|Too naughty for France!
STARRING: Raffalea Anderson and Karen Bach
DIRECTED BY: Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi
Opens Friday, May 4
Surprisingly, the super-controversial film Baise-moi is coming to Calgary. It not only stirred widely conflicting opinion at this years Toronto International Film Festival, but actually ruffled feathers back in its home country. Yes, even in laissez-faire France it has been slapped with an X rating (porno) and relegated to exhibition in sex shops. Everywhere it goes, a storm of outrage follows, bringing with it the commercial advantages of lots of press coverage and in some cases the commercial disadvantage of being banned.
Exhibition at the Toronto film fest aside, the notoriously prudish (or is it arch-conservative?) Ontario Film Review Board demanded 13 seconds of cuts before they would allow the film to be released theatrically. Even after a great start to its theatrical release in Montreal, it was pulled from Famous Players theatres there after a distraught moviegoer forced his way into the projection booth and destroyed the print (something weve all wanted to do at one time or another, but perhaps not for the same reasons).
Co-directed by writer Virginie Despentes (from her own bestselling novel of the same name) and porn actress Coralie Trinh Thi, Baise-moi is the story of two women on a sexually charged killing spree. And they both have their own reasons. Manu (Raffalea Anderson), whose already tough life is inexorably altered when she is brutally raped, hooks up with Nadine (Karen Bach), a prostitute who has had enough. Pushed past their limits, the women go on a hard-core rage-filled road trip, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.
The graphic sexual content of the film called for professionals of a different sort, and both lead actresses were recruited from the porn industry in France where they are stars in their own right. Shot on video with a small crew, in addition to the aforementioned graphic sexual content, Baise-moi achieves a disturbingly gritty form of realism.
Is there anything behind the wailing and gnashing of teeth? There seems to be at least two major camps forming when dealing with the critical reaction to Baise-moi. On one side, some people see it as in-your-face, feminist-revisionist cinema (i.e., Thelma and Louise times 10, or Natural Born Killers with chicks, etc.). On the other side are those people who hold that Baise-moi is amoral pornographic exploitation, or amoral pornographic exploitation masquerading as a feminist-revisionist film, or even worse, amoral pornographic exploitation masquerading as art. This former argument begs a very important question: Why would pornography want to hide behind the banner of art (especially feminist-revisionist art)? Its anyones guess, especially when pornography seems to go unashamedly about its business without the aid of any cover or disguise.
Push-button subject matter aside, Baise-moi does have its problems. It is not a particularly well made film and its message may get trampled under the ultra-violence. The acting is uneven and the story somewhat predictable, but it does succeed on several other levels.
It turns an entire genre on its head, and although this has been done before, Baise-moi takes it to the farthest and most logical extremes. It is not sugar-coating its message, and that is really at the heart of the matter.
Perhaps part of the outrage lies in the fact that men are just not used to seeing the tables turned on them in such a shocking manner. Although we are bombarded with images of violence against women in movies, the kind of acts carried out by the heroines of Baise-moi seem to be cause for scandal. Could there be a double standard at work here?
There is no doubt that Baise-moi is violent, brutal, disturbing and nihilistic, but it does shove some important issues in the audiences face. Of course somewhere under Baise-mois punk trash esthetic there lies something a little cheeky, and with that in mind maybe everyone is just taking the film too damn seriously.
Baise-moi is not for the faint-hearted or the squeamish. Remember the last time someone told you a film was really disturbing, and you went to see it and it wasnt? Well, this isnt that film. The Ontario Film Review Board put it best when it complained of the films "...extremely deleterious psychological impact on the visceral [level]...." I would keep this description in mind as you venture into the theatre.