The NYFF notes unblinkingly refer to Passion as De Palma's "first fiction feature since Femme Fatale," such a perverse twist on the word "fiction" that it almost makes a De Palmian kind of sense. Redacted (2007) is a dramatization of real life events but in no way an actual documentary, while The Black Dahlia (2006) is even further from the non-fiction designation, as a narrative film adopted from a novel based on a true story. Yet within De Palma's filmography, yeah, sure, The Black Dahlia might closer resemble real life than the thesis-in-waiting trilogy of Cain, Fatale, and Passion.
Actually, maybe the NYFF should've outright reversed its play on words; I get the feeling that to De Palma, movies like Passion are non-fiction. But to anyone else, the first 30-40 minutes of Passion will appear stilted (at least in terms of concerns secondary to De Palma like dialogue and behavior), albeit fascinatingly. Rachel McAdams, dressed in a series of weirdly unflattering outfits (high-waisted pants, turtleneck blouses), plays Christine, head of a powerful ad agency, or consulting company, or something; the point is, she's the boss of Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), and they engage in an ongoing friendship-slash-competition, with plenty of flirting-slash-backstabbing. The suspense of the movie has little to do with whether Isabelle will receive credit for her mobile-phone ad idea or which working woman of the world will have revenge; rather, film geeks will reach the edge of their seats wondering when, exactly, De Palma will uncork.
When he does, it's a feast of fetishized style: the directorial control of the first section gives way to canted angles, noirish blind shadows, POV shots, long takes, and a bravura trick of a split-screen sequence. The movie has plenty of showstoppers in its back half, but one of the most interesting doesn't contain any of the director's signature shocks of violence; the camera just follows Rapace out of her office, into an elevator, to her car in a parking garage, and into a fit of deep frustration and rage. All together, the movie isn't quite as nutty as Cain nor as movie-drunk as Fatale, but it's of their ilk: diabolical, a little deranged. Like De Palma's other palate-cleansers, it's more about its creator than its creations. Plus, there's nothing like seeing a De Palma picture with an audience of film critics; when it sees proper release, it's virtually guaranteed that the non-joke line "you have a twin sister?" will elicit knowing laughter.