Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat

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BFI London Film Festival: 'Abuse of Weakness'

Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Breillat - BFI London Film Festival: 'Abuse of Weakness' European premiere held at the Odeon West End - Arrivals - London, United Kingdom - Monday 14th October 2013

Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert

Picture - Catherine Breillat New York City, USA, Thursday 3rd March 2011

Catherine Breillat Thursday 3rd March 2011 Opening Night of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Paris Theater New York City, USA

Catherine Breillat

Bluebeard [barbe Bleue] Review


Good
Murky and cold, this retelling of the fairy tale has an effectively grim tone that cleverly plays with our expectations while examining some provocative themes. But it's not very engaging.

Sisters Anne (Baiwir then Giovannetti) and Catherine (Lopes-Benites then Creton) have grown up with the legend of local nobleman Bluebeard (Thomas), who notoriously marries pubescent girls who then go missing. As Catherine recounts the story to her sister, she imagines herself as one of Bluebeard's young brides, taken into his castle, where she demands her own bedroom until she comes of age. She also begins to wonder what happened to the women who came before her, and considers violating her husband's trust to find out the truth.

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The Last Mistress Review


Excellent
After years of lascivious experiments and audience-bludgeoning anti-romances, French provocateur Catherine Breillat pulls an unexpectedly engrossing and lurid film out of Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly's 19th-century novel Un Vieille Maitresse, the tale of a French dandy and the 36-year-old "Old Mistress" whom he attempts to do away with before he marries the daughter of famed nobility. Breillat's latest presents not only one of the great performances of this year and the director's most accessible work to date, but also introduces a character of true lustful ferocity unlike few before: a venomous madame who makes Anne Boleyn look like Anne of Green Gables.

Her name is Vellini (Asia Argento). It's rumored she's the flamboyant progeny of an Italian priestess and a Spanish matador. She licks fresh blood off of gaping wounds. The ringlets of her hair resemble a heart turned on its head. It's said she can outstare the sun and the second you get your first glimpse at Argento laying on her canapé, you believe it sans aucun doute. Though he first casts her off as an "ugly mutt," the young playboy Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Aït Aattou) takes it as his task to possess this creature despite her blatant loathing of him. Eventually they exile themselves to Argentina and bear a daughter, only to see her die from the sting of a scorpion. Unchained and thrown into an abyss of grief, Argento's bellowing growl of despair could shred the very screen.

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36 Fillette Review


Weak
36 Fillette (referring to a junior clothing size) feels like a first film, but Catherine Breillat had been toiling away for more than a decade before turning out this rough and often slipshod flick, an obvious precursor to her later works about young girls and the boundaries between sex and violence. Here, a blossoming Delphine Zentout teases man after man until finding one she's willing to bed, consequences be damned. Extremely gritty (both in tone and production values), it's not for everyone and comes across a little too unpolished, though supporters will argue this was on purpose.

A Real Young Girl Review


Weak
Catherine Breillat didn't just start making shocking films. She's been churning them out for at least 30 years, and this film, widely banned for its hefty pornographic content, is one of her most notorious. The plot, as it is, involves a young girl (er, a real young girl) named Alice (Charlotte Alexandra), who's not just experiencing her sexual awakening in this summer of '63, but is also exploring all kinds of sensory disturbances. Case in point: Shortly after the film begins, Alice sticks a spoon in her vagina, then she vomits all over herself. Later scenes include playing with ear wax and, of course, a dalliance with an older man. Alexandra is often seen her in graphic shots (including one where she crawls around with feathers stuck in her posterior), so viewers should be warned, and while Breillat's low-budget work rates about a 3 out of 10 on the professionalism scale (the color timing is particularly awful), there's something oddly compelling and poetic about the movie. That said, it barely makes a lick of sense. Breillat's Fat Girl actually reminds me a lot of this movie, but done far better.

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Fat Girl Review


Terrible
Fit for a ghoul's night out, Fat Girl stands cast iron firm with the simplistic, fatuous, built-in excuse that its woman director is baring the harsh sexual realities of adolescent girls. Being a boy, I might not understand female behavior and am unequipped to analyze this particular pseudo-feminist coming-of-age story. Fair enough. I'll pretend to ignore the mannered posturing and Health Class 101 "this is a no-no" dialogue when Older Teenage Boy coaxes Younger Teenage Girl to let him have anal sex with her, speaking variations on "It won't hurt!" for a scene that seems to last at least ten minutes. This is done almost entirely in an unbroken master shot that suggests unimaginative camerawork more than unblinking voyeurism. They dare you to look away, without possessing the courage of allowing the children to actually sound like children (they're mouthpieces for writer-director Catherine Breillat's one-note clinical politics).

Rather than show an even-handed evaluation of the rigors of hormonal change, Breillat (previously responsible for the unwatchable Romance) wants to indulge in her hour of hate. Life is pain, highness. Get used to it. She'd find keen bedfellows in Neil LaBute and Todd Solondz, other sultans of misanthropy who lack the balls to be earnest or honest. For children, dealing with trauma and pain is complicated. To bury that in sarcasm and academic theory feels cheap. These would-be auteurs (more like hauteurs) haven't earned the right to display suffering because they don't layer it in emotional truth (as Mike Leigh does throughout Naked and David Lynch in several key scenes of Blue Velvet). Of course, there I go again comparing her to all these (better) male directors. I don't care. Gender be damned, she's borderline inept.

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Anatomy Of Hell Review


Unbearable
It's almost never fair to reduce a film, even a very bad film, to one single image or scene - out of context, almost anything can unfairly seem offensive, moronic, or just plain clueless. However, in the new Catherine Breillat provocation, Anatomy of Hell, you can fairly easily isolate one scene as being emblematic of the whole piece: The character known only as "the man" enters the room where he's been spending a whole lot of time staring at "the woman," takes a look at her naked body, slowly inserts the handle end of a hoe-like garden implement into her vagina and then walks off screen, leaving it there sticking out from her body. They both watch. In a better film, this could have been played as an act of extreme sexual obsession, the work of a near-psychopath, or just a bored boyfriend looking for new kink. In Breillat's clumsy hands, however, it just looks like desperation; having stuck her two nameless actors in a four-night-long battle between the sexes, Breillat seems at a loss for some other way to violate her actress. So, to the garden shed he goes.

Anatomy of Hell starts off just dandy in a gay nightclub where the techno is thudding as we see "the woman" (Amira Casar) watching her boyfriend make out with some guy. She goes to the bathroom and slits her wrists, only to have "the man" (porn star Rocco Siffredi) walk in on her. He hauls her off to the doctor to get stitched up, they have a nice, tense walk, and after going down on him, she says she'll pay him to come watch her: "Watch me where I'm unwatchable." It's all rather dark and disconnected, but there's an insistent, punishing quality to these early scenes that highlight writer/director Breillat's abilities as a filmmaker. She has a slithery way with the camera - especially in a scene shot from above where Casar sidles across the nightclub dancefloor, grabbing hands and shouldering past the dancing men with a liquid malevolence - which should have made this a more enthralling film. As it stands, though, Breillat lets her talents as a sensual visualist go to waste in the name of sheer agitprop of the dullest kind.

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Sex Is Comedy Review


Terrible
Sex may indeed be comedy, but Catherine Breillat's film is woefully lacking it altogether.

This extremely small and shallow film tells a singular tale: A movie director (Anne Parillaud) is having trouble getting her stars to go through with the movie's big sex scene. She tries everything: Gentle pressure, the hard sell, different settings. Ultimately it all comes down to using an oversized plastic phallus in the scene instead of the actor's real member, and our director is sure this will solve all the problems.

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Romance Review


Unbearable
It's not every day that you can see a well known porn star acting in serious cinema. Of course, Romance is not really worthy of being called a serious film. While its theme of one woman's struggle to overcome sexual oppression is innovative, it lacks tact and fails miserably due to the crudity of its approach. I refuse to believe that this film is some sort of groundbreaking phenomenon that French audiences will appreciate because it's a brilliant "character study" -- and, as such, that American's will scoff at it. I saw the movie with two French grad students who both walked out of the film disappointed and visibly queasy.

Marie (Caroline Trousselard) is a depressed nymphomaniac school teacher stuck in a relationship in which she cannot arouse her lover. The whole story involves her searching throughout Paris for the fufillment that her asinine boyfriend denies her. She defiles her body in the process as she encounters different men who satisfy her deprived erotic needs. She is willing to take on everything and everybody: from a vile stranger on the her apartment stairway who prosteletyzes her for oral sex, to a dominating masochistic school principal, to porn star Rocco Siffredi (whose character admits he hasn't had sex in four months). Can you imagine what happens there?

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Brief Crossing Review


Good
Director Catherine Breillat has made a few very interesting films simply by taking a damaged woman and a damaged man, squeezing them into a weird relationship, letting them indulge in some troubling sex, and then forcing them to talk about it. The best example is her notorious 1999 effort Romance, in which the woman talks to her boyfriend's naked crotch as often as she talks to his face, but equally interesting is Brief Crossing, a two-character tango that takes place during one night on an English Channel ferry.

French teenager Thomas (Gilles Guillain) boards the British-bound ferry, finds a place to drop his backpack, and then heads for the cafeteria. While sliding his tray down the line, he gallantly helps Alice (Sarah Pratt) with her dishes and silverware. They sit together in the crowded restaurant, and the dance begins.

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Last Tango in Paris Review


OK
Last Tango in Paris raised a lot of eyebrows, but not for its plot. Rated X, there's enough nudity and naughty talk to almost make you forget you're looking at Marlon Brando's sweaty body. Almost.

Unfortunately, this "torrid love affair" between a grieving American (Brando) and a pouty Parisian (Maria Schneider) -- they don't even tell one another their names -- is overlong and overblown. It's Bertolucci, after all, making a film inspired by his creepy desire to bone an anonymous woman he once saw. The story is one of dysfunction and thinly veiled misanthropy; love is left as an afterthought.

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A Housekeeper Review


Terrible
I believe Alfred Hitchcock once said that drama was nothing more than real life with the boring bits cut out. The French film A Housekeeper decides to ignore this maxim, and the result is moody, contemplative, and massively boring. It's like watching home movies of a mid-life crisis, only with a musical score and better-looking people.

Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a Parisian in his forties who appears to have it all -- successful career, beautiful apartment, and the kind of weathered good looks that younger women find appealing from time to time. However, his life and his apartment are both in disarray. He's in the middle of a separation with his wife, which has probably led to indifference, loneliness, and the inability to run a vacuum or to mop a floor.

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Catherine Breillat

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