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.
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.
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!
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.
on February 29, 2004
I was so overwhelmed by the script, glorius visuals, inticate scores, and the 'cant take my offs you' presence of the lead actress, that I am extremely concerned about anyone who could ever call such a film rubbish.
seriously, every scene in this film is painstainkingly and so beatifully lit, directed and filmed, that it can not be described asnything other than art of the highest calibre.
Very much in the David Lynch style of story telling, I would say this film is on par with Lynch at his best, albeit without the darkness and madness that underline Lynchs film.
DePalma is clearly a master of filmaking, and his previous films prove how good he can be. I would rate this and scarface as the pinnacle of his career.
If you can watch this film, with its erotic and very sexy seduction scenes, glorius camera angles, perfect lighting, editing and scene production, and simply say the film was average, or poor, makes me very worried about the state of the human race.
Whats the future, when art becomes classified boring, and fifth rate stick-to-formula cops and robbers type films become seen as excellent ?
This film is amongst the absolute best i have ever seen, and I rate directors/writers such as Stone, Lynch, Kubrick very highly.
Miss it at your loss. this is one movie for those who have emotions, and other senses that are still very much alive.
on February 22, 2004
Brian De Palma's movies seem to have a polarizing effect on its viewers as they either love them or hate them with very little room for anything in between. Although I understand why some find his work frustrating and criticize his tendency to focus on style over "substance", he has directed quite a few of my favorite movies, including "Blow Out", "Carrie", "Body Double", "Dressed To Kill", and "Carlito's Way", just to name a few.
I did not see this movie when it originally came out as most reviews, with the exception of Roger Ebert, tore it to shreds. While "Femme Fatale" may not be the most original or best acted movie, it is a big, juicy, sexy thriller and I have not had as much fun trying to figure what was going on since seeing "Memento" or "Ocean's Eleven". While this movie is not as original as "Memento", De Palma's technical progress as a director and love of film noire make this a treat for the eyes and ears. There are some insane plot twists which enter into surreal territory and strong surprise elements, including one which brigs together some of what I originally thought were huge holes in the story. I am purposely not saying much about the specifics of the movie as I hate it when reviewers spill then beans on important details.
De Palma has always been fascinated with voyeurism, misogyny, amazing action sequences, superb style, technology and the difficulty of making moral judgments and of separating reality from illusion. Many of his films deal with the creative process or the representation of reality and "Femme Fatale" does not deviate from the aforementioned. Some accuse De Palma of aping Alfred Hitchcock and now of aping himself, but while I can see how this perception may bother some, my ultimate determinant of whether a movie is good or not is if it kept me involved. The answer here is an easy yes and I loved how he used split screens and some amazing watery images that he has used before, BUT the technical bar has been raised in this movie and there are several extended sequences which set the movie in gear that involve almost no dialogue that may be some of the most entertaining and elegant pieces ever filmed. Ultimately the movie has nothing "profound" to say, but it leaves you with a sweet taste of having been challenged and entertained.
There are several clues along the way and I loved the way it tricked me fair and square, and on second viewing the attentive viewer will notice several clues to suggest what De Palma is up to. The performances are hard to judge as the movie is very light on dialogue, and many of the words that are spoken come across as if the characters are imitating movie actors, much like was done in "Far From Heaven." Some have destroyed Rebecca Romijn-Stamos acting, but while she may or may not be a great actress, I found her perfectly cast in this movie as she's gorgeous, icy, and fearless. I am not a fan of Antonio Banderas and this movie did little to change that, but luckily he is not on screen too much. Peter Coyote is his usual amazing self. The gorgeous Danish model Rie Rasmussen also brings not only her breathtaking beauty to the table, but manages to keep a straight face in several scenes that objectify her to a degree rarely reached by De Palma. Some will hate me for thinking that this is a good thing, but De Palma is masterful in bringing new visual perspectives to his recurring fetishes.
In a nutshell, if you have liked some of De Palma's previous movies, especially those that I mentioned above, you will quite likely love "Femme Fatale". I know that I did. While I sometimes wish that De Palma would up the ante on the originality of his stories to match the level of his craft, or that he would be less misogynistic, (and one could arguably add racist or homophobic to a certain degree in this particular movie), I had much more fun watching it than I expected and it easily earns 4 stars. De Palma, unlike many of today's directors, allows his personality, fetishes and quirky humor to come through without worrying about focus groups or political correctness. While one could argue that De Palma may be a screwed up guy who should move on to other subject matters/genres, I just hope that he continues to entertain us in a genre that I find to be very fascinating and that few manage to do well.
on February 17, 2004
this is another Brian DePalma movie that I'd wish I had never seen. His only good movie was Carrie, and that was it. Sisters, dressed to Kill, blow out, Body double and especially Raising Cain were awful.
Of course you will see naked females, the f-word used 50 times, extreme violence, and hitchcock-rip-off plot. Not the type of movie that you sit down and watch with your family. I was actually uncomfortable in the theater because I was sitting with strangers who I didn't know, and watching Rebecca Stamos get naked.
EVERY SINGLE movie that DePalma writes, is about some kind of a double. In Dressed to Kill, Body Double, Raising Cain, Blow Out, Sisters, and Femme Fatale, a woman or man is disguised as someone else, and the audience thinks that these two differen't people are really, two differen't people, when they are actually one. DePalma plagiarizes his own movies and Hitchcock.
He uses that same old PSYCHO formula over and over and over again. It's getting old.
on February 16, 2004
I bought this movie based on reviews of the movie from different sources. Apparently I missed what everybody else was raving about. This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I cannot believe that the same director of Scarface directed this smelly waste of a movie. This movie is constructed so haphazardly, it feels very low budget. I don't know what the director and director of photography were thinking, but the whole movie is like a train wreak of photographic styles and angles. It looks like they shot things ("hey, let's do this!") with no underlying visual or narrative reasoning behind it. The acting, while not terrible, is below standard. The music composition is also very bad. Music is a big part of how movies play off emotions for the audience and this fails miserably. There's even a "homage" to Alfred Hitchcock films in the music, but let me tell you - BRIAN DE PALMA IS NO HITCHCOCK. I cannot believe that Brian De Palma will be able to work in Hollywood after this mess. NOT Recommeded.
on February 14, 2004
Brian DePalma is terribly underrated as a filmmaker--one might even legitimately use the term "auteur"--even if so many of his films seem derivative in style and content. Here, he mines a lot of Paul Verhoeven's work ("Basic Instinct," as well as Verhoeven's earlier European thrillers) and gives the production a "haute couture," late 1960s feel that is both breezy and dangerous. There's the requisite icy blonde (Rebecca-Romijn-Stamos, looking like the statuesque softball captain from high school who suddenly discovers expensive makeup) and a black-clad Antonio Banderas, playing the gigolo innocent pulled into the web of intrigue. The plot is fairly standard noir, though DePalma throws in a "what if" last act that is sure to disorient viewers unfamiliar with the director's penchant for split screens and narrative somersaults. The best thing about "Femme Fatale" is that despite showing a fair amount of sex, DePalma is more interested in exploring power as the defining force in our biology. Romijn-Stamos simply wields her body like a blunt instrument; for her, sex is power. By the second half, though, the convolutions of plot and familiar distractions of Romijn-Stamos in some state of undress grow repetitious. Nonetheless, the aesthetics of DePalma's artistic vision--from the confident camera angles to the perversion of Ravel's "Bolero" to the production's fondness for sea foam green--are worth giving this DVD a look. Given DePalma's sensibilities, I wouldn't mind seeing him some day breathe life back into the Bond films.
on February 8, 2004
This is the prime exampled of films released primarily for an american audience that throws a bit of euro scenery and trash into it to make people from Podunk, Kansas and Moose Dropping Idaho think that Europe is some kind of sensual land with exotic women.
The most exciting thing about this film was seeing my favorite French actress, Sandrine Bonnaire, enter the Cannes movie house. This is a cheap stupid film with a lesbian bathroom scene. Although the movie was shot in great locations in Cannes and in Paris, the whole premise, jewel thivery and an alternate reality is about as believable as Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction.
This film is so crummy it even manages to screw up movie shots on the bridges spanning the Seine, on which I have had many a nice night. All copies of this film should be put onto a cargo plane and flown over the ocean and dropped into the sea. The randy nerds that wrote great reviews of this film should graduate high school before they are allowed to post to these forums.