Provocation has always been an integral part of Breillat’s strategy in her studies of sexuality, eroticism and male-female relations. This film, based on her novel ‘Pornocratie’, pushes still further into tricky territory, in terms of graphic imagery, its take on gynophobia and misogyny, and its fundamentally philosophical-literary tone.
Seemingly the sole female in a gay disco, a woman (
) slits her wrists in the toilets but is taken care of by a man (
, the porn star from Breillat’s ‘Romance’) who agrees, while proclaiming his disgust for women, to visit and ‘watch’ her, for payment. Over several evenings, he goes to her isolated, barely furnished clifftop house for a series of intense meetings, during which he insults her and she lectures him on what she argues is a universal masculine distaste for female flesh and desire.
Notwithstanding the explicit visuals, it’s improbable many will be aroused by what is said or done (think tampons, garden cultivators etc) in these brief encounters; most, frankly, will be bored or bemused by such observations as ‘The elasticity of a boy’s anus doesn’t lie about the tightness of the lower intestines.’ Unable, personally, to judge the accuracy of that assertion, I can nevertheless commend the film’s painterly beauty (Yorgos Arvanitis’ camera is almost as eloquent as it used to be for Theo Angelopoulos) and remind Breillat fans that ‘Romance’ – which this resembles stylistically, while thematically evoking aspects of ‘Perfect Love’ – was far from naturalistic. In fact, with its absurd poetics, it’s a peculiarly French rumination, reminiscent of de Sade or Bataille, and just as brave, outlandish and intriguing. Geoff Andrew