blackgirlgenius (olamina) wrote,

Fresh from a brief discussion with uberdionysus about beautiful women and their seemingly inexplicable self-loathing, I sat down and watched Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell. This movie was by far my favorite Breillat film, and I am already quite a fan of her work. Anatomy of Hell is the most vehemently political, and yet the most hopeful.

Here's a synopsis/review/ various thoughts:

A pale and sullen Woman broods in the corner of a lively gay nightclub. Becoming upset, she runs up the stairs and into the bathroom. She puts a razor to her wrist and begins to cut, just then The Man walks in and asks her "Why are you doing that?" She replies, "Because I am a woman."

On first thought, I believe The Woman to be like many other Breillat heroines, a woman hell-bent on self-destruction, but this woman is different. She lures the man (who is a gay male prostitute) to her home, presumably so that she might be in control of her self humiliation through some rental of the male gaze. However, this is a trick. The real project is male self-examination. And unlike previous Breillat films, The Man emerges as the protagonist. Though the voiceover is a female voice, it is actually The Man's voice and thoughts (maybe I'm slow but this is the first time I've seen/heard this employed. It was deceptive and beautiful). He must confront the female flesh and find out where the obscene and vulgar is housed. The Woman is serene, a Sleeping Beauty who can be explored and poked and prodded so that Man can locate the sickness. But alas, women devote themselves to self augmentation and mutilation, but that which men find most abhorrent does not live within her….that which disgusts Man is intangible, invisible, and internal.

Realization of this is initially debilitating, but ultimately transcendant.

The director’s interview is crucial viewing. Breillat is a phenome. She makes sweeping indictments with a mere sentence or gesture. She is a risk taker. She is brutally honest.

The central question which emerged for me after viewing this is “Is it possible for the excitement and passion of the sexual encounter to exist without the frisson of difference? This imagined mystique of the unknown?” In this film (and most of her films), Breillat depicts the sexual act as something separate from pleasure. Maybe she believes that this belief in the vulgarity of the flesh impedes true pleasure. In the interview, Breillat says that if we truly have feelings for someone or something the obscenity can disappear. She believes that this contact with bodies can supercede our socialization, and lead us to a place where we transcend the social common sense about the material world. If we can disassociate with these beliefs about what is obscene and vulgar, then we can regain control of ourselves, and we will be ungovernable.

She says that psychotherapy is probably a system held in place to uphold bourgeois society. Their social codes and mores inscribed upon all of our bodies. This resonates with me. Breillat is a more dangerous woman than most people realize.

Oh ,and it didn’t hurt that she cast Rocco Siffredi (gorgeous Italian porn star, also seen in Breillat’s Romance) in the lead either…..

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