Catherine Breillat’s Sex Is Comedy should appeal most to fans of the Gallic maverick’s brilliant Fat Girl, which featured a marathon deflowering predicated on a series of manipulations and power trips. The beautiful Roxanne Mesquida returns, this time as herself: an actress ill-prepared for a crucial sex scene in the film-within-a-film Scènes Intimes, directed by Breillat’s horned-up (natch) doppelganger Jeanne (Anne Parillaud). Gone is the hot Libero De Rienzo, but his impressive cock is faithfully recreated on a noticeably plump Grégoire Colin, whose boorishness taunts and seduces the manic Jeanne. Sex Is Comedy is an anatomy of a sex scene, and it allows Breillat to explore the relationship between the actor and the filmmaker and the psychology that goes into “faking it”—it’s only natural that the film begins with a group of extras forced to play hot on an obviously chilly beach. Jeanne gets to demystify Breillat’s filmmaking process—fabulously alluded to as a shadowplay of life—by profusely revealing the baggage the director brings to the set of her own films. She manipulates, even humiliates her actors, trading in codes that liken the filmmaking process to a masculine act, ostensibly because a chick with a camera is the same thing as chick with a dick. Moviemaking is still predominantly a boy’s club, and considering how hard it is for women to break in, Breillat’s charged allusion to filmmaking as a strap-on for women makes perfect sense. Though Breillat is a great filmmaker, she tends to wear her theories on her sleeve, so if Sex Is Comedy feels superfluous, exhausting even, that’s because the film does most of the thinking for you. “Antagonism is a tonic for desire,” says Jeanne, almost justifying the way she directs her cast and crew on and off the set. Auto-critique or ego trip? Sex Is Comedy is a little bit of both—sadly more of the latter. Breillat’s honesty is marvelous and she knows how to control and direct her rage, but it’s no fun watching the director so calculatedly air out and dialectically deal with her anxieties. Remember, Catherine: It must show and not show.
- IFC Films
- 95 min
- Catherine Breillat
- Catherine Breillat
- Anne Parillaud, Grégoire Colin, Roxane Mesquida, Ashley Wanninger, Dominique Colladant, Bart Binnema, Yves Osmu, Elisabete Piecho
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