Re:View – ‘Love Crime’ / ‘Passion’
It’s rare that a remake so perfectly reflects the faults of the original version of a film, but Brian De Palma’s ‘Passion’ is every bit as stilted as the French ‘Love Crime’. Both have generic titles and both are utterly absurd. In the Alain Corneau-directed version, Ludivine Sagnier is Isabelle and Kristin Scott Thomas is her ruthless boss Christine, while in the remake, the pairing is Noomi Rapace and a too-young and not-at-all Machiavellian Rachel McAdams. Both are set in bizarrely faceless offices in a kind of business neverland where people bark, ‘I want those papers on my desk by five!’ or do deals by glancing at Powerpoint presentations and saying ‘This will win us the big account!’ There’s never a sense that anyone is doing any real work, so it’s more like watching people in ‘Dynasty’ doing deals by endlessly storming into each other’s vast offices waving folders.
And this is before it all gets silly. In both versions, ruthless Christine takes credit for her staffer’s work, then publicly humiliates and blackmails her until a murder takes place, followed by a neat twist. In the French take, Scott Thomas exudes an aura of kindly menace tinged with a lesbian vibe even though she’s dating a male client, so that her underling never knows where she stands with her boss. In De Palma’s reboot there are sex toys and same-sex tongue tussles that remove all the subtleties – De Palma has never met a nuance he didn’t hammer flat with a mallet – and he adds an absurd third-act twist-on-a-twist that makes nonsense of what has gone before.
In come the ‘Carrie’ director’s early-career tropes, including over-emphatically noir lighting and a pointless split-screen sequence conducted to Debussy (his ‘Sisters’ and ‘Phantom Of The Paradise’ split-screens both had some kind of purpose). Weirdest of all, on my DVD copy at least, the last third of the film is partly in German with subtitles. God knows the accents are all over the place anyway, with Nordic, English, German and American voices, but I’d assumed this was a distancing effect rather than a financing sop.
On balance both versions are ridiculous, but the French original is more believable because of its wrong-footing ambiguities. For De Palma this is an entertaining but hardly classic partial reversion to form, with some laugh-out-loud moments of awfulness, not least in an interlude purporting to be in a ridiculously rendered London (St Paul’s outside the window, a red bus trundling down a patently LA-styled street). He’s clearly uninterested in his male characters, favouring high heels, glossy red lips, a Pino Donaggio score and stylised interiors. From this perspective, ‘Passion’ puts him closer to the films of Dario Argento – and not in a good way.