For those made vomitous by the white-sugar, smile-button Paris foisted on us by Amalie - have city streets been so sanitized of multiculturalism since the Nuremberg of Triumph of the Will? Baise Moi is a fabulous blast of fetid air. A trashy, mongrel France is back in tow: rabid and randy, incisors bared, dangerously off the leash.
Two pit bulls in heat-Nadine (Karen Bach) and Manu (Raffaela Anderson) - hardened and street-wise, get weary being pushed about by the neighborhood roughnecks (underemployed North Africans, strung-out losers, hard-muscled punks). How to bring some entertainment into their humdrum lives? They go on a giddy shooting spree across France, killing some people for spite, others at random.
"I feel really great!" one gal says, after a gruesome offing. "So great I feel like doing it again!" When they aren't murdering, Nadine and Manu take screwing breaks with various big-meat pickups. Additional philosophy: "The more you fuck, the less you think, the better you sleep." Some of the guys they ball they let get away. Others are fucked and shot dead or run over. The killings are graphic, bloody and ugly. The sex stuff is the real thing: blow jobs and hand jobs... and more. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers: "Thelma and Louise with actual penetration."
I'm a fan of Baise Moi, a first-film directorial collaboration of Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, who met working on a safe-sex promo for French TV. But how can I defend a movie which title translates as Rape Me without coming off as a worthless scum?
A good start is to talk about Baise Moi's undeniable energy and rah-rah pacing and editing, and to praise the on-camera ease of the two ex-porn actress leads: Bach, a Dietrich-cold Nadine, and Anderson, alternately funny and madly sadistic, as the Jeanne Moreau-petite Manu. Also, the filmmakers are quite brilliant in capturing the ambience of a marginal, shitkickers France of seedy poolhalls and street brawls.
But endorsing the sex and violence? It would be judicious to argue that the filmmakers have struggled to make the hardcore scenes beautiful, artistic, subtly erotic. Not true: what we get is the primal jabbing of the most animalistic porn movies. (The hardcore scenes in Intimacy, Baise-Moi's XXX rival, are not pretty in any way, but they are intensely emotional. Baise-Moi's balling is heartless, all below the belt.)
It would be lovely to rationalize that the violence in Baise-Moi is motivated by a desire to get back at piggy men, including the pack of slobs who have raped Manu. An over-the-top feminist revenge movie, the kind that Roger Corman used to make in the 1970s. Wrong! Nadine and Manu kill men and women, whomever is standing by when the two get in a homicidal mood.
So what's noteworthy to take out of Base-Moi? Its unbridled rage, its unfocussed mix of misogyny and misanthropy. Terrorism undiluted on screen. It was the great mad Frenchman, Antonin Artaud, who argued in Theatre and Its Double, that art must be like the plague, descending on an audience and gutting everything the polite crowd stands for. The bourgeois-friendly Amalie is France's official candidate for a Best Foreign Film nomination. Baise Moi anthrax unleashed! was banned in its native country.
(Boston Phoenix, December 2001)