|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Tuesday, 25 March 2003|
Laure (Romijn-Stamos) has fallen in with a bad crowd. Modeling herself after Barbara Stanwick, whose fatal charms she is studying on French television as the film opens, Laure and her cohorts’ goal is to rip off a $10 million diamond-studded snake top worn to the Cannes film festival by Laure's girlfriend, actress Veronica. However, the heist goes bad, leaving Laure on the run and her remaining partners out for blood. When Laure discovers she is a doppelganger for a French widow who has just lost her husband and child, she assumes the woman's identity. Seven years later, she returns to Paris as the wife of the American ambassador just as her former partner is released from prison. When paparazzi photographer Nicolas Bardo's (Antonio Banderas) photo of the ambassador's reclusive wife brings her new life crashing down around her, she shows her true colors as she sets up a smitten Bardo as a patsy to try and rip off her new husband $10 million in ransom, while being pursued by her former pals. And then things get really weird, as the film loops around to the beginning and starts all over again, and what was already an unsteady layer cake of coincidences and plot twists comes toppling down. If you're like me, when the credits finally roll, you'll be left wondering how you can get those two hours of your life back again.
Romijin-Stamos, doing her best Barbara Stanwyck impression, is, alas, no Barbara Stanwyck. While she has the moves, she doesn't quite have the chops, and Laure is at no point in the film sympathetic, but neither is she a bitch you love to hate. Banderas, as the artist trying to make ends meet as a sleazy tabloid photographer, has his charming moments. But it's almost impossible to believe he would be so stupid as to fall for Laure's act, and by the time the final scenes play, you're just hoping he wises up and gets the hell outta Dodge.
Visually, the disc is excellent. Colors are rich and vibrant, bringing Paris to life in all its damp and crumbling splendor, and blacks are solid throughout, even in the most dimly lit scene. Thierry Arbogast's cinematography makes an excellent transition from the big screen to your home theatre, and the transfer is perfect, with no noticeable artifacts or flaws.
The 5.1 sound mix makes excellent use of the sides and rears, with the film's score rumbling bass during the dramatic climax atop a bridge. Dialogue is centered, crisp and clean and easy to understand, and the surround is used well with ambient noise, such as the traffic on a busy Paris street, or footsteps to create the world of the film. At times a bit spare in the action set pieces, the mix is very robust, and overall is a solid mix.
The bonus features included on the disc lack any feature length commentaries from either De Palma, Romijn-Stamos, or Banderas. However, three well-produced featurettes, "From Dream to Reality," "Dream Within A Dream" and "Femme Fatale: Behind the Scenes" do feature extensive interviews, which shed light on the filmmaking process, particularly what De Palma was trying to accomplish with the film, and his attitudes toward female protagonists in his films. Overall, the extras are rock solid, despite the lack of commentary.
Overall, fans of the director's past work will find this disc a must-own. Your average joe may just consider it a renter. While De Palma fans may heap praise on the directors use of water motifs, and prowess at crafting sexy erotic thrillers, to someone who was looking for both a good caper and a good solid noir drama, "Femme Fatale" fails to entertain except in a momentary "brain candy" fashion. The flash is beautifully executed, but there is little substance behind it.