Controversy is hardwired into the DNA of cinema.
is hardwired into the DNA of cinema.
Ever since its creation directors have flirted with subjects and taboos that
are likely to provoke volatile reactions. Think back to DW Griffith’s daring,
heroic portrayal of the Klu Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation. Or even Cannibal
Holocaust, a film so real that its director was arrested on the grounds of
making a snuff movie. One area that cinema has always shied away from is rape.
Sure A Clockwork Orange and Deliverance depicted the disgusting
act but that was merely simulation. In 2000 a small independent film from
France caused an almighty storm with its all too real presentation of rape and
follows the exploits of two women; Nadine and Manu. Both partially work in the
sex industry. Nadine is a low-key prostitute and Manu occasionally appears in
porn films. Both become friends after experiencing equally hellish days. Nadine
attacks and murders her flat mate after an argument, whilst Manu and a friend are
subjected to a particularly vile rape. After these events the two meet by
chance then to go on a road trip that would put Hunter S Thompson to
shame. Fuelled by drugs and alcohol the pair take their frustrations on society
out on everyone. Be it through sex or violence these women’s acts are truly
grotesque yet oddly justifiable in parts.
Although comparisons at the time were
obviously drawn to the likes of Thelma and Louise, Bound and Badlands,
Baise Moi actually owes more to the rape-revenge movies of the 1970’s. I
Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on The Left contain equally
grizzly rape scenes, whose victims are redeemed by later gaining revenge on the
perpetrators. Baise-Moi has elements of those movies within it, but it
ultimately fails with its execution. The most talked about scene in this entire
film is the rape, in which you see the whole process take place in very, very
graphic detail. Whilst this may be a daring attempt to show the true levels of
depravity taking place, it is so poorly handled that it actually comes off as
nothing more than a shocking image rather than a thought provoking incident. At
no point does the film glamorise sex though. It is a whole world away from
pornography, even though some scenes are purely pornographic.
Filmed in an ultra low budget fashion,
it features barely any real actors and no artificial lighting whatsoever. This
may have been an attempt to recreate the Dogme films that Lars Von
Trier and Thomas Vinterberg made in the early years of their
careers. What separates Baise-Moi from those films, is that they addressed
similarly disturbing issues in a serious and measured manner. Apart from being
utterly repulsive, Baise-Moi is so hectic with its repetitive narrative and
explicit imagery, that any seemingly interesting point of view is lost within
its chaos. One of the potential reasons is the soundtrack. The songs used in
the film aren’t particularly bad, it’s just that they have no place in this
film. The majority of the music is made up of either scuzzy indie music or ska
punk. It is so out of place the film actually suffers because of it. How are
you expected to take this sensationalist piece of exploitive cinema seriously
when you know there is a group of grown men skanking along to the backing track
somewhere? It’s maybe the most inappropriate soundtrack you’ll ever hear.
Baise-Moi will always be a film that
divides viewers. Kudos then should go to its directors. Upon its release it
seemed unlikely that this film would still be a hot topic 13 years later, yet
it still manages to spark widespread debates. This is an interesting re-release
from Arrow Films, who always provide purchasers with an ample amount of
good and intriguing special features that makes them one of the best
distributors in the market today.
Whatever personal opinions are on
Baise-Moi it is an undeniably evocative film. Even though the majority of it is
poorly directed, it is a film that stays with you. Imagery that vivid is hard
to erase quickly and the film’s ideas become clearer when closer inspected.
It’s a shame then that the more thought provoking elements of the film are
hidden beneath the schlocky imagery and shoddy acting. Massively flawed, with
jaded politics, Baise-Moi will continue to be watched by many but probably for
all the wrong reasons.