Manu (Raffaella Anderson) is constantly being pushed around, if not by her brother, then someone else. After she and a friend are raped by three men, Manu feels compelled to do something – but not sure what, she wonders into an empty train station one night where she bumps into Nadine (Karen Bach), a prostitute also at the end of her tether. The trains have stopped for the night, so they set off together in Manu’s car, aiming for Paris. They change direction on the way and end up on a violent, sexually active road trip heading not sure where, killing and f**king as they please.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
‘Killing and f**king as they please’ indeed; and the choice of words is deliberate, for it describes what they do accurately. No euphemism would be true to the tone of the film. That explicitness de-glamourises the killing and f**king. None of the sex, drugs and violence is appealing or suggestive; it certainly isn’t pornography – porn is defined as sexually arousing, after all. Nor can it be accused of romanticising any of the misdeeds. Certainly not its morality, if just desserts are your simple yardstick of morality. There are two elements in this film that may confront some audiences, three if you count raw, explicit scenes of sexual activity complete with working genitalia. The other two are that the perpetrators of violence – other than the initial rape, of course – are the women with guns. Not men. The second is that the perpetrators of wanton sex un-hooked from love or romance, are also the women. It is these two latter elements that give the film a cinematic interest; how does this play to audiences, whether broadminded enough to accept the sex scenes or not. Incidentally, the views of various bits of working genitalia is a significant device to create the mental and moral environment within which the characters function. For some women, the film has a liberating ‘angry vagina’ hit. This is given plenty of foundation by the portrayal of the men in the early part of the film as either brutal misogynists or just misguided misogynists. But when the two women casually kill their first female victim to steal her money from the ATM, it’s no longer so easy to put simple labels on their motivations – or on the film. And it’s the one aspect of the film that’s of greatest interest to me: these two women, with their sweet faces, ordinary interests and working class concerns, stepping out of the self restraint that millions of other women in similar positions retain. And both Manu and Nadine see themselves doing it. They know what they are doing is immoral and terrible, and they know, too, that it will end in their destruction, one way or another. They stepped through that surprisingly flimsy curtain between average, fate-pummeled citizen to hunted outlaw. If it weren’t for the interest maintained by the exposure of the two characters, the film would be nothing more than a novelty for its daring excesses - and then daring to claim some cinematic value. Well, not quite, because the film does have other cinematic virtues, namely a terrific sense of economy and powerful story telling.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Art or pornography? A bit of both really as this femme duo unleash their anger in a cross-country sex and killing spree. Baise-Moi will attract plenty of curious customers thanks to its notoriety as the most sexually explicit film ever to be granted an R certificate by Australian censors. In The Realm of the Senses, Intimacy and Romance have already been passed uncut with hard-core sex scenes intact but they look tame compared to those in Baise-Moi. The sex here is presented in such a bleak, nihilistic atmosphere that anyone seeking titillation will be sorely disappointed. It is the most unerotic pornography imaginable. Noteworthy for its arresting visuals beyond the hard-core footage, it's a shame this doesn't have much to say about female sexuality beyond presenting this killing spree as a violent reaction against male domination. Films charting similarly violent female revenge have been a staple of European exploitation cinema and American B-movies since the early 70s but it's safe to say we've never seen it done like this before. There is no doubting the sincerity of co-directors Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi in depicting this world of despair and while they may not have anything profoundly new to say on the subject their film is guaranteed to enliven discussion on the topic of female characters who dare to exhibit the kind of extreme behaviour almost exclusively reserved for males. Baise-Moi's strength is that it gives us two women whose initial actions we can understand. It falters because Manu and Nadine's growing taste for murder is not accompanied by any psychological engagement or insights into their drug-like feeling of sudden empowerment. Mechanical and even a little dull by the time they reach their destination, its opening burst of energy and the full-tilt performances of porn actresses Anderson and Bach don't really amount to much in the end. Despite being something of a disappointment, Baise-Moi may prove to be the film that ushers the hybrid genre of hard-core Artsploitation into legitimate cinemas and as such it demands to be seen.
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BAISE MOI (R18+)
CAST: Karen Bach, Raffaella Anderson
PRODUCER: Philippe Godeau
DIRECTOR: Virgine Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi
SCRIPT: Virgine Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi (novel by Virgine Despentes)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Benoit Chamaillard
EDITOR: Aïlo Auguste
MUSIC: Varou Jan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Irene Galitzine
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne); May 2, 2002 (Adelaide/Perth)