Please Do Disturb: Baise-Moi

The notorious 2000 thriller BAISE-MOI (translated stateside as both RAPE ME and FUCK ME) is in many respects the cinematic equivalent of a would-be splatterpunk’s ramblings; confusing shock with style, explicitness with edginess, it
desperately wants to be in the pantheon of raw, visceral gut-punchers, yet its clumsy and wrongheaded execution prevents it from ever making much impact.

Adapting her eponymous novel, Virginie Despentes tells the story of two young women, a drug-running prostitute and a rape victim (played by French adult film stars Karen Bach and Raffaela Anderson), who embark on a violent, indulgent, and self-destructive rampage against either male oppression or bourgeois society–depending on whatever bloody set-piece Despentes wants to stage–peppered with the supposedly startling inclusion of graphic sex scenes. Attempting to be a combination of THELMA AND LOUISE and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (two of the most effective feminist manifestos in film), BAISE-MOI betrays both its inspirations by ignoring their emotional and thematic foundations. This isn’t two women fighting an unfair battle or a victim using
violence to obtain justice and closure–it’s a celebration of nihilism, wallowing in the shallow posturing of stylized violence.

Now, I’m certainly not one to condemn glorified violence, but the film wants
to have it both ways. It wants to show us its ugly, repugnant side (such as its early depiction of rape, a bluntly directed sequence that belies co-director Coralie’s background in hardcore pornography), yet it also wants to revel in the hyper-real ultraviolence found in NATURAL BORN KILLERS and myriad Tarantino knock-offs, as indicated in a needless shoot-out in an underground sex club (and let me tell you, Despentes is no Oliver Stone); the two approaches simply don’t mesh.

Much has been made of the hardcore material in BAISE-MOI, but it’s apparent
from the very first appearance that the use is a transparent ploy to get attention (and without it, I doubt this boring, rambling film would’ve gotten onto anyone’s radar). It certainly adds nothing to the rape scene–more tension and a lack of ham-fisted direction would’ve made it far more effective–and subsequent employment is not only pointless and unnecessary, but so perfunctorily shot they’re not even titillating.

Perhaps the film would’ve worked had the motivations of its hopelessly unlikable protagonists been clearer. If Despentes was making some sort of feminist screed, as she’s been credited, sequences such as the infamous pig scene wouldn’t have felt like random wantonness. For the record, this scene–in which a pants-less man is forced to crawl on the floor and oink before having a gun shoved into his rectum and fired–fails spectacularly as a metaphor for male chauvinism; this isn’t Geena Davis rejecting the insistent advances of a drunken redneck, it’s the patron of a “fuck club” merely propositioning a fellow client. That doesn’t make him a chauvinist pig, he’s simply looking for a consenting adult. (Would these girls would
shoot somebody in a Subway asking for a sandwich?) Hell, the girls’ first victim on their spree is a woman whom they rob at an ATM, killing her needlessly and without remorse afterward. And this is supposedly a feminist tract?

Whatever it’s intended to be, BAISE-MOI is nasty and repugnant in all the wrong ways, never shedding any insight on the consequences of violence (be it as the victim or victimizer). A crass slice of exploitation masquerading as something more.

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