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You really have to admire Brian DePalma as a director. He's directed some of the finest thrillers in the last 30 years and even his misfires are interesting to watch like "Snake Eyes". I really enjoyed how well made this film is. If you don't like the story, thats your business. But this film is so finely detailed and shot that I put it in the same boat as "Mulholland Dr." and "Blackhawk Down". Interesting films that some viewers had mixed reactions to but the direction of these films was so expertly crafted that even the most ardent critics had to admit to the talent of the director. This film starts out at the Cannes Film Festival where a group of thieves are attempting to steal some diamonds off of a model by having Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) seduce her in a lesbian encounter in the ladies bathroom. Things go wrong and Laure takes off with the diamonds. Seven years later Laure is married to an American diplomat and is in Paris with her husband when a papparazzi named Nicolas (Antonio Banderas) takes a picture of her. She doesn't want to be photographed because the former members of her gang are still looking for her. What I have just mentioned is just scratching the surface. This is a psychological thriller that has so many twists and turns that the casual film viewer will probably be in over their head. But this is a film that gives many hints along the way as you watch it. You have to pay attention to this film and one key scene takes place when Laure and Nicolas are having coffee in a cafe. Laure is sitting next to the window. Outside, a poster is being put up for a film called "Deja Vu" and the reflection of Laure on the glass is centered in the middle of the poster. DePalma uses many overhead shots to allow the viewer to get full view of certain scenes. Some viewers and critics have said they were disappointed with the casting but I admire the job that Rebecca did for this film. Okay, she's not Jodie Foster as far as being an actress is concerned but Foster couldn't exude sexuality like this if her life depended on it either. I thought it was believable that her character could manipulate Nicholas the way she did. How could he not? She was a combination of sexuality and vulnerability inside a very smart and devious mind. And for a film called "Femme Fatale" you had better find an actress that is smart and utterly beautiful at the same time. I found her performance to be bold and brave. DePalma uses each shot to send signals relating to the story. It sounds like a very difficult shoot because each scene has so much meaning. He doesn't have cameras following characters for nothing. Each shot has a reason. The details to this filming are enormous and difficult. DePalma again shows us the attention to details of his complex artistry. If your one of those shallow film watchers that only views films from the incredible mediocrity of Hollywood than your probably going to be lost watching this film. For the viewers that remember and care about risk taking when making movies, than you can appreciate the effort made by DePalma. If you don't like it, thats okay. But you should appreciate his effort and nerve as a director.
Mr. De Palma is not a critics' darling, and as such his latest, Femme
Fatale, has come in for his usual roasting. Is it deserved? Not if you
love a film that embraces the visual splendour and techniques that make
cinema a unique art form.
Femme Fatale sees De Palma returning to his forte: the suspense thriller. It is a welcome return considering his recent fare have seen him straying to more mainstream efforts - Mission to Mars, Mission: Impossible - that were shells of his virtuoso films of the late 70s and early 80s.
The film leads off with a stunning 20-minute Jewel heist sequence that takes place during the Cannes film festival of 2001. Completely bereft of dialogue, a la Topkapi, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's character has the enviable task of lifting a diamond dress from Rie Rasmussun in a bathroom encounter. His first original screenplay in 10 years, De Palma writes a tightly-plotted tale that certainly does not lead the audience by the hand, and the resulting twists it provides will allow different perspectives on the film's events with repeat viewings.
Antonio Banderas - usually lost without cause if not working with Robert Rodriguez - does what he needs to do with efficiency; Romijn-Stamos, the Femme Fatale of the title, provides the eye candy. The acting is not top drawer, but it does not need to be: we're here to see an auteur in his element: De Palma delivers. Cinema is more than a stage with a camera - De Palma uses his camera and cinema technique to brilliant effect. Huge swooping camera movements, split-screen, slow motion sequences, no dialogue and an enveloping orchestral score; De Palma's signature is prevalent. And that is good: a director should never be an autonomous entity, happy to turn out derivative drivel that get the masses in and out - directors for hire are too commonplace in Hollywood today - and that is something that De Palma could never be accused of.
Femme Fatale is a great example of a director working in a genre he loves and understands, and given the freedom to create. Total cinema? Its smell is sure intoxicating. Welcome back, Mr. De Palma.
As I read the comments I can't help wonder how is it possible nobody thought this movie is an essay on cinema as well as a re-read of De Palma's own creations and obsessions. The questions on the board suggest that almost nobody pay attention even to the plot. 21 years before, "Blow Out", De Palma's most transparent reference to cinema craftsmanship and the relations between cinema and reality, and, what is most important, to cinema as knowledge (or even revelation), merged from an almost hopeless vision of the world: at the end of the film, Jack Terry, the character played by Travolta, had found the truth, but the price he paid for it is loneliness and madness maybe (just like Hackman at the end of Coppola's "The Conversation"); revelation is for him a sort of curse as he lost his second chance (one of the director's recurrent themes) as far as reality made the grade with its web of lies and corruption. "Femme fatale" shows that De Palma get older and wiser: even though reality is as corrupted and plenty of lies as two decades before, his faith on cinema as knowledge (what is cinema but a dream?) is stronger than then. He also has change his point of view about women. This turn, that started with "Carlito's Way" and even more on "Snake Eyes", is evident here, as he shows his own change of mind through a character that goes from his old kind of female character to the new one. (And those who wonder about the snake, read the Bible --Genesis.) At the very beginning of the movie, Laure's reflection on the tv screen reunites she and Barbara Stanwyck as the summa and the evolution of the femme fatale kind of character. That "DOUBLE indemnity" starts a game of doubles along the movie. Later, when the character of Lily appears, there's a choice to be made: Laure (of course, the reference is to Preminger's "Laura" though the film pays clearer homage to Hitchock's "Vertigo") has to decide to became Phyllis Dietrichson or to became Lily. The "dream strategy" is full of risk; in fact, when a writer/director uses it as a solution, the task is condemned to failure. But De Palma uses it masterfully, because dream is not a solution but a way: there are ten minutes of movie left after it to give that "dream strategy" a new sense and a justification that any film ever gave. As I wrote before, that dream is built as a movie watch by both audience and Laure. But the collage made by Banderas character is also a movie: a frame by frame (or scene by scene) construction of a reality that is out-of-time of that reality. De Palma, at the end of the film, tell us: that is what cinema is made of -different scenes shot under diverse lights in separate times, joined under one look and put together to make sense. We, as spectators, are the ones that can contemplate that work finished, and this final revelation, as the one at the end of "Citizen Kane", ask us to be able to join the pieces and reach knowledge cinema can give. There is a lot to write about this movie; these are only silly notes compared to the type of study "Femme Fatale" deserves. For those who are not interested on analysing a movie and just want to know if they will have fun watching it, I can only say that you can enjoyed the movie, with its twists and its suspense, even if you don't notice what I am talking about. "Femme Fatale" is an underrated masterpiece. Long live Brian De Palma (even if he has to live in France).
Brian De Palma's 'Femme Fatale' is pure movie-making. In fact, it is
done so well you almost forget it is all close to nonsense. But who
cares, 'Femme Fatale' is an exercise in style drenched in twists and
turns. Instead of cheating De Palma gives us a lot of little hints,
easily missed the first time you see it. Explaining the story could
ruin a lot and is probably useless anyway.
I can tell the film opens with a heist, probably one of the most erotic ones out there. Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is the one who goes away with a very expensive artifact betraying a whole lot of people. This event is what drives her the rest of the movie, but in what way I can not reveal. I can say that we move forward to seven years later and that Laure has changed her identity, more by mistake than on purpose. Another important thing I can tell you is that we meet a photographer named Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas). He takes a picture of Laure while she is still Laure and he is the one who takes a picture of her seven years later, a photo that could spoil everything for her.
I should stop talking about the story. You have to see it for yourself, collecting clues and try to make something out of it. I love a movie like this. 'Memento', 'Mulholland Dr.' and 'Donnie Darko' are other examples. Maybe you can figure them out, if that is the filmmakers intention, maybe you can not. But it is not so much the conclusion I enjoy, it is the ride that brings us there. De Palma does it in a terrific way with a lot of love for the movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
`Femme Fatale' is Brian De Palma's latest foray into the challenging, but
artful world of contemporary film noir. The genre is not new to De
repertoire, but this one was a particularly difficult undertaking, due to
its complex mix of cinematography, genre interplays, character profiles,
plot development. I have extremely mixed feelings about the film because
where it succeeds, it does so extraordinarily well, but where it fails is
too important to the overall quality of the film. I felt more saddened
De Palma, who wrote and directed it, didn't just choose less loftier
and come out with a much stronger piece.
The plot revolves around an alluring seductress, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who leads a life of crime, but leaves it abruptly and unintentionally when circumstances give her a new lease on life as a respectable married woman. All's well, till her identity is revealed when a two-bit paparazzi, played by Antonio Banderas, brings her past and present together again, making for an explosive interplay of human character and dramatic plot twists.
I confess that the above plotline is grossly oversimplified, but I stop short of apologizing for it, because the plot itself is the least important aspect of `Femme Fatale.' Logistics are loose at best, but as the final scenes play out, the plot seems relatively unimportant compared to the much stronger elements of the film. The movie blends styles ranging from French independent films' European use of female personas and erotic sensuality, to American cult genres, such as Pulp Fiction or Twin Peaks, with its use of musical counterpoint. There are intensely mature scenes involving more explicit sexual innuendo, as well as sophisticated cinematic photography that plays with color, shadow and texture. Much of the production involved such intimate attention to this stylistic detail, it carries the film. Most well-versed film-goers are sure to appreciate and relish in the varied themes presented here.
The characters in the film are compelling, although two-dimensional, through and through. At first, I considered this a weak point, but when the filmmaker's intentions of style and mood became more clear, I reluctantly acknowledged that stronger characters would have drawn the focus away from the film's more abstract aesthetic qualities. Noire films are often more about style than plot, and the characters are often frustratingly under-explained, not that I necessarily support this aspect of this otherwise fine genre. It's the `contemporary' part that adds the additional dimension of abstraction that demands less from the characters than what we think we want to see. This odd paradox is exactly why I felt the plot was too strong, despite its logistical problems. Had the sequence of events been even less important, I would have found it much easier to bathe in the visual, audible and other aesthetic qualities of the movie.
To that end, `Femme Fatale' is clearly form over substance, which may not appeal to the more casual viewer looking for something reminiscent of previous De Palma mainstream blockbusters, such as `Mission: Impossible.' This film cannot be critiqued with a simple view, and I wish I had hours more to discuss its more intricate nuances, but even still, to recommend for or against seeing it is something I find more difficult than reviewing it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Femme Fatale" is best understood as a game played by Brian De Palma
and appreciated by knowing cineastes. It's not about story or
characters, but about the construction and manipulation of art.
Antonio Banderas plays Nicolas Bardo, a photographer who has turned his back on photographing celebrities. He now spends his time living in an apartment, making huge composite images by arranging tiny photographs. The Bardo character, in many ways, is Brian De Palma. At war with Hollywood storytelling (which is fuelled by celebrity) De Palma takes these multiple images and weaves them into a tapestry until a final image is made. The point is that the final image is not reality. It is the artists recreation and completely false.
At the end of the film, Bardo completes his masterpiece by inserting a little white figure (of Laura, a name which itself alludes to Otto Preminger's classic) onto his wall. The figure doesn't belong, Bardo simply chooses to put it there. Thematically, "Femme Fatale" ends on the same note. Noir fatalism is thwarted by a completely arbitrary, totally ILLOGICAL and cosmically IMPOSSIBLE moment of editing whereby De Palma redeems his hero and kills off her opponents.
Critics call this sequence implausible. But De Palma's point is that it doesn't have to be plausible. Bardo puts the white figure on his wall because he wants to. Similarly, De Palma ends the film as he does, because he wants to. He shows us Laura's fatalistic noir dream and then rescues her from it. He makes it clear that he is redeeming her and willing this positive ending into existence solely because he as artist, but more importantly, as noir God, has the power to do so.
This flips the usual noir logic. If Kubrick's "The Killing" highlights the deterministic law of the universe (Clay's plan crumbling to pieces all because of a random poodle), De Palma's "Femme Fatale" highlights the power of the artist, able to do recreate a universe entirely devoid of cosmic law.
This theme is also highlighted by the use of the name "Bardo", a Tibetan word meaning "intermediate state". A state between life and death. Over the course of the film, Bardo will be caught between life and death, as De Palma toys with killing him. Bardo's existence or artistic merit is down to an artist's mere whim.
Everything else about De Palma is present in "Femme Fatale": the voyeur and his object, the representation inside the representation, the original and its fake copy, the doubled characters, key episodes built from multiple points of views, the elaborate camera work...
Watch as De Palma's camera continuously misleads our eyes, giving the hidden predominance over the shown, until we are forced to separate in our minds the real from its representation and to connect the different pieces into a "sense". This technique comprises the film watching experience as a whole, and is what De Palma's films are essentially about, from Jack Terry's reconstruction of truth with the aid of montage in "Blow Out", to Santoro's investigations of a crime from partial testimonies in "Snake Eyes".
This theme, the division between reality and image, has grown increasingly important for De Palma. The majority of his films are concerned about how we see and watch movies, the director obsessed with reminding us that information is not the same thing as knowledge.
Consider "Snake Eyes", which opens with an unbroken tracking shot that essentially lays out the film's plot. The rest of the movie then becomes a demonstration of why everything we had seen in that sequence was a lie. Likewise, the opening sequence of "Mission: Impossible" showed us Tom Cruise's crew of agents being picked off one by one. We had already seen each of those murders, though, in nearly subliminal blips during the movie's credit sequence (information without knowledge). "Black Dahlia" and "Redacted" similarly deal with a search for truth amongst an image bank of lies.
"Femme Fatale" begins with a long heist sequence. Throughout this sequence, allusions are made to "Snake Eyes" (the literal "serpent camera" and the object of the heist, a snake shaped piece of gold), De Palma effectively saying: "The camera is a snake and not to be trusted." Note too the film "Est-Ouest" showing as the heist goes on. Like "Femme Fatale", this is another stream-of-consciousness film with an unreliable narrator.
And so the rest of "Femme Fatale" takes a "dream within a film" approach (foreshadowed in opening shot). Watch how De Palma sets this dream sequence up with careful details: the storm, the clock (the time 3:33 will appear on clocks throughout the dream), the water running, Laura sinking, and by having the actors from before her dream taking on different roles within it.
These signifiers, and others, will emerge throughout the film, emphasising the surreal atmosphere of Laura's adventure. Everything becomes disconnected, dialogue makes no sense (at some points it's dubbed without even following the actors' lips!), time jumps back and forth etc etc.
Indeed, during her dream (like "Mulholland Drive"), Laura herself will embody different female archetypes, all traceable in film history and particularly in De Palma's films. She's Kim Novak in "Vertigo" and also Melanie Griffith's prostitute of "Body Double" and so on and so on.
The majority of De Palma's films have dream sequences. Even a "serious" film like "Casualties of War" ends with a character waking up on a train, realising that the whole film was a nightmare. Why does De Palma feel the need to insert this? My guess is that he doesn't want his films to be seen as "real". They exist in a wholly metaphysical space.
8.5/10 - As usual with a De Palma film, critics and audiences rejected "Femme Fatale".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was idiotic. Some people tell me I shouldn't dislike films if
they don't make any sense. They tell me I should just enjoy the ride.
Sorry, I can't turn my brain off. It is particularly important in a
film that the film make some sort of logical sense.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
We have to believe that the guys planning the heist at the beginning of this film are willing to risk a huge amount of money, not to mention their own personal safety, on the premise that a female photographer is absolutely certain to be able to lure a complete stranger into a toilet stall for a round of hot lesbian sex. Now it turns out at the end of the film that the stranger isn't a total stranger after all - but this is a big surprise to the guys who planned the heist. They actually planned the heist based on the premis that their photographer would absolutely, without doubt, be able to lure a stranger into a toilet stall during a film premiere.
How stupid is that????
And don't tell me I shouldn't expect logic because it's all a dream. That wasn't part of the dream. And here's another moment that wasn't part of the dream. We learn at the end that the woman lured into the toilet stall kept the real diamonds, but told the police they were the fake subsitutes. You think the police wouldn't want to examine whatever she had for clues?????
Sorry, I can't turn my brain off -and this was an IDIOTIC film.
Brian De Palma made a return to the thriller genre in which he made his name
after the gigantic blip that was Mission to Mars, which he suffered two
years earlier. But is his return to the genre a hit or another misfire?
Neither, actually; it's decent.
The plot follows the escapades of a young lady that screws the mob out of a heist of diamonds, stolen during a thrillingly executed heist at the Cannes film festival. After assuming a new identity, she later returns to Paris where she must evade her past by any means necessary.
Brian De Palma obviously has a talent for filmmaking; this is evident in the majority of his works, particularly the earlier ones. It's not as abundant in this film as it is in some of his others, but that flair is still shown to a certain extent. He does, however, seem to spend a lot of the movie piling on the style, when he would have been better served building character and giving the audience something to care about. Anyone that knows De Palma, knows that he is the man that "does Hitchcock". Here, he doesn't tribute Hitchcock, but rather the melodramatic noir thrillers of the 40's and 50's. This is clearly shown at the start of the movie from the shot where Rebecca Romijn Stamos is sat on a bed, watching the classic noir; Double Indemnity.
Having only seen Stamos previously under heavy make-up in the delicious X-Men films, it was nice to see her here in a 'normal' role, especially as I was one of the people that saw her sex appeal, even under all that attire. De Palma teases the viewer with her at first; he keeps her face hidden behind various objects and camera movements, but when she finally appears; she doesn't disappoint; Rebecca is one beautiful woman. Especially when she dons that brown wig. Starring alongside Stamos, is Antonio Banderas. I like Antonio a lot; I rate him as an actor, and not just for his role in the spectacular Desperado series. However, he isn't at his best in this film. In a role that requires him to don a silly gay accent at certain points, Banderas doesn't quite look at home. Maybe it's just because I'm used to seeing him flying round shooting bad guys, but he struck me as being a little bored.
It may or may not be a good thing that the film is done partly in French, as on one hand it makes it more realistic, and firmly places us in France; but on the other, we have to read subtitles in an American film, and when I watch an American film; I'm not expecting to read subtitles. Especially not ones that disappear before you have a chance to read them fully, as they often do here. Another thing about Femme Fatale is that it never manages to be as sexy as it pretends to be. Despite making almost full use of the lead's assets, it is ultimately more tease than strip. This could be seen as a nod to the classics to which the film owes itself, but for a film that states itself as being a 'steamy thriller', I was expecting slightly more steam.
The film boils down a final and surprising twist. Throughout, the film keeps you guessing, despite being largely hinged on coincidence; and the twist does come as a surprise, but it is that awful, clichéd twist that everyone dreads. However, to De Palma's credit; he does almost make it good. To pull off a twist like the one in this film, the storyteller needs to be talented enough to not make the audience demand their money back when the movie finishes. When the twist first hit, my eyes were starting to role but credit has to be given to De Palma because even though the twist he's working with is silly, he manages to bring the film to a close which wraps it up, and does tie all the loose ends together. And although I'm still not sure if that was the right route for the film to take, it is well done.
Overall, Femme Fatale is an enjoyable thriller that is bound to keep most audience members on the edge of their seats throughout. It doesn't echo the brilliance of Dressed to Kill, Carrie, Sisters or most of De Palma's earlier oeuvre in the thriller genre; but it is the best film that the man has made since The Untouchables, and is therefore recommended.
First thing first: for those who love watching Brian De Palma films,
this is a must-see film for you. Femme Fatale is one of Brian De
Palma's greatest thrillers, along with Dressed to Kill, Carrie,
Obsession etc. If you are not familiar with Brian De Palma films, it
might be best if you watch some of his more conventional thrillers
before watching Femme Fatale.
This is definitely one of De Palma's more personal films to date, and as he both directed and wrote the screenplay for Femme Fatale, he has virtually complete control over the film. Every single camera shot has a meaning to it, and this film as many of De Palma's classic camera styles, such as split screen slow motion action sequences, long takes before a disaster occurs etc.
A lot of the talent behind this movie also comes from the cast. Rebecca Romjin-Stamos gives a noteworthy performance as the bisexual seductive Laure Ash, and Anotnio Banderas excels himself as Nicolas Bardo, the retired still-obsessed professional photographer, who gets trapped in Laure-aka-Lily's seductive web. Other noteworthy performances got to Peter Coyote as Bruce Watts, and Eriq Ebouaney as the sinister and ruthless Black Tie.
Generally, the screenplay for the movie is well-written and flows smoothly throughout the movie (except for the ending, which is a little bit strange. Those who have seen the movie would know what I'm talking about).Also, one there's one pretty major problem with the heist at the beginning, but you don't really notice it when you're watching(I only picked it up after my fifth viewing of it).
Also,Femme Fatale wouldn't be the same were it not for the film's sweeping and riveting score, which sets the slightly mystical yet mysterious tone for the film.
Overall, a top-notch De Palma classic, although no-lovers of Brian De Palma may not appreciate it in it's full brilliance
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have some questions. As I watch this movie I'm going to write this.
1. Why is there a cat in the security area of the theater?
2. Why is the chick with 10 million worth of jewels and gold on so stupid that she lets another woman not only strip her but also cut the gold thread,which obviously can't be fixed, and is the only thing holding her "costume" on?
3. Why is the chick in camouflage wearing the exact same clothes with the exact same hair cut 7 years later? And why is the guy wearing the exact same blood stained tux shirt, I know he just got out of prison, but can't he get another shirt? Wasn't the shirt held as evidence and why wasn't he given a deal to get out of jail early by turning on the people who he was working with?
4.And so he gets out of prison and throws the chick into the truck, without interrogating her or getting any info from her first which really doesn't matter because he sees the real girls photo on a poster across the street. Luckily, even though he just committed a murder he has enough time to see that poster because he's not worried about looking around for cops or witnesses or getting away quick?
5.What world do you live in that you can believe that a woman that hot can be walking down the street in those cameo shorts without every guy on the street totally staring and willing to come to her rescue when those two guys grab her and throw her into a truck? Or at least grab the guys who did it? Are we really suppose to believe that nobody saw anything? Why doesn't Antonio get a picture of them throwing her into the truck?
6.She just happens to meet her twins parents and be taken in to their house and the twin just happens to kill herself and leave a passport and a plane ticket which just happens to get bumped up to first class.
7.Why was Antonia Bandito's character so intent on taking the photos of two women talking outside of a church?
8.Those bad people? It's one bad person and if she's married to the "the richest man in the world" and looks like she does, why can't she just find another bad person to take him out? Although I did like the line "Bad people read papers too."
9. If she wants 10 million and she's married to "the richest man in the world", ever heard of divorce? I hear it pays well.
10. An American French ambassador's wife of the "richest man in the world" doesn't have 24 hour security?
11.They have sex with their clothes on and Ainthony Bentdildo turns out to be a forty second man? I know I'd want to spend a bit more time with her. At least forty five seconds.
12. What kind of professional killer doesn't shoot someone before they throw them over a bridge? Anybody remember the last scenes from the Batman TV show? Holy freaking nude hot chick Batman?
13.OK so why did I have to watch a stupid dream sequence? What's the point of watching a movie where everything that happens is written off as not being of any value? Everything you just watched is all beyond any criticism due to the fact that it's not real? Lame.
14.So two guys just got killed and the photographer isn't trying to get a shot, instead he's trying to get some pussy? Well... that sounds right.
15. What's up with the Conan music?
16. Why Why Why was this made? A big waste of time. Oh, Oh oh I have to add this one, what was the deal with the two gangsters having the guy in their car and him slamming heads and making like he was about to get away and then it just switches into them on the bridge running behind Romajin-Stamos and slapping her head and then throwing her over the bridge? And then shes in the water naked? What was that all about? A way to sell more posters and hand lotion? Was that a landing strip/pinstripe shave on her bush? I prefer a triangle myself, but then I don't sleep with supermodels.
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