23rd Apr2013

‘Baise-Moi’ Review

by Mark Allen

Starring:  Karen Bach,  Raffaëla Anderson | Written and Directed by Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi | Based on the novel by Virginie Despentes

BAISE_MOI

Baise-Moi is not an easy film to watch for a great many reasons, the foremost of which, after all the controversy surrounding the film’s dealt with, is that it’s really quite dull. Based on co-writer/director Virginie Despentes’ novel of the same name, the story follows two victimised, harried young women – occasional porn star Manu and prostitute Nadine – as they escape the misogyny and casual violence of their lives by screwing and killing their way across France.

…And that’s about it. The sex scenes are real (stars Bach and Anderson were both porn actresses up to the time of shooting) but not particularly insightful or revealing (apart from the obvious) but the violence is utterly unconvincing, showcasing lumpy blood effects and removing any sense of verisimilitude we might have previously gained. The low budget really takes a bite out of the production value, with most of the scenes taking place in bland hotel rooms and the grainy video photography giving the film a dirty rather than a gritty look.

I’ll give it this: the first twenty minutes aren’t bad, as far as it goes. We get a snapshot of our heroines’ normal lives before they’re thrown into chaos which involves both consensual and non-consensual sex, the latter in the film’s most brutal scene – a double rape that’s more violent for the victim who resists than the other – Manu – who just wants their attackers to “get it over with,” an incredibly unsettling attitude that suggests rape is just something that happens to people in their situation. Unfortunately, that’s really the only striking observation Baise-Moi makes across its running time (a lean 74 minutes, which still feels too long)  as this all-girl Bonnie & Clyde team up and cause havoc without rhyme or reason, shooting up a brothel, killing a woman for her debit card and sexing up a couple of barflies among various similar exploits.

I hoped there’d be some worthwhile comment on feminism to take away from the film, but the contrivance of Nadine and Manu’s meeting (one stops the other at the subway entrance for literally no reason. “What?” “I dunno.” As good a reason as any to go on a crime spree, I suppose.) and its Roger Corman-esque construction – scenes of meaningless sex and violence held together by the main characters and next to no plot – soon wear thin and give the impression of just another exploitation film with tits and gunshots, which I’m certain was not the filmmakers’ intention.

In fact, the best part of the DVD release is the special features which include a making of featurette and interviews with the directors and cast and shed a light on their history, what they thought Baise-Moi was supposed to be saying and the censorship and controversy surrounding its inital release in 2000. It’s an interesting novelty 13 years later, and I can’t fault anyone for trying to break down boundaries, but it’d be nice if they could make a watchable movie in the process.

Baise-Moi is out on DVD now from Arrow Video.

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