Thursday 20 May 2010

Femme Fatale [2002]

If you ever want to see the cinematic expression of “style over substance”, Femme Fatale is the movie to watch. In fact, but for Brian De Palma’s presence, this was a movie tailor-made for a trashy direct-to-video thriller that wouldn’t have attracted even a cursory glance from anyone. Palma must have had one hell of a fun time making this unabashedly stylish neo-noir, what with split screens, outlandish plot developments, snazzy craftsmanship and carefree indulgence into “cool factor”, so much so that the inane pulpy plot, wafer-thin characterizations and bizarre coincidences somehow do not come into way of the wholesome entertainment the movie provides. The movie starts off with the famous climax scene from Billy Wilder’s classic noir Double Indemnity. The plot is so gleefully byzantine and well, ludicrous, that I won’t even go into that; suffice it to say, the film abounds in amoral characters, double (even triple) crosses and enough of sleazefest to make this one of your guilty pleasures. Rebecca Romjin is smoking hot as a deliriously twisted femme fatale and her emotionally broken doppelganger, while Antonio Banderas’ turn as a down-and-out paparazzo is a really funny watch. It has at times been referred to as the lunatic and brazen half-brother of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and why not?

Director: Brian De Palma
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Mystery/Post-Noir
Language: English/French
Country: US


Doniphon said...

The phrase "style over substance" is, for me, the most bizarre and nonsensical of crit phrases. I just don't see how the two can be separated, just as I don't see how form and content can be. A movie is a movie, and its "style" informs its "substance" and its "substance" informs its "style." I don't understand how they can be seen as separate, independent elements. In his review of No Country For Old Men Jim Emerson wrote, "You may as well try to take the VistaVision out of The Searchers and put it in a bowl, extricate the editing and hang it on the shower rod, remove the John Ford and place it over there, next to the radiator," and I agree.

Anyway, I really love Femme Fatale. It may be De Palma's most technically precise work, and is certainly one of his most optimistic.

Shubhajit said...

I completely disagree with your view that style and substance are mutually dependent on each other. Yes, they might complement each other, but that is not to say if a movie has style it has an equally strong substance, and vice varsa.

Substance refers to the content of the work, while style refers to how it is presented. Given that, I fail to see why do they always have to be in the other's company. If you've seen Ritwik Ghatak's films, they are classic examples of substance over style. Even movies like Five Easy Pieces may be included in that category. Style over substance, on the other hand, might include a host of big-budget films whose contents aren't their strong points, but are presented in a manner as to make them appear attractive & glossy - though 'style over substance' is not necessarily a bad thing always.