Friday, July 20, 2007

I Am Done With Catherine Breillat

I have long argued that Catherine Breillat was one of cinema's most overrated directors. But my critics always said that I hadn't seen "Fat Girl" so I couldn't say that.

That changed last night.

Before this, I had seen 3 Breillat films. "A Real Young Girl," which was semi-interesting for a first film; "Sex is Comedy," which is pointless and boring; and the execrable, horrid "Anatomy of Hell."

"Fat Girl" actually had me interested for most of the film. It was a pretty realistic portrayal of emergent sexuality among young girls. For once, Breillat coaxed decent acting performances out of her leads. I wasn't blown away by any of this, but I was prepared for this post to be less negative.

Then came the end. Oh my God, the end. This was the worst ending to a film I have ever seen. And I've seen some bad ones. I'll give it away since it came out in 2001. So if you don't want to know it, stop reading. OK--in the end some random killer comes out of nowhere to murder the lead's sister and mother and rape the fat girl. That's it. WTF? What kind of an ending is that. There were myriad ways to end a film like this. Even have her get raped if that's what you want. How many ways can you think of to resolve a young overweight girl's budding sexuality? A lot, I imagine. But not this. This made no sense. It took a decent movie and turned it into a vehicle for Breillat's cheap shock value, this time through violence rather than sex.

Breillat has a shtick: realistic sex. That's all. If it wasn't for the shock value, no one would care at all. And they shouldn't care. It's like saying an action director is an auteur because he directs good car blowups. In itself, that's fine. But a good movie that does not make.

Catherine Breillat is like the anti-Eric Rohmer. Both directors delve into issues of love, sex, and passion. Both have a lot of conversation in their films. Rohmer doesn't usually show any sort of sex happening, but there is lots of talking about it. The difference is that you actually care about Rohmer's characters. You want the plot to work out for them. You couldn't care less for Breillat's characters. They are shallow ciphers who exist only for Breillat to have them in realistic sex scenes. Great.

May I never watch another Catherine Breillat film again.