Sex Is Comedy

Sex Is Comedy

***1/2

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

A film director struggles to shoot the pivotal seduction scene of her film, Intimate Scenes, battling with a recalcitrant leading man.

Catherine Breillat's latest offering is more pleasurable viewing than Romance and A Ma Soeur.

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It's not that the director refuses to confront the spectator, more that the film is first and foremost a self-criticism, which avoids the controversy-seeking posturing that often mars her work.

The director of Intimate Scenes, as played by Anne Parrilaud, is obviously Breillat herself, while her film is obviously A Ma Soeur, an impression reinforced by the casting of Roxane Mesquida as the lead of the film-within-the-film.

Breillat's question appears to be whether a feminine cine ecriture is possible. Is the director's role, as someone who must objectivise the performers in order to get the film in the can, an inherently masculine - or masculinising - one? Does wielding the camera mean wielding a penis/phallus, with all the negatives that entails? Is cinematic language phallologocentric?

Mercifully, such po-faced questions are dealt with in a lightweight comedic manner, signified by the film's title. It is interesting how much of the discussion centres on the possession of a prosthetic penis and how, once it is attached, Gregoire Colin's leading man becomes more assertive. He and Mesquida deliver bold, risk-taking performances, bearing their all for the camera in both a literal and metaphoric sense, while Parrilaud banishes memories of Nikita and proves, once more, that she deserves better.

Though Breillat is to be applauded for her bravery and honesty, Sex Is Comedy raises as many questions as it answers about her filmmaking praxis, when one considers what is absent.

If the film is a reflection on A Ma Soeur's production, why does Mesquida reprise her role while her male counterpart is replaced by Colin? And why is the entire younger sibling element, so vital to the earlier film, omitted from this one, especially when one considers the practical child protection issues it must surely have raised for the filmmaker?

Or, when so much of the plot centers around the difficulties inherent in shooting sex scenes, what is one to make of Breillat's use of porn performer Rocco Siffredi in Romance?

I quite enjoyed Sex Is Comedy and, since I pretty much hated the other Breillat films, take that as a compliment and a recommendation.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2002
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Sex Is Comedy packshot
A director struggles to shoot the sex scene central to her film.
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Gabriella Trybalska ****
Chris ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Catherine Breillat

Writer: Catherine Breillat

Starring: Anne Parillaud, Gregorie Colin, Roxanne Mesquida, Ashley Wanninger, Dominique Colladant

Year: 2002

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France

Festivals:

EIFF 2002

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