Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: Unrated, but should be NC-17 for intense sexuality, violence, and raw language
Run Time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
Call it “Thelma and Louise Go Porn”. Or “Vagabond Chicks Get Gritty”. Whatever you call it, this is a visceral, anarchic glimpse into the dark side of the female psyche.
The official American translation is “Rape me”. Off the record, the true title is unprintable in this publication. Three days after opening in Paris, “Baise-moi” was pulled from screens and slapped with an X rating, denoting pornography and a demotion to midnight screenings in tawdry sex shops. That it is tolerated in this country at all is a tribute to our newly-relaxed puritanical sensibilities, or a really smart distribution deal.
The plot isn’t much of one. Numbed by horrific personal experiences, and tired of being treated as second-class citizens, Manu (Raffalea Anderson) and Nadine (Karen Bach) share a sense of disillusionment by becoming fast friends. Manu, a part-time porn actress, and Nadine, a bored hooker, hit the road, fleeing from a heightened awareness of social insecurity and oppression. Girls just want to have fun, which for this liberated pair of itinerant executioners means a vengeful killing spree aimed at a male-dominated humanity. Their bender of a road trip consists of provocative sexual acts, after which their satiated partners are annihilated with particularly violent force juxtaposed with an outrageously cavalier attitude.
This is a challenging film without limits. On the surface, its depravity is meaningless – a mindless revolt against an imaginary masculine enemy. Digging deeper, it’s a harsh feminist statement challenging social hypocrisy and communal morality. Bach and Raffaela, real-life professionals of the porn trade, bring raw sensuality and a been-there-done-that languor to every act of hard-core sex and violence. The destructive emotional elements lend the female protagonists a provocative power, but I’m haunted by their aura of human sorrow. Subversive, abrasive, and not for the faint of heart.
In French with English subtitles. Opens Friday, May 25 at…
Camera One Theater, 366 So. First Street, San Jose. 408-998-3300