Published Nov 01, 2004Catherine Breillat's latest wet trout to the side of the head may shock even her staunchest defenders, but though it's been denounced as cruel, misogynist, homophobic and generally yucky, it flings down the feminist gauntlet with force enough to shatter concrete.
The nominal plot pits a sombre young woman (Amira Casar) against the gay man (porn star Rocco Siffredi) who rescues her from a suicide attempt. He hates women, she hates men who hate women, and so she pays him to examine her "where I'm unwatchable" in order to challenge his anti-female disgust. Rocco does his best to degrade her you'll scream every time he touches something phallic but her combination of resolve and theorising eventually wears him down.
The very definition of the word "problematic," Anatomy of Hell has something to offend everybody: it's too feminist for sexists, too pornographic for feminists and too unafraid of menstrual blood and other female secretions to qualify as light entertainment. But if you look beyond this (and its untenable correlation of male homosexuality with misogyny), the movie combines an astounding density of ideas with the willingness to put them into practice. Unlike most other allegedly political directors, Breillat actually wants to settle the issues she raises and she'll do whatever it takes to get the job done, including rubbing your nose in the female places we've all been taught to fear.
It may be a tad esoteric for those unfamiliar with feminist theory, but for those who can take it, this is one of the best films of the year, one that forces you to take a position instead of congratulating you for your liberal superiority. (Mongrel Media)