Thursday, November 6, 2014

The underrated Femme Fatale slinked into American theaters 12 years ago today

She's watching TCM France, where every other movie on the schedule is a Jerry Lewis movie for some reason.
The Brian De Palma flick Femme Fatale, which opened on November 6, 2002 in America, is like a heist movie in reverse. The big set piece that's usually the second act or the climax takes place first, and the 20-minute sequence--a jewel heist at the Cannes Film Festival--is on a par with De Palma's classic CIA headquarters break-in sequence from the first Mission: Impossible film.

Femme Fatale's Cannes heist involves steamy girl-on-girl action between Rebecca Romijn and Rie Rasmussen in the ladies' room and the impeccably timed disruption of a screening of an actual film, director Régis Wargnier's soapy and not-so-great 1999 epic East-West (Wargnier makes a cameo as himself at the festival, along with East-West star Sandrine Bonnaire). Both De Palma's masterful direction of the Cannes heist and the impressive bolero cue Ryuichi Sakamoto composed for the sequence--"Bolerish," which lasts about 14 minutes long on the Femme Fatale score album--are why I added "Bolerish" to "AFOS Prime" rotation on AFOS last year. (It's still in rotation.)

'Higher and Higher' from Wet Hot American Summer is one of the tracks that's listed in this screen shot of an AFOS playlist. All that's missing from that Wet Hot American Summer 'Higher and Higher' montage is Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers homoerotically jogging together on a beach.
What De Palma does with the story after the Cannes heist remains brilliant and bold, and it hasn't lost the ability to surprise, even while watching Femme Fatale for the second time, which I recently did--about 11 years after first viewing it--while embarking on another one of my many heist movie DVD marathons. Femme Fatale is also the best Catwoman movie that doesn't feature Catwoman in costume. Just pretend that Romijn--who, as Slant's Ed Gonzalez once wrote of her performance in Femme Fatale, challenges the way men perceive women and uses that awareness to devour and spit out her men--is playing Selina Kyle without the cat-eared aviator helmet and under a different name to throw off Interpol. It's as if De Palma brought to the screen one of Ed Brubaker's beloved Catwoman comics. Retcon the Halle Berry Catwoman fiasco from your memory and act as if this was the Catwoman spinoff movie Warner Bros. released instead.

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