The Weekend Rent: Fuel Your 'Passion' for Brian De Palma's Psychosexual Thrillers

The Weekend Rent: Fuel Your 'Passion' for Brian De Palma's Psychosexual Thrillers

Aug 31, 2013

"The Weekend Rent offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters"


The second definition of "psychosexual" in Merriam-Webster dictionary is "of or relating to mental or emotional attitudes concerning sexual activity"—a subject iconic director Brian De Palma has explored over and over again in his movies. His latest sexually charged thriller, Passion, stars Rachel McAdams as Christine, a cutthroat Berlin-based advertising executive who constantly stifles her assistant Isabelle's (Noomi Rapace) attempts to climb the corporate ladder. After Christine takes credit for one of Isabelle's ideas, Isabelle begins an affair with Christine's husband and, well, things get messy and murderous—De Palma style. Passion ignites in theaters on August 30 as well as on VOD. Read my exclusive interview with De Palma on our sister site, Fandango.

De Palma has covered many genres in his long career, but Passion is a return to his titillating psychosexual thrillers of yore that feature beautiful women in peril, split-screen shots, evocative scores and other signature De Palma techniques. Here are a few that would fit nicely in a box set along with Passion.

Sisters: The Staten Island apartment of lovely model Danielle Breton (Margot Kidder) becomes the scene of a grisly murder witnessed by a neighbor, a reporter, but the police don't believe her story. You might not believe the true nature of Danielle's sisterly bond either, but we wouldn't dare spoil it here.

Obsession: De Palma has been said to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock, well, a few times. This Vertigo-insipired thriller is about wealthy New Orleans real estate developer Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) who loses his wife (Genevieve Bujold) and daughter in a botched kidnap rescue. Years later he returns to the Tuscan church where he first met his wife and sees a dead ringer (Bujold again) for her. Michael woos her and wants to marry her, but his past is about to catch up to him in ways that are sure to shock him... and viewers like you.

Dressed to Kill: A mysterious, tall blonde woman with dark sunglasses murders a psychiatrist's (Michael Caine) patient (Angie Dickinson) and then goes after a high-priced prostitute (Nancy Allen) who witnessed the brutal murder. There is a long sequence in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art with no dialogue that speaks volumes. This Hitchcockian thriller is Psycho on steroids and is available on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Body Double: If Dressed to Kill is De Palma's Psycho, then Body Double is the director's Rear Window. Jake Skully (Craig Wasson) is a struggling young actor who agrees to look after a posh, futuristic pad in the hills above Los Angeles while the owner is away. Jake starts spying on a beautiful neighbor (Deborah Shelton) through a telescope, but titillation turns to terror when he witnesses a brutal attack taking place and tries to unravel the mystery. Melanie Griffith stars as Holly Body—a porn star pulled down the rabbit hole with voyeuristic Jake. Body Double is available on DVD and a limited-edition run of only 3,000 Blu-rays.

Femme Fatale: After Body Double, De Palma explored other genres until this 2002 psychosexual thriller about a beautiful woman named Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn) who steals a piece of jewelry worth $10 million from a model at the Cannes Film Festival only to skip out on the jewel thieves who helped plan the heist with her. Laure disappears to America and creates a new identity for herself after marrying a powerful politician, but a photographer (Antonia Banderas) who had snapped a picture of her on the lam years earlier now threatens to expose her true identity. Sadly, Femme Fatale is currently only available on DVD.

The Black Dahlia: De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's novel about one of the most notorious murders in Hollywood history is over-the-top lunacy. Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) was a struggling actress looking to make it in Tinseltown in the '40s but ended up sawed in half with her organs cut out. Two detectives (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) are assigned to crack the case, which leads them to prominent socialite Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), the daughter of an influential man. Two-time Oscar winner Swank slinks around like a "bisexual praying mantis," according to one reviewer, and although no one will claim that this is De Palma's finest film, Swank delights in putting the "psycho" in psychosexual.

All of the movies listed above are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray as well as various VOD services.

Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy

 

 

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