News Column

Brian De Palma mixes grace, brutality in 'Passion'

August 29, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 29--There's an awesome split-screen sequence in "Passion." On the left, the beautiful realization of Jerome Robbins' ballet "Afternoon of a Faun." On the right, another performance: a cold-blooded murder.

If you didn't know it before this audacious exercise in style, which happens about two-thirds of the way in, you'd certainly know it then: This is a Brian De Palma picture.

"That was the most fun thing for me, because I love that ballet, and I had a chance to re-create it with an extraordinary dancer (Polina Semionova) now dancing with the American Ballet Theater, and this juxtaposing this fabulous Jerome Robbins ballet against the murder," De Palma said from his home in New York. "I'd never done anything like that before, and it created a tremendous aesthetic challenge. I thought it worked out quite well."

"Passion," which opens Friday in San Rafael and plays at the Castro Theatre next week (packaged there with two other De Palmas, "Dressed to Kill" and "Femme Fatale"), stars Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as a CEO and her first lieutenant at a Berlin advertising firm who become bitter rivals. It's a remake of the 2010 French film "Love Crime," which starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier.

De Palma said producers wanting to make an English-language version of the film approached him, and "I could see immediately ways I could make it more mysterious and more intriguing."

Rapace was the first to sign on, and she requested McAdams -- the two had hit off while making "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." They became two more outrageous, fetishistic women in the De Palma universe, which has included Sissy Spacek ("Carrie"), Angie Dickinson ("Dressed to Kill"), Nancy Allen ("Blow Out") and Melanie Griffith ("Body Double").

"I like directing women," De Palma said. "I like photographing them. They're beautiful! I like to make beautiful pictures, and I'd much rather direct a beautiful woman than I would a man."

De Palma's next film is about the Penn State scandal, starring Al Pacino as Joe Paterno, but at 72, he says he's not in a hurry to direct more films.

"When you're in your 70s, you just want to enjoy life," De Palma said. "If something works out, great! If something doesn't work out, that's OK, too."

Passion: Starts Friday. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael. (415) 454-1222. www.cafilm.org. Wednesday-next Thursday. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F. (415) 621-6120. www.castrotheatre.com.

G. Allen Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: ajohnson@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @BRfilms Allen

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(c)2013 the San Francisco Chronicle

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