It's surprising if you haven't heard of Baise-Moi. Highly controversial, due mainly to excessive displays of violence and hardcore sex scenes, Baise-Moi strongly separates audiences into two camps. In terms of general reception, critics have come to regard the film as nothing more than a calculated and pretentious exercise drenched completely in gratuity. Both the violence and sex scenes presented in the film are not objectionable because of their mere existence, but rather because they are presented in the most grotesque and graphic way. The story tells of Manu (Raffaëla Anderson) a down-and-out rape victim who decides to join prostitute stranger Nadine (Karen Bach) on a sexual-fuelled killing spree across the country, primarily to inflict vengeance on the society that has unjustly mistreated them.
Audiences are far more cynical in today's light, and it's usually fairly easy to tell whether certain 'shocking' sequences are thrown into a film just to garner controversial debate, therefore heavily publicising the film. Baise-Moi certainly gives the impression that it is excessive for the sake of it, and maybe this actually has a negative effect on the film's impact. The film has an infamous reputation, but this is mainly due to the paradoxical argument that is banded with the film. Put simply, the film is either an excessive piece of violent and sexual nonsense, or a subversion of equality in the movie industry, in which the pro-masculine action genre is turned on its head by two predatory females who prove to be ultimately destructive.
The reason it is hard to dismiss Baise-Moi is mainly due to the principles it preaches. The feminist argument surrounding the film focuses on the notion that a male-dominated society has inadvertently engineered these two female murderers and is solely responsible for the way they behave. The film's plot outline certainly supports this argument. Manu is violently raped during the film's opening act, and Nadine is not only providing sex for men in exchange for money but also suffers the murder of her friend. These horrific predicaments could convincingly cause the two women to take out their pent-up frustrations over the ills of society on the men around them, but somehow the actual film doesn't feel convincing, and this is mostly down to the character-structure of Manu. She seems to possess a completely shallow moral core, in which she kills people literally for the sake of it, usually without any emotion. Indeed, it would have supported her case if she showed any sign of being traumatised by the rape, but unfortunately she gives the impression of being psychologically indifferent, as if her killing spree uses the rape merely as a justifiable excuse. Furthermore, when the rapist relinquishes his forceful intercourse after noticing Manu will not put up a fight, he loses interest. This strong notion however, of rape being fuelled by ownership of power, fizzles in the air like most intelligent claims Baise-Moi suggests. The reviews seem to claim the film as being packed to the brim with female rage, and yet when closely watching Baise-Moi there seems to be a distinct lack of rage of any sort.
The film's literal translation is Fuck-Me but this was changed to Rape-Me to ironically cause less offence in English-speaking countries. It was based on co-director Virginie Despentes' novel, and she brought in help from porn actress Coralie Trinh Thi to direct the film. Maybe Despentes should have relied upon her own talents to direct the film, since Baise-Moi seems a hybrid of pretentious art-trash and hardcore porn, and unfortunately the credibility of the film tilts towards the porn end. It loses its focus on a number of occasions, and it takes many detours of sexual and violent ferocious that does nothing but slow the pace of the film. The film seems to lack control, much like its two protagonists it claims to care about. It feels like a cut-and-paste assembly of scenes rather than a fluid movement from beginning to end.
Still, considering the rigid praise the film has received from some quarters, the fact stands that Baise-Moi certainly does have an audience, however small. Whilst providing a breath of fresh air for the cinema, the film itself ultimately lacks anything to recommend about it, over than its initial concept. Yes, Baise-Moi is banned in some countries which adds to its notoriety, and yes the film's merit is a heated argument amongst scholars, but it still completely misses the targets that its original concept aimed for. Rather than being a debate, Baise-Moi should have rammed its ideology down its viewers throat. It clearly beats its audience around with in-your-face violence and sex, but by the film's conclusion nothing has been learned.
Shot on very grainy digital video and presented in unmatted fullscreen (the theatrical ratio would have been 1.66:1) Baise-Moi deliberately has a mediocre visual presentation, as if to help generate the required edge to proceedings. This helps give the film the 'porno' look, and certainly makes events feel cheap and stripped of any glamour.
Presented in French stereo with optional English subtitles, the sound mix to Baise-Moi is mostly mono except for the stereo given to the musical elements of the soundtrack. On the whole, the mix is clearly audible with a somewhat overbearing presence.
Menu: A decent animated menu that features some good choices of film clips and a stylish red-negative design that inter-links with the packaging artwork.
Packaging: Presented in an amaray casing with stylish front cover that also features a strong warning caption over the film's more controversial scenes and even a "Banned In France" tag on the spine. Sadly, no chapter-listing insert is included. The cover inlay card is also reversible, with French being the language featured on the reverse.
Gallery: The Gallery is split into two sections, Posters and Photos. Posters features a good selection of the four different posters used to promote the film around the world, and Photos is a collection of promotional stills from the film, accessible via user-navigation.
Trailer: A contrived English-language market trailer that omits any dialogue from the film to hide the foreign nature of Baise-Moi and concentrates on the extremely controversial aspects, such as the graphic scenes of sex and violence.
Website: Rather than providing a link to the film's website or an actual reproduction, this is merely brief screen captures of the website provided solely for advertisement purposes.
Flashcard: A mini-trailer for the film presented as a forty-second flashcard.
Press Reviews: This is a decent textual extra in which portions of the many critical reviews are presented, and credit to the filmmakers for including some reviews that aren't as favourable as others.
Presented uncut and in grainy fashion, the DVD release of Baise-Moi will assume some with a brief assortment of extras. For most, this film will be sold or traded after one viewing, but for a small minority of strong fans this will prove to be a pleasing DVD.