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Sunday, September 18, 2016
'FEMME FATALE' INCLUDED IN JIM RIDLEY SERIES
"JEWELS AND JIM" SERIES OF RIDLEY'S LONGTIME FAVORITE FILMS, SEPT 23-26 IN NASHVILLE
Nashville's nonprofit film center, The Belcourt, is hosting a series titled "Jewels and Jim: Ridley's Believe It or Not" next weekend (September 23-26), a tribute to Jim Ridley, the Nashville Scene editor who passed away suddenly this past April. Ridley wrote many insightful reviews of Brian De Palma films, and hosted screenings at the Belcourt. De Palma's Femme Fatale is included in next weekend's rather incredible series of films, and will be screened from a 35mm print on Saturday, September 24th at 8pm.

The series page uses the following pull-quote from Ridley's 2003 review of the film: "Brian De Palma’s curse is to know more about movies, and movie history, than the hacks who keep calling him a Hitchcock scavenger. In the case of this exhilarating and deviously multifaceted thriller—a film-studies dissertation hidden in a bottomless box of chocolate-covered sin—accusing him of ripping off Hitchcock is like accusing Todd Haynes of ripping off Sirk. Not just a daredevil piece of cinematic storytelling, juggling multiple plots, paths and even destinies, this is a master class in how to visually organize a movie. When it comes out on DVD, spend an afternoon tracing its running-water motif—and watch open-mouthed as an uproariously trashy thriller suddenly yields a complex symbolic and spiritual order. I hear there’s nekkid women in it too."

The series page includes the following description from Nashville Scene managing editor D. Patrick Rodgers:

For many years, Nashville Scene editor and Middle Tennessee native Jim Ridley was a constant fixture at the Belcourt. A true talent, Jim was an exceptionally gifted journalist and critic, respected for his work with the Scene, where he was a writer and editor for well over two decades.

In April, Jim died suddenly at the age of 50. But his passion for film, a passion that drove our arts community to greater heights and very directly played a role in saving the Belcourt from the brink of demise lives on in those of us who knew him and those of us who read him.

For the Belcourt’s Jewels and Jim series—named for François Truffaut’s 1962 masterpiece JULES AND JIM, one of Ridley’s longtime favorites—several of Jim’s friends, family members and fellow Belcourt-frequenting cinephiles picked out films that pay homage to the man. These are films that Jim loved, that you may have found him discussing as he held court in the Belcourt’s lobby late at night after a screening.

From Martin Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS to Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert documentary STOP MAKING SENSE, from Chuck Jones’s classic animated short “Duck Amuck” to Chia-Liang Liu’s 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, the Jewels and Jim series, like Jim himself, is all over the map. Some of these films are funny, some are dark, some are hopeful, and some are technically astounding. But every last one of them is an absolute treat, a gem picked by Jim, begging to be shown on one of the Belcourt’s screens.


Meanwhile, The Belcourt is nearing the end of its De Palma series, of which Saturday's Femme Fatale is also a part, along with this Wednesday's 35mm-screening of De Palma's Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 4:11 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016
5 INCLUDE 'FEMME FATALE' ON BBC CENTURY LIST
CRITICS SENT TOP TEN LISTS TO CREATE THE 21st CENTURY'S 100 GREATEST FILMS
The BBC polled 177 critics from around the world, asking them to submit their top ten films of the 21st century. The lists were then tallied to create a list of the 100 best films since 2000. The BBC also posted the individual critics' lists, and while Brian De Palma did not land a film in the top 100 so far in this century, five of those critics did include De Palma's late-career masterpiece Femme Fatale on their top ten lists. Here they are:

Ed Gonzalez – Slant Magazine (US)

1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
3. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
4. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
5. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002)
6. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
7. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
8. This Is Not a Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi, 2011)
9. Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008)
10. Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson, 2015)

Michael Koresky – The Film Society of Lincoln Center (US)

1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
2. AI: Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)
3. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
4. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
5. What Time Is It There? (Tsai Ming-liang, 2001)
6. The Intruder (Claire Denis, 2004)
7. The Son (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2002)
8. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
9. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
10. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002)

Adrian Martin – Lola Magazine (Australia)

1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
2. Lifeline (Víctor Erice, 2002)
3. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
4. Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, 2004)
5. Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (Peter Tscherkassky, 2005)
6. Un lac (Philippe Grandrieux, 2008)
7. Detention (Joseph Kahn, 2011)
8. A Vingança de Uma Mulher (Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2012)
9. Mia Madre (Nanni Moretti, 2015)
10. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002)

Charles Taylor – The Yale Review (US)

1. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
2. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
3. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
4. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)
5. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
6. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
7. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
8. Phoenix (Christian Petzold, 2014)
9. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002)
10. Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)

Stephanie Zacharek – Time Magazine (US)

1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
2. Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)
3. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
4. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
5. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)
6. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
7. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
8. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002)
9. Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
10. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)


Posted by Geoff at 8:58 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 26, 2016 6:18 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 13, 2016
TARANTNO / DE PALMA LAP DANCE COMPARISON
VIDEO ESSAY BY CANDICE DROUET SUGGESTS HOMAGE TO 'FEMME FATALE' IN 'DEATH PROOF'
When I first saw Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof in 2007, I recall thinking it was interesting that Tarantino had included a lap dance in the film, after Brian De Palma had recently included one in his 2002 film, Femme Fatale. Both scenes take place somewhat spontaneously in a bar. Now, Candice Drouet, described by IndieWire's Kate Erbland as "an actress who also routinely crafts some stunning video essays," has created a video essay comparing the two scenes.

Also of note: in Death Proof, Tarantino includes at least one other De Palma homage when he uses Pino Donaggio's "Sally And Jack" theme from De Palma's Blow Out to score what becomes a tender texting scene.

Watch Drouet's video essay below:


Posted by Geoff at 7:44 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 13, 2016 7:46 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 30, 2016
FILM COMMENT ON RYUICHI SAKAMOTO
'SNAKE EYES' & 'FEMME FATALE' SCORES COUNTERPOINT TO DE PALMA'S "UNRELENTING CYNICISM"
At the Film Comment Blog, Margaret Barton-Fumo provides a critical overview of Ryuichi Sakamoto's career in film. Here's an excerpt covering Sakamoto's work with Brian De Palma:
A representative sampling of Sakamoto deep in the groove of his career comes with two films he scored for Brian De Palma, Snake Eyes (98) and Femme Fatale (02), both featured at Metrograph in a retrospective occasioned by the new documentary by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. Poignant and neo-classical, Sakamoto’s scores for these two films stage a fine counterpoint to the director’s unrelenting cynicism.

De Palma’s noted cinephilia is evident in every detail of his work and his soundtracks are no exception. In Snake Eyes, Sakamoto’s leering, paranoid strings conjure some of Bernard Herrmann’s best-known scores for Hitchcock, while other cues sound more contemporary, with doses of reverb that add to the film’s oppressive claustrophobia. With a hurricane of near-Biblical proportions howling outside the labyrinthine casino setting, Sakamoto’s tasteful score affirms the film’s moral framework with ominous, weighted orchestral music underscoring the ham-fisted recurring image of a bloody $100 bill.

The score for Femme Fatale is also classically inclined with dashes of electronica in the secondary cues. Sakamoto’s creative re-working of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” (which at the time was not in the public domain), unsubtly titled “Bolerish,” is a delicately patchworked composition that accompanies the film’s opening jewel heist and closing slo-mo sequence in Paris. Not unlike the film itself, Sakamoto’s piece is an immaculate collage of clever rip-offs and deferential references. “Bolerish” softens the march of the Ravel piece into a graceful saunter that crosses the classical standard with other familiar melodies: Gato Barbieri’s Oscar-winning title theme for Last Tango in Paris makes a passing appearance, while Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédies” echo throughout. Sakamoto and De Palma have both described Femme Fatale as a “visual symphony,” and the prominence of “Bolerish” throughout the extended opening helps stage the heist sequence as the film’s grand overture. The essential pomp and plodding drive of the original “Bolero” remains in Sakamoto’s more serene version, controlling the pace (and supporting the refined atmosphere) of the Cannes-set jewelry heist.


Posted by Geoff at 12:21 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 5, 2016
THE CONTINUED REINVENTION OF THE FEMME FATALE
SCOTT MESLOW OFFERS A BRIEF HISTORICAL ANALYSIS PROMPTED BY NEW 'HAP & LEONARD' TV SERIES
Grappling with the question of whether it is sexist or empowering "to portray a woman who is comfortable with her own sexuality, and willing to use it in pursuit of her own ends," The Week's Scott Meslow uses Trudy, a character on Sundance TV's new series Hap & Leonard which he dubs "the platonic ideal of the femme fatale," as a springboard to look at the history and continual reinvention of the femme fatale. From the story of Adam and Eve, to mythology and folklore, Meslow then jumps to noir as the modern-day root of what we know as the femme fatale. Here are the last few paragraphs of the article:
But while there's an undeniable moralism in the roots of these kinds of stories, a closer look reveals something more complicated. Like horror — another boundary-pushing genre that has long offered a paradoxical balance of regressive and progressive — noir films also offered substantial, multifaceted, and groundbreaking roles to actresses at a time when depicting a flushing toilet on a movie screen was considered too risqué. When else could a woman play the villain? When else could a woman be overtly sexual? And when else could sex be depicted as such a blatant tool of power and pleasure, so utterly divorced from childbirth and motherhood?

And as modern storytellers reinterpreted the archetype with an increasingly sympathetic lens, it shifted. By the 1990s — a watershed era for the erotic thriller — femme fatales were routinely the heroes, not the villains, of their own stories. Take Sharon Stone's infamous leg-crosser in 1992's Basic Instinct, or Linda Fiorentino's should've-been-nominated-for-an-Oscar performance in 1994's The Last Seduction, or Kim Basinger's actually-won-her-an-Oscar performance in 1997's L.A. Confidential. By and large, the men in these stories are still hapless dupes — but this time, we're invited to empathize and cheer on the women who are savvy enough to exploit them.

And as the femme fatale archetype shifted toward female empowerment, some women began owning it outright. In 2002, Brian De Palma simply dubbed his Rebecca Romijn-starring erotic thriller Femme Fatale, confident that audiences would understand the shorthand. By 2011, no smaller a cultural figure than Britney Spears was proudly dubbing herself a femme fatale on the cover of her seventh studio album. "Sexy and Strong. Dangerous yet mysterious. Cool yet confident!" she wrote as she revealed the album's title. It may be oddly punctuated and capitalized — but for a definition of the modern femme fatale, it's as good as any.

And that brings us back to Hap & Leonard, with Trudy, its uber-femme fatale, springing the entire story into motion. In both the small-screen adaptation and its original literary source, Trudy initially feels like a throwback to those Double Indemnity days, when a woman could correctly be identified as "trouble" the second she walked up with those legs that end at the throat.

But the first three episodes of Hap & Leonard reveal Trudy to be something a little more complicated. The sex appeal is key to the character. So is the sex. But while [Christina] Hendricks herself describes Trudy as a "classic femme fatale," she dismissed the suggestion that she was merely "window dressing," and later explained that she was drawn to the role for its complexity. "She’s trying to be a better person," Hendricks told Variety. "She’s self-aware. She knows she’s a bit of a mess up. She’s made a lot of mistakes and she’s trying to fix it."

Today, if you cast a wide enough net, you'll find the basic DNA of the femme fatale being conjured up and subverted all the time. Take Gone Girl, an icy thriller that drops a femme fatale into a modern disintegrating marriage. Or Justified, Hap & Leonard's fellow southern noir, which introduced a femme fatale that ended up being the show's ultimate hero. Or last year's Ex Machina, an indie noir sci-fi thriller with a femme fatale that happens to be a robot. That's the beauty of archetypes; as soon as you feel like they're set in stone, someone comes along to reinvent them all over again.


Posted by Geoff at 9:01 PM CST
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Wednesday, March 2, 2016
'FEMME FATALE' SATURDAY/SUNDAY IN NYC
AT THE METROGRAPH: "SURRENDER TO THE SCREEN" SERIES, BAUMBACH'S DREAM DOUBLE FEATURE
The Metrograph is a new movie theater in New York that, in its mission statement, looks to be "the ultimate place for movie enthusiasts." This weekend, from March 4-8, the Metrograph will begin showing movies with the series, "Surrender To The Screen." Included in the Susan Sontag-inspired series is Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale (at 4:30 pm Saturday and 10 pm Sunday), to be screened from a 35mm print. "Brian De Palma uses everything in his bag of cinematic tricks for this sumptuously shot, mind-bogglingly entertaining meta-movie masterwork," reads the Metrograph description. "Beginning with an elaborate jewel heist set at the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Palais on opening night, Femme Fatale—starring Rebecca Romijn as a bad girl hurtling toward redemption and Antonio Banderas as the photographer who gets roped into her schemes—is constructed of one amazing set piece after another. It’s a movie high off the pleasures of movies."

Amidst the above series at the Metrograph this weekend, Saturday night brings an event titled "Noah Baumbach's Dream Double Feature," which consists of George Miller's Babe: Pig In The City, followed by Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Baumbach will be there to introduce each film. "When Jake [Perlin] asked me if there was a double feature I’d like to present at his new theater," Baumbach states in the event's description, "I said, ‘That’s easy, Eyes Wide Shut and Babe: Pig in the City.' When Jake asked me if I would write something about them, I thought, I can’t believe you’re going to make me defend this decision. But here’s a try. Both movies take place in strange alternate cities. Part storybook, part nightmare. I’ve never been to these places, but I know what they are. One has a disturbing and harrowing chase scene that concludes with a pig rescuing a deranged, drowning dog hanging upside down by a chain. The other has a disturbing and harrowing pot-induced marital argument in a bedroom. All I know is, I get a similar hit off these two movies. They’re so otherworldly that I sometimes doubt my memory of them. They feel like dreams I had as a kid, or movies I once pretended to have seen."

(Thanks to Hugh!)


Posted by Geoff at 10:00 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 10:05 PM CST
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Saturday, July 19, 2014
'SEX TAPE' HAS CRITIC WONDERING:
"WHERE DID HOLLYWOOD'S SEXINESS GO?"


Writing for Complex, Nick Schager uses this weekend's release of Jake Kasdan's Sex Tape to ask, "Where did Hollywood's sexiness go?" Schager begins by suggesting that in the current Hollywood cinema, sex is either funny, scary, or "uncomfortable and upsetting (at least when it’s not embarrassing and ridiculous)."

"Over the past decade," Schager states, "sex has remained an ideal subject for ribald comedies and brainy, tortured character pieces. But when it comes to actually being sexy, in a mature and serious way? Or even a tawdry, titillating, vulgar-but-hot way? Hollywood is no longer interested.

"This wasn’t the case very long ago. As recently as 2002’s Unfaithful, mainstream American movies were perfectly comfortable tackling stories built around steamy scenarios. However, since that Diane Lane-Richard Gere marital thriller (marked by sizzling extramarital encounters between Lane and co-star Olivier Martinez), the pickings in this arena have been woefully slim. There was the rough-and-tumble tussling of Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello in A History of Violence (2005). And the psychosexual tango of Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke in Taking Lives (2004). And just about everything in Brian De Palma’s undervalued 2002 masterwork Femme Fatale (which should have forever established Rebecca Romijn’s superstardom). And, um, well...that’s about it."

Schager points out that this could all change with "one out-of-left-field eroticized hit—perhaps, for instance, next year’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey."

Meanwhile, Edge On The Net's Jake Mulligan mentions De Palma in his review of Sex Tape, which he points out was co-written by Nicholas Stoller, who also wrote and directed this year's Neighbors, "a somewhat similar movie, with completely identical jokes." Much of Mulligan's review highlights how the two movies are similar. "Director Jake Kasdan tries to do something with the material," Mulligan writes, "whipping... his camera back and forth across dinner tables with emphatic abandon like he's Brian De Palma. But you can't put spicy cinematography on a leftover script and then pretend we're being served a fresh meal." Mulligan also points out some of the product placement featured in the film, which, according to him, includes Scarface.


Posted by Geoff at 5:23 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
'FEMME FATALE' CLOSES DE PALMA RETROSPECTIVE
WED. NIGHT AT CHICAGO'S DOC FILMS; ROSENBAUM ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT
As we've noted several times over the past few months, Doc Films in Chicago has been hosting a Brian De Palma retrospective, running every Wednesday since January 8. The retrospective ends tomorrow (Wednesday) night with two screenings of Femme Fatale. Programmer Dan Wang writes of the film at the Doc Films website: "Beginning with a rapturous set piece at the Cannes Film Festival, and ending with a statement not only of cinematic aesthetics but also of ethics, Femme Fatale is De Palma's most ambitious, vexing, and confounding work. It is also beautiful, drawing from a more vibrant and painterly palette than earlier films. Starring Rebecca Romijn as a jewel thief and Antonio Banderas as an opportunistic photographer, this film calls to be seen and seen again."

And while we're at it, this is a great time to revisit Jonathan Rosenbaum's capsule review of the film for the Chicago Reader:

"Try to imagine a synthesis of every previous Brian De Palma film; you'll come up with something not very different from his first made-in-France movie (2002), a personal project for which he takes sole script credit. I enjoyed every minute of it, maybe because De Palma took such obvious pleasure in putting it all together. If you decide at the outset that this needn't have any recognizable relationship to the world we live in, you might even find it a delight."


Posted by Geoff at 8:37 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 8:38 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 7, 2013
MUST-SEE VIDEO: DE PALMA DIRECTING 'FEMME FATALE'
B-ROLL FOOTAGE: STUNTMEN, BRIDGE, BALCONY, POOL TABLE FIGHT, CANNES 2001

Posted by Geoff at 5:23 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 7, 2013 5:23 PM CDT
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Friday, December 7, 2012
'FEMME FATALE' AT NY MUSEUM OF MOVING IMAGE
SCREENED FRIDAY AS PART OF SERIES "THE CINEMA AND ITS DOUBLES"
Sorry about catching word of this too late (the screening is happening as I write this), but I had to note that Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale is screening tonight at New York's Museum Of The Moving Image, as part of the series "The Cinema and its Doubles." I especially like the quote at the Moving Image site from Jonathan Rosenbaum, which I don't recall ever reading before. According to the site, Rosenbaum called Femme Fatale "a synthesis of every previous Brian De Palma film... I enjoyed every minute of it, maybe because De Palma took such obvious pleasure in putting it together."

Posted by Geoff at 8:40 PM CST
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