2 min

The hole truth

Inextricable desire

Credit: Xtra files

Anatomy Of Hell, the latest from acclaimed celluloid provocateur Catherine Breillat, is a beautifully sculpted cinema of bodily horror that probes, inch by inch, misogyny’s inextricable desire to sexually devour and violently destroy the female body – a literal anatomy of hell.

Breillat’s extensive credits include 2001’s disconcerting Fat Girl and the sexually explicit Romance from 1999, among others. With Anatomy Of Hell (Anatomie de l’Enfer), she attempts to demystify the culturally constructed anatomy of woman-hood in all its violations without plot nor character. The result is a didactic, masturbatory polemic that feigns radicalism through the uninspired old standby of shock value – disappointing, conservative and, well, dull.

Breillat begins with the Girl (conventionally striking Amira Casar) wandering into a gay disco and (dear god), going unnoticed by the techno-house-loving homos pumping and grinding on the dancefloor. She retreats to the bathroom and, for no apparent reason, slashes her wrists. With derision, the stereotypical woman-hating Guy (incredibly well-hung Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi) saves the Girl and, for no apparent reason, she proposes to pay him to watch her where she is “unwatchable.” For no apparent reason, the Guy agrees.

What follows are four interminably long nights of meticulous, graphic, clinical examination of her body. While the Girl is alternately awake and asleep, the Guy inspects and defaces her cunt and attempts to explain why he finds women so repugnant: It’s too soft, too secretive, too fragile, too bloody once a month. Their interactions are stilted and less conversational than sweeping nonsensical philosophical assertions. The Guy likens her genitals to “the horror of Nothingness,” and proceeds to violently pierce this void with the handle-end of a rake, red lipstick and his nose. Scattered between his attempts to “know” her body, extreme close-ups of her labia, vaginal projectiles (show off!), tampon insertion and a bloodied-tampon cocktail from which the two drink.

Breillat’s attempts to unravel misogyny are curious. The troublesome universality of the nameless Girl and Guy and their subsequent positioning – both function differently as sites of monstrosity and sacrifice – left me wondering if we haven’t already heard this one before. Adapted from Breillat’s own novel, Pornocratie, Anatomy Of Hell is rife with the very cultural claims that it seeks to challenge – sexism, sex panic, homophobia, misogyny, victimization and whiteness as the unquestioned centre of the universe.

At the risk of sounding like an asshole, I’m often disappointed by the level with which straight people think that they’re espousing radically queer politics. Unfortunately, Breillat’s Anatomy Of Hell reminded me that they’ve still got a long way to way to go.


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