Sex Is Comedy Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat's movies are so consistently grim and unpleasant that Sex Is Comedy looks like a welcome respite, at first glance. On the surface all is calm — no rapes, no genital close-ups, just the making of a movie by a woman director (Anne Parillaud) as she deals with a recalcitrant younger actor (Gregoire Colin). But the film being made looks remarkably like Fat Girl, right down to its star Roxane Mesquida and a similar defloration scene, suggesting that Breillat is turning the camera on herself. And the shots she gets are not a pretty sight. Parillaud's surrogate is an arrogant bully who, as one technician points out, treats men like men treat women, meaning she's unsympathetic to Colin's unhappiness with a prosthetic penis and antagonises him when his neuroses don't mesh with hers. As the two verbally face off, the film seems like the most brutal and damaging of Breillat's career, even when they never have more physical contact than an embrace. It's an astounding weave between self-criticism and self-aggrandisement, and it blows away your understanding of the director's oeuvre to date; suddenly her masochistic briefs against male authority seem like half of the story, trailing off where this movie begins. And those who expect their movies-about-movies to be lovably romantic Day for Night clones will have their heads blown clean off by the ending, which casts even this disturbing soul search in a disquieting new light. It's a must for Breillat fans who want to know, Breillat detractors who need ammunition and anyone who wants to understand the power games played by the people who decide where the camera goes. Sadly, no extras; a possible Breillat commentary would have been a doozie. (Alliance Atlantis)