Friday, November 20, 2009

Her First Time.

Jose here with a look back at one of 2001's cinematic gems.

At a time when abortion is still a controversial issue, where the ratio of HIV infections in people under 25 increases by the day and where some systems insist on abstinence as the only form of sexual education; Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl must seem like the devil.

Its idea that people, make that pre-adolescent women, have the right and capacity to make choices about their sexuality sounds shocking now, so imagine how it was eight years ago when the movie was released. Banned by the Ontario Film Review, prohibited in Singapore and left unrated in the United States, the film's themes left audiences and critics baffled, but for all the wrong reasons.

It is not that the movie has things we haven't seen before (although full frontal male nudity continues to be scandalous in this day and age) but that once again Breillat completely de-eroticized sexual acts and gave them cerebral capacities. Sex in her movies isn't a place of unlimited, if frowned upon, pleasure, but a source of utter empowerment or self destruction.

When 12 year old Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) says
I want my first time to be with someone I don't love
most conservative people would fly away from the movie thinking of ways to prevent their kids from even knowing films like these exist. What they fail to see is that inside their homes, their children are already thinking things like that and like Anaïs they engage in innocent sexual games that help them cope with their transition from children to adults.

When Anaïs creates sexual tension between a pool ladder and a diving board, you know there is more to child's play than what's going on here. But all the other characters in the movie fail to see this and ignore her needs. By the time the film reaches its controversial finale (one of the most ingenious metaphors in contemporary film history) the girl isn't so much of a cautionary tale, as she's an inspiration.

Just because we choose to ignore something doesn't mean it isn't there.


nick said...

OMG! I just watched this movie last night for the third time, it just gets better. I really think that this is Breillat's masterpiece, or maybe Brief Crossing. Either way, she can do better than a lot of her films let on (romance).

Flosh said...

Could you elaborate on how the finale makes Anais an inspirational figure?

Robert said...

This is definitely one of the best films of the the year 2001. And the controversial ending is so brutal and out of nowhere... it's really quite something.

Thanks for the write-up!

Jose said...

Flosh, I don't mean Anais is inspirational in the sense Rocky and Spider-Man are.
But how often do you see a young woman so aware of her sexuality? Sure, her acts might not be approved by everyone (I'm not condoning underage sex) but it's thrilling to see a female character with such strong convictions, especially because for a large group of society children should be left out of sexual politics and education.

Christine said...

I LOVE this movie. I don't think that Flosh is asking you to defend Anais as "inspirational in the sense Rocky and Spider-Man are." Without giving anything away to people who haven't seen it, the film is pretty heavy-handed at the end. I think it's excellent, but its over-the-top ending needs some specific analysis about the way it deals with women and sexuality.

Also, thanks for taking on one of my favorite films of 2001!

Criticlasm said...

I would agree I found the ending a little confounding. Would anyone like to elaborate on the "metaphor"?

Glenn said...

Oh Catherine Breillat. I've never liked a single one of her movies and yet I keep watching them.

Didn't care for the movie, but the final 15 minutes - that ominous car drive - are superb.

Erich Kuersten said...

Hmmm, I notice this movie isn't listed in netflix at all... isn't it out on criterion? Is netflix just so appalled that they pretend it doesn't exist?