Film-Forward Review: [ANATOMY OF HELL]


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Directed & Written by: Catherine Breillat, based on her book Pornocracy.
Produced by: Jean-François Lepetit.
Director of Photography: Yorgos Arvanitis, et al.
Edited by: Pascale Chavance & Frédéric Barbe.
Released by: Tartan.
Language: France with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: France. 87 min. Not Rated (but would be NC-17).
With: Amira Casar & Rocco Siffredi.

Catherine Breillat’s new film joins Irreversible, Twentynine Palms, and Secret Things in the growing genre of French sex shockers. A credit in the beginning oddly announces the use of a body double for the more intimate shots as an “extension of a fictional character.” But the film is not concerned about character or plot. Instead, it is a polemic.

After meeting in a gay disco, the Girl (Amira Casar) challenges the Guy (Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi) to a series of encounters: she pays him to observe her in her most private “unwatchable” moments. The logic behind the dare or the characters’ motivations is obtuse, as is why a gay man would be amicable to or even aroused by her proposal, let alone represent the misogynistic male in Breillat’s argument. Alone in an isolated house atop a cliff, their four-evening rendezvous is made up of clinically graphic scenes which will undoubtedly provoke and repulse.

The Guy’s dialogue, as translated from French, is as stiff as Siffredi himself: “You’re words are inept approaches to me." Or - "The elasticity of a boy’s anus doesn’t lie.” Later, he compares her genitalia to the skin of a frog, “but at least frogs have the decency to be green.” In their second encounter, he brings a hoe into the bedroom, and not since Pia Zadora’s The Lonely Lady has a gardening tool been so violated. A tampon cocktail and vaginal projectiles follow during the next two nights. Anatomy of Hell is unlike Breillat’s powerful and complex Fat Girl (2001), which was as subtle as it was hard-hitting. Instead, this film’s tone is self-important and ponderous, as if to make it more thoughtful. Kent Turner
October 15, 2004



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