May 1, 2006
Coralie, Virginie Despentes,
Starring: Karen Lancaume, Raffaëla Anderson, Céline Beugnot, Adama Niane, Christophe Claudy Landry, Tewfik Saad, Delphine MacCarty, Ouassini Embarek, Patrick Kodjo Topou, Lisa Marshall, Hacène Beddrouh, Patrick Eudeline, Ian Scott, Philippe Houillez, Steven Jhonsson, ,
Ok, so my French isn’t exactly brilliant (that’s grade ‘F’ for ‘French’). But surely in my five years of secondary school education, the vulgar words that any healthy 11 year old boy looks up on his first encounter with a phrase book couldn’t have eluded me thus far. Or could they?
I first heard about Baise Moi in an article calling it ‘the new face of French cinema’, alongside Mathew Kassovitz’ La Haine, and knew nothing of the controversy its theatrical release in the UK had kicked up. Innocent of this, I took advantage of its appearance under the word ‘SALE’, and bought it. You see the title, Baise Moi, translates in English as ‘Fuck Me’, of course the Americans decided it was ‘Rape Me’. But the two directors thankfully reassure us that they really mean ‘Shag Me’. Oh, well that’s OK then, glad we cleared that one up.
Baise Moi might not appear the most likely film to make it past censorship almost fully intact. But after you’ve seen all it has to offer, you understand why it only took one cut on its UK release. Without the inclusion of hard-core pornography, the full impact of what the director’s were getting at would be lost. What that message is, I’m not entirely sure. The two directors (Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi) insist it’s a feminist, revenge film. Presumably the inclusion of real-life penetrative sex and fellatio serves as to heighten the realism. But the truth is, Baise Moi looks more like a work of hard-core feminist fantasy than anything else.
Suffering from major problems in overall continuity, the film could easily be dissected into three completely different pieces. The main issue here is the sudden personality switch from victimised women to cold-hearted avengers, via resentment and finally nymphomania. The problem lies with the script really, as the two women, Manu and Nadine (Raffaela Anderson and Karen Bach), reap revenge on the world that has treated them so badly, by disposing of more or less anyone they come across on there road trip to Paris. There are some brief scenes in the film where the two question their actions and their motives, but due to the premeditation of their killing sprees, any hint at impulsive revenge is lost completely. We end up with a formulaic revenge film, which doesn’t achieve anything more than violence and pornographic status, other than the hint of something deeper, lost in the adaptation from novel to screenplay.
Anderson and Bach, the two porn stars turned, well, porn stars acting in between their scenes, are sexy enough and sleazy enough, to carry this film. Obviously they shine brighter in certain scenes than others…ahem, but their overall performance brings to life two really quite annoyingly inconsistent characters.
‘The making of Baise Moi’ is quite an interesting documentary profiling the directors Despentes and Trinh Thi, and the controversy surrounding Baise Moi. Not so much a ‘making of’ really, more of an interview with the pair, as they talk about the drive and inspiration for adapting Anderson’s book of the same name to film. The ‘Q and A session’, pits the directors against the press at a screening of the film. It’s hilarious to see the contrasting behaviour of Anderson and Trinh Thi, as they answer in defence, to questions such as ‘What determines the line between art house and pornography?’ Throw in the trailer and it’s quite a good set of special features.
Depending on how you look at it, Baise Moi can be seen as distasteful feminist trash, or an intelligent crossover between art house and pornography. Whichever it is, it certainly has a market. Personally I think it’s an effective method of delivering hard-core pornography, disguised as art house, to those too shy to openly buy the stuff. Can’t wait for the sequel!