A review of “Femme Fatale” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for nudity, sexuality, language, and violence.  In English and French with English subtitles.

Run Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

 

 

Brian De Palma has always been a master rip-off artist, borrowing liberally from Alfred Hitchcock (“Obsession”), Orson Welles (“Raising Cain”) and ultimately himself (“Femme Fatale”).

Once past the lengthy and intriguing opening sequence – featuring a glossy, semi-erotic diamond heist staged at the glamorous Cannes Film Festival – the film chokes on its own self-consciousness.  All surface slick, with no room to breathe.

Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is a venomous beauty and a mistress of manipulation.  When her bucks-up jewel theft goes fiercely awry, Laure abruptly turns tail on her associates and undergoes a surreal transformation into a high-powered politician’s wife.

Sniffing around the elusive adventuress is down-and-out ex-paparazzo Nicolas (a soulful Antonio Banderas), who alters Laure’s carefully constructed world with a single click of his traitorous lens.

Cover blown, and determined to reinvent herself yet again, Laure engages Nicolas in a complicated and calculated seduction cum revenge scheme, which is (naturally) compromised by labyrinth feelings of sexual tension. The two are propelled onto an explosive collision course of exploitation, redemption, and regret - blah, blah, blah.

De Palma’s tendency to luxuriate in reckless homage (“Double Indemnity” “Vertigo”, “The Maltese Falcon”) renders his material stale and monotonous.  Climactic revelation feels more like a betrayal. Romijn-Stamos delivers a mean strip-tease (not to mention a gutsy, switch-hitting make-out session), but is otherwise wooden and unconvincing as the chameleonic seductress. 

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s substantial score overwhelms the action throughout – loud, brash, and reeking of Ravel.  Were it not for the sumptuous visuals, this multifarious “Femme” would be DOA.