#100. Catherine Breillat
French film director Catherone Breillat’s films constantly straddle that thin line between art and pornography. She takes the viewer by the scruff of the neck and into a world of sex and self loathing. In this world that Breillat has taken a number of films to create, hedonismn and self introspection almost take on a poetic tone. They become the director’s search for truths among the contradictory messages life presents the female persuasion.
Breillat’s female characters search in vain for a knowledge to make sense of everything, men particularly. It is a search as much for sense of purpose as it is for self.
“If I haven’t found out who I am until the end of my life…because I am afraid/ashamed of it, then I would have just pretended to live. Initmacy really means to find something out about yourself that is deep inside.”
In Anatomy of Hell, Amita Casar stars merely as “The Woman. At no point are we treated with a name. But, of course, the character feels her sex has eclipsed, unfairly so, her identity. Casar’s character invites a man, cbaracter name is “The Man” to an out of the way retreat where she exposes her “ugliness” her body, a constant theme of a lot of Catherine Breillat films, to the man.
Portrayed by former Italian porn star Rocco Sifferedi, “the Man” remains immune to her charms no matter how hard she tries to sell them to her. In true Breillat fashion, he is immune and probably as disgusted by her femininity as she is – not because he is gay. “The Woman” feels her body will illicit such responses naturally.
But these are roads Breillat’s women head down constantly – no matter the generation or class status, or age for that matter of the woman.
Breillat’s directorial debut would be a shocker of an introduction to the world and would launch the director’s dissection of women and dealing with the “shame” of their sexuality. The film, A Real Young Girl follows Alice Bonnard 14 – portrayed by 20 year old fresh face English actress Charlotte Alexandra, has a sexual awakening. No matter how hard she tries, Alice cannot relieve the constant tug of her awakening hormones.
That tortuous tug – seemingly stretching Breillat’s psyche to the point of breaking or at least her alter egos. Alice even goes so far as to humiliate herself by letting herself be tied up and her sex made available to one of her father’s employee. He both satiates and humilates her by breaking up a live worm and spreading across the source of Alice’s (and Breillat’s) shame, the female sex organ.
Why Catherine Breillat is important –
Most of Breillat’s films are not ones that you can just pop in and watch with the whole family. Each one is confrontational and demands your attention. Breillat brougbt a new voice and perspective to cinema. With the exception of Lina Wertmulller and Liliana Cavini in Italy, there were very few female directors in the world, much less undertaking such provactive themes.
Over the years, Breillat’s films have taken their fair share of flack. Givn the themes and how graphically she explores them, it is hardly a surprise. That she does explore them .is what makes her an important voice in cinema history.