Re:View – ‘Love Crime’ / ‘Passion’

The Arts

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.

6 comments on “Re:View – ‘Love Crime’ / ‘Passion’”

  1. John says:

    Well, I liked the French version. I have yet to see the DePalma remake but another review far more favorable on a different blog has intrigued me. Like you I think the closeness in age between the actresses in DePalma’s version seemed to me a very big mistake. But as for your slams on the lack of realism — I like the artificiality of cinema. Why do we really need to know what the business is all about in this story? Isn’t it about the emotional connection/sexual tension between the women? This review seems pretty harsh even for you. I wonder what you think of something like MARNIE – maybe one of the most artificial of thrillers ever put on film. It’s brimming over with cinematic gimmicks, plot absurdities and huge sections of unbelievability. Many flaws but all the same immensely entertaining in its oddness and very watchable even if the whole concept is based on outdated Freudian psychology.

  2. Janet Wilson says:

    I found something else with Virginia Madsen- ’23’, Jim Carrey’s Ralph Bates tribute film. She doesn’t have much to do except look lovely and adoring, tho she does manage to wrestle 5 minutes of screen time off Mr C. three quarters of the way through. She wld’ve lit up dull ‘Love Crime’…

  3. glasgow1975 says:

    Ah yes, ‘Instant London’ – just add red phone box & pillar box et voila!
    Never mind that the traffic lights, buildings and road signs/markings are completely wrong. . .it must be London there’s a red bus!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Sure, and it must be Paris – there’s the Eiffel Tower and sidewalk cafes and the traffic policeman. It’s Seattle – there’s the Space Needle, although that one is a little closer because Vancouver and Seattle can stand in for each other, especially if you have some footage of Pike Place Market and Granville Island could stand in for that at a pinch. I always feel cheated when I realize the street scenes are faked.

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    Well, not all street scenes are faked. but it takes a lot of funding and time. David Lean was very good at shooting at least some of each film on location with second units. The oldest of my sisters worked with Lean on Ryan’s Daughter, etc. and she says the degree of authenticity he called for, down to the proper jar shapes on shelves and their labels, as well as, actual street scenes with period fix-ups was amazing. Of course, Lean was always over budget and weeks late.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    But the resulting product will endure forever!

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