Baise Moi (2000)
By: J.R. Gregory on November 15, 2011  | 
Remstar (USA) | Region 1, NTSC | 4:3 | French DD 2.0 | 77 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Directors: Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi
Starring: Raffaela Anderson, Karen Bach
Screenplay: Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi
Country: France
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French cinema has consistently presented challenging themes and images, principally stemming from a desire to capture what is real. Classic thrillers like Les Diaboliques (1955) and Wages of Fear (1953) build their stories from a solid grounding that is instantly recognisable to the viewer. The latest generation of cinema verite, as demonstrated by the present wave of extreme French horror, is an extension of this, with a desire to show scenes of intense, graphically realistic, visceral violence, while grounding them in a world that is uncomfortably familiar. One of the earlier films of the current crop of cinema verite, and one of the first French films to combine violence and sex, is Baise Moi.

Currently refused classification in Australia and, considering the current censorship climate in 2011, it will remain that way for some time yet. After initially receiving a R18+ (Strong Sexual Violence, High Level Violence, Actual Sex and Adult Themes) in late 2001, Baise Moi received a limited theatrical release in 2002, until the film underwent a review and was given its current status. For those who want a more complete history, look at Refused Classifcation as it provides an excellent overview of events.

Baise Moi (translated variously as "Fuck Me" or "Rape Me"-even when left in its French form the title remains effective) tells the story of two women as they embark on a misanthropic journey of reclamation. Both women are depicted leading their separate lives, each suffering misogynistic indignities. The rage each feels simmers away, waiting for a chance at release. For Nadine (Karen Bach) a fatalistic prostitute, release comes after she kills her roommate after being berated once too often. She then witnesses the shooting death of her junkie best friend. Manu (Raffaela Anderson), along with another friend, is subjected to a brutal gang rape and is left feeling enraged. Having suffered casual physical violence from her brother, Manu opportunistically takes his gun and kills him.

Now both women are on the run and chance plays a part in bringing the two together. Recognising something kindred in each other, that they are both on the run with no one else to depend on, the two quickly form a bond. They decide to stay together, embarking on a road trip with no clear destination except an idea that Nadine needs to meet a woman called Noelle to complete some transaction. They stick together and decide to see where this all leads. Fuelled equally by anger, violence, alcohol and sex, the two women present a middle-finger salute to a world that has attempted to reduce them to mere vessels. The two are determined to be victims no longer.

Baise Moi is a nasty, aggressive, in-your-face film but is eventually depressing. Despite the central theme of having two women take revenge on the world, on the surface an act of female empowerment, the persistent theme in this film is one of nihilism. Everything is bleak and with little hope, the actions of the two protagonists prove to be ultimately futile. Their actions, wanton aggression, binge drinking and bouts of excited sex, all point towards a complete disregard of themselves. The two are heading towards their self-destruction.

That said, the main actresses certainly inhabit their roles whole-heartedly. They are believable and easy to identify with. Both come from the French Adult Film Industry, with all their flaws intact, unlike American porn stars with their plastic, airbrushed perfection. This adds to their authenticity and brings a level of credibility to their characters that may not have been there if name actors had been used. These women have lived, and their performances reflect this, their expressions of anger instantly recognisable.

The primary reason for Baise Moi's notorious reputation is not only the depiction of actual sex, but the use of this same technique in the depiction of sexual violence. The most memorable of these occurs within the first ten minutes, and is an unflinchingly powerful scene. The use of actual penetration during the rape makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience, and the impact is overwhelming. The scene is dark and, by cutting back and forth between the two different ways the women react - one with screams and Manu with cold rage - the impact is significantly increased. The sound - screams echoing around an empty warehouse - is just as effective. Baise Moi depicts rape as unglamorous and completely unsanitised and confronts the audience with what is the reality for many women.

In other scenes throughout the film, sex is shown in other ways. When Nadine is with a client, the sex is shown in a blackly comic light. Nadine is more interested in watching television than responding to the guy who has paid for her services. Other sex scenes are more empowering, with the women knowing what they want as they go about getting it. With Baise Moi we are given two strong female leads that make no apologies for using sex for their own purposes.

Like the other aspects of the film, the dialogue is simple, uncomplicated and direct. This is perhaps understandable considering that the author of the book on which the film is based, Virginie Despentes, is one of the directors. The film stays close to the book with only minor changes to plot and method of storytelling. The conversations are clever, realistic without veering into pretension. These characters are not intellectualising their situation, they are acting on instinct and do not bother with bigger picture questions.

This simplistic approach is transferable to the violence in the film. Unlike traditional revenge films that would have the protagonists hunt down those who did them wrong, the actions of the two aggrieved women are more generalised. There is not one target or group that these women are aiming their vengeance. Rather theirs is a more indiscriminate approach, taking aim at virtually anyone who gets in their way. This anarchic, seemingly directionless and motiveless rage is one of the many disturbing aspects of this film.

The methods used in depicting this violence betray the director's background in making pornographic films. A number of scenes, such as when Nadine's friend is shot, are replayed again in slow-motion and from a different angle. This increases the impact of the violence shown on screen. The use of digital camera, giving everything a grainy, washed out look, adding to the realism and downbeat tone that permeates everything.
The picture is presented in full-screen 1.33:1. The picture is grainy and, even allowing for the fact the film was shot on digital, is low quality. There are scenes where the protagonists are seen half out of shot, suggesting that this is a bad transfer of a 1.85:1 film.
The audio is clear throughout, although the soundtrack was overbearing at times. Could just be the dodgy French punk that was playing. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 in French with English subtitles.
Extra Features
Rather sparse in this regard. There is a photo gallery, Flashcard, and the Theatrical Trailer. There is the bizarre addition of pictures of the Official website, but is too blurred to make out any of the text. There is also a series of quotes from numerous press responses to the film, both positive and negative.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Baise Moi is not an easy film to watch. The combination of sex and violence has rarely been shown like this, and definitely not with such narrative skill. The content would make most viewers more than uncomfortable, and the overall tone is bleakly downbeat. That said this is a challenging film and should be seen by those who believe cinema to be more than simplistic entertainment set to well-established storylines and easy laughs. Cinema is about breaking down barriers, and Baise Moi not only tears them down, but spits all over them. Recommended.

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