Robin CliffordWriter/director Catherine Breillat casts Anne Parillaud ("La Femme Nikita") as Jeanne, a stand-in for herself struggling with her actors and her own creation of the difficult sex scene that was the core of her film "Fat Girl" in "Sex Is Comedy."
Catherine Breillat obviously thinks quite highly of Catherine Breillat, an off-putting egocentrism that permeates her otherwise intriguing discourse on the relationship between directors and actors. It's an odd conceit for a film, recreating the filming of one's own film. Undoubtedly this one will hold more interest for those who have seen "Fat Girl," although that is by no means a prerequisite, particularly as the (barely) fictitious Jeanne's film eliminates the titular fat girl, instead concentrating on the loss of Elena's (Roxane Mesquida, reprising her role here as The Actress) virginity by The Actor (Grégoire Colin, "Beau travail," replacing "Fat Girl's Libero De Rienzo).
Shooting on a beach in frigid weather, Jeanne is beside herself when she cannot get a realistic kiss between her actors. The actor is temperamental and thinks the woman he is paired with is not an actress. Jeanne accepts something below her standards and moves on, but the power play has begun. The actor refuses to take off his socks for the beginning of her sex scene, refuses to eat with her and the actress at lunch break and pitches a fit when the director decides to block out the contentious scene with her assistant, Leo, (Peter Sarsgaard look alike Ashley Wanninger, "Romance," "Europa Europa") behind closed doors.
Breillat says that she never has a problem with actresses, only actors, because there is a power struggle to get a man to bare emotions, something which is natural for a woman. Her press note comments basically repeat much of Jeanne's dialogue in the film. She posits that actors appear in films out of vanity (although her Actor frequently mentions his good rate of pay). While much of what she (has Jeanne) say is intriguing, it is apparent that as a female director she appears to demand that her own sexual desirability be acknowledged by the men on her set. Mid-film Jeanne announces that 'everyone thinks I am sleeping with my assistant,' but the character's behavior has led the audience to the same conclusion. Leo tells her that her relationship with the actor is weird, that they act like 'wildcats.' When she is asked to check out the prosthesis she has ordered for the actor's penis (to shield the young a actress from real physical contact), Jeanne slides down his body for a look, like she is about to perform oral sex on the man, a submissive mixed message from a character demanding control. Why does Breillat have her cameraman tell Jeanne that she chooses her male actors for consumption? Is this a small bit of self criticism or (more likely) an acknowledgement of her godlike position? Breillat can stomp out her own creation - Jeanne walks with a limp and a cane having 'put her foot down for the film,' a line that is repeated ad nauseum.
After announcing that she will accomplish the 15 page sex scene in one take, the film's final act finds Jeanne fine tuning the scene from the monitor. Oddly, after all Jeanne's obsession with her Actor, it is the Actress who delivers the emotional power of the scene. Cradling the crying girl in her arms, Jeanne praises her and the film ends, leaving us with the self-serving message that Breillat is brilliantly capable of coaxing performances out of difficult actors.
Robin did not see this film.
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