REVIEW: Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! French Shocker "Baise-moi" Plays in the States
by Brandon Judell
(indieWIRE/ 07.09.01) -- Finally a film has arrived that delves into the quagmire of the new millennium's muddled feminism. Try to imagine trailer chicks Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem declaring their adoration for each on the Jerry Springer Show while they punch out their one-time lover Chuck Norris, and you sort of got it.
"Baise-moi," if you haven't heard already, is the film that had all of France and parts of Canada blushing. Pulled out of Paris theaters and later banned in Ontario, Women's rights activists and Chastity Bono will be bamboozled on how to react to this one. (The actual title is an idiom for "Fuck Me" but try getting a listing with that moniker into your local Pennysaver)
What we have here is a hard-core and sometimes condomed "Thelma and Louise" with a good dose of Russ Meyer's "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill" thrown in. (Yes, there are numerous close-ups of vaginas, and penises, plus everyone's favorite bedroom fare, the ever-handy and satisfying oral sex.)
Helmed by porn director Coralie Trinh Thi and novelist Virginie Despentes (the film's an adaptation of her book), and starring two porn stars, Raffaela Anderson and Karen Bach, this low-budgeted feature, follows two damsels, Manu and Nadine, who are sick and tired of being sexually plagued by the male animal so they turn the tables . . . violently. Yes, a man gets shot up the butt here, and it's about time. But women get offed here, too. One for the use of her ATM card. That's sounds pretty indiscriminate.
But then maybe these are instinctual lower-class feminists. Certainly books by Simone Beauvoir and Germaine Greer aren't on their shelves. But then Manu is an ethnic, drug-using porn star who's just been violently raped. Nadine is a tough prostitute who watches TV while getting fucked. In different parts of the city, they both accidentally kill a person in a fit of rage, the wrong person -- one who's not really the cause of their abuse.
Well, you'd kill someone, anyone, if you had just been through what they've been through. Nadine has just turned a trick while the TV set was on. Watching the tube upside down while getting fucked, she sees a man brutally beat up a woman, a gun, and a sausage getting chopped.
Meanwhile, Manu and her girlfriend, a down-and-out drug addict, are brutally gang-raped. The druggie fights back and is battered for doing so. Manu just complies, changing positions when asked, all the while neither screaming or protesting. Her passivity destroys the fun for her attackers, and they finally walk away. Afterwards, she explains why she claims she isn't destroyed by the assault: "I leave nothing precious in my cunt for them to take."
What's remarkable about this rape, which is the main cause of the film's troubles with rating boards around the world, is that even with explicit shots of actual intercourse, it's not exploitative. It's not out to get beer-drinking college sophs erect as similar scenes are in "I Spit on Your Grave" and "8MM." It's truly devastating.
A few scenes later after their first murders, both gals are on the run. As fate would have it, they meet up at a train station, join forces, and fall in platonic love. And what do gals in platonic love do, kill a little. Or a lot.
While the duo do have frequent sex with men throughout their fatal adventure, and even share lovers, it's obvious each is getting off on watching the other get off. And when the two are alone, frantically dancing in their undies, bumping and grinding with each other, their girl-on-girl sensuality is celebratory. Alone, without a man around, these two can be free not to pose, primp, hate or fear.
And while there are no flashbacks to Manu's and Nadine's pasts, it's easy to pencil in what caused them to become the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of serial killers.
In a telling scene, Manu is giving a blow job to a nerd they picked up for fun in a casino. You and they know he's going to meet a sad end. He however is oblivious, swayed by the ecstasy of being with two hot broads for the first time in his sorry life. Suddenly Manu gags and throws up on his cock. The man is outraged while the gals laugh hysterically. This just might be the film's main metaphor: vomit on the phallus.
As the duo's fame grows in the tabloids with each additional act of violence they commit, the gals note despondently, "We've got the moves. Where's the lines?" Later on they repeat, "We need a punch line?" Manu and Nadine just don't want to be notorious. They want to be notorious and clever. They realize they need to make some kind of statement to earn their actions some respect. But they're at a loss here.
When an admirer who recognizes them notes, "You're pretty laid back for girls on the run," they reply, "That's because we have no imagination."
In Uncanny Feminism, Patricia Melencamp wrote, "Feminist art is art which acknowledges that difference of being a woman -- i.e. what it is to be a woman -- and then integrates that consciousness into the art."
By that definition, "Baise-moi" is great feminist art. It might not be a great film structurally or technically, but it's quite unforgettable. And depending on its success over here, it might turn out to be a pivotal, transformative feature. Or not.