Regular readers of my blog will have seen me post a story about the recent research that was conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the BBFC, in relation to sexual violence in films – see this article here. Well, in an interesting twist, whilst perusing the BBFC’s own website today, I see that the controversial rape-revenge flick BAISE-MOI (2000, Coralie Trinh Thi and Virginie Despentes) has seemingly been passed totally uncut and uncensored for UK home viewing, with a PAL DVD running time of 73m 46s.
Considering this film contains some very strong material, namely a brief but explicit scene of hardcore penetration during a rape sequence, and a man having a gun inserted into his rectum, and then discharged (!), this makes for an interesting dichotomy. The BBFC posted a Press Release on 10th December 2012 – see here in which they say, and I quote:
Although the research reaffirms views that adults should be able to choose what they see, provided it remains within the law and is not potentially harmful, they are concerned about young men with little experience, and more vulnerable viewers, accessing sadistic and sexually violent content, which could serve to normalise rape and other forms of violence and offer a distorted view of women. The research carried out by Ipsos MORI in 2012 highlights concerns about certain depictions of sadistic and sexual violence to which the BBFC must respond. The BBFC may also intervene where a depiction is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) as to pose a harm risk.
Now, whilst I don’t normally advocate censorship for films aimed at adults, (though this is not always the case), it’s interesting to see that – supposedly – in the space of 12 years since this film was first released to cinemas, (in February 2000, cut by 10s), and then a couple of years later onto DVD (again, with even further cuts totalling 12s), that British society has moved on enough, that the BBFC don’t warrant the film being cut.
Obviously, this is good – we don’t want adult films aimed at adults to be cut, unless they breach Obscenity Laws. However, has society really changed that much since 2000? Is the UK that different in terms of what the public can or cannot see in the comfort of their own homes?
Clearly, the BBFC think that society can tolerate the uncut version of BAISE-MOI! In comparison to many other films in recent years, BAISE-MOI is certainly not the most shocking film passed by the BBFC. That’s not to say it’s not disturbing or unsettling, for it is. But after the likes of Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST or KEN PARK, BAISE-MOI isn’t quite as raw.
To be fair, the film has many detractors, and very few people will admit to liking it. I think it’s an interesting film, and already own the uncut French DVD release, although this has no English Subtitles, because I was curious to see what was so contentious that needed 12 seconds removing to protect me. Admittedly, when I saw it, I did wince a couple of times. The penetration shot, whilst brief, is noticeable and jars in my view, during the rape sequence. And later on, when the two women get their revenge, and one of the violators has the gun shoved up his rectum and she pulls the trigger, you do get shocked by what you see. It’s an uncomfortable film to view, but then that was part of the point of BAISE-MOI. It was meant to shock, to upset, to repel the (male) audience. It was meant to make you cringe, and think “That’s not nice”! Just as Meir Zarchi did with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, when Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) takes her revenge, by slicing off one of her rapist’s penis in the bathtub, any man watching the film is meant to be disturbed by what he sees. Zarchi is deliberately telling men that you should not be enjoying this tale he is telling. Rape is not nice.
But with that all said, I do think BAISE-MOI has a lot to admire. It’s a raw and uncompromising film, that takes the normal rape-revenge themes we’ve seen in lots of other films over the past 30-or-so years, and gives it a feminine twist. I like that. I think it’s nice to see two female actresses (both porn actresses, I might add) and two feminist directors, take on this usually male predicated story, and subvert it. Many women will still decry BAISE-MOI for portraying the rape of two women. Many more will still say that using actresses from the pornography industry doesn’t help the case. Even the fact that two women wrote and directed this film, will still give many women pause for thought. Some will claim that Trinh Thi and Despentes are doing nothing making such a film; that they are, in fact, being traitors to their gender.
I can completely see that argument.
But BAISE-MOI isn’t meant to be a message film, per se. It’s meant to be a grubby little flick, with a Gallic spin, subverting the audiences expectations. If there is a message, then that’s all the better. But that’s not its raison d’etre. Alas, the saddest thing about the film, is that lead actress Karen Lancaume (acting under the name of Karen Bach) committed suicide on 28th January 2005, having left her porn career completely behind. What a waste, as her performance was pretty good. I could see her becoming another Beatrice Dalle or Vanessa Paradis, if she had lived longer.
BAISE-MOI is due to be released on 25th March 2013, in French with English Subtitles, and in a new uncut and uncensored, 16:9-formatted print, for the first time in the UK. You can pre-order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk. No Blu-Ray release has been announced.