View Full Version : Femme Fatale...

Giancarlo D L
11-06-2002, 06:35 PM
I caught a screening of Brtian De Palma's 'Femme Fatale'...if you remember, this is the Director who brought us the deplorable 'Mission to Mars' and ' Snake Eyes'...yet, he also brought us the masterful 'Scarface' and my favorite - 'The Untouchables'...while it ain't the greatest...its' plot twists will keep you seated, uf you are atechnical freak like myself, his imagery will compel you...if that fails...Rebecca Romijn- Stamos' body will surely keep you happy!


There is no other modern-day Feature Film Director who can single handedly build suspense in an elegant and exciting manner as Brian De Palma can. To many this can come as an overstatement, and this critic is aware that the proponents of Hitchcock and M. Night Shymalan will rise and criticize. But allow me to reiterate, De Palma is the master of modern day suspense.

After a string of simply awful films starting with the immensely disappointing ‘Mission: Impossible’, he then went on to direct the experimental ‘Snake Eyes’ and failed once again with ‘Mission to Mars’. This trilogy of films, which featured truly deplorable cinema, tarnished De Palma’s status and as a result, he seemed to be an outcast for quite some time (Please bear in mind; this is the same Director who brought to the world ‘Carlito’s Way’, ‘Body Double’, ‘Scarface’ and the masterful ‘ The Untouchables’. A lower class of film is unacceptable when such masterpieces were brought forward).

And while the 80’s were kind to De Palma, the 90’s were not – yet, it can be noted every time he did not deliver, he returned with a truly surreal experience, as was the case with the 1990 fiasco ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’. After being hailed as one of the worst films of the year, he fired back with ‘Raising Cain’. A psychological journey, which proved he had the prerequisites to helm a crafty film.

Here is Mr. De Palma again in the year 2002 with a personal ‘F-You’ to the Hollywood elite as he silences those who criticized him before. Please note, I am an avid follower of De Palma’s work and as such have always extrapolated some cinematic ‘avant-garde ness’ with even his worst films. But with his newest film ‘Femme Fatale’, it is a moviegoer’s dream to view a wave of technical craftsmanship on this film.

‘Femme Fatale’ is quite the eye opener, not only for Rebecca Romijn-Stamos’ lusty scenes, but also for its’ technical merit. Not only can De Palma build suspense like no other, but he can also make effective use of the split-screen shot in a truly auspicious manner. All this being said, ‘Femme Fatale’ is nowhere near to being a masterpiece, but it is indeed a step in the right direction for our newly rediscovered Director.

De Palma wrote and lensed ‘Femme Fatale’ in a no-holds barred manner. There are enough plot twists and turns to outdo a roller coaster and while the acting is a tad on the shady side, De Palma compensates with some stunning visuals courtesy of Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast (The Professional, The Fifth Element) and a visceral score by Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Last Emperor, Snake Eyes).

Starring Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in a cataclysmic career turn and the generic Antonio Banderas who always strokes his hair to the back of his head, De Palma’s script manages to make these two tepid characters actually watchable as he unravels a crafty and witty film filled with plot holes and irregularities. Yet, despite these flaws, De Palma engineers a truly refreshing film that will have many pondering over the film after its’ run time of 1hr and 50mins.

Romijn-Stamos stars as the sultry and seductive Laure Ash, a simply stunning thief who wishes to escape her crooked past after she nabs a 10$ Million diamond bustier at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. The film opens with one of the most invigorating scenes in recent memory as De Palma displays his technical prowess by amalgamating all the characteristics, which allow for great cinema. The introductory sequence opens with images from the Billy Wilder classic ‘Double Indemnity’ and slowly combines the art of editing, music and Direction as we are whisked away to the Film Festival where one of the biggest heists is about to take place.

De Palma uses his crew well as he creates a ubiquitous introductory sequence that will have the discerning viewer salivating due to its’ rich techniques. From there, the double crosses and the ‘I saw that coming’ sequences surmount as the film turns in every which direction except that of a bad film. One only has to study the dialogue (watch for Romijn-Stamos’ dialogue with Banderas when they are about to have anal sex) and they will know De Palma was going for a different type of film noir. Surely influenced by David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ the film is quite exciting and is sincerely worth a look for its’ merit, skill and clout as a film.

In this type of film, it is fairly simple to run into the pratfall of a typical Hollywood ending, yet here, the script calls for much symbolism and metaphoric references (the necklace results in ‘divine justice’?) as this Hollywood piece seems like a foreign film. Filmed in France and using much French talent behind the camera, it retains a sense of foreignness as De Palma presents another memorable opening sequence. The first 20 minutes of the film are mostly all in the Parisian language and subtitles guide the viewer as the ride ensues. De Palma even inserts true French talent such as Sandrine Bonnaire and Henri Ernst at the Cannes Film Festival to lend the film some authenticity.

In a nutshell, the film is worth a look due to its’ elevated filmmaking from De Palma and any movie that stars a generic Banderas that is actually watchable must be well made. De Palma displays hints of untapped and rejuvenated brilliance and while it is not the greatest film, it s definitely a solid film.

11-09-2002, 06:56 AM
I'm looking forward to Femme Fatale. DePalma has made some crap. No doubt about it. But like you say, he's also made some classics. (Carrie, Scarface, Carlto's Way)

And Carlito's Way holds a special place in my mind's eye because on Christmas eve 1993 I went to the cinema and NO ONE was there. The projectionist came down into the theatre and asked me if I still wanted to see the picture because they were thinking of shutting it down for the night due to lack of interest. I said YES, (lonely sod that I am) and he said OK.

Ten minutes later he & the manager came down in the theatre, sat next to me and said: Do you drink? I said "yeah". The guy pulls out a huge bottle of scotch and we proceed to see the movie while getting sloshed! I couldn't believe it. This experience had a great influence on how I viewed the movie- by the time the end credits rolled I was still wondering when Sean Penn was in the flick! I see the credits and I was floored. NEVER has an actor had me so fooled as Sean in that film. Seriously I NEVER KNEW IT WAS HIM. His name was on the poster, dammit. Must have been that wig.

A hell of a way to see a movie- empty theatre with premium whiskey on a snowy night...

11-11-2002, 03:43 AM
I liked "Blow Out", thought "Body Double" was overrated, thought "Bonfire of the Vanities" was underrated, hated "Carlito's Way" and "Casualties of War", could live without "Dressed to Kill", and enjoyed "The Fury", "Mission: Impossible", "Scarface", and "The Untouchables". All the reviews of "Femme Fatale" seem pretty bad so I was going to wait to see it on video.

11-14-2002, 06:21 PM

Femme Fatale is a very well made noir-type movie from DePalma, where his plot turns sometimes from my view almost take from Mamet, and his style is that of, well, almost everything- he uses all the tricks and doesn't overdo them, and the performances are better than expected (usually Antonio Banderas sucks balls in acting)...however, there is a problem from my view with the movie- there shouldn't of been the ending that was implemented- DePalma should've ended the movie right when we see Rebecca Romijn Stamos naked underwater, instead of it reverting to the 'it's only a dream, I can change' formula, that is often a downer- he should've taken a cue from, for instance, the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple. where we don't get the happy ending with the couple together and all the bad guys killed and yada-yada, we get 3 out of 4 of the main characters slaughered in cold, sadistic blood.....then again, Femme Fatale is an erotic thriller, and is directed by a guy who's done three flops in a row after his success Carlito's Way (Untouchables is his other masterwork, and forget the dumbass Scarface).

So to give credit where credit is due, Femme Fatale is worth the admission price, as long as you know what to expect. Grade: A-

11-14-2002, 11:38 PM
Thanks for the dope on Femme Fatal, you guys. I'm a fan of DePalma--the GOOD DePalma--from way back. When I lived in Seattle I went to a retrospective of all of his work including his student films and was startled and amazed by early films of his I'd never seen. Obsession, The Fury, Phantom of the paradise (WAY ahead of it's time and a classic slap at the music industry, the making of films, faust, and of course absoloutely BRILLIANT use of split screen), and Sisters (low budget as hell, but has an incredible split screen chase sequence and a bizarre and inventive plot) to name a few. His student films are pretty good, too, but those ones really stood out. I actually have to admit I liked a lot of the stuff in Snake Eyes, it wasn't up to par with the amazing earlier work, but it was a fair try, and I respect the fact he kind of took a chance with that one. Please, though, no more mentions of Mission to Mars!!

11-15-2002, 07:40 PM
Femme Fatal was quite different... although in very good way! I was never really fond of Stamos, but now after experiencing this film, she's not half bad. Antonio Banderas was breath taking as usual. He was actually quite funny for a bit.
I do recommend this film, if you haven't seen it that is. It's worth it, it has many twists to it. I went into this film not even knowing what it was actually about and came out impressed... It dragged on through parts, but what movie doesn't?

11-19-2002, 09:13 PM
Originally posted by stevetseitz
All the reviews of "Femme Fatale" seem pretty bad so I was going to wait to see it on video.

I think this is one that has to be seen on the big screen. Unless of course youve got the big screen tv. De Palma has pumped so much into each frame. The energy of the film also requires that one have ones ass kicked by a loud sound system. I dont travel to our Times Square megaplexes very often, but I was glad I did when I saw this one. Huge screens are where its at for Femme Fatale.


11-19-2002, 09:18 PM
50" toshiba- Boston Acoustics 5.1 surround

11-19-2002, 10:30 PM
While Depalma may be a stellar director, there are plenty of directors that can build suspense as good as he, and even better. M. Night Shymalahan, David Fincher, and Bryan Singer to name a few. Shymalahan, although new, is much better at building suspense then depalma.

11-20-2002, 12:11 AM
Originally posted by stevetseitz
50" toshiba- Boston Acoustics 5.1 surround

Had a feeling that might be the case :>
Now if only video on demand were in place, you could watch Femme Fatale now! Why is that taking so long I wonder...

11-20-2002, 12:53 AM
I'm with Johann (see 11/9), the only way to see a DePalma film is by being smashed. Then if he screws it up, it doesn't really matter. I met some of the cast to Carrie in Hollywood years ago when I ran a theater there. I wanted to ask them about the experience and discovered that many of them were getting stoned while standing in line to get in to the theater. I wished I could have joined them. The movie they came to see was "Some Like it Hot".

Personally, I think DePalma has something to offer everyone who truly loves the movies and has actually studied the subject at the collegiant level. Probably why Johann was in the theater by himself. He was the smartest man in town. Everyone else was just too dumb to understand the plot.

11-20-2002, 01:12 AM
Actually not a bad idea: DePalma + some kind of altered state could be quite a good combo... now, to choose the particular film and vehicle...

11-21-2002, 05:19 PM
**Moved Video on Demand Discussion to General Film Forum**

It was an off shoot of Femme Fatale but probably get more response in the General Film Forum.


12-10-2002, 12:10 AM
"While Depalma may be a stellar director, there are plenty of directors that can build suspense as good as he, and even better. M. Night Shymalahan, David Fincher, and Bryan Singer to name a few. Shymalahan, although new, is much better at building suspense then depalma."

All right, having just suffered through "Unbreakable", I'm afraid I'm gonna have to take exception to this comment that M. Night Shymalahan is a better suspense director than DePalma. Although I really liked SIGNS and agree that it was really suspenseful and well paced, I thought Unbreakable was a really weak showing. If what passes for suspense these days means the main characters whisper all the time in gauzy dim or bluish backlighting and then stand mute and staring for their closeups, sure, DePalma is getting his ass kicked by Shymalahan. The Shy Man wrote Unbreakable as well, and my god man, what a ridiculous ending! Captian America and Glass Man? What is with the inane titles detailing what "happened" in the days following the end of the movie's story? It's almost like the end of the Untouchables, except that was a period piece and it seemed more appropriate. It was also a better movie. The Shy Man will doubtless make another movie on par with SIGNS with how prolific he is and god knows DePalma has made some serious dogs, but he really does understand how to spin a tale on film and keep you riveted, of this there is no doubt.

12-10-2002, 01:13 AM
>> I thought Unbreakable was a really weak showing. If what passes for suspense these days means the main characters whisper all the time in gauzy dim or bluish backlighting and then stand mute and staring for their closeups, sure, DePalma is getting his ass kicked by Shymalahan. The Shy Man wrote Unbreakable as well, and my god man, what a ridiculous ending! Captian America and Glass Man? What is with the inane titles detailing what "happened" in the days following the end of the movie's story?<<

Admittedly, It's a much more interesting film if you are familiar to comics and the world of comics. I collected comics as a kid, "Thor", "Legion of Superheroes" and "The Black Panther" so I could not only relate to Shyamalan's perspective I appreciated the depth and conviction he gave the story which could have just been another fast pace quick cutting super-hero movie that we have all seen again and again. Just as a child's comic is simplistic and easy to understand, Shyamalan knew that the more sophisticated and mature audience would appreciate a super-hero story if it were told as a drama. Even this perspective has it's roots in comics.

Not all comics are the same: look at Frank Miller's work or Alex Ross. Look at the more intense (and mature) graphic novels. It's easy to dismiss these stories just as easy as it is to dismiss "Unbreakable" because it provided a stunner of an ending that doesn't fall into the typical climactic action scene that Hollywood movies usually do. Look at "The Vanishing" and "Insomnia". Both films were clearly better in their foreign incarnations. Part of what made the American re-makes so poor is the reliance on the cliched suspense/action scene tacked on the end of the film.

>>DePalma has made some serious dogs, but he really does understand how to spin a tale on film and keep you riveted, of this there is no doubt.<<

I agree. Untouchables was a good film and De Palma has made quite a few good ones.

12-12-2002, 08:13 PM
Boy, you have inadvertantly hit on something that drives me insane. Namely, the remaking of great overseas films by Hollywood. You totally nailed it with Insomnia and The Vanishing, but it seems EVERY time they try this it's an abortion. Look at La Femme Nikita! BOY what a dog of a remake! I'm also kind of annoyed by the remake of Red Dragon, actually, although that wasn't half bad. I suppose I'm just sore because William L. Peterson never gets his due and Mann is a great and underrated director, and Manhunter was a totally non-hollywood suspense masterpiece for its time that showcased the process of crime detection in the coolest and understated way. I love Brian Cox as Lector, too, his performance is the antithesis of Hopkins, and I like the underplayed thing a lot.
Back to your comic book comparison (sorry, had to get that Manhunter swipe in there), I guess I'm not reading the right kind of comic books! I'm a big Love and Rockets fan, and am a huge Daniel Clowes fan from way back in the Lloyd Llewellyn days, Eight Ball, Ghost World, all that. HATE comics also rule. I really don't have many of the super hero ones save some X Men comics from the 60's but I'll take your word for it that I would have liked it better had I been into them heavily, as this makes perfect sense. Take a horror fan to The Ring (and here we might actually have a decent remake, although I haven't seen the Japanese original yet) and they are going to like it a lot better than Mary Poppins fans. Sorry if I came off like a blowhard, but years ago I got to see a DePalma retrospective (the most recent film of that time was Carrie, I believe), and I was totally blown away by the body of work he'd done that I hadn't even heard of. Ever since then I've been hoping for a return to the genius split screen and candid angle DePalma of old but it's just not really materialized. I like M. Night, too, and loved Signs. He's a welcome addition, don't get me wrong. Okay. Done ranting now. I just harken back to genius days of old for some of my fave directors, and can you blame me? I might have to pick up Thief on DVD just to feel beter!

12-14-2002, 01:41 AM
Thief is a masterwork. Love the color in that flick.

I collected comics as a kid too. (Batman, Aquaman, The Punisher later- even got tattoos of Superman & The Punisher's logos)

04-17-2005, 01:38 AM
I stayed away from seeing this movie until recently, primarily due to the theatrical trailer that made this movie seem to be simple plot of spoiled man being used by seductress and a revenge movie. Apparently this movie is far more complex and intriguing. I was impressed by the convoluted plot development and depth that his movie had that really wasn't presented in the commercials for this movie when it came out. This was one case of bad advertising for me.

04-25-2005, 01:59 AM
All right, so perhaps some people actually DO like Michael Mann and DePalma, or at least there old stuff. It's just a case of "What have you done for me lately" I guess. My current picks and films I've thought were super cool have been PRIMER, a really great sci fi movie with no special effects and a disturbing and kind of well treaded theme but with a modern twist or two and beautiful to watch, and PHONE, where you will see where both the Grudge and the american Grudge were directly ripped off from. Bummer! Poor South Korea, they make such great films and they are instantly ripped for everything cool and "americanized" for less effect and coolness. Ugh. I also really liked So Close for it's ridiculous use of matrix like effects and super hot asian chick cat fights. One more for the road: My Left Eye Sees Ghosts, which also was insanely offbeat. I'd gush about I Heart Huckabees, too, but I have been going insane lauding that movie on the myspace movie forum and am to burnt to do that over again!! Yeah theif and DePalma Fans of the "good stuff"!!