Friday, June 15, 2007

Oo la la

(Disclaimer: I do in fact like a lot of French films--see previous post.)

While I’m talking about movies, last night I saw a French film called Sex is Comedy . It’s about a director who’s having trouble with the love scenes in her film because the actors don’t like each other. I thought the dialog was very French, meaning wordy, complicated, and show-offy, like Derrida. The meaning had vacated the words and lodged on the highest most inaccessible shelf of discourse. This kind of dialog drives me nuts

The film does have some amusing aspects, if you find men running around playfully showing off their privates funny. I did come away with a burning question—is there really someone in charge of creating and taking care of fake penises for male actors?

I don’t know what the film intended. I wouldn’t call it comedy. I’m sure someone could say something intelligent about exploring the boundaries of sexuality and so forth, and then there’s the movie within a movie angle, which IMHO seems a bit tired. The director (I mean the director within the film) speaks of the importance of loss of virginity and women expressing desire. Did I mention that the director talks a lot? The actress (I mean the one in the film within the film) is inexpressive through most of the film, until it culminates in the finale--a sex scene in which it isn’t clear to me if the girl is acting enjoyment, hysteria or what, but she is at last, ah, very expressive. Following this the girl bawls her eyes out while the director comforts her. From the great hush that follows, I suppose Something Monumental has occurred, but I don’t know what, except that the director finally manipulated everyone into doing exactly what she wanted. The soundstage crew look stunned and thoughtful. Now, what could they be thinking about?

I thought I recognized the real-life director’s name, Catherine Breillat. I heard about her from a review of the film Anatomy of Hell that featured Rocco Siffredi, who has a long and illustrious career in adult film. This would be the place to say something intelligent about the boundaries between erotica and pornography and perceptions of obscenity and so forth, but I figure if the director didn't manage it, why should I? The premise is that a gay man walks in on a woman who has slashed her wrists in the bathroom of a gay bar (now, really, who thinks that the bathroom of a gay bar offers the privacy necessary to do yourself in?). He asks her why she did it and she responds, "Because I'm a woman." After that profound statement, she proposes that he come watch her in her "unwatchable" moments. Why a gay man would want to watch a woman in her unwatchable moments is beyond me, and was apparantly beyond most of the reviewers. But I'm judging the film without seeing it, based on other reviews that mention the film's imaginative use of a garden implement and menstrual blood. Maybe it has Important Things to Say about women's sexuality and the men who hate it. Or maybe Breillat thinks it's her intellectual duty to be a provacateur.

And about that irritating dialog I mentioned, I just had a look round and here is how Roger Ebert describes it: “They talk. They speak as only the French can speak, as if it is not enough for a concept to be difficult, it must be impenetrable. No two real people in the history of mankind have ever spoken like this, save perhaps for some of Breillat’s friends that even she gets bored by.” I do love Ebert, so I'll let him have the final word in his comment that Anatomy of Hell “plays like porn dubbed by bitter deconstructionist theoreticians.”


  1. Have you seen Jean de Florette and its sequel Manon des Sources? Two of my favorite French films.

  2. I have not seen these, but now I will have to look for them. I have one of my favorites to recommend, The Passion of Beatrice, sometimes called just Beatrice. I think the director is Tavernier, or something like that.

  3. Thank you for saving me 2 hours.

    2 French films that I love are "Ponette" and "Les Choriste".