March 30, 2003

Perfect Love?

Today was the day of the cinematic masochism. I began with a DVD of Perfect Love (1996, Catherine Breillat) from Netflix, since a month or so ago, I re-rented Romance and decided I needed to see the rest of Breillart’s films available. Her films kick you in the head, but I think her depiction of female sexuality is one of the most progressive in film now. Perfect Love is an interesting picture, although it isn’t a particularly fun movie. It tells the story of a May-December relationship between an eye doctor and her young lover who murders her. The film begins at the crime scene, as the man, reinacting the details of the crime for the detectives shortly after his confession, and then cuts away to an interview with the woman’s daughter, who basically implies that her mother’s coldness brought on her death. I can no longer really watch the budding of romances in French films without an intense sense of dread, because for the Gauls, this lying around in bed and taking long walks along the surf while holding hands never ends well. Such is the case in Perfect Love, as Christophe (Francis Renaud) gets increasingly more belligerent to Frédérique (Isabelle Renauld), in particular regarding her disparaging of his heterosexuality. All of this baiting of his masculinity finally results in him sodomizing her with a broom handle in the kitchen. As one would expect in a Breillat movie where the women’s sexualities are a bit insatiable, she is at first impressed by his prowess, until she turns back and realizes he still cannot get it up even in this most violent and sexually-charged moment. So she laughs at him. Mistake, because he then grabs a kitchen knife and stabs her over and over again in the back, completing his aborted attempts to “penetrate” this older woman. The brutality of the ending lies, not in the details of this murder, but the way that Breillat holds the camera on Renaud plunging the knife in much longer than we need for recognition and into a realm of perverse fascination and revolting repetition.

Posted by karen at March 30, 2003 1:27 PM