Baise Moi (Rape Me)
dir. Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi
Opens Fri July 20 at the Grand Illusion.

The most interesting thing about the highly controversial French film Baise Moi is that English-language distributors have translated the title as Rape Me rather than the more literal Fuck Me. The deeper reasons for this inaccuracy involve the thorny issues of aggression and sex, how the two are portrayed in cinema, and how we really feel about beholding such representations. I submit that despite the hubbub over the film's graphic depiction of rape--and the rape scene is indeed devastating, truly awful--it's simply the animal fact of penetration that is causing some folks to flee theaters in disgust and others to shout, "Breakthrough! Brilliant! Harrowing!" Audiences' reactions to this film say way more about society than the film itself.

Not that it's a bad film. Manu, a sassy porn star, and Nadine, a stone-bored prostitute, each commit a murder separately. They meet on the run and buddy up. Thus commences a brief, brutal, joyously unrepentant fucking-and-killing spree throughout the French countryside. The film, running a mere 70 minutes, is defiantly, almost petulantly nihilistic; with its creepy minimalist score, grainy stock, and jumpy, claustrophobic framing (all shot on a hand-held digital camera), Fuck Me actually has more in common with Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver than it does with, say, Thelma and Louise. The general attitude of the film is best captured in the dismissive words with which Manu comforts her friend after they are both viciously raped: "It's just a bit of cock. We're just girls."

Just a bit of cock. If you've spent any amount of time watching porn, you know just how pedestrian a bit of cock (and a lot of fucking) can become. As for the rampant violence in this film, it comes off as both amateurish and artsy when compared to the obsessive realism of a director like Sam Peckinpah. The combination of these two factors, then, explains the hype; it happens every time an artist transgresses an established taboo. When the shock wears off and we begin to take the new frontier for granted, we can judge it on its own merits. To wit: Fuck Me is an okay spree-killer road movie, if you go for that sort of thing.

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