Sex Is Comedy

Having forged a reputation as a fearless chronicler of human intimacies with the controversial Romance and Ë ma sÏur!, Catherine Breillat proves she does have a sense of humour after all with this witty, pointed behind-the-scenes glimpse
of the filmmaking process. Anne Parillaud (once the original Nikita for Luc Besson) offers a commanding portrait of a much-hassled, but determined directorÑbased accurately on Breillat herself, right down to the straggly hair and black knitwearÑattempting to coax meaningful moments of emotional revelation from a preening male star (Gregoire Colin, familiar from Claire Denis’ Beau travail) and a defensive young actress (Roxane Mesquida). The latter, of course, memorably succumbed to the amorous advances of a smooth-talking Italian student in Ë ma sÏur!, and here she pretty much reprises the role as cast, crew and filmmaker alike communally steel themselves for the major sex scene which will be the most difficult part of their shoot.
Sex Is Comedy works on different levels, delivering the inside scoop on the celluloid fakery whereby a summery beach tableau is shot in the freezing depths of winter or the leading man’s modesty is sheathed in a plastic replica phallus, while at the same time laying bare the mind games apparently required to extricate the best from actors who behave more like spoilt children. Resonances extend to the wider battle of the sexes, it almost goes without saying, for it’s not just on a movie set that you’ll discover a pouting male requiring a little ego-massage to assuage performance anxiety, or indeed a young woman anxious over the blurred line between giving her all and getting used in the process. It all leads to a simulated climax where more than just bodies are bared, and provides a striking vindication of Breillat’s methods, shaping truth from artifice.
(France, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 94 mins.)

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