November 15, 2012

Evasion and surveillance


As a footnote of sorts to yesterday’s bit on Body Double, a capsule on De Palma’s Femme Fatale that ran in the Listener sometime last decade when the film screened late one night on free-to-air television, probably in an erotic thriller graveyard slot (no theatrical release in NZ, of course). Femme Fatale is every bit the movie movie that Body Double was. I used to rate these things out of 10 – and Femme Fatale got a 9. In the still above, the lead blonde is introduced watching Double Indemnity on television, with French subtitles. Which nearly says it all.
Femme Fatale
Stylish, mysterious and preposterous, Femme Fatale might be the culmination of Brian De Palma’s career-long obsession with the films of Hitchcock. While there are elements of Rear Window – it’s a film about watching, spying, in which both the male and female lead are introduced with cameras in their hands – the role model here is Vertigo. Like Vertigo’s Kim Novak, Femme Fatale star Rebecca Romjin-Stamos appears as both blonde and brunette in a plot that is about evasion and surveillance. While De Palma has made some seriously bad choices over the decades, his Hitchcock bag of tricks is as full as ever: the sudden twists and dreamlike mood swings, sexual tension and pathological motivation, icy music and icier blondes. And while it lags in the middle, both the opening sequence – a jewel heist during the Cannes Film Festival – and the ending are sensational. (2002) 9
Also, in relation to Body Double: there were the same telescopes in the swinging Hollywood Hills in the Blake Edwards sex comedy 10. There, spying on nearby women did not reach a sinister conclusion but was taken as a cute side effect of Dudley Moore’s mid-life crisis. Only in the Californian 70s. Through his telescope, Moore watches the Boogie Nights-style sex parties of some big-shot porn producer. Both films could have been retitled The Sex Lives of Others, but Body Double renders it all closer to decadence than innocent fun.