Sex Is Comedy

Leaving aside the shocker of an ending, the most memorable part of Catherine Breillat's deeply disturbing drama FAT GIRL (2001) is the crucial sex scene in which Elena (Roxane Mesquida), the titular tween's pretty, 15-year-old sister, is seduced by a handsome Italian law student (Libero De Rienzo) who uses every trick in the cad's playbook to relieve Elena...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Leaving aside the shocker of an ending, the most memorable part of Catherine Breillat's deeply disturbing drama FAT GIRL (2001) is the crucial sex scene in which Elena (Roxane Mesquida), the titular tween's pretty, 15-year-old sister, is seduced by a handsome Italian law student (Libero De Rienzo) who uses every trick in the cad's playbook to relieve Elena of her virginity. It's not merely the scene's length that's remarkable, nor the extraordinary performances the director coaxes from her young, relatively inexperienced actors, but the fact that Breillat chose to shoot in one lengthy take. Throw in a difficult actor, an equally temperamental director and an oversize prosthetic penis that won't stay put and you've got the makings of terrific comedy, which is exactly what Breillat fashioned out of her FAT GIRL experience. Breillat rehired Mesquida to play a slightly fictionalized version of herself — a pretty, inexperienced 18-year-old actress called upon to perform a long and difficult scene in the nude — and cast Gregoire Colin as her pain-in-the-ass costar, who requires constant coddling. Breillat's stand-in, Jeanne (Anne Parillaud, who's never been better), is an impassioned filmmaker given to bold pronouncements about acting ("Actors must walk on hot coals and not get burnt!"), directing ("Actors must hate me to act well!'), cinema ("You need hard beds!") and using her considerable charms to seduce the young cast into seducing each other. After a disastrous day's shooting on a freezing cold Atlantic beach, the production moves to a studio set where the sex scene is to take place. Adding to the logistical nightmare of shooting 15 pages of script in a single take is her actor's behavior; he suddenly refuses to remove his socks, threatens to bolt and insists on sporting the biggest erection in the prop box. Jeanne might think she's in control, but once shooting starts, she's at the mercy of her actors' every whim. Those who best know Breillat as the fearless director of such unsparing sexual psychodramas as ROMANCE and ANATOMY OF HELL will be equally surprised by the lightness of her touch and by how much fun she has at her own expense. Not only is this wildly entertaining comedy one of the most enjoyable making-of-a-movie movies since DAY FOR NIGHT, but Breillat also offers sharp insights into the love-hate relationship between directors and actors and a fascinating glimpse into the particular methods of a notoriously provocative filmmaker.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Leaving aside the shocker of an ending, the most memorable part of Catherine Breillat's deeply disturbing drama FAT GIRL (2001) is the crucial sex scene in which Elena (Roxane Mesquida), the titular tween's pretty, 15-year-old sister, is seduced by a hands… (more)

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