‘Baise-Moi’ makes on the run no fun

The pornographic experiment, “Baise-Moi,” now playing at Images Cinema, was not great. It was difficult to watch at times, due to its amazingly graphic content and sexually explicit images. The film is decidedly French, weirdly reminiscent of “Thelma and Louise” and certainly deserving of its NC-17 rating; however, it enjoys some subtler moments.

The film begins by simultaneously describing the lives of two women who do not know each other, Manu and Nadine. Both women have suffered greatly at the hands of cruel men in their lives. Manu has been raped and Nadine’s drug-dealing boyfriend used her to write fake prescriptions. To escape their bleak lives, both Manu and Nadine frequently use drugs and have promiscuous, unprotected sex. Their sad lives eventually cause them to snap and to fight back against the forces that oppress them. As a result, Manu kills her cold, over-protective brother and Nadine strangles the roommate who had controlled her for years.

Once they commit these murders, they feel liberated. They meet accidentally while on the run, and seeing that they are kindred spirits who love sex, drugs and murdering men, they embark on a road trip filled with excess and violence.

As fugitives enjoying their newfound sense of freedom, they frequently decide to strike back against men by assuming the traditionally masculine role of the dominating master. Instead of letting themselves be used by men, they frequently reverse the roles by using men for sex. It also becomes clear that the one quality they hate most in men is self-confidence. This sentiment comes through in a scene in a gun shop, when the salesman assumes that Nadine must have a husband who loves guns. Nadine becomes angry and shouts “What if the wife is a gun-lover?” before shooting him to death. Clearly, abusive men in the lives of Manu and Nadine have beaten them down to the point where they are so filled with rage that they must lash out at any men they can find for revenge.

As Manu and Nadine continue to kill people on their girl-power adventure, they also begin to blur the lines between sex and rape. On more than one occasion, they seduce men only to kill them after intercourse. The film illustrates this distorted merging of sex and violence by using guns as phallic symbols. The culmination of this bizarre mixture occurs in a live sex show near the film’s conclusion. Manu forces a man down on all fours, mirroring her own rape at the beginning of the film. Replacing a phallus with her pistol, she penetrates him and fires. This disturbing image epitomizes the film’s portrayal of two women driven to madness and murder by their harsh backgrounds.

Overall, however, the film offers little more than the cheap thrills provided by its graphic pornography and explicit violence. The viewer is assaulted with such shocking images as close-ups of the women performing fellatio and a scene in which the two women kill a man by stomping on his skull. Often the violence is excessive and exists merely for shock value. The film unapologetically depicts two women doing whatever they want — brutally shooting people, having sex, stealing cars and easily avoiding the police for a very long time — with sparse insight into their emotions or morality. The film demonstrates a lack of realism and intellectual content.

Despite the film’s unnecessarily graphic and unsettling images, it occasionally employs a surprising amount of subtlety. For example, when Nadine looks longingly at a calm and peaceful sea at the beginning of their killing spree, the viewer senses an allusion to a distant, inner hope for peace. Interestingly, this scene foreshadows the police capturing her along the waterfront at the film’s conclusion.

The film’s conclusion is one of the highlights of the movie in that it artfully demonstrates that Nadine has changed, though it is unclear from where the lessons have come. While she is being pushed face down into the ground by a police officer, it is obvious that she has realized that her wild spree of killing and debauchery did not accomplish anything. It did not change the fact that men can be harsh and cruel to women – the cops who arrest her subdue her violently and repeatedly call her “bitch.” All she accomplished is jail for life, since France has no death penalty.

Earlier in the film, she and Manu had discussed having a grand, media-covered suicide to end their exciting killing spree, since they could not bear to live the rest of their lives trapped in prison. Instead of a magnificent suicide, “Baise-Moi” presents a surprisingly sober conclusion. Nadine must return to the real world to face the consequences of her actions. In this way, the film deserves some credit for offering a more realistic ending than the one found in the thematically similar “Thelma and Louise.” Yet despite this thought-provoking ending, “Baise-Moi” exists as little more than a trashy reworking of a girl-power flick, containing only a few redeeming qualities.

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