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Cinema and the Sex Act Author(s): Linda Williams Source: Cinaste, Vol. 27, No.

1 (WINTER 2001), pp. 20-25 Published by: Cineaste Publishers, Inc Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41689431 . Accessed: 16/11/2013 11:03
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Cinema

and by Linda

the Williams

Sex

Act

- ventured the Dogma-certified TheIdiots the arrival of hard-core Sarno'sSleepyhead usessex , which beyond in in minimal demands of thegenre theprimitive America the shock effects ofits byofferingto enhance pornography the emotionally ofsexby antibourgeois narrative. A commune ofdisWith early and mid-Seventies, complex performances - Veronica Hart, sidents to thepolite as opposed to simulated, ^authenticirepresen-the fewporno actors opposed explicit, film Richard actlikespastic tationof sex acts on thelegitimate idiots Pacheco, Jamie tiesofDanishsociety Spelvin, Georgina - capable of emotionally this Gillis inorder a rare todisrupt screen the wellcomplex inpublic places During enjoyed prestige. a few liberal erotic Butfor themost ofsocial of'pornochic* decorum. Their brief moment performances. part oiledmachine perinto'pornogonzo' formances and stars outofhand anduncontrolled porndirectors, get journalists, began 'pornochic'devolved X andmainstream, between abouta Utopian andthefirewall toa group to speakenthusiastically leads, bodily 'spassing' inevitably, ofcrumbling, moreimpervi- orgy. In thisscenetheinherently when become real instead future involunpornfilms grew might NC-17might have haveporno ous.Theoccasional ofthesexactfind a kind movies and realmovies ofcorspasms given tary might inthespastic sexualperfor- relative behavior ofthegroup. future, an occasionally (i.e., real sex). In thisimagined powerful butnever the authentic rawness Uppingtheanteof risky sexacts would be naturally quite integrat-mance self-exposure explicit the andfascination ofthebest hard-core scenes whichis oftenthe real interest notto deliver of these ed intonarrative films, - theleaderof the In spite ofthefact andrequisite num- in pornography. that a actorly doses ofpleasure Dogma films regular the new kind of chic' has once a of'money shots' he bers 'porno proposes "gang required by porn again group bang," bywhich intomainstream cinema notan attack on thewomen ofthe (as Howard means genrebut to expandthe representative crept ofthe Hampton outin a recent Film Com- group buta consensual, ofthemedium intotherealm points spastic power group grope. ofsex.Inthis future ment thedevalued, available version ofthis film article), porn Sincetheonly ghettoized 'performance' imagined real movies with com- in theU.S. is a videowith would makes as such ludicrous porn industry rarely disappear, pornography large And thepopular black overto themainstream,plex humanemotions. maleandfemale stars wouldcross rectangles obscuring - orlooks genitalia wouldconsider the mainstream still turns from over themidand respected actors away floating ridiculously at the and emotional dles of of sex acts of the it's a little elliptically physical every exposed performer, part challenge performance details ofsex. hard to saywhat this oftheir craft. scene is really like. But turned a newgroup ofEuro- beneath the black Weallknow howthat dream out. itlooks embarhowever, Recendy rectangles, one issuing from theDogma rassing, and real.A rawprimiawkward, (like pean films, Despitea fewmemorable glimpses in Denmark,the restfrom tivism incontrast Bates andOliver Reed homo- movement toromantic Alan emerges pretwrestling in the nude in Ken Russell's France, has revived thecross-over dream. tiness. erotically In VonTrier's in theendevenin Sexually sex acts are once again Women inLove[1970]), theexplicit film, however, explicit in esthetically films sexofthespastic mostmaleactors ambitious theatt film, leads,more kepttheir appearing orgy imporand explicit sexual rela- tandy, to something number oflessestab- depicting themere useof clothes on,anda fair complex beyond - Last tions off that areneither thewhole of the sex to lishedfemale starstooktheirs discover the 'inner idiot' and brute point Either film nortacked on gra- primitive in Paris(1972) setthetrend. After all thefaux idiots (as inpornography) sexuality. Tango . tuitously thegreat dream ofdeploying their twoof however, (as in soft-core 'exploitation'). haveperformed spastic way, orgy, thesefilms sex actsin mainstream cinema Whatever onesgettogether. In the hard-core do, and sometimes themore genuine overinto they do very different the earlier fizzled. As for scene theidiots were fake andthe sex pornstars crossing things, they defy wasthe softfocus erotic In this themainstream, Chambers thecontained wasreal. the idiots arereal and scene, prettiness, Marilyn as far lyrical musical thathas marked thesexis simulated. onetodo so andshecrossed In this interlude, only only wayVonTrier - one the Rabid(1977) 'sexscene' ofmainstream histhematic as DavidCronenberg's contrast between the Hollywood. deepens for notch thebottom on theladder of LarsVonTrier's painofthereally disturbed andthose Consider, up from example, beings Of all theinnovative whoperform filmic to political ends. respectability. idiocy Jeppe, 'art' films of theSeventies, whosewholebeingneverrelaxes from a onlyNagisa In the Realm Oshima's French-influenced stateof awkward and Josephine, disease, of the Senses whomay suffer from notsimulated, actual, (1976)and PierPaoloPasolins ofSade,Salo leave theorgy andmake love , orthe120Daysof adaptation schizophrenia, ventured intothis Sodom(1975), really alone.Though there arefew black floating in thisscene,and thuslittle uncharted Oshima territory. Stunningly, rectangles inthecontext ofa sexacts sexual is nevertheless there action, explicit explicit displayed in which an emotional serious narrative theperformance realism that seems dependent sexwas both of heterosexual of(as well as theemotional penetrative uponthereality thepornoerotic and meaningful contrast scene. Instead ofa to) theprevious beyond of arousing viewers. we see twopeople frenetic, requirement spastic graphic grope, Pasolini thesadistic make lovewith an awkward as Troublingly, displayed authenticity, fascists ifthey debauches ofItalian their havenever seena movieto teach despoiling adolescent victims withexcruciating torthemhow to do it. Whenthey kissthey film further tures. Neither issue. mouths too wide, spawned opentheir encountering universeof Withinthe alternative noses instead oflips. a rare, butstill This socially unselfconhowever, unrehearsed, pornography, larg- ChuckVincent's scious kissis electric, however. It bears witof,films er, number Roommates nessto a genuinely sexual con(1982), RobertMcCallum's frightening A.M. (1975),Radley The nectionthatputstheprevioussceneto Three Metzger's Punishment thefilm's thematic sexual encounters serve as anescape shameand enhances ofAnne(1979), theMitchell Lustful inIntimacy. alienation andanomie Bros.'TheResurrection contrast between idiots and truly ofEve(1973),Joe from pretend 20 CINEASTE, Winter 2001

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ofanunusually Mark andKerry features scenes sexual nature for a mainstream Patrice* Cherau's feature. Fox, Intimacy, Rylance explicit starring In Gas- themselves to passionate troubled individuals. sex without so class, lumpen Suddenly brutality. they lunge ofworking with parNo's I Stand Alone Tous as exchanging anda sexscene that isvisually names. Thefilm , much discreet, (SeulContre opens thesordid life ofan unem- with oforgans, bears witness toa deep . 1998) weexplore andexplicitly nodisplay hurried, urgent, penetraemotional for ployed,agingbutcherdisgusted sexbetween these near and terrifying Much connection, by his tive strangers. existence and theexistence of ofthefirst which thetwoprotagonists haveno lan- degraded scene shows them desstruggling himas he falls awkward andinarticu- thosearound intopoverty perately to gettheleverage to thrust only gestures guage, against in this and furious This lumpenhero's one another latesounds. as portrayed harder. Thedifficulty ofdoing despair. Intimacy in thebedroom in an so is part andtender, is voiced oftheenergy ofthescene scene isboth andcrepainful philosophy frightening interior andconsoling. Most ofall,itisbelievable. It outraged, as thetwobodies whispering monologue atesa kindofpoignance ina porno how- that finds emotional the- work would be a mistake todraw the so hard tostay connected. Thewoman lesson, honesty makespossible a ater where "cocks" and "holes" the (Kerry a slight ever,thatdiscretion Fox) has realbreasts, display belly, of thespecies"and in an and a melancholy nuancethatbruteexplicitness does not only"meaning need.The man (Mark conclusion. As ifin Rylance) has a receding a hungry allow.For it is thespastic, incestuous, hairline, explosive freewheeling, to themisogyny ofNo's butcher, look,and sad eyes.Theirbodiesare not hard-core that theemotional answer provides orgy and CoralieTrinh Thi glamorous, context and Virginie because areso for,and contrast to, Jeppe but, Despentes perhaps they connection. haveadapted novelBaise-Moi needy and so real, one believes in thedesDespentes's Josephine's wrenching intheform While the Danish films occasion- into an answering ofa peratedesiretheyexude. In theirnext, misandry Dogma hitemotional bedrock more femalerape-revenge road movie.Badly wordless, atoneanother ally byrisking meeting they lunge notready sexualexplicitness thanmovies for greedily whilestilldressed, normally acted bypornstars decidedly stopabruptly, whohave cross-over, thefilm misfires but and slowly undress. Nakedon their itistheFrench, knees however, contain, seriously oftheexplicit demonstrates, that women too before each other, most beenin thevanguard kiss.The woman nevertheless, they this strokes use ofcinematic sexacts.Thisis,perhaps, canplay theman'serect with thepalm game. penis ofthe butmuch more effectiveofher hand as heliesonhisback. notsurprising thereputation Shebegins explicit, given Equally forbotherotic and in using itsexplicitness, is Patrice Chreau's atthe French itslength, base, sophistication up anddown stroking a French-produced film discourse. It was Sade,after Intimacy set pushing itagainst hisabdomen. (2000), philosophical from a novel I do notsuppose mixed While that this all,whofirst sex,and in London, adapted byHanif philosophy, gesture inhisscandalous inthe Kureishi. As ifrevising Bertolucci^Last is at all uncommon in thecontemporary politics "philosophy - DavidDenbycallsit Last repertoires un- Tango in Paris bedroom." Whatseemssurprisingly of heterosexual sex,I found inLewisham Octo- myself French aboutall ofthem is theabsence of Tango shockedto see suchan intimate, (TheNewYorker, - thefilm andpsy- ber29, 2001) is premised thelight touch oferotic dalliance upon familiar,gestureon film.Its hunger, oftheEricRohmer vari- regular afternoon and desire in are unprecedented chological analysis Wednesday meetings urgency, insome a manand woman whoabandon any ofthem, anadded measure between known ofcinematic and, repertoire represenety, Winter 2001 21 CINEASTE,

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like the dreamof artantithetical to arousal. proofthatsomething tation. Neither thekind ofreverential penis tionally complex tooccur. in porn- Consider LosAngeles Times critic Kenneth cross-over hasfinally so commonly occurs that begun worship recent Siffredi's hunk andwhich is predictably to another French smoldering Contrasting ography organized Turan'sreaction anemia ofthelover thepenis's outward film with sex:Catherine Breillat's to thethin, around explicit passionless demonstrating Breillat a brilliant from thebodyin phallic Romance extension Marie, (1999).Thisis a film whorejects stages display, controversial A humiliated Marie andbrief affair. theovertly visible cli- abouta young schoolteacher, pick-up nororganized toelicit elementary thebed in which sheis unwanted to it is a gesture that Marie(CarolineDucey),whosebeautiful leaves maxofa 'money shot/ a lover losessexual a bar in desperate needto attract ofthe buticymalemodel inter- prowl makes us seethefleshy vulnerability in on man. When she brushes can as its hardest her. she sets out at the same time Siffredi, spurned, by you Sexually pulsing organ herin withall his senses, it makes us believe an extended ness. Mostimportantly, questforsexualsatisfaction see himtaking andyoucan seehergloryof other men.Turanargues including in the way it respondsto the woman's witha range smell, Theway he rises thecoupleis that "those deluded enough to go to inginhisinterest. desire. In thenextposition up from he is perched to approach in intercourse. for itsunapologetic scenes ofmas- thebar where no Romance locked together Although isone andintricate Marie, seated ata table to pro- turbation, oralsex, intercourse is made(as in pornography) effort him, expecting ofmating ever aregoing to be evenmoreangry ofthemost of penetration videvisualevidence eloquent gestures by a bondage their ritual and the on film. As to the view mise-en-scne disappointed uninvolvingput they go through by torpid, designed privilege situation exude.Distant eachliesabouthis/her of insertion and extraction, theprevious quality sex,no matter dance, (he they hiswife hasdiedandhe hasn't hadsex andbogusposturing turn out that shotof stroking (as in Von Trier'sidiot howexplicit, shethat sheismarried so he cinematic combination" belief to what we do notneces- to be a deadly lends months; (Los infour orgy) as a kindof In other herflirtation Times we nowknow Angeles needto seebutwhich words, willunderstand , Oct.1,1999). sarily The film sexmakes desires. ThusIntimacy Turanargues, thewoman simultaneously registers explicit anyother adultery). urgendy arousaland,as theheatof their emotionaland content seem like offers an unprecedented growing "bogus posturing." to 'makeout' in thecaroutside that is they which the Turan to,ina review begin objects honesty against hypervis- What physical thekind ofphilosophical introduces of typical ofthefilm's American critical iblepenetration and spraying bar, recep- the ejaculate to which Turan the of Marie's seem is shots' tion, objects. commentary precisely presence 'money staged. voice-over informs us howhunlikethevoice-over Marie's norinsistentlyfemale voice-over Neither erotic, trying, tastefully makfilm to make sheis for the"miracle ofa stranger is so well-acted in No'sfilm, hardcore,Chreau's politi- gry philosophical, for theaccess itgives her to torealize howpoor- cal, and emotionalsense of her sexual inglovetQher," that itcomes as a shock childish desire." The pointofthe andofhersubsequent for a "pure, thereper- humiliation and howimpoverished quest lyacted, the film, is never toshow theperfor- sexual satisfaction. It is as if,for toire ofgestures and emotions, Turan, however, pleasimply in thebed- surebut,rather, to showhowshort-lived tradition ofphilosophy mance ofmost cinematic sexacts have been. French - indeed, is such'pure'desire is nottheright word roomspoilsthe'pure'pleasure ofthesex. and difficult Butperhaps acting in its invested thefirewall between here. artifice, phi- how muchworkmustbe implies precisely Butit is precisely Acting being selfvoiceand on the one achievement. Marie's on what whatone is not,though emotion, reflecting politics, drawing losophy, that thefilm is never on theother, overguarantees to create an appear- hand, and'pure'pornography one hasbeenin order only about evenifitis more To 'act' a scenein that thisnewEuropean cinema is breaking abouteros, ance thatis credible. explicit films. Forexample, is sexis,in these newways ofpresenting and erosthanmostother which theaction explicit down, forging inthe after Marie exults in sex.It is not visually sex acts. almost to really cinematic moments, immediately experiencing engage an emotional scene Breillat's useofwell-known Italian purity of herabandon,theItalianlover, thesameas acting inspired quite that Mariegivehima blow in which, one weepsoverthe pornstarRoccoSiffredi as one of Marie's Paolo,requests for example, in In another less In film of one's dead lover. such a the sexual encounters movie, is, fact, sophisticated important job. body wouldbe usedto mark the sucha request notactually feel real for performer may grief tawdriness oftheaffair or themalelover's as dead.Butactualsexual thebodyposing for Notso here. lackofrespect thewoman. withanother persondoes take intimacy in thedetails Breillat is interested ofsexual one 'really' placein thesexscenewhether - as much as in thesex as well desire or whether one 'really' comes. feels negotiation itself. whohas longed to be ableto where Thismaybe one ofthoseoccasions Marie, - connotingan the word performance givethe man she loves a blowjob, here to informs Paolo that shewouldbe happy themore safeavant-garde edgechallenging act him one but not as their first sexual of is more contained boundaries give ly acting in a car.Sheholdsout,instead, for a more Ifperformance artis theartof appropriate. encounter. the ofthe complete body performer up tothe opening in are finally ofwhat is Several sceneslaterthey andemotional physical challenge film about sexual then Chreau's catches us bed,negotiating position. again performed, whoboth demands that Thistime itisMarie artifice ofacting butthe upnotinthe bodily him Paolousea rubber andthat shenotface ofperforming. engagement sex. Bybeginning thesceneat the during encounter andjust endoftheir first sexual questionarises,then:How do is about to begin, Breilviewers' ownbodiesengage with the as a newencounter Ifthefilms latis ableto telescope theaffair andcontinThe sexactsofthese scenes? in thebedroom' as they we ue the'philosophy are not'only'pornography, bywhich to arouse discuss thesignificance oftheusedrubber mean not'only' us,then designed the from their first encounter. what is theroleofourownbodily Throughout engageMarie ment withthearoused, but not scene,a naked,but evercerebral, desiring, toher strains to remain faithful bodies on satisfied, emotionally always pornographically In theU.S. we havegrown so cold and absentloverwhilestillseeking thescreen? with her warm andpreofpornography from satisfaction usedtotheseparation physical - sometimes stud.She refuses all tenderness sentItalian artthatwe tendto assume - thatany arousal French actress inthe ofremaining emoencounter as a way rather inthe Bach stars Karen hypocritically porn faithful to Paul.Part ofthis refusal antithetical to artandanyemo- controversial is Baise-Moi. tionally drama, rape-revenge response 22 CINEASTE, Winter 2001

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inCatherine as Paulo, star Breillat's erotic Romance. star Rocco andEuropean mMarie, CaroNne Siffredi, drama, Dtilcey, porn sexis monopathic andwith- onefifteen, bothcarrying theheavy burden that a to assume herbackto Paolo during entails turning oftheir 'innocence.' Anasis theyounger, ensues is outthought. encounter. Thesexactthat sexual in Breillat thejourney into and bigger, of thetwo.It is through her ForCatherine Marie's with consistent desire, expressed is a difficult and never car- oftenreluctant hole" pleasure to becomean "obscene voice-over, purely eyesthatwe watchthe ifnot seduction anddefloration ofhersvelte and mta- nalexperience; thesexactis nothing filled cock,"c'est byan " anonymous and beautiful older Elena. this is theflesh is bothsublime sister, However, only ambivalent; physique.Butof courseit is never later no end-ofas we see with Marie's bittersweet wellPaolo's wistful, dark-skinned, ridiculous, ordinary, metaphysical: with sadomasochism. Nowhere innocence talethat we haveseenso often, with contrasts endowed her. experiments carnality starkly than in Breillat's most from France. Noris itthesex-isas is this more true small breasted etherealness especially light-skinned, that we see in a film like and I believemostaccomplished, pure-humiliation butpassionatelyrecent, hethrusts herimpersonally Fat Girl( ma soeur).Once again, ToddSolondz's Welcome tothe Dollhouse or with film, therear and shebothresponds from hasmadea film that is allabout sex Happiness. thesexactsportrayed Though pleasure and, with typicalBreillatian Breillat this time the are humiliating, and evenworse, are com- and itscomplex tries notto giveherself ambivalence, they negotiations, - even,one has to that surround sexual initiation.also mixed withdesire negotiations pletely. thedesire for a rapethat willatleast ofa philosophizing school As in Chreau'sIntimacy teacher, admit, , the sex is Instead onetwelve and get itover anddonewith fast. obsessed wehavetwovirginal butnotpornographically sisters, explicit From thevery first thetwo withclose-ups of genitals.Full shot, sisters aboutsex and neither insists frontal on,nor philosophize nudity as ifthey hadworlds ofexperiavoidssight of,thebodiesengaged boys ence. the'fat' tells in sexacts. Unlike howevAnais, Elena, Intimacy, girl, herolder that Elena's film Breillat's sister, er,thecoupletalks. despite shescares Elena Kenneth Turannotwithinsists, beauty boysaway. vowsshe can picka boyup in the thathard-core, arousing standing, insists next caf that sexwith sexcancoexist yet byretaining philosophy, her she is from the andcontradictory emoual politics, virginity, exempt of"loosemorals" leveled itwouldseemthat tions. To Turan charge by hersister. Anaisdisputes thetactics sexis more thanarousing anything of thetechnical she and an automatic virgin, saying purepretension would liketo be divested ofhervirkindofmovingturn-off. Butwhat before shemeets themanshe ourselves artdo wecondemn ginity image wants. (We see her repeatedly to ifsexmust be so compartmentala forlorn ized?I wouldarguethattheeven singing songaboutboredomin which shelongsforsomepretension maybe thevery greater - a man,a woman, a Ifitseems sexis mindless. ideathat one, anyone - to relieve werewolf herennui. The toTuran tomix ambivapretentious film willdeliver this and philosophical Catherine lentemotions dream.) sex Breillat's Romance blends During provocatively with ambivalent emotions andphilosophical thisopening conversation thetwo with itis alsosimplistic sex, musings. thought Winter 2001 23 CINEASTE,

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Elena makes ather new Italian Fernando De Rienzo) ina scene from Catherine Breillat's FatGirl. (Roxane (Libero Mesquida) eyes boyfriend, walkfrom an extreme distance into carnality isItalian. eternal loveand thepromise ofmarriage, girls andweseehowvery both Thetwobedroom scenes between Elena madestrange andeven more inauthentic view, young they by are.Atthecaf, thepoint and Fernando constitute thedramatic core hisItalian accent. Weknow this isa line and Elena,to prove that shedoesnotscare film andrepresent Breillat ather most we know shewants to believe it,why boys away, picks upa ofthe why Italian lawstudent andflirts with him sexually sheclings tohertormentor with a desperate ambivalent, young philosophy-in-the-bedwhile Anais eatsa banana Foodis her roombest.Elenabothwants and fears the need,wanting to believe thatthemanto split. as sexisher sister's. lossofhervirginity. Herdesire is tentative,whom shegives hervirginity is theloveof just indulgence, ina love-hate Locked thesisters hesitant; hisisalternately and her life. each time she him rebuffs and relation, Thus, bullycajoling alternate affectionate confidences with ado- ing.We haveheardall theclichs before: he turns shereopens thedoor.Evenaway, lescent Eachabets theother in her she,on theone hand,wouldliketo love tually an unhappy is reached cruelty. compromise Anasis a silent, doesnotwant tobe a 'cock-tease,' but "thebackway," Elenaashamed but indulgence. reluctantly him, leaving when her worries Elenainvites that shewill losehisrespect. to convince herself that He,on justas determined presence acquiescing new tosneak into thebeach vaca- theother claims to respect and love hers isa great love. hand, boyfriend tionbedroom shareat night, while herbutneedsproof ofherloveor he will Whatis especially aboutthe they powerful Elenarepeatedly comforts thejealousand turn to an older woman whom he doesnot scene,however, are thetwomoments in and totally which thefilm cutsto Anas what unhappyAnas withfood. Anas both love. Whatis new,however, watching hersister's in filmic resents andenvies sexual initia- unprecedented of transpires. In bothcases theshift to her representations tion. alonein a swimming combination of silent ofview from pool, sexactsis theremarkable Play-acting gazeanddistanced point sheacts outthe between dialectic with Outofthis com- the bedon the other sideofthe room occurs experienceduration explicitness. and innocence: at one endofthepool she bination a banalscene ofseduction takes on at theprecise moment that most hurts her kisses thepylon ofthediving as if epic proportions as a prolonged battle of sister. In thefirst when Fernando instance, platform itis herlover, that sheis saving her- wills most ofthe tells howhe hasenjoyed other saying lasting night. humiliating in herawkward, In this self for battle ofwills, the erect isan womenwho invited himintotheir bedhim;dog-paddling penis flesh totheother shenowacts important dramatic All Fernan- rooms, butnotElena, whom herespects, the side, buoyant presence. totheladder, that eachlover do's actions, and all Elena'sreactions, are cuttoAnas hisbadfaith; the fat worldly saying punctuates new. Atnight, shewatches governed seesthrough theseducer, as thebeaubrings something byitsliterally visibility.sister looming thissamedialectic and He argues, for that shemust trust tiful sister doesnot.Sheknows that her sisplayout in flesh example, bloodinhersister's sexual on theedge" andnotto come. ter is being violated. In thesecond instance, protracted nego- himto "stay tiations withFernando, theItalianboy- She is physically uncomfortable withits whenhe anallypenetrates her,we watch torn between a pretense to worldli- demands, whenhe presses it up Anas's faceas shehears hersister's muted friend, especially nessand a wishto love onlyonce.As in against her. Atthesametime, she screams andFernando's Thus however, noisy orgasm. Breillat's ofmasculine pitifully hispracticed liesprofessingtheeventual sexual climax ofthefirst bedRomance, principle accepts 24 CINEASTE, Winter 2001

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this is nottobe theman claims notto have 'in theflesh' but sister's beenraped. Anas herself is notviewed room ordeal experience, convince herself shelovesand to says, "Don'tbelieve me ifyoudon'twant fatsister who shemust on thefaceoftheempathie herheart, buta version of to,"as the frame onher whom shegives freezes face. andviolation. its horror registers in hersongofborewith thisfearful Fat In the secondbedroomscene,Elena themansheconjured Ending symmetry, theanonymous turns outto be a comparative and domat thebeginning: of to Fernando, more herself any- Girl study freely 'gives' whowillrelieve herof theforms ofsexual andthedamuncomfortableone,the"werewolf" Anasis againthesilent, initiation, ofherself and of her"ennui." agethey cando to young with no real badfaith theburden andwitness tothe emotional girls judge he is a monster with a crowbar power over their sexual fate. While thefilm defloration. We seeFernando Specifically, ofhersister's In short he smashes in itsprotest order the is deeply feminist this on Elena.She at a rest andclimb stop. against puton a condom kills ofthe Elena with a blow lackofpower, itspolemical is clearly that windshield buthe insists askshimto be gentle, car, point andstrangles the mother. themore violated ofthesisters is "one hardpush"is best.As he does,we tothe head, Anas, that truly the who had been one who was not the one turned to this time cut Anas, disconsolately taffy literally raped, away chewing again herself to loveherseducer. thewall, in thebackseatwhentheviolence thesight ofthecouple, from began, whoconvinced facing in and at the This Breillat the continues in the distant backBehind her, specter puts provocative position chewing staring weeping. Urinerunsdownherleg.She of arguing thata quick rape is actually ground,we see the movinglegs of the ofherfate. outofthecarbutdoesnotrun. preferable to a longseduction, andthat the Fer- slowly andhear, onceagain, entwined gets couple shewalksbackward, his raped sister exercises more control over her Thusdoes thefirst Instead, nando'sloud orgasm. holding vir- gaze,saying, almost as an order, "You are fate than theseduced one.Certainly such an ofher ofthe burden rid herself daughter to hurt me."Andindeed, shewill argument is notlikely to court favor doesthesecond with Andthus daughter,notgoing ginity. - in someAmerican theensuing feminists. As in Romance, from sensitive towhat hasbeen more lost, quickrape weep. emerge to show,sometimes suchacutecontrast to theprolonged psy- she is willing quite - seeminglyexplicitly, violation ofher sister thesexualdegradations women scenes havebeencountless rep- chological often endurein a questforpleasure incin- lesshurt, more intact. and the lossofinnocence resenting There fact ema.The mere intimacy.At the same no other film thatBreillat's offers time,however, maleor female, action more sexual director, explicit hasso effectively not the sole is certainly presented thecomplex, and highly and cause of thehonesty circumscribedcircumpowerof thisscene.But stancesin whichsexual sexual action, along explicit are negotiated. with uncommon duration, pleasures films are Assuch, Breillat's overthe allowsthebattle morefeminist to become lossofvirginity infinitely Trinh Thiand than Coralie and a more psychologically ostenDespentes's Virginie emotionally accurate feminist ordeal,both immediate sibly rape-revenge itreprein itseffects andpowerful Odyssey. Certainly sents the most accomon Elena,and distanced anddisturbing, of the and refracted plished, through the new films deploying jealeyesofan empathie, cinematic sexacts. Anas. ous,andsorrowing the current Whether The scene is true, sad, trend towards more and devastating all explicfunny, it sexwillbe a lasting feaatonce. ture of contemporary Whathappensnextis remains to violent and,at first, moving images utterly aratwosisters andElana be seen. thediffiitis Anas (Roxana a shocking (Anas Raboux) Masquida) Certainly surprise; yet inCatherine latest FatGirl. Breillat's tolosathalr film. virginity culties are in keeping with the anxious posedto actors totally It is hard to imagine of the film's lucidtheme great. herfate, theunhap- any established male American star It is as ifin meeting and theconofsexualinitiation exposing brutality whose erect or unerect, for thebenefit of untouched himself, OnceFernan- pytwelve-year-old ofyoung flicted desires virgin, girls. a "ballandchain" toher film art.Theyruntherisk, hadbeenlike ofElenais discovered do'sseduction amongother byhis flesh a perverse libera- things, ofbeingunfavorably as andthesis- oldersister, is separated thecouple mother, compared, recognizes - from inRomance from from Marie's French lover is unfavorvacation comesto an abrupt tion ters'family innocence, family, woman must enter ably to theRoccoSiffredis ofthis mechanics ofhowthis end.Butthe compared happens thewebofliesa young from her Breillat herself wasskirting disaster ofvirginity, to ridherself whosefilms into are unimportant to Breillat, very world. in her self.The monster with theactress whoplayed theolder films have imprisonment haveellipses ofplotwhere other Elena, inreal woods andrapes sister, whowasjust oldenough when reach the thesis- lunges ofsex.Almost barely they immediately ellipses in theactsdepicted in with hisbody life to engage noncommu- her.Butevenon theground ters'furious, buthopelessly legally - no question film. ofexplicit the all moving aboveher them mother setsoutto drive nicative, eventhenotoriturn ominous. sex in thisscenewitha twelve-year-old Yetin an erain which home.On theroadthings - she continues to hold his gaze, ously American hasfound actress trucks puritanical public passtheincreasingly looming Large, ofexplicit stillness exercis- thediscussion sexactsunavoidbutin hervery andherdisconsolate rattled mother daugh- unresisting - whether When he is doneshe able that discussion is carried out control. that an accident is inga peculiar ters. We begin to think outthescarf hehadusedtogag bya puritanical or a lascivious willend in a simply takes imminent and thatthefilm prosecutor - I can'thelpbutthink The final sceneshows intern that theconcrash. Notso,exact- herand holdsstill. fatal senseless, highway elision ofthequality and nature of evidence at thecar,wrap- tinued more policegathering is bothmore schematic, ly.Thefilm as twoother sexactsthat so importantly our that. andmore than punctuate pingElena'sbodyin plastic, terrifying calculating, will but still-living public andprivate lives seem lead a stunned instead is that Anas now policemen What increasinghappens inher Anas out of thewoods. A cop saysshe lyoddinourmovies. seducer ofher dreams. Unlike the gets 2001 25 Winter CINEASTE,

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