Coralie Trinh Thi
the novel by
Raffaela Anderson (Manu)
Karen Bach (Nadine)
Delphine MacCarty (Severine)
Herve P. Gustave (Martin)
Ouassini Embarek (Radouan)
Patrick Eudeline (Receptionist)
Alexandre Milord (Francis)
mpaa rating: None
release: June 1, 2001
availability: VHS -
The hard-driving, explicitly
sexual and violent Baise-Moi is built for confrontation
and conversation -- especially conversation, the sort of heated
post-movie debate over whether it's brilliant or trash. Lacking
a companion with whom to debate Baise-Moi (having watched
it alone on DVD), I figured this might be as appropriate a movie
as any to christen the new column around here, Q & A.
So did you
This really isn't a film you
"like." It's a textbook "love it or hate it"
film, but the problem is I didn't love it or hate it, either.
I watched it; I've not quite processed it yet, and I'm
not sure the filmmakers intend it to be easily processed. I don't
feel a burning need to revisit it any time soon, and I'm neither
sadistic nor perverse enough to invite anyone over to watch it.
If you really want to know: I was not shocked, I was not moved,
and by and large I was not impressed. Onward.
or less, what's it about?
It's been widely described
as a porno Thelma & Louise meets Natural Born Killers,
and that's more or less on the money.
So two women
go around copulating and killing for no very good reason other
than the sheer cinematic, nihilistic charge of it?
Yeah. The title has been translated,
rather disingenuously, in America as Rape Me, but the
more accurate rendering is Fuck Me. It occurs to me that
an even better title might be Fuck You -- it has a genuine
punk-rock heart and soul, right down to the grubby digital-video
look. It's certainly the closest cinematic equivalent to a Bikini
Kill album I've seen.
story on the two women?
Manu (Raffaela Anderson) and
Nadine (Karen Bach) are two shat-upon French women. Manu is raped
early on (yes, you see it in detail), which doesn't bother her
much, because as a sometime porn actress she's used to giving
up her vagina and disconnecting whatever goes into it from any
emotions whatsoever. Nadine is a prostitute with a druggie boyfriend
who wants her to run an errand for him. After committing separate
murders, the women meet by chance and go on a sex-and-violence-filled
spree to the too-frequent accompaniment of really quite weak
French heavy-metal music.
They just kill and fuck and fuck and kill until the 77 minutes
There's an occasional dialogue
scene, but, yeah, pretty much.
a man-bashing movie?
Uh, it has no great affection
for men, that's for sure -- chiefly because it stacks the deck
by making sure just about every male we meet is abusive, or loathsome
in some way. The worldview is familiar from such notorious films
as I Spit on Your Grave and Ms. 45 and, yes, Thelma
& Louise. The women's victims -- and there are some female
casualties as well -- are by and large dehumanized or not even
characterized, the better to preserve their status.
So is the
film really as dirty and violent as it's cracked up to be?
Yep. Anderson and Bach are
porn actresses in real life (as was the film's co-director, Coralie
Trinh Thi), so they look comfortable enacting the movie's numerous
hardcore passages. Much (fake-looking) blood is also splattered;
a man is stomped to death, another has a gun shoved where it'll
do him the least good and....Well, you get the idea. In what
amounts to a climax, the women empty their guns inside some sort
of orgy club.
hardcore sequences, um, inspirational?
Quaint way to put it, that.
The first one (the rape scene, that is) isn't, unless you're
deeply damaged. The early scene with Nadine going to work on
a client might rouse you, the more so because it's surprising
in the context of a movie that isn't produced by Seymore Butts.
Most of the subsequent such scenes, leading as they do almost
unfailingly to painful mayhem, aren't really the stuff of lubricant
and pause buttons. So if you're renting it for that...
all add up to anything?
Perhaps a pedal-to-the-metal
riff on two genres dear to many males: the action movie and the
porn movie. Baise-Moi can be taken as a critique of the
following: movies with gun-toting, mean, yet still somehow sympathetic
and pliable babes; pornos in which women fuck anything that moves;
movies in which men get to fuck and kill with few consequences;
tasteful French art films; and those who have ever enjoyed any
or all of the above.
How is it
as a movie?
Intentionally rough, I'd say.
Also intentionally hollow and disaffected -- the filmmakers seem
to go out of their way to avoid anything that might falsely gain
our sympathy/empathy, and therefore fail to win any sympathy
or empathy. As a result, the movie is a moral and emotional blank.
The lead actresses are good,
but then a subtitled Keanu Reeves might seem like a great actor
to someone who doesn't speak a word of English. Karen Bach squeezes
out a tear or two near the end, but mostly neither she nor Anderson
are required to express much besides malice, lust, malicious
lust, or lustful malice. It's too bad, because the actresses
convey an authentic lived-in quality of experience. The filmmakers
essentially just use them as found objects, the way Catherine
Breillat used the Italian porn stud Rocco Siffredi in Romance.
Amateurish. It's not the finest
example of digital-video clarity you'll ever see. Since digitally-shot
movies can and often do look way better than this, one
can only assume that the filmmakers meant it to look so
grungy (it was shot on digital, then transferred to film, rather
haphazardly from the looks of it). Daytime exteriors are decent,
interiors are spotty, night scenes threaten to disappear into
pepper-shaker graininess. The cinematography is predominantly
a matter of pointing the camera at whatever's happening, as close
in as humanly possible. Perhaps you're meant to experience the
film as something Manu and Nadine themselves could've caught
on the fly, or perhaps its smash-and-grab cinema-verite style
is part of the film's overall consciously unslick agenda. That
conceit worked much better in 1993's Man
Bites Dog, wherein a camera crew followed a serial killer
on his rounds, and which was a far more shocking (and funny)
of the movie critiquing itself?
At one point Manu opines that
they should think of better dialogue while they're killing people.
There's also a rich guy the women rob, who tries to pin down
some psychological reason for their anti-social actions. He gets
summarily silenced. This could be either a critique of the film's
own disdain for Psych 101, or a confirmation of it.
So is the
movie any good?
I admire the idea of
it. I'm with it as a snarly, pixillated, PMSing feedback shrill
of female rage, except that there isn't much rage involved
-- the women mainly kill (A) for money or (B) because they can.
I found it watchable -- sex and violence being inherently attention-grabbing
-- yet fundamentally uninvolving. I questioned whether the same
narrative with the same incidents would've gotten the same buzz
if it had been an American shot-on-video porn tape interspersed
with cold bloodletting. To be sure, it crackles with more power
than the other sexually explicit French drama to court
recent controversy, the lethargic Romance, but that isn't
saying a whole lot.
Overall it's a conversation
piece, to be sure, but I don't know that it's going to be looked
back on as any sort of corner-turning cinematic event, as some
easily impressed critics have suggested. What you're watching
throughout is meaningless sex, which you can find in a thousand
porn videos, and meaningless violence, which you can find in
a thousand action movies. If you choose to impose meaning on
all the rampant meaninglessness, you're well on your way to becoming
a French film critic.