Katon’s Proposal of Final Project

The University of Pennsylvania
2012-2013 spring semester
Queer and Feminist Film Studies(GSWS 322-401)
Proposal of Final Project

Teacher: Dr. Cathy Hannabach
Student: Katon (Kai Chun, LEE)

 The Construction of Femme Fatale
– Case Study of the film Femme Fatale (2002)

Research Objective:
To discover how a film construct the concept of Femme Fatale.
With the use of the film “Femme Fatale” as a case study.

Film to be analyzed:
Femme Fatale (2002), French mystery film directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars Rebecca Romijn and Antonio Banderas. It was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Brief summary of the film:
It is a story about a femme fatale called Laure. She works for a gang and is responsible for stealing diamonds in the story. But she double-crosses her bosses and brings the money away. As people are chasing her for the money, she plays with her sexuality with other men and women in order to overcome all the challenges. In this sense, this film successfully presents a distinct female figure which is the femme fatale. This project aims at analyzing how the film constructs and spreads the concept of “Femme Fatale” to its audience.

What to do in the Analysis Paper? (DUE: 1/5)
Research Objective:
To discover how the film (Femme Fatale) constructs the concept of Femme Fatale.

Research Directions to achieve the Research Objective:
1. Analyzing the IMAGES of Femme Fatale in the film, including:
- Outlook
- Costumes
- Style
- Gesture
- Facial expression
- etc.

2. Analyzing the ROLES of Femme Fatale in the film, including:
- Plots concerning how Femme Fatale acts
- Relationship of Femme Fatale with men in the film
- Relationship of Femme Fatale with women (especially the lesbians) in the film
- Femme Fatale’s missions, jobs and responsibilities
- etc.

By the above two analyses, draw a conclusion upon how the film constructs the CRITERIA of being a Femme Fatale (i.e. the Femininity of a femme fatale)
- Individuality
- Mystery, Danger
- Role model of women (strong, threatening/as strong and threatening as men)Power and Growth of womenTo change women status and acknowledgement of female sexuality and power from the old and stereotyped perspectives possessed by society
- etc.

In the end of the paper, a conclusion is going to be made that how the film brings out all the above elements which contribute to the construction of Femininity of a femme fatale.

 Film to be analyzed
– Femme Fatale (2002)

 Scholarly (Peer reviewed) Journals
– DANGEROUS BEAUTIES by Elizabeth K. Menon
Vandenbrouck-Przybylski, Melanie, Art History; Apr2009, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p410-413, 4p, 2 Illustrations

– Stay Still So We Can See Who You Are’ Anxiety and Bisexual Activity in the Contemporary Femme Fatale Film
Farrimond, Katherine, Journal of Bisexuality; Jan-Mar2012, Vol. 12 Issue 1, p138-154, 17p

– Female Masculinities
Gardiner, Judith Kegan, Men & Masculinities; Aug2009, Vol. 11 Issue 5, p622-633, 12p

– Femme Fatale 2010
Alfonso, Kristal L., Air & Space Power Journal; Fall2010, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p59-73, 15p, 1 Illustration

– The Femme Fatale Images, Histories and Contexts
Leonard, Suzanne, Feminist Media Studies; Dec2011, Vol. 11 Issue 4, p511-512, 2p

– etc. (should be more about the director Brian De Palma)

 Readings of Bound
– Straayer, Chris, “Femme Fatale or Lesbian Femme: Bound in Sexual Difference.”, Women in Film Noir, 2nd ed., edited by E. Ann Kaplan (London: British Film Institute, 1998), pp.153-161.

– Wallace, Lee, “Continuous Sex: The Editing of Homosexuality in Bound and Rope.”, Screen 41.4 (2000), pp.369-387.

 Readings of FtF: Female to Femme
– Selections from Femme: Feminists, Lesbians and Bad Girls, edited by Laura Harris and Liz Crocker (New York: Routledge, 1997) pp. 1-12, 93-102, 119-130, 145-159 and 170-174.

– Selections from Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011), pp.23-26, 67-78, 310-312.

– Duggan, Lisa and Kathleen McHugh, “A Fem(me)inist Manifesto”, Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity, edited by Chloe Burshwood Rose and Anna Camilleri (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2002), pp.165-170.

– Femme Shark Communique no.1 (zine)

 Books
– Femme Fatale: the female criminal
– Chinese Femme Fatale
– The Femme Fatale: images of evil and fascinating women
– The femme fatale: images, histories, contexts

What to do in the Digital video? (DUE: Draft 13/4)
The Digital Video may mainly be divided into 2 parts.

The first part is a plan of making a documentary of interviewing several men from different regions/countries/nations/culture of the world to see how they respectively perceive the concept of “Femme Fatale”.

To analyze the key elements of femme fatale, questions will be asked, including:
1. What do they think about the standards, requirements or criteria of being a femme fatale?
2. What are those same/common key criteria in their minds?
3. How do they perceive “Femme Fatale” differently?
4. How do those criteria vary from regions to regions/culture to culture of the world?
5. How do they think about the role of Femme Fatale? E.g. for sex, for satisfying men’s desire?
6. etc.

By asking these questions, we can get some ideas on the general criteria which femme fatale should meet.

And at the end of this part, a conclusion is going to be drawn upon “what femme fatale really is/means under the male gaze?”

The second part is a plan of making a documentary of interviewing several women from different regions/countries/nations/culture of the world to see how they respond to the perception of men to Femme Fatale.

For example: Asking female interviewees “Men are thinking femme fatale in this way. How will you respond to it?”

And in this part, we are going to see the difference on how different gender perceives femme fatale differently and draw up a conclusion on “what femme fatale should really be”.

What to do in the Google Map?
For the Google Map, several important scenes in the film are going to be located, like:
- Prison Road, South of France
- Sheraton (Room 214), Charles de Ganlle Airport, Paris
- France
- California
- Sydney Live Show Night Club
- Residence of American Ambassador
- etc.

These locations are so much important that they outline the main plots of the film. And they respectively reflect their significance in the film, which will be discussed in this task.


2 thoughts on “Katon’s Proposal of Final Project

  1. djac2012

    Hi Katon,

    Your project sounds very interesting, I cannot wait to see it!
    It sounds as if you have a well drawn out plan for mapping the trajectory of the Femme Fatale in this film.
    I wonder if you might add a few more components to your analyzing of the image of the femme fatale. For example, how do the characters react to her, how do we as viewers perceive male vs. female reactions to her.
    How is her hair styled. Does it comply with historical images of the hair of femme fatale in noir films.
    Would this movie be considered neo-noir?
    What sort of make up does she wear and how does it lend to how the character is interpreted.
    How is she lit or shaded in the film. Is there a sense of foreboding in how she is lit and shot by the camera.
    How does the camera treat her? Is she objectified, and if so, what body parts are the focus of the camera.
    Does she emote believable emotion or is it stylized.

    Is the femme fatale fatal to the men around her, the women around her, or to herself?

    Does the male lead have a feminized role? In our readings, we have seen that many films that cast a femme fatale (and her inherent masculine characteristics) usually have as a counter to that image a male that is somewhat feminized or weak willed and needs the femme fatale to get things done.

    All in all a great topic. Good luck to you!

    David Jackson

  2. channabach

    Analyzing the construction of the femme fatale in Femme Fatale will be a fine topic. And you identify several good ways to go about doing this: offering close readings of mise-en-scene elements, character construction, dialogue, etc.

    I recommend thinking about how the film constructs this femme fatale figure through race, sexuality, class, gender, and nation. What ideologies are at work in Femme Fatale, and depicted in its construction of the femme fatale character?

    I’m intrigued by the interview idea for your digital video. How are you going to set these interviews up? How will you find interview subjects, and how will you ensure they are representative of the identities, embodiments, and cultural contexts you plan to make claims about? What specific questions will you ask them? What scenes will you show them?

    I’m not sure the articles about queer femininities will be as helpful as some of the other texts you mention here if only because they don’t address femme fatales as film characters, but rather focus on queer femme as a lived identity. The Bound articles might be more immediately relevant though, as both Lee Wallace and Chris Straayer discuss how the femme fatale figure is constructed in neo-noirs (and your film is certainly a neo-noir).

    David’s comments above are very helpful, and I recommend thinking about the questions he asks you to consider. I also recommend finding scholarship on the femme fatale in neo-noir films to flesh out your analysis.

    Some resources you may find useful: Kara Keeling’s The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense*, E. Ann Kaplan’s Women in Film Noir*, Robert Corber’s Cold War Femme**, and Richard Dyer’s “Queer Noir”**.

    * texts = books I own that you’re welcome to borrow
    ** = texts I’ve posted to the Readings page (scroll down to the bottom)

    Keep going!

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