Sunday, April 4, 2010
UNE VRAIE JEUNE FILLE, dir. catherine breillat, 1976
a surreal film about a fourteen-year-old girl and her blossoming sexuality over the course of a summer holiday from school.
this film was banned in france when it was released, and wasn't widely available again until 25 years later due to it's "shocking sexual content," which includes closeups of genitalia, a fascination with bodily fluids and smells (vomit, urination, vaginal secretions), and sexual fantasies that included having a live worm cut up and rubbed all over her vagina.
controversy rating: 5.5/10
overall rating: 7.5/10
a real young girl (the english translation of the french title) was the third of catherine breillat's films that we have watched for controversial movie club (the other two being fat girl and romance... we will talk about those in more detail later), and my least favourite of the three so far, although simultaneously this film had moments in it which i liked far more than anything in the other two. the dream sequences in this film are absolutely amazing, beautiful and very, very strange, still, and quiet. however, overall i found that this film didn't stand up to the other two in terms of how well put-together they were. this film is very raw and jagged, meandering, and poorly paced, which at times is the reason it's a beautiful film and at other times is the reason you might start to get a little bored.
highly reccomended, though, for fans of surrealism, dreams, and slow, beautiful, meandering shots re: sexuality. the tone of this in a lot of places reminded me of a much more perverted version of picnic at hanging rock (which is a personal favourite of mine). i also reccomend this (and every breillat film i've seen yet) to anyone interested in boundary-pushing filmmaking about female sexuality, from a woman's perspective.
though i understand how this could've been banned at the time of its release, in comparison to other films from this time period that were banned for showing rampid female nudity (such as the rape-and-revenge flick i spit on your grave) it makes much more of an artistic statement. the obsession with bodily fluids reminded me of jean genet's work, and it's interesting because this kind of sexuality is frequented attributed to men (and gay men especially), not women. that may also be a reason i found this movie so compelling: it made me feel closer to the subject, but that's a completely personal thing.
controversy rating: 6/10
overall rating: 6/10
i’ve now seen three and half of catherine breillet’s films (romance, fat girl, a real young girl and part of anatomy of hell on the television late one night) and while they’re all undoubtedly and unfortunately flawed, they all have very attractive qualities to them that cause me to have them on my mind much longer than i do many others. there’s a reason CMC watched three of her films all pretty close to one another.
the lanquid, relentlessly hazy and slow-moving atmosphere of a real young girl might put some off but it was a perfect reflection of the sort of summer that you would have when you were 14. slow and aimless with nothing to accomplish because you have no job, no responsibilities and no real interests to keep you going. alice, at least, has her desire for sex.
breillet’s examinations of emerging female sexuality fascinate me. obviously, this is partly because it’s something i can’t possibly experience. while i can’t really judge how female viewers respond to them and whether they consider them to be accurate representations or not, what interests me the most, perhaps, is the effect that they (are designed to) have on male viewers. they seem as though they are meant to expose masculine discomfort with forward, frank woman who are starting to take control of their sex-lives (not just in beginning to have one at all, as alice does, but also those who are doing so after a long unhappy period, as marie in romance does). this feature is most obvious in a real young girl, given that alice is only 14. we're faced with not only her powerful sexuality (even setting aside the nudity, witness how restlessly sensual alice's movements around her house and yard are), but also the fact that this intensity is coming from someone who is so young, compared to, i imagine, most viewers. these are completely natural happenings, but ones which we don’t often see depicted (or at least, not this effectively). they aren’t abstract ruminations or fictional romantic fantasies. this is an utterly concrete event for alice and the viewer, shown best by the use of intense tactility: vaginal fluids smeared on walls, vomit, earwax, pubic hair, sweat, grains of sand rubbed into skin. while her characters might be a bit stilted or talk as though they are in a mid-to-late twentieth-century, well, french novel, the way breillet portrays alice as above all else an immediate, physical being is great.
so why is this only a 6/10? i’m simply not entirely sure. while there are high points, the slow-moving and sometimes disconnected nature eventually got frustrating. maybe the 6 is influenced by the fact that i had previously seen romance and fat girl, both of which i liked a bit more.
finally, one thing you cannot help but notice is that all of breillet’s films (at least those we’ve watched so far) have not only very similar themes, but also very similar plots and structures, right down to the unexpected event leading to death almost immediately before the credits. for some reason this doesn’t bother me about her. i enjoy the fact that, instead of bouncing from work to work and idea to idea, she keeps figuring out and honing in on this one rather specific idea from a variety of slightly different angles. there’s more than enough interesting things to say about her topic and i love her persistence.