers, is accidental. You make what's greenlit.
Fortunately, De Palma is not one to remain idle. While he's out promoting the joint theatrical/VOD release of PASSION, he's moving forward with HAPPY VALLEY, his Joe Paterno biopic starring Al Pacino. There's also the possibility of a Daft Punk musical based on the director's 1974 cult hit PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. De Palma's still raring to go, and the dextrous staging of PASSION - in particular the split-screen set piece juxtaposing a murder with a performance of Debussy's AFTERNOON OF A FAUN - proves there's plenty of zip left on his fastball. It's just a question of whether studios or financiers understand that there's a hunger for what it is he does as well as anyone out there: pure cinema.

Mr. Beaks: This is a genre you know well. Having made so many thrillers, how do you apply your style without repeating yourself?
Brian De Palma: It's great to start with something that's pretty good to begin with. The Alain Corneau movie has a very good character relationship: these two women who are basically destroying each other. I use a lot of that dialogue in the beginning. But in his original movie, it's revealed right at the beginning that Isabelle kills Christine. I wanted to keep the audience guessing right until the end. I thought that that would make it a very good mystery. Christine... she's got enough enemies around the office, and to put Isabelle into this place of "Did she do it? Did she dream it? What the hell happened?" Just keep the audience guessing right until the reveal at the end. I had a chance to do all of these surrealistic sequences where you're not quite sure whether it's happening or not.

Beaks: Which is a hallmark of yours. It's also something I think movies are afraid to do nowadays, which is to completely befuddle the audience.
De Palma: It's that kind of mystery procedural drama that's done all the time on television, so you've got to come up with something a little different.
Beaks: This is a film that's very contained in terms of locations, which forces you to place a very high premium on locations. You've chosen some visually striking interiors that also seem to comment on or reflect the twisted nature of the power struggle between these two women. How did you go about finding these locations?
De Palma: Good art director and a lot of good luck. A lot of it takes place in offices. We were first going to set it in London, and we were going to shoot the interiors in Berlin. But when I went to the London location, I said, "Why don't we shoot the whole thing in Berlin? It's an international corporation." There are a lot of really great exteriors in Berlin that no one had seen before, so we moved the whole production to Berlin. And we were very fortunate to get this great office building that was vacant because of the recession, so we could sort of take it over. That's always the problem with office buildings: you've got to work around the office. But this was not the case here. It was a great looking building that gave us interesting office locations, which, of course, can be extremely boring.

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