Baise-Moi has been variously translated in English as fuck me, rape me and kiss me. The take on the title in some ways sums up the film and the controversy it has generated around the world. The film is based on Virginie Despentes’ first novel which won the Prix de Flores in France and became a bestseller. Despentes published the book in 1995 when she was 21 and it was informed by the time she spent hanging out with punks and rappers in the underground world and streets of Lyons.
The film has upset some sensibilities (mostly male) and grabbed headlines in newspapers everywhere. The real trouble with Baise-Moi is that it shows sex without fanfare and random violence without remorse. Neither of these themes is unique if you’ve seen any De Palma, Scorsese or Tarantino films. The difference is that the perpetrators are not men but women played in this case by Karen Bach and Raffaella Anderson, both from professional, hardcore backgrounds. To add to Despentes’ basic premise that women can go around killing people is the fact that the graphic, explicit sex is real. Despentes claims that what interested her in directing Baise-Moi was to show that sex scenes aren’t there just to excite guys. They fuck. Period. Her words. Voyeurs won’t find much to titillate them although there are plenty of pornstar-size penises for boys and there is eye candy of sorts for girls too.
Baise-Moi is a complete subversion of a male-dominated genre. It is a raw and anarchic road movie shot in digital video and accompanied by a thrash metal soundtrack. Some people have called Baise-Moi a sort of Thelma And Louise with balls. Thelma And Louise is a Sunday drive in comparison. Baise-Moi has more in common with Michael Winterbottom’s feature debut Butterfly Kiss (1995) than anything else. Winterbottom told the story of two lesbians who go on a killing spree in northern England. It was also an anarchic road movie about love and redemption. There isn’t as much character development in Baise-Moi as there is in Butterfly Kiss and the two women are not presumed to be lesbian although they enjoy watching each other have sex.
Although the film is coarse, crude and formless at times, it is also fast-paced and energetic. Baise-Moi does deal with serious themes but above all it is a farce and a fantasy and in the end it is very funny. It is deliberately stylised and refreshingly not PC and you are certainly not likely to see something like it again soon. Be warned! This is not a film for even the vaguely prudish as the sex and violence are relentless. I haven’t seen a film so empowering of women in a very long time.
Baise-Moi has been banned in more than 20 countries, including France, before even being seen in many cases. It was cut by eight seconds to screen in the UK but will screen in its entirety in Australia. This is certainly not light entertainment but is nevertheless a challenging and important film in a genre rarely explored.
Baise-Moi begins its season today at the Chauvel Cinema, Paddington, and the Valhalla Cinema, Glebe.