In Britain, even at a film festival, we had the same old stuff about the genesis of the film, working with the actors etc all valid enough then a sharp split between people who obviously had a brain in their head and the men - and women - who just felt it was pretentious to waffle on when you could be making comments about the erect penis of porn star Rocco Siffredi. It is expressed in fairly extreme form, as it might be in classical drama. The dialogue is fairly heavy - it could be put alongside works of philosopher Jacques Derrida it follows on quite nicely from his deconstructionist theories or the more extreme ideas of Shere Hite.
A woman walks through a gay nightclub. His gradual acceptance of her physical dimensions causes a new 'awakening' of intimacy, that he is unable to admit to or ignore. Much of it has great poetic beauty - aided by the fact that the two characters are purely symbolic this according to Breillat herself - they represent a primal man and woman, not in the context of any religious genesis, but the two first adults dealing with their sexual reactions to each other. There is considerable discussion in the film about male and female psychodynamics - the male desire for 'dominance and control' for instance. Was this review helpful? Behold the work of a cinematic genius in our lifetime, treasure her integrity and devotion to her work, use this example of art to be inspired, to self-examine - or join the milling throngs calling for mind-deadening Americanised cinematic art-substitutes. But she does not just ask the question or try to shock - she counters the emotion that has been evoked, explains it the explanation may not be to everyone's liking but it is internally consistent and academically arguable and uses the example as one of the stepping-stones to communicate some of her ideas about sexuality. In the case of the gay man, his choice is to switch off completely, not concern himself with a sex that controls him by means of its fragility, or alternately tempt him to violence and anger. Her decision to portray the man, for all intents-and-purposes, as a homosexual who's preference was determined not by his attraction to men, but revulsion of women, dubious and needlessly self-persecuting. She has asked age-old questions but, remarkably, she has also provided her answers. His ideas of disgust for the female sex are well-developed and well-articulated. Spoilers This is not a film that everyone will enjoy - it is intellectually taxing, fairly low on plot, and deliberately contains sexual scenes that many people will find offensive or upsetting. Later on, when the man strolls confidently along the cliff top, we see the waves crashing far below him - something he cannot reach, and which is vaguely threatening if he looked too closely. Interesting, but I found Catherine Breillat's perspective for want of nuance, though both sexes are presented, but I found her vision more provocative than insightful. Breillat, in this cinematic illustration from her novel, has provided us with a deconstruction of the feminine mystique. In Britain and America, we assume films are made for entertainment, but tolerantly accept those that are patently art for art's sake, for the dissemination of ideas, or the questioning of commonly held views. She is obviously alienated - it is not clear from what - she goes to the toilets and tries to slit her wrists. The woman's body is seen in the film in ways that are normally 'unsexy' - it is the context and meaning subsequently applied which make it sexy - this is highlighted by the gay man's attitude and meanings that he attaches to all women. The whole movie is underscored with vivid photography and images. The film is not 'anti-male' - it struck me as more about coming to terms with fundamental drives and then deciding how to handle them. When the woman is in the nightclub, she is seen against a background that totally isolates and distinguishes her from everyone else there. After a short interlude she arranges to pay this gay man, for four nights, to watch her, to tell her what it is that disgusts him about women. Over the course of four consecutive evenings a man repulsed by all things vaginal, is paid to observe a series of vaginal revelations in great detail, by woman he meets in a nightclub. This, in fact, is what we do - but seeing them in such a raw form, not animalistically but portrayed by an articulate, self-examining man, gives us a power of knowledge, we can also argue. The theory also explains a lot of female psychology with which Breillat says she is mostly concerned and probably most of women's hang-ups about men.
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