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on March 9, 2004
Without giving away too much of the story, I can sum up FEMME FATALE's strength in one phrase: it's classic Brian Depalma ... which, sadly, is its greatest weakness.
Throughout his career, DePalma has employed a trademark style to his storytelling. At its peak (films like his most publicly accessible THE UNTOUCHABLES and BODY DOUBLE), his eye for camerawork has been utterly fascinating, pulling the viewer deeper and deeper into intricate plots of danger, derringdo, and doublecross. However, his weaving eye is the source for all the flash in FEMME, and, unfortunately, the story is left relatively flat albeit unpredictable.
Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is wonderful to watch as a jewel thief in the midst of a heist gone bad at the Cannes Film Festival. Once things make a turn for the worse, she stumbles (almost literally) into a chance for a new life, and this is the film's great narrative weakness: this virtual makeover is far too coincidental to accept. However, once the viewer gets past this, the film cranks the twists and turns up and notch again in classic DePalma style. So, if you can dismiss one little unbelievable turn of fate, this thriller is probably right up your alley; if you can't, you'll have problems with it.
Had DePalma cast a stronger actress -- Romijn-Stamos fuels some great scenes as the sexy provacateur, but she isn't exactly convincing when she needs to be -- FEMME might've created a bigger splash. This isn't to say that the film isn't enjoyable; rather, it's the kind of observation that can only be learned through hindsight.
Word to the wise: you can probably watch the first 40 minutes of the film over again after your first viewing, and you'll be surprised -- if you're watching closely -- at all of the visual cues DePalma masterly slips in along the way.
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on August 24, 2003
The exceptionally beautiful Rebecca Romijn-Stamos gets her own leading role minus the blue paint of Mystique in X-Men. Unfortunately, I found her acting talents as a "babe in blue" that holds her own in personal combat to be better than what she put on the screen in this film. Don't get me wrong, her performance was adequate to the role but it seemed somewhat contrived, almost as if she was trying too hard. Then there's Antonio Banderas, an actor whose acting skills are much better than the roles he or his agent are setting him up with. Of course, it's easy to see why he took this role, namely the opportunity to work with Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Don't get me wrong, this film starts out with style and ends up beautifully as well, it's just some of the "action" in the middle that is somewhat contrived and seemingly short on either performance or writing or both.
The premise:
In a well thought out opening sequence we see Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in the middle of a heist in which her part involves seducing an actress in the bathroom of the movie theater while her partner in crime makes a switch of the diamonds. The diamonds of course are embedded in gold and turned into a dress of "sorts" in which the actress is barely wearing. Unbeknownst to her partners in crime, she has plans of her own with reference to the diamonds and she makes off with them, leaving her partners in the dust.
The next day, she's attempting to secure false documents in order to get out of the country. She slips into a church and then strangely enough, an older couple notices her and chases her out of the church. She then makes her way to her hotel where one of her partners in crime catches up with her and tosses her over the balcony. Fortunately for her, she isn't killed in the fall and the odd older couple comes to her rescue. She wakes up in her home and the couple is talking to her as if she were their daughter. After they leave, she discovers that she is a perfect doppelganger for their daughter who has apparently disappeared.
What follows from there is an intriguing tale that follows her life and the strange twists in which it takes. I would definitely recommend this film as a rental! {ssintrepid}
Special Features:
From Dream to Reality
Dream Within a Dream
Femme Fatale: Behind the Scenes
Femme Fatale: Dressed to Kill Montage
North American and French Trailers
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on August 21, 2003
The cinema of Brian De Palma is for those who understand it. And to understand the cinema of De Palma, you have to understand the cinema in general. If you don't, you don't deserve to have privilege of wathing any of his films. However, there are people who don't know what cinema and filmmaking are all about, they just think they do. Such people, who are in fact quite numerous, don't know how to watch a De Palma picture and at the and, of course, they dislike it. That's the main reason why De Palma is the most underrated director in the history of filmmaking - he's being misunderstood, just like Hitchcock, De Palma's great idol, used to be (Rear Window, Vertigo).
The central theme of De Palma's cinema is the cinema itself and its connection to reality. In other words, De Palma's filmography explores the life-cinema realationship, the cinematic aspect of life. Whether you take a look on such versatile works like his thrillers (Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Body Double, Snake Eyes), where this theme is most evidently present, his action (The Untouchables, Mission Impossible) or war (Casualities of War) films, they are, more or less, all about one key problem, which is how we see and understand reality. Whenever you watch a De Palma film, you can always be sure about one thing: nothing is ever as it seems.
Probably nobody else understands cinema as well as De Palma does. His last film, Femme Fatale, an amazing fantasy mosaic, couldn't have been made by anybody else than a man who loves movies and understands cinema as a perfect expression of art. De Palma is an excellent artist, the best filmmaker of his generation, a brilliant storyteller who has managed to maintain his technical preoccupations and cinematic constants (vouyerism, surveillance, doubles, split-screen, tracking shots) throughout the entire career. In this sense Femme Fatale represents his masterful comeback after Mission to Mars, a film which was also quite underrated and misunderstood. Femme Fatale might be regarded as Brian De Palma's "greatest hits" (as mentioned by Glenn Kelly in Premiere Magazine), his personal "deja vue". It seems like a film De Palma has been making for all 40 years or so, that's how long he's been in film business. It's his own "The Wizzard of Oz", as he called it in an interwiev for Film Comment Magazine. Femme Fatale, which begins with an extraordinary 15-minute technical extravaganza, is an ultimate example of pure filmmaking and, on the other hand, a pefect successor to Memento (2000) and Mulholland Drive (2001). These three films represent the basis of what I personally call "The New Hollywood", "films noir" for the new millenium, all exploring subjects concerned with public identity, reality-fiction and consciousness-dreams relationships. It was high time that someone decided to move away from the conventional way of making movies, take a step further and try something new. De Palma, Nolan and Lynch did exactly that.
Highly recommended for all true film fans and for those who understand what pure fimmaking is all about.
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on July 27, 2003
A very good friend of mine, whose taste in films is very discerning, raved about this film to me. I was quite suprised as the reviews had been generally lukewarm. I rented the tape and agree with my friend that this is a wonderfully conceived and crafted film. I would say that it is one of De Palma's strongest films. It works on all levels and is definitely the best thriller that I have seen in years.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot as to spoil some rich and rewarding suprises. Suffice it to say that it is recommended that as you watch the movie, know that the end will show a very different picture of what morally and emotionally is occurring in the movie.
The screenplay is excellent. Although the plot is rather complex, in the best tradition of Hitchcock, the viewer is never lost or baffled by what is going on. The movie also deals with the results of our actions and how we can change them. What we do for others does affect what happens to us, according to Mr. De Palma.
Be forwarned, however, that this movie is not for the prudish. There is a rather erotic lesbian scene (both women are stunning) and there is an outlandish strip scene featuring Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. The outlandishness makes more sense cinematically when the movie is resolved.
If you love intelligent, creative film noir movies, see this film with pleasure.
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on March 26, 2003
I thought the movie was decent but I was a bit disappointed in how short the relationship was between Antonio & Rebecca. It seemed like it ended before it even started good. When she got sexy and really started doing things it was near the end. "The Diamond Hiest" and all that was interesting. But I was really wanting to see the relationship between the two main characters the most. The truth is I really didn't understand this film. The director felled to explain alot of things in this film. I know she had a child and was married but at the same time what exactly happend to them both? They just kept saying she was married and she lost her child. Also what was this whole deal about her seeing her self kill herself? And how she actually sat there and watched her self proceed with the suicide? "Antonio Banderas's character was quirky in this film. He basically was a complete idoit that was treated completely asinine by the Rebecca character. When his character is introduced he snaps a picture of the two women "And Shouts: Got Ya ..Run to Church to save your Soul?" Some of the lines in this film were horrible to some extent and hard to digest! Then the bad guy gets out of jail with blood on his shirt that is 7 years old and still bright red? The best part of this film was the whole bridge and Club sequence when she was making him jealious.I also thought the beginning the kissing session with the girlfriend was very sensual. So then the film takes a 360 and goes back to when she was going to shoot herself. And she prevents it because she has seen the future or what was to become of her life. You know I am a bit confused at the directors point of view. What was he trying to convey? Was she a psychic of some sort? Was he trying to say that we have alternate futures depending on the path we take? I watched this film 5 times and yet in still I just can't believe Antonio was that Niave. Also I don't understand what the necklace symbolized in the film. And if she was one person and she chose not to kill herself in the end and do the right thing? Why was she still involved in the scandle at the end? This movie was trying to hard to be complex I think. Then the fact that she kept saying "I'm a bad girl" just convined my decision that the director was obviously pressed for time to bring this forth in the character. Now "that" to me was a bit over dramatic and cheezy in my opinion. "Sharon Stone" was slick and caniving with out the theatrics! This movie was trying a bit hard and leaves alot of questions? I think the director was trying to do to many things with this script. Which shortened other focal points that could have made this film clever & alluring. Maybe this should have been a longer film? Or maybe Antonio & Rebecca should have met in an earlier point in the film? Because really they didn't have alot of chemistry if you ask me. By the time the chemistry was built between them the dream or whatever was over! This movie I believe had gotten some ideas from "Mullholland Dr" The king of dream sequence films. So yet in still, that to me wasn't a original concept. The music and the way it was filmed was pretty original. I like the whole "George Lucas" type theme they had while they were expediting the Diamond Heist! Also I thought the foreign language text made it a bit hard to catch some key factors. The lesbian scene was cool I guess, and the strip tease was sexy. I thought Rebecca was amusing in the way she conveyed her lines so cocky & sensual near the end. Her confidence made the movie somewhat alluring. But some where down the line this movie lost momentem in the middle. THis is a O.K film it is entertaining in it's on way. But it left me feeling uneasy & satified to some degree. And had alot of plot holes that really should have been explained better.
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on March 25, 2003
I thought this movie was fantastic. I know that people said it was "overdone" and too contrived, but I think thye utterly missed the point and the attention to detail that De Palma put in, as well as the superb performance of Stamos in her "debut" leading role.
I thought this films ONLY difficult point was the admittedly critical plot device which happens half-way to three-quarters of the way through. It is probably what killed the film for most people, because it just comes at you from nowhere, and it is jarring and it is contrived. However, if you get passed HOW the plot device is done, and ignore WHY it might have happened (two biggies), I'm telling you, it does make every single second of the entire film make perfect sense.
Why are all the clocks stopped at the same time throughout most of the film? What are the pictures on the wall (both the recurring posters and the photographs)? What is the gift for? What are the choices that we make and what part do they play in our future, and of those around us. All of this is revealed in detail.
This film is about choices, and the infinite number of universes (a legitimate theory of Quantum Physics) which are spawned by every action we take in the world. Our choices matter. And De Palma made a film which explores that in a very fanciful way.
It is not De Palma's best film. The Untouchables, Body Double, Scarface and Dressed To Kill are certainly his masterworks in his Oeuvre. My personal favorite though, of all of his, is Phantom Of The Paradise, which is one of the most fantastic films ever made, period, in addition to being a more enjoyable Rock Opera than Tommy.
But I loved Femme Fatale, despite it's flaws, and I've added to my collection of his favorites!
Oh...and Rebecca is not only a great actress in this ...
Expect a bumpy ride, but like a good rollercoaster, enjoy it, even if there are some spots you wished had been smoothed out.
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on March 10, 2003
Femme Fatale is almost two hours long but feels much longer. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's accent goes in and out of focus, and has Antonio Baneras in a speaking role - never a good idea. The soundtrack quotes Bollero, and Vertigo as the camera swoops around trying to move the plot along. Without giving anything away (that would be too easy), this is more a film exercise than a regular movie because though things happen (people die, deals are made), the overall tone is cold and it seems that Brian DePalma is more concerned with being clever than in giving the audience something new to watch.
I found the film difficult to get through because it seemed to be filled with gimmicks and visual pyrotechnics, but no real reason to be, other than to show off the director's skills at making a movie. This is pretty harsh, I know, but don't you have better things to do with your time?
What bothered me most is that this could have been a good film, all the elements were there, but DePalma made choices that pushed the film further and further away from any kind of original (non-derivitative) film. And the crucial scenes were shown in slow motion, which made watching them painful if you had any idea where they were headed to.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 8, 2007
Thanks to R.A. Bean aka:Depalama's #1 I have the opportunity to wrap myself around this wonderful film. Femme fatale seems to be in vogue and a fascination with so many contemporary filmmakers. And when connected with heists and sexual acts, Brian DePalma does have a great flair for making his `femme fatale' intriguingly stylish and mysterious - especially when she slips into two personalities with a touch of Hitchcockian appeal.

DePalma's cinematic approach is incredibly baroque and surreal. He skillfully dabs some stolen moments from his many past films into his plot and sub-plots to create this modern thriller. Yep, he sets the mood, with a `50s classic film, to introduce his femme fatale. Then he glamorizes her, letting her blend in with the spirit and the festive mood of Cannes. From there, he lets the viewers' imagination run wild, as if watching her inch her way through some of the memorable scenes of some past movies. There's the presence of warped dreamlike moments, not so different from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (yes I also finally seen it this week) - dark, cold and sort of going nowhere until the last half-hour when the puzzles begin to fit. The uncanny twist, plugged into the film to disentangle the web of confusion, carves out a pleasingly and surprisingly ironical ending - as if one is seeing Run Lola Run all over again. Call it an erotic, twisted psychological thriller - if you wish - but I truly had fun connecting the dots. In a way, rather suspenseful! And there are loads of playful teases in the film to allow the viewers to struggle with illusions and disillusions! There's just no telling what's real or unreal; or who is supposed to do what. It's like saying everything, witnessed by the eye, is possible.

The story is visually and stylishly narrated with great focus on De Palma's ravishing and praiseworthy filmmaking techniques - camera movement, timing, split frames, frame editing etc. I must admit the visually accentuated and explicit sex scenes - 'striptease' and lesbo exposures included, are rather artistically filmed! Beware prudes, just cover your eyes! But don't forget - that's to be the expected draw whenever a noir seducer gets on screen! After all, a `femme fatale' is never meant to be a housebound angel! As someone once said `women are compartmentalized; her legs and a** identify a supporting character until the finale explains her identity.' You can bet, the film has a lot of torso sections of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos' to offer some cinematic thrills! Great dramatic sounds from the music scores to create excitement. The song, "Sexe" - by the French singer, Damien Saez - beautiful being!

A mesmerizing cast of principle actors. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos who is brilliant in her roles. Who cares whether her two characters are developed well! Men are likely to fall under the spell of Laura/Lily! Charismatic Antonio Banderas in his paparazzo role offers some very funny moments. And the moods of both the Cannes and Paris surroundings delightfully trigger off the appeal of glamour and romanticism on screen.

"Femme Fatale" is fascinating with a touch of French film noir! DePalma always does well in mesmerizing the viewers with stylistic takes from one frame to another and so far he has not prove me wrong.
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on May 8, 2004
First and foremost, I have to admit to myself that I am a Brian De Palma fan. I don't like all his stuff (Scarface, Mission Impossible, to name a few) but, if you want gratuitous eye candy, this film has it all. A lot of people that I have spoken to complained about Femme Fatale's ludicrous plot twists. Of course it's ludicrous! The excessive plot falls right in line with the excessive camera work and excessive editing. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun watching a movie. There will be a lot of Hitchcock comparisons, but what director of thriller films, isn't influenced by him these days?
Here's the skinny. The film stars Rebecca Romijn as the Femme Fatale, and Antonio Banderas stars as one of her victim/lover/blackmailer. Eriq Ebouaney is impressive as an ex-con seeking revenge. He is constantly surprising me with his incredible range. Peter Coyote plays another dull and wooden character (he really sucks.) Hey Pete! I know you have to make a living, but please give it a rest. The good thing is that he's only on the screen for about 10 minutes.
I would have given the movie 4 stars, but I had to deduct one for Sakamoto's blatant rip-off of Ravel's Bolero for the film score.
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on March 11, 2004
This movie is a lot better than most reviewers thought. Besides
being stylish, sexy and beautiful to look at, it's far more intelligent than your usual Hollywood fare. It operates on more than one level at a time, and, because it gives you something to think about that is not issue-oriented, is really rather fascinating.
To discuss the plot is to give things away, so I will tell you rather what is so interesting about this picture.
If "Dressed to Kill" was DiPalma's tribute to Hitchcock, "Femme Fatale" is his tribute to Goddard and the rest of the French New
Wave directors of the 60's. The theme of this movie is actually a line from Edgar Allen Poe: "All that we see or seem / is but a dream within a dream." The film is dream-like in its pacing,
its juxtapositions and its imagery. It is also about dreams...
dreams as ambitions, dreams as aspirations and dreams in the Freudian/Jungian sense of symbolic communication between the
unconscious and the conscious mind. Music lovers will notice immediately that the music which accompanies the wonderfully
langourous and seductive opening scene is Ravel's "Bolero" with half the orchestration missing. Later in the film, Bartok's
"Concerto for Orchestra" gets the same treatment. That's a tipoff that there's something amiss with what you're seeing and following as a storyline. If the surprise ending strikes you as emotionally cheap and unfulfilling, well, so are most dreams.
Like the Paris locales in this film, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is wonderful to look at... you can't take your eyes off her. She
is also given a part to play with real complexity, if not a lot
of emotional depth, and acquits herself very well indeed. This part should convince anyone who sees it that she is an actress
of some promise and deserves better and more varied roles. Likewise, Antonio Banderas always finds just the right note in playing the wiseguy papparazzi who soon finds himself in 'way over his head.
This may not be a great film, but it is an extraordinarily GOOD one!
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