Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Well, Hercules The Strong can feel free to cockblock me all day with the lovely Alexandra DuPont if he wants, because I have the even lovelier FilmFemme to keep me company, thanks very much. One of our regular chatters and a filmmaker in her own right, it occurred to me that Femme would be the perfect person to send to a second press screening of BAISE MOI (RAPE ME), which is still rolling out around the country right now. Personally, I didn't care for the film, but not because I was offended. I just didn't see much point. As I was hoping, Femme had her own very distinct take on the film, and I think she's done a bang-up job for her first time here at AICN. Check it out...
Take off those male gaze goggles; hold onto your hats and glasses. You are about to go on a humpy ride.
Women in France have made progress over the course of time, from the bread riots of the French Revolution to Alice Guy Blache, the first French female director. Now co-directors and screenwriters Virginie Despentes (working from her novel with the same title) and Coralie Trinh Thi make their mark with BAISE MOI.
I brought my friend J with me to see this flick. He and I have created ten shorts together, we are the filmmaking crime duo, and I wanted to share this experience with him. We were the first ones there, then Mickey Cottrell showed up and we chatted a bit. Others began to file in as well, and lo and behold, 9 out of 10 were males. I spoke to other filmmakers (there were three there) as well as other reviewers (more of them than you could shake a stick at). J kept checking his watch, asking over and over again when they were going to start it. Finally, the film began...
Going into the film, I was a fright; I have this gag reflex when it comes to seeing porn, for some reason. But I wanted to see this film, to see women’s take on the Femme Fatale. Well, though I must admit that genitalia 8 feet tall are somewhat disconcerting, the film moved me. I felt empowered, as I did when I saw LA FEMME NIKITA.
I could tell by the way the subject matter was handled that we weren’t looking through the male gaze; we had a gaze of our own. I have read several other people's opinions, and some contend that it is triple-x quality porn. In my opinion, an X rating would be fair, but unlike vacuous porn, it had a story. Explicit sexual acts a la fellatio, cunnilingus, and penetration were a vehicle, not the purpose.
It was banned in France as well as in Ontario; cest la vie. I think the issues that men will have with it, along with those who banned it, are that the women aren’t the Femme Fatales of old; Manu (Raffaella Anderson) and Nadine (Karen Bach) are ruthlessly playing God without an attraction to a suave male lead. They are in control; they take what they want, whether it be sexually or through killing.
Men in films can kill without motive; women, on the other hand, to take a life must have been harmed by the person they killed 99% of the time. You would think that by reading other reviews that this was a film about women killing men, which makes me chuckle. They were equal opportunity killers; they killed both genders.
I believe that Anderson and Bach were perfect for the parts. Both have been porn actresses, so playing a prostitute (Bach) or a porn actress (Anderson) wasn’t a huge stretch. Many actors practice method, but these women have lived the lifestyle, and it comes across on the big screen. The main flaw of the film overall is that Nadine (Bach) and Manu (Anderson) really don’t have any redeeming qualities, making them anti-heroines. Through their friendship, you see them as people, not just cold hearted killers, but you never really root for them. Their goal is nondescript as well.
Manu (Anderson) is abused by her brother, sees a friend of hers getting killed, and is raped (penetration is shown) along with another friend. She handles the situation with an eerie calm, taking it as the other girl screams for mercy. Though the scene will make you wince, it sets things in motion. Her brother asks who did it to her, and when she doesn’t reply, he states that she probably enjoyed it or asked for it. She shoots him and runs off with his ten thousand francs. Through it all, Manu displays the same calm as within the rape scene.
Nadine (Bach) has seen too many injustices within her surroundings, and after a verbal disagreement with her roommate, she kills her. This scene seemed somewhat out of place, and the purpose behind her actions are opaque. Both women have been used and abused by society. Manu kills Nadine’s lecherous friend along with a few others, and then kidnaps Nadine. The two of them wind up killing a woman at an ATM machine and withdrawing cash. At first, Nadine reveals she felt sad, then sick, then empowered, which leads them on their wild road trip, killing and screwing at whim, without any provocation.
The ending petered out, and I expected more than I received. It lacked the substance that was merited in my opinion. But this film is very avant garde, breaking rules and moral codes with every moment. I won’t say that the cinematography was stellar, nor the editing Oscar-worthy, but I will say that these filmmakers have broken previously laid conventions, and for that I applaud Despentes and Thi. They show female characters can be more than victims of love or violence; they can take justice into their own hands, or cold-heartedly commit murder. The film is a satire, balanced with dark comedic moments, serious moments, extreme sexuality, action and violence, and is not for those faint of heart.
So now you can assume one of three things...
1. I like French films with female protagonists in the action genre
2. I am an angry feminist filmmaker frustrated by my plight.
3. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
You are guaranteed to dislike it if you are one of the following: a misogynist, a prude, looking for a blockbuster summer hit to watch, or scared of a film that challenges the status quo of women in society.
You are guaranteed to like it if you are one of the following: a prude with an open mind (such as myself), a fan of simple beautiful raw stories (ala Charles Bukowski), someone who likes dangerous women (ala Russ Meyers) or who likes French girls with guns, or if you are a French girl with a gun or a feminist looking to dispel the male gaze.