‘Femme Fatale’ (2002)

‘Femme Fatale’ (2002) I missed this one in theaters, but bought it on videotape, watched it and forgot about it, only to watch it late last night in crippled aspect-ratio (full-screen) on HBO.

I’m a DePalma fan from way back, and ‘ Sisters ‘ (1972), ‘ Carrie ‘ (1976) and ‘ Dressed to Kill ‘ (1980) rank among my all-time favorite films. I’m also aware of DePalma’s long-standing debt to Hitchcock, not to mention Coppola, with his excursions into the mafia-genre (‘Scarface’,'Carlito’s Way’ and ‘The Untouchables’). The principal problem with this film, I think, is that Mr. DePalma had TOO MUCH money at his disposal.

Many other directors seem content to do smaller-scale pictures once they’ve been through their ‘blockbuster’ period – Paul Schrader with ‘Affliction’, Roman Polanski with ‘The Pianist’, Neil Jordan with ‘The Good Thief’ even Joel Schumacher with ‘Phone Booth’. DePalma is well past the moment where he needs to ‘prove’ himself to his studio-masters, so why on Earth did he have to produce ‘Femme Fatale’ with all of the gloss and slickness of a ‘Mission Impossible’ installment?

This film would have gone down better without the over-polished location – (Paris? Overdone. Why not Marseille, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome or Milan? Even then, the Paris in *this* film is too clean by 3/4) – the slick photography (those dolley shots, 2-shots, split-images and long pans were nice, but did they have to be *perfectly* lit?) – and the ex-model heroine (Grace Kelly was extraordinary, but her beauty denied any possibility of her character having any ‘interiority’, DePalma would have done better to recruit Asia Argento, Franka Potente or Natasha McElhone for the 2-way part of his heroine). Any of those three elements could have been adjusted with the net end of both lowering the cost of the film and making it far more atmospheric. The ‘contrasting’ film that comes to mind here is Michael Radford’s ‘ B. Monkey ‘, which probably didn’t cost $20M to make, as opposed to this marquee picture, which cost $35,000,000, and then flopped at the box-office.

Sometimes ‘less’ is more. There’s much in this film to appreciate, but ‘Sisters’,'Obsession’ and even ‘Blow Out’ were more gritty. More of the former, please…?

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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