Femme Fatale (2002) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
246 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
pure movie-making
rbverhoef23 June 2005
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.
68 out of 87 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Well crafted and finely detailed
rosscinema18 May 2003
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.
78 out of 107 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Triple Indemnity
tieman6427 October 2007
Warning: 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".
42 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nice little thriller
The_Void17 August 2004
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.
28 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great Fun... sexy, suspenseful and did I say sexy lol
Blumanowar30 December 2020
Definitely a guys night out movie... sexy sexy sexy and great suspense and intrigue. And did I say Sexy lol... it's much better than the 6.2 rating. IF you like sexy, suspenseful thrillers and of course Brian DePalma directed it so you can't go wrong with this one!!! 20 yr old movie but you'd never know it.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
jaredd2 February 2020
First I have to say is: Stamos let this get away? What's wrong with that guy? In this film Rebecca Romijn will catch your screen on fire, guaranteed.

I really don't understand the low rating on this film. It really is VERY good in almost every metric that you might use to review it. A solid product and very entertaining throughout.
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
De Palma Never Disappoints
llsmith-8718212 January 2021
In the fashion of Body Double and Blowup, this film is intricate and also eerily deceptive. The acting is superb. The staging is marvelous. And De Palma enlightens you with cafefully crafted imagery that guides you through the story with minimal dialogue. A true gem.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Style over Substance" works here
argv6 November 2002
Warning: 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 Palma's repertoire, but this one was a particularly difficult undertaking, due to its complex mix of cinematography, genre interplays, character profiles, and 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 that De Palma, who wrote and directed it, didn't just choose less loftier goals 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.
35 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
De Palma Does An Erotic Thriller
gavin694212 November 2013
A woman (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) tries to straighten out her life, even as her past as a con-woman comes back to haunt her.

The highlight of this film is the gay Antonio Banderas. How often do you get to see that? I do not think you have ever seen it before this or since (though I would love to be corrected).

Roger Ebert says, "This is a movie about watching and being watched, about seeing and not knowing what you see." De Palma is known for his theme of voyeurism, and there is that aspect here: not only are we voyeurs to the film, but one of the main characters takes photographs of people who would rather remain private.

Ebert also says, "Romijn-Stamos ... is a great Hitchcock heroine -- blond, icy, desirable, duplicitous -- with a knack for contemptuously manipulating the hero." This is an interesting observation. On the one hand it rightly praises Romijn-Stamos (this is her best role), but also has that reminder that many people see De Palma as derivative of Hitchcock (among others) and not necessarily in a complimentary way.

We also have his split-screen, which has been used in more than a few of De Palma's films ("Blow Out" and "Phantom of the Paradise" immediately come to mind). Does it work? Oddly, yes.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Both De Palma and Romijn-Stamos are in fine form here.
Hey_Sweden22 December 2019
Brian De Palma crafts a typically engaging erotic thriller, one that has a great deal of respect for film noir and femme fatales of legend (especially "Double Indemnity" and Barbara Stanwyck). Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is quite easy to watch as Laure, a sexy criminal who double crosses her partners during an elaborate robbery (all of this while the Cannes Film Festival is going on). Then she finds an opportunity to live the straight life (and the high life) for a while, until she ends up back in Paris where she's at real risk of having her past come back to haunt her. Sealing her fate is a slightly shady photographer, Nicolas (Antonio Banderas), who is tasked with snapping a picture of her.

While the script itself is not flawless, De Palma still tells a pretty entertaining story, one that holds the viewers' attention regularly. Certainly his filmmaking skill was still quite sharp at this point, especially when one considers the true highlights of the film: that aforementioned jewel robbery, and a scene in a strangers' home. These take place without much dialogue, and it just goes to show how the directors' style can carry scenes practically by itself. The exotic French setting is also a real asset to the picture.

The mostly French cast acquits itself well, with Romijn-Stamos clearly having fun playing a bad girl who knows full well how bad she is. She can really wrap guys around her finger, such as the hapless Nicolas, or Watts (a very likeable Peter Coyote), the nice-guy American ambassador to France. Gregg Henry, a semi-regular in De Palmas' films, is also solid as a strong-arm man working for the ambassador. Eriq Ebouaney has a great screen presence as the formidable criminal mastermind "Black Tie", while Thierry Fremont is amusing as a French police inspector annoyed at having to deal with Nicolas.

One of the more interesting touches occurs around 12 minutes from the end. While some viewers may be annoyed at the use of such a device / revelation, it allows for our main character to second-guess herself, and make different choices.

A must if you are a De Palma fan.

Seven out of 10.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Isn't sugar better than vinegar?
hitchcockthelegend8 November 2015
**SPOILER ALERT - The last paragraph makes reference to a 1940s film that constitutes a spoiler. **

There rarely seems to be anything in between where Brian De Palma films are concerned, cinematic lovers of all kinds by and large either trash or laud his films. Femme Fatale is no different, one critic - both professional or amateur - will have it as a 1/10 movie, another will have it at the maximum rate available. Femme Fatale is high grade stuff if one is either a De Palma fan or a lover of film noir. Conversely if these two things don't tick your film loving boxes then the law of averages suggests you should have - or should - stayed/stay away from it.

De Palma opens up the doors to his fun house and invites noir lovers to come on in and enjoy. It's difficult to write about the plot because it holds many twists and turns, it's a veritable supply of uppers and downers, twisters and benders, all sexed up and pumped full of De Palma's trademark tricks and devilish rug pulls. In truth the story and set-up is predictable, but the journey is what makes the pic ooze quality and bare faced cheek, with the director giggling away like a schoolgirl in the background.

Opening up with a sequence that sees our titular fatale (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) watching famed noir classic Double Indemnity, De Palma proceeds to homage and love the film noir world. As he uses split-screens, canted angles, up-tilt shots, shadow plays etc, the narrative pulses with eroticism and impending cruelty, this really is a femme fatale based movie of the grandest kind. As events unfurl, with hapless photographer Nicola Bardo (a fun packed Antonio Banderas) caught in the web, Ryuichi Sakamoto's magnificent classical based score swirls around like some sort of peeping tom. The latter of which finds a shifty accomplice in Thierry Arbogast's noir photography.

It's a picture awash with dupes, dopes and vengeful criminals, where the themes of identity, duality, sexuality and distorted perceptions gnaw away at those investing fully in the viewing experience. Some critics (prof and amat) have lazily likened the film to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, as if De Palma in 6 short months watched Lynch's movie and then knocked this film out! The copy-cat charge as funny as the rug-pull that De Palma pulls here. Besides, as any film noir lover will tell you, this has more in keeping with Fritz Lang's 1944 noirer "The Woman in the Window" than Lynch's film, which is no bad thing at all, and De Palma knew that. 8/10
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Graceful, Hypnotic & Breathtaking
seymourblack-113 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As an example of how to convey information with a minimum of dialogue, this movie is absolutely outstanding. Its plot unfolds so naturally and gracefully across the screen that, as well as telling its tale with great efficiency, it also creates a wonderfully hypnotic atmosphere. Its story about a well-planned diamond heist involves double-crosses, blackmail and revenge as well as some reflections on the level to which individuals are able to control their own destinies and interestingly, it also includes a number of Hitchcockian influences such as voyeurism, doubles, confused identities and the disguise motif.

Stylistically, the emphasis is on presenting the action with the kind of deliberate pace and fluid camera-work that together contribute so strongly to the dreamlike mood of the piece. This, in turn, makes some of the plot's stranger coincidences, apparently illogical developments and moments of deja vu seem far less incongruous than would have been the case, if they'd have been seen in a more conventionally-filmed movie.

During the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, Laure Ash (Rebecca Romjin-Stamos) has a key role to play in a heist that's been planned by her gang-leader, Black Tie (Eriq Ebouaney) and posing as a press photographer at one of the premieres, sees a model called Veronica (Rie Rasmussen) who attracts a lot of attention because of the very revealing gold, serpent-shaped, diamond-encrusted piece of body jewellery that she's wearing. When Laure and Veronica meet in the ladies' room immediately before the movie's due to be screened, Laure is seen apparently seducing the model and during their encounter, removes the various pieces of Veronica's body-jewellery and drops them to the floor. Black Tie, who's hidden in the adjacent cubicle, then systematically swaps each piece for a fake replica in readiness for making off with the loot which is valued at $10,000,000. Things don't go so smoothly from this point on and culminate in Laure double-crossing her partners-in-crime and escaping to Paris with the stolen jewellery.

In Paris, Laure is mistaken for a missing woman called Lily, who looks identical to her and so, after stealing her double's passport and plane ticket to New York, Laure takes the opportunity to escape to a new life in America. During the flight, she meets a wealthy businessman who she subsequently marries. Seven years later, when her husband, Bruce Hewitt Watts (Peter Coyote) is appointed as the American ambassador to France, Laure reluctantly has to return to Paris (coincidentally at the same time as Black Tie is released from prison). After a period during which she's able to keep a low profile, her cover is suddenly blown after freelance photographer, Nicholas Bardo (Antonio Banderas) takes a photograph of her which then appears in numerous publications and puts her life in danger because her fellow gang-members are out for revenge.

The surreal series of events that follow illustrate further just how evil and manipulative Laure is and produce a dizzying succession of twists and turns that lead to the movie's entertaining and highly unpredictable conclusion. Intriguingly, during this part of the movie, it also becomes apparent that a number of things that had happened earlier, were not actually what they'd appeared to be.

Brian De Palma's "Femme Fatale" is an immensely absorbing mystery thriller that features a woman whose characteristics are typical of the noir archetype and readily admits that she's "a bad girl, real bad - rotten to the heart". Rebecca Romjin-Stamos hits all the right notes as both Laure and Lily and Antonio Banderas is charming and humorous as her victim. The real star of the show, however, is the camera. The ways in which split-screen techniques, tracking shots and overhead camera angles cover the action are totally breathtaking and clearly the work of a filmmaker who fully understands and is inspired by, all the possibilities of cinema as a visual medium.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I Would Expect Much More Than That for a Brian De Palma Movie
claudio_carvalho24 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The thief Laurie Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) steals the expensive diamond jewel called 'Eye of the Serpent' in an audacious heist during an exhibition in Cannes 2001 Festival. She double-crosses her partners and is mistakenly taken as Lily, a woman who lost her husband and son in an accident and is missing since then, by an ordinary family. One day, while having bath in Lily's bathtub, Lily comes back home and commits suicide. Laurie assumes definitely Lily's identity, goes to America where she marries a rich man, who becomes the Ambassador of USA in France. When Laurie returns to France, her past haunts her.

"Femme Fatale" is a confused movie and the flawed plot presents many points not well-explained. For example, why should Laurie leave the safety of living in USA, having a fortune from the robbery (and maybe from a divorce from a rich man), and comes back to France, where she could feel jeopardized by her past? Certainly It would not be to stay with her "beloved-husband" in Paris. Therefore, there is no plausible explanation for her return to Paris. Further, divorces are common in America, so it would be very easy to her to resolve her problem. In addition, this situation of double life has been successfully explored in many movies, like for example by David Lynch in "Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive". The use of a classic scene (in this movie, 'Double Indemnity') is also very common technique. I would expect much more than that for a Brian De Palma film but in the end it is entertains. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Femme Fatale"
14 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Auteur theory is alive and well with De Palma
scoob-10 November 2002
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.
74 out of 107 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A masterpiece
magobbo13 June 2003
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).
83 out of 128 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Doubled Double Indemnity at 3:33
tedg17 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

There's a huge subterranean battle raging for the soul of cinema, and it may be one of the most important things in this waking life.

A huge contingent sees movies as illustrated stories or recorded plays. In this world, the acting matters. The characters are expected to draw us into attentive focus on some matter, usually related to archetypes, situational humor or sex. Because this is so character focused, disciples of this culture feed a celebrity priesthood. The camera is a recorder only. Most people in this world cannot believe there is a larger world of cinema.

Another group sees film additionally as a whole new vocabulary for perceiving and reasoning about the world. It is part of a new evolution in how we think and live. It is more visceral and communal than books, and takes far less skill to master. In this world, it matters what the eye is, who the teller is, what the form of the vision is. Images matter. All, even the actors and story, are tokens moved by greater forces of world-creation. Its where our future lies.*

DePalma has always been in this second camp, and is often reviled because he just doesn't care to cater much to the theatrically inclined. For him, everything is about who the watcher is and what he/she knows or fabricates. His best film prior to this was `Snake Eyes' which was all about the camera, moving `Rashomon' from the level of character to narrator/camera. The snake here is the fluid eye, possibly untrustworthy. But with this new film he has achieved a whole new level.

In terms of story, his films have always been about other films rather than life. For some reason, people only recognize Hitchcock, but Eisenstein, Welles, Kurosawa and Kubrick are more prominent. Here, we have them all plus Antonioni. Oh, and Lynch.

Lynch is the only other living mainstream director that works this way. His strategy is to have simple folding and to have one of those folds reflect the spookiness of our own minds and how we mess up his movie by the lack of control over our own nightmares. He invented the notion of making film archetypes into characters. `Blue Velvet' was about the Capra movie bumping up against the noir; and so was `Mulholland.' dePalma adopts this by creating two films. See how the second is lit completely differently. See how the camera moves completely differently. See how Laure is a wholly different person; even the makeup in the parent's house is radically different.

But where Lynch puts surrogates for our own demons, dePlama makes room for lots of self-referential commentary on what he is doing.

So we have indications of the film within the film:

--The first shot of watching a movie.

--The heist is at Cannes, involving that serpent eye, and incidentally employing a literal serpent camera. Moreover, that heist is overlain on the screening of `Est - Ouest.' If you've seen that, you'll get the bait-switch and lying narrator joke. (And you'll also get the Bolero reference.)

--The MacMurray character is a photographer who has given up celebrity photography. (See how the battle between the two film types is literally reflected?) He now spends his time making composite images. A fine point: note how the coloring of the pieces (of two types) are shown in the ending composite.

--The girl being watched by the photographer who is watched by the security guy who is watched by the doublecrossed heist comrades.

We have lots of folding:

--The two futures

--The two `identical' woman

--The two lovers

--The two screens

And of course along the way we get the jeweled serpent eye, the camera. And no one in Hollywood has a more fluid eye, a more curious stance than dePalma. Incidentally, it drives me wild when people call this noir just because the camera is unnatural (and, I admit, because there is the venetian blinds shot). But this is something larger, it subsumes noir, because we WATCH the noirish elements.

(*This battle for the soul of the mind is mirrored by wrestling match between avatars of the Microsoft and Apple/Linux worlds, which is why all the computers in this film are Macs.)

Ted's Evaluation: 3 of 4 -- worth watching (may be elevated depending on what else appear this year, as I only allow two fours per year.)
12 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Different Male Lead Would Have Made This Much Better
ccthemovieman-113 May 2006
This was a lot better than I expected, which wasn't a lot. It turned out to be interesting thanks in part to the stylish film-making and the nice job it did in keeping the audience's attention.

It got a few extra points for at least us males gaping at Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who looked spectacular, but lost a few for some big credibility holes in the story.

The film also would have been much better with a different male lead than Antonio Bandaras, someone who could speak English so people could understand him!

With Brian De Palma directing, you get some stylish camera shots in here, so it's a good visual movie....a lot more than just girl-watching. It's a film you could enjoy multiple times, especially if you get a translator for Bandaras.
22 out of 49 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
De Palma is a master craftsman
lastliberal15 June 2008
I'm sorry... You look so familiar. Haven't we met before, somewhere? That sounds like a tired pickup line, but it is significant to this movie in a way that cannot be explained without giving away the plot.

I watched this to see Rie Rasmussen's (Angel-A) debut film. She had a small role, but oh, so, delicious to watch! This was Rebecca Romijn's and Antonio Banderas' film, and they did a great job of keeping me interested throughout.

But, it is really Brian De Palma's film. A neo-noir masterpiece that was so deep on so many levels that it could be a whole semester in film school. It all seemed so simple, but that is the deception that De Palma uses to drag you in before he blows you away. It is an homage to so many great films and great directors, notably Hitchcock.

If you love film, it is one you should not miss. If nothing else, there is Rie Rasmussen to keep you interested.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Didier-Becu23 October 2003
Since De Palma directed the debacle that was Mission Impossible, it seemed like a genius director has lost it all but this latest movie by the "new Hitchcock" is perhaps one of his strongest since "Carlito's Way" and the masterpiece "Body Double". The story itself is quite simple : during the filmfestival of Cannes is a bunch of diamonds stolen but then the fun begins...you really have to be attentive during the whole movie as every minute De Palma puts you on a wrong foot just like we're used to by the master of the black thrillers... An absolute must!!!!
18 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Femme Fatale
jaywolfenstien18 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If you've never seen Femme Fatale, this is probably not the review to use in deciding whether to see it or not. Usually I don't like to give away plot elements, much less give away a key point in the movie; however, to give an honest opinion on how I feel regarding this movie I have to reveal a critical point that the entire film rests on. You have been warned.

SPOILER: I loved and hated this movie. I loved the vast majority of this film, even the use of the split screen (which typically irritates me in De Palma films). We're moving along nicely in this slick film, great on a technical level and interesting on a plot/character level to the point that I'll forgive the unprecedented degree of chance that the story rests on . . . and then . . . and then . . . De Palma basically gives me the middle finger by climaxing with my single greatest pet peeve of all time in all cinema – main character wakes up, and its only a dream. My jaw dropped and a stream of thoughts entered my head, utilizing language that would be inappropriate for an IMDb review.

Dare I say that *that* moment was more disappointing than Uwe Boll's House of the Dead? At least Boll's film never resembled anything good, and never got me to the edge of my seat, I never got into that lousy film. But De Palma, Femme Fatale rocked! I loved the opening scene, the whole first heist, which for some reason resonated with a Kubrickian vibe for me (probably due to the choice of music over the action.) Kudos for taking your sweet time. It was appreciated.

And never before had I loved and hated (in a good way) a character as much as I did Rebecca Romijn Stamos' character. She was so evil, but at the same time hilarious and fun with how she played Antonio Banderas', how she manipulated everyone around her. Let's not forget the dialogue between the two when they first meet - the hilariously awesome scene where Antonio has made it into her hotel room with the fake story of losing a 'floppy disk.' This film was so freakin' good . . . and then to be given an "It was all for nothing" dream ending? Leading up to the end of the film, I thought I might, just might, actually see a film where Laure gets away and continues to be a plotting evil little witch, or maybe she'd get what's coming to her and end on a downbeat, and I thought to myself, "I don't really like De Palma, but I have to admit if anyone has the artistic integrity and the balls to go against Hollywood formula and uninformed preview audiences . . . it is Brian De Palma." How is it gonna end? How are they gonna get out of this bind?! You're killing me with suspense De Palma . . . and . . . and . . . aw, crap.

In the De Palma's defense, he was aware that the move would split his audience down the middle, and he did give numerous clues that it was a dream. I can't stress enough that the bulk of the movie worked so wonderfully in grabbing my attention, keeping my attention, and keeping me on the edge of my seat. In that respect, it is a damn good movie. Also in the film's defense, the degree of which the film worked really set up my expectations, but its resolution just happens to be my ultimate narrative pet peeve . . . .

Ah well, as they say en français, "C'est la vie."
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Style or no style, this movie remains confusingly bad.
Boba_Fett113818 October 2005
I'm an huge Brian De Palma fan but that doesn't in my opinion mean that he can just get away with everything. "Femme Fatale" is definitely style over substance but is just style enough to save this movie? Absolutely not.

Biggest problem with this movie is the script. It's unnecessary difficult to follow at times, including the ending. On top of that the story just isn't interesting enough. Also the main character is an huge failure. I'm not blaming ex-model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos her acting skills for this, I simply blame it on the script. Her character never becomes accessible or interesting and remains difficult to understand and follow throughout the movie. Antonio Banderas is simply miscast, the role simply doesn't fit him. Thankfully there also are some well casted parts in the movie. Peter Coyote is always good in a movie. It was also great to see Gregg Henry in a De Palma movie again, even though his role in this movie was quite pointless. Another strong piece of casting was the beautiful Rie Rasmussen who in her small role perhaps leaves the biggest impression of the entire movie.

It may sound weird but I still enjoy watching this movie, despite me rating it poorly. Like I said before I'm simply a big De Palma fan so there still is plenty to enjoy for me here. The beginning of the movie, 'the Cannes festival heist' is extremely good and memorable and has De Palma his style written all over it. De Palma can build the tension in a movie like no other director can, even though the whole sequences reminded a bit too much of the other De Palma movie "Mission:Impossible". To be honest De Palma never has been the most original director in the business but the scenes are simply always constructed so well and are so highly memorable that you'll always forgive him for not being terribly original.

However in this case style alone is not good enough to save this movie. The movie leaves a messy, confusing impression afterward, which is simply due to the poor written story that 'tries too hard to be difficult' at times.

For De Palma fans it simply still remains a must see but everyone else can better skip this one, or should stop watching after the 'Cannes' opening sequence.


14 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One Of The Most IDIOTIC Films Ever Made
Richard-Nathan22 November 2002
Warning: 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 caper film that the film make some sort of logical sense.


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.
45 out of 86 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Better than expected
mm-3913 August 2003
Not a bad film, but is confusing and loses focus in parts. This film is European Chic and has nudity, and shock aspects. Parts of this film copies the European plot twists, what ifs, and style. Like many European Chic style films it's plot becomes too smart. Over all, I like this movie, but they could have cut 2 or 3 scenes out and tried to clear up some of the confusion. 7 out of 10
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
DePalma's best since Carlito's Way, possibly since Untouchables
Quinoa19847 November 2002
Femme Fatale is one of those movies for people who love craft in movies, since it contains nearly all of the styles in the book- slow motion, split screen, use of shadows, reflections, and more that I might have not caught on the first viewing. The opening shot/scene is an eye-opener that makes a great re-creation of Cannes from last year (though East-West, the movie shown within the movie, was at Cannes in 1999), and throughout, DePalma has a breathtaking visual sweep again, like in his earlier films; his last three films (Mission Impossible, Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars) were mediocre at best and at worst awful. Antonio Banderas, a little better than usual himself, plays a photographer who takes a picture of a woman, which brings forth series of events, double crosses, triple crosses, so on. The woman (or women) is played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, a hot firecracker of a babe who is in hiding after a jewel robbery, who has more hiding in herself as well.

However, despite this being a cinema-verite type thriller with Mamet-esquire plot turns, the ending is a downer on a first viewing and had me turned off to see it again for a while (is it even needed, despite its connection to genre, one might ask). And once I walked out of the screening, I knew that this could've been a great thriller, and it turned out to be in many parts, though I wouldn't recommend it as the definitive DePalma flick. However, upon a second viewing, it does become a bit more enjoyable, like an old bottle of red discovered years later. Those who are fans of him will find this sumptuous, and other film buffs will also have a good time, at least more than a few of the films De Palma's done lately. 8.5/10
8 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's Deja Vu all over again!
george.schmidt11 November 2002
FEMME FATALE (2002) * Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote, Ariq Ebouaney, Edouard Montoute, Rie Rasmussen, Thierry Fremont, Gregg Henry. Filmmaker Brian DePalma once again goes to the Hitchcockian well one time too often in this dreadfully listless and incredibly pedestrian ‘thriller' about a bad French girl (Romijn-Stamos doing a killer Sharon Stone cum Grace Kelly turn) whose identity as a criminal threatens to be usurped when she attempts a change in life by marrying a wealthy American diplomat and photographer Banderas (in one of his worst displays of acting) as the patsy she becomes embroiled with involving murder, blackmail and mistaken identity. Too much of a thinly veiled attempt by DePalma to breathe fresh life into a long-gone corpse: the erotic mystery via travelogue despite his pulling out all the stops (vertigo inducing cinematography, split-screens, etc.) that he has been notorious for. Boring and tedious in its theatricality; a real shame from a master auteur.
12 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed