Baise Moi
Baise Moi
Baise Moi
M O V I E   R E V I E W   B Y   D A V I D   N G

From its first shot of a bondage-clad prostitute staring herself down in the mirror, you know that Baise-moi has nihilistic attitude to spare. The prostitute’s name is Nadine (played by European porn star Karen Bach) and what we see in her eyes is a volatile mixture of come-get-me temptation and narcissistic self-regard. The room she is in is small – it could be a public lavatory – and is awash in deep red lighting, the red of blood and of sex. And though she hardly moves, there’s an undeniable feeling that she’s about to explode out of her cage.

A hardcore flick for the art-house crowd, Baise-moi is fairly difficult to pin down. Literally translated, the title means Fuck Me, but for its American release it’s been toned down to Rape Me. Either way, it’s meant to be a confrontational call-to-arms, as in "I dare you to fuck me." This libido-driven anger builds slowly in the movie’s first half-hour. Nadine lives pretty much by the schedule of her clients, for whom she provides everything from intercourse, to drug procurement, to even the occasional money loan. Lately though, sex has been less than fulfilling for her, and in one scene she watches a cooking show on television while her client does his business. Back at her apartment, she puts up with her roommate’s prissy hysterics. Nadine is essentially a good person who treats her clients and friends well but for whom life as a low-rent hooker has lost much of its original appeal.

Across town, we follow the story of Manu, an out of work porn star (played by Raffaela Anderson, also a real life porn actress). Within the first fifteen minutes of her introduction, Manu is raped and sodomized by a gang, is assaulted by her boyfriend, and is forced to watch her brother get beaten to a pulp. With no job and no money, Manu snaps and guns down her boyfriend. She takes his money and flees into the metro where she runs into Nadine, who, in an earlier scene, strangled her roommate. Bonding almost instantly, the two embark on a road trip of random killings and fuckings.

It is at this point, oddly enough, that the movie breaks down. When the horny duo waste a non-descript middle-aged woman at a cash machine, it’s all done with a casual shrug. "Where are the witty lines?" Manu asks Nadine, referring to their inability to toss off the Tarantino one-liner. Their male victims are equally bland, and range from horny old men to eager teenagers. One of them is unfortunate enough to have Manu vomit in the middle of a blow-job. Directors Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi place their camera up close and center, so not a single detail is missed. This, however, is no substitute for real tension which the directors have no clue how to create. The outside world remains curiously absent except for the occasional newspaper. Our heroines have created their own ultra-violent vacuum (symbolized by Nadine’s addiction to her Walkman), which in the absence of outside intrusion, eventually comes to feel inert and airless.

stills from
Baise Moi
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The directors (Virginie Despentes wrote the book upon which the movie is based and Coralie Trinh Thi is a porn star) do know a thing or two about the exploitation of the female form, and they put their knowledge of this to good use. In one scene, Nadine, wearing only bra and panties, strikes a series of poses for herself in front of a mirror, revolver in hand. It is a chilling display of self-infatuation that takes an unexpected turn when Nadine loses interest in her own reflection and slumps bored over the bathtub. The climactic scene is a shoot-out in a sex club. Mimicking the styles of various Hong Kong action directors, the two fugitives alternately pose and shoot, often with a gun in both hands.

More interested in how they look than in the acts of violence they are committing, Manu and Nadine are intended to represent today’s desensitized, media-inundated youth. But the filmmakers lack the ironic sense of humor to pull it off. Instead, they borrow freely and sloppily from film eras past and present, as if this in some way could make up for their lack of ideas and boring characters. Too ambitious to be pornography and too random to be taken as social commentary, Baise-moi comes off as half-assed in every possible way.

Probably the only reason to see this movie is for Karen Bach’s performance as the quieter, more introverted Nadine. With her deep, doll-like eyes, she can at one moment look wholly absorbed in the scene, and in the next, look completely detached. Her versatile screen presence, both transparent and opaque, is a throwback to the French New Wave: she is infinitely expressive. In her final scene, the camera holds her face in a tight close-up, and every minute of it is absorbing and exciting even if we don’t know what she’s thinking. It’s a shame that Bach must so often share the screen with genitalia. Her natural talent deserves more serious forms of on-screen collaboration.

[rating: 2 of 4 stars]

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Movie Web site: Baise Moi



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