Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fat Girl by Catherine Breillat


Fat Girl is a French film directed by Catherine Breillat, who according to the New York Times is, "France's most impassioned correspondent covering the war between the sexes". Actually the original French title of the film is A Ma Souer, which would translate to "To My Sister". And as this title suggests the film is about two teenage sisters and their sexual awakening. The story, about the two girls' quest for love and sex, on the surface seems picked up from a typical coming-of-age film or even a chick flick but nothing would be farther from truth. Breillat's earlier film had a massively ironic title of "Romance". There was little romance there but plenty of unsimulated sex, all shown in clinical and deeroticised manner and as if all of it was not enough there were a few scenes direct from the gynaecology room towards the end. I don't have any particular problems with sex, specially if it comes wrapped in some intellectual mumbo-jumbo but the film was extremely pedantic and many dialogues and situations were just plain silly. One of the scenes was where the girl muses her Sartrean musings aloud while holding her boyfriend's penis in her hand (something like, "I am a hole, I disappear in proportion to the dick inside me"). Fat Girl isn't that explicit, but still it is as brutal and confrontational as Romance, perhaps even more. Also while not as pedantic as Romance, Breillat makes it clear that it is not a "realistic" film and the aim of the film is less to tell a story than to drive home an agenda, a polemic against the traditional notions of romance.

I won't say any more about the film. You can read about it in Salon or New York Times

I was reading Breillat's interview provided in the DVD booklet. She makes this provocative, perhaps even absurd, statement. (May not make sense to those who haven't seen the film):

They [Girls] have been brought up to be receptive to sentimentality, not to opportunistic desire. They themselves have this same desire, but they deny it in the name of "sentimental ethics". It is a social factor that throws everything off. On one hand, one could argue that the rapist is the most sympathetic male character in the film. He is the only one who presents himself as he really is. He doesn't make any romantic promise. There's almost more respect and more love in this final scene than in the previous ones. This is true of the film, not of the reality of rape.


Hmmm. I thought, I knew which was worse, dishonest and manipulative (aren't they all?) seduction or an honest (yes, aren't they all?) rape! Or perhaps illusions aren't that useless after all. The illusion of having gifted some pleasure to someone she loved must have soothed away Elena's pain in the earlier scene of anal sex. The only thing is to keep these romantic illusions intact... I am sure it isn't that difficult!

Also in the interview she mentions that she copied the Anais's gesture of holding her rapist in her hands from Robert Bresson's Mouchette which had a similar scene. Now after having seen the film, at least by association, the rape scene takes some deeper philosophical meaning. Although I think it would be a serious folly to compare it with Mouchette which is truly a sublime masterpiece.

The film, though not entertaining or even erotic despite being drenched from top to bottom in sex, is worth watching for the difficult questions it raises. All the characters and situations are still buzzing in my head and refuse to let go. And yes I didn't say anything about the truly morbid song sung by the Fat Girl in the film... It is something like, "I have taken out my heart and placed it on the windowsill, If crows come and peck at this raw meat, let them do that" (something like that)... and in the beginning she sings another song, again something like, "I am bored in the day, I am bored in the night, I will be bored even after I die, I need a body, I need a man, or even a woman, even animal, or even a werewolf"... (again not exact lines)

More on it some other time.

Entry of the film on Rotten Tomatoes website.

1 comment:

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