Old-ish news, but Steve Carell is out and Mel Gibson is in for Kyle Killen’s dark comedy The Beaver, according to Variety. In addition to directing, Jodie Foster will also play the wife of Gibson’s screwy depressive, who finds solace in sporting a beaver hand puppet. Slightly weird pairing on the surface, but makes some sense given the Maverick history, I guess. Will Gibson fans — to the extent that they still constitute a mass worth considering, financially — really indulge an arty, non-vengeful side project, though?
Mark September 29 on your calendars. It could be the greatest title of any DVD sell-through collection this year. Or ever.
I was trolling Internet archives looking for an old review to reference, link and fold into a new piece I’m writing, and instead of success in that measure I instead came across this piece I wrote on Baise Moi, a gritty French film that saw limited metropolitan release in 2002, as best I can determine from my records. Its own outlier status seemed a thematic fit with some of the discourse swirling around in a recent web chat I moderated on the shock value of Brüno, so I figured I’d throw up this theatrical-pegged review, originally penned during my editorial stint at Entertainment Today. To wit:
The easy hybrid pitch on Baise Moi, a graphic road romp of feminist empowerment, is that it’s sort of a French version of Thelma & Louise meets Natural Born Killers. This isn’t a bad composite sketch by any stretch of the imagination, but the full truth is, naturally, much more complicated. If you’re at all turned off by the aforementioned description, now might be a good time to go ahead and stop reading, because there’s no way to sugarcoat either this film or the unpleasant issues it addresses in any legitimate dissemination of it.
But if you’re not dissuaded by, in fact if you’re even curious about, the above categorization, then you may (read: may) be more inclined to submit yourself to Baise Moi, a ballsy and provocative thrill-kill import of uncommon brutality (the film’s translation is Rape Me, a verb you probably didn’t conjugate much in high school French) that serves as a launching off point for a whole series of questions regarding men and women and sex and violence.
Early in the film, porn actress Manu (Rafaella Anderson, above left, given to wisenheimer chesire grins of eerily repressed malevolence) is violently and graphically sexually assaulted by two random thugs. But she casually dismisses both the attack and her attackers. “I leave nothing precious in my cunt for those jerks,” spits Manu to her fellow victim. Meanwhile, Nadine (Karen Lancaume, billed as Karen Bach, and summoning visions of an older Katie Holmes cast as a strung-out rocker) finds herself wrapped up in a sort of Southern Baptist triathlon of sin, spending most of her time smoking dope (or looking for it), masturbating and swapping sex for cash. United by chance, the two grrrrrrls, like combustible chemical agents brought together in a lab study gone wrong, ignite the subdued rage in one another, and embark on a twisted road trip of rapacious retribution, screwing men, robbing women and killing both.
Co-written and directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi (a former prostitute turned bestselling novelist and a one-time porn actress, respectively — though don’t let those descriptors impugn their credibility), Baise Moi means to willfully shock, and does. To actually see the degrading violence of a (staged, but unforgiving) rape is both sickening — exactly what it’s meant to be — and oddly… instructive? I don’t doubt for a second that if more people saw this harrowing scene (and others like it) instead of many of the flippant, inconsequential and otherwise candy-ass Hollywood representations of rape, from Showgirls to countless lame movies-of-the-week, sexual assault would decrease nationwide.
Coarse, roughhewn and rather unsophisticated, cinematically speaking, Baise Moi nonetheless succeeds largely on its gritty realism. It’s the ultimate deconstruction of a road movie (in one scene Manu and Nadine fret over the dearth of quality wisecracks with which they dispense victims), overcharged with a certain new wave abandon and coursing with a techno-fed, “Smack My Bitch Up” bravado. Still, the denouement of all this mayhem — both the literal ending and the third act as a whole, which finds the duo, on the run from police, relaxing briefly at a stranger’s house — seems a little contrived.
There’s no denying that Baise Moi is powerful, a cinematic jab to the solar plexus. To merely dismiss it as violent and depraved is to ignore the thought and philosophy behind the explicitness, the film’s true raison d’étre, if you will. But at just under 80 minutes, Baise Moi is a bit too truncated to fully address either the complexity of the quick-catch relationship between Manu and Nadine or the various larger questions of subjugated female sexuality that its narrative raises.(Remstar/FilmFixx, unrated, 77 minutes)