Femme Fatale

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I am assuming Rebecca Romijn-Stamos was so delighted at the prospect of STARRING in a movie — leading lady, appearing in almost every scene, and so forth — that she didn’t care what the movie was about, or how trashy it was, or whether she would ever get to wear any clothes during the filming of it.

“Femme Fatale” is not the sort of movie that appears to have been carefully considered by its stars beforehand. It’s everything you expect in a Brian DePalma film (he wrote and directed it), and more: gratuitous nudity, random gory violence, plenty of style and very little substance. By any other director, it would be dismissed as pure trash. By DePalma, it requires we pay attention to it, and THEN dismiss it as pure trash.

It’s enjoyable trash, though, at least for a while. It begins with a lusty lesbian scene in a bathroom stall at the Cannes Film Festival. One of the maker-outers is Laura Ash, played by Romijn-Stamos, who then absconds with stolen jewelry and other expensive designer-wear, at which point she apparently double-crosses her fence and makes off the loot on her own.

I say “apparently” because much of what occurs in the film is not what it appears to be. It appears that Laura becomes the wife of a diplomat (Peter Coyote), who takes her back to France, which is dangerous, since that’s where she’s a wanted woman. And it appears her cover may be blown when a paparazzi photographer named Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas) snaps a shot of the diplomat’s reclusive wife and publishes it for all the world (well, all of France) to see. And it appears that things get messy from there. (Actually, that part is definitely true: Things do get messy.)

I suspect even DePalma would admit the plot is hardly relevant. What’s important here are the scenes of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos being naked or partly naked. Goodnes knows we shouldn’t pay attention to the parts where she’s acting!

We’re also meant to see, notice and admire DePalma’s visual style, which involves letting the camera lurk, loom and prowl. Taking into account the film’s final twist, which I won’t spoil, the camerawork actually makes sense and fits into a greater theme. A few other subtle details may also make the film worth a second viewing.

Except that, even as trash, it gets old. It feels longer than it is, like the whole thing is too fascinated with itself. DePalma refuses to ever completely cut loose and JUST make some trash; he tries to pretty it up and dignify it with artsy stylistic maneuvers and the occasional clever trick.

Don’t be fooled, though. This is worthless, sugary stuff — fine for the occasional filthy night out, but hardly the sort of thing you want to make a major staple in your diet.

D+ (1 hr., 55 min.; R, a lot of harsh profanity, abundant sexuality and explicit nudity, some gory violence.)

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