Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I used to do porn, but now I do Catherine Breillat films.

Siffredi in Playgirl
Our dear friend Catherine Breillat...I really don't know where to begin, I guess I should begin with the first film of her's that I saw. It was a slow Monday afternoon and I decided to go to the NY public library near my apartment in Alphabet City. It was March of 2007. My gaze usually wanders to films whose sleeve has a criterion label running down the middle, and one such DVD was for something called "À ma sœur!" (Fat Girl) 2001. I used to be a fat girl, so I thought I'd check it out. I suppose I expected something like the French version of "Welcome to the Dollhouse" sans the sarcasm.

My first Breillat experience turned out to be a rather interesting one, and lately I've marathoned and just finished with "Anatomie de l'enfer" (Anatomy of Hell) 2004. Now, I figured that someone who started out working in Breillat films would later show up on redtube.com or youporn, not the other way around. But I was pleasantly surprised to catch a familiar face; the Italian Stallion himself, famed hardcore actor Rocco Sifreddi, who had recently quit the porn business saying that he wanted to set a good example for his growing boys, who aren't absent-minded enough anymore to believe it when he tells them 'daddy's off to work for the day'. The irony of this whole situation is that his role in Breillat's sex study is much more disturbing than his usual pornographic fare. The film is not much more than two people in a room discussing sex and then doing it in some of the strangest ways even I never imagined. I can't really say much more, but let's just say there is an instance that involves a mediaeval leaf rake. 
For my money, I think Rocco would have been better off staying in the smut industry than trying to make the smooth transition into pretentious French sex narratives, at least that would have been steady work. And the boys? I'm sure they'll understand, but something tells me they are going to need a good therapist that much more now. 
Siffredi in 'Anatomy of Hell', looks familiar no?

This is not to say that Breillat doesn't make good films, I believe she does. After a while I came to realize that I DID enjoy "Fat Girl", and I'm sure when I watch "Barbe bleue" (2009), I'll enjoy it as well, though on some level I'm a bit hesitant about Breillat making a fairy tale, but we'll see how it goes. 
I think I've learned my lesson, if there are French subtitles, then the sex is artistic, and not at all something that makes me never want to have sex or rake leaves again. There are interesting character developments, but it all gets lost in monotonous pretension, each arguing a side to a point that does exist. I'll leave that undisputed, but there are only so many vagina close-ups I can take. 
Example: The scene in "Hable con Ella" (Almodóvar, 2002) when the scientist in his shrunken state decides to climb completely inside his wife while she is sleeping and stays there forever? Unforgettable, and pretty awesome. 

Breillat photographs genitalia from the most unflattering angles, it seems like she could take tips from Siffredi concerning lighting and soft focus. After all, he's had over 20 years in the sex business. 

I've come to think of Breillat as the intermediary step between pornography and narrative. It's as if she's your therapeutic tool to ween yourself off a pornography addiction. She's like the Splenda of pornography, funny aftertaste and all. Not as blunt, and strangely enough, much much more perverted. You go girl?

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