Femme Fatale

Femme Fatale ★★★★½

A freewheeling picture, one redolent of Holy Motors in the way its characters are actors, not the actors playing them but figures whose identities are blank canvasses. They try on archetypes as if they were wigs or jewelry, with even Banderas' strung-along photographer in a constant state of flux between hopeless attraction, smug condescension and vicious hatred. When I mentioned I'd rewatched this film on Twitter someone said that the movie is good up until the first time Rebecca Romijn speaks, but aside from the pithiness of the line, that notion ignores all that she does. This is the best modeling gig of her career, a collection of poses and gestures in which she can be whomever the men she encounters want her to be within a matter of seconds. It's obvious why De Palma cast her, not least of which for that manic, unhinged smile of hers; in the scene where Bardo yanks a dude off of Laure and beats the shit out of him, the camera stays on Romijn gawking at the show as the shadowplay of the fight plays out on the walls. As she watches, her smile gets wilder and wilder, a mouth of razor blades that somehow seem to glint more and more as she hungrily leans into the spectacle and laughs giddily. Femme Fatale is a film of arresting images, from the weightless Cannes heist that opens it to the delicate, Rube Goldberg device of fate that determines the end (leading to a composite image of coverage that makes collage of De Palma's montage). But that is the image that sticks with me the most, crystalizing a film about the pressures of conforming to the male gaze in the overjoyed face of a woman who completely flips the script on everyone.

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