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Poster for Baise-moi

Baise-moi

Starring: Raffaëla Anderson, Karen Bach (Lancaume)

Written and Directed by Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi

Music by Varou Jan

Cinematography by Benoît Chamaillard



Before "Baise-moi" gets banned** here in Australia because of a handful of wowsers who have pull with our Family Values Government (the one that incarcerates children in concentration camps for suspected terrorism), yours truly decided to baise-off to the city for a viewing.

Argghh. The best thing about Baise-moi (that's Fuck Me in English) is that it's only 77 minutes. The worst thing is just about everything else, though it doesn't really fit my definition of a wanker because it's pretensions are limited by its home video production values and its amateurish script.

That's a shame, because it could have been a trailblazer. We're long overdue for a "women with balls" film. ("Thelma and Louise" was not such a film.) There are as many men as women who would flock to see a couple of women stop taking it and start dishing it out. But Manu and Nadine (suitably acted by Raffaëla Anderson and Karen Bach), with a lifetime of good reasons behind them, are let down in their quest for vengeance by what can only be called a shitty script.

"Baise-moi" is a cause celebre for two reasons: it portrays real sex, and women are perpetrating the violence. Wowsers around the world are coming out of the woodwork to denounce the former, while the establishment, I suspect, is outraged at women not only directing but acting in the genre traditionally reserved for its gender, that of violent, wanton slaughter.

Violence has been a dominant characteristic in film for decades: bursting heads, exploding bodies, and those shiny blades entering teenage female chests (along with thunky, innovative sound effects), are as common today as Doris Day's warbling was in the Fifties (itself a kind of violence against art). From Michael Meyer to Arnold Schwarzenegger, violence has almost come to bore us in this era of decadent materialism.

Sex, on the other hairy hand, has remained the final taboo. Two other French films, "Romance" and "Intimacy", have been groundbreakers in the long awaited normalising of real sex in films. After all, sex is one of the main things people do together. Relationships are largely centred on this act, which, in recent times has been simulated or, in olden days, Hollywoodised, that is, two puckered sets of lips meeting Norman Rockwell style before retiring to twin beds.

It is possible that in a dozen years or so moments of realistic sexual intimacy will be as common in films as two people waiting for the toaster to pop up their breakfast. But don't count on it. Unless he is well hung, no big time actor is going to set himself up for possible titters over his length and ring gauge. Women, on a further hairy hand, seem less intimidated, as Kerry Fox proved in "Intimacy" and Caroline Ducey in "Romance". Let's face it, men--the gender of sex maniacs--are far more uncomfortable with sex, if not frightened of it, than women.

"Baise-moi" has not helped anyone's cause; even the porn industry, given as it is to the high definition, glistening aesthetics of pulsating genitalia, is pissed off. The ugly colours and grainy camcorder texture reveal a careless film done on the cheap. The repetitive cuts from sex to violence to sex are yawningly overdone. "Baise-moi" is a film with 1970's porn aesthetics: more genitals, less plot, cheap stock. There are a few attempts at humour, but no one laughed in the full session I went to. Manu and Nadine never develop as characters, so naturally we never feel anything for them. The finale, intended to wrench our emotions, simply falls flat.

The one well crafted scene, that of the graphically violent rape of Manu and especially her friend, will perhaps save the film from obscurity. Although there is little gore in this scene, it makes the subsequent bloody murders seem cartoonish. The terror and outrage of Manu's friend at her violation is as riveting as it is terrifying. At this moment you could be excused for looking forward to the swift elimination of these and a whole planetful of arseholes such as the git who later pops up like a duck at the fun zone with the scintillating offer: "How would you like to feel my balls slapping against your arse?" Manu promptly blows him away.

It's a pity the directors/scriptwriters, Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, couldn't have taken the time to plan this film a little better, and perhaps taken advice from people with experience in filmmaking. It's simply too rushed, not well enough thought out to be taken seriously. Porn films can get away with this, but not cinema.

** The film was banned in Australia on 10 May 2002.

Harold Hark

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