This fascination with holding for just too long within the camera’s gaze the repulsive as well as an obsession the evils of the anus can also be found in Irreversible (2002, Gaspar Noé), a film I went to see later in the day. A strangely misogynist and homophobic movie, despite its hetero masculinity revenging the defilement of the woman plot and the mourning for an afternoon between lovers marred by tragedy to come narrative. Real life husband and wife, Vincent Cassell and Monica Bellucci, play the lovers who’s story of a hellacious day is told in reverse, with each scene blending into the one which brought it on, by way of dizzying hand held pans to the ceiling. In fact, the film’s almost exclusive use of hand held camera work made me want to vomit, not for it’s lack of taste or polish, but for the sheer fact of feeling like you’re being jounced around in the bed of pick-up on an unpaved road throughout the picture. Noé uses his wayward camera to penetrate his places and moments of ultimate heterosexual male fear, like the S&M gay male club called without irony, the Rectum which his protagonist and friend searches for La Tenia, the Tapeworm, a name also bestowed with scant parodic self-awareness. Unfortunately for his viewers, Noé does know how to hold an uncomfortably long shot and does so, during the nearing-infamy sequence when La Tenia anally rapes Bellucci’s character in an underground walkway. In these moments, the brutal bashing in of a club patron confused for the rapist included, the viewer longs for distraction, or at least for an eventual ejaculation, but Noé makes them a long time coming (no pun intended). Instead, he appears to want to revel in all the voyeuristic possibilities the camera offers, whether it be menacingly following a naïve Bellucci two steps behind down the corridor, when we know she’s about to be assaulted, or while Bellucci and Casell cavort intimately nude in the way long time lovers reside just beyond each other’s skin. All of this detailed looking and yet, I’m not sure ultimately what it is that Irreversible sees.
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.