Baise-Moi  (2000)

There has been a lot of argument over whether this is just an exploitation film, or is something else entirely.  But man, whatever the hell this is, it’s the ultimate form of it.  If it’s an exploiter, it tops all previous ones.  This is probably the only movie ever shown in theaters which combines unsimulated sex and numerous blood squibs into the same scene.  And for those who are of a mind to be all shocked over such things, the combination is possibly the most shocking sixty seconds of film ever created by anyone.

All my life I’ve occasionally wondered when the time would come when someone would have the balls to film fully explicit sex in a real movie — or more exactly, in a reasonably serious drama which is not about sex.  And here’s the answer.  It is by no stretch a good movie, but it sure is a landmark of cinema.  This was when the line was officially crossed; now let’s see how long it takes for someone to make a movie this way that has some artistic value.  (The first serious attempt to cross that line again may have been The Brown Bunny, but that film and its creator quickly became a laughingstock.  Or maybe it was Ken Park, but that film was never permitted into U.S. theater distribution.  So basically we’re still waiting.)

Baise-Moi is definitely not about sex.  It’s about murder.  The plot is, basically: two women with crappy lives each finally snap and kill someone... then they meet and, feeding each other’s antisocial impulses, go on a murder spree.  It isn’t revenge, it’s simple enjoyment of killing.  Which inevitably leads to a bad end.  They have as much fun as they can, knowing it can’t last — they drink a lot, they snort drugs, they pick up guys for sex, and they often end up killing them afterwards.  Sometimes the people they kill are violent assholes; other times they kill people who are completely harmless.  Any attempt by viewers to attach a clear agenda to their pattern of killing, and especially any attempt to ennoble it with any greater social purpose, is doomed to fail.  The sex-and-gunfire scene I mentioned in the opening paragraph is doubly appalling because the people killed in it are dying for no reason at all.

Some describe this as a rape-revenge film, in the mould of I Spit On Your Grave.  It is not.  Though one of the protagonists is indeed raped (and no one’s ever made a rape scene more real), there is no vengeance; there is only random killing — and their first intentional victim is a woman, who just happens to have money they want.  Similarly, the movie has been described as “thinly veiled pornography”, but is not — it thoroughly subverts porn conventions — and has been described as a feminist screed, but is not.  It has also been described as “truly evil” — something that historically tends to be said by certain people of any newly shocking film.  I would say, once again, that it is not, but there’s definitely a case that can be made for that accusation.  Decide for yourself.

The simplest way to explain this strange creation, I think, is that it’s what happens when a bunch of porn actresses set out to make a serious movie on their own terms.  The result ends up looking like porn, even if the content is a reaction against it.

The fact that the two lead performers and one of the two directors were porn stars naturally lowers your expectations about the level of acting you can expect.  And this is one area where the film is truly surprising in a positive way: so far as I can tell without speaking French, the acting is completely solid, without a false note anywhere.

In short, this is sure as hell one challenging film experience.  And yet, if you ask whether it means anything, the answer may well be no.  Or if yes, then parsing it out requires a degree of detached reflection that is utterly at odds with the unthinking animal energy of the film itself.


...Unfortunately the DVD I got, which appears to be the most widely available edition, is a terrible transfer: it’s full screen, and blurry enough that I suspect it was converted from PAL video — something even lamer than selling a VHS dub.  The original was shot on digital video in 1.66 aspect ratio, so maybe the gritty colors are in the original source, but in any case do your best to get the right aspect ratio if you go after a copy.