Sunday, August 31, 2008

À ma soeur! – Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2001)

Not what it first appears to be, no, neither a sweet or a difficult coming of age story. Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) is a plump 12- or 13-year-old girl with a beautiful sister, Elena (Roxane Mesquida), just 15, with whom she alternately quarrels and gets along. Throughout the movie they talk about being dissimilar sisters, about how angry they get with each other and how close they are, about boys, about wanting and not wanting sex. They’re vacationing somewhere, and Elena picks up an Italian student, Fernando (Libero Do Rienzo), and the relationship soon heats up. Elena arranges for him to come to the bedroom she shares with her sister, whom she instructs to sleep and say nothing. Fernando spends the night trying to convince Elena to have sex with him, and though she feels desire, she’s timid. He keeps telling her intercourse is a great gift of love, and she asks him to give her time. He counters by telling her of the urgency of his need and telling her it would be too bad for him to have to go with a girl he didn’t care for because she turned him away. At last he convinces her to let him penetrate her anally—that way she can still say she’s a virgin; all the girls do it.

Meanwhile Anaïs, who has up to now been indicating her loneliness by singing odd little songs and playing out a fantasy romance monologue in the swimming pool, kissing the ladder and the jealous diving board, listens to the talk and the lovemaking and is confused, weeping, angry, defiant. The next day Elena and Fernando make love on the beach, with Anaïs nearby, singing to herself again—Elena can only go out in her sister’s company. Fernando gives Elena an opal ring—this brings trouble, for it’s a valuable ring belonging to his mother, who comes to complain. The girls’ father has flown home; he can’t stand to be away from his business. Their mother cuts the vacation short and drives them home. Anaïs and Elena talk—Anaïs says she’s tired of being a virgin. Weary with driving, the mother stops at a rest stop to sleep, as a big truck goes by slowly in the lot. More quiet talking, and the Elena too goes to sleep. Suddenly a man smashes the windshield with an axe and kills Elena with one swipe, and strangles the mother. Anaïs gets out of the car and just looks at him. In the woods, as he is raping her, she reaches her arms up and embraces him. In the morning, as the police examine the bodies and walk Anaïs out of the woods, she says calmly, he didn’t rape me.

A very disturbing movie, especially the last seven or eight minutes, but there’s also something really distressing about Fernando’s exploitation of Elena, an innocent girl, who thinks in terms of love, and in his complete disregard for her feelings or for her pleasure. Sex is for him only. All this allies him with the crazed killer, and makes the movie terribly bitter and sad.

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