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DWHH reviews Femme Fatale, the new film by Brian de Palma
by Dog with HUMAN HANDS

"Alors! Qu'est-ce que tu as fait, hien? Quelle idiot... Merde!"

-- Dialogue from the brilliant opening sequence of Femme Fatale

Personally, I don't much care for "classical" or "orchestral" or for that matter any kind of music that you have to dress up for, being after all a dog with HUMAN HANDS, but in this case I made an exception. Save for some tasty french dialogue involving a honey-spill, there is virtually no talking (that atrocious man-trait) at all in the opening sequence of Femme Fatale, and much to the film's benefit. We are lulled into a grinning hypnosis by the tick-tocking lullaby score

Rebecca Romijn Stamos and her Sexy, Sexy Girlfriend
("Bolerish," a glorious plageurism of "Bolero" by Ravel), and we sit back and let the movie guide us with its skilled HUMAN HANDS. Because there is hardly any speaking, we stop listening, and we watch.

It is appropriate that serpent imagery abounds, as the serpent is king of sneaking, and watching, and waiting. Believe me, I know. I often encounter them, being an outdoor dog by nature. Consider Rebecca Romijn-Stamos' sexy girlfriend, and the slinky, streamlined way in which she walks, the gorgeous, heroin-chic curves of her torso, the undulations of her aerobicized muscles. Consider the flashes of light, the uses of water and reflection, in evoking the scales of a shimmering reptile. Oh, and also the diamond-encrusted piece of body jewelry that her sexy girlfriend wears instead of clothes, which is shaped like a serpent. Or the serpentine spy camera/laser that they use in their break-in. Eh? Eh? They're everywhere, just like in real life.

Antonio Banderas, in the performance of his career, is a paparazzo, and therefore a snake. When we first encounter him, something happens that I guess could have been important, but it was at about this time that I was throwing popcorn at Roger Ebert, which nearly got me ejected. I went outside for a bathroom break, to let things simmer down a bit, and found a serpent, which I killed efficiently and tied around the door handle to the box office. When I went back into the theater, Rebecca Romijn was settling into a bath and chuckling to herself about something, the smoke from her cigarette curling up into my eyes. I tapped Roger on the shoulder and apologized, and we shook HANDS.

Edward Norton's appearance as the D.A. was a little unnecessary, I thought, but his Russian accent has improved enough since Cyclone that I forgive him his trespasses. Mr. De Palma is the Krzysztof Kieslowski of what I like to call the floating spirit camera. His moving compositions glide with the grace of a ballerina, or like one of those swashbuckling monks from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which I also liked, though mostly for the scene with the cat.

I hesitate to reveal any more about the film. Although this is one of those movies in which the plot takes a backseat to the visuals, it is still an important component.... even if it ultimately doesn't matter. Talking with Roger Ebert afterwards, we both agreed that the plot itself was like a serpent: twisting, turning, coiling, and eventually eating itself. No, doubling back on itself. That makes more sense. And then shedding its skin to become something new entirely: a brand new serpent. So, I won't spoil any of the surprises for you, because part of this movie's fun is gasping at its audacity.

Make no mistake: This is not a movie for anyone who needs to be coddled by a by-the-numbers formula plot. Half the time you have no idea what's coming, and you can't remember what came last. This is a movie for people who love movies, who love a director who is willing to forget them entirely for the sake of the art. This movie will confound you, enthrall you, and slap you around, but ultimately embrace you, if you accept it for the serpent that it is. So that you don't enter the theater empty-handed, consider this: the first clues to de Palma's scheme are the most obvious, and are followed with quotes of the same clues. There ya go. Overall, I give the performances in this movie an N/A, because they are all over the board, but not because of clumsiness or inability. Rebecca Romijn might have married John Stamos, but she's still a smart girl, and I have to believe that even in her most disastrous french-speaking moments, that she was in on the joke. Edward Norton? An F, for effort. The movie itself? A slithering, serpentine A+++.