excerpt from “Senses of Cinema” on Catherine Breillat:
“But it was with the release of Romance in 1999 that Breillat would face censorship internationally, when the film was either banned altogether in some countries, or given an X rating. It was a situation Breillat spoke out about when she declared that, “censorship was a male preoccupation, and that the X certificate was linked to the X chromosome.” Breillat’s statement was echoed in the French poster for the film, which features a naked woman with her hand between her legs. A large red X is printed across the image, thus revealing the source of the trouble: a woman in touch with her own sense of sexual pleasure. Continue reading Catherine Breillat – Romance (1999)
Perhaps in stark reaction to the soft porn delusions of Hamilton’s work, Breillat decided to approach the subject of a young adolescent’s sexual education with a clarity and honesty rarely found in art in general, let alone film. Getting audiences to confront and deconstruct the cultural baggage they bring to sex remains at the centre of her more recent films Romance (1999), À ma soeur! (2001), Sex is Comedy (2002) and Anatomy of Hell (2004), but 36 Fillette, to this viewer, strikes the perfect balance between polemic, critique and compelling psychological study.
The film’s title refers to a little girl’s dress size and the little girl in question is 14-year-old Lili, played with chilling conviction by Delphine Zentout. Continue reading Catherine Breillat – 36 fillette (1988)
Perhaps the film is more personal for Catherine Breillat. Is it a record of her working methods during this period? Her films have always dealt with sexuality and maybe the filmmaker was simply using the medium to express her own thoughts and experiences. I love that; a great deal of why I love the cinema is the auteur theory which states the director is the author of a film; that links in an artist’s work can be found from work to work. Breillat surely qualifies, and I can see how this film influenced her later work. For example, it seems to be a precursor or even a veiled prequel to Sex Is Comedy, an infinitely more insightful look at the filmmaking process and sexual manipulation, and there’s a series of shots showing 2 characters descending a spiral staircase that she would repeat 30 years later in Bluebeard. The problem with Nocturnal Uproar is that it isn’t insightful about the cinema, it isn’t insightful about relationships, and it isn’t even honest about sex. I don’t want to sound perverted but the sex scenes in this film almost all look fake, though it is obvious that actress Laffin is being touched between her legs. The film develops into a woman’s sexual obsession for a man who toys with her, someone who may or may not have alternate intentions with his amours. This is a great subject for a film but it is arrived at a little too late.
Continue reading Catherine Breillat – Tapage nocturne (1979)
As Frédérique lies dead on her kitchen table at the hands of Christophe, police try to piece together the events that led to the gruesome killing. Frédérique’s teenage daughter narrates the tragic tale of love gone wrong.
Review by Kevin Vu: Though it possesses the voice of a notorious auteur, “Perfect Love” is one of Catherine Breillat’s lesser works. Despite being her sixth feature, the film seems like an early and minor effort, containing recurring elements explored in more accomplished films (e.g. “Fat Girl” and “Romance”), not to mention the sex and flesh that marries her reputation with vulgarity and controversy. Although Breillat has since found alternative outlets for her provocation and feminine rage, such as costume drama and fairytale, she has always challenged the conventional notions of sex using facets of the human body and soul that she strips bare – figuratively and literally. The plot here is not a matter of boy meets girl, and it never is for Breillat as she continues to reveal human depravity through sexuality. Continue reading Catherine Breillat – Parfait amour! AKA Perfect Love (1996)
“Une Vraie Jeune Fille, Catherine Breillat’s first feature film, was shelved for 25 years, apparently because the moral/aesthetic disgust couldn’t be overcome at the time. It was released for the first time this year, and immediately re-ignited the scandal occasioned by Breillat’s last feature, Romance.”
– Kay Armatage, Toronto International Film Festival Catalogue
The story centres on Alice Bonnard, a young girl attending Saint-Sulvien Girl’s College, and takes place during a summer in the turbulent sixties. Alice comes homes to spend her holidays with her parents in the Landes region. They run a sawmill where they employ a young man, Jim. Business isn’t going well, although Mr. and Mrs. Bonnard are too proud to admit it and Jim’s nonchalant attitude about his job doesn’t help things. Alice is attracted to Jim, but she’s too scared to let him know it, believing that as far as he’s concerned she doesn’t exist. Her tumescent sexuality begins to obsess her. She becomes fascinated with the excretions, juices and smells of her own body as well as with the slimy oozings and putrid detritus of the natural world. The film gives few clues to distinguish the girl’s fantasies from the events of her life. This is fitting, as the entire film revolves around the girl and her own perceptions. The heightened realism of the direction and cinematography produces a text that refuses either to accuse or to exploit.
(from link) Continue reading Catherine Breillat – Une vraie jeune fille AKA A Real Young Girl (1976)
A completely routine drama involving sexual situations and rough characters, this story directed and written by Catherine Breillat looks at the liaison between Solange (Dominique Laffin) and Bruno (Bertrand Bonvoisin). Solange is the female version of a womanizing film director who is confident about her conquests and her ability to figure out men. Along comes Bruno, and Solange’s faith in her knowledge of men is put to a test and found wanting. In spite of her better judgment, she is undeniably attracted to Bruno though the man is going to be trouble in a big way. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide Continue reading Catherine Breillat – Tapage Nocturne AKA Nocturnal Uproar (1979)
Twelve-year-old Anaïs is fat. Her sister, Elena, is a teenage beauty. While on vacation with their parents, Anaïs tags along with Elena as she explores the dreary seaside town. Elena meets Fernando, an Italian law student, who seduces her with promises of love, and the ever-watchful Anaïs bears witness to the corruption of her sister’s innocence. Precise and uncompromising, Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl is a bold dissection of sibling rivalry and female adolescent sexuality from one of contemporary cinema‘s most controversial directors. Continue reading Catherine Breillat – À ma soeur! AKA Fat Girl (2001)