Review

  • Mr. De Palma is not a critics' darling, and as such his latest, Femme Fatale, has come in for his usual roasting. Is it deserved? Not if you love a film that embraces the visual splendour and techniques that make cinema a unique art form.

    Femme Fatale sees De Palma returning to his forte: the suspense thriller. It is a welcome return considering his recent fare have seen him straying to more mainstream efforts - Mission to Mars, Mission: Impossible - that were shells of his virtuoso films of the late 70s and early 80s.

    The film leads off with a stunning 20-minute Jewel heist sequence that takes place during the Cannes film festival of 2001. Completely bereft of dialogue, a la Topkapi, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's character has the enviable task of lifting a diamond dress from Rie Rasmussun in a bathroom encounter. His first original screenplay in 10 years, De Palma writes a tightly-plotted tale that certainly does not lead the audience by the hand, and the resulting twists it provides will allow different perspectives on the film's events with repeat viewings.

    Antonio Banderas - usually lost without cause if not working with Robert Rodriguez - does what he needs to do with efficiency; Romijn-Stamos, the Femme Fatale of the title, provides the eye candy. The acting is not top drawer, but it does not need to be: we're here to see an auteur in his element: De Palma delivers. Cinema is more than a stage with a camera - De Palma uses his camera and cinema technique to brilliant effect. Huge swooping camera movements, split-screen, slow motion sequences, no dialogue and an enveloping orchestral score; De Palma's signature is prevalent. And that is good: a director should never be an autonomous entity, happy to turn out derivative drivel that get the masses in and out - directors for hire are too commonplace in Hollywood today - and that is something that De Palma could never be accused of.

    Femme Fatale is a great example of a director working in a genre he loves and understands, and given the freedom to create. Total cinema? Its smell is sure intoxicating. Welcome back, Mr. De Palma.