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Baise-Moi review

Baise-Moi
18certificate 18
Running time: 75 minutes
Starring: Raffaele Anderson, Karen Bach, Delphine MacCarty, Lisa Marshall
There's a pun in the title of Baise-Moi, an unlikely and somewhat unseemly tale of female vengeance set in modern France. It can mean either Kiss Me or Rape Me in the slang of contemporary French and it's likely that after watching it you'll certainly feel that you've suffered a terribly unpleasant attack against your will.

Different countries (notably not the UK) at different times seem to throw up a slew of films which are meant purely to test the limits of what is acceptable cinema. To name but a few: Pasolini did it in Italy in the 60s and 70s (Salo), Oshima in Japan in the mid 70s (Ai-No Corrida) and the Scandinavians got in on the act in the mid 90s with the Dogma ethic (The Idiots). All of those films reached the UK in one form or another, but not before they had undergone some form of censorship at the hands of the British Board of Film Classification. All of them raised the perennial debate about how art can cross the boundary into either pornography or extreme violence. However, even after they were released (in some cases eventually uncut), society did little more than carry on with its normal day-to-day routine.

In recent years, France seems to have decided to carry the beacon for this extreme form of cinema. Catherine Breillat's 1997 Romance caused concern for its stark portrayal of oral sex and sodomy, and Gaspar Noe's 2002 thriller Irreversible saw the leading lady of Eurpoean cinema, Monica Bellucci, brutally raped in an explicit nine-minute sequence.

Between these two films came Baise-Moi, which caused uproar at every festival it was shown, received a brutal response from most critics and was heralded as the most shocking film ever made. Even the traditionally liberal French saw fit to give it a special rating, effectively banning it from mainstream theatrical release. Co-directed by and starring actors and performers better known in the porno world, it tells the tale of two young women who join up to avenge what they see is a malevolent society and, in a kind of extreme Thelma and Louise fashion, go on a rampage throughout France.

Oral sex? Oui. Full penetration? Oui. Ejaculation? Oui? A man meeting his maker by having the trigger pulled while the gun is inserted into his anus? Yes, it's all here in a film whose sole purpose seems to be to find out how far it is possible to push the limits without being locked up for some sort of sex crime. The trouble is that the whole thing is so appallingly scripted, with scant regard for character or plot, that it might as well be a porn film.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this sorry affair is that it was passed as an 18 certificate here in the UK. Having recently introduced the 18R rating, ostensibly to license the pornographic market in the UK, the BBFC still sees some form of 'art' in the desperately poor 75 minutes of its running time. While we should support this liberal attitude, it does throw up the inevitable paradox: when is art porn, when is porn art, and can film classification ever really be justified if you examine the reasons behind it in an intelligent manner?

No doubt Masters Degrees are being written on how Baise-Moi is a major step forward in the emancipation of women on screen. That's probably the only thing the film is good for, because as a viewing experience it has absolutely nothing to recommend.

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