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Skip the Romance and Rape Me

Sex and Violence Overwhelm in Pointless, Political Pornography

By Jed Horne

staff writer

Written and Directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi

Starring Karen Bach and Raffaela Anderson

French cinema seems desperately in search of an edge. Baise Moi (Rape Me) is, so far, the pinnacle of a trend that began about two years ago and has recently reached full force with this year’s widespread release of two movies, Intimacy and Baise Moi. These films blur the line between pornography and cinema.

The two stars of Baise Moi were reportedly found in a documentary about porn stars called Exhibitions 1999. Karen Bloch (An American Girl in Paris) and Raffaella Anderson play Nadine and Manu, a latter-day Thelma and Louise-style duo with bigger guns and better bodies. Ostensibly involved in a drug-smuggling plot, a disillusioned prostitute (Nadine) pairs up with a porn star (Manu) in a cross-country rampage of sex, violence, and a little self-discovery. That’s about it for plot in this hour-and-a-quarter long movie, basically a vehicle for some of the most explicit sex and violence ever produced. For anyone who’s seen the cult favorite The Doom Generation and Russ Meyer’s classic Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, think a cross between the two with French subtitles and you’ve got it. For anyone who hasn’t, well, there’s really nothing with which to compare it.

The movie was shot with a digital camera (a staple of mainstream pornographers these days), and features an intriguing but somewhat pasted-over soundtrack of punk rock and techno. But the cinematography and production, like the plot, are lost causes in a movie that features close to a death a minute and sex scenes that put Jenna Jameson to shame. Did you ever wonder why the music in Debbie Does Dallas is so cheesy? Easy: nobody’s listening to it. The cinematography in Rambo? Same reason. I guess I felt after I watched the movie that the gut-wrenching violence and occasionally titillating sex made their points early on, but eventually began to detract from the validity (and the screen time devoted to) the legitimate points the movie had to make.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m all in favor of sex and violence in movies. But when a cinematic tradition that has produced such masterpieces as Renoir’s Grand Illusion and BuÑuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is reduced to social criticism vis-À-vis pornography and an orgy of violence (Manu even sodomizes one of her victims with the barrel of her gun before killing him), I have to admit I’m a little worried.

At least this movie doesn’t sink into the pretentious (and typically French) excesses of my vote for 1999’s worst movie: Romance, also starring a porn star (Italian stud Rocco Siffreidi), and also featuring hardcore sex. In Romance, the star of the film wanders the streets of Paris talking about how she wants to be raped. In this film, the two characters do most of the raping themselves. Which statement is a bigger step backwards for female empowerment is not an issue I’m prepared to answer.

And Baise Moi has a sense of humor. The bourgeois intellectual who tries to understand their pain? Gets killed. The fumbling bald man whose premature ejaculation ruins a would-be jump in the sack with the duo? He gets killed too. Interestingly enough, it seems the only man in this movie who isn’t killed is the poor sap who suggests that Nadine and Manu go down on each other. He’s merely ejected from the room, mid-coitus.

If you can’t handle a graphic display of sex and violence (I almost walked out of Caligula when I first saw it, that’s as good a standard bearer on this count as any), then don’t see this movie. If you want to get off, go rent a porno. But if you’re willing to have your gut wrenched more than a few times on the way to a film experience that’s more rewarding than not, check it out. If nothing else, Jerry Falwell probably disapproves.