Yes it is a film about two women breaking free from society and hitting the road to discover themselves, but Baise-Moi takes us to some very different places than those Thelma and Lousie does. It’s out to shock us with both brutal violence and real, unsimulated sex, which should have been well-intentioned but it’s prominence reduces the film to feeling like a extremely plot driven, underground X-rated movie. It clearly is trying to be more than a porn film shot through with a violent storyline, but the absence of a message, and the fact that we cannot feel empathy for the leads, creates a combined negative effect which unfortunately ruins the film’s chances.
The grubby, punk-inspired feel to this film both works in its favour, and also really doesn’t. The decision not to use lighting for example, was a stylistic one even whilst it helped save funds as well, and it simultaneously projects an air of ‘realism’ and grittiness, whilst also feeling seriously amateurish. The soundtrack also is pretty bad and often jarring, pulling the viewer out of the film on multiple occasions. In fact, the film so often seems to employ techniques designed to distance the audience from the film, that I would tentatively suggest that Brecht may have been an influence, but I may very well be being to kind. It’s just that the film seems to have had some real intelligence behind it, and I can’t help but suspect that it is trying to create distance so that you can consider the issues that it raises. I’m being too generous, but it’s true that the issues are far more engaging than the film itself.
As to whether the film exploits its two leads, that’s a difficult question – they are often presented as more sexually attractive than their male counterparts, and yet there is more male nudity than female, and unusually we actually see the male orgasm, so it certainly isn’t typical in its presentation of gender sexuality. Ultimately the nudity and use of real sex would feel more justified if the lead actresses had given stronger performances; they coast through it generally, but when it really matters, they unfortunately fall short. The film does make an interesting, and actually praiseworthy attempt to depict a full fleshed out female character, it’s a shame that it then doesn’t work out as well as it should, but the effort is there, and the goal is admirable. Ultimately though, it’s Baise-Moi’s controversial status, and censorship fame that makes it worthy of note, not the film itself.
What was the film’s greatest strength?
It’s aim; it set out to be something much more than what it ultimately amounts to.
Its greatest weakness?
Some combination of the script and the acting that resulted in bizarrely uninteresting characters, I don’t ask for the leads to necessarily be relatable in a film like this, but they had better well hold my attention.
Would I see it again?
No, as much I would like to see this with someone and discuss it afterwards, I reckon one viewing was enough.
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