Tag: roxane mesquida

Sex is Comedy

Sex is Comedy (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★

Because the lead actors (Grégoire Colin, Roxane Mesquida) of the film cannot stand to be around one another for long, the director, Jeanne (Anne Parillaud), finds it a great struggle to shoot them. It does not help that the most important scene in the picture involves simulated sex; chemistry is required. The unnamed performers must be sensual, vulnerable and, most importantly, convincing. When the two share a passionate kiss, the feelings they invoke reflects that of a person practicing on a CPR dummy—detached, awkward, and cold.

I found “Sex is Comedy,” written and directed by Catherine Breillat, to be very funny even though many people, I imagine, may not necessarily find the humor in it. Although the plot is mostly about working with difficult actors, it also about Jeanne: how she is as a director when the camera is nearby, whether it is on or off, what she thinks is at stake if the project did not turn out as successfully as she had anticipated, her relationship with the cast and crew, and her passion for the job. The material gives us a chance to evaluate her as a director with her back against the wall.

In some ways, it is like hanging out on set. There is no music on the background to guide us what to feel or think. We hear footsteps and equipment being lugged around, we see people chatting on the side, and we feel the exhaustion emanating from just about everyone after a long day. Movies do not make themselves and I enjoyed that the material has enough insight to acknowledge the effort put into creating art.

The movie functions as an anatomy of a scene. The latter half mostly involves a bed, two cardboard walls, a pair of nervous actors, and the crew watching their every move. It is most entertaining when a take does not work because Jeanne is very hands-on. She is not afraid to jump on the bed, wrap her limbs around the leads, explain why certain body angles work better than others, and really push them to work. Actors get paid handsomely to bare not just their bodies when necessary but also—and more often—their souls, or at the very least their characters’ souls.

Viewers who enjoy honing in on faces and expressions, like myself, will find this picture a pleasure to sit through. For instance, a good amount of time is on the male lead’s reluctance, perhaps embarrassment as well, to wear a prosthetic penis during the all-important sex scene. It is decided without the actor’s consent that he will wear one because everybody knows he cannot stand his co-star. To the crew, it is an act of helping him out so that he has one less thing to worry about. It is not necessary that he be informed of their decision—after all, it is their job to save time and money—but it would have been nice so he feels included in the process. On the other hand, his response to the discovery is, in my eyes, unprofessional and childish. He constantly needs to be cajoled by the director to continue to do what he should be motivated to do in the first place.

This and similar scenes are worth thinking about because every character on screen acts like a real person. Sometimes people act difficult on purpose. Other times, they may not even be aware of it. A common thread is that there is always a reason. Since there is a marriage of two major elements, the stresses of the job and the clashing personalities, “Sex is Comedy” is an effective look at show business. Part of the challenge is to find the humor underneath the increasingly miserable characters.


Rubber (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

A tire suddenly came to life in the desert. Like a toddler’s uncertainty in taking its first steps, we observed Robert the tire rolling around and falling over. It learned that it liked to put its weight on things like plastic water bottles and small animals. When Robert couldn’t physically destroy something, it used its psychic powers in order to force its target to explode. Written and directed by Quentin Dupieux, I had fun with “Rubber” because it took a ridiculous idea and kept its head high like it wasn’t anybody’s business. The bad acting, thin dialogue, and lack of sensical narrative worked because our expectations were turned inside out before we even had time to form them. I was consistently interested in the murderous tire and what it was going to do next. There was a subplot involving Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) and an accountant (Jack Plotnick) wanting to kill the audiences, literally the people with binoculars watching the tire murder people from a distance. Sometimes it worked. I saw the subplot as the director’s frustration of Hollywood unabashedly rehashing the same old formula in terms of which movies would receive the green light and the audiences’ willingness in swallowing it all up. I saw the turkey, poisoned food given to the onlookers, as a symbol of most of the garbage in the film business. The garbage is killing our culture. I share that frustration. In every ten movies I watch, only one (or two if I’m lucky) is truly original and refreshing. Another scene I enjoyed was when the lieutenant tried to convince his men that they should stop doing their jobs (they were at a crime scene) because it was all a movie. Just so his colleagues would believe him, he ordered one of them to shoot him. If he didn’t die, it was proof that everything was fake. Lastly, I was amused when Lieutenant Chad, whose goal was to destroy Robert, looked into the camera during the opening scene and explained to us the lack of reason for the things we were about to see. It prepared us for what was coming. However, there were times when the picture didn’t quite work. We were not made aware of Lieutenant Chad and the accountant’s endgame. Were they aware of the tire’s true potential? We they fully invested in supposedly saving mankind from tired ideas? Was the universe that the characters inhabited a part of some sick joke? We never found out. I had some questions for Robert as well. The tire was interested in a woman (Roxane Mesquida) but was it aware of its own lack of body structures like limbs, torso, and a head? There was one shot in which the tire saw its own reflection and, despite being an inanimate object, it seemed a bit sad. I imagined it thinking, “Why do I look like this?” That moment made me realize that, despite its wild premise, I was enjoying the picture for what it was. “Rubber” was absurd, some would say unnecessary, but the director used such qualities to make a statement and create something quite original. If anything, it had to be given credit for its sheer audacity.


Kaboom (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

It’s been said that our dreams often consisted of people we know or have encountered at some point in our lives. But not Smith (Thomas Dekker). He had a recurring dream of a brunette and a red-headed girl (Nicole LaLiberte) pointing at a door with a red dumpster on the other side. But before Smith could look inside, he woke up. With the help of Smith’s partner in crime, Stella (Haley Bennett), Smith managed to find some answers to his burning questions. Written and directed by Gregg Araki, “Kaboom” was weird and proud. It was, one could argue, mainly a satire of college students who lacked direction. Everyone had sexual intercourse with one another without regard for disease or pregnancy. When someone managed to ask another how many partners he had been with, it was too late. Penetration had already occurred. It reminded me of a dorm I once knew. Smith considered his sexual orientation to be undeclared but he had a massive crush on his blonde-haired surfer/meathead roommate named Thor (Chriz Zylka). Much of the humor of the film was Smith looking for ways to convince himself that Thor was gay. I especially loved the shot of Thor’s flip-flops neatly organized, by color, in his closet. As a person who loves to be organized, I thought it was a beautiful sight. I also chuckled once or twice when Thor’s best friend, Rex (Andy Fischer-Price), came for a visit and the two wrestled in their underwear. The loser was supposed to be “the gay one.” Whenever the satire and irony were at the forefront, I overlooked the lack of dimension in the script. The film also worked as a B-grade supernatural thriller but to an extent. Stella became sexually involved with Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida), the brunette in Smith’s dreams, who happened to be a witch. She wasn’t all talk; she had real powers and wasn’t afraid to use them. But when the lesbian couple broke up, the storyline involving Smith’s dream and its connection to a possible underground cult was thrown in the back seat. The scenes involving voodoo and possession became more engrossing than the masked strangers who kidnapped and killed students on campus. While the dialogue consisted of funny one-liners uttered by sarcastic characters, as it went on, I began to feel like Araki had injected too much in his ambitious project. A nuclear war came into play but it failed to make much sense. The many revelations toward the end felt forced and laughable in a negative way. I felt a sinking sensation that the picture was digging its own grave. I admired that “Kaboom” wasn’t afraid to be different. But being different was not enough. The screenplay wasn’t ready.