Baise-moi (2000)

*. Let’s pump the brakes. Get off the fan train. This movie is crap.
*. It’s usually described as a feminist rape-revenge picture, with a nod to Thelma & Louise, but it’s really just a porn picture with primitive amateur photography and some lame action sequences (and lame porn too, come to think of it).
*. The porn part isn’t an accident. The co-directors and two leads were all porn vets (I don’t think Virginie Despentes actually appeared in porn, but she was a sex worker who became a porn film critic). And so this is a movie that’s unafraid to go “hardcore.” Plus it’s French, which helps in that regard.
*. I’m not knocking porn. I have nothing against it. And Karine Lancaume (credited as Karine Bach) as Nadine and Raffaëla Anderson as Manu are actually both really good here (though too attractive to be believable in their parts). But is the porn look what Despentes and co-director Coralie Trinh Thi (credited as Coralie) really wanted?
*. If you’re going for a gritty, raw look, why all the cheesecake shots? Why the slow camera pan up from Nadine’s high heels in her first assignation scene? Why the booty-shaking dance scene with the girls in their underwear? Why all the lingerie? This movie leers more than the tawdriest sleaze-fest of the exploitation era. And that was forty years ago!
*. In rejecting the charge of having made a porn film, Trinh Thi said in an interview that “This movie is not for masturbation, [thus it] is not porn.” Despentes agreed, saying their film “was not erotic.” I don’t buy it. The rape scenes in I Spit On Your Grave are not erotic. In fact they’re anti-erotic. But the sex in this film, including the rapes, is presented as at least partially erotic. If you want to watch Baise-moi online go to one of the big porn streaming sites. They all have it.
*. Then there is the feminist line. Here, for example, is Ernest Mathijs writing on Baise-moi in 100 Cult Films (a book it has absolutely no place in, but that’s another story): “Baise-moi tells the tale of two women, both victims of abuse, and the revenge they take on men and on the world at large. . . . Along the way they pick up men, have sex with them and kill them. A home invasion and a raid on a swinger’s club too form part of their revenge on patriarchy.”
*. Where to begin? In the first place, is Nadine a victim of abuse? Because she has a bitchy roommate?
*. Then there’s the matter of revenge against men and the patriarchy. Is this a rape-revenge film? I don’t think so. Only Manu is raped and it doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest (and indeed she even says so). Later she doesn’t consider going after the men who did it to her but instead kills her brother.
*. We have to also look at their victims, the first of which is a woman who they kill for her money. Unlike, say, Thana in Ms. 45, they have no trouble killing women, and don’t seem to have any particular gender preference in who they kill.
*. Meanwhile, who is it they don’t kill? Mainly the men they have sex with. They don’t kill sleazy men, they fuck them, and Nadine gets off on watching porn, she doesn’t feel victimized by it. The men they choose to kill are the limp, bourgeois bastards they meet. That rich “asshole in a suit” they run over. The creep who picks them up at the slot machine and then can’t get hard back in their hotel room. The oily rich fellow whose safe they rob. If anything, they are class not gender warriors, though even that’s a stretch.
*. Bodies won’t just burn, even if Nadine has wrapped Manu in a blanket that I’m guessing has been soaked in gasoline.
*. Lancaume killed herself by overdose in 2005, which has given Baise-moi a tragic backlight. But I don’t think that this redeems the film in any way. This is just crude and derivative filmmaking that doesn’t make any kind of point, even of the most obvious kind.

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