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Another fabulous movie from Catherine Breillat, this time about the difficulties of shooting a sex scene in a movie. Using comedy a new genre for Breillat we get a backstage view of filmmaking but in documentary style. The character who plays the director in the movie is based on Breillat, the sex scene in question is taken from her earlier film A Ma Soeur' as is the main teenage actress. But the film, like all of Breillat's work, is not entertainment alone. It is peppered with philosophical observations on the nature of sexuality as well as demonstrating a devotion to purity' (as opposed to pornography) that is a cornerstone of Breillat's work and a devotion to real emotion. We see the director character harangue the young lead actress and actor to bring the best out in them, hypnotising them into the parts they need to play, bringing out part of themselves that the director can see in them but they cannot see in themselves until they achieve the heights of acting that she demands of them. She makes meaningful movies, not titillation, but she shows the work that is needed to produce this, and so gives us insights both into the (decidedly French) film making process and the psychology of male female sexuality.
I had certain expectations when reading the title of this movie. No, I
didn't think it would be a porn movie, but I hoped it would be a
light-footed comedy about relations and sex. But big was my surprise
when I actually saw it. It hasn't much to do with comedy or
relationships. It's about Jeanne, a female film director who has a lot
of troubles with her two main actors. They both hate each other, but
are asked to play a difficult sex scene together. She has written and
created the scene and knows exactly what she wants but she isn't able
to make them do it right...
If you ask yourself why this movie has such a confusing title then, I'll explain to you what might have happened. Even though this is a French movie with French dialogs, the title is in English. However, I guess they have translated the title too literally. In French it would be something like: "Sex, c'est jouer la comédie", which could be translated as "Sex is faking it". That would make a lot more sense, because the actors have to pretend they like each other and that they like to have sex together while in reality they can't stand each other and don't want to do it.
The main problem that I had with this movie was that much didn't happen. It was all talking, talking and even more talking. I'm not saying that I wanted a big sex scene or a huge car chase, but this movie just seemed to drag on eternally, without offering something special. Normally I like European movies, but this one really didn't do it for me. Somehow I couldn't really care for the different characters, even though they didn't do a bad job. I give this movie a 6/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Catherine Brreillat is a French director who loves to provoke her
audience. She takes us along to witness how a film is done on location.
The movie in production seems to be based on herself, since the person
at the center of the story is Jeanne, a woman director, much like Ms.
Breillat. Jeanne acts as the alter ego of the real director.
Jeanne reaches an impasse at the start of filming. Not only has she picked the wrong time to photograph this movie during a cold spell, as it involves beach locations that are obviously too cold for the actors and extras. Jeanne has problems with the two principal actors, especially, the male lead who has problems accepting the way the director has decided to show him in the movie; the lead actress is no angel either.
Movie making, Ms. Breillat tells us is a process like no other in a creative work of art. First, there is the writing period, in which, in this case, Jeanne, has written a screen play, that when it goes into production reveals problems the writer/director didn't think about. There is the problem of how she wants to photograph a love scene in which the young woman of the story has her first sex contact. What appeared clever in the written page, doesn't necessarily translate into an easy time in front of the camera. The actor is made to wear a false penis and has a lot of problems accepting the fact that a make up has to touch him in ways he never thought he would ever be touched by another man.
The luminous Anne Parillaud is marvelous as Jeanne, the director. She makes observations about the production, the actors, and the crew that fit well into the story being told. Gregoire Colin and Roxane Mesquide play the lead actors, with all the insecurity that some actors bring to a movie set. Jeanne has to massage their egos in order to get what she wants in the end. Ashley Waninnger plays Leo, Jeanne's assistant.
"Sex Is Comedy" allows Ms. Breillet to give us her own take on films in general. This is a great look at the way movies are done in a typical Breillat style.
This film was very interesting to me, virtually a film within a film, which is about a very whimsical director who cleverly persuades an actress and and actor (who happen to dislike each other) in producing sexual chemistry on film. The director is faced with a fusillade of obstacles as she tries to get the two individuals to perform beautifully on film. Sex is Comedy is much more than a comedy, packed with uncomfortable quirky moments the movie also addresses the psychological and innate instinctual behavior of men and women in regards to the sometimes controversial act of sex. I loved this film, the character Jeanne played by the beautiful Anne Parillaud performs wonderfully on screen as you share in her struggle to produce a motion picture work of art.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sex Is Comedy is a film based upon Breillat's personal experience in
filming a sex scene. Trying to inspire a performance that meets her
particular demands, Jeanne (Anna Parillaud), the director (based on
Breillat) has to overcome the obstacles of her own perfectionism and
the obvious animosity between her stubborn actor (Gregoire Colin) and
actress (Roxane Mesquida). The Actor is more concerned with playing up
to the crew members off camera than putting in a convincing performance
on camera, whilst the Actress is more concerned with talking to her
boyfriend on the phone than focusing on the film. Jeanne struggles
throughout to create the scene as she sees it in her head, but through
an oddly intimate relationship with her personal assistant, The Actor
and The Actress, manages to coax the performance out of them in a
strongly emotional climax.
Just as frustrations arise for Jeanne, i too found myself getting a little frustrated at the lack of pace - though this, perhaps, is the point of the film; documenting the arduous nature of film-making and the difficulties that can arise in trying to artificially create an intimate scene between strangers who may well hate each other. In this respect, Sex Is Comedy is a reflection on the nature of cinema Breillat is raising a mirror to the camera and giving us a 'behind the scenes' look at the problems which present themselves to directors, crews and casts.
At times, however, this concept becomes a little confusing. The boundaries between the film within the film, the film itself and Breillat's personal experiences becomes so blurred that it was difficult to discern quite what where we find ourselves. In short, whilst the film very interestingly focuses on the idea of mise-en-abyme, i found myself spiralling into the abyss without knowing quite how to take myself out of it.
"Sex is Comedy" is an open ended light drama about a film director, Parillaud (Nikita), working on a film toward the sex scene between her young male and female leads. There's no story in this film which simply shows how a director might work with her cast and crew while trying to squeeze, cajole, or otherwise evoke the nuances she desires from the a recalcitrant male lead and his reluctantly willing partner while wrangling cameras and crews and the foibles which beset a film director at work. This film conjures some insights into what being a film director involves and the hard work required of cast and crew while making a film and, I suppose, the techniques and methods of this film's director, Brelliat. There are similarities between the sex scene in this film and that in another Brelliat film, "Fat Girl", which is little more than noteworthy. "Sex is Comedy" doesn't walk on the edge of pornography as do other Brelliat films and will be of most interest to those interested in film direction Brelliat style. (B-)
According to Catherine Breillat many people believe that by watching "making of" they can understand the intricacies of the actual shooting process. She opines that this is not quite the case and the real process of filming a feature film is unfortunately very complex,hard to follow and difficult to understand. She goes on to add that rather than simplifying the creative process these programs end up confusing the viewers. Keeping this particular idea in mind, she has filmed a unique,trend setting film which relies heavily on the whims and fancies of its principal characters. One can have a first hand experience of how difficult things are on a set when a film is being shot. Compared to other films by Catherine Breillat,sex is comedy is devoid of controversial elements. As a film director in this film Anne Parillaud looks a bit similar to Catherine Breillat.Gregoire Colin is fine too as the moody actor. As a final comment, I would like to remark that this film is very serene and an inattentive viewer might not know how quickly the film is getting over.
It's particularly hard for a director to capture film-making without getting precious, inbred, over-dramatic, or all three. Breillat ably demonstrates the instinctive, lizard-brain methods of a female auteur in extracting from two "cattle" (as Hitchcock called actors) a love-scene of searing intimacy. Her main battle is with her leading man ("an actor is really a woman" she opines), although, naturally, it is the leading lady who will steal the show. I disagree that this is Breillat's first comedy. 'Romance' was at various points hilarious, but I accept that the French sense of humour can be elusive for foreigners; indeed, dozens of IMDb reviewers detected no comedy in Romance. By contrast, Sex Is Comedy raises plenty of laughs, mainly by using an actor's prop that goes back thousands of years to Plautus and the ancient Greeks. We wondered, leaving the theatre, whether Roxane's "beard" was a wig. A lovely performance from Anne Parillaud as Breillat wrestling with her own script, looking ten years younger than her age.
This is Breillat's more accessible film, if you are offended by her
other movies that tend to have full frontal nudity and explicit sexual
scenes. It is also her most intelligent film, where words are at play
and relationships are tested.
The backdrop is a movie set, and director Jeanne has a dilemma with her actors, a fear of that big sex scene. She plays and manipulates her stars, creating a mix emotion of tension and harmony. After all it is her movie and reputation on the line, because the credit on the screen will read; A FILM BY...
Breillat's approach to this is subtle, looking into the anxieties of the director, the manipulation and mistreatment of actors, and the wonderful world of politics on the crazy film set where dreams are made.
This is only the second Breillat film that I've seen and I'm wondering which star from the heavens she dropped down from. What film has ever captured the filmmaking process so perfectly - maybe Truffaut's "Day for Night," or Tom Decillo's "Living In Oblivion?" Not better but as well. What film has ever spoken so truthfully about sex? None, simply none. Who has combined cinema and sexual discourse like this? Nobody. Not Bergman, not Allen, not even Bertolucci. Maybe Lina Wurtmuller to some degree. The first filmmaker was a woman - Alice Guy-Blaché The last filmmaker is a woman - Catherine Breillat. Performances are outstanding. Direction is outstanding.
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