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MORIARTY Rolls Around In FEMME FATALE And Gets The Stink On Him!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

I remember when I reviewed the script for this film, over a year ago. I got furious e-mail and hateful talk backs because I dared to say that the screenplay for the next De Palma film was, basically, trash.

And don’t get me wrong... if you go back to read that piece, you’ll see that I am a long-time De Palma fan. I think the guy is one of the visually impressive directors to come out of the ‘70s. I love his ability with the camera, and I think he’s gotten a bum rap over the years. I’ve written at length about the reasons I enjoy his work before, so I won’t rehash them here.

I will say this, though, having gone to the Cinerama Dome on Monday night for the premiere of FEMME FATALE... everything I thought was wrong with the script is still wrong with the movie, but if anything, I think De Palma cheated himself by not shooting the full-blown sleazefest that he wrote. For a film that features a sexually aggressive monster as the main character, this film ends up playing as surprisingly chaste. Yes, there’s skin, but there’s none of the genuinely delighted little boy that used to distinguish the way De Palma handled nudity in his films. For the first time in a long time, it doesn’t feel like De Palma’s enjoying the skin or the sleaze or any of his usual bag of tricks. Within ten minutes of the film, I realized how tonally different his film was going to be from the script I read, and watching how he chose to bring his own writing to life is a real education.

FEMME FATALE is trash. Make no mistake. But it’s gloriously overbaked, drunk on itself, and for any serious fan of the filmmaker, there’s a wealth of material to ponder here. It’s a De Palma film the way RAISING CAIN is a De Palma film. In fact, of all of his recent pictures, those two may reveal the most about the truly sick prankster heart of this aging iconoclast.

This is a film that is preoccupied with the way things look, and the way that appearance can frequently mask the way things truly are. De Palma’s got an elaborate game in mind, but he never once lies to the audience. He tells you right from the start what you’re going to see, even if you don’t realize he’s telling you. Check out the name of the company (Qantis) that produced the movie. Check out the name of the airline on the front of a plane ticket that is part of a key plot point. Check out the way seemingly surreal imagery like a poster in the background that somehow features the face of our lead character along with the words “Deja Vue” or an overflowing fishtank all tie in to the film’s big “twist.” This film never once pretends to take place in the real world.

The opening images should make that abundantly clear, as we watch the climax of DOUBLE INDEMNITY play out, with the reflection of Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) superimposed over the familiar black and white visages of Stanwyck and McMurray. Then there’s the lunatic nonsense of the opening heist scene. It’s not a well-constructed heist. If you really think about the details of the thing, it’s ludicrous and shouldn’t generate any suspense at all. However, thanks to De Palma’s keen sense of rhythm and the sleek, preposterously sexy cinematography of Thierry Arbogast, it’s all incredibly absorbing. You can’t help but be drawn into things. There’s a mural made up of hundreds of individual photos that plays a peripheral role in things that is really quite astonishing, the work of Bart De Palma, the director’s brother. It’s something that other directors would have built their whole film around, but to De Palma, it’s a sideline, just one more fabulous visual distraction in a movie overstuffed with them.

The key visual distraction in the movie is Rebecca Romijn-Stamos herself. She’s a stunning woman, all polished edges and hard lines and wicked curves. She teases in the movie, never quite showing what you want her to show at the moment you want her to show it. She seems far more in control of how her sexuality is exploited in the film than Nancy Allen did in her De Palma film or than Melanie Griffith did in BODY DOUBLE. There’s a moment in a biker bar where she provokes a fight between two men where De Palma chooses to show her, not the fight. We see everything we need to see in the almost animal reaction she has to this chaos she’s caused. She’s not just blindingly hot in the movie; she’s actually pretty good.

I think the film will frustrate anyone looking for any sort of conventional thriller. It’s ultimately not about the thrills. Instead, it’s about gameplay. It’s about the structure of the film itself. It’s a joke on the viewer, but it’s also an invitation to be in on the joke. It’s very much a film for the hardcore fan. For the most part, I’d say general audiences are going to reject this outright. For a few particular fans of the entire body of work that De Palma’s crafted, this is going to prove to be a film worth chewing on. Ebert’s four-star review today is funny to me, because it’s going to send a lot of mainstream audiences to see the film, and they’re going to stagger out of it, furious at Ebert. Personally, I just want to know what Mr. Beaks, who wrote such a great series on De Palma for us when the Lincoln Center did a restrospective of his work last year, has to say about it after he gets out of the first show today. Maybe me, him, and Smiling Jack Ruby should sit down to piece together an unassailable defense of this film.

Or maybe I should just say that by now, you should know if you’re even remotely interested in seeing the film or not. If you’re still reading, and you’re curious to see just how hard De Palma can resist the urge to make a coherent film, then check out FEMME FATALE now before it gets steamrolled by the blockbuster season ahead.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:10 p.m. CST


    by thx777b

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:13 p.m. CST

    Me REview

    by thx777b

    Tonight(late Octomber) I went to see FEMME FATALE, Brian-The Untouchable-De Palma

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:20 p.m. CST

    Quick question

    by t-squared

    If Harry is so politically conscious, why the hell doesn't he tell us his thoughts on "Bowling for Columbine" (if he isn't too busy to see it along with fictional hollywood shit). I'd like to read the ramblings of all you talk-backers who have seen it. What's the deal kids? Get out there and review it (especially now that those fuckwit NRA slaves(GOP)have both the House and Senate).

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:24 p.m. CST

    DePalma hasn't gotten worse...

    by Christopher3

    Our tastes have just changed.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:28 p.m. CST

    If this

    by ZO

    was directed by Joe Schmoo it wouldn't even have gotten a national release. It'd be on Skinemax this week. Shows what a "name" can do even with shite

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:38 p.m. CST

    Ebert's a sucker for anything with tits.

    by minderbinder

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 1:39 p.m. CST


    by Glass

    I heard John Stamos played the role of Janitor number 3. Is that true? This movie has potential. I'll see it.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 2:02 p.m. CST

    That movie is fine, what's this site supposed to be for?

    by watashiwadare

    Every thing that is good but unfortunately is from a particular kind of moviemaking is trashed. Femme Fatale-- what did DePalma do this time he hasn't done previously using similar ideas? How do the women fare differently? How does that visual style correlate with what is being conveyed? What celebrated coolnews type of film has the actual chops to be a real example of VISUAL storytelling as opposed to a rudimentary-level yak fest? I know everyone loves Peter Jackson but if he didn't use all those graphic novel macho bits and hyperbolic mood swings and instead shot more things like Heavenly Creatures you would hate him just as much. Sorry Brain, eight people at least will like your film. Join the unpopular club along with Spielberg, Kubrick, Lucas, and maybe the Democratic Party.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 2:06 p.m. CST

    sorry part of that last post got shaved

    by watashiwadare

    I accidentally cut off the first line, "What is this a mistake? A POSITIVE review of a Depalma flic!?! Don't let anyone see it" blah blah blah

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 2:10 p.m. CST

    Now before this degenerates into a Rebecca Romaine Lettuce ass-w

    by WeedyMcSmokey

    I just want to say that I want to lick her bunghole. No. I do. I really do. And that's just to start.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Whose titties do you see, then?

    by Monkey Lover

    Moriarty made it sound like you don't see the bits o' RR-S that you really want to see. So what do you see? I'd surely be pissed off if this movie did not feature her titties.

  • I went right from Ebert's 4 star review to Berardinellis 1 1/2 star review. Man I love seeing such conflicting views.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Ebert reviews with his dick

    by Respect The Cock

    Anyone who's read him longer than say...2 weeks...knows this. Me, I've been watching him since he was on PBS with Gene. Sex films and black films often get a pass from Rog, deserving or not.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 3:36 p.m. CST

    What the f**k!?! Is this really shot in 1.85:1?

    by Cash Bailey

    Say it isn't so! Few directors can fill a 2.35:1 frame as well as De Palma. Man, this sucks but I'll go see it anyway.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 4:32 p.m. CST

    I ran into DePalma in the grocery store parking lot

    by Gheorghe Zamfir

    And I asked him what he thought about Mission to Mars sucking and he said: "Mission to Mars? No! I mean, because people didn't like it or whatever they said about it, too bad! Too bad! Sorry! I like it. Onward!" I was like whoa man, get some riddilin, but even though he wasn't that tall he was still pretty cool.

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 4:41 p.m. CST

    Femme Fatale = Showgirls

    by no-no

    a very bad/very good movie. If Showgirls is a great musical then Femme Fatale is a great thriller. Go see it, it's FUN!

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 7:54 p.m. CST

    Femme Fatale

    by mikehiggins

    Go see this movie if only for the girl-on-girl action in the first ten minutes. Oh, and the story has a moral to it as well. Yep, it has a "feel good" ending, with a couple of grotesque deaths by truck, and the way an incidental gift played out seven years later was great. I may not know art, but I know what I like, and she's right up there on the screen most of the time. Best line of the flick IMHO? Bandares' take on the old Graduate line. "Are you flirting with me?"

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 9:21 p.m. CST


    by WayOutWest

    'Respect' is correct. I remember Ebert giving a Thumbs Up to 'Spies Like Us', mainly because of some hot Russian chick who appeared on screen for all of 5 minutes - didn't even get naked. I think that one took 10 years off poor Siskel's life. And Gheoghe - when you 'run into' someone you're supposed to back up and make sure they're dead. Do you guys really find RRS attractive? Too tall (gangly), poor boob-to-waist ratio, goofy face. I always figured she got a picture of Stamos boinking a farm animal and said "marry me and get me in movies or else".

  • Nov. 6, 2002, 10:26 p.m. CST

    if I were a blurb...

    by JEichstedt

    ...I'd read: "Two Thumbs Down! The Worst Film of the Year!" I'm normally not so simplistic in my opinion of a film, but I can't remember the last time I wasted so much time and money in a theater. When I got home, I felt the need to watch a few minutes of a Bergman film just to attempt to clear my head of the experience.

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 12:22 a.m. CST

    Good God, DePalma...get out of Hitchcock's shadow.

    by Andy Travis

    He was one of the best ever, but enough with the "homage" now we all know most of your shots are taken from him. You like the guy, we get it.

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 12:58 a.m. CST

    Sounds delightful.....

    by Jimmy Jazz

    I love DePalma when he's being DePalma. Yes, the slick stylist of The Untouchables and Mission Impossible is cool, but give me Body Double, Dressed to Kill and, yes, even Raising Cain any day of the week. I couldn't care less what some pretentious hack of a reviewer thinks. Give me my DePalma sleaze!!!!!

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 1:05 a.m. CST

    Absolutely splendid

    by Osmosis Jones

    And if it IS for hard-core, long-time De Palmaphiles, what of it? Has David Lynch EVER made a movie (aside from The Straight Story) that *didn't* take place in "Lynchville"? As far as "mind-fuck" movies go, Femme Fatale blows away Lynch's overlong, meandering, frustrating Mulholland Drive at every turn. Any director who stages a gratuitous lesbian encounter in a bathroom stall during the Cannes film festival as an element of an elaborate heist has his twisted heart in the right place. It's De Palma's best and most engrossing film since Carlito Way, and one of the year's most purely enjoyable movies. Fuck Owen Glieberman up his De Palma/Coen-hating ass.

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 3:51 a.m. CST

    Mori and Ebert described a mindfuck movie - I'm totally there!

    by Tall_Boy

    good or bad, as long as it fucks with the audience I'm gonna go see it.

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 3:53 a.m. CST

    saw this trailer & it looks BORING....

    by mooncake

    it's going to flop big time.

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 3:53 a.m. CST

    and, heck, I'm not even a DePalma fan

    by Tall_Boy

    seen bits and pieces of Carrie, obviously Mission: Impossible & Body Double. that's it. but Rebecca Romain STAMOS is hot & both reviews said its a fucking around movie. Me, I'm down with that.

  • Nov. 7, 2002, 10:41 p.m. CST

    Slow-motion ballet of the camera ...

    by HallowedBThyName

    scored to clever, sensuous music, works for me. I love De Palma, and this is a real De Palma flick, in the style of Snake Eyes and Body Double.* * * * *So what if he swipes from Hitchcock? Alfred is not around to do it anymore, Brian is. Hot movie. Worth it just for the "Cannes" sequence alone. Love the cat.