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Baise-Moi -aka- Rape Me

Kino // Unrated // July 7, 2021
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted July 1, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Co-directed and co-written by Virginie Despentes and adult film actress Coralie Trinh Thi and based on Despentes 1995 novel of the same name, 2000's Baise-moi (which translates to either Rape Me, Fuck Me or Kiss Me) was, and remains, a controversial film not only for the topic it deals with, but in what it portrays while dealing with it. The story is not complex, but it is impactful. Nadine (adult film actress Karen Bach) is a prostitute, her friend Manu (adult film actress Raffaëla Anderson) dabbles in the XXX film industry. One day, they snap. Nadine finally has enough of her roommate and kills her, while Manu, after being brutally gang-raped, takes out a pistol and shoots her brother after he chastises her for what has happened.

Not entirely sure what else to do, the pair decides to get out of their neighborhood. Nadine has a bunch of fake ID's that she needs to deliver, which is part of it, but they're clearly out for revenge here, and seemingly have no qualms about taking out anybody who might be unlucky enough to either underestimate them or simply get in their way. This involves using their feminine wiles to get men into bed and then kill them, with the sex scenes being hardcore and the murder set pieces sufficiently brutal.

Clearly Despentes and Coralie were out to subvert genre conventions, putting women clearly in the role of the sexual aggressors in the film, roles that are frequently played by men. This is, on the surface, a solid idea and one well worth exploring, but the finished product is uneven. The scenes of unsimulated sex certainly stand out if you're not expecting them and are clearly meant to provoke (tough we've seen hardcore used in rape/revenge movies before, going as far back as Thriller: A Cruel Picture a.k.a. The Call Her One Eye), but Baise-moi seems more interested in rubbing the viewers face in it and simply shocking for the sake of shocking. On that level, the film does still pack a punch, but when coupled with the graphic violence in the murder set pieces, it's hard to take much else away from the film. Certainly any woman who was raped or mistreated as these two women would, quite understandably, have a whole bunch of issues and plenty of legitimate reasons to feel the way that they feel but the movie doesn't give us enough of a back story or enough character development for us to get to know them. You'd have to be a truly horrible person not to feel for them based on what they went through, but it is a little tough to sympathize with a character sticking a gun up someone's ass and pulling the trigger when the characters fall flat as they do here.

But maybe that's the point, or at least part of it. Maybe the intention behind the film, which is elaborated on to an extent in the extras on this disc, was to simply make a crass exploitation film with women committing atrocities. Everyone knows that there have been countless movies made where men go on rampages of brutal sex and violence. If that was the case, mission accomplished but the film's production values suffer from some less than ideal cinematography (this was shot in early digital video and it looks it) and a soundtrack that never quite works.

The performances are nothing if not committed. Karen Bach and Raffaëla Anderson both throw themselves into their respective roles and the supporting players are all fine. The movie is quick in its pacing at just under eighty-minutes, it moves briskly. There are ideas here that definitely work and even more than two decades after it was made, the movie's shock value level is pretty strong (and that does count for something). I just can't help feeling that there could and should have been more to the characters here. If nothing else, if Baise-moi is a movie that still turns a lot of people off in a big way, at least it makes you think, but it doesn't really bring anything new to the table and if it is going to lower itself to the level of the subjects that it points its finger at, is it not therefore just as guilty? I don't know. I've seen this movie a few times now and while I'll admit it's a total cop-out for a reviewer to do this, I still really just don't know what to think of it. This is definitely a movie that's effectiveness will be shaped by your own experiences and your own world view, and maybe I've been lucky enough that it doesn't speak to me the way it will some others.

The Blu-ray

Video:

Kino Lorber brings Baise-Moi to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen taking up 23.7GBs of space on the 50GB disc. This was shot on a low budget on digital video and so it looks pretty grubby in its own way. There's very little gloss here, but this is how the movie has looked since it was released and obviously this isn't going to look like a 4k transfer from pristine 35mm elements or a newly shot digital HD feature. It's watchable enough, but colors often times look a bit flat and detail can be a little murky. There's also some compression built-in to the elements. Overall though, this looks about as good as you can realistically expect it to.

Sound:

The only audio option provided is an French language track in 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems here, the audio quality is fine. Levels are balanced and the low-fi nature of the film's roots is accurately represented here.

Extras:

Extras start off with an audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger who is open from the start about her own experiences as a victim of rape (which gives her a unique point of view from which to analyze this film) before then talking about how and why it is such a personal film for her. She gives us some background on the story that turned into the film, the cathartic aspects of the movie, the feminist angles that the film takes and how she feels that the movie is frequetnly misunderstood. She deals with the controversy surrounding the movie, what the title means and the different translations mean, Despentes' background and memoir, how the film deals with rape and portrays it on the screen, some of the more subtle and subtextual levels that the film works on, the use of violence in the picture, how the film compares to other rape/revenge movies, how the graphic sex scenes in the movie compare to mainstream hardcore pornography, how the film sometimes gets lumped into the 'Dogme 95' movement due to the way that it was shot and how it looks, the film's place in the 'French extremity movement' of the era, how women have been commodified by capitalism, why the film remains important and powerful to her on a personal level and quite a bit more. Lots of food for thought here, it's quite interesting to listen to and she does a good job of explaining her points and backing up her opinions even if you may not always agree with them.

Additionally, the disc includes The Making Of Baise-Moi, which is a forty-minute documentary that is made up of interviews with directors Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi and actors Karen Bach, Raffaëla Anderson. The documentary shows off the reception that the four of them got at a screening in France, including some people that were there to protest the movie, and it gives us a look at the filmmakers as they basically embrace the controversy by posing for press photos with their middle fingers up and making the rounds at various press outlets to talk up the movie. They talk about how the project evolved, the book that the movie was based on, the characters that populate the film and what it was like acting in it. We also get some behind the scenes footage here as well as the interview clips.

A Q&A Recording with the Directors runs eight-minutes and features the two directors appearing at a screening of the film where they talk about the different reactions that they've received since the film debuted, how men and women have both praised it and hated it, the international response, how much improve was done on set versus how closely they stuck to a script, details on the characters in the movie and more.

The disc also includes a theatrical trailer for the feature, a bonus trailer for Thirst, menus and chapter selection options.

Final Thoughts:

Baise-Moi is a tricky film to recommend, as it's a flawed picture, but at the same time, it has its merits and while it gets very explicit (know that going in!) it makes for interesting food for thought. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds about as good as the movie probably can, given how it was shot, and the extras are quite good, resulting in a strong package for a tough film to gauge. Those with a taste for the more extreme side of indie and arthouse fare should check it out for themselves, and it comes recommended if you're in that demographic.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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