Baise-moi comes to us amidst a cloud of controversy. The film was banned in its home country, France ' banned in France, ladies and gentlemen. And various American critics, all of them men, have tried to wash their hands of it. But here it is, in all its punky, spunky, nihilistic glory. A girls-hit-the-road movie that makes Thelma and Louise look like "Kate and Allie," Baise-moi is directed by Virginie Despentes, a respected novelist in France, and Coralie Trinh Thi, a respected porn actress. And it stars Karen Bach and Raffaela Anderson, themselves porn actresses, as a prostitute and a, uh, porn actress who've had it up to here (and I think we all know where "here" is) with men. So what do they do? They join forces, heading off on a crime spree that will include lots and lots of humping and shtumping, usually followed by looting and shooting. What we have here, in other words, is an Andrea Dworkin wet dream, a porno movie that's designed to leave a really bad taste in men's mouths. But will it? I wonder.
Crudely shot, crudely edited, crudely acted and ' last but not least ' crudely written, Baise-moi wears its punk esthetic like a badge of honor. Basically, it's an art film posing as an exploitation film, with segues into the wonderful world of porn. There are scenes of graphic sex and scenes of graphic violence, but I suspect only the scenes of graphic sex will offend anybody, the graphic violence having been simulated. (Ah, an envelope left to push.) And if the directors don't exactly dwell on the sex acts the way regular porn movies do, grinding away until we wearily reach for the remote, they certainly show oral and vaginal penetration, including a seemingly unnecessary close-up during a rape scene. That close-up may be Despentes and Thi's version of a money shot ' their guarantee of authenticity. But do we really need such a guarantee? Does knowing that the actress was actually being penetrated (though not raped, surely) make the scene any more painful than it already would be?
Your answer to that question may be a clue to how you'll wind up feeling about Baise-moi. Personally, I enjoyed the film's slummy, scummy mise-en-scÃne more than I did its sex and violence, both of which seemed rudimentary, either on purpose or by accident. But let's face it, this is a part of France we didn't get to see in, say, Chocolat. Despentes and Thi, who co-wrote the script (based on a novel by Despentes), offer throwaway gags by way of explaining what pushes the women over the edge. "There's no work in France," one of them says, as if that in itself might turn someone into a sex-crazed serial killer. The victims are not all men, by the way. On the contrary, our sex/killing machines seem hell-bent on destroying whoever has the misfortune of crossing their paths ' all in the name of liberation, of course. Or, as one of them so eloquently puts it, "We'll follow our star and let rip the motherfucker side of our soul." Shakespeare, eat your heart out.
I thought I caught allusions to those cinematic landmarks, Breathless and The 400 Blows; it's as if the tide has finally turned on the French New Wave, leaving flotsam and jetsam scattered all over the screen. Like Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless and Jean-Pierre LÃaud in The 400 Blows, the women in Baise-moi sense the romance of crime, the way it can bring meaning to an otherwise meaningless life. The difference is that the women in Baise-moi commit sex crimes, outrageous acts of self-destructive revenge. The film's English title is Rape Me, although Fuck Me is a more accurate translation. (Many newspapers won't print the F word.) Myself, I prefer Rape Me, the way it issues an impossible-to-obey command. Though nihilists to the core, these women won't take no for an answer. The whole movie's like that ' very direct, very explicit, very in-your-face. There's not much artistry in it, or much art. But it certainly drives its message home: Women can be just as disgusting as men.