House Logo
Explore categories +

Passion (#110 of 10)

20 Great Shots from the Films of 2013

Comments Comments (...)

20 Great Shots from the Films of 2013
20 Great Shots from the Films of 2013

I looked back on the year and thought about single cinematic images that knocked me flat. Or produced an actual “wow.” Or somehow encompassed a film in a strange way. Many of them rushed back immediately. Others sprung to mind when I skimmed through my list of films seen. In accordance with my favorite movies of 2013, many of which are featured here, I was surprised by what I responded to most. I noticed some trends. Evidently, I’m drawn to sunsets, running water (preferably colored), and, rather unoriginally, red. I also kinda like trash. Some of these shots speak for themselves, while others require the images that come before them, or after them, sometimes successively, to achieve their respective impacts. Presented in no particular order, each has a backstory, save the last, which is summed up with a heartbreaking, note-perfect line. This is a very personal list, and I could’ve easily bumped the total to 50 or more. Don’t see your favorite shots in the roster? Share your thoughts (or, ya know, a link to a screengrab) in the comments.

Box Office Rap Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma

Comments Comments (...)

Box Office Rap: Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma
Box Office Rap: Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma

On May 22, 1996, Mission: Impossible opened in 3,012 North American movie theaters. That weekend, it made $45.4 million and marked the highest opening weekend ever for a Tom Cruise starrer, a record that would stand until Mission: Impossible II opened in May 2000. Cruise has since used that franchise as a staple for his box-office résumé, allowing him collaborations with the likes of J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird, with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol marking the highest-grossing film of Cruise’s career with a whopping $694 million in global receipts.

But back to 1996. Then, that $45.4 million also marked the highest opening-weekend gross for director Brian De Palma; in fact, with the exclusion of The Untouchables, no prior De Palma film had made as much in its entire run as Mission: Impossible managed in just its first three days. The film was considered a critical success as well, receiving “two thumbs up” from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, though they, like several other critics, reserved most of their praise for Cruise’s performance and were skeptical of the film’s [sic] convoluted going’s on. Even in commercial success, De Palma’s fervid formal artistry has few boosters—an unfortunate trait that has inexplicably followed the great filmmaker’s entire career.

Passion Poster: “Backstabbing Is Business”

Comments Comments (...)

<em>Passion</em> Poster: “Backstabbing Is Business”
<em>Passion</em> Poster: “Backstabbing Is Business”

“Following The Black Dahlia and Redacted, Passion is a return to form for Brian De Palma, but to compare the film to Femme Fatale’s heady and delirious fusion of hieratic artistry with emotional directness is to oversell it. A remake of Alain Corneau’s final film, Love Crime, this melodrama about corporate back-biting and sexual and murderous compulsion more accurately brings to mind a 1975 vintage by De Palma, Obsession, that was also something of a comedy in the guise of a thriller—a slithery, highly stylized bit of auto-critique from a filmmaker who, then, was grappling with the self-deprecating sense of only being able to make movies in the key of Hitchcock.”

To read the rest of my review, click here.

Very Different Sorts of Miracles Daniel Morgan’s Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

Comments Comments (...)

Very Different Sorts of Miracles: Daniel Morgan’s Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema
Very Different Sorts of Miracles: Daniel Morgan’s Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

In his now canonical 2001 book The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich makes a connection between cinema and painting—how the kino-eye becomes the kino-brush—to explicate how digital imaging becomes an arduous process, to be carried out one frame at a time. Daniel Morgan makes a comparable claim in Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema, evaluating Jean-Luc Godard’s late oeuvre as a break from a Bazinian conception of cinema (photographic realism) and, in conjunction with his embrace of video, a move toward aesthetics—a cinema oriented around the creation of images over narrative, per se. Working extensively with four Godard films (though he mentions far more) and drawing from a plethora of theoretical and philosophical lines of argumentation, Morgan’s dense analysis seeks to function as the definitive work on Godard’s purportedly “post-political” foray into formalism, demonstrating that, contrary to prior critical work, Godard remains stridently political, investigating cinema as living history and consistently questioning what cinema is, was, and will become.

Also like Manovich, Morgan divides his book into six chapters, each with subheadings to organize the significant amount of topics pursued (“Reference Without Ontology” and “A Moving Image of Eternity” are my personal favorites). In lesser hands, the topic could easily become unwieldy. Morgan, however, wields just fine, navigating provocative claims (the critical turn against Godard’s 1980s work was due to a feeling of betraying the “political modernism” he had ascribed to just a decade prior) with clarity and, best of all, a rigorous logic that his lucid prose is able to explicate on both micro and macro levels.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: Passion

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Passion</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Passion</em>

Brian De Palma has traditionally worked best when indulging the grand gesture, with the overblown confidence of someone drunk on their own talent, but with the proper self-awareness not to take himself too seriously. But coming off two alternately stale and incensed films (2006’s The Black Dahlia and 2007’s Redacted), it seemed as if the lurid soil that De Palma has most fruitfully tilled over the years wasn’t territory he wished to revisit anytime soon. But as Pino Donaggio’s dramatically sensual score (his first for De Palma since 1992s Raising Cain) greets the opening titles of Passion, De Palma’s first film in five years, it’s clear that this master of the erotic thriller is back on home turf, with all the luscious violence, sensationalistic flourishes, and base pleasures that has come to entail.

Based on the recent French thriller Love Crime by Alain Corneau, Passion utilizes its parent film’s narrative of corporate betrayal as mere framework for which De Palma to dress in all kinds of lustrous detail, with sleek, sharp angles dissecting each composition, turning the sterilized confines of an advertising agency into battlefield of concrete forms and conflicting emotions. Starring Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams in an apprentice/mentor tug of war, Passion pits these characters as inversions of one another: Rapace’s Isabelle is innocent and naïve, but with enough natural talent to threaten McAdams’s Christine, a beautiful, manipulative executive who’s used every asset at her disposal to advance in the business world. As in many of De Palma’s great wars of will, there’s just enough of Christine reflected in Isabelle to trigger the aesthetic and narrative techniques—visual doublings, doppelgangers, voyeurism, shifting identities—needed to ignite the stylistic formulations on which the film hinges.

New York Film Festival 2010: Film Socialism

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Film Socialism</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Film Socialism</em>

Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialism left me in a familiar state, or at least a state familiar from my handful of previous experiences with the French New Wave master’s late work. Bafflement would be a simplistic way of describing this reaction; more precisely, it’s this feeling that one has just witnessed something certainly interesting, and possibly great, yet just a bit—okay, maybe more than a bit—beyond my grasp, at least for the moment.

That, of course, is hardly meant to be a negative if one feels that the rewards, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise, were ultimately worth the confusion. And in the case of Godard’s latest cinematic salvo…well, I feel like I might be onto something as to what he is up to here.

Throughout his long career, Godard has consistently been fascinated with deconstructing images: genre tropes/archetypes (think much of his early-1960s output); still photographs (e.g. Letter to Jane, he and Jean-Pierre Gorin’s 1973 poison-pen letter to Jane Fonda); visual art (his 1982 Passion comes immediately to mind); and, more recently, images produced by digital media. In some ways, Film Socialism is a culmination of his purely image-based obsessions, picking up a lot of threads he first proposed in his eight-part Histoire(s) du Cinema video-essay series. Here, images have the power to obfuscate as much as they can reveal. How much of the reality of family life can the two-person camera crew in the film’s second act—set within and around the home of a family with two precocious children—truly capture with their limited access? How close to historical, personal, or political truths can movie images or cultural artifacts really get?