Baise Moi (which has been variously translated as ‘Fuck Me’, ‘Shag Me’ and ‘Kiss Me’) is one of those films whose reputation rests largely on the controversy it generated. Banned in various countries – including its home nation of France, which isn’t a place normally associated with being squeamish about sex and violence – its mix of real sex and bloody violence set off a bit of a firestorm on its original release. In the UK it got off relatively lightly, although the BBFC did demand 12 seconds of cut. However, they’ve now relented and allowed the movie to be released uncut, and also unlike the previous UK DVD release, this time we get the widescreen version of the movie.
Manu (Raffaela Anderson) and Nadine (Karen Bach) are two young women who want to escape. Subject to a brutal rape and with one of them seeing her friend being shot, they team up and embark on an increasingly violent and sex-fuelled rampage across the country. Soon they realise they can’t run forever, but how should they go out?
It’s a sometimes shocking, in-your-face movie, but its main flaw is that it often seems rather pointless and random. I’ve always wondered if the bits cut by the BBFC would have made a difference, as the classification board does have a bit of a history of removing shocking moments that are pivotal to movies. They often seem to be incapable of realising that if something’s shocking, perhaps that’s exactly what it’s meant to be, and that by removing it you can help make everything else seem more acceptable than it was ever meant to be. It’s an irony that by cutting certain moments of particularly gasp-inducing violence, the BBFC may have done more to desensitise audiences to on-screen bloodshed than to protect them from it.
To a certain extent it’s true of Baise Moi. What was cut was a close up shot of penetration during the rape scene, and a gun being pressed into a man’s anus before being fired. Although you can understand why the BBFC shied away from penetration during a rape, to be honest it is the most effective moment in the movie. Seeing the violence of forced penetration brings home the brutality of rape in a way that few films have managed. It’s undoubtedly one of the most horrible, shocking, brutal and powerful rape scenes in any movie, with the fact the sex is real driving the horror home.
After that things slightly come unstuck. The women go on a road trip, have sex, commit acts of violence, have some more sex, and then shoot up an orgy. It’s that last part where the gun in the ass comes in, which is indeed shocking and nasty, and is presumably some sort of revenge on men, but the point of the film has become so muddy by that point that it’s difficult to tell. It often seems like a fairly random series of events, with the main ‘point’ being that it’s women going on the rampage rather than men.
There are constant hints that there’s method in the madness, but it never really coalesces. There are suggestions about it being a feminist statement, with Manu and Nadine fighting back against a patriarchal system that condones violence against women. However in the mid-section that seems to get rather lost. Even scenes that are presumably about the women having sex on their own terms never quite seem that way.
In the special features co-director Virginie Despentes suggests that her novel, on which the movie is based, came from a punk philosophy, which hints that perhaps there is no grand point to the film beyond an anti-sexism anarchism, as well as a desire to make a point about the hypocrisy of people being okay with copious on-screen violence, but getting upset about explicit sexuality being shown. However I feel that the real issue is the inexperience of the directors
Despentes went ultra-low budget and shot the film on video so she could make it herself, and got Coralie Trinh Thi to co-direct, whose background was almost exclusively in hardcore porn. They managed to put a film together and obviously want to challenge the male-dominated film world and put female sexuality and power in people’s faces, but it’s all rather confused and never really comes together into anything coherent. Several sequences are incredibly effective, but as a whole it doesn’t quite work.
The special features are worth a look though, most notably the documentary ‘The Making Of Baise-Moi’, which concentrates on the film being banned in France and the protests against it, complete with interviews with the directors and the stars giving their take on the situation.
Overall Verdict: A shocking, in-your-face film that’s certainly challenging and holds an interesting place within the pantheon of films trying to bring real sex to the screen, but as a movie it’s rather confused and feels a little random.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac