MAYBE THE plot in Brian De Palma's "Femme Fatale" would "scan" before a panel of experts all working round the clock and well supplied with flow charts, esoteric film reference books, No. 2 pencils and coffee. But really, no normal person should hurt himself trying to follow the thing.
In the movie, starring Antonio Banderas and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Romijn-Stamos is Laure Ashe. She's an elegant thief, scam artist and then, later on, the wife of the U.S. ambassador to France. Or she's a replicant supermodel pretending to be all of the above. Or maybe I'm the replicant.
Banderas is tabloid photographer Nicolas Bardo, who's about to make the mistake of taking a picture at the wrong time.
Laure is obviously a very bad woman because she looks great and is dressed to kill and is in a De Palma movie. Also, one of the first things she does is waltz into the Cannes Film Festival and seduce another anorexic superbabe, Veronica (Rie Rasmussen), who would be naked if she wasn't adorned in snakishly coiled diamonds around her body. Veronica, the girlfriend of director Regis Wargnier, whose movie, "East-West" is being screened at the festival, has no problem following Laure into the ladies' room.
Are you with me so far?
While "East-West" plays, and Laure seduces Veronica, our Lady of Mystery surreptitiously dismantles bits and pieces of that body jewelry.
Turns out, Laure's working with a gang of shady partners, one of whom waits outside the bathroom stall, collects the jewels and replaces them with glass replicas. Why these two didn't just hold a gun to the victim's head and demand the stuff, I don't know.
Nicolas becomes involved when his lens catches Laure in one of her many schemes. She pulls him into her life, which sets him up for a whole scenario of love, deception and revenge. De Palma is a big fan of the classic noir films "Obsession" and "Double Indemnity." And it shows all over the place.
The movie goes deep into the nutty stratosphere, rivaling David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" for identity shifting, thematic dualities of all kinds, destiny alteration, double crossing and, that old standby, arthouse incomprehensibility. But mainly, "Femme Fatale" is really about De Palma's three favorite things: women, movies and women. And you can either share his guilty pleasures in all their living, breathing, power-edited, overextended glory, or you can get on with your life.
FEMME FATALE (R, 114 minutes) -- Contains sexual scenes, nudity, violence and obscenity. In English and French with subtitles. Area theaters.