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" ma soeur! (fat girl)" (2001) - catherine breillat
posted on 20-Jul-2002 by anton
in fat girl catherine breillat continues her exploration of female sexuality, the subject of her previous largely controversial romance.

fat girl is more of a filmmaker's movie, the one that defies conventional plot and storytelling rules, provokes you with its bold moves. it comes from the opposite, cutting short unimportant story lines, jumping straight to the details. this oversimplification might look as exaggeration at first, but it seems to be more of a focused, straightforward approach.

the fat girl is almost scary in her all-knowing behavior. she is not bitter, nor she is angry, most of all she seems to be tired (strangely enough for her age), and this is when one wonders whether it is the autobiographical director's streak coming in. she is not a likable character, she is angry, she can be quite disgusting, in somewhat touching and yet irritating manner. her pensive, observing distanced behavior could have been perfect for a writer, not fit within the real world, represented by her competitive sister and all those other "pretty" people. she partially reveals her inner self, sort of obsessively romantic (but what would you expect from a 12 year old?), nave, painful. i still have those few very touching and embarrassingly awkward (a reoccurring constant feeling induced by the movie) moments engraved in my memory - playing in the pool, awkwardly lying half-buried (acting along with her little song/poem she keeps muttering throughout the film?) on the beach, devouring ice-cream that leaves its traces on her lips, as she watches her sister kiss, the final stubborn look at the camera, or one of the most disturbing scenes in the film - the late night close-up of her whimpering and two legs on the background moving jerkily with male grunts and her sister's moans.

I suppose this somewhat distanced look at its characters, their rough features (the absence of character depth might look like improbable exaggeration, but it is more of a chosen focus, point of view), sparing the details, is characteristic of the movie. the plot itself with its movements carved with strong brusque lines, at times almost surreal in its unexpected turns, that become almost symbolic, devoid of everything but the intended meaning/effect.

the interesting thing is that the film is not sexy despite all the nudity and obsession with sex, it is infinitely awkward, almost painfully voyeuristic (so many people in the audience laughed uneasily or shifted in their seats). it almost teases, provokes its viewers with intentionally sexy scenes turned around to become awkward, uneasy, tugging at your emotions in a strangest way. unblinking camera does not spare any details, there are no usual fadeouts, no cutting, no music - you have to see it all. the seduction is not there, the sex is so immediate, so direct, so banal (perhaps, this is one of the reasons why the girl was crying that night in front of the camera).

the moments when the two sisters share how they hate and loathe each other and at the same time are parts of one another, being competitive, being protective, tied together almost against any rational reasons. it is tempting to extend the idea of both sisters being a part of one whole, the contrasting dualities of a real world. it might not have been the desired effect, but one seems to be the guilty observing consciousness of the other one, with mutual hate and strange protective compassion for each other.

the plot is simple, trivial, but such a story is rarely told with such boldness, often obviously provoking, barely coming short of exploitation of its young characters, but managing to pull it off. there are a few thrilling moments, excessively graphical or emotional, but for the most part it is quieter, observing, unflinching look at the developing sexuality. this is not an easy film to watch, nor it is gratifying in any sense, but as a challenge to its viewers and as a unique look at the subject matter, it definitely earns its place.

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