DVD Review: 'Baise-moi'

Infamous for its scenes of graphic real sex juxtaposed with acts of brutal violence (the latter thankfully simulated), Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi's Baise-moi (2000) is released this week on DVD in its original uncut form, courtesy of cult film specialists Arrow Video. Sadly, thirteen years on from its initial, muted rallying cry, this sleazy exercise in neo-exploitation feels just as vapid and nihilistic now as it did then. Crudely shot on digital with little or no aesthetic consideration, the best that can be said of Despentes and Thi's female-led revenge thriller is that its soundtrack will stay with you - for all the wrong reasons.

Aspiring to explore the themes of gender, race, rape, class, poverty and punk rock (how many of these it intelligently engages with is highly debatable) Baise-moi begins with the union of part-time porn star Manu (Raffaëla Anderson) and gutsy prostitute Nadine (Karen Lancaume). Following a brutal rape, the latter kills her detestable brother before making off with his cash, whilst the former strangles her housemate to death during a domestic altercation. Now on the run from the law and their heinous crimes, the pair enjoy a chance meeting before heading out on a homicidal road trip from the south of France up to the capital city, Paris - leaving naught but carnage and destruction in their murderous wake.

Controversial only in as much as its contrived plot is there purely to provoke, Baise-moi certainly doesn't compare favourably to similarly-themed, superior efforts such as Belgian mockumentary Man Bites Dog (1992), or Gaspar Noé's nightmarish Irreversible (2002). Featuring some truly dismal cinematography - widescreen or no widescreen - and a horrendously dated soundtrack, the film's major sin is its complete and utter apathy towards towards rape and murder. Depiction simply isn't enough where cinema is concerned. Sadly, neither is there the astute, clinical deconstruction of such acts that can be found in Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997, 2007).

Whilst it can't be denied that Despentes and Thi firmly set out their stall from the start, Baise-moi never comes close to being the pro-feminist, anti-misogyny satire that it presumably had hoped to be. Structurally, it quickly falls into a queasy rhythm of hardcore sex/extreme violence; every bit as repetitive and trite as its use of irritating musical theme. The fact that the film is still banned in Australia is a worthwhile discussion on censorship for another time - if enforced due to crimes against filmmaking, however, you'd perhaps be inclined to agree.

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Daniel Green


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