For the past few years, I've been convinced that the next generation of film geeks will revere the work of Brian De Palma just as their counterparts of today do that of Sam Fuller, because De Palma is one of the only people making studio films that feel like true "B movies". Though his films have big (well, semi-big) stars and multi-million dollar budgets, there still seems something unapologetically trashy and guilty-pleasure-ish about them. I even found stuff to like in Snake Eyes.
So here comes Femme Fatale, more twisted, kinky, stupidly entertaining silliness from De Palma.
All his trademarks are here: voyeurism, violence against women, an incredible soundtrack (this time composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto), deft camerawork, and a continuing obsession with Hitchcock's Vertigo (the theme of "doubles" suggested here in the casting of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in two roles). There's almost something endearing, actually, about De Palma's tireless Hitchcock ripoff, where his successors have found new cliches to mine (fast cuts, handheld camera, etc.). It seems like he's still in film school, aping his hero, and I mean that in the best sense.
The plot has something to do with a jewel thief (Romijn-Stamos) who poses as a dead woman and winds up in Paris dealing with Antonio Banderas, playing a paparazzo down on his luck. As with many of the other films that De Palma writes, plenty of wacky plot twists and double-crosses ensue.
With an opening scene that involves a diamond heist, the Cannes Film Festival, a riff of Ravel's "Bolero" (which is so close that I wonder why the original wasn't just used) and Hot Lesbian Action - all at the same time! - you pretty much know right off the bat whether you're going to like or hate this film. Either way, it's just harmless pulp from a sleazy filmmaker.
That said, Sakamoto's rich score is amazing, the Paris locations are nice, and the story's final twist is so remarkably bizarre that it changes the whole tone of the film from just another thriller to some sort of Kieslowski-esque existentialism. No kidding! My only real critique is that Romijn-Stamos, who makes a so-so leading lady, is way too skinny. Get some pork on that fork, girl.