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Anatomy of Hell

Catherine Breillat

Anatomy of Hell
Criticism of Catherine Breillat tends to hinge on whether she's a feminist or misogynist, with nobody really sure what side she's on. Her latest wet trout to the side of the head at once clarifies and polarises that nasty little debate. A depressive young woman (Amira Casar) attempts suicide in a gay bar and is rescued by a misogynist (Rocco Siffredi) who later scorns her; he gets his comeuppance when she pays him to watch her "where I'm unwatchable." It sounds like easy sport for the woman hater about town, but though Siffredi does his best to abuse and demean her, the intellectual tables eventually turn in the woman's favour. The very definition of "not for all tastes," this offers some very explicit scenes of vaginal insertions and sexual intercourse, as well as a guarantee that you'll scream every time Siffredi touches something phallic. But this is no mere gross-out, but a gloves off, intellectually dense confrontation with gender roles and erotic prejudices that walks like porn while talking like a semiotics class. Though Breillat's cynicism is a tad tiring (as is her equation that male homosexuality equals misogyny), the film is valuable for rubbing your face in cultural rules involving the female anatomy while challenging their validity. With the sound off, it looks pretty bad, but the surrounding talk makes all the difference, explaining and broadening our understanding of the disturbing acts and throwing down the feminist gauntlet with force enough to shatter concrete. Extras include an hour-long interview with Breillat, who proves powerfully intelligent as she expounds on several of the film's themes. A photo gallery (for all you glamour fans) rounds out the package. (Mongrel Media)


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