Thursday, March 3, 2011

Turdsday Movie Review: Anatomy Of Hell (2004)

Has the thought of using a used tampon as a tea bag ever crossed your mind? No, me neither. It has, however, crossed Catherine Breillat's mind. But rather than filing that thought in the "things best not admitting to having thought about" compartment of her brain (like I believe most sane human beings would) she decided to include it, and other similarly bizarre notions, in her infamous piece of pretentious exploitation, Anatomy Of Hell.

Anatomy Of Hell starts with some dude whose name we never learn (Rocco Siffredi) shaking his groove thing at a gay dance club. Some straight chick whose name we also never learn (Amira Casar), is wondering aimlessly around the same club. Eventually she heads for the restroom brushing past Siffredi on the way. For reasons that don't really make any sense, Siffredi decides to check out what Casar is doing in the restroom. When he discovers her trying to slash her wrists he stops her, but not in a heroic "don't do that, life is precious" kind of way, more of a "don't mess up the bathroom of my favourite dance club with your damn blood" kind of way.

After getting Casar some medical attention the pair go for a long walk together because, as we all know, there's nothing gay guys like to do more than walk the streets at night with a suicidal straight chick. The evening concludes pretty much as you would expect. Casar gives Siffredi a blow job and offers him cash to regularly visit her and stare at her in the nuddy. No, I'm not making this crap up, that's what happens.

The rest of the movie chronicles the series of visits Siffredi pays Casar, as part of the "deal", where Casar gets her gear off and Siffredi sits in the corner, drinking JD, looking at her contemptuously. At least, I think it was supposed to be a contemptuous look. It's a bit hard to tell with Siffredi, who seems to be channelling such thespians as Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren. The allegedly contemptuous looks are accompanied by esoteric insults that the pair direct at each other's gender.

The rendezvouses become increasingly strange as Siffredi starts getting his gear off too and doing odd things to Casar like applying lip-stick around her anus, or drinking a glass of water with her blood soaked tampon floating in it like a tea bag. Unfortunately, their infrequent cryptic dialogue really gives you no clue as to why they are doing what they are doing.

If Catherine Breillat really wants to be known as a serious film-maker rather than a creator of pretentious exploitation then she really needs to stop casting porn-star Siffredi in her films, and focus a little more on creating some real characters. Her films actually remind me of Rob Zombie's films in that her characters don't act like real people, they act like characters out of a Catherine Breillat movie. She's also so obviously trying to shock her audience, without any credible context for those shocks; it's really hard not to view it all as anything other than desperate exploitation. Again, just like Rob Zombie's films.

Any doubt about whether Anatomy Of Hell is lofty high art that I didn't understand or tacky exploitation (which is very little doubt, I should point out) is erased by the odd blurb that actually appears at the beginning of the movie. Before the opening credits roll, there's a wordy disclaimer about how the explicit close ups of Casar's character are a body double, not actress Amira Casar. Uhm, OK. Whatever. If the film isn't exploitative then why is such a disclaimer necessary? I can't say for sure why it’s there, but you could well imagine Amira Casar insisting on it in order to distance herself from what even she realises is exploitative vision.

After the similarly bizarre Romance (my first Catherine Breillat movie), I thought maybe something had been lost in translation. So, giving Breillat the benefit of the doubt, I gave Anatomy Of Hell a chance. Sadly, Anatomy Of Hell is even worse than Romance and just confirmed what I thought about Breillat from the outset. Her films are pretentious and exploitative, which is a thoroughly awful combination.

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