A deflated remake with a few kinky changes. Brian DePalma’s Passion has more “drawn-out” suspense and heated lesbianism than its predecessor, the mesmerizing 2011 French film “Love Crime.” Once again, we have a corporate office thriller that pits rising PR protégé Isabelle (Naomi Rapace) against her scheming senior executive Christine (Rachel McAdams). DePalma keeps the setting international in Germany, just like the original. Christine manipulates office politics by undermining – and humiliating – her underlings because she wants a New York office promotion. Isabelle just wants credit for her work, and for her affair with colleague Dirk (Paul Anderson) to continue without interference. The jealousy between women morphs into treachery and diabolical plotting.
I love the work of DePalma (“Body Double,” “Femme Fatale”), but the problem is that I love the original “Love Crime” too much. Kristin Scott Thomas deliciously played the horrible boss in that one, countering to Ludivine Sagnier’s protégé social climber. I could guess as to why DePalma had an interest in having two similarly aged young women, probably because it makes the brushes of lesbianism sexier. But McAdams doesn’t share the imposing imperialism that Scott Thomas possessed. She’s still reasonably bitchy and possessive in that McAdams patented way, and what a ritzy-looking bitch she makes. Still, McAdams is less of an imposing intellectual threat.
Rapace, on the other hand, is bright and nervy at the same time, with a smile that’s beautiful, devious and a little crazy. I must have observed Rapace smile a dozen times in the movie, which kept me rapt. She has an unassuming appearance, but there is something dangerously cold and mercilessly competitive under her professional veneer. She could have easily fit in the first version of the film, her performance is that striking.
Both women lead decadent lives whose constant pursuit is attaining and implementing power. The offices, the hotels, the cars, the fashion shows, the cocktail parties are all swank. And how about those fetishes! I can’t say there were any erotic sex toys used in the original. DePalma also takes care in photographing everything with attention to the glossy and pristine exteriors, and the clothes are vogue in equal measures. The centerpiece of the film comprises a ballet performance of “Afternoon of the Faun” with the split-screen stalking of one the film’s vulnerable ingénues. And while the effect is goosey in that playful DePalma way, it’s also a little bonkers (and less shocking than the impromptu payoff of the original).
With the aid of an overly fussy and busy music score, DePalma is tickled by his ability to create a glamorous but debauched atmosphere – up through the final moments when sex is used as a weapon. DePalma is just as tickled by his own obsessions with motifs that have laced so many of his previous films (masks, doppelgangers, lipstick, antisocial behavior acted out in unconscious trance). I enjoyed the DePalma style that I’ve become accustomed to over the years, but I was more enthralled by the original story of the Alain Corneau film.
100 Minutes. Rated R.
MYSTERY-SUSPENSE / DIABOLICAL THRILLS / LATE NIGHT VIEWING
Film Cousins: “Dressed to Kill” (1980); “Disclosure” (1994); “Demonlover” (2002, France); “Love Crime” (2011, France).