Femme Fatale - dir. Brian De Palma
Losing faith in a director you once held so dear is a difficult enterprise. Woody Allen sure has taken us through plenty of ups and downs in the past fifteen years. Even Wim Wenders' biggest fans have found little to like in the director's post-Wings of Desire narratives. And I don't even recognize Dario Argento or George A. Romero any more. So when a director like De Palma makes a film like Femme Fatale, the bias sets in, and while certainly less than the films that made you fall in love with him in the first place, it takes you back to the good ol' days. Femme Fatale is not a good film, but more than the offensively misfired The Black Dahlia, Snake Eyes and Mission to Mars, it's a pleasant reminder of what kind of a filmmaker De Palma once was.
With signature bravado, Femme Fatale opens at the Cannes Film Festival where a jewel heist is underway. Thankfully, since it's De Palma, the heist isn't without its share of naked women and lesbian bathroom hook-ups. Elite con artist Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) takes off with the loot and changes her identity in order to hide from her former partners she double-crossed. It doesn't really matter what happens in Femme Fatale, but how it happens. It's loaded with your typical De Palma/Hitchcock allusions, so many I lost count. And it's awfully sleazy.
Donning an occasional French accent that's more effective than any of the various ones Angelina Jolie has delivered, Romijn-Stamos is game for De Palma's lurid erotica. Very few actresses have given themselves so fully to a director for such low pursuits, and bless her heart for doing so. Whether tossing clothes, performing lap dances, feeling up busty women or getting raped on pool tables, Romijn-Stamos is thoroughly unself-conscious, which elevates De Palma's technically skilled, perfumed trash to a level of guilt-free dissoluteness. I probably won't ever rank Femme Fatale alongside Carrie, Body Double, Blow Out or The Untouchables, but it's the closest thing to a "return to form" that we'll hope to see from him.
With: Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote, Eriq Ebouaney, Edouard Montoute, Rie Rasmussen, Thierry Frémont, Régis Wargnier, Sandrine Bonnaire, Eva Darlan, Jean-Marie Frin
Screenplay: Brian De Palma
Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Country of Origin: France
US Distributor: Warner Bros.
Premiere: 30 April 2002 (France)
US Premiere: 4 November 2002